Jan 28, 2016

Why I Quit Drinking

Giving up alcohol entirely is something I've been mulling over for the last year or so.  Every time I thought about it, I knew it was a good idea, something I "should" do, but I couldn't quite bring myself to say "never again."

Alcohol is such a pervasive element in our society.  We drink to have fun, we drink to celebrate, we drink to cheer ourselves up, we drink for courage, we drink when we're bored, we drink to make everyone else feel comfortable when they're drinking, we drink because we want to fit in with our peers, we drink to bond with others, we drink to have something to do with our hands at parties.

I've tried to make do with rules.  "Only 2 drinks."  "No shots."  "Just wine, cider, and dessert liquors."  But you know... I don't think moderation is something I'm capable of.  I've mentioned this and the persistent alcoholism in my family to people before, usually to be met with, "Oh!  My grandfather..."

It's taken lightly.  It's joked about.  It's socially acceptable to acknowledge and share and enjoy the tales of your family and friends' alcohol-fueled adventures.  But like many other diseases, buried under the jokes and nonchalance is a host of very serious issues.  Alcoholism, dependence, lack of control, hurting things, hurting people, hurting yourself.

My life has in some small ways been shaped by alcoholism.  I recently read Adult Children of Alcoholics and concluded that the final impact on me is small, indeed, and I really am quite fortunate to have been touched so little by this specter.  But it has left its mark and it has hurt me, many times, in childhood and a few occasions more recent.

There are scars that will never go away.  And somehow, as a young adult, I felt free to look past that and make my own experiments, and indulge.  I made mistakes.  I got sloppy.  I did all the things most people do when they first try alcohol.

But I got older, and hangovers got worse, and I wanted to start being responsible.  I wanted to "grow up" and take control of my actions.  I started to realize how dangerous some of my decisions were, and I never wanted to know how sickening it must be to wake up and realize I'd endangered or harmed someone by getting behind the wheel.

So I tried to make changes.  I set my rules.  Time and time again.  But moderation continued to elude me.

I don't know what alcoholism looks like to other people.  I never thought of myself at risk, because I don't crave a drink.  But when I have one or two, suddenly all those rules and values fly out the window and I drink as much as I want to.

I'm not capable of moderation.  I might not be an alcoholic, but I don't want to become one.  So I'm quitting now, before I do anything irreparable.  I'm quitting now because I see the damage others have done, and I've felt the hurt of the drunken actions of others, and I know I'm capable of that.

I decided to quit back in December.  I was going to wait until after Australia, both to not have to miss out on travel "experiences" and because New Years always seems like a good time to start new things.  I'd just begun when something happened that erased any lingering doubts or regret I might have.

If you're capable of moderation, that's great.  But for a huge portion of society, alcohol is a huge contributor to some of our biggest life mistakes.  Whether it's driving under the influence, getting into a fight, infidelity, making an ass of yourself and getting fired, injuring yourself (accidentally or deliberately), or making permanent life decisions without the benefit of your rational mind, the risks are huge.

What are the pros?  Fun.  Fitting in.  A few hours of enjoyment.

I don't think every person is at risk of losing their mind and doing dangerous or harmful things when they're drunk.  But for those of who are: how in the hell can fun compete with possible killing someone?  Possibly killing yourself?  Breaking your spouse's heart?

It is fucking ridiculous.  And I'm done.  No "just for special occasions."  No "only Bailey's because it's barely alcoholic anyway."  Nothing.  Because I'm not capable of moderation.  And that risk to benefit ratio is not and never has been worth it.

I don't expect the rest of the world to follow suite, although there's a few people I can think of that I'd plead and entreat if I thought it'd do any good.  It's a personal decision, and it's a painful one, and it's fueled by my knowledge of my own lack of self control, and by the genetics I know I've inherited.  And it took time.  I knew I should do it a year ago and it took this long to build up the will to follow through.

But I'm doing it now, and I'm grateful and proud that I was able to manage it before doing anything irreparable, and I'm hopeful that others in my life will get their shit together as well, so that we can move into the future together.  One that doesn't end in a blaze of flame and pain and regret.

Or police sirens.  I'd like to avoid those as well.

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  1. Good for you!

    One of the reason I never drank and don't drink now is because alcoholism runs in my family and I know it can be inherited. Not only that alcohol is the reason I don't have a father in my life and the reason that my mom has been divorced two times.

    It's weird to tell people I don't drink especially when I'm trying to make new friends, I usually get looked at like I have two heads. I often wonder if people from other cultures would find it strange that I don't drink too.

