Today’s discussion is about giving up drinking alcohol. Not your regular alcoholic confession story but better worded as a design direction statement more than anything. The reason I say design direction is because I see myself as a product of a whole lot of successes and mistakes. Not all necessarily all my own fault but I see things as if you can start a habit you can stop a habit. It’s better looking at things from a conceptual standpoint because you can get to know yourself at a structural timeframe level and get to understand where it all went wrong.
So let’s go back a few years and figure all this shit out. Get to know me better and understand where I’m coming from. This conversation is not set up to convince you that I’m a good person. It’s setup so that we can both be better. That you can hopefully feel proud to say “no” everytime somebody else says “yes.” Let’s get to the bottom of this in a big way so that we can both get on with our day.
I was pretty late to the party getting started with the whole drinking thing. Reached the age of sixteen never having had any real interest in the world of alcoholism or ever really finding any value in brown water. My parents reached out to me one day. My dad handed me a double brown and a spoon then said, “if you can open this beer, you can have it.” Being the stupid prideful snob the opportunity seemed too easy to say no to so I smashed it back.
Cracking my first beer was like earning some kind of noteworthy badge or something. Being a teenage kiwi boy from a rural neighborhood, it all seemed like I’d just ran my first marathon or built my first shed, a huge achievement. There was something about it that seemed unnecessarily normal. As if my parents were comfortable with it. Because they were!
I’m not blaming anyone but myself for drinking. My parents have always been conservative and intelligible people. But the concern was that it was socially acceptable and that was a part of the problem. Like when an architect designs a home for a family. A home is supposed to represent the values of that family and it’s crazy to assume that the accumulation of wealth in which the family has created would ever be influenced by external sources but they often are. A home, a place of sanctuary can so easily be affected by social norms that influence what the building ends up looking like. Say for the box-like design that we often see in residential houses these days. Or the internal makeup with the bathrooms usually separated from the lounge.
That’s not to assume that influence is always bad. But normality allows people to do things which make no sense or have any real value, like drinking. It doesn’t give us anything good. All of my happiest moments were spent sober so why the fuck should drinking be a part of that?
About a year after my first sip saw that it was time to have my first major piss up. I made a promise to myself to get wasted with good company at least once so that I could say that I’d done it. Any opportunity to make good on that promise and I’d take it. One day my friends held a party and it got a lot crazier than it needed to. A dozen Mavericks, a splash of cider. A few shots from my friend’s dads Whiskey bottle, the whole bottle. It snowballed into this late night rigmarole of hellish partying.
By no means is that a complaint though. It was one of the best nights of my life. A messy night of alcohol infused melodrama mixed with relationship issues, which we’ll talk about in just a second, and self-destructive friends. It ended with one of my friends leaking off the balcony and getting smacked over by the person he leaked on standing below the balcony, and rightly so. I guess for the main part drinking back then was all about learning who the right people are to be drinking with and getting to know what my limits were.
So what’s the problem?
I had a lot of relationship anxieties. Call it weird, call it whatever you would like. My relationship issues didn’t spark from a lack of love or a lack of laughter with my ex’s but instead because I was lonely and afraid of being rejected. With this new found substance it gave me opportunities to express how I was feeling better than if I was filtering them out sober. Drinking was my outlet to treat other people like shit, a very unnecessary and tiresome fact. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to realize it at the time but it was the start of a two-year period which would cause me a couple of major problems.
A little backstory:
Relationship issues were something compounded into my early childhood. With my biological parents never having raised me, returning to my life when I reached the age of five and then finally disappearing again was the first mistake made during my earliest childhood foundation building stages. It was when they came back and stuffed everything up again like ripping off a bandage and stabbing around the first cut holes.
Reaching those early pubescent years thinking about acceptance from my peers was a big deal for me having lost some of that at an earlier stage. Coming to grips with experimenting and learning how to love others was another major design flaw for me. I knew how to love others because I’d been treated properly growing up but my problem was a lack of feeling accepted.
Fast forward into my late teenage years where I discovered alcohol, sex, and money. The problem with rejection was still very entrenched in things. Call it a growing period, call it melodrama. Nobody needs that stuff. If the problem is with me then I guess the solution lies with me also. Time to learn how the wood meets the nail and where it all fits together. Perforated eves on my rooftops. Water tight to shelter from the rain. My later teenage years were and have been a time of significant stuff ups. This is where some backstory is really necessary.
Seventeen was the magic number when it all went tits up. Still coming to terms with sexual orientation and also struggling with relationship issues. I guess turning seventeen was the moment of chaos and madness. During my friends eighteenth, after a morning, afternoon and evening of binge drinking. I’d only recently learned that I was cheated on and so I ended up using alcohol as my scapegoat. Running away from my friends through a river in my brand new blazer, swearing at the police in the back of the police car and spending a while in jail. My friends who were upset were forced to call the police on me and it was the first really big wake up call to sort things out at a structural level. It was like having an earthquake testing the integrity of a building and it all coming tumbling down.
