Alcohol is the drug that has caused the most destruction in my life.
Alcohol has corrupted my path more so than any other drugs I have taken. There is no scale for reasonable comparison.
My consumption of alcohol has cost me hundreds of friendships already; many directly, others indirectly.
It has played a part in writing a history that will lose me friends I have yet to make.
I chose sobriety for a approximately four years in my early twenties before relapsing.
I have been sober since the summer of 2014. I cannot remember the precise date I decided to stop, but it was sometime in the month of June, and I celebrate each year from this decision on the 1st July.
There is no urge to drink left in me because I am emotionally connected with the damage it has done.
Though people compliment my abstinence, my continual or ongoing abstinence is not really an evidence of strength for me. Those people resisting a lust to return, those people should be encouraged with such compliments.
However, I feel making the decision in the first instance (though the intention collapsed) and then the second and final instance, was an act of strength, because I faced behaviour, personality, cause and effects, and I used the skills and powers I had, accepted the help from willing friends and family, and took control. I take comfort in that method and decision as I seek to repair my life, and contribute positively to society.
When I think of the act of drinking, I still imagine the pleasure of the taste, and the highs involved in the feelings it can connect you to. That understanding is not depreciated. I recognise that certain times drinking I have been thrown into wonderful and positive situations. The drinking has sometimes informed that positive curve. Of course, holistically, these positives pale against what was sacrificed in ignorance and fear.
When someone explains to me that they can just have “one or two” drinks, though I can rationalise their decision, I feel no emotional connection with that idea. Drinking was always an ever lengthening river for me. I would travel with it until it washed me up on the shore. I laid back in its arms. It was my guardian and guide.
When someone explains they drink as part of camaraderie, “a session with friends”, again, I can rationalise that idea but it was never that for me. My relationship with alcohol was personal and bilateral, working alongside relationships with people inside I loved and enjoyed spending time with. It did inform my social patterns to a degree, but I never considered it a social event, but something that was added to a social event. Performing in bars informed my decision to drink too. Working in dissatisfactory positions of employment also informed my decision to drink too.
Those that are modest drinkers and do it because they have been brought up in a culture where it is the norm, and want to fit in, present a behaviour which is of no temptation to me. Though their behaviour, for those that are in control of their alcohol consumption, present less danger than those who relinquish themselves to the act, I am still emotionally attracted to the latter behaviour. This is additional evidence for why I must never drink again.
When I think about drinking, I think of drinks that got me high, as well as the ones that got me drunk. Those drinks that hit the front of my brain. Prince Bishops ale. Various other pale ales. Scottish Whiskeys. Rioja. Other beer got me drunk. Cheap American Whiskey got my drunk. Pernot got me high. Some drinks would perform differently dependent on the mood of the occasion, or quantity of intake.
I think of the escape that I begged for, the confusion in my life, a sense of inescapable trauma, that thanks to support from others, and education, and personal processing, as well as counselling, I have managed to replace with a will to confront and a belief in hope.
I think of the acceptance of alcohol, and rituals involving alcohol, defining the possibility of bonding and unity in certain political situations. It is often a shorthand for shared values and trust. Similarly talking about football can serve such a purpose in this country. Though I know there is judgement and disadvantage for not partaking in some situations, ultimately those situations that result in a disadvantage are often in the company of those with political spirits I do not share, in particular, some conservative values around social equity that do not fit in my ideas.
It remains a hypocrisy that alcohol is legal to purchase in the UK, where as marijuana among others drugs remain illegal. This contradiction exposes its political use. As a depressant it can numb those who might be served best by feeling. By linking certain drinks to certain prices, it can become a code for an opinion on class, import or belonging.
I think of the first time I got drunk on stubbies at a school house-party. I remember the mild haziness, and the feeling that fitted in. In a way, upon reflection, I realised I must have been wishing for that much more than I would have admitted to myself at the time.
Those who are facing great pressures in this life, those who are affected by alcoholism - I have nothing but empathy for you. Those trying to cope and deal with this world, power to you. Keep going. You are deserving of love. If you can, please speak to people you trust about this, and ask for help. There are many charities that could help too.
I think of alcohol as both a cause and a symptom of problems. In my life it has played both roles. I am accountable for myself when I have consumed it. Others can choose whether to accept their accountability for when their drinking has affected me.
To successfully remove stigma around Mental Health, those who consider themselves as having a healthy Mental Health also need to be honest about their fears of people with such issues. It is necessary that they too talk openly, and in good faith (kindly) about what they find mysterious and/or concerning.
Of course, all Mental Health is different and descriptions vary, but here, I just want to emphasise that in each case, the investigative work done by those wishing to help others with Mental Health issues must also involve self-reflection/awareness about their own prejudices, fears and judgements. Such unchecked elements could halt any such progress.
For example - in my life I have behaved in some contradictory ways. Some of these contradictions come from hypocrisy (e.g., when I have an unconfirmed stance on a topic) and at other times, from growth and changing my mind on/of something.
But also, crucially at other times, it is my Mental Health that has completely changed my disposition. The way I would behave if I was feeling well is impossible and inconceivable sometimes in the times when I am suffering an altered state because of poor Mental Health.
You may meet me in a confident state, and I might be gregarious and seemingly not bothered by a lively room of people. You may meet me when I find it hard to lift my hand to shake yours, and barely find monosyllabic words. Both behaviours are true. Both behaviours I have to own. I can understand if someone sees these different positions might produce concern in the mind of those I meet, often because it is received personally. However, in fact, my disposition is these cases has exponentially more to do with what is inside my mind. Of course, this behaviour can seem similar to that of chosen dismissal to the other person, and therein lies the root of stigma, and our challenge to overcome.