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Why do we find it hard to let go of alcohol?

Updated: Jan 13

walking down a lonely road

Why do we find it hard to let go of things which no longer serve us?

It could be a job, a partner, a friend, or anything. Why do we dither and worry and wonder what to do, especially when our heart is telling us it's time to let go.

My Mum used to suggest I made a list or pros and cons, to make the decision easier, but in truth this often highlighted even more reasons not to let go. Maybe I am simply too indecisive, or maybe my decision paralysis is fear of the unknown. Or fear of hurting someone. Who knows?

For more than ten years I knew in my heart that drinking was no longer serving me. I suspected it had never served me, but I had not quite reached that realisation until a few years ago, in 2019. I had successfully hidden in my favourite red wine, bathing in the blissful ignorance it created, free from the hurt of losing my first-born son. Free from the hurt of losing my Dad. At least, it worked until the morning hangover, and then the daily ritual of waiting until I could have a glass of wine in the evening began. On and on it went, for decades.

Even though I had begun to worry about the damage it might be doing to my health and mindset, I would still convince myself, every evening, that it was necessary for my wellbeing. How can a bottle or two of red wine ever be good for wellbeing? Somehow my brain convinced me this was the case night after night. In the morning, I would swear to take a break, head hurting and fuzzy, pledging that this time I would not drink. By 7pm I was back on the wine, occasionally after a quick bolt to a supermarket to re-stock the drink I was "giving up" that night. On and on and on it went, for years.

This cognitive dissonance would repeat itself over and over again in my head, every single day, whether subliminally or out loud. If there were documentaries on the harm alcohol could do on TV, I would watch in earnest, checking myself off for any of the symptoms. I even sent off for a blood test to check if my liver was okay. It was fine, but the niggling worries continued as I read stories of increased cancer risk, liver disease, and even the heart disease that had taken my father so early in his life. All caused by excessive drinking.

Every evening any attempt to moderate would dissipate and I would make arguments in my head to have a glass of wine, or often just say "Sod it, I've earned it' after a stressful day. A glass turns into a bottle, sometimes two. My internal arguments were getting weaker and weaker though, and I guess I knew, deep down, that I needed to stop.

"I need a drink to have fun!" my thoughts would yell.

Sure, okay, it was fun at first, but what about all the parts you cannot remember? Were they fun? How would you know? You weren't even there. You were blacked out. Who knows where you were.

Was it fun the morning after, waking up to find you had started a huge row with your partner, saying things that can never be taken back? Was it fun drunkenly watching the washing machine go round and round in your kitchen with your best friend, whilst waiting for greasy food to fry, and then feeding it to your dog because you felt sick? Was it fun hugging the toilet as your threw up almost one hundred pounds worth of alcohol a few hours later? And was the hangover fun? The massive headache after a sleepless night, followed by the wasted day spent delicately in front of the TV, downing paracetamol and barely registering what was happening in the nameless TV show you were watching?

"Fine, I need a drink for confidence! I am way funnier when I have a drink!"

Err, okay... you could have fooled me! You seem to have no issues speaking to strangers during the day though, or networking for your job. And have you actually heard yourself when you are drunk? (Something I would later find out, once I had quit drinking, is that some drunk people are not only NOT very funny, but they repeat themselves over and over again. I was definitely one of these people! Now I can reel off funny anecdotes instantly, and gain a peel of laughter as a reward, without slurring or forgetting the punchlines in my inebriation.)

Was it funny when you woke up some mornings covered in huge black bruises? Or could not remember how you got home? Or when you woke up with your face on the keyboard in an empty raid group on your game, not sure if you had even completed the quest?

Is it funny when friends and family regale tales of your tom-foolery the following morning, or untagging yourself from wholly unattractive tagged photos on social media that make you look like an absolute twerp? Hmmm.

"Yeh, but alcohol helps me relax. It de-stresses me after a bad day at work."

Oh, okay. But you never really slept after a bout of drinking, even a couple would disturb your sleep. You would wake up suddenly, without fail, between 2am and 3am, panicking about what had happened the night before, trying desperately to piece together the last 8 hours and what you did in them. It took you hours to get back to sleep, and sometimes you were not even able to, your alarm sounding at 6am after four hours of staring at the ceiling, worrying about your day at work, or dreading the day. The anxiety you felt was enormous, turning things over and over again through your hangover-riddled brain, just circling the plughole of stress and depression. (One of the first benefits of giving up alcohol, and by far the biggest one for me, was the absolute disappearance of anxiety and depression once the drink was gone. It still stuns me how I was able to survive those nights for so many decades.)

And does it really de-stress you? Or does it simply cause more stress and harm at work on a daily basis, as you navigate a demanding job with a hangover and a fuzzy head? Could it even be that your day was made worse by the drinking from the night before, perhaps? And then you simply drank to get over another bad day at the office, caused by the anxiety and depression from the wine the previous night, like a sad depressed hamster on an ever-turning running wheel, going nowhere.

"I need it to forget my sadness."

Okay, this one I will concur. It helped you forget your pain for a few hours. But how did it help, Amanda? Did it bring your loved ones back to you? And was the pain not there again when you woke up the following morning, looming over you like an insidious shadow ready to gobble you up at any given moment? And what else did it make you forget? You cannot forget all the negatives without forgetting to joyful memories as well... Some of those moments are lost forever now.

So, yes, it helped you forget your sadness for a few hours. But it did not help you in any shape or form. It hurt you more than the pain of loss ever did.

Alcohol is not your friend in times of pain. First it steals your time, then it steals your relationships, your dreams, your passion and your appearance. Hell, for some it takes away everything, leaving you with nothing except sickness, pain and regret.

I was so lucky to get out without hitting any sort of rock bottom. So very, very lucky. Many of us are not so lucky.

The turnaround.

Why is it so hard to give up alcohol when we know, in our heart of hearts, that it is doing us no favours? It is fear, my friend. Plain and simple. And it is an addictive substance playing with parts of our brain, in exactly the same way drugs or smoking would. It is not your fault. None of this is.

Can you imagine a life where alcohol is a small, insignificant thing you never think of? Something in your past, a distant memory, but never craved for, never wanted. Can you imagine how your life would be without the worry and anxiety it causes? A life where you no longer care if you never had another alcoholic drink again in your life? Where you are completely, and utterly, and deliciously free from the constant cognitive dissonance wanting it creates in your head? Where you have even MORE fun on nights out than you ever did when you drank alcohol, where you are funnier, and more confident. Where you are happier, and able to smile at the beautiful memories you have of loved ones you have lost. Where you can face pain and hurt head on, and deal with it in the way you should instead of hiding from it. And where the happy times are in technicolour, vivid and wonderful and bright and beautiful. Where you finally feel alive.

This world is real, and so close to you right now.

To get a taste of it, just a taste, I thoroughly recommend signing up for 30 days of an alcohol free existence you will actually enjoy, at zero cost to you. It was all I needed to finally break free from the chains of alcohol, and maybe it will be for you too.

And if you need more, I am here for you for that, too.

Good luck! Drop me a hello when you get there,

Amanda x

Happy dog smile

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