The day I broke up with alcohol

Alcohol and I have had a very long relationship. Possibly one of the longest relationships I’ve had in my life.

Alcohol has been there for me through thick and thin. I realised during my early teens that it was an effective painkiller and it would allow me to escape feelings that at times seemed overwhelming. Friends and relationships have come and gone. That bottle of wine/vodka was always there, even when they’d long closed the door behind them. I wonder now how many of those doors closed because of my drinking habits, at least in part.

Alcohol — my social and emotional crutch

I drank on social occasions to overcome crippling social anxiety. I’m dyspraxic and very self-conscious about my clumsiness, poor co-ordination and general awkwardness. I was also bullied in school, fairly mercilessly, for being ugly — every goddamn day of my life for several years. A nice wine buzz always helped me forget about feeling socially anxious and worrying what people would think of me, which is all very well and good when it’s just a warm fuzzy glow from a glass or two. My problem is that I would chase that buzz all night. My life became an emotional rollercoaster of being high as a kite, followed by bouts of black, dark depression. I thought this was just who I was — it was my normal.

Alcohol made it easy for me never to have to be truthful about my feelings. If I ever did blurt things out, get angry or emotional whilst drunk, it was always easy to take it back the next day and say “Oh, I didn’t mean it, I was pissed”. I never had to look at myself or others honestly. I preferred my fun, careless drunk self to my angst-ridden sober one. If I ever encountered a difficult emotion or situation, my default mechanism was just “have another drink” or if that wasn’t available, walk away. Because hey, that’s easier than staring your feelings in the face and it’s also easier than risking rejection because other people don’t want to confront your emotions either. Hell, they have a hard enough time dealing with their own.

The friend who made me face my fears

The turning point came for me when I came to America to work on the film sequel to Juan-Carlos Asse’s Unsupersize Me and the accompanying book. About a month ago, I embarked on the six-week Unsupersize Us programme and have been transforming my life and health. Through that programme, I made a good friend (you know who you are) and one night, he decided to give me some of the tough love I needed. He refused to let me walk away or bury myself in another drink when I was upset and angry.

This particular friend is also one of the most honest people I know — he just comes out with whatever he’s feeling at the time, and if you happen to be with him, you have to accept it — which makes for an interesting ride. As an emotionally open book, he has also faced some rejection in his life from people who can’t deal with that, but he has taken the hit of that rejection rather than try and change himself to accommodate other people’s discomfort with emotional honesty. That was a new thing for me to encounter — I’d always shied away from inviting rejection at all costs. My problem was that some of the very behaviours I’d developed to try and avoid social and emotional rejection were the same ones that were closing a lot of relationship doors for me.

Having someone care enough to not accept me putting barriers up and force me to talk, no matter how difficult it was for me, made me realise it was time to stop hiding from myself and my own emotions. They came spilling out, big time, and not always eloquently or nicely, but for the first time I had acceptance from someone who didn’t treat my disclosures lightly and more importantly, didn’t want to walk away from me because I was unhappy in that moment.

Sorry alcohol — it’s over

I woke up the next morning feeling a vague throbbing sensation in my head but also with an absolute certainty that alcohol and I were going to break up for good this time. Like with any breakup, there are always those moments when you look back at the good times and wonder if you should just give it one more try and it’ll be different, but I know deep down it won’t be. 9/10 times I’ve picked up a drink in my life, it’s been because I’ve wanted to run away from something, usually myself. And 9/10 times I’ve done that, I’ve usually ended up in a worse place than I was before.

My friend’s tough love and acceptance gave me the guts to finally do it — I’m kicking alcohol out of my life for good. For the first time in my life, I actually feel like facing myself might be easier than running away.

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