Alcohol and me
As part of the Sobriety Diaries series, ‘The Irish Times’ invited readers to tell us about their relationships with alcohol. Here are some of the 100-plus responses
Illustartion: Valentina Rusinova/Getty
‘I feel trapped by alcohol’
I’ve been avoiding the question “Am I an alcoholic?” for many years. One thing’s for sure: I drink a lot. I appear normal, but I drink heavily behind the scenes. I’m almost never drunk in public or late for work. I drink about six nights a week, however, and easily consume a bottle of wine on my own, maybe preceded by a few strong ales. I fear giving up alcohol. I fear for the future. I want my daughter to grow up proud of her father.
Every morning I wake early, lie beside my partner and feel profound guilt. I know that I drank too much the night before. It doesn’t take long for the guilt to wear off. The alcohol makes you lie. I know it, and I’m unable to do anything about it. I feel trapped, yet it’s my only escape.
‘I hid my drinking well’
I loved alcohol, and for much of my life I had a good relationship with it. About 10 years ago that relationship broke down, as I became more and more dependent on drink. There was never enough for me; even when I was drinking socially I had to have a secret stash available.
Alcohol is lovely for most people. And I miss it. But I don’t miss what it did to me. I am a middle-aged, middle-class alcoholic, addicted mainly but not exclusively to wine. And, like a lot of other women, I hid it very well.
I’ve been very lucky in my recovery, but I worked hard at it, too. That doesn’t always guarantee success. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life. The best way I can live in my recovery is to live in the moment. Even if I wasn’t an alcoholic, I’d consider this to be a gift. I love this sober life.
‘I fear for my student son’s safety’
My wife and I don’t drink much now. Teacher and dental nurse. We average one drink every fortnight at home. Never go to the pub. Too expensive when you factor in a taxi. Most of our income goes on college fees, grinds, music lessons. No foreign holiday since 2008. Our incomes have been so squeezed.
I hate how the Irish drink to excess and every social event revolves around drink and pubs. I am amazed when you travel abroad and can feel so safe at night in cities like New York or Paris. Our towns and cities are no-go areas at night. I fear for my student son’s safety at night in Dublin.
‘I drank to quiet the tempest in my head’
The reasons I gave up drinking about 18 years ago were (1) a close relative was hospitalised for alcohol addiction, (2) I felt that I was a bad role model for my son, (3) I used to regularly drive after drinking, and I expected I would get caught eventually, and (4) my wife was not happy with my drinking.
I used euphemisms like “I had a fair few pints last night” to disguise the truth from myself. I was drunk. I wasn’t falling around or slurring my words, but I was drunk.
I think I drank to quiet the tempest in my head. The sense of failure, lack of purpose in life, the ennui, the annoyances of day-to-day life all started to diminish after the second or third pint and were completely obliterated as the night went on . . . until the next day. I wish I could drink in moderation, but I can’t.
As for advice to others who drink too much, I have none. You will come to your own realisation or you will shy away from a harsh assessment of yourself.
The best definition of an alcoholic? Who knows? Except we all know we are not one. But as for Mick . . . well, he’d want to watch it.
‘There is no alcohol and me any more, just me’
I’m a 25-year-old single woman working in the business world. I grew up with alcohol from a young age. Going through college, I drank most days while still doing well with my exams. (How I do not know.)
When I finished college and started to build my career I realised I wasn’t a “normal” drinker.
I went to a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and although I could relate to the stories people were telling I didn’t feel I belonged there. There were a lot of elderly men who seemed to have severe drink problems. I don’t regret attending the meetings; the men helped me, because they made me visualise myself in their shoes down the line, and that wasn’t something I wanted.
I joined the Hello Sunday Morning social blogging site, and this helps me to offload when I feel like I need a drink.
It took me a couple of attempts, but I can now say that I am a nondrinker. In fact I despise alcohol. I have nothing against people who drink, but alcohol is my enemy.
I still have an excellent social life, even better than when I was a drinker. I enjoy myself better, because I can hold conversations with people and remember them the next day. Yes, people are shocked when they realise I’m not drinking. Some don’t even believe me, because I have so much fun.
I am proud to say that I am a nondrinker. I keep active and fit; I go to the gym, go for a swim, a jog or a walk. I climb mountains and I succeed.
I attended a number of counselling sessions to help me identify my issues, and I learned a lot about myself – one thing in particular: I used alcohol to cover up my emotions instead of fully recognising and dealing with my feelings.
There is no alcohol and me any more, just me.
‘Even my mum says, Why don’t you just have a few drinks?’
I am a 33-year-old man who quit alcohol more than three years ago. Why? Probably for selfish reasons. I want to be the best person I can be, both personally and professionally. No one in my family or any of my friends ever told me that I had a problem with alcohol and should consider giving up.
