I stopped drinking 99 days ago. Not because I had “a problem.” I would never declare that, because I’m very afraid of that term, and also because I know people with “real problems” and I wouldn’t want to trivialize what they have by describing my drinking as close to that. It’s a tag that I don’t feel like I deserve, or want to even consider wearing. My use was never a physical, or compulsive dependency. I don’t think this was my battle I was fighting. It was just this thing that I did….too much of it and way too often, and for the wrong reasons. Hmmm….maybe that’s the same? Mercifully, I could walk away from it without ill-effect and it never lost me a job or a marriage or landed me in jail or rehab or the hospital. I have no shakes, my liver, as far as my labs tell me, is fine. I’m unscathed-ish.
So, then what’s the problem?
By my contemporaries’ standards, there was no problem. In fact, not drinking is more of a problem for them than my drinking was. But if you define “problem” by alcohol negatively effecting your health or life or relationships, or look at the alcoholic screening tools your doctor gives you half-heartedly at your annual physicals, my drinking qualified as “positive” for misuse/abuse.
Alcohol has negatively effected my life, my health, and my relationships. I’ve been less than safe while drinking, less than healthy, stable and wise, less than kind. I let myself get sloppy and I replace authenticity and courage with loudness, offering people the least of me, the most superficial version of who I am. I missed an entire wedding reception for someone I really love, just this year, because I made myself severely ill by drinking. It took days to recover because my body just can’t process all that poison, and it shouldn’t have to. It’s also not good for my mind, my delicate mind, already full of lots of haunting anxieties and sadness. I regularly hid from my kids and from any complex or negative feelings I was dealing with, by drinking. And guess what? Life is full of the complex and negative! So, I was hiding nearly daily.
The needs and expectations of those around me felt like too much, so I drank. Too much, too often, too early. And then all I could give them was half of me. They couldn’t expect more, because I had bugged out, into my wine glass, or into my bottle…but I hadn’t reserved that other half for myself, for my wellness, for growth or peace. It was just gone. Foggy and missing.
I don’t want to opt out anymore, to excuse myself for being only part of me. Even if it’s a well-accepted excuse, an expected option in our society. It’s not right for me, just because it’s commonplace.
I can recount numerous occasions where I felt ashamed of how I behaved because of how much I drank. I don’t want that anymore. I don’t really believe that I’m only fun when I’m drinking. And even if it is true, I don’t want to trade my wellness for other people’s enjoyment of that version of me.
So. What does that mean? Are we all secretly alcoholics? I would argue that there’s nothing secretive about it. Some people’s chemical makeup makes them more vulnerable to dependency. For the rest of us who aren’t physically in need of booze, but are absolutely using it as a psychological crutch….in fact, we are proudly, loudly, arrogantly, drinking too much. It’s expected, it’s encouraged, it’s applauded. We are drinking to hide, to drown, to burrow away from our problems, or into other versions of ourselves. It’s so normalized, it’s practically our cultural identity.
That sucks. As people, encouraging each other to live as partial people. I don’t have any big revelations, I just think that sucks. And I’m trying something different for a while. Just over here trying to person as best I can. For now that means fully-consciously without booze.
I am drinking a LOT of tonic and lime, so please no one tell me that’s bad for my kidneys or something.