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. I didn’t decide to stop drinking but I haven’t felt like getting drunk 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. Taking that away left me with fuck all to enjoy and a creeping suspicion that I might never be happy or relaxed ever again.

Drinking is a huge part of the culture here and we tend to start young. It’s the fuel for almost all social engagements and an overwhelmingly common way to cope with life in general. I drank more than the average person, but not close to what would be considered excessive.

It took around 18 months before I felt any better. The sense of growing pressure eased off and I started to feel very steady, both emotionally and temperamentally. 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 with 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.

I have never been prone to wild mood swings or outbursts but I am still much calmer since stopping; I can’t think of a single time I’ve gotten genuinely angry and I feel far less inclined to escalate confrontation. 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 most of the improvement in how I feel is down to a combination of stopping alcohol and maybe mellowing a bit with age. I think a significant part of the benefit of stopping could be put down to having removed myself from the very ego-fuelled environments where excessive drinking usually happens; bars and clubs particularly.

Naturally if you stop doing something and feel better for it, your instinct is 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.

I don’t know if I will ever drink again, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to.