During this past year, I’d often get asked this question at different social events:
“Why did you stop drinking”?
I usually say something along the lines of “Me when I’m drunk is not who I want to be remembered as.” While I think that’s true, it’s really just a part of it. I think the actual reasons go back to when I was younger.
At home, I definitely had a middle child complex; and having a younger brother with autism meant that I’d have to accept getting a little less attention so that he could get the support he needed. Being the quiet kid in class, I also got used to staying out of the spotlight. Over time, I grew the idea that being loud, talkative and outgoing were the qualities that I was missing. It turns out that it’s not just me, but a more widespread consensus we’ve come to in our culture.
Fast forward to college I began to wonder how I might better my chances at making friends. I didn’t consider myself all too attractive otherwise, so what better way to make friends than by drinking? What I found was that I was still the same person – the same kid who thought he wasn’t getting attention, now drinking to get other people’s validation.
After some time I had to reconsider why I was doing this. Was it really just “to have a good time”? OR, was I trying to become something that I wasn’t meant to be? Trying so hard to fit into this model, I thought of the possibility that this ideal, the loud, outspoken, outgoing type, was not really my own, but something ingrained in me.
What I’m pointing to here – is the idea that we might be drinking to make up for what they think we lack: whatever personality we think is attractive, or the ability to have fun while sober. We might also feel that we have trouble opening up to others without alcohol (I know I have). Although this might just be the case for myself, my hunch is that people would not regularly use something they know is harmful to their health if it doesn’t provide some sort of shortcut. Eventually, I got tired of using this shortcut. I got tired of drinking so that on some off chance, I could become someone more acceptable to other people.
To be honest, I haven’t been black & white about the issue, occasionally having a beer with close friends. Thankfully, now I know what path I’d be on if I were to down another. I haven’t looked back since.