This is a question I imagine is on the minds of people when I talk about my journey; I can almost feel them wondering if I think they have a problem. Or, maybe that’s just me projecting. There’s no denying that I believe alcohol is a toxic substance that adds no value to my life. So, you might think that translates to how I view other people’s drinking. Let me be clear, it doesn’t. To be honest, I don’t give it much thought on an individual level. I know that I can’t possibly know what’s behind a person’s drinking. After all, I hid my problem well.
I also understand that alcohol is part of our culture. Do I think it’s WAY overrated and even romanticized with clever marketing? Absolutely! But at one time I also believed it was important to being social, to fitting in and to enjoy certain events. I just happen to not buy into that anymore. My sister drinks, albeit rarely. My partner drinks. Many of my friends and family drink. I don’t look at them like they’re harming themselves or analyze their drinking to determine if they’re developing a “problem”. I actually just think they don’t use alcohol like I did. I developed an unhealthy attachment to it. Plain and simple really. And, I hope that they never develop an unhealthy attachment to it. But if they do, I hope they feel like they can come to me to help them through it. The last thing I’d want is for someone close to me to think, “Oh, well I can’t go to Jenny because she’ll say ‘I told you so’”. I think it’s possible that some people will never have a problem with alcohol and others end up using alcohol in an unhealthy way; to cope. I don’t think any of us can know until it’s upon us. I certainly never thought it would be me. Again, I was supposed to know better.
Erase the Stigma
I still have my vices. For instance, I still tend to rely on caffeine even though it doesn’t really work on me anymore. It’s really just a habit now, that I intend to break one of these days. There are so many things that we put into our bodies that aren’t necessarily healthy, but I don’t think that means people should never, ever put those things in their bodies. And, most importantly, I believe it is the individual’s right to decide what is right for them. (Obviously, I’m not talking about anyone who’s committed a crime while under the influence. That adds a whole different layer to this topic.) If someone comes to the point where they realize a certain behavior or substance is not serving them, they should be allowed to explore that without judgement and labels. I love what Annie Grace says about alcohol being the only thing we have to justify not taking. No one questions us when we say we’re not smoking, not eating sugar or not eating meat. It’s just assumed that we’re doing it to be healthy.
So, why is alcohol so different? Why is the conclusion drawn that we must have some crazy backstory of DUI’s or something? I hope that is changing; I hope that we are moving towards being congratulated when we decide we want to rethink the role we want alcohol to play in our lives. I want to see the conversation go like this; “Yeah, I’m thinking of taking a break from alcohol.” To which the response is; “Oh, that’s cool! I’ve been thinking about doing that too. Last year I gave up sugar for a while and felt great! I hear the same results come from taking a break from alcohol.” Well, you get the idea. I just want to see it become more of something to be celebrated, rather than shamed. Maybe then people won’t keep putting off addressing their drinking until something really bad happens. You should not have to wait until you get a DUI, or worse, before you feel like it’s finally time to address the drinking thing. If you’re wondering whether or not you have a problem with alcohol, it’s a safe bet that alcohol is taking more of a priority in your life than it should be. People that are truly free, can take it or leave it; they don’t question whether or not they’re drinking too much. And as long as we, society, keep judging people that want to re-evaluate their drinking, people will shy away from doing so.
All I really want to do is raise awareness and erase the stigma around taking a break from alcohol or quitting altogether. I want to reframe what it means to start questioning your drinking. I want to show people that taking alcohol out of the equation doesn’t equal a dull and boring experience of life. I want us to allow space for people that want to make positive changes in their life; regardless of where they’ve been or where they are in life. Fear of judgement and ridicule keeps people from seeking help or making change, so what good does that do. It only serves to divide people more and keep people down when they need to be lifted up. You only need to look around to notice that people that are down on themselves are down on others. People that feel confident, secure and motivated tend to lift others up rather than tear them down. That’s certainly been my experience. Sure, there’s a lot of nuances to that, but in general happy people spread happy feelings and hurt people, hurt people; and usually their target is sitting squarely in the reflection in the mirror. In my experience, it is this feeling of inadequacy and shame that leads people to seek solace in a drink (or many).