Self-Acceptance, Truth, and Forgiveness
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
Drinking is one of the most common activities we do as adults. Eighty-seven percent of western society drinks alcohol. Somehow, we have been led to believe that everyone is happy about it.
Talking about our true feelings towards alcohol is a taboo subject. We might joke about hangovers or scheme with a friend on how to get more wine, but the sinking thought that wakes us up at 4 a.m., the “oh no, I did it again” is rarely ever discussed, even with ourselves. We might have a little voice inside telling us something is wrong and holding us back. Maybe it’s louder in the quiet hours in the morning or when we shirked our exercise routine after a few days. But since we don’t change or heed our inner voice, we carry an intense load of denial and bury our worry. We coast by the day pretending that this does not matter to us, even planning the next winery trip with our girlfriends.
I thought I was so alone. I never told anyone about some of the feelings I had towards alcohol, feelings like the complete opposite of being proud of yourself. These emotions were just so hard to express, and I didn’t want to shatter the false façade I held up, that I loved drinking, I loved my life, this is what I choose to do. Plus, no one ever confided in me about how drinking made them really feel. I felt eternally alone, exhausted on a Monday morning wondering where my weekend went. Sure, I didn’t logically believe I was the only one who had negative thoughts about drinking, but that would mean, oh no, that would mean joining the congregation of “those people.” I was not “those people.” I identified as a weekend drinker who only “sometimes” got too drunk. But those “sometimes” were excruciating. I tried to make it look like it didn’t get to me. So I woke up and brushed it all under the rug.
My past sentiments are a lot to unpack.
By starting my alcohol-free journey, I learned so much. Once I was under the hood and looking at the real engine issues of the shiny car called “alcohol,” things started to fall into place. I found community and talked about my real feelings. I learned about millions of others with the same stories and the same sentiments.
I started reading the science behind alcohol and its effects on the brain. The fact that I wanted to have another drink after I already had the first wasn’t the biggest secret of my life to hide anymore. It’s normal! In fact, all of this, that I had been experiencing, alone in my shame cave, was completely normal. Alcohol depresses you, it makes you anxious, it plummets your self-esteem, it makes you want more of it to get rid of the low feelings it brought in the first place, and it tricks your brain into only associating positive things with it, like warm summer days sipping rosé on the patio. That is a scientific fact. The alcohol industry and our drinking-centered society would have you believe that all problems stem from the drinker and not the drink. That the drinker is at fault, they are weak-willed, lacking in self-control, or have a character flaw. This understanding is just not based in neuroscience.
It turns out, my body and brain had been responding in the most reasonable and natural way to an addictive toxin this whole time. A huge wave of self-acceptance and forgiveness followed.
Talking about our feelings as they relate to alcohol can be such a breath of fresh air. You never know what internal struggles people around you have. Hiding our truths and living under a façade is painful. Internal conflict is painful. Troubled by so much pain and tragedy, we now shine light on things like mental health, sexual assault, and body image issues. But alcohol is still the elephant in the room.
Reflect. Introspect. Journal. Share. Accept. Forgive.
I no longer live in my own private shame cave. The air outside is so much nicer and playful. Much happier indeed.