Finding Reasons to Drink... Or Not To
23 February. 2020 • Category: Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Sobriety
Enjoying a lovely evening walk with my husband.
I’ve always looked forward to the holidays. If you rewind a few years it was always because a holiday meant another reason it was ‘okay’ to drink. Holidays meant relaxation, and no work, even if we didn’t go away anywhere. It was nice to be able to turn the alarm clocks off for a few days, and not worry about getting up early. To pour a glass of wine just that little bit earlier, especially in the summer, because that was what people do. To drink socially, or to relax at home in the sunshine with that nice cold drink.
Looking back, it seems odd that I could turn so many things into a reason to be able to drink, but then that’s what our society does as a whole really isn’t it? Everywhere you look there is an advert or a program, something condoning the use of alcohol as a reward, as a commiseration, as a celebration, to drown your sorrows, to have fun, to relax you, to give you courage, the list goes on and on.
I think a large part of drinking starts as a way to relax, but also as a way to fit in. We want to connect, to be with like-minded people and drinking allows us to join the club and be part of ‘it’. I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is, I just knew that I didn’t want to miss out. It was nice to join my friends in a beer garden on a night out, it was fun to chat on the phone with a friend, sharing a bottle even if we weren’t together, but now, I’m not sure that these relationships were that genuine. I mean, how could they be when the ‘me’ that was there wasn’t me, but an intoxicated version? As time went on though, these moments weren’t enough, and when others went home, so did I, but I’d open another bottle when I got there.
Even now I sometimes romanticise the idea of drinking. I can get a little lost in my memories, and those I have conjured up that aren’t real, like the idea of sitting somewhere enjoying a glass of something. A few nights ago I was outside a restaurant and looking in through the window I saw a family sitting down to eat. It sounds like I am a stalker, I’m not, I had a valid reason for being there. It was about 4.30pm and at first glance I saw them with their sparkling water and I was impressed, it reassured me that I wasn’t the only one not to drink. But then, much to my disappointment, the waiter bought them over a beer and a bottle of wine. That’s when the envy crept in. It really annoys me that it’s still there, that I am envious over something that I don’t even actually want anymore, but it sparked the whole conversation in my head wishing I could drink ‘normally’. I mean what even is a normal drink? I can take a step back now, whereas a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to. I can look at it, and think, “Yeah okay, they want a drink. I don’t need one.” Normally my thoughts are followed up with relief that I don’t need something to take the edge off anymore, that I am able to just be me, whether it suits others or not. Sometimes, I even feel a little bit of pity, that others need a substance to help them have a good time.
Something in our culture needs to change. I think it is slowly, but alcohol is so ingrained, it isn’t going to happen over-night. When I was growing up in the 1980’s it was common for cigarette adverts to be everywhere, on the TV and in football stadiums particularly. Something changed, someone somewhere realised that smoking might do more harm than good and gradually people cracked down on the advertising. I hope one day the same happens with alcohol. People can decide whether they want to drink or not without it being rammed down their throats. We don’t need actresses on adverts telling us that Bailey’s makes Christmas special, and we don’t need soap operas normalising daily drinking. For people that can take it or leave it so to speak, it is fine, but for people like me, we don’t need reasons to excuse our drinking or to increase it, because that is what we do. At least it is until we stop. After that we look for reasons to see our behaviour as normal, but without the alcohol, and messages reinforcing how good it is really don’t help.
So nowadays, I still look forward to holidays and any other special occasion but it’s no longer an excuse to drink. Instead it’s a time to be present and enjoy myself, knowing I am being a genuine version of myself, that I can claim full responsibility for what I say and do and that’ll I remember everything. It’s not a bad place to be!
Thanks for reading!