This article will focus on problem drinking, and why we do this. I will try and use my experiences and the experiences of people that I have met – that have opened up to me – in order to write in a way that will hopefully be able to touch some people. The article will focus on problem drinking but also mention the problem use of Cocaine – as often these go hand in hand.
I really want to make clear that I am not Anti-Alcohol or Anti-Drugs at all, for people that can use them with moderation, and are in control, they are a wonderful pleasure and very enjoyable. I just want to help people that feel they HAVE to use substances to hide from things, and that cannot control their use.
I want to write a separate piece about weed addiction, as well as a comparison of the different addictions/obsessions that I have had, so this will come in future posts.
Spreading the message
So far I have had a lot of feedback from people all over the world who have been reaching out to ask for help and advice – and this has motivated me to spread it as far as possible. I think often people find it easier to speak to strangers, or people who are not in close social proximity, and I guess this is the reason that people feel comfortable opening up.
I am very cautious to not become a, “preacher”, as I don’t want to force my opinions or my story upon anyone – or repel people who potentially need help. Everyone that has opened up to me has done so voluntarily, usually as soon as they hear I don’t drink and my reasons why.
Feeling comfortable within yourself
Knowing what I know now and feeling 100% comfortable within myself I believe that I probably could learn to drink more sensibly – but I just have absolutely no desire to put this to the test, and absolutely no desire to have to taste alcohol again.
I just want to describe my journey, and what I have learned, as honestly as possible so that it might resonate with people and cause them to rethink their lives and actions – in order to be able to know it is possible to overcome their demons and live a normal life – with or without alcohol.
Problem drinking always has a root
What I have come to realise from all of the stories that I have heard from people and all of the different people that have asked for help/ advice is that there is ALWAYS a root cause for the problem drinking/drug use. This has actually motivated me and made it seem like my mission to help people is not hopeless.
EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION .
What is the REAL REASON For Your Problem Drinking
You need to think to yourself what is the REAL REASON that Alcohol/Cocaine has a hold of you? Yes, it is addictive and moreish but there are plenty of people who use alcohol/drugs in a non-destructive way.
What is it that it gives you that you feel you lack without it? Confidence perhaps? Energy? What is it that you are trying to hide from or forget? What part of your personality are you trying to numb?
The Addictive Gene
Although I believe we are born with an addictive gene or trait there is always a root cause for what makes us do it more than your average Joe and take it to the extreme.
There are plenty of people that drink and get drunk every weekend or take drugs every time they go out, but you wouldn’t classify it as an issue – it’s just a pleasure and something they enjoy – because they are in control and are using the substance with a sane mind, (ie. they are not trying to solve their problems with a substance).
The Destructive Use of Alchohol / Drugs
Yet there are people who’s use is inherently destructive regardless really of how much they actually consume, and its about being honest with yourself and thinking why is it that I HAVE to have this instead of just WANT to have it like a normal person. Wanting to get drunk is not an issue but HAVING to get drunk to be able to feel comfortable or to go out is an issue.
Alcoholism Due to Lack of Confidence / Low Self Esteem
One of the main reasons that I have come across for people problem drinking is low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence. This, I believe, is partly societies fault as we are constantly target marketed to believe that we HAVE to drink when we go out.
It is almost a taboo to go out and not drink. When you say to someone that you don´t drink, people usually either think you are weird/anti-social, or they know that you used to have a problem – however they are often “jealous” – and say “I wish I could give up drinking”.
The Taboo About Going Out Sober
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable being around sober people because they are worried they will say or do something embarrassing and that the sober person will remember.
I constantly hear people say, “I could never do THAT sober, I am so jealous of you”. I get asked, “isn’t it annoying being around drunk people when you are sober?” My response is always the same: it depends on the people.
Being around wasted people isn’t very fun but I am lucky that I have a few different friendship groups, and it is only ever the British people that get wasted to the point where they can`t speak.
Not Every Night Out Is Fun
I also came to realise from going out sober that not every night is fun. Not every night HAS to be fun. That is part of life, and alcohol and drugs just numb the boredom of some nights. It is not a bad thing to not enjoy every night out – it makes the good nights even better!
It also forces you to seek out things that you actually enjoy, instead of sitting in the same old bar knocking back drinks until you are numb:
- Going to see live music,
- Re-connecting with old friends
- Discovering new and interesting places
- Trying new things
Why Don´t Foreign People Get Wasted
When I first arrived in Barcelona I thought that it was weird that people don’t get drunk, and that their idea of “drunk” is just a little bit sloppy. I thought everyone was weird and boring and that I was the normal one.
This is because I had grown up in the British culture of drinking as much as physically possible as quickly as possible. Pre-drinking to make sure that you are already wasted once you get to the pub/club – because god forbid you enter a place sober!
