Happy New Year to anyone reading this. Before I start this incoherent ramble a message to any new readers who are trying Dry January. For whatever reason you have decided to give up alcohol for one month. Stick with it. At the very least it will give your liver a well earned rest but it could well be the start of a fascinating, sometimes uncomfortable period of introspection and change. Nothing to lose and lots potentially to gain.
OK down to business. This is a tough post because I haven’t posted for a while and I’m not sure what I want to say. Having said that I have felt a strong urge to post and yet have been putting it off. So this is a more than usually self indulgent post, a shambolic attempt to figure out what if anything I have to say and where if anywhere this blog is going to go. If that all sounds like an existential crisis, it’s probably because it is one. I’ll just dive in.
The “not drinking “is going well. I’m still not drinking but not drinking, the original rationale behind this blog, is beginning to feel like an irrelevance. I don’t mean that giving up booze wasn’t a big deal and important. It was and it is, it’s just that now that being sober has become a set part of my life, I can see that drink was just a manifestation of deeper issues. I focused on alcohol because it was an issue in my life but its absence has starkly highlighted other issues in my life. As alcohol has moved into the background, other things have moved into the foreground. Alcohol kept some things in their place but like some semi permeable membrane it let other things through.
I’m grateful to myself that I stopped drinking but the landscape that has been revealed by its absence is not always comfortable. One example; feelings and emotions. With alcohol I could dampen down those unconscious emotions and conscious feelings. One example from my youth. Crippled by anxiety, I wanted to simultaneously approach girls and run away from them. A few drinks and those emotions and feelings subsided. I no longer feared rejection, I stopped worrying what people would think of me, I stopped comparing myself to other guys. It was liberating and I could join in. I felt normal. An illusion maybe but I had experiences I may never have had. Of course if I could go back to my younger self I would help me to understand why I had such shockingly poor self esteem at that point in my life. I see that now but at the time I just felt defective and alcohol made it seem OK for a while. And so it goes on and builds up. That’s why, with the perspective of not having drunk for 16 months, I can see that my dependence on alcohol was not about the alcohol per se, it was what the alcohol was helping, and later,not helping me deal with.
So having given up, I can see why I was attracted to alcohol and why bad habits developed but recently I have had something else to contend with. Alcohol helped suppress some difficult emotions but it also let others through particularly as I became older. Through necessity and application I managed over the years to control my feelings. I learned to shut down, to blank off difficult stuff. I became good at that. People dying, yeh let’s deal with that, divorce; let’s not let that get you down. I started to take a perverse pride in how I was able to deal with stuff that others couldn’t understand were not breaking me. But these things always come with a cost and that cost for me was a neutral emptiness or maybe better described as a gnawing, nagging emptiness, a void where I knew there should be something. Then I’d drink and the dam would break. tears would flow and I’d allow myself the misery and sometimes ecstacy of feeling. Of course with alcohol it’s impossible to regulate where things would go. Sometimes I would wallow in regret and anger, at other times remember wonderful times where there was a promise of a fantastic future. But the alcohol has stopped. The membrane now holds up and very little gets through. That, I’m realising is not good. I feel sometimes like the physical lock down we have all had to experience for me has been accompanied by an emotional lock down. Safe, sanitised but not how life should be. And where alcohol would, in the past, help me deal counter productively and self destructively with some of this “stuff”, other coping strategies have now tried to take the place of drink. The “stuff” is still there and needs dealing with. That’s why I say the alcohol feels irrelevant. It’s not a part of my life and I’m tremendously happy about that, but it was only a symptom, a reaction to other things, and unless I deal with those other things, alcohol and similar coping strategies will always be pulling at me trying to lure me into a false sense that all is OK.
Not sure that I have expressed what’s really going on but still trying to get a sense of it all. Maybe with it being a New Year I might let my blog go in a different direction. Like may others, food has taken up some of the slack left by booze. If booze was never really the problem but became the problem, perhaps the same applies to food. If that is indeed the case I need to deal that and unpick what the food is really feeding. What is the real hunger? Let’s see where that goes.
Happy New Year. Jim X