I thought alcohol would give me confidence…
I thought alcohol would give me confidence…
This is not your usual before and after story about alcohol: it is not about being an alcoholic and coming back from it, but it shares about my use of alcohol as a teenager, which is just as important to take note of. We might give more attention to the extremes of alcohol use, but it is often said that the majority of the people – who do something a little bit – create the norm and this is true with alcohol; there are many who consume just a ‘little’ alcohol that makes it so normal...
My first contact with alcohol was when I was still very young. I remember when I was around 3 years old that I wanted to try my dad’s beer because it looked interesting with the yellow fluid and white foam on top. However, to my disappointment I did not like it as it tasted very flat and it tingled a bit like a soft-drink, which I did not like either.
I was not tempted to touch alcohol again for a long time. I had at that time a clear awareness that alcohol changed how people behaved. My parents would often have dinners with friends where they would end up laughing uncontrollably about silly things. I also knew alcohol was for adults and that only adults were allowed to drink it. I did at that time know there was a time I would drink it, but that that moment was not now.
Where it all began
Around my teenage years my view of alcohol started to change as I was hearing about many great parties and that alcohol was a big part of them. It was told that alcohol would make you more ‘loose’ and more ‘confident’ and this appealed to me because I saw myself as shy and I did not find it easy to talk with people I did not know. I only opened up a bit more with the people I knew, trusted and felt at ease with to express myself. Alcohol sounded like a great solution for this self-perceived inadequacy, even though deep down I was not really sure this would truly help me dealing with my feelings of being different than everyone else, not really fitting in, not saying much and being shy.
At the age of 16 I was allowed to drink alcohol, so I tried it again. This time it was wine but even though I was a lot older than my last experience, it still didn’t taste good. At this stage I started going to the disco because I loved dancing with my friends. I did not drink alcohol there because I knew the girls I was with and I did not feel I had to drink alcohol to fit in or be more ‘loose’.
What stood out for me being sober at this time was that the club always had this sense of being dirty and sleazy. When I went to the disco I deeply experienced how empty and how rough and dirty the place was. It smelled like sweat and alcohol... and the floors! Gosh, the floors were covered with a sticky layer of spilled drinks, empty plastic cups, cigarette butts and rubbish. I especially remember that we stayed till the end one night and when the lights went on it was very obvious what a mess we had left behind and it was horrible to be in that. It was like suddenly waking up and realising what I had contributed to...
I continued to experiment with drinking and found I could drink mixed drinks that were sweet, like martinis. I liked to drink these as it made me think I belonged to the cool people. This was my real drive to drink alcohol – I longed to belong and have people talking to me. Belonging was more important to me than the messages my body was giving me at the time, like not to go into a dark, dirty and sleazy disco in the middle of the night.
Using alcohol to connect
After that I started going to a small bar in the local town where I lived, to drink and to find a boyfriend. At that time I really wanted a boyfriend because I was craving to be close with someone, to trust and be loved. I felt very inadequate because I did not seem to be able to flirt like the other girls/women did, and this was because I was shy and most of all I lacked confidence. I had this idea that I would be more relaxed or more myself in my interactions when I drank alcohol but I became more aware that I still was uneasy with myself, not daring to talk with someone I did not know and trying to flirt did not feel natural at all.
Now I can see that I had an awareness and connection with myself and a sensitivity that made me not want to be close to people when they did not feel right. In the bar people would often feel heavy and a bit dangerous to me, and the idea of just getting close to someone I did not know outside of the shady bar did not gel with me.
At 17 years old the alcohol got its hold on me slowly; I started with one glass and then slowly I changed my boundaries and was drinking two drinks, three drinks and more. I remember being drunk on the bicycle and not able to go straight and how cool I thought it was to be this drunk. I had an awareness that I wasn’t in control when I was doing this, as if I was watching myself from above. This was more exposed one day when I came home after school after having a glass of wine there. I could feel I was not quite myself with my parents and it was really awkward.
At my high school graduation I drank so much alcohol, mixed my drinks and got completely drunk in a short space of time. By midnight I was miserable on the toilet floor feeling so sick and all I wanted to do was throw up and go to bed. The next morning I had never felt so bad in my life, but at the same time I was excited that there was a sense of belonging with my friends. No longer was I the serious and responsible boring one, I belonged to it all yet at the same time alcohol seemed to not be all that everyone had told me it would be and I definitely did not feel more confident or myself consistently so. After this experience I still drank now and then, but I never had that much and never that many sweet drinks again.
Around this time my parents started going to presentations and workshops by Serge Benhayon from Universal Medicine. They had been inspired to care for themselves more deeply and this included deciding to stop drinking alcohol and they were changing their lives overall, and now when I came home after drinking alcohol I noticed there was something different that really stood out for me.
