Quitting Alcohol - Here's What I learnt

May 18, 2022

 

I’ve had a love-hate affair with alcohol over the years, at times I’ve referred to it as my twisted best friend, on the one hand, it had always been there for me yet on the other it caused me to act in ways that weren’t aligned with my character. Our world is filled with misconceptions and one that I’ve found is that when you’re young, people don’t tend to see your drinking as an issue, it’s something youngsters do and then they grow out of it, right?

At the start of 2022, I decided to stop drinking alcohol, I had tried to kick the habit many times over the years, sometimes I replaced it with smoking cannabis which I still believe is a healthier alternative to alcohol, I think that the main reason it’s so demonized is that big pharma hasn’t found a way to monopolise it and turn it into an additional income stream for them, of course, this is something they’re currently working on, did you know that the UK was one of the biggest exporters of legal cannabis in the world. Cannabis is s a plant from nature, and it has many healing benefits the statistics show that there isn’t a single pot-related death on record, the same cannot be said for alcohol.

I always held the belief that I drank to help me navigate social settings, I knew it was a form of self-medication that helped me to numb out the world around me. There was a short period of time when I could drink in a more controlled way, I could take it or leave it, I could have alcohol in the house and not feel the need to drink it and it stayed in the cupboard for months on end, but at some point, that changed, and I started once again to lose control. I’d never wake up and grab a drink, it was always when the evening came round, I marked it down to habit and not really knowing what to do with my evenings, but I was wrong.

When I decided that I’d stop drinking I thought I’d do it in stages, I fully intended to cut it out permanently, but admitting to myself that this was my plan felt too big, so like every big audacious goal I decided to chunk it down. I told myself that it was just for January, dry January is a thing and I thought I’d go for it but with the intent to make February the same, dry February, dry March and so on, so when I have had a little bit of a wobble I’ve been able to gently remind myself that it’s just for this one month and that I can do it, somehow it’s easier to do something for a month rather than for life… Funny that!

What I didn’t anticipate was the level of healing this journey would take me on. I felt more balanced in those first few months, then my life started to get busy with a long-distance house move, this was something that I had wanted for a long time and I was excited and happy to move areas and have a new start, but it was stressful as all house moves are, I was also having some challenges with a work collaboration that had gone wildly wrong, then I went out to a comedy gig and I made the fatal error of not checking out the venue online. The gig was on a Thursday which gave me the weekend to recover my energy, I assumed it would be in a theatre type venue as that’s what I’ve experienced in the past, yet when I got there it was an industrial unit which was tall, echoey and open, there was nowhere to hide and this was the first true test of not drinking, this test I did pass, however it left a lasting imprint and sent me into a mental spin. I questioned why I was feeling so triggered by this and could feel that there was something bubbling up trying to come out.

What I hadn’t considered was the reason for my drinking in the first place. My parents drank and I was allowed to drink with meals on occasion when I was younger and the frequency of my consumption only increased as I grew older, I didn’t see a problem with it and if my life had been different then maybe my alcohol consumption wouldn’t have been such a problem, but this year and the first 6 months of total sobriety coupled with a comedy gig at the wrong venue caused a mask to be revealed and it was a big reveal. In the past I would drink till I blacked out, I was reckless, and I was of the mindset that I was a teenager that went off the rails. My drinking started in my teenage years and I’ve since tracked it back to around the age of 14, that’s when I’d actively raid my parent’s alcohol stash, mum figured out what I was doing and started to mark the bottle so she could see if I’d been stealing her drink, I would simply top it up with water, I’m sure she must have questioned her tolerance levels as by the time she got to the end of the bottle the alcohol content was near enough 0%,  I think that’s one of the only things that makes me genuinely smile about my drinking days.

When I drank there was no stopping point for me, it was all or nothing, if there was a bottle of wine open, I would have to finish it, I could rarely have just one drink, different drinks caused different moods and reactions. I have since questioned whether my lack of awareness of my actual tolerance levels also links to being autistic, we have way more than the five senses we’re taught about and one of our senses is the sense of interoception, this is the sense that tells us what’s happening inside our body, whether we’re hot or cold, tired, hungry, thirsty etc… So it makes sense to me that the effect of alcohol on my system would also take longer for me to consciously realise that I was becoming more intoxicated, but by the time I did realise I would be out of control and had no way to stop, the effects of alcohol were still catching up with me, by which point I was heading towards blackouts, some say that blacking out is the soul leaving the body as it can’t handle the trauma you’re placing upon your human vessel, maybe there’s another post in that theory.

Another thing I had no idea could happen was the re-emergence of childhood trauma, it took me 25 years of drinking alcohol, sometimes in a really unhealthy way, it took me losing people around me and realising that through these losses I didn’t want to lose anyone else dear to me to make these changes, my why was good and I always say you need to have a good reason to change something if your why isn’t strong enough then you’re more likely to fail. Through some of the most challenging parts of my teenage years 13 through to 16 I was groomed and sexually abused by a family friend, I thought I was in control of the situation, but in reality, I was the victim of an abuser who used alcohol to lure me into his trap. Through burying this trauma and hiding behind alcohol I effectively put a band-aid over the wound, and when I stopped drinking and when I was triggered, I started to question why I was so triggered and why suddenly this little voice inside of me was screaming to drink again, that’s when I started to see my past for what it was. There was a reason I did the things that I did, there was a reason I went off the rails as a young teen, it wasn’t my fault, but it is now my responsibility to heal from what I have uncovered and to make myself whole again.

They say that deep trauma that’s been buried in this way can resurface when you’re feeling safe, so I am grateful to be in a space where my partner loves and supports me even when I have no love for myself, even when I want to shut myself away from the world, she’s there, even when I’m pushing her away and trying not to show my vulnerabilities she’s there and I can’t begin to put into words how grateful I am to her, to us and to revealing such a deep level of trauma, because once this is healed and once the damage I’ve experienced through alcohol has dissipated I will be even stronger than I am now, and that end result is worth all the struggles and heartache, because I am exactly where I need to be, with who I’m meant to be with and alcohol is an ex-friend who has no place in my life whatsoever.