Making Connections – Sober

One of the reasons why alcohol can appeal to us is because it’s a social lubricant. It has the power to transform a shy, awkward wallflower into a wild, life-and-soul-of-the-party type – although for lots of people it unfortunately then has a habit of pushing things too far in that direction, drawing them into doing things they later regret. I used alcohol for social confidence, and over the years it became that I required more and more of it to get the same, initial hit. And when I consumed increasing amounts, I acted in an increasingly out-of-character manner of which I was deeply embarrassed and often ashamed the next morning.

But, a sense of connection is what so many of us are craving when we reach for a glass of something alcoholic at a social event, and it’s this crutch that can be so difficult to let go of when we decide we really would like to become alcohol-free. Is it possible then to achieve this connection when we are teetotal?

My answer to this question would be yes. Yes, you can obtain a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity with others, when you are stone cold sober – and the trick to doing so lies in self-confidence, patience and a solid belief in the knowledge that if you can’t control your alcohol consumption, people will far prefer you as you are naturally to when you are completely out of your mind.

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It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that alcohol makes us wittier, sexier, more attractive and interesting, but in reality this is a fallacy created in our own drunken minds. To the sober onlooker, people who are inebriated are quite boring, and they look a bit of a mess. These days, I enjoy far more the company of those who don’t drink to excess, and if I am forced to spend time with people who are heavily under the influence then I’m desperate to escape their company as soon as possible! The truth is that people who are not drunk are way more interesting, sensitive and funnier – although you do need to ensure that you’re spending time with people who you actually like (it’s fairly common when you quit the booze to realise that many of those you’ve always socialised with as a drinker are, in reality people whom you don’t care for all that much at all when sober).

With time, patience and no more drinking, a person’s self-confidence can be restored remarkably quickly following sustained and heavy alcohol misuse. And with that confidence, and a more positive reaction from friends and family, it is soon the case that one enters into a virtuous circle: a good response to the non-drinking version of you reinforces your suspicion that you’re better off not drinking, and the longer you continue to be alcohol-free, the more of a positive response you receive from the people in your life.

What it boils down to is this: connectedness is all very well and good, but if YOU are the sort of person who becomes drunk each and every time you consume alcohol, you are not connecting with anyone; rather you are distancing yourself more and more from the people you love and who love you. If you are someone without a reliable off-switch (like me) then it is absolutely true that you will be loved far more and by many more people as an alcohol-free person. Try it and see for yourself.

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Pep Talk For The Weekend – Reasons To Stay Sober

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The weekend is upon us. It’s when most of the people we know will be drinking alcohol, and it’s when the temptation to join them can become so strong it’s almost impossible to resist. This blog has been written as a pep talk for anyone teetering on the brink of caving in – print it out and stick it on your kitchen cupboard so that you can see it next time you’re considering stepping back onto the slippery slope that is booze…

  • You have the ability to grab life by the balls and start becoming the person you want to be. You have the power to enact change, but only if you do things differently. Every little action or thought that has always led you to drinking in the past needs to be arrested, reconfigured, altered and amended. If meeting your other half in the pub after work means you won’t be able to say no to alcohol, do something else. Go for a bike ride, a swim or to the cinema. Shake things up a bit – change what you do.
  • You’ll never be as young as you are today. OK, so you might have looked in the mirror recently and been pissed off at the wrinkles and tired-looking face peering back at you, but remind yourself that time is only going in one direction. Don’t focus on how old you are; concentrate on how young you are! On how many good years you could still have in front of you, on all the stuff you could enjoy from now on, free from the self-esteem battering effects of booze. Think about how fantastic it would feel to look back on all those happy years that didn’t feature heavy drinking and regrets and terrible hangovers. You could still have that. It could start today.
  • Alcohol is not really all you may think it is. It might bring about an instant sensation of relaxation and make you imagine that you are suddenly more attractive, witty and interesting, but in reality, booze is a bit crap. It makes you fat, prematurely ages you, ruins your teeth and turns the whites of your eyes yellow. It turns you into a repetitive bore. It costs shed loads of money. It gives you a cracking headache and stops you getting off your arse and hitting the gym. It’s a killer on your liver. It encourages you to take stupid risks. It makes you fall over. It makes your breath smell. It prevents you from being particularly productive or achieving your goals. It causes mood swings. It makes you sick. In brief, alcohol is rubbish.
  • The world is changing. People everywhere are waking up to the fact that heavy drinking is (surprise, surprise) bad for you. 21% of UK adults don’t drink alcohol at all, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain report released back in February 2015. Don’t feel as though you stick out like a sore thumb for being teetotal – wear your non-drinking status like the badge of honour it is. Be a part of the group that’s in the know. Embrace your sobriety, because it’s much cooler to be in control, and looking and feeling confident and strong than stumbling about, wrecking your health and wasting your life. Celebrate the fact that you have escaped the booze trap!

