Believe it or not, this is still something I struggle with. Just last night I went out to a show and I caught myself looking around, wondering about this question. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like everybody had a drink, starting to loosen up, get giggly, friendly, dancing, and I felt like the same old me.
Don't get me wrong - I love me! I especially love sober me.
When I used to go out I would get drunk to loosen up and have some fun. Which could have been okay if I'd known when to stop. But also I was abusing alcohol and relying on it to come out of my shell. And sometimes, I came out of my shell a wee bit much. Back in the day I remember being at a show and getting wasted, double vodka slimes times 8 wasted. Whoops. After the band finished, a few people jumped up on stage and started jamming, and out-of-my-shell confident me decided to jump up on the microphone and improvise lyrics. Even though I was drunk I soon realized I was making an ass of myself. I jumped off the stage, grabbed my jacket, and caught a cab to McDonalds (ew). I'm happy to say that stuff like this doesn't happen anymore, but I still cringe at this memory.
The first thing I do when I get into a bar is go put $4 into the Keno machine. I have a pretty good Keno rule (I know myself and my tendency to over-indulge) - if I win, I don't put any money back in. If I lose, I don't put any money back in. Simple. It gives me something to do, something to have fun with. Plus, it's a way cheaper habit (especially the way I play) than my old bar tabs (also, yowza).
Next up I grab a ginger ale. I can't remember the last time I got charged for a ginger ale at a bar. Which is rad! My bar budget for the night includes a show ticket (usually around $10), my Keno plays, and always spare change for a ginger ale or the Holy Grail -
$1.25 for a game of pool. Bar tables are usually terrible, and there's rarely chalk, bent cues, a lopsided table with scratch marks in the felt, but pool is a blast. Even if, like me, you're not very good at it. I go throw my $1.25 on the table and claim the next game. Usually it ends up that someone challenges me, or invites me for a game of doubles, and you end up meeting all of the crew who's come out to drink and play pool. And maybe sometimes you'll win a game or two.
Oh, right! You're there for the show! There's always that. Get into the crowd, go listen to the music, watch the band, learn the words, dance, and stop caring what you think people might think. Most of the times in bars people assume I'm sipping on a rye and ginger. Nobody has to know there's no booze in it. In fact, people are usually shocked when they offer me a glass of beer and I turn it down. People think it's cool that I don't drink.
Mingle. Socialize. If you're like me with social anxiety, you don't need to drink to loosen up - everybody else around you is already doing that. The more uninhibited and drunk others get, the easier you'll find it to socialize with strangers.
I always have my fail-safe back-up to ensure that I won't drink in bars - my car. I drive myself everywhere for a few reasons. One, so that I can leave when I'm ready to, and not rely on a taxi, or a ride from anybody else. And so that I don't drink. I will not drink and drive, and I sure as hell won't leave my car parked outside a bar, so if I have my car, I won't drink. Simple! Same rule goes for myself for house parties, or any event.
The first time I went to a bar after I quit drinking was a mere three months into my sobriety and I was terrified, and I learned from it. I didn't have my car, and it freaked me out. I learned to have my car as a back-up. I learned that ginger ales are free! I learned that I could really get into the music and forget that I wasn't drinking. I learned I didn't have to get drunk and make an ass of myself. Most of all, I learned that I could still go to a bar, not drink, and have fun.
It is possible. These days, I do it on a regular basis.