I had another chance to test my new found ability to just say no just a few weeks later. It wasn’t a major event just a few friends sitting around a table playing dice games and cards. So it should have been relatively straight forward to avoid the booze. I mean, it should be much more simple than being in a pub, right?
It that was a tough one. I don’t think I really let on that I was struggling to not join in with the merriment. But this brings us nicely to a point where I can get a bit “self-helpy” with this story. Because I can still remember sitting there watching a little get together/party go on around me and there I was trying to figure out how to make the right decision.
I was torn you see, like Natalie Imbruglia, between competing desires. I wanted to have a drink with some friends. But I also didn’t want to have a drink. I was closing in on a four week long streak and I didn’t want that run to come to an end. It hadn’t been much more than a month and yet it was already something of which I was very proud. I know for a fact a fair few people didn’t think I would make it longer than a week. Let alone four of them.
Now then there was a choice to be made and each seemed to have points in its favour. A mental pros and cons list started to develop. Pros for drinking included getting drunk which in my head equated with fun. And fun is fun. Point for drinking.
Pros for not drinking? Living up to my word. The pride I had that I was doing something positive for my life. Not being hungover the next day. Overcoming an obstacle. Three points for not drinking. 3-1 not drinking so it’s all over!
Drinking is picking itself up off the mat and coming out swinging. There were more apparent pros to drinking. That feeling inside me that I wasn’t good enough would go away. We suddenly just got very deep. It took around 10,000 words but here we are at arguably the real crux of my drinking problem. I didn’t feel worthwhile as a person. I didn’t feel like I contributed much and I didn’t feel valuable. In other words, low self-esteem.
(side note: I just misspelled self-esteem and sell-esteem. And now I feel that with just that phrase alone I could probably bullshit my way through a salesperson improvement program with me as the instructor. Want to improve your sell-esteem? I will show you how in just 72 easy steps!! I grew up in the 90s. I’ve always wanted my own infomercial.)
Over the years I have thought a lot about why I have low self-esteem. No easy or obvious answer springs to mind. In fact it’s just the opposite. I was raised in a supportive environment. My family is still close and we all get along reasonably well. I was pretty good at sports growing up and had lots of friends. One year one of my best friends moved away but I made another new friend the next school year. Things seemed to go my way more often than not. What could have been the cause of my low self-esteem?
Could it be that I didn’t have a ton of luck with dating in my youth? I remember one time asking a high school girl out on a date (don’t panic I was also in high school!!!) and then on the day we were supposed to go out I called her on something called a land line telephone. A problem soon emerged. She had forgotten about the date. Not just forgotten but seemed to be unaware that we had ever made plans at all. Or ever chatted before. And of course she had made other plans. It gets worse (this is 100% true) because it was her birthday and there was a party to which I obviously had not been invited.
Not exactly a Don Juan type moment in my life.
Plus after high school I stopped being active and started eating. More and more food followed by drinking even more than I ate and then, well, I put on weight. Lots of it. I put on weight like it was the last days. Better get as fat as possible before the end of the world!!
No exercise and all of the calories possible? That’s when the weight gain started. That was part of the issue I am sure. Obviously some body issues developed. When you go from being a very good young baseball player and a pretty decent high school basketball player (for a Canadian not compared to the good American high school players who are actually good at the sport) to being out of breath getting to the top of the stairs? That’s going to have some sort of impact.
But there aren’t a ton of things that really stand out as THAT moment. I’m sure some people can pinpoint the exact moment their self-esteem issues developed. With me it appears to have been a slow gradual development over time.
Now back to the party. There I am sitting around a table with some friends and I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t know when it started but sometime in my early 20s I stopped being comfortable in group settings. Probably when I really stopped being comfortable in my own skin. Throughout my 20s and into my early 30s when I finally quit drinking I didn’t like the things I said or how I said them and I definitely didn’t like how I looked.
Back then the go to outfit for me was jeans and a hooded sweatshirt (in some ways it still is but for different reasons). In the hoodie I felt somewhat comfortable. Like a turtle retreating into his or her shell. The hoodie hid, or so I thought, my body and at least made me feel a little bit at ease with myself. A little bit. But when I was up to 350 pounds I am sure there was no hiding that I was fat.
So I think that sort of starts to explain why I got so drunk. Why once I started I couldn’t stop. Because once I started drinking? Once I had one? I started to feel a little more at ease. A little more comfortable. A little less like myself. Once you feel a little release from that ever present tension and slight aching pain? Well that’s an escape and a release that you want to keep. That you chase.
I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin so I found a different skin that I did like and that skin was being drunk.