Alcohol is such a tricky drug. On the surface it appears to help us deal with things by relaxing us and ‘taking us away’ emotionally, yet in reality it does exactly the opposite. But it’s hard to see the reality because the surface impact is real. It works! If you are stressed – have a drink and BINGO the stress has eased somewhat. If you are angry have a drink and BINGO the anger has wained a little. If you are bored (the main reason I used for drinking) have a drink and BINGO the day is far from boring!!!
There’s a good reason millions of humans drink alcohol every day – on the surface it works. It is a drug that increases our dopamine, shifts our reality, warms our bellies, loosens our limbs, and takes the ‘edge’ off our thoughts. We need to be honest about this – the drug works and that’s why people drink it.
But – and this is key – it is a SHORT TERM fix, and if you are a heavy drinker like I was it was a SHORT TERM and HIGHLY DESTRUCTIVE AND DISFUNCTIONAL fix. I didn’t just have one drink to take the edge off. I took 7-8 to obliterate my synapses completely.
In getting sober we are forever forgoing that opportunity to take the edge off. Because we can’t stop at just one or two – we have none. And so we start living raw all the time and boy is it tiring and hard work. We stamp our feet and yell WAH!!! like babies because we want to blur the edges!! We want to have a little daily libation to help us with our stress or anger or boredom!
But here’s where it’s important to remember that alcohol is a SHORT TERM fix. It actually does nothing at all to help with those real human ‘problems’ of stress or anger or boredom. And in actual fact it makes them worse because not only are we avoiding the shit and not dealing with it, we are adding more shit on top! We are deepening our addictions, acting sloppily, thinking destructively, giving ourselves headaches and guilt and misery.
It’s a recipe for disaster. Take one hard day, add alcohol and voila! You are left with avoidance, confusion and a deepening sadness. And you’ve done nothing to deal with what made the day hard in the first place.
Member @ylang-ylang had this realisation recently and wrote about it in the Members Feed. With her permission I am reprinting her update here.
@ylang-ylang: I live in Northland. It’s been storming here for the past few days. I’m at home alone and am getting really bored now. I’ve watched 4 DVDs and a shit load of TV. I’ve done some weird house work (oiled the wooden furniture, cleaned out the cupboard under the sink) and eaten a shit load of food. Bored, bored, bored. I was sitting on the sofa yesterday watching a movie and the characters were drinking. My thoughts were “how pissed would I be now if I still drank?” I’m here alone, it’s raining, I’m bored – in the past I would have started with wine at lunch time.
But if I’d been drinking it would look a lot worse. No random housework and this morning instead of being a bit pissed off about being woken up by the bloody cat getting into a fight outside my bedroom at 6 fricking am, I’d be hungover as well.
And the rain and the cat fight would have happened regardless.
My point is that life just keeps on ticking on by whether you’re pissed or sober. Drinking doesn’t actually solve, fix or change anything. Having a bad/boring/sad/stressful/shitty day? Drinking doesn’t change or fix it, it just means you’re adding booze into the mix. Everything that caused your day to be bad/boring/sad/stressful/shitty is still there. Booze just adds some extra crap to it.
We might think it makes us feel better, but why do we think that? “Emotional”, “over reacting”, “not thinking clearly”, “out of control” … aren’t these the things that happen when we add booze to an already less than ideal mix? Those things are of course followed by everyone’s favorites: guilt, regret, shame and a honky wonky hangover.
I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s been a decidedly average couple of days off and start to the new year, but I’m still sober and getting pissed wouldn’t have changed it or made it any better.
Getting pissed wouldn’t have changed it or made it any better.
(For some excellent tips on what to do to combat boredom in sobriety take a look at this post from @suek. Also – take a look here at Addiction Nurse Bernie’s take on alcohol being a short term fix. She has some great suggestions for how to deal with tough emotions more effectively.)