Updated: Feb 10, 2020
I live in a world full of unwritten rules. My goal is to break as many of them as possible.
Somewhere in a sociology class, I developed a fascination with the countless ways in which we are socialized to behave. A wise professor asked if we knew to only speak well of the dead. All of us had, but couldn’t recall ever being told this. The professor asked, “Why? If they were a bastard while living, why not say so after they’re dead?”
Well, because you’re not supposed to…
I’ve since learned that what I’m “supposed to do” is based on someone else’s beliefs and values and there’s an excellent chance that it’s self-limiting.
I went to college at 30. I learned about human development and I came to understand that part of the cost of growing up the way I did was that I had never critically examined much of anything about myself. I realized that the guiding principles in my life were things I had not consciously chosen.
The first time I read Thoreau, “The unexamined life is not worth living” immediately tattooed itself on my brain. I started asking why? Why do I do what I do?
That extended to an awful lot of social conventions, most notably, to drinking.
I tried very hard to enjoy alcohol. I’m blessed to have a body that wants absolutely nothing to do with it. My experiences were not a coming of age/rite of passage adolescence. My story was of an addict in the making.
“I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, “Come down, ” I threw up . Ooh…growin’ up “ – Bruce Springsteen
Today I can only find a handful of substances that people will look at you funny for refraining from: coffee/caffeine, alcohol and meat. I do two out of three and I’m a heavy cigarette smoker as well.
So, why don’t I drink? Because I do damned near nothing in moderation. Because I have an incredibly addictive personality. Because I spend a lot of time helping people rebuild lives ruined by alcohol. Because a million reasons – but here’s my favorite one:
Because I don’t need alcohol to free myself of inhibition.
You know that crazy and funny stuff you let yourself do after a few drinks? My friends and I do that shit. But we do it Stone. Cold. Sober.
We all know alcohol “takes away” inhibition. (No, it doesn’t. It gives you a socially acceptable excuse to behave the way you want to). Have you ever looked at what your inhibitions are? They’re two very basic things: insecurities and fears. You can overcome those.
Think of insecurities as reasons why you’re not good enough (by whose standards?). Then consider that the fears alcohol “helps” with are about being embarrassed or rejected.
It turns out, insecurities can be resolved through greater amounts of self-acceptance. Expose them. Share them with people you trust. You’ll be surprised how many folks disagree with your assessment about whatever you’re f@cked up about. Are you not thin enough? Can you not dance or sing well? We all know alcohol makes you better at those things and it has the added bonus of making you more attractive.
Of course, those are silly ideas, but what if we use something other than a socially sanctioned drug to overcome our discomfort with self? What if it turns out that the person you are when you’re really, really yourself is actually cool?
See, I was misinformed. I grew up being bullied. That taught me to hide my true self. When I got to know who I really am, it turned out I’m a hell of a lot of fun and well worth knowing. I don’t need alcohol to take anything away from me because there’s nothing to hide anymore.
I wish the same for you.