It’s easy to think of the things I don’t miss about drinking… Hangovers, guilt, secrets, shame, drunken arguments, ranting Facebook posts, cost, weight gain, sneaking, struggling to function, fatigue, not sticking to my goals, lying, being self-conscious, thinking people know, mood swings… yuck.
But this post is about what I DO miss about alcohol. Over the past few months, a few situations have triggered this feeling: watching friends slowly savouring whiskey at New Year; tapas dinner with friends as they shared a bottle of red; and making overseas travel plans and reading about exotic local foods, drinks and customs.
My most recent moment was going to a bottle shop to buy a friend a nice bottle of Champagne as a house warming present (from the expensive section). For a second I looked at all the bottles thinking how nice it would be. So when I think about what I miss, some of the themes include:
- Wanting to feel grown up or sophisticated – it’s hard to feel sophisticated when you’re holding a Coke Zero at a posh event.
- The allure of ritual – alcohol has lots of ritual involved in choosing, matching, making, serving and how to drink it. It’s sort of nice and provides some structure in social situations.
- FOMO (fear of missing out) & feeling part of the group – it doesn’t matter whether it’s tequila shots, popping a cork or sitting on the back deck talking with a beer – it gives the participants a shared experience. Lately I feel like I’m on the edge looking in.
- Loss of identity – I was a geeky teen who probably used alcohol to prove that I could be a risk-taker and push things to the edge. I still feel embarrassed to tell people I don’t drink – I feel like I’m a born again prude.
Gees – I’m nearly 40 and those themes are still variations of the reasons I drank AT SCHOOL. There are also other themes I miss such as:
- Switching off. I’ve got a few anxiety, perfectionism and control issues – I quite like to have things nailed down, planned and organised. Alcohol always symbolised that “the day is over” and that I could completely let go. That’s also why I never had a temptation to drink in the mornings and early afternoon – still had to be hyper-functioning for a few more hours until I could slip into a bottle of wine.
- Excitement and the rush. Alcohol was a wild-card and added chaos and additional stimulation to mundane situations. Sure you might still be on the couch watching TV – but it felt like the contrast and brightness had been turned up. It also made exciting situations even more fun – drinking Champagne on a plane at the start of a big adventure! Hmmm I’m embarrassed to say that sneaky drinking was also a bit exciting sometimes – the fear of getting caught, rushing etc… Sounds LAME in retrospect.
- Some drinks just taste nice – DUH! Nothing intellectual here – I always liked the taste of red wine, port, cider, and Campari. This isn’t a big feeling of loss but sometimes I just think “Oh yum – I wish I could have a bit of that”.
- Some drinks trigger memories. This is an odd concept – so I miss something because it used to make me get nostalgic about things. Like many tastes and smells – some drinks can flash me back to a time or place which was important to me.
So that’s my list of things I miss… Except for the biggest and most important one.
From the first time I got a bit drunk I really liked the warm, glowing, euphoric, exciting, disinhibiting and slightly giddy feeling it gave me. I loved it! Over the years, the more I drank, the more it took to get that buzz. AT some stage I knew the amount I was drinking was becoming socially unacceptable – so I started sneaky drinking to get the same buzz. By the end it took so much effort to maintain both social pretences and to get the buzz that the other things I liked about alcohol got swamped:
- I wasn’t sophisticated when I was a slurring mess
- Quickly swigging vodka from the drinks cabinet is hardly a glamorous ritual
- My desire for alcohol meant that I couldn’t really be ‘in the moment’ or connect with the people around me. I might have looked like a calm swan on a pond but my invisible legs were frantically paddling below the water. I’d be thinking about alcohol, working out how to get more, judging what was socially acceptable at that event, convincing people to have another round, and not wanting to appear drunk or that I was doing all of that.
- I didn’t really get to switch off – secretly drinking large amounts & covering your tracks is hard work. You’ve really got to be on the ball.
- Savour the taste? Do you know how much daily drinking costs? $4 bottles of wine are best gulped rather than savoured!
- I didn’t have time to relax or get nostalgic.
So by the time I quit I had all the awful stuff as a result of my exhausting chase for a buzz and only got some very occasional nice stuff.
Now when I dwell on those rare nice moments – I remember a line I read in someone’s blog (apologies I can’t remember who or when) which went a bit like this “I’ll be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I no longer want to finish the entire bottle”.