An alcoholic drink represents all manner of things to those who succumb to its perceived charms – it’s the social lubricant, especially attractive to the shy drinker. It’s the sexual provocateur, enticing and tempting to anyone looking for a little Dutch courage in the bedroom. It’s the emotional anaesthetic, perfect for blotting out the less desirable aspects of our lives.
But when alcohol begins to lose its magical properties and undergoes a gradual metamorphosis into a foul, domineering, mind-twisting liquid, one which causes the drinker to regard it with equal measures of love and hatred, then it’s time to consider a life free from its influence. However, this is not straightforward, largely because as we stand on the brink of the unknown, we often become paralysed with fear. Human beings don’t like change; we frequently become accustomed to our personal habits and ways, and a step into virgin territory constitutes a massive no-no for many people, in a myriad of different situations and for a variety of reasons.
Letting go of a reliance on alcohol evokes terror in the most apparently outgoing and self-confident types. The concept of existing as a free entity, minus the liquid crutch which supports the drinker at every turn from teenage escapades to wedding days to each and every Christmas, is nothing short of bizarre to the intrepid explorer about to embark upon the road to sobriety.
But the reality of facing life’s challenges without regularly reaching for a can of cold beer or twisting the cork from an expensive bottle of red, can be a pleasant surprise. The difficulties that inevitably crop up as we negotiate the twists and turns of our individual worlds appear to be nowhere near the insurmountable obstacles they did when hangovers and alcohol-induced depression and anxiety were thrown into the mix. Funnily enough, the drink, which many consider is helping them to cope, usually turns out to be the very substance that’s capping their ability to deal with things rationally in the first place.
The false confidence we believe to be intrinsically ours when out socialising often serves as an unflattering mask, and when it falls away in the morning we are left with nothing more than a series of half-memories and a niggling worry that, in the boozy heat of the moment, we acted or spoke in a way which now fills us with remorse and shame.
Whether we choose to drink alcohol or to abstain, life will remain the same; convoluted, at times tricky to navigate, and an emotional roller-coaster. We will be subjected to the same occasions of sadness, exuberance, anger, reluctance and disappointment, no matter if we turn to the bottle or turn the other cheek.
What are revolutionary are the concepts of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and a rational mind. These qualities will be allowed to slowly emerge once the alcohol has been laid to rest, thus the stresses and challenges that seemed so frightening to a person at the very start of their sober journey are eminently more manageable than he or she could ever have imagined when regularly drinking.
Accepting this fact demands a huge leap of faith, but it’s one which is absolutely worth taking.