I’ve always had a complex relationship with alcohol, but not in the conventional way you might expect. For many, binge drinking is apart of life and can lead to many hilarious stories and memories. For others, the effect of drink can be catastrophic. Growing up alongside alcoholism, it impacted me in a lot of ways. I wanted to explore the impact my experiences had on what, (for most people) isn’t even a question! Should I drink or not?
From a young age I was surrounded by alcohol, I feel I was practically raised in a pub! As I got older I saw first hand the impact alcohol had on people close to me, and not in a good way. I have never seen my dad not have a drink in his hand, and unfortunately, too much of the strong stuff would make him (let’s say not a very nice man). I also heard a lot of stories of how my grandfathers were both violent drunks the impact this had on their families, my parents. Fast forward a few years and I lost my uncle to alcoholism and nearly my dad (although indirectly). It doesn’t take a genius to work out the impact this had on me growing up. I recognise, especially with my uncle that alcoholism is a horrible disease that can really take hold of you when you are at your most vulnerable and take advantage of those who struggle with their mental health.
Not drinking because I was unhappy?
As I approached the drinking age and headed for University, I knew going out/drinking was almost a rite of passage, how you made friends. Struggling with my own mental health at 18 I was absolutely terrified of drinking. Not necessarily because I thought alcoholism was heredity but in case I enjoyed it! I have always been fairly open and honest about my mental health and self-harm and as a teenager, it was particularly prevalent. You hear people talk about addictive personalities and I worried I had one, I thought if I drank and liked it and it made me feel good, I would substitute one self-destructive behaviour with another.
Control was the other thing I was afraid of or more lack of it! People always say how you are not as in control of your actions under the influence. What if I hurt myself under the influence. It just wasn’t worth taking the risk. So throughout the whole of University and early adulthood, I was completely t-total and to be honest, I was fine with it. I learnt some valuable lessons like you don’t need alcohol to have a good time or indeed a good conversation (contrary to popular belief).
Drinking because I was happy?
Again, fast forward a few years I enter the world of sales and recruitment. Rewards were given in the form of lavish nights out and an all-expenses-paid bar. What a nightmare! Dealing with drunk people when you are sober = such a chore. I just could not let myself go! I did envy them slightly the ability just to relax, make a bit of a fool of themselves but in a good way where you can laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.
One day, something changed and I decided to have a drink at a corporate do, and guess what….the world didn’t cave in around me. I realised that having an occasional drink wasn’t going to make me an alcoholic. However, a key part of that decision was also where my mental health was. Unlike the years prior I was in a much happier and stable place, so I didn’t need to worry that it was going to become some kind of coping mechanism. May seem a little far fetched for some people but a state of mind really made a difference!
Since then, I have been known to actually enjoy a night out and have finally found my drink of choice (Gin). I guess the moral of the story is, bad experiences can really affect the choices you make in life, even the simple ones. But with a good bit of caution and trust in yourself, you can overcome whatever fears you have. Even little ones like this!