It wasn’t the drinking, it wasn’t the cheating, it wasn’t my age or a lack of support from my friends. They only helped push things over. The problem was a design error. My rejection issues and how they affected my ability to withstand social pressures were to blame. This stuff might be pretty dramatic for you but having lived through it and knowing what it was all about (and this blog being about what I see) I guess what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. It was hard for me then and let’s use it as a big learning opportunity for us both.
I just wish I’d learned earlier…
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. The year after my first major breakdown was the second series of incidents which didn’t need to happen either. A real judgment moment I guess. In my first year at university, I’d overwhelmed myself. With a long distance relationship on the go, studying architecture full time and pretty much working three jobs at once there was way too much for any one person to be juggling. Mix that with some significant rejection indifferences and one evening of hard drinking after thinking that you’d been cheated on the second time and voila!
The second time I broke down, everyone around me let me know that it was time to do something significant about it. Some of my best friends no longer felt comfortable around me. Some felt anxious when I was in the room. One Monday about a month after I’d learned my girlfriend had got with someone else at a party, sick from not sleeping, taking antibiotics, drunk on life, eventuated with punching walls, head out the window and a two-minute wrestle with a couple of bulky police officers saw me again in a police cell with hell to pay the day after.
I’d lose friendships. I’d lose trust. My parents would have felt anxious not knowing what state I was in. My halls of residence would quickly kick me out and there’d be no more room for my bull shit. But most importantly, I’d get the opportunity to grow from my mistakes. I’d get the chance to change which way I was going. This was the last time I’d drunk to the point of non-remembrance. The last time I would see red and decide that other people were to blame for my issues and actually do something about it.
The months after were a whole lot of petty nights out until I came to the stage where I could see how drinking only catalyzed issues with other people my age it was never the cause for the shit. I learned that the real problem was always deeper if there ever was any. So it was like this big moment of realizing after ages that it doesn’t even matter. That drinking is completely pointless. That it’s never going to help me in any significant way, therefore, it should never be treated as a highlight of my day.
When people ask why I gave up drinking it’s not because I had problems with drinking it’s that I have problems full stop. That alcohol is just making my life much more difficult and that I should definitely treat it as if I were a 49-year-old alcoholic. As if I did have mental health issues. Not living in fear of drinking but instead coming to terms with the fact that I don’t need to drink and there’s never any premise that makes drinking necessary.
Every occasion where my friends, family members or girlfriend would drink I’d always feel privileged to be the sober one. There is a lot of reward in deciding not to drink. For one, being a poor student it saves me a whole pile of money deciding not to drink. If there’s one thing I notice with my friends and flatmates it’s that the ones who drink spend a considerable amount on purchasing drinks for nights out and it’s something I can always appreciate to a high degree.
My next big gripe is that I’ve probably lost weight thus far this year. I used to be into all of the sugary stuff like espresso martinis and gelo shots, but In general my drinking used to be pretty unhealthy. So it was another huge advantage for me was improving my health, I might have made up for that one in eating cheese but at the same time, it’s always something else you can feel really proud of.
The night I gave up drinking was the night I got back with my beautiful girlfriend. It wasn’t the decision to love her that made me want to give up drinking. It was to improve on myself and stay in control of my actions and remain totally accountable for things that inspired me and encouraged me to make some significant design refinements.
My love for her has only become stronger over these last few months and every time I’m with her enriches our relationship. Which brings me to my lucky last proud moment is that giving up drinking has improved my relationships with people. I am able to communicate with my family and friends that I feel proud to be a part of their lives humbled sober.
There are always rejection issues. Unfortunately, it’s a product of poor design. I think it’s worth noting that there are significant steps which have been taken to reduce the risk of feeling anxious in social situations but there are always a few moments of random madness during a confrontation that drive a bit of upset.
What does this mean for you?
The reason why I started this blog was to advocate for those who don’t know how to voice their concerns for particular issues. There is always a reason to improve somewhere because nobody knows everything and wisdom is the opposite of knowledge. Wisdom is knowing that I know nothing. That the glass is never full. In that space, you can always take on board something new. You can always lend somebody a hand.
To some kids or young adults out there, and even some who are older might find that my journey resonates with them at some stage. The point is to use that for good. The change didn’t happen the first time I realized that drinking was a problem. The change happened when I made the same mistake a whole bunch of times.
But this isn’t all about me, any more than it is about you. If we can get to the crux of things we can notice that if we give up drinking we can improve on a lot of things. We can improve Friday night because we’ll get tired more early, sleep earlier and feel better in the days after the party. We can look after friends and loved ones when they need our help most. We can improve our well-being and ultimately improve our general health. Save money and save lives when deciding not to drive drunk, legend.
Mate, there’s literally tons of opportunity for development and improvement when you decide that drinking is a big waste of time. Because when you build a house upwards from the foundation up and you do a solid job, without getting a cowboy builder in to do a shitty job, minus the drinking and all the bull shit, you end up getting a solid person.
Stay tuned for my last week of blogs.
Thanks for checking in!