St. Elmo’s Fire

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the ties between drinking and low self-esteem, the inextricable link that connects excessive alcohol consumption (known to depress the central nervous system and cause serious chemical imbalances within the brain, resulting in depression and anxiety) and feelings of low self-worth and reduced confidence.

We live in a world that presents us with a multitude of false ideals and unrealistic goals, prizes that are laid just out of reach but always close enough to keep us desperately working to possess them.

The dangerously unrealistic media ideal of who each of us is, whether a teenager, a mum, a grandparent, a husband, a wife, a man or a woman, is plastered onto the adverts, films and TV programmes, magazines and newspapers which circulate our daily lives and infiltrate our comprehension of ‘normal’ at every turn. It can be an inordinately difficult task to reject such societal norms and rest comfortably in our own skin, safe in the knowledge that we do our best each day and are happy with our lot – modest though it may be.

For someone who has the added vulnerability of poor self-esteem, for those who spend their days struggling to feel up to scratch, unworthy of anybody else’s respect and simply unable to measure up to what they believe is expected of them, this unattainable illusion of perfection serves to grind them down, deeper and deeper into the mire of insignificance.

St.-Elmos-fire

Alcohol provides an obvious respite from such self-loathing – its immediate (albeit temporary) effect of false confidence and its canny function of ameliorating the day’s worries and concerns make it an easy remedy for the pain of feeling not good enough. Knowing that alcohol is so readily available adds to its perennial charm, it’s inviting and reassuring calling from the shop up the road all too easy to hear as the day draws to a close.

The trouble is, as I discovered to my detriment, alcohol very quickly undergoes a character transformation when you drink too much of it; from confidence-booster to kicking you whilst you are down, shoulder to cry on to slap around the face. The things you do when you’re under the influence, and the things that you don’t do when you are under the influence, very slowly build up and induce feelings of self-hatred. Too much alcohol makes lazy underachievers out of us, preventing us from pursuing anything worthwhile, as we are more often than not drunk or hungover. And the unattainable versions of whom we think we should be, the pictures in the magazines and the people on the big screen, they become further and further away from who we are, rendering us lost, drowning in a sticky mess of negativity and hopelessness.

And when self-confidence is then so reduced, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold onto any sense of what is real and what’s not; the line between truth and make-believe is blurred and without ever really noticing, we slide into a dangerous game of drawing unfavourable comparisons between who we think we are and what ‘everyone else’ is. Except they aren’t that, they aren’t what we think they are – they are just not suffering from chronically low self-esteem and terrible anxiety attacks. The short bursts of false confidence that arise after a drink provide confusing snapshots of who we think we are; the fun-loving party animal, the vivacious, flirtatious sex bomb, the deep and interesting conversationalist who holds everyone in raptures as she talks confidently about all sorts…where is she in the morning?

She is nowhere to be found – as real as a ghost, a puff of smoke escaping through an open window.

With a clear head and a healthy, balanced mind, the differences between alcohol-befuddlement and a normally functioning brain are sharp and vast – the world is suddenly viewed through a sparklingly clean window, rather than a tainted lens coloured by smears of dirt. Without alcohol, the world is still a place in which we can sometimes be made to feel slightly below par, but it is one in which we have a fighting chance of retaining our sense of self, of forging emotional wellbeing and personal growth. When we are no longer poisoning our minds, we allow ourselves to be who we are meant to be – we cease to fight against nature.

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20 thoughts on “St. Elmo’s Fire

  1. If you ever wanted to read a precise treatise on alcohol and alcoholism, read this. You nail everything along the way, from the low self-esteem to the affects of alcohol to the remorse, guilt and shame afterward. You tie in wonderfully the ideas of who and what we are supposed to be in the advertisements to the real us. We talk about comparing our insides to everyone elses’ outsides. Guilty as charged here on that one. I have written so much about this topic, as it is something that just ate me up inside, and I drank a LOT over this kind of thing, among others. I was even talking to an old timer today about stuff like this – this is stuff that doesn’t disappear overnight, at least for this cat it doesn’t. There might be a gap between who we think we are / want to be and who we are might be large, but I am learning that as I cultivate the real and authentic me, that facade no longer serves me. I may not be Mr. Sauve, but I am Mr. Kind now, for the most part. I am not James Bond, but an agent of peace. And for that, i can’t complain.

    Super post – wonderful.

    Paul

    • Hi Paul, you have also summed it up really well in your comment – I think there are millions of people out there like us, or how we once were, struggling to realise that how they feel is all tied into how much they are drinking. We all shuffle along, scared to admit what is true for so many because of fear of being judged, and then I read comments like yours and the others under this post and it is clear that this is a common phenomenon.
      I think Mr Kind beats Mr Suave hands down, just as Ms Calm & Together wins any day over Ms Terrified-on-the-inside-but-loudmouth-on-the-outside as I once was!

      Thank you for your comment, hope you have a great weekend with Mr Suave nowhere in sight 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m so pleased that you and others ‘get’ what I write about. For many years I felt as though I was alone in my low self-esteem, severe lack of confidence and huge dependency on alcohol; the more I write and the more people who sign up to Soberistas.com, I realise that these issues are endemic. Thanks again – all the best. Lucy x

  2. Nodding my head repeatedly with tears welling up inside as this powerful message hits home! you are an inspiration Lucy, you truly are! and not only that but an intelligent, talented, insightful, groovy cool, writer ta boot ! Love your posts. So grateful for Soberistas; thanks Lucy. Hope one day to have the courage and patience to write my own story here. Have a peaceful, productive weekend Lucy, and all that are reading this. x

    • Hi thank you so much for your lovely comment. You have no idea how much it made me smile – I am very grateful that people read and enjoy my blog; it helps me because I love to write, and it’s fantastic that you and other people get something out of my ramblings too 🙂
      Thanks again, all the best – Lucy x

  3. Thank you so much for these honest and strangely beautiful words. I’ll be passing this along to people in an effort to explain the change in the way it feels to be completely sober. That last paragraph is perfect.

  4. I was nodding my head in agreement whilst reading this! I started drinking because it made me into an outgoing, more confident version of myself. It’s taken me a long, long time to realise that those “good” qualities I associate with alcohol have long gone. In recent years drink has acted as more of a downer, making me feel quite depressed and lonely at times. Yet I continued for to drink for so long before doing anything about it!

    • Hi – a common story I think. Alcohol is a provider of false promises, in my experience. Unfortunately it becomes so entrenched in our lives that it can be really tough to realise that it is causing you the problems in your life, and not resolving them as you have thought for so long. Thank you for stopping by, all the best – Lucy x

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