In this day and age it would be fair to say, especially in Australia, you are a bit of an anomaly if you don’t drink. It’s certainly been easier in the past to drink rather than not. I’m sure at some stage I’ve been guilty of egging someone on just to have the one or one more, rather than letting it be. My journey with alcohol has been one that I hope some of you can relate to and I hope by sharing it will help someone see that drinking isn’t always the best way of coping with the stresses of life.
I grew up in the UK where I started drinking from the age of 15 or thereabouts. It was based on whether my friends or I could get served at the off-licence. (For those in Australia that’s the Bottle-o). We would drink until we were sick sometimes, not always, but this was just us experimenting and growing up. I’m sure most of us have been there but how many of us are still there? As I got older I would drink because it was the social thing to do, to try and fit in and be one of the lads, rather than listening to my head and body. Don't get me wrong, most of the time I enjoyed it. I had fun times with the people I'm still friends with 20 years on and not with the group I was trying to fit in with at school and in college.
When I was going through my divorce, I drank because I wanted to be numb from the situation and I didn’t want to be alone with the thoughts in my head. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I stopped drinking at the age of 40 when, about 6 months ago, I came to terms with the fact that it doesn’t help my mental health and wellbeing. In fact it put me backwards for a day or three. I would have the hangover the next day, followed by heightened levels of anxiety along with the fog of depression that took 2 or 3 days to lift. And by then it was the weekend again. I know I had far far less patience with Oscar and I was just in an all-round inexcusable shitty mood.
I want to be clear and honest - I still miss that romantic notion of a glass of red on a Winter’s day in front of the fire, snuggled up watching a movie with Tasha... but alas, that red is now swapped out for a good cuppa and we more realistically sit and watch a tv show rather than a movie because we are so bloody tired from raising two kids and dealing with life. How many of us at the end of the day still grab a wine or beer to help us relax?
I live with depression and anxiety. For those who are in denial or for those that don't know alcohol is a depressant - ‘Drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behaviour, and neuropsychological functioning. For many people, alcohol consumption is a means of relaxation; however, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually induce anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant, meaning that it slows down brain functioning and neural activity. Alcohol does this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA.’
I am so proud to be part of the #theresanotherway Initiative alongside other amazing and strong individuals. All I wanted to say here is that it's ok not to drink. It’s ok to drink far less than what we as a society are currently consuming. And that it’s ok to examine how much we drink on a daily or weekly basis as well, and looking at how we feel AFTER we’ve had a drink and when we say enough is enough. I can do this without alcohol. I would highly recommend for those living with a mental health condition and for those going through a rough time, please consider cutting back on the booze or not drinking at all, even for a short time to see how it feels.
You will feel better and one day things will get easier.
@silver_stork launched this campaign to help spread the word about finding alternative healthy coping strategies to deal with life's challenges. You can support this campaign by purchasing this tee from @silver_stork - $5 from each tee will be donated to a range of charities chosen by the campaign ambassadors, mine being @headspace_aus