It’s a great idea to take a closer look at some of the cultural and marketing brainwashing we’ve been swimming in our entire lives. Things like, “I need a drink to …relax, comfort myself, celebrate, dull the pain, feel less anxious, loosen up socially, enjoy life, be able to stand my family/spouse/children, numb out, check out, get through the day, get through the night, get to sleep.” Blah blah blah, whap whap whap.
Here are a few of the things I think Alcohol can REALLY do for me/you/us in no specific order of importance:
Feeling blue or depressed? Alcohol is an effective depressant guaranteed to leave you more depressed than you are now. It’s like getting on an elevator that you thought had an UP arrow but it was only designed to go DOWN. You will always end up on a lower floor than the one where you started. It might be a slow process but it is a sure one. Once you really get hooked on numbing with Alcohol, you can add to your overall sadness and depression the experience of waking up every morning with REGRET as your primary emotion and walking around every single day with an underlying feeling of SELF-LOATHING because you can’t seem to break free from something that is sucking you into a hellish cycle: I hate this so why am I still doing it? Why can’t I stop?
Want a fun little lift? You deserve that, right? Alcohol may be worshipped as the God of Good Times, but in druggie terms, it’s a downer. In medical terms, it’s a depressant and it’s really good at what it does. It can’t “lift” anything because like that elevator, it doesn’t go up. If we’re being truthful about memories of feeling lighter, those great times were really about our circumstances, activities, and social interactions. In a culture where Alcohol is so prevalent in every scene, we lose sight of what’s really doing the lifting. Once drinking and/or over-drinking become habitual, the Good Times Train starts heading down a decline and gradually (or quickly) gains momentum. Some folks start looking for love in all the wrong places, and few things shout DOOMED like an alcohol-soaked relationship. Others are more comfy at home, working on their drunk dialing, emailing, and social media posting. I used to make frequent late-night trips to the grocery store for MORE things to “treat myself” and lift my spirits like lava cake and creme brulee and tart cherry pie. I could have ended up with a “lift” in the back of a police car holding my shiny new DUI ticket. But that would have been a far lighter “lift” than the one in the back of an ambulance OR watching someone else being pulled out of a crushed car from an accident I had just been involved in. If I had been drinking, it wouldn’t have mattered whose fault the accident was. Some moments can alter the course of your life in unthinkable ways.
Having trouble sleeping? If you drink enough Alcohol you will definitely nod off, but it won’t be good restful refreshing sleep. Even a moderate drinker is likely to wake up about 2 or 3 AM and then have trouble getting back to sleep. And no, it isn’t the “sugar” being metabolized that makes you feel that way, it’s a chemical released by your dying liver cells. If you flew right past “moderate” drinking, you might wake up in a sweat and feel vaguely or intensely shitty with a dull headache. You might even feel wrenchingly soul and body sick. If you drank waaaay too much, it’s possible to wake up soaked in urine because you lapsed into such a deep stupor that your brain couldn’t “get” your body’s natural signals. I used to wake up in the middle of the night hearing/feeling my liver and heart and eyes and brain and nervous system and kidneys all crying PLEASE STOP THIS MADNESS YOU ARE KILLING US. Every cell in my body was weeping and begging for me to put down the poison.
Feeling socially anxious? Drinking Alcohol to the point where you feel a loosening of your inhibitions and a sudden surge of confidence might seem like a relief at the very beginning. As many career drinkers in recovery say, “It was like a whole new world at the very beginning, but that ended quickly. Then I was just chasing the first high. I knew it was never coming back, but I was hooked.” As someone who has a naturally easy way with social interactions, I can say for sure that getting hooked on daily drinking changed all that. I didn’t want to go anywhere or be with anyone unless alcohol was involved, and if it wasn’t, I would drink before I left home. I became socially anxious because I was losing touch with the authentic sparkle of my own personality and my ability to enjoy the company of others without Alcohol in the mix. Every morning I resolved NOT to drink that evening, but by late afternoon my mind was replaying the old tune: “Just One More Relaxing Time, Tomorrow I’ll Be Strong and Do ALL the Things to Transform My Life.” I spent so many years riding that merry-go-round that you could throw a dart on an 12-month calendar and anywhere it landed would be THE DAY I had my “last drink.” I had so many Day One’s that my sobriety record looked like a computer program.
