~ Follow along and read all of Annie’s columns on Elephant here.
If my brain had tabs like my computer does, these would all be currently open and marked urgent along with another 20 or so just to keep life interesting.
I, like you, am finding the world and everything transpiring in it to be just a bit too much right now.
It seems like the theme for 2020 is that nothing gets resolved, and we just keep piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe and are waiting to see when this global Jenga game will just collapse.
Enough already, right? How are we expected to deal with all this while still trying to cope with living our everyday lives and the “normal” stressors that still accompany it?
There’s one thing I’m not doing that many, many other people are right now. It’s a “been there, done that, didn’t work” lesson that I learned. My hope is that I can spare you the frustration and pain that I went through by sharing this lesson with you.
A Drink Won’t Fix This.
In fact, it won’t make it even slightly better, easier to deal with, or less painful or messy.
A drink—be it wine, a beer, a cocktail, or frozen concoction with an umbrella and a pretty party glass—will, at best, delay the inevitable and in most cases just make it all much harder and often more painful to deal with later.
When the world seems as out of control as it is now, we want to do whatever we can to just numb it and make it all go away. We’ve been convinced in so many ways that there’s magic in that bottle that will do just that. Numbing potion. Stress salve. Enlightenment elixir.
I’m going to be the bearer of bad news here, but, you’ve been lied to. Just the same as wizards—what we believe about alcohol is all fantasy.
Alcohol can’t fix this. Alcohol doesn’t relax us. Over time, alcohol doesn’t even numb us anymore.
Relaxation means being free from tension or anxiety. Free. Not temporarily subdued or paused. Free.
Think about that. Does drinking free you from tension or anxiety? Does it actually remove the source of your discontent?
Personally, for me, alcohol did not remove my tension or anxiety. It actually increased both over time and with regular use.
Oh, the irony. We drink to relax, to ease tension, and to treat our anxiety, and instead, our magic potion has turned into our magic poison. Spoiled and causing the very issues we’re trying to treat.
How does alcohol show up as causing the tension, the anxiety, and the unrest? Have you ever had a really stressful morning and half-jokingly said at a completely inappropriate time of day—“Man, I could really use a drink!”
Everyone laughs and nods in understanding, but there’s truth in that statement. We’ve come to associate alcohol as the “thing” to relax us and, when it’s 11 a.m. and we can’t have a drink, it creates additional tension and discomfort. We spend all day with the additional stress of wanting what we can’t have, upset that our potion can’t come fix us, so by the time we get around to having that drink, we need three or four to numb us accordingly.
What I discovered when I stopped drinking is that it doesn’t ever have to get to that point. In fact, alcohol never made the stressful situations less stressful, the good times better, or did anything to improve a situation. The entire time I was drinking and using it as my duct tape, I’d actually held the power to change any situation and make it what I wanted it to be.
Back to those tabs and all of the stress that 2020 has piled on me. If a drink isn’t an option—how in the world am I dealing with it all without crumbling? What superhuman powers have I discovered that are allowing me to take on 2020 alcohol-free?
Well, that kind of is the superpower. Being alcohol-free means having the capacity and the freedom to deal with everything as it comes. I don’t have to put off dealing with anything until I’ve had a drink and I can deal with it. I can face everything head-on and make one of three decisions: deal with it now, deal with it later once I’ve had a chance to research my options, or decide it’s not my problem after all and not deal with it at all.
I realized that when I chose to wait for a drink in order to fix every problem that came my way, I ended up holding on to way too many problems and issues that weren’t my own or I couldn’t do anything about at that moment anyhow.
I don’t have a cure for COVID. I can’t predict the election results. I can’t force the three-year-old to take a nap so she’s less crabby. I didn’t start the fire. A drink won’t fix this, and there are many things I won’t fix either.
Having the clarity of an alcohol-free life allows me to see that and to channel my energy into the things I can fix. To remove the tension and anxiety for the problems that I do own. I can relax because I know that every day I show up as my best self able to deal with whatever life is going to throw at me, confident in myself and my ability to make the best choices possible because there’s nothing numbing me, slowing me down, or making me think I can’t deal with it on my own.
Alcohol never did that for me.
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