Friend or Foe

friend or foe

Alcohol has played a significant role in my life. To be honest even though I say I like a drink, I’ve never really enjoyed the taste of it that much. I do like the way it affects me though (Most of the time!). I know it’s said to be a depressant but the truth is some of my happiest and funniest memories spent with friends have involved alcohol. On the flip side of this, when I think back to my saddest, most despondent moments in life, I tend to have a drink in my hand.

Without alcohol in my life I doubt if I’d have ever had a girl friend. I can be extremely shy, especially around the opposite sex and I would never have had the confidence to approach someone and tell them that I liked them, without the help of a few drinks, or nerve settlers as I call them. I genuinely believe that when I’ve had a few drinks I’m a more interesting person, as I become more outgoing and much less self-conscious. When I look in the mirror I don’t notice all my flaws, I actually see myself as not that bad looking at all! When I’m in a group I feel much less out of place, It’s easier to contribute to the conversation and I feel like I have as much right to be there as everyone else.

When I lived on my own I drank more frequently, every night to be precise. It quickly became part of my routine. I wasn’t used to being on my own and even though it had a number of positives, I also felt vulnerable at times. Having a few drinks on an evening helped me to relax and feel safe.

At the time I had an emotionally demanding job. There’s nothing worse than bringing your work home with you, but I had great trouble switching off at the end of my shifts. Alcohol helped me to de-stress and guaranteed me getting at least a little sleep. The trouble is it was never what you’d call a satisfying sleep. Often I’d wake up in the morning feeling very groggy and even more tired than when I went to bed.

friend or foe

At what stage does this become an issue? Over time the three cans of lager that used to be sufficient was having little to no effect. So soon three became four, and then four became five. Before I knew it I was having six strong beers a night, followed by a whisky nightcap. Often I didn’t make it up to bed, I would find myself comatosed on the sofa. I never woke up feeling refreshed, I never felt at all well! During the day I’d find myself going through all the motions but I’d be like a walking zombie and would struggle to concentrate on anything. It would really affect my mood too, leaving me feeling very withdrawn and thinking about nothing other than getting home to have my next drink.

At this time I was working for a charity, running drop in sessions for people with mental health issues. One young man who was a regular to the group, worked as a hospital porter. He claimed that the only way he could switch off on an evening was to have four pints before going to bed. He said that this was his way of getting to sleep. He asked me once if I considered him to be an alcoholic. I can’t remember exactly what my response was, but how could I possibly give him any constructive advice, when I was doing the exact same thing!

The definition of alcoholism is a condition in which dependence on alcohol harms a person’s health and everyday life. I had definitely become dependent on it and it was having a detrimental effect on my life. I recognized this and worked hard to do something about it.

The trouble with having an addictive personality is it’s far too easy to fall back into bad habits. I always have to be careful and guard against this happening. It’s the same for people who enjoy an occasional bet at the bookies or on the slot machines. This, like the alcohol can quickly get out of hand, as you begin to spend money you can’t afford to lose, it becomes an unhealthy addiction as you crave that adrenaline rush of winning, that sadly rarely comes. You start to genuinely believe that that law of averages have to swing in your favor, ‘Just one more bet can’t harm’ ‘Just one more drink’  but when does just one more become one too many?

I still like a drink but have to be disciplined and enjoy it in moderation. I’m not going to lie to you, I do slip up occasionally but I mostly stick to my strict ground rules. When I’m having a drink at home I never have more than three beers and I never drink two nights consecutively. If I’m feeling sad, I accept that drinking will only make me feel worse. But rightly or wrongly if I’m nervous about something, having a few drinks the night before, does seem to help, and if I’m out in company it helps me feel good about myself and interact better with people. Anything that does this can’t be that bad, can it?

You might consider my reliance on it to be a concern, but there’s a lot more people than me, that use alcohol as a crutch like this. How is having a glass of wine with your evening meal any different?

As for the question of Friend or Foe? I think the jury’s still out on that one. One thing I do accept is it can quickly get out of hand and I have to remain extremely careful.

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