Disclaimer: As you will be able to tell from the date, this article was written a few weeks ago, just before Christmas. I did not publish it at the time as it needed a tiny bit of polishing. And I also wasn’t quite ready to share it. However, I think it is important to share, and will resonate with a lot of people.
I haven’t drank much alcohol in January, however I did have a few glasses of wine the other night, and even though I don’t necessarily regret it, it still hammers home the message I want to convey in this piece of writing. For me it is not the wine that is the issue, but knowing when to stop, and knowing when you’re not drinking for ‘the fun of It’ anymore. This article is not to shame people for drinking (otherwise I would be seriously shaming myself) but it is to explore something that a lot of us in our modern culture may not be willing to explore. Even if this message does not resonate with you or apply to you, I hope you enjoy reading it.
The festive season is upon us. Or ‘silly season’ as many of us will know it by. It’s a time where we can let our hair down; eat, drink, and be merry, without a care in the world. It’s a season of excess.
I usually love the Christmas period. I love spending time with my family and friends, eating loads of yummy food and getting to indulge much more than I usually would, and going to parties and social events to drink and dance the night away.
There is nothing wrong with having this period of time each year to indulge a little bit, and in fact for a lot of us who may live stressful and sometimes restrictive lives, it can be essential. But what about when it all becomes way too much? What about when our indulgent habits become destructive? Or what about when the pressure to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ feels more like a social obligation than something we actually want to do?
Over the last couple of years, it has not just been Christmas Day and New Years which has been indulgent for me, but the entirety of December. There are work Christmas parties, team lunches, parties with friends, etc, etc. The last few weeks have been extremely intense for me in terms of drinking, and it has made me reflect upon alcohol quite a bit – about the way it makes me feel, the way it can make me act, about alcohols place within society and the way we use it.
When is alcohol fun and a social aid, and when is it a crutch? At what point does alcohol become addictive, or is this a question we should be asking at all? Are those with alcoholism really the only ones with a problem? How can alcohol affect us mentally, not only at the time of consumption, but the next day and throughout our lives?
I probably have a different relationship to alcohol than most young women. My direct relationship is, I imagine, very similar to lots of other people my own age. I enjoy a drink, and sometimes I drink too much. However I don’t drink every day and rarely drink in the week at all. As I’ve gotten older and grown up a bit more, my nights of drinking to excess have lessened a lot, yet still sometimes happen and when they do, the hangover is so much worse than it was in previous years.
However, on a deeper level, my relationship to alcohol and the way I view alcohol is quite different, because of my upbringing. My father was an alcoholic, and this was eventually what killed him. Whilst I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of his addiction right now, it has made me view alcohol through a lens that most people don’t view it through – through the lens of addiction and the harm it can cause. I have never not drunk because of this, however I have always been wary about drinking regularly. In case I too fall into the traps of addiction. I worry more about the consequences of drinking on a daily basis, both on a physical and on a psychosomatic level. I have also always been wary of men who drink a lot, scared that I will end up essentially marrying my father. Not wanting to cope with the struggles of trying to build a family with someone with an alcohol addiction.
All these old belief patterns have risen to the surface over the last few weeks, as I’ve had to deal with a few killer hangovers that have not only made me feel physically ill, but have affected me on such a deep mental level – causing feelings of anxiety, dread, panic, emotional tidal waves, difficulty sleeping, and also feeling incredibly and devastatingly low. As horrible as the nausea, vomiting, and headaches are now I’m in my mid-20’s, nothing can be as horrendous as the mental and emotional side effects.
It makes me wonder – why do we drink?
I listened to a podcast the other day with Sahara Rose – an Ayurvedic practitioner, and Malaika Darville – a healer and shaman. They spoke about addiction and Malaika claimed that societies reliance on substances is something that has been introduced by the capitalist hierarchy in order to control and subdue the masses, and of course, as a money-making tool. It sounds dramatic and a little bit crazy, but I don’t believe this is untrue. When we were all just nomadic wonderers on this earth, the main substances we turned to were plant medicines. Psychedelics which, rather than taking us away from ourselves, would force us to connect with nature and to connect with what is within us.
