Every romanticised moment of envy that occurs in my comparison creating imagination, contains alcohol. Each visualisation of how my life should be at that moment is an idyllic drinking scenario. Everyone within that fantasy, known or unknown, is having the most wonderful moment. All of it centred around alcohol like our solar system to the sun. I don’t envy the people in these fleeting moments of punishing comparison. I envy the situation. I envy their ability to regulate alcohol. To use it to facilitate their lives and just forget about the shit of living for an evening. To act unrestricted. To be completely honest. To love and laugh… It’s all complete bollocks. These alcohol advertisements run through my brain trying to tempt me with an illusion. In these perfect bar scenes, there is no depression. No aggression. Blood and tears. Vomit. Mistakes. Pain. It is only bliss. Alcohol inspired utopia. Which by its very own nature is impossible.
The difference between now and the time before I quit drinking is that I know where drinking leads me; devastation. The Euros 2020 (soccer) is currently playing. There was no greater reason to get drunk than a major sporting tournament. Recently, during an important match, I was drinking a cup of tea. Inside me, there was a lingering slither of societal conditioning from the drunken days of old; “What the fuck you doing drinking tea? You should be out, on it!” Then the tape starts playing. The idealised temptation movie starts trying to test my sobriety. I’ve seen it too many times to believe it but it is a warning. It is a reminder that even after all these years without alcohol the potential is still there. That little inquisitive voice still murmurs that it would be okay to “just have one.” My own experience has taught me otherwise. That’s not how it ends up for me. The only idyllic moments that existed in my drinking days happened in the hours leading up to me drinking. It all went downhill from the first one. Yet, I fell for the bullshit every time “It’ll be different this time!” It very rarely, if ever, was.
One of the major concerns when I first quit drinking was “how am I going to do anything without alcohol?” It’s a toxic relationship. Just like a controlling partner, addiction made me believe that I wouldn’t survive alone. That life would be too overwhelming without it to lean on. And you know what? For a while, it seemed true. In the early days when all the acquaintances mistaken for friends cut me out like a leper. The doubts begin to circle, “Is this worth it?”, “Is drinking really that bad?”, “If this is life without alcohol then it is going to be miserable!” But it is just fear of change manifesting as the chains to a previous life. The only way to escape is to stay the course. Thankfully, in recent times, not drinking alcohol has become more accepted. With a large range of non-alcoholic beverages being created to cater for the increasing market. Maybe it was my own insecurities when I was younger but not drinking was seen as suspicious. People who didn’t drink were seen to be hiding something or boring. They must be guarded stiffs, too insecure to be honest. Or too fearful to be out of control. But if anyone wants honesty then spend an hour in a recovery meeting. There you will hear real, stripped back, raw as an open nerve honesty. Not the carefully manicured honesty of a socially constructed image. But alcohol isn’t really about fun. It’s about acceptance.
Drinking is often more for the benefit of everyone else’s comfort than it is for your own.6 Reasons Why You Should Never Trust Someone Who Doesn’t Drink (elitedaily.com)
It’s a cultural custom. And thankfully customs change over time. They are not set in stone. If they are beneficial they stick around. If they are detrimental to the culture in which they exist then they change. Alcohol has its uses but who are they beneficial to? When I drank alcohol because everyone else did, I got what everyone else got. I didn’t do many of the things I wanted to do because I was scared of being different. My own insecurities kept me ill in more ways than one. I would dream about the things I wanted to do but would wash the dreams away with alcohol because I wasn’t strong enough to pursue them. Coincidently when I stopped doing the things I thought I should be doing and started doing the things I wanted to be doing, I achieved more than I ever thought possible. There is more to life than acceptance. The more I tried to be accepted the less connected to myself I became. People spend hours trying to be accepted whilst simultaneously not accepting themselves. But unhappiness isn’t the only cost of this social tradition. The cost of alcohol on the (British) National Health Service is approximately £3.5 billion a year. Which is £1 billion more than smoking costs.
I started this blog talking about the temptation that can creep in every now and then. My addiction testing my resilience. I have heard other addicts say “I wanted a drink the other day. I feel so bad!” Personally, if I can feel the pull of temptation then I am still aware. It is the day that I don’t feel it that scares me. That could be the day that one isn’t a bad idea then it all goes to shit. And I have thought about it. I have thought would I trade one year of consequence-free drinking for all the experiences I have had in sobriety? Not a chance. Do I miss alcohol? No. I miss an idealised version of alcohol. I miss the perfect night out that never happened. I miss the bars that were full of a good time in my head but empty in reality. I wanted the promise that alcohol made to be fulfilled but it will never be. I resent the fact that the innocuous innocence with which alcohol is portrayed allowed it to seep into my life? Yet, I don’t resent the fact it happened. Nor do I resent the fact I am an alcoholic. Because thanks to those lessons I can live a life of contentment. Maybe with the odd sprinkle of FOMO but it’s a lot less harmful than the life I once led.
Thanks for reading,
If you are struggling with alcohol problems then reach out for hep. There are people out there who know what you are going through and know how to get through it.