It’s almost inevitable, unavoidable - the street corner has a tavern, the airport, a bar. Every person has a 21st birthday, and most young adults have a first drink. Why is the importance placed on alcohol? We all know people who don't place much value on drinking – exercise buffs, parents, people who just don't like booze, or those in recovery - but the majority of people we know, or at least the majority of people I know…they do. They make big deals out of sober time (“I’m having a sober September!”), they cope with bad days with having a drink (“I need a glass of wine, stat!”), they develop friendships through bonded drinking (“remember that time!?!? It was so AWESOME because we were SO WASTED!), they look at living without alcohol as a badge of honor ("I gave up alcohol for Lent! Someone should call me Jesus Christ!"), they feel empowered to do things they normally wouldn't (“Dear Melissa, You can totally sing karaoke like Katy Perry, Love Vodka"), they use it to loosen up and let down their guard ("I hooked up with her because I had beer goggles on!"). The list goes on. I did this, I still miss this, sometimes, and I still do this. But isn't that just, well, weird? The idea that sobriety is more foreign than drunkenness, that you would do things in an altered state that you wouldn't do normally, or that there are things you can't do sober that you can do drunk? It’s something you don't necessarily stop to think about until your hand is forced.
It usually starts like this for alcoholics, too, but it progresses. They make big deals out of sober time (I haven’t had a drink in 2 days, so that means I am not an alcoholic), they cope with bad days with having a drink (“I just need a drink to get through this"), they develop friendships through bonded drinking (“I’ll call this person – they will drink with me or help me use"), they look at living without alcohol as a badge of honor ("I am in recovery! yay!"), they feel empowered to do things they normally wouldn't (“I’m not drunk, I can totally drive this car right now.”), they use it to loosen up and let down their guard ("I hooked up with him because I had beer goggles on!"). It’s odd to me now. Just because the verbiage is different between a normal drinker and an alcoholic, doesn't mean the intention or motivation isn't the same. So what is the difference? The destructive behavior? The line is pretty blurred on what is destructive anytime alcohol is involved. There are clear cut things that are not okay (drinking and driving), but there are things that might not be good, but might be okay (drunken hook-ups).
Looking back, I am not entirely sure why I drank or looked at alcohol in this almost god-like, necessity type way. After watching my share of intoxicated people, while I am sober and living with someone who has had their life torn apart by alcohol, I think it’s starting to make more sense. Drinking made things more glamorous; it made the mundane more exciting; it made sharp pains dull. In my mind, when I remember good times I had drinking – it was the fact that alcohol tricked me into feeling like my life was greater than it really was. And when you take the alcohol away, it becomes even more apparent that things are not actually as they appear. I've witnessed (and also have done many of these things myself) “normal” drinkers make extremely poor decisions when intoxicated. People cry, they get into fights, they say things they shouldn’t. Is this worth the risk? Is the idea that for a moment you get to be someone you are not or maybe a "better" person than you think you are, worth what you are putting at stake? At some point it is a calculated risk, but a risk nonetheless. I heard someone once describe alcoholism in a way that really made a lot of sense to me. This person likened a drinking career of an alcoholic to a blank napkin. They drew a few dots with a pen, and those were all the good times. The remaining empty space? That space represented all the bad times. I think that is useful, even for a non-alcoholic. The number of great times are the dots, and the number of just normal “times” is the blank space. So why the risk?
I am past the point of wanting to make things “better” with alcohol. I want my life to be good in the naked light, with all the enhancements and add-ons stripped away. Like that guy you settle on at last call, I don't wake to wake up next to my life in the morning and think how much better it looked or felt under the spell of booze. I want to stop wasting time talking about what I want to do over a beer with friends, and just simply do it. I want to wake up every single day, feeling the best that I can. I want to know that life, as I know it, it just as good, if not better, standing on its own merits and laurels. I want to be who I say and feel I want to be, regardless of the state I may find myself in. I want to be authentic. And I definitely don't want to rely on something else to give me that high or the courage to do it.