Drink Until You Drop
Once I gave up drinking and I started travelling I started to realise that it is only the UK, Ireland and Australia that have this culture of drink until you drop. I meet people every single week from all over the world, and throughout the past year I have been analysing their attitudes to alcohol and drugs.
Respecting Alcohol From an Early Age
People from other countries grow up respecting alcohol and learning their limits. They drink alcohol for pleasure, and you rarely see people losing control.
Take Germany for example: Germany has a strong drinking culture – Octoberfest, Steins of beer, Beer gardens etc. yet people know how to pace themselves and when to call it a night.
People can last all night by pacing themselves, and seem to drink for pleasure rather than out of need. I also meet plenty of people from other countries that don’t drink, or rarely drink – however this is almost unheard of in the UK.
The Boozy Tourist Culture
No matter what country you are in – if you are in a touristic area and you see people stumbling around, puking, screaming, fighting etc. you can be fairly sure that they are from the UK/Ireland/Australia. This is completely normal for us but is not something that people do in other countries – and it is what makes British tourists so hated around the world.
This doesnt necessarily mean there are more alcoholics in the K, just that the average person has a worse relationship with alcohol.
Going Out Sober
Going out sober at first takes a bit of courage, but you soon realise that this courage/fear is just something that you have learned that you should fear – there is nothing to genuinely be afraid of.
You soon realise that you can literally do all of the exact same things that you do drunk, have better conversations, do the stupid things that you feel comfortable doing when you are drunk – without suffering all of the consequences of drinking alcohol.
Alcohol Is a Safety Blanket
Alcohol is a safety blanket that people use so they can justify their actions and lower their inhibitions. What people don’t realise though, is that being around people that are drinking makes you buzz off their vibe even if you are sober. You can lower your own inhibitions, without drinking a liquid, and just let yourself be free to enjoy yourself.
Having a Sane Mind
A person with a sane mind, (someone who is not held back by anxiety/depression/trauma/etc.), is able to drink each weekend, enjoy themselves, accept the consequences, (hangover/comedown), and live a normal life.
However, a person with a sane mind should also be able to go out and not drink, or just have a couple of drinks and know when to stop. Sometimes they might choose not to stop and might drink too much – but it is a CHOICE, and not self-medication.
How to Help Alcoholic Friends / Family
Another thing that I have been asked a few times is how people can help friends/loved ones that are struggling with addiction. Unfortunately, from the outside there is very little that a person can do to help someone that is problem drinking.
The drink makes you blind to the fact that you have a problem,
The more someone tells you you have an issue, the more you want to fight it, and the more you drink to try and forget it.
A person cannot be helped until they are ready to accept their problem and accept help.
In the meantime all you can do is offer them love, support and encouragement.
Write a Letter
What I always say to people, when it comes to any problem in a relationship, or with family, friends etc. is to write a letter. Before starting my journey I wrote several letters, to clear my conscience and to try and reach out to people to sort out issues between us/with them.
Writing letters is a dying art but the power of a letter is incomparable. A letter written from the heart reaches to the deepest part of the person it is written to and can be read, re-read and re-re-read.
Approaching the Subject of Alcoholism
When we try and approach any touchy subject with a loved one/close friend peoples natural defence mechanisms kick into place. We start to argue, deny, fight back and are completely deaf to the words of the person trying to help us. A letter breaks through this natural defence mechanism and will play on the persons mind until they truly understand what you are trying to say.
A letter outlining how you feel, the way it affects you and your relationship, how worried you are, how much you love them and want to help etc. is the best/only way you can really get through to someone who is problem drinking, or who is hiding from their issues.
Drinking Because of Past Trauma
I have also recently met/spoken to several people who have experienced very traumatic events which has triggered them to start self-medicating: The death of a family member, the suicide of a loved one, and being raped.
All of these horribly traumatic events understandably cause people to want to forget all of the emotions that are overwhelming and consuming them.
Using Alcohol To Forget
They turn to alcohol or other drugs because it is the only way they can forget. Alcohol is fantastic for forgetting, and you can continue forgetting forever if you choose, but you will always be, “disabled”, with this affliction and will never be free to live your life.
I recently met an inspirational girl who described so simply and so well the process of drinking/taking drugs to overcome trauma. She is 20 years old and had been raped when she was 16/17.
She said that after this she spent the next few years self-medicating with various drugs and alcohol, so that she didn’t have to think about it. She said that she would get angry when people touched her, and was overwhelmed with emotions ranging from guilt to shame to anger.
Facing the Trauma Head on
She told me that she reached a point where she knew she needed to brave up and face what had happened to her head on. To accept all of the horrible emotions, work through them, and then eventually put it behind her and move on.
To hear her explain this so simply and logically was incredible. Thankfully I have never experienced trauma, so I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this process was, but she made it sound so easy.
I was so amazed by how open she was and I realised that what she explained was applicable to any issue.