There was a tension when I was at home because there was something in how I was living that felt off and disturbing when I was around my parents. They had become more caring of themselves and because of that reflection, I noticed how my thoughts seemed harsh and all I wanted was to live my life and not care about what I ate, drank or did. This sense was stronger when I had been drinking alcohol, even if it was just one glass. I would feel like a different person; I would not take my parents seriously and I was not able to stop giggling at anything they said to me, and there was an arrogance in me that I was better than them. At the same time I was a bit disturbed and embarrassed as I recognised that I was not being myself.
My parents had been sharing with me their experience of what alcohol does to the body and more, how it has an impact on us energetically. With the experiences I had at home after one glass of alcohol I could relate to what they were saying: I did not feel like I was myself and I did things that were out of character for me as if something else was controlling me and making the choices for me and I did not like how it made me feel.
When people drank alcohol I clearly noticed how they changed; we often say we get looser and more confident but is this what is truly going on? What I felt in my own body after drinking alcohol explains how people can do things they don’t remember the next day, would never do when sober and why some people get so aggressive and harm other people – even people very close to them whom they love. It also explains why we feel so bad after a night out drinking – it is not just the alcohol having to be digested by your body, it is also the recovery from the energy we have taken on.
Even though it all made sense, I was not quite ready to let go of my just gained sense of ‘freedom’ that I assumed came with the good-looking future of student life which included parties, dancing and drinking alcohol ahead of me.
The stop ‘moment’
Then everything changed when I had a car accident: not because I was drink driving, but because I was distracted for a moment in the car. No one was injured except for me having a bit of pain in my neck. It allowed me to really stop and reflect on how I had been living and how I was truly feeling with it all. I wanted to give living a life without alcohol a go, as the tension had been building up in my body while drinking. I wanted to love myself more and even though at that time it felt like such a big step, the accident helped me to let go of my pride and allowed me surrender to some healing.
Life without alcohol for me simply meant a life without having the debilitation in my body the next day. When I had drunk alcohol the night before I always felt heavy in my body, like it was filled with sand, my head was fuzzy and I could not think properly or concentrate on things. Often I would have a bit of a headache and on top of that my lower back would be tensed like it was being squeezed by something. This would only pass after a day and a good night’s sleep. Basically, it meant a day of doing nothing. Without alcohol it meant a life of increasing vitality and being fit without those inactive low days spent in recovery. It was and is also a joy to know that I do not need alcohol anymore to feel I belong to this world.
There haven’t been any moments I have missed alcohol or wanted to go back to it because I just simply feel so good to be without it. I already did not like the taste, so with knowing the energetic effect alcohol has on my body it was not a big step to move away from it completely. Yet, I had to be willing to let go of my need to fit in and be the same as everybody else, as that was the strong drive that made me drink alcohol in the first place.
I realised that alcohol can be seen as a quick fix for a lack of confidence and shyness which it does not offer, and it never will be the true answer for why we lack confidence or are shy in the first place. Alcohol does not give you confidence; it can only help us ignore the fact that we are feeling uncertain about ourselves.
What gave me confidence was starting to care for myself and to be gentle with my body. One of the big things I changed is going to bed when I am getting tired… this is usually around 9 pm. In the past I overrode my tiredness by watching TV and eating snacks and sometimes going out after that. I started to look at my diet and how certain foods felt in my body, changing the foods I ate according to that and I felt much lighter in my body and my being. Generally, I ate more natural and less processed foods. I loved and still love this change in my life today.
What has supported me with knowing how my body actually feels is the Gentle Breath Meditation® and Esoteric Yoga. These two practices help me with keeping my mind aligned with my body and connected to what I am doing. I used to be constantly thinking about anything and everything and to now be able to bring that chatterbox mind into line with what I am doing in my day has brought a lot more stillness into my life. This makes me able to ‘be’ in the business of life, connected to my body without getting swayed or rushed by what is going on around me.
Another big one for me was bringing appreciation in my life: appreciation for who I am and what I bring to life. Before I always looked outside of myself to measure how I should be, but now I see that my delicateness, grace, attentiveness, attention to detail and absolute love for people – to name but a few – are qualities to value, even if no one else values these qualities.
I know now that there is strength in saying no to the abuse of our body, which alcohol actually is, and how this is a strength we have to deeply treasure in ourselves but also in each other. I now confirm myself in what I am feeling – backing myself up and saying no if things are not honouring for me.
From this self-care routine I started to be more present in my body, consistently so. I have a sense of who I am and this knowing of myself has given me a strength in life to just stay with myself (who I am) and not be pulled left, right and centre by everyone around me. This is the confidence I was looking for in my early teens – to do what I know is true for me and not doubt that, because others may think otherwise.
This confidence is sustainable because all I need to do is deeply care for and nurture myself so I am present with myself and this is something I can do, I can choose, we all can choose at any given moment.