When I told people I had quit one family member said, “People will run a mile from you.” Words like that help me stay away from alcohol. If I am feeling vulnerable and considering having a drink I remember those words and remember that the drink culture is ridiculous.
My mum has even said, “Why don’t you just have a few drinks until you meet someone” – of the opposite sex – “and then you can give up?” Some of my friends still say, “So are you still going cold turkey or might you consider having one or two?”
I enjoy life, but it is hard here in Ireland. Alcohol is ingrained in all aspects of life.
Finally – and this might be construed as a sexist comment, but it’s not meant to be – the number of women who have one-night stands that they otherwise wouldn’t because they were under the influence is very high.
If I had a daughter, how could I protect her from this? By how I live my life.
‘My relationship ended because of his addiction’
My relationship with alcohol has changed radically in recent months: my relationship with my partner has ended because of his alcohol addiction. I used to enjoy drinking. In fact we spent much of our early relationship drinking beer and listening to music into the wee hours, and getting to know each other. But when you have seen, and experienced, the impact of addiction, you don’t want it much any more. I used to have a drink most nights. Now I rarely drink, and I have found other ways to relax and enjoy myself. Or I am trying to, at least.
‘I drink infrequently but heavily’
Like most people I know, I tend to drink infrequently but pretty heavily. Not one to have a glass of wine every night, I’d be more at home with six or seven pints of Guinness with my mid-30s friends whenever they can get away from their wives and babies. I do think we have a dark and unusual thing going on with alcohol, but it’s difficult to be even bothered to reframe it, given how much pleasure it provides. I hope it’s okay to say that I love alcohol and that I try to respect it but am not always successful.
‘Alcohol was the third person in our marriage’
I allowed alcohol to rob me of valuable years of relationships with my wife and my two children. In a way alcohol was the third person in our marriage.
Only for my wife’s determination our marriage would not have survived. Somehow I managed to face reality and see what alcohol was doing – or, more precisely, what I was allowing alcohol to do. I sat down and came up with 20 benefits of giving up alcohol altogether:
1: I will be healthier;
2: I will live longer;
3: I will have a more meaningful relationship with my wife;
4: I will have more meaningful relationships with my children;
5: I will not be so dogmatic as heretofore;
6: I will have more disposable income;
7: I will not be a danger to myself or to others;
8: I will take off some weight;
9:My clothes will fit me again;
10: I will cease to make a show of myself in public;
11: I will cease to have blackouts;
12:I will be more focused about my life;
13: My brain will work more clearly;
14: I will wake up better equipped for the day’s activities;
15: I will drive my car more responsibly;
16: My face won’t be as bloated;
17: I will be more employable;
18: My blood pressure will improve;
19: I will become better company on a night out;
20: I will develop healthier interests.
Having typed this on a card, I was able to regularly remind myself. That was more than four years ago, and I have managed to stick with it and remain sober. Perhaps this may be a help to someone out there.
‘If I am not drinking, I’m thinking about it’
There always needs to be a bottle of something in the fridge. I try not to drink every night, but I think about it. I don’t drink excessively, but even if I am not drinking, and especially if there is none in the fridge, I feel there needs to be.
My husband has a problem. He drinks at least a bottle of wine a night and thinks this is fine. His relationship with drink worries me most, and it has become a bit of “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
My own relationship is not healthy, either. I have tried stopping during the week, but as I have aged this has become harder to do.
My parents never drank, and I worry about the effects that our drinking has on our kids. Watching us with a glass of something by our sides every night. It can’t be right. I know it’s not right.
‘I’ve had my first sober Christmas, wedding, holiday, date’
I gave up drinking two and half years ago. I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic, and I still don’t. But I’m more understanding that there is no hard line between being alcoholic or not. It is a spectrum. Drinking was a problem for me. I liked it too much, found it hard to stop once I’d started.
My motivations to give up were many. I was doing a master’s on top of being a single mum with a busy job, so I chose to give up booze for 18 months. But there were deeper reasons. I’d considered for a while that I should just try. I felt it was the foundation I needed to make other changes in my life; get a better handle on finances, lose weight. I was inspired by the words of our incoming president, Michael D, who spoke about the potential of the Irish. I gave up New Year’s Eve and have had my first sober Christmas, first sober wedding, first sober holiday, first sober date – the list goes on.
The 18-month limit came and went, and now I don’t think it will end. I’ve gained too much, I feel protective of my sobriety and I’ve never been more creative, productive, stable and happy than in the past year.
I’m also a better parent. That took a while to admit, but as my daughter enters her teenage years I’m present for her, and being sober is the best gift I can give her.