Remember that for most of us who have struggled with an alcohol dependency, one drink will always inevitably lead to a second. And a third. And a fourth. There is no ‘just one’ for me, and probably not for you either if you are reading this. This weekend, make yourself a promise that you will start the rest of your life right now – because (contrary to what the booze industry would have you believe) the real way to treat yourself is by sidestepping alcohol completely.

Booze Britain

“Other explosions, controlled or otherwise, take place every evening in the country’s pubs – those friendly drinking dens for which Britain is famous, and where the emphasis is always social. Intoxicate yourself alone, and you appear pathetic, as though it’s the condition of being you that needs escaping from. Do it in a group, however, and it’s the public condition – having to maintain dignity and self-control and not say the wrong thing – that you are throwing off.”

Leo Benedictus, ‘Is Britain a nation of addicts?’ – The Guardian, Monday 2 September 2013

Leo Benedictus’ article in yesterday’s Guardian is one which I regard as wholly accurate in its depiction of the manner in which Britain has absorbed, across all classes and both sexes, excessive drinking as an entirely normal pastime and one which is rigorously defended by drinkers when faced with the perceived threat of the company of a non-drinker. Simply for their choice to opt for a ‘soft’ drink in a pub when imbibing alongside a crowd of boozers, the teetotaller is regularly singled out. ‘Never trust a man who doesn’t drink’ was a favourite line of an ex-boyfriend’s father, someone who spent inordinate amounts of money on the maintenance of a highly regarded wine cellar.

Turning your back on such a widely venerated substance as alcohol is a lifestyle choice which commonly initiates a variety of unwelcome responses from both family and friends and complete strangers. Whilst some are mildly interested in why your beverage of choice amongst a round of pints and large dry white wines is a sparkling mineral water (“Are you driving/pregnant/on antibiotics?), and some don’t care a jot one way or the other, many can be scathing and downright rude, stunned as they apparently are that anyone should choose not to imbibe alcohol to excess.

If you are one of the many who cannot drink in moderation and who seemingly has no ‘off switch’ (as I am) then it is possible (and preferable for both you and those around you) that sooner or later you will decide that abstinence is the only way forward. As a result it is almost guaranteed that at some point or other your decision will be met with such comments as ‘Oh go on, don’t be dull – surely one won’t hurt’ and that certain members of the drinking population will regard you as weak-willed/boring/a killjoy.

I believe there is something inherent about the British which leads us to excessive behaviour. There is more than likely a degree of truth in the theory that we are somewhat backward in coming forward, a nation of the emotionally stunted and stiff upper-lipped who find it difficult to let rip and just ‘be’ without the aid of such an instant social lubricator as alcohol.

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Having not drunk alcohol for two and a half years I have found myself having to relearn how to relax and socialise whilst straight – not an easy task after twenty years of propping up my slightly shy nature with far too much help from the bottle.

I am unbothered by people’s reaction to the fact that I choose to live alcohol-free, whether it be a positive or negative one. I made this choice for my health and the happiness and emotional wellbeing of my family, and it is one which I will forever stand by as the right thing to do.

To those who utter the expression ‘Never trust a man who doesn’t drink’, I would highlight the fact that in the UK, men under the age of 60 are more likely to die as a result of drinking alcohol than from any other cause, that more women in this country are alcohol-dependent than anywhere else in Europe, that deaths from alcohol-related liver disease in the UK have quadrupled since the 1970’s, and that one fifth of British children live with a hazardous drinker.

I believe that living alcohol-free takes balls; it can feel as though you are treading an otherwise deserted path at times, especially when surrounded by people who are all under the influence. If you find it impossible to moderate your alcohol consumption, then standing by your decision to live without booze will go a long way in ensuring that you stay healthier and happier in your day-to-day life, and also in challenging the perception of many that to be a non-drinker is somehow odd. The more people who do it, the less weird it will become.