It’s interesting that in discussions of relationships with alcohol, people will often focus on two extremes – either those who are complete ‘alcoholics’, or those who are completely alcohol free. Anyone in between these two polar opposites is considered ‘normal’, and thus not worthy of being examined. However, everyone’s behaviour actually lies on a spectrum. It’s important for everyone to consider their relationship with alcohol, regardless of where they lie.
My relationship with alcohol is probably one you’d find somewhat common today. I’ve never been a consistent drinker, because I find that this has a real adverse impact on my weight (and thus my overall attractiveness). I didn’t like it enough to have a bevvy every day. However, when I did drink, I definitely went way above what my body could handle. That coincides with the following analysis – where we see more millennials “are on average drinking less than other generations, but are binge drinking more”.
You could say my relationship with alcohol was characterised by the following:
‘Go hard or go home.’
I’d never been the biggest fan of alcohol, and didn’t like how most social occasions in my twenties were often accompanied by drinking. But I did like the feeling of letting loose, of having an excuse to not have responsibility over my actions. So how could I explain it to my friends – that I like alcohol, but I don’t want to have it every day? It felt like I always had to have an excuse for why I wasn’t drinking, or if I was drinking a lot.
It’s funny how alcohol is the only drug you have to apologise for not taking. But equally disturbing that we also find excuses to drink.
In the past, I was hugely reliant on self-medicating during tough times, with alcohol. Having a bad time adjusting at work? TGIF – time to get wasted. Breakup? I don’t want to feel the pain anymore, let’s just get me drunk. Awkward moments? Let’s go to the bar and grab a drink, hopefully that’ll make us feel less awkward! We’re always having to find excuses to either drink, or not drink.
These moments were often accompanied by bouts of binge drinking – I’d just keep on going. I knew my limits, but I ignored the consequences. There was an occasion when I ended up in hospital. Another time, getting too drunk at a work conference put a strain on my relationships with colleagues. These behaviours sound pretty normal right?
For many years, I’d convinced myself I had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I didn’t consider myself an ‘alcoholic’:
‘I don’t drink all the time, I only drink when I want to get wasted. Go hard or go home!’
I thought it was a good system to have, because technically I didn’t drink a lot. I wasn’t drinking constantly. But looking back, is this really a healthy system? Is having alcohol on speed dial when things go awry really considered a good relationship, especially for my mental health? I’m sure we all know about this – it’s a form of escapism. The issues that I tried to fix with extended bouts of drinking would never go away. They’d just stay there, continually haunting me. Although all my actions are considered ‘normal’, or ‘common’ – you can’t say this is healthy at all.
At some point, all of my escapism caught up to me and turned me into someone I wasn’t happy to be. Free alcohol at work turned me into a fat, lazy slob. The psychological wounds that I never healed from, continually accumulated, until this started to affect my work performance and thus my relationships with the people around me. I wasn’t a complete ‘alcoholic’ by most people’s standards, but my relationship with alcohol wasn’t a happy one.
I’ve learnt now not to count on alcohol to deal with my issues. I’m not afraid to have a drink, but I’m also not afraid to say ‘no’, because I like my relationship with alcohol now.
To sum up, don’t compare your relationship with alcohol to others. Just because you are between completely sober or someone with a drinking problem doesn’t mean you can’t evaluate your own relationship with alcohol. I’m much happier when I go out now, because I know what my relationship with alcohol is – I don’t need to depend on it to make me happy. I’m not afraid to have a drink, but I’m also not afraid to say ‘no’.
Go hard or go home? I don’t think that system is any help at all. It’s too binary, and our alcohol behaviours are much more nuanced than that.
I’d rather just drink what I’m comfortable with.