As we head into the holiday period I’m struck again with memories of all the parties I’ve been to where I’ve over indulged just a little too much on the whatever happened to be available. The times where I’ve done things, said things and experienced things I really wished I hadn’t.
I was in my mid-teens when I had my first alcoholic drink. I grew up in a European family where it was normal for us to try it. My sixteenth birthday was spent in ‘celebration’ with my grandmother and my cousin, who was turning 21. Halfway through the afternoon I remember thinking to myself as I looked into my reflection in the bathroom, that I was drunk and that I really wasn’t too impressed with the feeling. I remember helping my cousin out to the car (she at the time was a mother of 4 young children), so her friend could drive her home. She couldn’t walk on her own at least I wasn’t that bad – yet. The afternoon finished with me crawling on all fours to my room to pass out in my bed. The three of us had managed to polish of a bottle of vodka and I’m not sure what else.
After vomiting a couple of times and sleeping the night away I did get up feeling okay. At least I was feeling okay until I smelt breakfast and then my stomach began turning again and I sought the refuge and safety of my room and my bed. This is my first memory of drinking myself to being sick. This was the beginning of a dark, rough road I took for over 15 years.
Both my mother and my grandmother were alcoholics so overindulgence wasn’t new to me. I had witnessed both them during the worst of their drunkenness. From my grandmother’s rage to cleaning up after my mother had vomited on the bedroom floor. Why then did I feel it necessary to do the same thing?
Now I’ve not had an alcoholic drink in roughly 3 years. Firstly I didn’t give up drinking because of overindulgence, but mainly because of my children and because of my position at church. I don’t want you to think that I’m against drinking, what I’m trying to understand is why we choose to take it to the extreme. A glass of wine or beer with dinner is fine, but how often does it stop with just one?
I can remember too many times looking into the mirror and seeing a stranger. Someone who wasn’t me or at least who I wanted to be. I was lucky that I always remember what had happened, but I always ended up so very sick. The feeling of the room spinning as you lay anywhere you can, isn’t something I wish on anyone. The uncontrollable vomiting, the pounding head, all a result of my own doing and not from some illness – where is the sanity and fun in that?
The morning after realization of what I had done. The shame and guilt all for what? To be seen as one of the boys/girls; to keep up with the ‘in’ crowd; to be someone I’m not. I’ve so many scars from the things I’ve done. Things I’ve done because I didn’t say enough, or no. If I had shown some self control those scars would not be there now.
Over the past few years I’ve discovered that I really don’t need the false confidence you get from a few drinks. I don’t need to become the person who has few inhibitions – inhibitions are good for you. They protect you from unnecessary hurts. They keep you from doing or saying things you don’t need to do or say. Inhibitions are not bad things they are the voice of your conscience, the voice of something higher, something greater of something that wants to protect you, the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Self control isn’t something that should be scoffed at. There is such a negativity surrounding self control. What we really need to do is embrace it, live it, breath it. Self control is what stops us over eating at Thanksgiving, over spending at Christmas or saying something in retaliation to a hurtful act. Self control is something we teach our children when we’re teaching them good eating habits. Self control isn’t something that is limiting, but it is a way of life. Self control leads to a freedom and confidence that is permanent as to the fleeting feeling of pleasure that comes from over indulgence.