Now all I down is orange squash!
I'm a classic case. A binge drinker that ignored every red flag. No matter how much they flapped, whipping me across the face, I somehow managed to push past, so I never had to address my over drinking.
I was arrested, I blew a finger off with a firework on the millennium night, I got in dangerous situations with men, I put myself at risk, I was bloated, had anxiety, people worried about me, I was always the drunkest person in the room….. shall I go on?
No matter what crazy shit happened in my 25 years of being a binge drinker, I never once stopped and questioned what the root of all my problem was. Drinking was so ingrained in me, so deep, that I never once self-reflected. I mean if I questioned alcohol what would be left?
But (luckily) The disco dirt started to stain. My wily ways got too out of control to ignore.
Anxiety and my kids forced me to look inwards. I got therapy and I quit alcohol. Sounds easy. It wasn't. But I did do it. 4 years under my belt already.
But I do wonder, what would have helped me, snapped me into shape when I was knee deep in 2 for 1's? What would have nudged me into questioning my consumption when I was in the midst of it?
Was there anything that could have broken the messy, vomit ridden cycle?
Well, the answer is yes, if someone had mentioned these following 7 points to me when I was still a drinker, I think I might have listened.
These ’boozing highlights ‘ are what I thought made me a champion drinker. But I see now that everything I did on a night out, the falling over, the puking , the hangovers, were all classic signs I was a very toxic over drinker. ( one might say even an alcoholic!! heaven forbid!) Damn you normalisation of alcohol in society!! This is all your fault!
It's so hard to see a problem when you’re in it. You can't leave the party because the party is all you know. So it's eternal, you keep drinking and don't leave any space in your head to consider if drinking is working.
There is no time for clarity when you drink.
You barge passes the red flags before they attract your attention. You get too pissed and too entrenched to listen to what your heart is screaming out for. A break, some healing.... and copious amounts of tea.
So, here are 7 fog horns that blasted at me. 7 major signs that I should have known were red flags. Points that I ignored for way too long.
I hope they help you understand that your drinking habit is not as ‘Normal’ as you thought and that perhaps it’s time to get help.
1. Your mates look worried about you.
I recently met up with an old friend and I asked her ‘What did you think about my drinking when we went out?’ I thought she would say I was a. laugh, a never-ending conga line of festivity. But her response was this – ‘Everyone was always worried about you when we were out.’ I was shocked. It turns out I wasn’t as fun as I thought. In fact, my mates were concerned about me, worried where I might end up, or who I would go home with. I was creating anxiety amongst my friends. Ruining their night out because they had to hold my ponytail as I regurgitated tequila shots, or had to talk a bouncer out of throwing me out of the fire exit. I realise now that not everyone was laughing along with me. They were staying to make sure I got in a cab and got home safe. They were staying because I needed them. If on nights out people are having to look after you this is a sure sign your drinking is getting out of control. It might be a funny story the next day but if we look deeper into this behavior, and you’re the one that keeps being the butt of the joke, then its time to look inwards and question if being that person is who you want to be.
2. You drink faster than anyone else.
I was the one up at the bar more than the rest of my friends, I was the one shouting
‘C’mon! whose round is it?’ I was the one holding two glasses of wine, the one challenging others to downing drinks and the one that always had an empty glass. The glugger, the gulper, the swigger and the downer. Once one was down the hatch it was just a matter of how much more I could fit in before the establishment booted me out. I never considered this no be abnormal until I quit drinking. I just pushed the blame outwards. Everyone is boring apart from me!’ ‘What’s wrong with these people?’ Fact is - They were behaving and I was out of control. They were all ok and I was a dribbling mess. But of course, I was too wasted to notice myself, too pishhhed to care.
So, try to check in, ask yourself - am I drinking more than others, is it because your just a quick drinker? Or is it because you have a drinking issue?
3. You keep injuring yourself.
I often woke up with a cut on my chin from a misplaced swan dive, a graze on my knee from crawling under a fence to break into a festival, once a broken collar bone from sliding down an escalator. So many nights out ended with hospitals visits and ice packs. These misdemeanors seemed to be part of my chaotic identity. I thought people would be disappointed in me if I didn’t give them a good ‘injury’ story down the pub over a Sunday Roast. But since ditching the grog I have realised that I was putting myself in danger, often. The alcohol whizzing through my blood stream made me feel invincible which in turn made me do silly things.
