I’ve had a relationship with alcohol since I was born. It has always been a part of my life, a teacher on my journey, and I’ve watched the power of it grip at life around me.
When I was younger, my dad battled with active alcohol addiction. He went to AA, we went to Al-Anon. I didn’t know life outside of alcoholism. I never knew that other kids weren’t “going to meetings”, too.
He often comments on my spiritual journey, that he believes what I believe. There is a common thread between the surrender of control around addiction and the ultimate surrender we seek through spirituality. I have begun to pay more attention to how large of a role alcohol plays in life. It is in my favorite songs, on billboards, in advertisements, movies, life at every turn. Some of my most beloved teachers/spiritual leaders have left it behind for a life of sobriety and it got me thinking.
Why do we hang on so tight to a relationship that is so, potentially, unpredictable?
There are so many ups and downs with this faceless shapeshifter. It doesn’t matter who you are, it can seduce you. It can fool you into believing it is healing, helping, and that you still have your will. We don’t consciously choose to lose our grip, this I believe.
It’s seductive in nature, showing up early in life at a time you’re most vulnerable - your teens. It can be your best friend. You want to fit in and it makes you feel more confident. It encourages you to say how you feel and holy sh*t, you are really funny, with it's help. But, it can also be really spiteful. Why did it leave you passed out and feeling so awful? How did this fun night turn into a spiral of shame the next day.
You never would have said or done those things. Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that. Why would I do that?!? And then the cycle begins over again.
Later in life, it becomes a reward, then a coping mechanism, and ultimately, it sits at the center of your social circle. You bond over it. It makes itself indispensable. If we’re real, it seems to be the glue that holds society together. It’s the most social drug on the planet and it’s scary to let go of because it doesn't travel alone.
I’ve always watched it with careful observation, fearful of the addictive gene in my personality. We went from a house that never drank at home, to social wine almost nightly with dinner. I’ve been on the bad side of overconsumption and it has directly related to somewhere in my life I was not happy. I was using alcohol as a solution.
A memory that haunts me and probably always will, was when I learned how destructive it could be. How it could destroy life in the blink of an eye. I was small enough to be hiding under a table, I remember looking up at the plywood top and at the metal legs. I heard a man speaking and I listened. He spoke through sobs as he recalled when he ran over and lost his son. I will never, ever forget the pain in his voice. It haunts me still. I can’t imagine anyone signing up for that pain willingly.
I believe that story came into my life, as most stories do, on purpose. So I would sit in the seat of vigilance against the most powerful drug our society is battling behind closed doors.
I have had to throw up boundaries and borders to regain my power. All in the effort to save my relationship with alcohol.
How many of us go to these lengths for our other relationships? How many of us forgive each other as much as we forgive alcohol?
Alcohol has two very powerful faces. It can be the life of the party and the solution to breaking down your walls or it can show up as the face of rage, creating space for the worst of the worst to come out. It’s untrustworthy.
I am sitting on the fence, out of fear. I enjoy the social wines with friends, I love a relaxing evening on the deck with my person. What would life look like if this went away?
What would life be like if I decided to say - I don’t trust you enough to keep you in my life.
Do you have to choose, one or the other? Is there a potential for some kind of hybrid solution?
What if we could have a conversation where we wouldn't be labelled as this or that? What would it feel like if we could say out loud, we feel like we’re losing the battle. I think one of the biggest fears that exists is the fear of judgment. The fear of being separate and apart from others. Identifying with a label is a major commitment and when you are just beginning to explore your relationship, it can force you to turn away from what you're really feeling.
You don’t have to be ready to put yourself in the box of alcoholic or non-alcoholic, where everything becomes black and white. It can weigh heavily on how you socialize, connect and relate to others. It is brave to look at the relationship. It is brave to stay in your power and to reach out when it feels lost. It does not have to be finite. And maybe, it does. But, it is worth exploring. You are worthy of a healthy relationship with yourself, with or without alcohol.
We all have problems. In one form or another, we are all battling something. Align with the feeling of good. If it makes you feel bad, don’t do it. But, don't beat yourself up either. Cultivate compassionate curiosity. Seek out the reasons it’s showing up and see if you can repair or reframe those, make different choices, if you can.
Tell someone, with the caveat, to choose wisely. You may be surprised at the dialogue you can have when you open your heart about how you're coping. It could be very liberating to hear, you are not alone in your worry. I’ve had so many behind the scenes conversations with friends that feel like it’s not serving them but feel lost in what to do. If you haven’t hit “rock bottom” then there’s nothing to fix, right? Shouldn’t we reframe this, and support a different theory of managing our coping mechanisms and looking for the root.
The naked mind podcast is a source I would recommend if you are on the fence and want to explore behind the scenes. There is no shame or guilt. It’s filled with awareness and solutions and options to choose your life every day.
Whether it be alcohol, food, screen time or shopping, we all have something to be conscious of. Any of those could be subbed into this writing easily, it is about the relationship we have them.