No One Would’ve Called Me a Drunk, But Giving Up Alcohol Changed My Life
I’ve always been a person with a whole lot of feelings. When I was a kid, I preferred a day to myself with my inherited record player and a ragged copy of “Disney’s Greatest Hits, Volume 3″to playing baseball with the kids in my neighborhood or watching TV with friends. I just liked being alone. Looking back now, I realize that I needed that time to explore, indulge, and play out all the emotions I was feeling inside.
Being a little kid allowed me all the space I needed for personal reflection, but before long, it was made clear to me that little boys weren’t expected to feel deep things. By sixth grade, after attempting to become a Cub Scout and teach myself to like football, I had learned that little boys were expected to run, jump, hit the ball (or in my case, get hit with the ball), and walk off life’s biggest aches and pains. We definitely weren’t supposed to spend time sitting in our rooms exploring the depth of our emotions.
Mastering the Art of Hiding My Feelings
Over time I retreated from the emotional swells I once embraced. I gradually learned to only listen to my favorite sad songs in private, and when my family was around, I’d crank the upbeat (or at the very least, emotionally neutral) tunes on the radio. I learned the art of hiding my true thoughts and feelings by skillfully engineering conversations away from the topic of me. I shifted the focus to others, always asking questions and talking around anything that might have revealed that I was feeling even the slightest bit of discontent. By middle school, privately decoding Tori Amos lyrics and pondering the point of existence was a pretty regular pasttime for me.
I magically transformed into the guy most likely to sing on top of the table and entertain an audience all night.
Eventually what had started as a relatively subtle shift toward keeping my darker thoughts private became a complete shutdown of my ability to acknowledge—let alone talk about—who I really was at my core. I put up walls to protect myself emotionally, which meant keeping even the people who meant the most to me at arm’s length.
When I was 17, I found a surefire way to magically shut down my feelings: alcohol. Here was this thing that numbed my pain, silenced my inner critic, and came with the added benefit of suddenly making me the life of every party. No longer the shy, pensive kid in the corner, I magically transformed into the guy most likely to sing on top of the table and entertain an audience all night.
As I traveled down a path of becoming the fun-loving dude (who was …read more