On alcohol

I stopped drinking alcohol on November 10th 2020 after my first (and only) panic attack led to me question what the fuck I was doing with my life. I thought a lot about how the future might play out for me if I continued with the same lifestyle, and haven’t wanted to drink since.

Stopping has had a profound impact on me. For the first 6 months I felt like absolute shit. Alcohol was the only coping mechanism I had for stress, the only social lubricant I had to make being in groups of people tolerable, the only thing I had in common with most of my friends, and subsequently pretty much the only thing I had looked forward to. Drinking is a huge part of the culture where I live. From a young age it serves as the fuel for almost all social engagements and a common way to cope with life in general. Taking that away left me with fuck all to enjoy and a creeping suspicion that I might never be happy or relaxed ever again.

It took around 18 months before I felt better. The sense of growing pressure eased off and I felt very steady emotionally. At the time of writing it’s been just over three years since I stopped. My mood is very consistent — I have barely any unprovoked ups-and-downs. Whenever I do feel down, it’s much easier to cope because everything else in my head stays consistent. I have a much clearer idea of who I am, how I want to behave, and reassurance that I will continue to feel the same because I’m not planning on deliberately altering my mental state any time soon.

The one negative consequence is that I feel anxiety more than I did before (or at least I can’t drink to alleviate the anxiety that I also had previously, so now I have to actually suffer it). It’s mostly in busy social settings around new people.

Since I haven’t made any deliberate effort to manage stress or any of the other stuff in any other way, I’m confident that stopping drinking is responsible for most the improvement. I think a significant part of the benefit could be put down to having removed myself from the environments where people drink; bars and clubs particularly.

Naturally if you stop doing something and feel better for it, you tend to assume the same would be true for everyone, but I don’t know. People have very different relationships with alcohol and what is better for me is not necessarily better for someone else. If someone had told me to stop to drinking because it would make me feel better I’d have told them to fuck off. Most of the fun I had while growing up is down to being drunk, so I definitely don’t regret having done it. Still, I do feel that if people who have the same relationship with alcohol that I had stopped drinking for long enough to feel the benefit they wouldn’t want to drink again.