How the Pandemic Helped Break My Relationship With Alcohol and Social Anxiety.


I’ve always struggled with anxiety in social situations. From school age and until recently, events that should be considered celebratory and fun often induced extreme dread and fear within me. Feelings of embarrassment, always being judged by others, and finding the right conversational words seem to always take over my ability to truly enjoy socializing. That was until I started drinking.

Did you know that if you have social anxiety disorder, you have about a 20% chance of also abusing alcohol? For a lot of people like myself, the most common reason we begin to drink is to ease nerves (anxiety) and boost confidence. There is a reason it is referred to as “liquid courage”. Unfortunately, more often than not, alcohol only worsens your symptoms over time, which can ultimately lead to devastating consequences of addiction.

The COVID-19 pandemic was my first real indication that I had been long suffering from using alcohol to cope with social anxiety. The pandemic definitely brought me a certain degree of relief and more autonomy. You see, my previous career as a craft spirits brand rep was always in highly social environments. I was constantly meeting and interacting with new people through participating in huge craft spirit trade shows, along with running 40 bar and restaurant accounts within the Decatur/Atlanta area. Because alcohol use was so normalized and easily accessible in the industry, it wasn’t long before I was self medicating my anxiety. We are talking about ten years of my life.

After the pandemic shut down my industry, I knew this was the moment to walk away. It was time for me to make a change. I refused to go back to an industry that was jeopardizing my mental and physical health in a destructive way. That’s when I decided to enter the world of tech and dedicated all of 2020 and 2021 to learning. It didn’t take me long to find my niche, and settle into a life of work-from-home and learning. A life that, for the first time, I wasn’t suffering from debilitating panic attacks built around a false perception of reality.

Suddenly, I realized I was never truly Dom when I was drinking. It never made me better at my job, or made it easier to be social. Drinking only made everything worse, and I now owe it to myself to show up 100% as who I am. 

Today I have a new role at Kale & Flax, with an amazing team, and things are a lot different. No longer do I have to struggle with the preparation of being a part of a highly social,  judgmental, competitive, and biased environment as before. There isn’t a need to conform to an idea of what “normal” behavior should look like. I can just be me — my adventurous, loyal, dependable, creative, fullest self.

I have my moments, of course. But the most important thing is that my awareness has increased, allowing me to make better decisions and face my fears head on — in a more sober way. This new consciousness would not have been possible without the unprecedented change that came with the 2020 pandemic.

Here are five set rules that I follow today in the effort of combating anxiety in social settings:

01. Don’t ever settle for temporary fixes, such as alcohol

02. Embrace your personality and the wholeness of who you are

03. Find your tribe and surround yourself with positive people and culture

04. Don’t force it — if you think the environment isn’t right, it’s better to skip

05. Take baby steps — embrace a drink limit, and ask what mocktails are on the menu

At the end of the day, life is short and we only get one shot at it..

If we are truly committed to living an authentic life, then we must learn to face fears and doubts, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, build better boundaries, and be able to reach deep into ourselves and find what makes our spirits rise. I’m grateful for this deep and meaningful reminder, during a time when we’re all facing so many new challenges, that I need to practice self-compassion and not use alcohol as a coping mechanism.


Learn more about how to support employees with social anxiety.