Alcohol debunked

It’s about two years since I stopped drinking alcohol. Before I was drunk almost every weekend and going weeks without drinking was considered “not cool”. I had to get my fix at least a couple of times each month.

I’m talking about “normal” alcohol consumption here, not the classy glass of wine you drink once in a while in a restaurant. The kind of alcohol consumption that is typical at a weekend party. So I was not considered an alcoholic by todays standards.

I had discussed the idea a long time ago with a friend of mine that had to stop drinking for health reasons. He didn’t want to stop. But looking for the positive sides of not drinking, we came up with some good arguments.

One argument was that you force yourself to develop better social skills. Simply because you have to talk with people without the help of alcohol. You have to brake down whatever mental barriers you have on your own, pushing your limits and growing your confidence over time.

Another one was health. Alcohol is toxic, for crying out loud. Yeah, we all know it, and “we don’t care”. But deep inside I think we do care, especially the day after. But like a dog unintelligently wrapping himself in his own leash while sniffing around a pole, we continue drinking too much the next weekend.

Not everyone drinks alcohol to get drunk, fortunately. I too can enjoy a glass of wine the same way I enjoy a cup of tea. I’m not criticizing alcohol on it’s own, it has it’s place. I’m focused on the bad habits surrounding alcohol.

The tipping point

So I was lying on my bathroom floor with my pants down, passed out. As I opened my eyes I slowly realized where I was and how stupid I probably was looking. It was a moment of consideration. What was I doing to myself? I remember that feeling. You know, the one you have after a long night with partying and drinking. The dreaded hangover and all that it includes: headache, anxiety and depression. A completely normal Sunday, in other words. Considering that it was normal, and everybody else was doing the same, I just ignored it.

On vacation in Tenerife, 2011, I managed to lose my wallet and phone (at separate nights). All because I was too drunk. One of the last nights we where out drinking, I got a blackout. Suddenly I was lost, and my friends was gone. I joined some locals at a random bar. They walked down a street and I followed, believing I acquired new friends. It ended with me getting an (impressive, I must add) roundhouse kick to my face and getting robbed. But they did not get anything, as I had already lost my wallet and phone the previous nights. I did, however, get 6 stitches in my eyebrow.

That was it. I was fed up! I started seriously evaluating the whole getting drunk procedure. Why did I do it? Was it really necessary? Could I manage without alcohol? It was only one way to find out for sure. I called it an experiment, to see how long I could go without getting drunk. The more interesting questions to be answered was if I could have fun and not feel that I was “missing out” because everybody else but me was drinking.

What was the point of drinking (a lot) of alcohol?

The good

You are tired from work. Maybe you got some social anxiety, or you just like to sit in a couch and never let your body language express any form of human emotions. No problem. Just drink some alcohol and you get the license to party!

This must be the number one argument for drinking alcohol. It is fun, it makes people talk and interact more. Take a drink – loosen up, man! All your worries will drown in the bottle. Tempting as it is, the effects are only temporary. Your license to party gets revoked the next day, and you’re back to square one.

“Because it tastes so damn good!” a man yells at me with bad breath when I ask why he drink alcohol. Probably this should be a good argument? I’m not sure. I like my cup of tea, but I don’t drink six of ‘em in a row. The only time I did something like that, must be when I was a kid and found a bag of candy. But we all know that in spite of how good it tastes, if you don’t stop eating, your stomach will probably hurt after a while and it will no longer taste that good.

Just ask yourself: when was the last time you drank 12 bottles of soda/juice/milk/water in one evening?

The bad

I really like to develop myself over time. That means learning new things about myself and others. Discovering limitations and problems I have with certain activities or situations. Asking questions like “why do I get embarrassed in larger crowds?”, “what holds me back from dancing on the dance floor?” or “why do some people provoke me?”.

The problem with alcohol is that it short circuits some of my limitations in social situations, and thereby fails to facilitate those kinds of questions. Only when I stopped drinking could I really explore those limitations for what they really was.

The ugly

People get stupid when they drink. They do stupid thing, they say stupid things. Going out without drinking in the weekend feels like the city is infected with zombies. No, really. It’s as close as it gets. People can’t walk properly, they lose the ability to even have a normal conversation. It’s not unusual to see people sitting on the ground eating food like wild animals, or vomiting and crying at the same time. You get the idea.

Another unsettling thing I see is peoples personal problems getting expressed in different ways when affected with alcohol. All the problems they undermine in daily life explode to the surface. Worst timing ever. It reinforces your “need” for drinking alcohol – creating a kind of space for your feelings to run free, but without actually dealing with them properly.

You lose control and can get yourself in bad situations, like I did when on vacation. How many gets raped indirectly because of alcohol? How many people die because of alcohol?

I paint a dark picture, indeed. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all. Maybe you don’t like hearing it, but that does not make it untrue.

Alcohol is overrated

So you can dance like a wild beast on the dance floor and talk to women like you’re Shakespeare when you drink. But does that mean that going to a party without drinking will be boring? Well, it all depends on your attitude.

What I have experienced over the last two years, is that alcohol is overrated. The reason you’re bored when you happen to be sober at a party sometimes, is not a lack of alcohol, but because you have an illusion that alcohol is needed for you to “loosen up”.

There is so many more variables determining how good a party is. The music, the atmosphere, the peoples attitudes and mood, your attitude and mood, and so on.

I feel confident that there is nothing alcohol can contribute for me when I’m out on a party. I do not distinguish myself from others that drink. Well, to a certain point of course, when people go into zombie mode, I still go strong.

It is much better to solve your social anxieties and develop yourself in the long run than it is to depend on alcohol.

Stop. Hammer time!

I think my situation made it more easy for me to quit drinking two years ago. I had just started studying again, after quitting my job. I used to go out sometimes with my colleagues, and that naturally faded when I no longer worked with them. Also, I was going to a private school where people in class more or less did not know each other. My social life came mostly from activities related to my interests.

Meditation plays an important role in this kind of lifestyle change. I had just learned meditation, so I gradually got more aware of my own needs and what I wanted to accomplish. My need for getting drunk was not a need in itself. I realized it was just cultural garbage. So when I got a hangover, instead of distracting myself from the pain and anxiety, I saw the negative effects it had on my physical and mental health. It simply was not worth it.

I made a decision, and stopped. I did not know for how long, it just had to be long enough for my bad habits to be replaced. I wanted to remove my dependencies on alcohol.

I’m happy to say my experiment has been a success.

Summary

I don’t want to be a zombie – do you?

2013-10-21 # self-development