Drinking and Your Self-Image

It’s interesting that giving up alcohol isn’t particularly hard. Really, it isn’t. What’s difficult is changing your self-image, habits, and beliefs.

Let’s start with self-image.

More than once we’ve heard a woman say, “Oh, but I feel so sexy and glamorous and sophisticated when I pick up the crystal glass with that first drink and…” Or a man who says, “Yes, when I pour those first two ounces of scotch and settle back in my chair at the end of the day…”

But this same woman also fell staggering out of a charity event and broke off her front teeth on the curb. Very sexy and glamorous indeed.

And the man? He picked up his second DUI and 30 days picking up freeway trash in his orange vest. Not quite the Hemingway image he was sporting – not to neglect that Hemingway himself pursued his self-image all the way through to a shotgun blast in his Idaho bathtub.

Selling self-image is, of course, the foundation of advertising and if the commodity also happens to provide temporary relief from anxiety, boredom, loneliness and so on, so much the better.

But when that image begins to extract a significant price?

Maybe it’s time to consider a new image of yourself? One that doesn’t include broken teeth, the color orange, suicide, loneliness, boredom, depression, and the sense that you could be enjoying a much more interesting life.

Try an easy, brief, experiment, please?

Next time you decide to have that first drink, have a pen and note pad handy. As you indulge yourself in drinks #1 and #2, note what sort of life you imagine living. When you begin #3 put down the pen and continue on about your usual routine.

On the following morning, compare the notes with what you actually did, and are doing, and how do those match? They don’t? At all?

I hesitate to tell you how many novels I planned, trips I took, women whose company I imagined, and the physical condition I was going to work my way into, that disappeared into a vodka haze never to materialize in my actual life.

I don’t hesitate to mention that when I ceased thinking of myself as a hard drinking writer and actually wrote, that my life included writing that sold, interesting women, travel, and a degree of physical conditioning that gratified my vanity.

Self-image? Yes. One based on actual accomplishments, not alcohol induced fantasies.

Self-esteem? Yes. Earned, not borrowed from some misguided dust jacket image.

And this year? I will have already out lived Mr. Hemingway by a dozen years before 2018 rolls around.

Then There are Your Habits

We often note that alcohol is easier to give up than our habit patterns or rituals. Consider, please, how much of your drinking follows a set routine which includes when you drink, who your drink with, what you drink, and where you drink.

An example of when is, of course, the cocktail hour. Notice that this “time” just happens to coincide with low blood sugar, celebrating the end of the work day, and with a self-image component borrowed from books, plays, and a zillion movies. Yes, we are suggestable, and we like the relaxing pick me up, and we like the comfort that comes from a familiar and well-oiled ritual.

Moving along to “who,” and we find either the regular cast of characters or we note that we prefer to drink alone (or to start with company and finish alone). You’ll probably also note that you have, over time, culled out a group of drinking buddies whose alcohol use and abuse match, or exceed, your own (always comforting to have one or two companions who make your consumption look normal or at least moderate).

What you drink is usually a limited selection. For women, Chardonnay, is the #1 choice with vodka a distant second. For men, vodka, whiskey, and beer head the agenda. The interesting point is how rigidly we stick to our preferences, often foregoing drinking anything if our preferences aren’t available.

Which brings us to where you drink, which usually comes down to “out” or “at home”. Social drinkers belonging to the out group and solitary drinkers being the stay at homers.

You will have no trouble mapping your drinking habits if you simply run through the categories and construct an accurate picture of what you actually do. That makes an accurate assessment of the degree to which alcohol is impacting your life and were you might consider some changes.

In line with all of this, next week I’ll take a look at your beliefs about alcohol, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and how your erroneous thoughts keep you from ending your misuse and/or over use of alcohol.