I feel like I should change my Facebook status. I have just gone through a major break up and want people to know. I can’t believe I stayed with that asshole for so long.
Because drinking is like an abusive relationship.
It starts out with glorious promise, opening up a whole new world of possibilities. It solves every problem at once by becoming a sought after reward for the blah-ness of everyday living. Bored? Have a drink. Life will become fun, and friends will naturally gravitate to your newfound joie de vie.
But eventually, it becomes the focus of everything. Your job becomes something to do while it’s too early to drink and your friends are at work. Plus, you need money for your dates with alcohol. But it is so worth it! It eventually takes the place of all hobbies … unless the hobby can be done while drinking. Everything that can’t be — exercise, reading, learning — fades away because there is a new kid in town that promises instant fun and companionship. Nothing else quite measures up.
And neither do other people, except for drinking buddies, and they are only there while they’re drinking. It’s your common interest in alcohol that makes them friends. All other friends are shuffled to the side. They’re boring now. They don’t belong with the new, improved you. You are in demand among the “in” crowd. These other people just weigh you down. They don’t get it.
Eventually, drinking demands you give up more and more. You don’t even really notice it because you are so united at this point — you and drinking. You have the same goals, even if you don’t know what they are. Drinking wants to become your true love, a love that you will give up everything for. It’s too smart to ask this in the beginning because you are not yet captive. It waits with deadly patience for you to slowly come around to its way of thinking.
Step by step, you follow its lead, leaving everything else behind. Finally, you come to believe that it is the spark of your existence. Without it, you have nothing. Relationships, even with those you love most, become afterthoughts. But you are now wearing blinders, and can get only a glimpse of what’s happening. There’s a vague notion that you are failing your children. A drink will solve that problem though. Just get them to bed early. Your job sucks. It’s killing you really. You can barely drag yourself out of bed in the morning and you are half-asleep while you’re there. People begin to wonder about you. They might even comment on your relationship with drinking. This makes you mad and you defend yourself — and it — because you want to continue. You have to continue.
This half-life can go on for as long as you live because time no longer has meaning. It’s just something to slog through until happy hour. Alcohol has won, as it always does. And it’s an abusive master. It chips away at your self-worth, your mind, your ability to think, and then presents itself as the answer. It’s the perfect narcissistic friend, telling you what other people say about you, turning you against them, showing itself to be your only friend. It’s the only one who is always there for you and never leaves. And after all, who else would stick by some one like you?
But then one day, it goes a step too far. As always, it begins by telling you that you are nothing without it, you need it, but as you look at yourself in the mirror, something clicks. You see what’s happened to you. Then you look at the drink in your hand, and you hurl it with everything you have. It breaks into a million pieces. “Fuck you,” you say.
You finally see it for what it is. Poison, packaged as a magic elixir. No different than any other addictive substance. Not prettier or cleaner or healthier. Not better because it’s more socially acceptable, not OK because of the billions of dollars invested in its success. It’s ethanol, flavored to disguise the reek of its chemical smell, and you are its willing victim.
And you finally put the blame where it belongs. Even if you listen to its voice again, even if you get back together, just to talk, just to hear what it has to say, things will never be the same. A part of you will always see it for what it is. The magic is gone.
And you have better things to do. You have to get your life back! You need to get in shape, buy some new clothes, and get a haircut. You are back on the market, and ready to start over … and you will never put up with that shit again.