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.
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Go hard or go home ! That has been my motto with alcohol for years but I’m pleased to say currently I have the drinking beast under control thanks for the article
Thanks for sharing – and I can definitely relate at being ‘in the middle’ of those polar opposites… and after many difficult life circumstances (abusive relationships, consequent single parenting, court battles to protect said children, difficult family upbringing, all while trying to work, study, .. masters.. phd… etc) – I am now in a happy much healthier place in my life, work, relationship – but the SCAR that remains is that I have NO idea how to turn off the tap. If I have one drink, it turns into whatever is in the house. I pretty much can’t have wine…. or I finish the bottle, or more… switched to beer… but again don’t stop when I start. This happens once a week maybe … and I hate it… but don’t think I am an alcoholic.. and keep bouncing between going dry, and trying to have a little bit… and I think it is bc when I started drinking.. (not until age 25 or so coming out of religious cult) – it became mostly to ‘relax’ and forget….. WHAT I WOULD LOVE to know – is HOW you went from ‘go hard or go home’ – to just reasonable. I feel like there is a switch in my brain that doesn’t let me stop… once I start. How do you control that? Thank you for your thoughts.
I’m sorry to hear about all of this 🙁
The biggest thing that helped me was that there was a period of time I was completely off alcohol.
I was doing a challenge where I had to lose 10kg in 6 weeks, and if I drank a single drop of alcohol I wouldn’t be able to complete it! It was good for me to just focus on a particular goal, and that stopped me from finding the time to even think about it.
I kept training after the challenge was over, and I still keep up with having a healthy diet etc. I like my new lifestyle too much to go back to what it was.
This is where I see myself today…
I find reading the personal blogs on here is helping me understand more about myself.
This is the best site I been to so far…
Thanks for sharing!!
You might want to read some Alcoholics Anonymous literature and try to decide where you stand. In AA, drinkers often have similar stories but just as common, there are different stories concerning length of time drinking, age at which trouble started, etc. Most common thread most all of us share, though, is the inability to stop once drinking has commenced. I wish you well.
That is a very interesting and helpful article Matt. I haven’t had a drink for nearly 8 weeks as I’ve been trying to quit smoking which I now haven’t done for about the same time. If I drink I smoke so I had to stop drinking plus when I drank it was nearly always a bottle or bottle and a half of wine at home alone quite regularly which isn’t healthy at all. I really relate to being between a full blown alcoholic and sober. I’m really glad to be free from alcohol and the smokes to be healthier and frankly not missing them. I still miss the cigs when I’m stressed but knowing how bad they really are and that I don’t want to die too soon is what motivates me. Also I’m saving so much money!! I’m a single mum and I want to be around for my son as long as possible as his father is absent and I’m all he’s got. He’s so glad I’ve stopped smoking too!!
Sounds exactly like me. I’ve been in hospital numerous times, committed crimes, got caught, that have cost me employment, crashed cars.. all in my 20’s.. 20 years later.. and not being a complete numbskull and not getting in trouble..I still drink to get drunk. I don’t think I’ve ever truly faced the fact I don’t really like being in crowded spaces or being out with people when sober, or having good coping mechanisms when things go wrong. I’m a 6,4 athletic bloke. No one would ever know. I know everything.. and remember it all. But I think I’ve forgotten who truly am..
I enjoyed your article and could relate …it’s how it makes you feel and your internal barometer knows when it’s not working as a self medication. thanks for writing it.
Hi everyone at h.s..m I’ve been drinking now for thirty years without really much of a break. I hardly ever get drunk or have hangovers. I am desperate to stop. I can stop for a few days but always go back to those couple of beers after work etc. I have a young family and worried about my health. But just can’t seem to find it in me to stop once and for all. I feel selfish and stupid not to be able to take control.
Untangling this middle ground is exactly where I’m at right now. Also a single parent and I want to demonstrate that I’m there for my kid.
great post youre a inspiration to us all thanks for keeping up this blog. i also wanted to share with you this website that has really helped me a lot http://tiny.cc/howtodrinkless
I can relate to being in this middle ground as well. I went to AA to support a friend who wanted to stop drinking for six months. The meetings weren’t for me and my friend fell off the wagon, but I’m happy to say I haven’t had a drink for two months. For motivation, I think of the calories and have lost five kilos. I now enjoy long walks and have started jogging at age 51. I’ve tried to drink socially in the past, but I can’t stop at one drink – I’d like to, but I think alcohol is more addictive to some people and I just don’t have that off switch. Great article……congrats to everyone that is TRYING. That’s all you can do…. one day at a time.
I was like that too. One drink was not enough always wanted more and more. I always got drunk when I went out made my ex husband very mad. I decided I need to quit after a few hospital visits ect… I went to a treatment centre and have been sober for 8 years on June 1 . Its not ways easy being sober all the time but you get used to it and eventually it becomes our new norm. I attend AA meetings for support because the comments always bring me back to where I was and I don’t ever want to go back there again. If you can control your drinking good for you but if you are starting to think you have a problem you probably do.
I hate to say that is my story. Still trying to break-up with alcohol. I hope I can make it to where you are now.
Thanks for sharing!!