In the west, alcoholism is very socially acceptable. People joke about how they drink all the time. Mothers joke that they can’t cope with their children without their daily alcohol. It’s almost seen as cute. Everyone knows Friday night is a night to go get drunk, not just for young adults but for the older set too. Every holiday is an excuse to get drunk. Coming of age is celebrated with copious amounts of alcohol. Tee shirts and mugs and Facebook memes are made with humorous quips about the excessive alcohol you regularly consume, and no one ever questions it.
The truth is, there is a lot of drama and tension in this world, and increasingly we can not seem to handle it without trying to escape.
Whether its through alcohol, drugs, shopping, excessive holidays, computer games, or any of a thousand other methods of removing our minds and emotions from what is going on around us, we’re escaping our lives instead of handling things head-on. And it is robbing us.
One problem with escapism is that it teaches us to need it, and drags us into a bad cycle. If you have a situation in front of you and feel you can not cope with it, the easiest thing in the world is to simply walk away (either literally or figuratively). Perhaps you can deal with it if you’re not truly “all there”, so some alcohol may help you cope. But then, all you’ve taught yourself when you’ve finally dealt with it under the influence of alcohol is that you need that drug to manage. I guarantee you, next time something happens, you will want to drink again. You will feel even more strongly that you can not cope without turning to that alcohol.
If you manage to deal with a situation without resorting to numbing or removing yourself, much more is learned.
You teach yourself how to deal with that situation specifically, and you bolster your confidence that you can handle things that arise in life in general. In turn you become a more able and confident person, building up your self esteem and helping you to feel better. This strengthens you against future stresses and strains.
I have been in the position of feeling like I could not cope without alcohol. It all started out innocently enough, with occasional social drinking. The odd glass of wine after a hectic day. Eventually though, I found myself struggling to cope with the days that I decided not to drink any alcohol. On days that I did, I no longer felt satisfied with just a drink. I wanted more. This is when I realised that I had a problem, or the beginnings of a problem, and I decided to stop drinking altogether.
While I was engaged in this pattern of relying on alcohol to cope, I found myself increasingly unable to deal with just normal daily stresses. I couldn’t imagine coping for a whole day with my children without a drink to take the edge off. An especially stressful event would require a dose to be able to process the emotions and strains that came with it. Anything I faced that I disliked, like housework, was made easier to manage with alcohol.
What I didn’t realise then is how much productivity all that escape behaviour was taking from me.
When I was turning to alcohol to make me feel better, I was not doing good quality work to provide me with a sense of pride and satisfaction. I wasn’t even truly present in any work I was doing, so I was not able to see how work can be enjoyable. Instead I was stuck in the mistaken mindset, also prevalent in our society, that work was to be avoided. The contrast in my mindset after I stopped drinking truly shocked me.
Of course there are other very high costs of alcoholism, and escapism in general. Even purchasing low quality, cheap alcohol regularly results in a steady drain on the budget. Just a bottle of cheap wine can cost upwards of $1500 a year if bought daily. The costs of unmet potential and lost work and physical health problems are also steep. And of course the loss of appreciation for life in all of its glory is priceless.
Consider what it teaches your children when you feel that you require alcohol to be able to handle them.
Are you effectively telling your children that they’re such a burden on you that you require self medication to be able to cope? Are you teaching them by example that they should only attempt to deal with life under sedation? Even if you’re not trying to, that is exactly what you’re teaching them if you drink to excess on a regular basis. Even if you do not drink in front of your children.
You can stop trying to escape from your life. It may be hard to stop drinking (or other escape behaviour). It is hard to face things head-on and deal with them without the crutch you’ve become dependent upon. You have lost strength to your escape behaviour, it has stolen from you. It wants you to believe you can’t cope without it. But you CAN do it.
The first few weeks is the hardest, and it will take a lot of patience with yourself and a lot of reminding yourself why you’re quitting, but once you get through that period, it becomes easier quite rapidly. You will learn how to deal with those cravings and get yourself through them. Over time they will hold less and less power.
Your strength will increase as you get through one day and then two and then three and onwards without your escape behaviour, and you will relearn how to cope with life.
The beautiful thing that happens when you stop trying to escape from life is that you begin creating life again. You start being able to handle things, and as you gain strength you gain the ability to actively make things better. You see problems in your life and you are strong enough to create solutions, instead of ducking for cover and never addressing the core issues. You will realise that life is better when you face it head on, proactively, with your wits about you.
It is important to note that if you have a serious problem with drug or alcohol addiction (or any other type of addiction) you will require professional help to turn things around. Please, if you are addicted, seek out the help of your doctor. They will be overjoyed that you’re wanting to take back control of your life and more than willing to help you.