  2. I say good for you. It's brave to stand up and realize that you don't have to be part of that, for your own safety and everyone else's. Bravo. I wish you lots of luck and determination in this! I can think of a few people who could benefit from the same. I do drink, often, but I've never had a problem. One time I totally tried to get a rid home from a guy driving a pink street sweeper, but I'm past those years ;) Thankfully I've never done any of the bad things you've mentioned, but if someone has, they really do need to re-think drinking. I have friends who don't drink and they still come out and have a good time. Alcohol isn't necessary.

  3. good for you girl!
    first, i want to say preach to everything you said about alcoholism. i hate when people joke about it. what is this Adult Children of Alcoholics you speak of? i would love to read it.
    i drink. like maybe one or twice a month, max. i drink a lot maybe 5 times a year, max. i'm like you, i have no idea what moderation is. that is awesome if people do, good for them. but i would much prefer to not have a drink at all, than have 1 or 2 every night. It really bothers me when KC has a beer or glass of wine during the week, and even though his father is an alcoholic, i don't think he truly understands it because his parents split up when he was younger and he didn't really have to live with it. my parents split up too, but i got to see way more than i needed / should have. i mean, i'm not perfect, and i definitely didn't have the world's worst childhood, but i am always surprised at how 'well' i turned out, or how 'little it touched me' like you said.
    anyway. i love a good cocktail, but if they made mocktails that were cheaper, i'd be all about them, you know? it's the sugar and sweetness i like. i can do without the alcohol. sometimes i want to go out and get drunk like 5 or 6 times a year, but i always regret it because i can't 'hang' like i used to. but i have no desire to drink more often, even if its less, because it will gradually build up to where i used to drink 1 glass of wine twice a week to three times, to four times, to 2 glasses.. you know? Like you said, I am not an alcoholic but i don't want to become one.

    hope all is well with you girl!

  4. I feel like your view on alcohol is probably like my relationship with food. I dont know what moderation is and that is why I had to do Whole 30. To cut all my bad habits completely off. Alcoholism runs in my family as well. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics. My mom's dad died when she was 8 because of it. So it isn't something I ever take lightly. I am a 2 drinks (maybe 3 if I am out allllll day) and done person. I can cut myself off before even really getting a buzz. But I know I can control that. There are so many people who cant. The fact that you see that is commendable!

  5. I give you major props for realizing that moderation is difficult for you, deciding to do something about it, and following through. You are quite self-actualized :) Alcoholism runs in Blue's family and she saw firsthand how damaging it can be, so she won't drink alone, ever. That's what works for her, and I'm so happy you found what works for you. Wishing you well in this new journey!

  6. Really proud of you for the journey it took you to get to this place, and then for sharing it here.
    "I don't know what alcoholism looks like to other people. I never thought of myself at risk, because I don't crave a drink. But when I have one or two, suddenly all those rules and values fly out the window and I drink as much as I want to." This was SO much me for a long time. I all but gave up drinking all together for a long time, setting really strict rules and abstaining from drinking more often than not. I then gave it up totally for a full month, and that few-year experiment led me to a place where I can now drink in moderation.
    I know learning moderation is not the case for everybody though, and everyone needs to find their own path. The majority of men in my family (that I'm blood related to) have serious alcoholism, and it has absolutely shaped my life, my family dynamics, and my relationships with people in really negative ways.
    Good for you for being the change. If you ever want to get a milkshake, I'm your gal :)

  7. Alcoholism was never a factor in my life as a kid, and really, it wasn't until maybe 4-6 years ago when my step-dad just started going at it. He's always been a drinker but I'd say around 2010 he basically just said fuck it. And then after we lost my sister, that was the end of it. I can absolutely see the difference in him. Shakes, slurred speech, forgetful, slow moving... it's sad, but he did this. And that's a whole bag of worms we're not opening because I'm not fond of him in general so....

    I'm proud of you for taking the stance and realizing that you can't handle moderation. That right there makes all the difference. I can, and I do. It's not that I've quit drinking, but I absolutely drink far less than I used to. I've never craved a drink and I've never had a problem, it's just that I find myself being in "drinking occasions" less and less, and I'm a-ok with it. Even with all the wine I have at home, it's been there for almost a year now. I'm with Alyssa, milkshakes? I'm in!

  8. My grandfather was an alcoholic. I'm proud of you for giving it up. I drink very rarely usually only with friends.


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