abijam

‘When the wine goes in, strange things come out’

In Alcohol, Drink, Drinking, Sobriety, Student, University on April 4, 2012 at 1:28 am

Hello to everyone who is reading this!

As you may know, my name is Abi and I am a student in the UK. I lead a normal life except the fact that I have problems drinking responsibly. A common name for this would be a ‘binge drinker’. I am inclined to argue this name is far too broad and is a label that is becoming nonchalant and socially acceptable.

Lets get one thing straight, the way I drank was neither a nonchalant affair or socially acceptable. As a student, to a certain degree, getting drunk is normal. Like most students who drink socially, I had no symptoms of alcohol dependance. The closest I have got to dependance was long stints of consecutive binges and even throughout I never had an ‘eye opener’ or ‘liquid lunches’ to get me through or to prevent any shakes or withdrawals.

I have been drinking since the tender age of 14 and at that age I drank to get drunk. As I had very little self confidence or self assurance it was a quick way of finding the guts to talk to boys and losing inhibitions. Alcohol was my ‘Liquid confidence’.

The drinking at this early stage was done behind my parents backs. My peer group and I used to steal alcohol from our parents (spirits), get the oldest looking friend to buy cider or vodka, and we would sit in a park or go back to someones house and ‘chug’ or down alcohol to feel the effects almost instantly. A very stupid and immature thing to do when no one was an experienced drinker or knew what happened when things went wrong. Everyone was a victim of their own peer pressure.

I believe these drinking habits stayed with me longer than I wish to recognise. As you grow up with alcohol, and your peer groups change, your income changes, your life experience changes and so do the circumstances in which you drink change. For example; you drink at special family occasions, professional occasions, with peers who have more drinking experience, with strangers, in nightclubs etc.

If your drinking mentality is still one which is ‘drink to get drunk’ obviously your behaviour and these occasions will clash. Trouble occurs and relationships break down. Not just with your peers, your family but most harmfully the relationship with yourself.

If your drinking makes you feel ashamed or affects your current circumstances and has a negative effect on your self esteem levels; it is a problem. A problem that I am very grateful to have recognised by the age of 22.

After doing extensive research (the first part of my research was done very much in denial of having a problem) I have discovered that a lot of people who realise they have a problem are in a later stage of life (with children, with a career, late twenties onwards etc). There are only a select few who decide upon abstinence from alcohol at a younger age. My concerns are; do people blur the lines of what is a normal and what is a problem? Or is peer pressure simply a cultural change and those with problems do not feel strong enough to go against their social surroundings?

One of the greatest problems about having a drinking problem is the other people in your life. I have only experienced this from the university angle. At university the culture is to drink regularly, the acceptability of doing stupid things under the influence of alcohol and that you shouldn’t worry too much about it. YOLO (you only live once) is one of the most common phrases you will encounter upon trying to fix your problem.

The phrase YOLO, ironically, is also the reason to give up drinking. Upon my first attempt of becoming teetotal (October 2011) I woke up and abruptly decided ‘I am never drinking again and this time I mean it.’ Yes, all very well and good to decide this after a shame filled night and with a stinking hangover. Hangovers; being a weird mix of boldness and self loathing, seem to be a bad time to make life changing decisions.

The more I thought about giving up alcohol forever, the scarier it seemed. Thoughts such as ‘What will I drink when everyone makes a toast?’ or ‘I am going to miss that ice cold cider in the beer garden?’ and ‘what am I going to drink when we have girly wine or cocktail nights?’ kept cropping up. Again and again and again. Until 14 days later I was having my ‘Just one, I promise’ cocktail to celebrate my housemates 21st. ‘Just one, I promise’ Turned into 5 or 6, from what I remember.

So my point being, when you force your brain into a ‘forever’ situation; the panic response is triggered. Subconsciously, you are battling now with peer pressure and with your drinking problem itself. Your brain is tricking you by unearthing fond drinking memories through rose tinted glasses. Perhaps, on purpose, your brain selectively chooses not to remember the times when you were hospitalised due to alcohol abuse, the times when you publicly shamed yourself, the hangovers that make you feel like you are slowly dying, the times when you said things you would never have said if you hadn’t have been off your face or the times where your brain completely switches off and you transform into someone who isn’t you and who isn’t aware of anything.

Instead of rushing into ‘I’m never drinking again’ turn the situation on its head. Why not think ‘today I am not going to have a single drink, because then I can’t get drunk.’ or ‘today I am not going to drink because then tomorrow I will not waste the day in bed’.

If there is anyone else who understands a proper hangover; a physical hangover, a guilt ridden hangover and anxiety attacks in one dose, they can relate to wasting a whole day sometimes two, being locked in the confines of your own home, feeling self pity. Self pity because everything that you are feeling is the result of putting toxins in your body. No one else put them in there. Your excuses may be ‘he /she bought me a shot’ or ‘I had to drink because it was so and so’s birthday’. If you wish to get anywhere in this life; you have to stop blaming everyone else.

People, especially people who you thought were your close friends, may turn out to be the main reason why you struggle to stay sober. If you can tell a friend why you are not drinking and they understand; they are a true friend. You will always get peers who do not understand and they will make you doubt yourself and your decision.

After a few weeks or days of being strong and resisting, you may feel an overwhelming sense of achievement and here is how your brain will try and trick you again. ‘Amazing, so I have done one month without alcohol. Everyone wants me to drink, I miss drinking it was fun. Maybe this time around things will be different, I definitely think I have learned my lesson here.’ If you are the type of person that cannot moderate their drinks and feels their drinking results in hurting themselves and others then your brain is wrong. Your brain is trying to take the easy way out. All the time you have to constantly remind yourself why, if today, you do not drink, then you will not get into trouble and you will feel so much better tomorrow.

The drinking cycle took full grasp after October again until Sunday, March 18th 2012. I decided after a month of ‘good’ drinking I should end my drinking career on a high. What was the point in gambling my life anymore? I felt a little unhealthy due to recent festivities and a lot of nights out. I still had my health, I still had time to come completely clean to my family and myself and I had an easter break which I could retreat back to home ground and rehabilitate myself.

I will keep updating about more information I find, and people who have decided to take the same route, but I shall say goodbye for now,

Abi

PS. remember, please do get in touch if you want someone to talk to. Don’t be alone, everyone needs help sometimes.

x

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  1. So important to be supportive to those wishing to give up.

    Some time ago, my boyfriend came to me having made the difficult, traumatic decision to give up alcohol for two weeks.

    Rather than support him, I mocked him and put him down (oh it is so shaming to write this!)

    I said “there’s no way you can do two weeks without! Why bother! All this forced detox stuff… it’s bollocks! Just carry on like you always have – you’ll only beat yourself up when you fail”… Ouch…

    More than one year later he has barely had one night off alcohol.

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