Two weeks in to no-alcohol April. You probably expect this post to be relatively uplifting and – at its essence – I think it is. But the reality of not being able to drink when you A) want to and B) can’t… well frankly it sucks.
April was a tough month for me to do this. With five weekends, a slew of friends’ birthdays and a big office party (with LOTS of free beer), my willpower has been tested. And you know what? I’m glad. I honestly didn’t anticipate it being this hard, and if it’s hard for me just imagine what it’s like for an alcoholic.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize. Alcohol addiction is different from so many others because of how ubiquitous it is in society. While heroin is often relegated to dingy basements – or at least private residences – alcohol is used as a social tool, a connection of sorts with other people.
If a recovering heroin addict really wanted to, they could probably spend the rest of their lives without ever seeing the drug again. Good luck attempting that with alcohol. Every party, every dinner, every family reunion an alcoholic is going to have to face their demons.
Then there’s the pressure. Maybe an alcoholic doesn’t want to get into depth about why they’re sipping Perrier instead of a cocktail. But when employers, clients or friends continually insist on you partaking, it can grow increasingly tricky to dance around the question. For me, I just didn’t want to have to explain in depth my reasons for not drinking. For an alcoholic, it might mean their reputation is permanently altered in the eyes of their coworkers.
It’s not all bad, honestly. I made early Saturday morning plans for the first time – well, the first time in a long time. Normally I have to at least acknowledge the possibility of a hangover after cutting loose on a Friday. It actually shocked me how I found myself preparing to keep extra hydrated even though I’m off booze. It’s become almost a knee jerk reaction, and definitely gave me pause for thought.
I’m half done this month, and seriously looking forward to May. But it has thus far been very educational, and I’ve developed a far greater empathy for alcoholics than I had before. Next time someone turns down a drink I’ve offered, I’m not going to attempt to playfully cajole them into imbibing. I’m going to take it more seriously – because damn, it can be tough to turn down a drink.
If you’re looking to contribute, please feel free to donate to the CAMH Foundation which is doing amazing work to help addicts regain control of their lives.