So, if you are waking up with weird injuries, black eyes, bruises, back pain or a bloody nose, there is a high chance it is because you are over drinking. People that don’t over drink don’t fall over. It‘s so important to understand how dangerous it is to injure yourself when drinking. Its time try and love your body and respect it enough not to hurt it.
4. Your hangovers are causing anxiety
Hangovers are horrible. Anxiety filled ones can feel like a fate worse than death. I suffered so badly every Sunday. I tried everything to stop the panic forging its way into my body. Water between wines, lining my stomach with food, paracetamol before bed… only beer, only wine. But no matter what I did every Sunday morning the anxiety monster was sitting on my chest, making it hard to breath, making me feel like I had lost control of my mind. But I still carried on, desperate to continue drinking, keep the party going because I had no idea who I was without alcohol. It got so bad that in the end I accepted I was going mad. I thought everyone felt like this when hangover, why can’t I handle it, what’s wrong with me? So, I kept trying to find ways that would allow me to be a normal drinker.
I never found a way.
I was never going to be a normal drinker. I could not moderate and was drinking ten times more on a night out than anyone else. Understanding (in therapy) that my drinking was ‘abnormal. Was the key to recovery. I was able to gage that I would never achieve it and therefore was able to stop.
So, if you are wondering why everyone around you goes out for a quick run when hungover and your lying in bed with waves of anxiety crashing over your body this is a sign that you are drinking too much. If it is having negative impact, it is too much.
5. Your entire social life is based around alcohol.
Everything I ever did that was ‘fun’ involved booze. My entire persona and social life were based upon it. What would be the point in even going to a venue if there was not alcohol. I was such a big drinker that I would have turned down an invite if there wasn’t guaranteed booze. Even a kid’s party. I could not comprehend why anyone would ever not drink. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I’d spit through red wine teeth. ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’
But now, in sobriety I realise I was brainwashed. Programmed over many years to believe that drinking is how we relax and have fun. It’s how we wind down and crank it up. I never considered that some people could have a nice time without it. It was unfathomable to me. But of course, there is a whole world out there that does not involve alcohol.
So, if the only socializing you do is revolved around alcohol this might be because you can’t imagine socializing without it. This is a sign you need a drink to be accepted or be yourself. Whereas in fact you can be those things when sober – it just takes time to let the true you shine out and find friends that do other pastimes, things that don’t involve you feeling rubbish and making a tit out of yourself!
6. You put yourself at risk
After one too many bevvies, when I was single, I used to go home with whoever showed me the slightest bit of attention. My guard was down when inebriated, my self-care had popped off to the after party without me. There were many times I could have been attacked, or something terrible could have happened. The more I drank the more this risky promiscuity persisted. The worse I felt the more of it I did. I put myself last in these situations. My people pleasing ways meant I gave my body away with no forethought, no care.
If you are sleeping around when under the influence this is a huge red flag. If you wake up wondering where you are and regret your choices, then it means your drinking has got so out of control that you no longer care about yourself or your body.
In sobriety you will begin to understand your worth and realise that giving yourself away so freely is not part of natural sexual exploration, it’s more likely a side effect of an addiction.
7. Once you start you can’t stop
One was never ever enough for me. Once that first glass was down, no matter how good my intentions, I could not stop. This may seem like an obvious red flag, but this one took me a very long time to understand. l thought the reason I wanted more was because I 'enjoyed drinking.' But, someone that enjoys a drink does not throw 10 Chardonnays done their throat in one sitting. I was drinking to get drunk. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to get so squiffy that I saw double.
That is the difference between me and a normal drinker. Someone with a problem and someone without one.
If you cant stop at one then it might be time to ask why?
There are so many signs that we ignore to carry on being the only person we know how to be. It’s not easy to spot a problem when you’re busy numbing it out. Easier just to carry on being the partier, the storyteller, the fun person you know your friends like. But, if like me, that anxiety has got worse, you’re fed up of the hangover and the guy you woke up with this morning left you with an itch rather than a phone number… then it might be time to tune into yourself.
Start asking the big questions…
Why do I keep doing this?
Why can’t I stop at one?
Why does alcohol play a part in everything I do?
What am I getting from booze?
Take a moment to question how alcohol is affecting your life and then reach out for the support you deserve. Find a therapist, go to your GP or just tale to a friend. Whatever you do remember, sobriety is a possibility for all and with it brings the love and respect your body so desperately needs and deserves. So start recognising how you feel rather than drinking it away.
Grab those red flags and firmly plant them in the ground to mark the beginning of something new.
To find others treading this path join www.cuppa.community The free online social platform for the sober and sober curious.