Correcting some of the nonsense that popular culture might have led you to believe.
Since I got sober, four years ago, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one who held daft ideas about what alcohol does.
In fact, the media is riddled with these enticing and damaging falsehoods. You might find that some of them live inside you too. So here we go, these are six of the flimsiest lies about booze.
1. You are more yourself when you drink.
This is the notion that gets you into all the trouble, babycakes. The idea that the lively, happy you is the real one. I’m so sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s bollocks! You are the one who wants/needs/loves the drink. And if you keep using booze, you might never discover what actually makes you feel lively and happy. What a waste!
Also, did you know that you don’t have to be lively and happy to deserve to be around people? If your friends are really your friends, they don’t require you to be entertaining. I mean, sure, keep an eye out for lol opportunities — nobody is looking forward to hearing your work stress stories — but really, your friends just want to spend time with you. Because, you know, they care about you.
That is what friendship is.
2. Memories lost in blackouts might return one day.
Let’s be clear. Blackouts are different to forgetting. Blackouts happen when you drink alcohol quickly enough that your brain loses the ability to make memories. It’s the easiest thing in the world! I am a world-class blackout drinker.
If you are a heavy drinker (and if you’re blacking out often, let’s face it you are) then your tolerance can become so high that you can be smashed without slurring, wobbling or even feeling drunk. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) the part of your brain in charge of creating memories does not respond to your binge drinking in the same way.
If you have an ‘en bloc’ blackout, aka you are missing hours from the night before, then you are never getting those memories back. Sarah Hepola wrote a moving and insightful book based around this fact, Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget, especially inspiring if you are setting out on your own sobriety journey.
3. Sex is better when you drink.
It might be easier/possible to initiate sexy time once you’ve had a few, but that’s not the same as it being better. Maybe you even have more sex, but again quantity isn’t necessarily relevant here, either. There’s a chance sex looks better and seems more filmic/spontaneous, if you’re lucky. But does it feel better? Tell the truth.
We aren't all the same, and I hope drunken sex was better for you than it was for me. But the truth is that women and alcohol don't always mesh well together and for men, alcohol and sexual dysfunction have a long and terribly robust relationship, too.
The terrifying and brilliant thing about getting sober is that you become more present. You have to stay in the moment more often because there’s nowhere else to go. I mean, sure, there’s Netflix and chocolate, and your phone, but focusing on them when you’re in bed with someone is really bad manners.
4. You are fun when you drink.
Hmmmm. Maybe you are fun when you drink. But maybe you are obnoxious. Isn’t that the thought that drives all that hangxiety?
5. Alcohol tastes nice.
Does it? Does it really? Or did you used to have to hold your nose to knock it back?
(Honestly, I still think it tastes nice.)
6. Drinking makes you more creative.
This one had me fooled for years. I genuinely used to think that I was staying in to write on Friday nights.
And I did start out the night writing. I’d get a glass of wine and a snack, and open one of my hundreds of unfinished Word Docs.
And then I’d get stuck and listen to some music to inspire me, and soon the wine and the guitar riffs would have transported me into that other land of the drunken imagination.
Sure, I felt inspired, but I wasn’t actually creating anything. Unless you count the gigantic upswing in my own emotional state and a massive hangover for the morning.
7. Drinking makes you more sociable.
Ah! Those Friday nights by myself were some of the best parties I ever went to. That’s how happy I was when I drank by myself and how disappointing drinking with others generally was.
Me, wine, and all the melancholia I’d been lugging around since the 90s? Yes please! What an absolutely legendary guest list.
Weird, isn’t it? This thing you start doing in order to connect with people, eventually takes you away from bothering.
Getting sober is about choosing something different and shifting priorities.
It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t a one-way ticket to non-stop fun, but since I quit, I have been able to build a life that suits me, and relationships that make me feel safe, appreciated and cherished. It's a shame I didn't know that this is the way love should be from the start, but what can you do?
I’ve stopped throwing money at something that makes me feel terrible and I’ve worked on finding coping skills that better serve me.
Life, which used to seem pointless and cruel, now, mostly (not always) feels precious and beautiful, and that makes the process of 'recovery' worth it.
If you’re ready to try something different, try my alcohol experiment. Do whatever it takes to stay sober for 30 days: go to your doctor, try Smart or AA or Hip Sobriety or Soberistas. Read beautiful hangover. Listen to Recovery Elevator and SHAIR podcasts. Read This Naked Mind. Try Moderation Management.
There is a whole community of people just waiting to help you. Reach out. Something better is waiting.
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