Need to shut out the voice of fear for a while or just relax? For years as an over-wrought, over-worked, financially terrified single mom, Alcohol was the after-work elixir that helped me unwind and loosen all the stress and pressure and constant worry. I used to think about and talk about and make Vision Boards about a “whole new start” with things like doing yoga and working out regularly and meditating every day, things that are TRULY relaxing and also healthy and leave the body and mind and emotions in a higher state that stays up. But none of that ever happened with the exception of occasional fits and spurts. A constant level of ethanol poisoning is a great motivation killer. I could feel myself shrinking and contracting and just surviving, not expanding and blooming and evolving. I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to have endorphins running through me from hiking and tennis and raquetball and yoga and Jazzercize and bicycle touring and good old-fashioned walking. I couldn’t remember how it felt to have a spring in my step and a glow in my aura. One night I was watching a bad TV movie (because that garbage and infomercials are all you find when you are drunking with a remote in your hand at 11 PM) about a woman being slowly poisoned to death by her spouse. I could relate so completely to how mysteriously sick and exhausted she felt all the time. “Oh my God. That’s ME but I don’t need a sinister, evil spouse. I’m doing it to myself. Slowly, very slowly poisoning myself to death. Why can’t I stop this?”
Need a little relief from dealing with a difficult partner, family member, job, or situation? Alcohol may seem to soften the edges because of the numbing effect but it guarantees only two things. Number One, if you are stuck in an impossible situation that is unhealthy and dysfunctional and possibly even abusive, Alcohol is a great way to stay defeated and depressed and discouraged and disheartened and beaten down to the point where you can’t even tinker with the idea of changing anything or breaking free. If you are in a situation or relationship that has challenges (News Flash! They all do!) but also has “good bones” and possibilities for improvement, Alcohol is one of the best ways to keep positive change and healing out of reach. Alcohol dependency can further complicate any mess and ramp up the friction in any relationship. Coping mechanisms and patience and perspective are on the decline. No one can be at their best or give their best when the lion’s share of attention and energy is caught up struggling against the nightmare of feeling enslaved to a substance. We can’t really love others when we are drowning in self-recrimination and self-hate.
What other things can Alcohol help us with? Humiliation, anxiety, inflammation, high blood pressure, distorted vision/hearing, renal disease, liver cirrhosis, depression, numerous cancers, impaired judgment, breathing difficulties, stomach upsets, dry skin, amenia, diarrhea, exhaustion, apathy, nerve damage, ulcers, accidents and injuries, angry outbursts, domestic violence, sexual assault, memory loss, and blackouts. And that’s just the short list of what it contributes to or directly causes. But Alcohol can do more than GIVE us things, it can take so many things away. Things like self-esteem, confidence, self-care, peace of mind, normal brain functions, productivity, creativity, our job, health, spouse, children, home, HOPE, and life itself. The wheels can come completely off the bus before it heads over the cliff.
Alcohol is indeed the “wonder drug” and those are just the Cliff Notes.
The good news is that an entire tribe of people are unplugging from the Alcohol Matrix mindset and rebelling against the misconceptions, misperceptions, and outright lies about ethanol–no matter how it’s dressed up. Brave badass warriors, gods and goddesses, who are willing to face and speak the truth: That in the human body, ethanol is an addictive substance, a classified poison, a neurotoxin, and a known carcinogen that erodes physical and emotional and mental health. Spiritually, it stripmines the soul. There is no sorrow or pain or loss or fear or anxiety or stress or depression that Alcohol can’t deepen. And there is no celebration or happy occasion that a little too much Alcohol can’t dull or diminish or distort or downright ruin.
Right now I’m wearing a t-shirt from a recovery podcast called HOME. And right now I’m feeling so very grateful to be sober and sharing this path with some of the smartest, funniest, warmest, most sensitive and brave and honest and talented people on the planet. This is the Club I want to be a part of forever. We are the ones waking up, the ones who are willing to do the hard things to free ourselves from the pull of addiction. We are the ones with unlimited opportunities to learn and grow and transform and heal and lead the charge into healthier and far more rewarding ways of coping with life and being in the world.
As my t-shirt says: WE ARE THE LUCKIEST! https://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/wearetheluckiest
I’m staying joyously and gloriously sober today, let’s do this together.
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