Can I like myself and drink?

I’ve worked with so many clients over the years who have had problems with alcohol. We spend some time searching for the reasons for why they drink in a way which damages their health, relationships and finances. There are a whole host of seemingly rational reasons as to why people drink – to alleviate stress, because they started as social drinkers and things got out of hand, or because they simply feel they are addicted to a highly addictive substance.

All these reasons make sense on a superficial level, but through my exploration of my own reasons for drinking, and after working with so many other people, I’ve discovered a pretty universal underlying reason. If you drink in a way which is damaging, you don’t really like yourself.

Let’s backtrack for a minute. Drinking, along with drug addiction and other damaging behaviours, are often called ‘self-destructive’ behaviours. If you truly loved and respected yourself why the hell would you want to self-destruct? For me, drinking was chronic and long term. I’d long since passed the point where I would get completely inebriated but I drank steadily, every single night. I drank so far over the recommended limit the idea of 14 units a week was laughable (I was necking back somewhere between 70 and 100 units on a weekly basis). And, for many years in fact before I chose to stop, I considered my drinking as a slow death. A slow way of ruining my body, limiting my chances and keeping myself down.

Why was I doing all this? Because I didn’t really like myself. Although I appeared successful to the outside world, drink kept me from reaching those wonderful mountains by dragging me down and keeping me heavy. Deep down, I didn’t love myself enough to think that I should be reaching the heights, and my self-destructive behaviour confirmed that I wasn’t worth the effort.

If you love yourself, the last thing you want to do is purposefully damage yourself or hold yourself back. If you love yourself, you refuse to put the needs of others first. You look after yourself. You give yourself the opportunities you deserve. You do what is needed to put your health first. Drinking in a damaging way is the opposite of all that.

Loving yourself isn’t an easy call, especially if you’ve grown up with criticism, neglect or abuse, but it can be done. The first thing you can do is stop damaging yourself. Whoever you are and however long or hard you’ve been drinking, you deserve to give yourself a fighting chance at a better life. You can learn to like and respect yourself again – and if it takes a while, that’s fine. This is a journey.

Here’s a lovely affirmation to help you start to love yourself again.

“I am a precious human being and I deserve to be looked after, as much as anyone else does.”

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