Everyone has their own reasons for turning to drinking. Ultimately, we know that alcohol allows us to numb any discomfort we are feeling, but the cause of this discomfort is different for all of us. My reasons were a lack of self worth and a deep sense of not belonging…anywhere.
This started for me at a young age. I remember being the only brown kid in my ballet class and my tights were the wrong color. I was also the wrong color. A lone dark mark on an otherwise white page….I once heard the term ‘shit stain’ to describe this feeling. I wasn’t the only one who noticed how different I was. When the other kids stared at my tights and asked why I was darker than them, I answered that I wasn’t. I looked into their faces and said that I was just like them.
This feeling of being different and trying desperately to cover it up by lying, twisting, and avoiding continued throughout my childhood and adolescence. It peaked when I was admitted into a prestigious university. I was surrounded by a level of sophistication and refinement that I had never seen, especially in people my own age. There were pre-dinner sherry receptions, post-dinner port receptions, mid-day champagne receptions — sensing a theme? The alcohol silenced the voice in my head that told me I didn’t belong and that I wasn’t good enough. It allowed me to fabricate my own reality and make my personality fluid.
As I matured, met my husband, adopted dogs and obtained my own professional success; the feelings of “otherness” began to lessen, but it was too late. I had already learned a way of coping with my problems. I thought that if alcohol worked for self worth then maybe it would work for stress. And it did! Wow! I had found the answer to any and all problems. Until it wasn’t the answer and instead became the problem itself.
There are no short-cuts in the journey to understanding who you are and why you do things. To unravel the decades of feelings that had accumulated takes time. It took removing from my life people that were objectively toxic and exacerbated my feelings of self-loathing. It took quiet meditation and a lot of quit-lit. But really, it took a clear body and mind. Clear from a physically and mentally harmful substance. So on the hard days when I don’t feel like talking to my inner child, future self or anyone in between, I just try to stay clear-headed. For me, it means being alcohol free so the feelings, like air, can rise up and I can exhale them out.