Since then, we have taken what is provided in earth and manipulated it in labs to create substances which numb us and which take us out of ourselves. Which allow us to avoid what we really feel. Even the lexicon we use in relation to being intoxicated matches this – being wasted, trashed, mashed, high, etc. Not many people now, in the grand scheme of things, will use plant medicines as a healing modality. But many, many people, knowingly or not, self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Using psychedelics is generally seen as a bit odd, especially when done not to ‘get high’ but to heal. But to regularly get drunk is an accepted part of our culture. It means we are having fun and enjoying ourselves. In fact, the ones who don’t drink are often seen as boring and stale. When in reality, thats probably far from the truth, as those who don’t drink are likely to be much more in touch with their own truth.
All of these thoughts caused me to turn inwards and think about my own reasons for alcohol consumption. Like many people, the majority of the time my alcohol consumption is just because I fancy it – a glass of wine here, a bottle of beer there. I often have casual drinks and I’m also comfortable enough to not drink if I don’t feel the need to. If I’m having a chilled Friday evening in and my boyfriend has cracked open a beer, sometimes I’ll join him or pour myself a glass of red wine. Sometimes I won’t be in the mood and will stick to herbal tea. Not exactly the signs of someone with a problem. This is all fine.
The problem for me comes when I am going ‘out out’ or I’m in a pub or at a party where the alcohol is flowing. The problem is applying that same thought process I would have around a casual drink, to a party situation. The problem is knowing when, or how, to stop. Because sometimes when I get a taste for alcohol, I really struggle to say no. And of course, the more alcohol you have the more you lose your inhibitions, and the more you think you do want that fifth glass of wine.
I think a lot of people will relate to the feeling of peer pressure when it comes to getting drunk on a night out. Even if our peers aren’t actually directly pressuring us to drink more, the idea of getting wasted to have a good time is so ingrained in our society, it can feel like pressure in of itself. This is not helped when people often congratulate each other when they were really drunk the night before, saying that they were ‘on great form’, or were ‘so much fun to be around.
This is certainly something that I have experienced. I used to party a lot, and often the days I had the worst hangovers and the biggest existential crises would follow on from the nights which my friends would say I was ‘so much fun’ to be around.
It can feel good to be seen as the life and soul of the party to others, but at what cost must that come at? Is it worth making others feel good, if it is no longer making me feel good?
Does this mean I will never drink again? Or never go to a party or a rave? Or never again stay up all night to watch the sunrise at a festival? Absolutely not. But it does mean a couple of other things:
It means slowing down, it means actually listening to my intuition and trying to learn when to say no. It means choosing when going out partying is worth it, or when it is just something I’m doing for the hell of it.
It also means that I am choosing to take the journey inwards, instead of continually tapping out. The reason I have been having these particular thoughts surrounding alcohol consumption is because now has been time of my life where I have been starting to rediscover and explore my spirituality. It has made me realise that, for the most part, the use of alcohol in our society is a way for us to not only avoid our true feelings and avoid doing the real, hard work on ourselves so that we can spiritually grow, but it also allows us to avoid connecting with nature and connecting with the universal oneness that resides inside all of us. Because doing this work and discovering these hidden parts of ourselves is not always easy. For a lot of us it can be really difficult. It can mean dragging up things from the past we don’t wish to revisit. It can mean challenging our notions and beliefs of what we have thought to know to be true up until that point. That shit is scary and not nice to confront, so is it any wonder we try to numb it all with booze? Sitting with our feelings and ourselves without this crutch would mean we would have to change things in our lives, sometimes in a major way. It would mean we would have to go down painful paths in order to heal. And sometimes it means we have to admit we are not really happy.
I am ready to do the work. I am ready to go from external distractions to internal expansion. And one of the ways I am going to do this is simply by being more conscious about the way I consume alcohol. Now… will you join me?