I am not an alcoholic.
I thought I should start there. When I choose to drink, it’s rarely in excess. I hardly ever drink to the point of having a buzz.
I am, however, still careful about my consumption. I watch my patterns with drinking closely. When I find myself reaching for the bottle a little too often for comfort, I slow down or go without for a while.
I have to, because while I may not be an alcoholic, I know I could easily become one.
I have to, because alcoholism doesn’t run in my family—it gallops.
I’m someone who suffers from anxiety, and occasionally and seasonally from depression, and newly discovered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unlike Wellbutrin, which had a horrid affect on my mental health, and Xanax, which turns me into a zombie, I can function perfectly well when I have a single, strong drink of whiskey. It just takes the edge off, and I can move along as if nothing was wrong.
Still, I have to be careful, because when I look at the bottle of liquor I don’t just see relief, I see my past. I see my childhood. I see the possibility of continuing the too-long tradition of addiction-drenched wrong doing.
I wanted a drink last night.
In fact, I craved it. I sat with the idea of saving a bit of money by purchasing nips of Jameson instead of a full bottle. It had been a stressful day. It was one of those days where the little things had already built up on top of one another before the big things hit me with a one-two punch. Personal things, piled over the worldly things, but still wildly out of my control.
It was the kind of day where I wrapped my hands, put on gloves, and hit the heavy bag to alleviate some of my stress. It felt great for the 10 minutes the universe allowed before the bag fell from the ceiling mount and crashed to the floor.
I wanted to take the edge off, but after a few deep breaths, I reached for an all-natural soda instead.
I didn’t drink. I pushed through and found other ways to ease my stress and anxiety. I’m trying to limit my alcohol consumption to when I’m celebrating, or just had an average day, or to the point where I hardly drink at all. I may not be an alcoholic now, but I’d like to keep it that way.
2020 hasn’t made it easy. Many of us have leaned a little harder on our vices, or fallen off of wagons that we’ve worked so hard to build. Some of us made the excuse in the beginning of the pandemic that it was okay, that we needed these things in order to cope with the sharply changing world. But let’s be honest with ourselves now.
We need to do better.
This is not about shame, or guilt, or some toxic positive pitch to be our best selves always and forever. It’s simply a suggestion to look within and ask if our choices are healthy for us and our loved ones. If the thought of it stings, this message is probably meant for you.
The only person who can truly know is you. The only person who can decide that you need to grow is you. The only one who can take the first step in your journey is you. If the sting is there, as it was for me, then it is my wish that you find another way, that you find health and healing in your life.
But don’t worry, I won’t leave you without a few tips to help get you started:
1. It’s okay to seek help.
A close friend is great to talk and vent to, but they can’t heal the wounds that are often gaping when we reach for a drink. If you think you would have a hard time giving up drinking or slowing down, or are even curious about the possibility of having a drinking problem, it might be worth considering attending an AA meeting on Zoom. If you have anxiety and/or depression, even if it’s situational, I recommend finding counseling to help with coping mechanisms. Professional help can get you started on your journey, and keep you on the right path.
2. Have a delicious, non-alcoholic drink.
Raise your hand if you like the taste of your favorite alcoholic beverage. Many people who drink do. When someone tries to cut down, it can be hard to let go of something that they enjoyed. I suggest reaching for something equally delicious, that doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in it. Don’t think of it as a replacement, because it’s not. I don’t know many people who enjoy the taste of non-alcoholic beer or wine. Instead, find something else that tastes like a treat. For example, I love the taste of Zevia’s Ginger Root Beer.
3. Find other outlets for stress.
Blast heavy metal music in your headphones for a while. Go on a socially distant walk or hike. Find an exercise method or routine that fits your ability and lifestyle. Meditate. Journal. Find a mix of things that work well for you, and try to stick with them even on days where you feel okay. Having healthy habits will only help you on the hard days.
I truly hope this helps. If not you, dear reader, then perhaps someone you know. The ripple effect of alcohol spreads far and wide, but each of us has the power to steady the waters.