Since I started blogging/spewing/drivelling/preaching last December, I had a few people contact me via social media – some of them known to me, some of them strangers – to comment on what they have read, what I have written. Firstly, I would like to thank them, as from a selfish and slightly (errrr….) vain point of view, it’s a great feeling to write something that makes people feel strongly enough that they feel the need to comment – whatever the content may be, but mainly I want to thank them for sharing their experiences and for letting me know that this ‘experience’ that we can call our individual and unique journeys with alcohol, is not a vacuum – they are others out there who you may not be the same as, but who do understand.
With this in mind, I was contacted this week by someone who writes on the subject of drinking himself, and he asked if I wanted to contriubute to a project where the brief is that a friend approaches you to say that they think they should take a break from drinking, although they are not sure that they need to – what advice do you give them? I’m so much better at giving advice – on life, love, work, sports, the list goes on, perhaps not surprisingly haha – than i am at taking it, and that’s something that I’m working on, but I thought it would be a hugely interesting piece to have a look at, so what you see below is my thoughts on this. I would love to hearwhat people think – are you in the same boat as me, or are we two ships continents apart? Whilst I have been sober for a short time – 23 days since you asked – I’m aware that I am in danger of coming from a ‘holier than thou’ meets ‘the hard work is done’ place, but I would ‘like’ to think that my story up until this point qualifies me to comment.
I’m going to give you the same advice I wish I could have given to myself when I wanted it, or pretended to want it. This isn’t because I believe one size fits all, but because I only have my own experience to go on – everyone is frustratingly different (ha, normally we celebrate this yes?!) but this does mean that you get to have ownership of the experience.
Ownership will bring pride, and pride will bring resolve, because chances are if you are asking this question, as to whether or not to stop drinking, then pride is something that is absent from your life and has been for a fair amount of time.
I’ve always been terrible about taking advice when it comes to drinking, or the way I run my life in general. Ironically I should have seen the fact that I had a problem with my drinking in that these two are irretrievably interwoven, each infused with the other like in an almost osmotic process. I would have my mind made up before I asked the question, if I even asked it – I would more likely state ‘I’m not drinking again, ever, and I mean it this time’ and would leave the words hanging – indignant with expectation, perhaps a hint of longing – hoping for an accomplice in my deception to object, for a validating ‘no you’re fine, we all do what you do, here, have a drink to celebrate your normality.’
If that’s you, then I’m not going to condescend to the level of trying to fit my template around your head, mainly because I don’t even know what that ‘template’ is quite yet, not in its fullest form, so that would be horrifically unfair to tar you with my brush.
That sounded much less dirty in my head.
At the same time, the more I try to cram your life into a foreign mould, the more likely you are to try and break out of it. My emotional development was stunted severely when I started binge drinking at 14 – hence, the more you push me, or try to make me fit within a mould not of my making, the more I have always pushed back.
Cutting off my nose to spite my face would be my specialist subject on Mastermind, along with ‘wind me up and watch me go.’
It is destructive, and destruction will only delay the rebuilding process.
If you are thinking that you drink too much, or need to take a break, it suggests to me that you need to rebuild something, you need a time out, a respite to regroup, survey the damage already done and consider how to best reconstruct.
For me, I needed to stop drinking to work out what I had lost without realising I ever had it in the first place. I had a surface layer, I was hallway after hallway of smoke and mirrors, but I no longer knew what else. The day I realised I truly didn’t know myself, that I couldn’t name a funny fact about myself that didn’t involve alcohol (“this one time, when I was fucked off my tits…”) was brutal, but I needed that realisation.
It you think you don’t need to stop, then firstly why are you asking? By asking the question, you are clearly past the stage of internalising this debate – you need more space than exists within your mind, you literally need another head space such is the mind-fuckery being done to your own, by yourself.
Ask yourself “why not?” I did. Obviously I am perfect, and this whole process has been easy for me, so you should definitely listen. I spent so long telling myself why I should carry on drinking – it loosens me up, I enjoy my riotous side, I feel more likeable, I feel more interesting, I may in fact be the funniest fucker on this planet after a few pints, I feel like I could do anything, and be anyone, I feel free – that I forgot to ask myself why I shouldn’t give myself a break.
Had I done, I think the answer would have been a series of splutterings starting with ‘just because…you know..’
The point being, oh-so-subtlely, that I didn’t know.
What I realise now, is that when I made my statements swearing off the booze, is that I wanted someone to tell me that yes, that is what I should do. Yes, you have a problem. Yes, you don’t drink like a normal person, yes probably because you aren’t able to.
Yes, you need to sort this out for yourself, because at the end of the day, it will be you left to clean up your own mess and move on. That is of course if yes, you realise you have a problem somewhere in the future.
“Why now?” Ask yourself “why not now?” instead. You are asking me this question because you want validation one way or the other, but chances are if you are asking then you already have an idea of where this is heading in some unspecified amount of time down the road.
You are probably also asking because you don’t want to, or aren’t willing to, accept responsibility and accountability for your own decisions – you want me to decide for you because you self-identification and analysis is far more painful. It’s easier to project frustration onto me than it is onto you.
At the same time, after all I’ve said above, well done for asking the question, but it is the first in a series of very small steps that you would have to commit to following. This is not easy, but it is easier then what it could be.
The pragmatist would say stop now – the odds are in your favour, for if you stop then you will give yourself the space to work out what you want to do, you will give yourself the perspective to analyse the behaviour that you may have until this point normalised.
Taking a break give you the space to work out what you want and why, whereas if you do have a problem with alcohol, and you continue drinking then you run the risk of continuing to normalise new lows until a point is reached where ‘to stop’ is such a daunting task that continuing to drink makes more sense.
I don’t know everything, but I do know that this is what I wish I could tell my 16 year old self when I first considered sobriety, so take it or leave it, but at the same time, whatever you do, take ownership because no-one can, or will, do that for you.
I am here for you, but you need to be there for yourself too.