Alcohol is the Effect, Not the Cause
Hi. I am Talia, and I am an alcoholic. No, that doesn’t seem to fit. Let me try again. Hi. I am Talia. I am an adult survivor of childhood abuse, highly sensitive, bordering on an empath, introvert living in a very loud, extroverted world. I drank to dull the pain I feel inside and the general noise of the world. Now that IS me. I own it with pride.
I don’t like the word ‘alcoholic.’ I guess it isn’t really used much in the psychologist’s world. Now it is ‘alcohol use disorder’ is defined as “a problematic pattern of alcohol use that leads to significant impairment or distress.” I don’t really feel like that fits me. I don’t think that it fits most people. Yes, there are various degrees of alcoholism. One word can never describe any one of us and our very complicated world. And yet we try.
But that is not what this post is about. No, this post is about a non-drinker, okay, introvert tentatively rejoining the very alcohol centric world as a non-drinker. That is better. My drinking is an effect of my issues, not the cause of my issues. Don’t get me wrong; alcohol can and does cause problems in people’s lives. But we aren’t born as alcoholics, nor are we born into alcoholism. There are underlying factors that create an environment that alcohol appears to be the best option.
Non-drinkers Are Weird
I used to be one of those people who thought that people who didn’t drink were odd. What is wrong with them that they aren’t drinking? What will they think about me when I drink? I think I used to unconsciously not invite non-drinkers over to my house so that they wouldn’t judge me. Interesting that I was worried about what others may have thought of my drinking. Can anyone say a red flag?
And what is wrong with them, those wacky non-drinkers, that they can’t moderate? Surely one drink will not be the end of their world. The irony of me questioning the non-drinking of others is not lost on me. But those were the questions that the old me, the ‘I can drink two bottles of wine every night by myself and am proud of it’ me. That was not a good version of myself.
Now, I am the ‘how can you drink that much and still be standing’ version of me. I do not judge that person. I still recall those days, and I know they were not pretty. Being judgemental does not help anyone. We are all on our own path. For good or bad, I cannot and will not convince someone that my path is the path they should be on. Nope. I am my path, and if you would like to join me, that would be great. If not, also great. You do you, boo.
253 Days Later
I haven’t had anything to drink in 253 days. When I stopped drinking, I also stopped going out. I stopped networking, meeting people out. I stopped doing a lot of things. I created a safe place for myself, and I hunkered down and got to work on me.
Three and a half months into my journey, the entire world went on lockdown due to Coronavirus. I was relieved, to be honest, I was still dealing with how to interact with people sober. It was going okay, but I still was worried about EVERYTHING.
Would I be funny? Would I even be able to talk to people (hi, introvert here)? Those are only a few things that went through my mind when faced with going out and being with people. My anxiety was at an all-time high point.
It was nice. That time when the world was at the same place I was, home, not interacting with other people. So, the world locking down provided me the additional me time without having to say no to hanging out with people. It was glorious.
In the World
Fast forward to now. My husband is home, and the world is starting to come out of its initial pandemic haze. When my husband came home from deployment, we went out to eat in restaurants. It was what he wanted to do when he got home. And so out into the world, I went.
It was then that I noticed something interesting. The handful of restaurants we went to did not have non-alcoholic options on their menus. Instead, there were entire pages of alcoholic beverage options. Which, to be fair, the old me would have been super excited to see. The new me wants nothing to do with that massive list of alcoholic beverages.
I had to ask what the options were. The responses were Coke or Pepsi products. My blank stare was apparently not enough to let them know that I have NO IDEA what products are Coke or Pepsi. Is that supposed to be common knowledge? It isn’t. So, why not merely put non-alcoholic options on the menu? Because society treats non-alcoholic as second-class citizens.
I am already used to being a second-class citizen when going out to eat in restaurants. I am lactose intolerant. For me, right out of the gate, half of what is on a menu is inedible. The list of things I cannot ingest on a menu is growing. When I get to the items that I can eat, there are a few left. Let’s just say that going out to eat is not as fun for me as it is for other people.
It isn’t like these things are uncommon. About thirty million Americans (about ten percent of the population) are lactose intolerant. Fourteen million (about fourteen percent) Americans have alcohol use disorder. Those are significant numbers of people. And yet, we are treated like there is something wrong with us. I mean, no joke, when I tell people that I can’t drink and can’t have dairy, you would think I was on my death bed.
I am quite the opposite of being on my death bed. I am the best version of me that there has ever been. Yes, in part, that is because I no longer consume alcohol. And that lifestyle choice should be celebrated. At the very least, treat the non-alcohol lifestyle should be as equally viable as the lifestyle that includes alcoholic beverages.