It makes us feel all sorts of emotions: happy, calm, confident, fun, etc. It’s a tool we use to loosen up with strangers, relax after a long day of work, and forget our troubles. Especially when the going gets tough, it’s simple to kick back, pop open a beer, and tune out in front of the television.
But alcohol can also make you sad. If drunken in excess, it can make you incredibly sick. It can also make you feel irritable, miserable, and ashamed. You could even get addicted. It’s not uncommon to hear news about people passing out at a frat party, driving drunk on the road, or developing liver cancer. Some even die.
Alcohol is dangerous, just look at the facts. But even if we know all the dangers that alcohol can do to the body, why do many people continue to drink, and heavily so? Again, it’s addiction. It’s a sign of dependence. We abuse the drink, because we don’t know how else to deal with moderation. Countless declarations of “I’m never drinking again” after each hangover is a lie, for we’re the first to turn to the bottle at the next occasion.
I am not ashamed in admitting that I have a difficult relationship with alcohol. In fact, I recall writing a couple of posts about it, albeit it’s been several years. I had a major problem with it back in college, and it wasn’t until it took something bad to happen that I had to acknowledge it and treat myself with counseling.
Even years later, I still struggle with moderation. After all, it’s all too easy to go grocery shopping and pick up a bottle of wine (or two) between getting toilet paper and pasta. Similar thing goes for accepting a glass of champagne at a holiday party, or getting a pint with colleagues after work– you don’t want to feel rude turning down alcohol, especially in social situations, so you just go for it.
Some people might find these instances normal, since they’re contextualized (e.g. social gatherings). Sure, getting a drink is normal, but what happens if you get another, then five? When does one’s dependence on alcohol become problematic, and how many does it take to get there? Is it when you end up vomiting, having regrettable hookups, or passing out on the floor? Is it when you drink alone at home every weeknight, then weekends, waking up with a nauseating hangover each morning? Really, the questions go on and on.
Here’s the thing, though: why are you asking all of these questions in the first place? Call it a paradox, but all these questions are, in turn, your answers. The fact that you even question whether you have a problem with alcohol shows that you most likely do. It would take someone in denial not to admit this about themselves.
Again, I’ve been struggling with drinking for years. I have a serious problem with moderation– my problem is that, while I don’t drink every day, I consume excessively when I do. Examples include a whole bottle (and then half of another) of wine in one night, or pitchers of cocktails (sangrias, Moscow mules, etc.) at dinner.
What makes it especially apparent is that I’m secretive about how much I drink: I would sneak drinks pass my parents when I’m back home in LA, or I would half-cover my traces when I lived with roommates in France. I guess there was a part of me who was scared about getting caught drinking by myself, and being judged for it.
Some people might consider their addiction a cycle, but I see mine as waves. The “first wave” of intense drinking was during my colleges years, specifically between my 3rd and 4th years. Then something happened, and I stopped drinking heavily for about a year. The “second wave” started during my second year of teaching in France, and it continues to this day (nearly three years).
It’s debatable whether my “second wave” of heavy drinking has ended or not, especially since I had to admit to myself over winter break that I really need to stop drinking by myself, and excessively so. Perhaps it has ended, but I’m afraid for a “third wave” to happen in the future.
I definitely have alcohol problems. And I don’t need a test to tell me that. I don’t need my friends to tell me that I don’t drink that much or act like an alcoholic compared to others. Even if I may be overreacting, I think it’s better that I am than not. Because it’s a serious issue. While it might not be so obvious now, it’ll become apparent in the next few years.
The last time I acknowledged that I had an alcohol problem, it was after I’d thrown up at home in front of my disapproving parents. That sobered me up for a year. This time around, it has to do with age. I’m getting older, and I have noticed my ability to bounce back after heavy drinking has noticeably decreased, with hangovers becoming more intense and frown lines starting to appear on my face. Alcohol ages you, physically and mentally, and I’m too young to already have wrinkles, let alone health problems, at this point in life.
Granted, my dependence on alcohol hasn’t gotten to the point where it has negatively-affected my relationships or work (but then again, there is such a thing as “functioning alcoholics”). But I know that I’m doing irrevocable damage to my body, and stupidly so– I can prevent all of this, as long as I know how to control my alcohol intake.
That’s why I’m writing this post. To gather thoughts I’ve been having and finding a solution to the problem. My current idea is to curb my drinking, and how so. Despite the definitive tone of this post’s title, I’m not planning to quit drinking altogether. While ideal, it’s not realistic– moderation is what I have to do.
My plan is to cut out drinking alone in my flat. That means not buying alcohol while grocery shopping– it’s all too dangerous for me to drink by myself, because I know that one glass will turn into three very quickly. Plus, buying alcohol does add up: I could easily save 30-40 euros a month if I didn’t buy any booze; I could use that money for a nice jacket or a nice dinner. Where (and when) I do allow myself to drink is when I’m out with friends, whether it’s at a bar or house party. I’ve found that I drink less in a social gathering, since I want to be able to talk to people, be aware of my surroundings, and be able to get home safely. Also, drinks cost a lot more at the bars, and I don’t want to spend so much on them.
Easier said than done, and I’m sure that I’ll have slip-ups. But the important thing here is to find my moderation, and I hope to accomplish this with time. It could take a few months or even years, but I hope that this moment will be the start towards the right direction. Things will look up.
— The Finicky Cynic
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