A few years ago, a friend of mine was spending time with a woman he’d met on a dating website. He told me that she didn’t drink alcohol and that, by her own admittance, this was because she had felt out of control with it. At the time I felt sorry for her, and I briefly wondered about the half-existence it must be to live and never drink.
Right now I am going through a challenging time personally. This is why I am sitting in the kitchen in the early hours while everyone else in the house is fast asleep; with my thoughts churning as I lay in the dark in bed, I thought I may as well be up and trying to make sense of what I’m feeling.
Before I went to bed last night, I pondered, for only a very brief moment, the notion of drinking alcohol; how it would feel to pour a substance down my throat that would, if only temporarily, prevent me from feeling these unpleasant emotions. What would it be like to ingest a liquid that lightened my mood and made me laugh for a while? The idea of it made me think of a clown’s costume – an artificial, forced and exaggerated adaptation of that which is real. Almost as soon as the idea crept into my thoughts, I shushed it away and realised that, even with emotional pain, I like being a non-drinker. I choose to not alter my mind and that’s how I want to spend the rest of my life.
I thought of the woman my friend used to date, and how wrong I was for feeling sympathetic towards her. Maybe, quite probably, she felt the same blessed relief from not drinking that I do; that in not consuming a substance that impacted so severely on her mental state, she was free to live her life in an honest and controlled manner, that she was aware of her every thought and emotion, good or bad, and that she had an intuition upon which she could rely. Maybe, like me, she enjoyed knowing that the mistakes she would make sober would become constructive components in the story of her life; honest and human, rather than shameful and enacted under the influence of a powerful drug, actions that she would regret for ever.
We will all encounter difficult periods in our lives, whether we drink alcohol or not. For me, processing the associated emotional turbulence is far simpler and easier to navigate without the added confusion and reality-bending that arises out of heavy drinking. I’m choosing to feel the rawness of my life, and, for me, that will always be preferable to the alcohol-fuelled alternative.