As someone who has quit drinking alcohol, someone who thought for a long time that drinking was an essential part of my character, I can occasionally become bereft with the fear that my ballroom days are over, the disco lights have been turned out and the fun police have arrested me for permanent drunk and disorderly.  All the ‘great things’ my beloved poison brought are gone and I get sad: grieving over what I perceive I’m missing out on.  But. But…what if the disco wasn’t that great anyway and all those things I believed alcohol contributed to my life for my ballroom years were not true?  What if I remove the Rose-tinted glasses and examine the facts behind the beliefs?

A fundamental tool in undoing our relationship with booze and breaking down our cognitive dissonance – that uncomfortable disagreement between our conscious and unconscious mind – is exposing our beliefs to the light and debunking our own myths.  When your head can feel like a bomb where the red wire and the green wire are currently mixed up, sending the wrong messages, stripping down the reality of what you believe, is a great tool to diffuse it.

I thought I’d do some work in debunking my own myths, beliefs and thought patterns: the ‘reasoning’ behind the choices we make in using alcohol.  I’ve been absolutely honest here, to the point of embarrassment considering I’m putting this list ‘out there’ and you, reader, may well think “what the hell was she thinking?” I thought alcohol made me funnier, more confident, relaxed me, made me more creative, was cool to drink, was part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle and was fundamentally THE only way to enjoy myself, to name but a few.  I’ve broken the thinking behind the drinking into more detail and stripped back the myth to reveal the reality.  It’s a useful exercise. 

Myth 1: Drinking is part of a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle.  

Details: Think chic French women on the Cote D’Azur, think cobbled Spanish squares with olive-skinned beauties sipping Rioja at lunchtime delicately nibbling a side dish of calamari…this is who I am!  I’m just a normal European lady.

The Truth: The only part of the Mediterranean that my drinking could resemble was a bar crawl around some Brit holiday hotspot like Magaluf, where it was not so much quality Rioja sipped at leisure, but neck as many units as you can before the bus leaves for the sunrise beach party.  I didn’t drink on sunkissed cobbled streets or chic French brasseries, I drank like I was on a permanent all-inclusive Club 18-30 holiday, where I was aged 29 and three quarters, trying to pack in as much as I could before hitting 30.  I never drank red wine or continental beer (the usual Med lifestyle go-tos) because I’m not that sophisticated, I drank for volume and get-pissed-quick factor.  To compound this, my own particular brand of Med lifestyle, I could often be found at the end of an evening eating Greek doner kebab, pork gyros or cheesy garlic bread.

Conclusion: Not very chic, not very Mediterranean, not very healthy.  Myth Debunked!

Myth 2: Having a few glasses of wine when cooking dinner is just part of a lovely middle class lifestyle.  It’s what women of my age do.

Details: think Agas, think John Lewis wine glasses with a mere tot of Merlot in the base, think cooking from scratch from a Nigella cookbook.

The Truth: Firstly, this image of Agas and Nigella are soooooooo far removed from the reality of my life that I don’t even know where to start.  As a pub landlady I was to be found 5 days out of 7 eating dinner in my own restaurant, eating the dishes that hadn’t sold and were about to go out of date or grabbing handfuls of chips in the catering kitchen followed by another handful of the chocolate mints we use to accompany coffees, as my dessert.  Zero cooking involved, but of course, there was the wine.  

Secondly, using the word ‘middle class’ actually makes me puke a little with the thought that anyone would want to aspire to this defunct and non-sensical terminology.  They used to measure your ‘middle-class-ness’ according to which newspaper you read.  I read The Sun, so that gives you an idea of my rating on that particular barometer.  Yet, I did for a long time justify my drinking wine as part of this kind of lifestyle and every time I heard desperate stories of alcoholism from drinkers who had slid into the oblivion, I used this vision of myself, sipping wine, cooking dinner to strengthen the chains in my middle-class armour of ‘that isn’t me.’ 

Conclusion: As someone who has only ever cooked a meal from a cookbook maybe ten times in my life and who during those occasions would have drunk a bottle or two of wine…this myth is debunked!

Myth 3: I like the taste of wine

The Truth: This is an easy one.  Wine does not taste nice.  When I think I like the taste of wine, I always think back to an episode of Peep Show: Jeremy is on a date with some pompous girl who is getting pretentious over the bouquet of a wine, Jeremy is a simple, honest man and looks to camera in disbelief: “wine isn’t really nice is it? Not like hot chocolate or coca cola is nice” – I rest my case. 

Conclusion: Wine is no Pepsi.

Myth 5: Drinking helps me relax

Details: Of course drinking helps you to relax!  That message is literally everywhere!  In every TV show, ad, movie and book.  It’s common knowledge that when you’re stressed, had a hard day at work, you kick back and relax with a drink! Durr! Who doesn’t know that?

The Truth: Drinking doesn’t relax me.  I certainly don’t feel relaxed at 3am when I wake up full of regret, recrimination, anxiety, self-loathing, disgust, dry mouth, full bladder….no, definitely nothing relaxing about that.  Anyhow, what do I really need to relax so badly from that I need an artificial relaxant?  My job?  I don’t think so, not really, it’s not like I’m working in bomb disposal or finding Covid cures, my job, fundamentally, is selling beer and burgers.  Fundamentally, NOT that stressful.  Not so stressful that I donate my liver and sense of wellbeing in exchange. 

Conclusion: Hot baths, meditation, talking to friends, facials, self-care: these are the tools that REALLY promote my relaxation. 

This is a useful exercise in getting to the root of your real thoughts about the way in which you use alcohol.  These are just a few of my examples, try creating your own list?  The big two myths for me are that alcohol relieves my boredom and that I can’t really enjoy myself on a night out without it: these are big topics, which I’ll explore on my next blog (I hear your bated breath from here…

TPL xx

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