This is one of those posts I’m not quite sure how to start. I guess it’s usually the honest ones, the ones you know are going to open up a conversation and which may leave some people feeling a little uncomfortable, that are the hardest to write. I want to write from my own personal experience, without judgement and without forcing my ideals, thoughts and feelings on anyone else. But once again it comes down to keeping a level of transparency around here, something I have always prioritised.I want to start a conversation on this platform because I feel it’s a conversation that needs to be had and maybe, just maybe it might bring clarity to those feeling the same way.
Okay so now that that’s out the way I guess I just need to dive right in and say what it is that I need to say.
For the last few months, may even close to a year, I have been drinking too much. Not everyday, and not to a point that I have ever put myself or my children in danger, but enough for me to begin to ask myself the question: How much is too much? And eventually, to ask myself the even deeper questions: Do I have a problem? Is alcohol controlling my life?
Drinking culture, especially in Cape Town seems to be at an all-time high with almost every social event centred around alcohol. You don’t agree? Early morning breakfasts turn into late morning Mimosa brunches (You made it after 10am, I’m guessing, because you planned to let your hair down the night before and enjoy a couple of drinks with the girls.) A quick spot of lunch before heading up the mountain for a hike, turns into a long boozy afternoon of drink after drink, before throwing all caution to the wind and declaring “Oh well, I’m not going hiking now, I might as well have another!” Early afternoon braai’s turn into late night parties with friends. We all know the drill. It starts off all innocently, a little cocktail or glass of wine with some friends, but before you know it you are three bottles in, with no sign of slowing down. And for those who still venture into the clubs (yes I know I’m not the only mom around here!), it’s close to impossible to go out without having shots of tequila shoved down your throat every half an hour and crawling out of there 3 hours later than you said you would. Again, for the record I don’t go out to clubs more than a couple of times a year, but I’m really just stating this for those in a different season to me, where night life and late night parties are a thing of the present. I know that so many of my friends without kids, are even feeling it. The constant pull to drink. The pressure to put alcohol at the centre of every social event. The pressure to just go with the flow and DRINK! Plans are made and more often than not it’s a case of “Let’s stop by for a drink on the way home!” But the real question everyone should be asking themselves is “Is it ever just one drink?”
I guess it totally depends on you and your personality type and whether you are strong enough to actually handle these situations without giving into the temptation/pressure/desire (whatever you want to call it), but I know that for many, myself included, we find it hard to say no. I know for me it’s mostly a case of not wanting to say no to new and fun experiences. I don’t drink because I’m depressed or to make me feel better, I drink because I want to have fun. And so in those situations I literally don’t have a hand break. I struggle to say no, to know when to stop and, when to actually just chill the heck out. And this is all made easier because it’s become the social norm. Nobody bats an eyelid if you order two doubles within 20 minutes of each other or if you order a gin and tonic at 10am on a Sunday morning. In fact it’s encouraged. It’s as though people have lost the ability to have fun without a drink in their hand. They ave lost the ability to socialise and interact with each other without being intoxicated. And let’s be honest my friends, Is it ever just one drink?
For moms it’s more likely to be suicide hour, where you easily find yourself reaching for that bottle of wine on a Monday evening. That long stretch of time where managing kids after a long day, just seems more bearable with a drink in you. After one innocent glass of wine, you lose all inhibition and feel a sense of freedom come over you. That first drink makes you feel good, you feel the weight of life with kids lift off your tired shoulders. You feel like you can breath again , like you can cope with the shouting and nagging and feelings of frustration that have been mounting all afternoon. But again, is it ever just one drink?
Moms working long days at the office, two jobs, raising kids alone, juggling so many responsibilities. Moms who feel isolated and alone, moms who feel nobody understands. Moms, like you and me who feel that “just one drink” will make it all seem more bearable for just a moment. And the truth is, it does make us feel good, but only for a moment. And if we are drinking to cope with stress and loneliness and feelings of being overwhelmed, then what are the chances of it ever being just one drink?
And while a good party and night out occasionally is great and totally acceptable, I’m wondering how conditioned we have all become to think that drinking everyday in excess is normal. How we have allowed alcohol to control our lives and in many cases take away from the beauty of living a present and sober life. Drinking feels good at the time, it dilutes the constant noise we are surrounded by and seems to make life more manageable. But anyone who has mixed their drinks, enjoyed one too many glasses of wine or stayed up late doing shots will know what it feels like waking up the next morning. You wake up feeling 7 different kinds of shit, that’s what. It’s seldom worth it. You know that too.
It’s for all these reasons and SOOOOOO many more that I have decided to give up alcohol. Maybe not forever, but for the foreseeable future. I want to learn to have fun without a drink in my hand, enjoy conversations with girlfriends without feeling the need to get pickled. (My girlfriends reading this are literally falling off their chairs laughing at the thought no doubt!) And more importantly I want to be present with my kids in the evening and actually LIVE through the crazy, messy and chaotic parts of my life. i dont wnat to look back on these years of raising young kids and see a haze over this season of my life, a blurry hole that somehow went by in a flash. I want to find beauty in the chaos and actually exist in the moment, as hard as it may be at times.
I would love to be able to get to the point where I can enjoy a delicious glass of crisp white wine with my dinner, to actually savour the taste of wine, not drink for the feeling it gives me, the momentary relief it may bring. I just know that right now it’s a case of not being able to ignore the very real fact that what has become so normal for me and our society, is actually quite dangerous. Because as much as I like the idea of having a drink in the evening the words resounding loudly at the back of my head more than ever are “Is it ever just one drink?”
*It’s important to note: “Many people use the terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcoholism” interchangeably. However, alcoholism refers to an alcohol addiction or dependence, where the individual has a physical or psychological compulsion to drink alcohol. Alcohol abuse refers to a pattern of behavior where a person drinks excessively in spite of the negative consequences.” – The Recovery Village
It’s also important to remember that just because you keep a job and don’t let alcohol effect your everyday life to the point that you’re homeless or in danger of losing your kids, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not abusing alcohol. High-functioning alcoholism is a very real thing.
Signs that alcohol was beginning to control my own life:
- Drinking more than two glasses of wine at a time.
- Drinking three days in a row.
- Feelings of guilt the next morning.
- Unable to partake in my regular exercise regime.
- Feeling ratty the next day with my kids and feeling irritable, which ironically would just lead to more drinking.
- Eating badly due to lack of sleep and feeling tired.
- Bad sleeping patterns.
- Erratic moods and feeling overwhelmed easily.
- Inability to socialise without drinking – You will be surprised how conditioned we are to think we need a drink in our hand or to be sipping on something. And even more surprised how hard it is to not have something in those situations, now that we are so used to it.