Brave up, accept the problem/trauma/issue, work through it, and then move on and leave it behind you.
When its put so simply like that it makes anything seem possible.
Trauma and Alcoholism Can Be Defeated
She is 20 years old and already solo-travelling through Brazil with her traumatic experience behind her, and her whole life ahead of her. I told her that she was amazing and that she would literally be able to walk through the rest of her life destroying any problems she faced.
She had already overcome one of/the worst thing that can happen to someone, at the age of 20 – and so nothing would ever compare to this.
Specialist Therapy for Trauma and Alcoholics / Drug Addicts
Of course not everyone can overcome their problems alone, and some people require therapy. I think this is especially important for victims of trauma – as it usually requires a professional to be able to work through these issues.
Also, by no means do I think it is easy to just accept your problem, work through it and move on. These issues do not get sorted overnight, and can take months or even years to fully overcome, but until you take the first step, nothing will change for you.
My Personal Therapy
My therapy was more self-evaluation, as well as getting treated for ADHD, which was one of the main roots for the issue. In hindsight it is so simple and obvious: I realise now that I needed to get blackout drunk in order to switch off; and being sober was so overwhelming to the point where I hated being sober.
It took the best part of a year for me to reach the stage I am at now and it required a lot of soul searching.
I wanted to be as drunk as possible as often as possible in order to escape my own brain and put myself in a zombified state – free of chaos.
The Self-Image of the “Drunk Party Guy”
I had also developed this own self-image of the, “drunk party guy”, and I thought that was my role – and that was why I had friends. I felt like I always needed to be the drunkest in order to maintain this image. It was only after I stopped that I realise that getting into this state every time actually made people not want to hang out with me.
Friends That No Longer Want to Hang Out With You
After a trip to Ibiza with my best friend he told me that he vowed to never go on holiday with me again – as I had got blackout drunk on the journey home and was a nightmare to get through the airport and back home.
This was something I used to selfishly do a lot – get blackout drunk on journeys so that I would just magically appear in my destination. In my mind this was almost like teleporting. I would remember starting to drink, and then I would wake up and I would be in a different city or a different country.
I didn’t think of the inconvenience and worry/stress that this would cause my friends, and pretty much every flight I took required my friends to try and convince the staff to let me on the plane.
I wondered why none of my friends had come to visit me in Barcelona during my few years living there, and it only dawned on me this Christmas when I went home that people were genuinely concerned and afraid to come for a holiday.
They knew it would be a 4 or 5 day non stop bender – which for me was normal – but for normal people would seriously damage them mentally, physically and financially. Some people don’t have the will power to say no when offered something and so can be lead down a destructive path.
Leading People Down The Wrong Path
I realised this when a close friend of mine told me that he was very easily led/influenced and had also been struggling with drinking – so he had stayed away from me for the past couple of years. As soon as he saw the, “new me”, he said straight away that he would come to visit – and lo and behold a few weeks later he was over for a weekend.
We all have friends that we love, but that sometimes we don’t want to invite them to places because they can be a nightmare. Whether this is for getting wasted, because they are a liability, or more importantly because they lead you to push yourself beyond what you should. You need to think are YOU that friend?
Talking to a Psychiatrist
Although my therapy was mainly self-evaluation I had regular check ups with a psychiatrist who was there to control my ADHD medication and also just to listen to anything I had to say. I used to really enjoy going to see her and just to babble non-stop to her about all the things that I had learned about myself.
There is something so calming and refreshing talking to someone who genuinely cares, but that doesn’t know you socially – and can comment objectively on your actions.
Why are we so Scared to ask for help?
After I started my therapy I kicked myself for not reaching out sooner. Why had I been so afraid to ask for help? Why did I think that the answer to my problems was at the end of a vodka bottle, and that there was NO WAY that a medical professional with X years of experience would possibly be able to understand me? Where does this fear of medication come from? We are so quick to self-medicate instead of actually trying to resolve our issues.
Understanding the Root of The Problem
Once you understand the root of your problem it means you are half way to conquering it. Understanding and accepting the issue is the hardest part, all you need then is to push deeper and deeper to try and find the ways to overcome this.
I feel glad that I have experienced the things that I have experienced, and I feel that I have hit rock bottom so many times, that now I am in full control of myself and what happens to me.
You Do Not Have To Hit Rock Bottom In Order to Ask For Help!
However, don’t think that you HAVE to hit rock bottom in order to ask for help. Don’t think that your problem, “isn’t a problem”, because nothing drastic has happened to you. People feel embarrassed to ask for help because they think they are being pathetic and they know that there are people that are far worse off than they are.
THIS IS STUPID.
If it is stopping you from living your life to the full, then it is a problem and it needs to be sorted.
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Comments, criticisms, questions and suggestions are requested as always!!
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IG @conor.monaghan5678 if you want to see photos from my travels
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