Why I drank, why I stopped and why I don’t drink

The morning of Easter Monday 2014 I had my last beer. I had it amongst friends but my intention to stop was unspoken. In fact, it was only a week later that I made the commitment to myself. The journey ever since has been one of gaining more clarity, sometimes painful but overall very rewarding.

The reason I drank is simple, it’s what is expected from you to do. I never made a conscious choice to start drinking. My furthest memory was when I must have been around five, I had a sip of my dad’s pint and I remember my mum being mad for that. At 15, I bought my first can of beer and shared it with friends. One hour into my 25th birthday I was vomiting outside a holiday house I shared with people I just met. It took me a few more years to start realising that my drinking pattern was not constructive.

The reason why I stopped drinking is way more complex. It was only when I had my first full-time job that alcohol had a noticeable effect on my life. It was a job abroad and on the outside I was doing well but in my mind, I had many tensions building up. I was ignoring my past (family up-bring), professionally I was pretending to be someone I was not whilst I was also trying to please all my friends, family and work relationships. It left me being confused, affright and paralysed to move forward in my own life. I used to have a drink straight after work and Friday night was a the moment to lose the tensions in my head with an excessive dose of alcohol. At the end of 2011, I pulled the plug from that lifestyle.

I wanted to get unstuck, I gave up my apartment and went on a journey with my bicycle. Soon the connection between my mind and my body was re-established. I also took a vipassana meditation retreat and started to become aware of my aversive behaviour. And when my journey brought me back to my hometown the dysfunction in my family -which was the reason I left in the first place- was so out of hand that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. A war in my mind was coming up and easing the pain with excessive alcohol was an option my body protested to. Once again I had to pull the plug and went to live with old friends in the city.

I remembered my old friends as normal people but just like me, they also changed during my time abroad. New people were brought into the group and alcohol was the glue that kept them together. The conversations didn’t make much sense to me and besides drinking, there was no real purpose for meeting up. These friends were as stuck in life as I was. During a meditation retreat short after the Easter with some of those friends, I questioned myself some deep-rooted questions about the dysfunction in my life. I realised that when I was a child my parents made strange decisions that affected my identity. That time I couldn’t see any other explanation than that they must have been intoxicated when making those decisions. On the way back of the retreat I had a lift from a tough looking guy who shared his experience of switching to an alcohol-free life.

When I joined a birthday drink the next week, I insisted the birthday girl getting me a tonic water. One tonic water between 15 pints of beer came without any problem, it felt good. The only comment I had came from my longest friend asking if I wasn’t feeling well. Not haven had any alcohol for a few weeks gave me the clarity to confront my parents. In fact, my dad made a bonfire of my trust in him even before I could confront him with the questions I had. The adult conversation with my mother about my up bring made sense. Turned out alcohol wasn’t part of the story.

After a long time of no alcohol, the question why I stopped has become less relevant. This is why I don’t do it, period.

“I don’t like hangovers” is the easy one to explain. I don’t like the fog in my mind that alcohol leaves for weeks. I like to feel the sunshine in my life, to see when rough weather is approaching and see the end of the tunnel. I want to go beyond the difficulties and pains life throws at me at times.
I am cautious not to investing too much time and money in trivial relationships and I definitely don’t want to tolerate toxic people affecting my life. Renegotiating my boundaries whiles intoxicated can’t be in my benefit.
Being wasted is a waste of time and my time is limited. I need subtleties to craft balance in my life. Alcohol is way too gross.
Being sober is my bliss.