If alcohol is a form of self-medication then maybe it’s like proper medication – you stop taking it when it’s no longer needed.
Apart from the taste and fun physical effects of alcohol, the other reasons why drinking played such a big part of my life was because of:
- Context – when I was young(er), alcohol was just a normal part of the social contexts which were a key part of my life… parties, pubs and clubs! I went out all the time and it was just “what you did”.
- Social anxiety – I was a fairly shy and quiet when I was younger. When I was in social situations alcohol always helped make me more extroverted, louder and more sociable – especially in the pubs, clubs, parties I lived in.
- Stress Relief – as I became older, drinking became a way to switch off my brain chatter and forget about work stress. Eventually it took more and more alcohol to make my brain shut up (which is when I started sneaky drinking and began questioning whether I had a drinking problem).
This stage of my life doesn’t revolve around parties and nightclubs anymore. On the occasional times that I do go out I feel confident and comfortable and I rarely get socially anxious. Gone are the days when I wasted energy worrying about what people thought about me. Of course I still think about it but it’s not as important as it was, and if it is, it’s only because the person is important to me.
After an exhausting ‘burn out’ experience in my early 30s, I now set much stronger limits around my work. I’ve turned down the dial on my perfectionism and can better manage boundaries and reactions to stressful situations. Work is fairly stable and not particularly stressful at the moment. And yeah – the avalanche of medical appointments, tests, scans, needles, surgeries, drips, and treatments which happened in 2011/2012 have settled down.
The end result is that I don’t have a lot of major stress in my life at the moment.
So… maybe I’ve been self-medicating problems which no longer exist? If that’s the case – then I’ve been walking around in circles stuck on a well-worn track which was formed by habitual drinking.
Now that I’m halfway through my fourth week I feel more clear-headed and I realise that I don’t need to drink to escape anything. I suspect that I’ve been drinking to escape the stress, shame and guilt associated with my own problematic drinking… which is circular logic and really, stupendously dumb!
It’s time to get off the beaten track and have some fun.