Today’s post was supposed to be on self forgiveness but I got heavily inspired to write on this topic instead. I’m not making a post about alcohol to bash those who indulge in it. After all, in some ways I love alcohol. I love being tipsy, I love partying, I love dancing. I even love doing shots. And unlike most people who choose not to drink it, I actually like the taste as well. Not all alcohol, of course, but I have lots of drinks that I really like: spiced rum, Disaronno, Sambuca, red wine…the list goes on. I know what it’s like to finish a busy shift and want a beer to chill out and decompress. I know what it’s like to want to release all of your inhibitions on a night out but nine times out of ten, I choose not to drink.
When you get a hangover, it’s normal to feel a bit unwell and off-centre. When I get a hangover, although it usually only hits me two days after I’ve been drinking, I am paralysed by such intense feelings of sadness and despair that I cannot cope. I describe it to my friends as being “crying in the shower” sad because it’s something that has happened so many times after drinking that I’ve noticed a pattern. 99% of the time when I’ve been feeling this awful, I’ve been alone which has made it even worse. When you feel that low, there’s no use telling yourself “I’m just coming down from the alcohol” – it doesn’t matter. There’s no way out of that sort of sadness. As someone who has suffered from depression multiple times, this is triggering for me. I don’t like using that word but in this case, it fits. It’s hard not to feel like things are getting bad again when it’s the same feeling in the same part of my brain that I get during my darkest times. So what it comes down to is this: I don’t want to sacrifice my mental health for the next two days for the sake of a few hours of fun. And I have plenty of fun without alcohol! I have no problem being social and talking to people and dancing when I’m sober. So in that respect, I’m really lucky.
Another reason, and a more recent one, is because of my physical health. I mentioned a while ago that I’d been diagnosed with a chronic illness. To cut a long story short, I was prescribed meds and they didn’t work. So I started researching natural ways to control the disease. Diet turned out to be a huge factor (according to the internet) so I’ve changed the way I eat quite dramatically. Along with avoiding certain foods and taking supplements, avoiding alcohol, sugar and processed foods was also highly recommended. That was the last nail in the coffin for me. Now I had a more socially acceptable reason not to drink – my physical health. In a way, I was relieved to see alcohol on the “Avoid” list because it gave me an excuse not to drink it and allowed me to align my beliefs with my actions. Before, I made exceptions quite a lot, now I feel able to be more disciplined about it.
So what – I can just not drink. What’s the problem? The response from other people. In my experience, if you’re not drinking on a night out – people take notice. The feeling of exclusion and disdain is tangible. Of course you get the rare gems who don’t mind – all of my best friends, for example – but they are few and far between. Binge drinking culture is something that was rampant at university, for example, and it was difficult being someone who didn’t want to drink all the time. I felt like everyone thought I was lame and there was no way of proving them otherwise. I already didn’t really click with anyone I stayed in halls with and choosing not to drink just made things worse. One particular friend said to me one night: “Dancing sober?” and when I said I was, he shook his head in mock-disgust (it’s worth mentioning my sober dancing was better than any dancing he did under the influence). And there was one night him and I went out for a couple of drinks in a bar and when I politely refused the offer of a third drink, he looked irritated and said: “Do you want to leave?” Another thing is that people tend to think you’re being judgemental if you don’t drink – as if you’re looking down on everyone else instead of it just being a personal choice. When I go out, I feel like I have to make an added effort to be amiable and nice to people in case they think I’m looking down on them for drinking. Along with trying to think up socially acceptable excuses for not drinking, it can be a bit exhausting!
I don’t know why we’ve gotten to a place in society where a lack of drinking means the party is over. When did everyone get so dependent on alcohol to have fun? I think that, in part, it has to do with social anxiety. I think more people suffer from social anxiety than we think and people have gotten addicted to the confidence and elation that alcohol can bring. Of course, the more we rely on this synthetic elation, the less easy it is to cultivate it naturally. Or at least, that’s my opinion. And the more we get used to being able to speak to strangers with ease, the harder it gets to be charming and affable when sober. My boyfriend likes to say that when people are tipsy, they are the best versions of themselves. There is a quote from Carl Jung about psychedelics where he says to beware of unearned wisdom. I think he articulated something I’ve never been able to. I think it’s important to learn things for yourself. I’ve smoked weed before and I love it infinitely more than alcohol because there is no hangover but I’d hate to get to a place where I relied on it for relaxation. I have a need to be able to cultivate these things myself. I’ve always thought that if I was to achieve any sort of enlightenment, it would be through lucidity. Aside from using alcohol as a social lubricant, a lot of people who work really hard use it to destress. I’ve seen this in hospitality a lot – especially chefs. They tend to work really long hours in high stress, fast-paced environments that are so bad for mental and physical wellbeing. I certainly wouldn’t be able to manage and I understand why they drink the way they do. It would be great if their work environment could improve but I don’t see that happening any time soon, unfortunately.
I think a solution to the overuse of alcohol is to try and be more in touch with the emotional body. When alcohol is used as an escape, it can push these emotions deeper into yourself, creating more pressure and friction which in turn increases the compulsion to drink. Sitting with my emotions is something I’m learning to do at the moment and it’s not easy but it makes me feel more at home in my own body. There is a buddhify meditation called “Intention” which focusses on setting an intention for the rest of the day. The narrator mentions as an aside that the reasons we drink have a dramatic impact on how the night will turn out; but that if we were able to take a second to evaluate what our intention was in drinking, it could dramatically change the course of events and allow us to behave in alignment with our true wishes. I think he hit the nail on the head.
Thanks so much for reading. 🙂
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx