As a country the UK has quite an ingrained love affair with alcohol. It’s joked about often, used to reward achievements or hard days, for successes and for failures. Most evenings out will involve it, as will a lot of afternoons in the sun.
When it can be enjoyed without excess, or when it can be used without a reliance building up, it is an enjoyable way to spend time. For a lot of people, that is no longer the case and I for one, am extremely grateful for my sobriety. Especially considering how hard it was to get here!
The problem is, that alcohol affects everyone differently. Those of us with an addiction were not born with a warning to be careful in case we build up too much tolerance and drink too much, too often. It’s ever present in our culture, in fact, it seems more normal to drink than not to, which is weird considering it is ultimately a poison. But then, things change, a lot of people smoked when I was younger. Advertising for cigarettes was common place and yet, now that has changed. Maybe one day, it will for alcohol too.
For now though, we can be aware. For those of us that don’t drink, that means not slipping back into old habits, not romanticising the idea of a drink, even though it’s easy to, but remembering how hard we have worked for our sobriety. For those of us who do drink, it’s about remembering our limits and not getting carried away.
There are so many ways in which drinking can affect us -
- It can affect or numb our feelings. Often one of the main reasons for having a drink is to help us cope with a stressful situation. This could be a long term stress, where we drink regularly to cope, or more short term, perhaps after a particularly hard day. A downside of this is that the feeling can be addictive. We can search out that feeling of relief but that often comes with an increased price and that means more to drink. We also need to remember that while drinking provides a quick fix, there are other longer term solutions out there that don’t have the same side effects.
- Depression and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant. While it may calm and numb, it also can make us feel anxious or depressed. It is thought in the UK that there is a strong link between those with anxiety and those with an alcohol dependency. Serotonin is a chemical relating to our mood which is affected by regular intake of alcohol and this imbalance can cause us to drink more as things get a bit squiffy. While some people drink to feel that they are boosting their confidence and aiding their anxiety, actually it affects our brain chemistry and our neurotransmitters. This means it’s not only our mental health that is affected, but we may be less balanced and more likely to make rash decisions.
- Relationships. We’ve all said things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment, but when we drink, it lowers our inhibitions resulting in confrontations, arguments and in extreme circumstances violence. It’s not just at home that these problems can occur, or even while we’re drinking. It’s likely that the effects of alcohol will affect our day to day lives, our reliability, our reactions and our health. It can end up making us a bit of a liability in the relationship stakes.
I read an article from Sky News recently which I found extremely worrying. It seems that perhaps without our normal routines in place, a lot of people are drinking more, or relapsing. Of course this affects the individual, but given the close proximity we have to each other in lockdown, it is also affecting families more than ever before. Children are trapped at home, without even the reprieve of school to go to for some space and safety. It’s good that there are charities in place to support those who need it, but I do worry about the damage that has been done already, and the relationships that might be damaged beyond repair.
I’m not saying everyone should stop drinking and commit to a life of sobriety, although it you want to, you should! The clarity of mind, is something I never thought I’d experience. What we can do is to look at our alcohol use and the way we live our lives, to see whether one is perhaps affecting the other, and make an informed choice. I like to remember that #soberisnotboring!
Thanks for reading.