I have mild social anxiety, and sometimes drink eases that up and makes me feel in the flow. It’s like a whole new personality comes out, and I become personable and engaging – even charming. I go from being uncomfortable and standoffish to being a center of fun.
It worked so well that I would rely on it for all social occasions – even going out clothes shopping or getting a haircut.
But as your body get accustomed to it, you need more to feel a buzz, and there can come a time when you alcohol doesn’t really loosen you up – it only gets you too plastered to function well.
I drank heavily for years, and as each year added to the last, my relationship with booze slipped another inch down the slope. In my twenties people couldn’t tell if I’d been drinking, but by my late thirties that fine level of control had deteriorated, and people knew. My concentration and motivation the morning after also began to suffer. It got to the point where I was very conscious of my relationship with booze, and would try to limit my nightly intake. Limit it to what most would consider to be quite a lot – one (or on party nights sometimes two) 350 ml bottles of rum, with nothing before 7:00 pm. But I didn’t always stick to plan.
Those good feelings of being just drunk enough and in the flow became more elusive. I’d need more booze to feel much. And I started to get strange hangovers, where I’d have the shakes and be wobbly in the knees until I had a bit of hair of the dog.
It sneaks up on you, I’m telling you. I’d take a month off regularly, and then start up again because I missed my alternate personality. But I’d wind up going on three day benders after the first beer. My personality started to deteriorate and I’d have bouts of being cranky in the morning, or being hot headed during a binge.
Eventually I had to completely stop drinking, only because my stomach gave out. I seriously hurt my health with the booze. Who knows what I did to my brain. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can get that same feeling without booze as with it. For me it wasn’t true; I haven’t seen my alter ego since my last drink.
So it’s a very different lifestyle now. No partying at all! I even have to stay away from clubs, as I can’t afford one inch down that slippery slope.
If you are at a place where you have more control, now would be the time to exercise it. I’m telling you that that feeling of being in control can be a deadly illusion, and you don’t know you’ve got a problem until you really, really have a problem.
I’ve tried to find a replacement drug, but nothing really does it for me like booze. Booze was my lifelong best friend. Pot no longer exacerbates social paranoia for me, and can be enjoyable now, however where I am it’s tricky and dangerous to find. GHB was good for a while, but I learned it causes cognitive deterioration in rats, and some people were complaining of the stupids with it. I tried valium for a bit, but gave up on it – not a good replacement addiction, and that also causes the stupids when used long term.
I spent a few of my many years as a traveling salesman to college aged girls sober, have been sober for over three years lately, and have spent days, months, and years throughout an active life being sober, so I consider myself the qualified expert to declare a noticeable difference between drinking, and not – especially in how I feel socially. Maybe my brain chemistry is just weird like that.
It’s a more boring life now – but one that is no longer spending another chunk of my health in exchange for a time of pleasant love-thy-fellow-man buzz.
Update: When trying live without the negative effects of booze, a quick shortcut is to think negatively about it. It’s a “crutch”. You don’t even “need” it.
I prefer to give the poison a little more respect. It’s a useful good friend that happens to also be toxic. In the long run, some of us are better off completely without him. He’s neither black nor white. He’s certainly useful, fun, has brought many of us genuine joy, and all of us relief from boredom.
Some people prefer to see only the good aspects of living without it and see only the negative aspects of living with it. For them, that steels their resolve.
I like to acknowledge that giving up booze is a genuine sacrifice. That life is in some ways not as good without it. For me, that reminds me of the reason that I’m sober now. The sacrifice is for a reason. It’s a real sacrifice, and for a real reason.