As humans, we love our identities. We love feeling like we “are” somebody. We’ve been conditioned to throw labels around our behaviors to justify why we are the way we are and to describe who others seem to be.
“Are you a smoker a non-smoker?”
“Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”
“Are you single or in a relationship?”
There is no real harm in this at all, until a simple label turns into how somebody perceives themselves.
There are so many instances where we are put in these teeny tiny boxes with little to no wiggle room. You deem yourself depressed, co-dependent, incompetent, shy, the greatest chess player in the world, WHATEVER and that quickly becomes exactly what you are. That is what you will remain in your mind, as long as that label resides in your subconscious. It’s truly just how our brains work. Yet, the simple question “Who am I?” makes so many of us wanna jump out of our skin. It can feel literally impossible to answer. Am I my age? My ethnicity? The city I grew up in? The daughter of so and so or the kid who works at Walmart? Like really, who am I?
This question can be discouraging and I feel it can be very damaging to our self-esteem. Trying to put ourselves in these confining boxes can diminish our self-worth. Identifying with a certain lifestyle or personality trait can set the pace of our life. The identities we chose can also fuel our ego and give us a sense of belonging. I know entirely too many people who would not even recognize themselves in the mirror if you ripped their “party lifestyle” label away from them. I admit that I have also been this person.
Who am I if I don’t have a drink in my hand?
For the past 10+ years I’ve typically been the drunkest person at the majority of any social gathering. If I wasn’t my normal blacked out self it was a feat to be celebrated. “Oh my god, Liz is still up!” Hooray. My friends were always super hype if I lasted a little longer than usual. So happy I stopped passing out in public (as much). I was the problem drinker, the wild card that you needed to watch if you were the more responsible friend. As a teenager my only real identity was the super drunk girl. Mere acquaintances throughout the years have told me I’ve gotten so much better with my drinking. An actual quote, “I’m proud of you though. You used to be a sloppy mess and just pass out everywhere.” Sweet, thanks.
Imagine being known as that for a huge chunk of your life? In my defense, as much as I hate to admit this, simply going out drinking with my best friends was straight up not enough. Not enough to satisfy or thrill me. No shit, the goal for everyone is to get drunk. But I wanted to be in a new Universe. I used to look down at each drink as if it were a stepping stone that might lead me closer to where I longed to be. It would terrify me and I loved that. I knew within a few drinks, more than likely I’d be incoherent and in a much happier place. I dreaded basically all the conversations at the bar, I didn’t care about people’s drama I just wanted to drown them out-quickly. No wonder I’ve always been the blackout queen.
Of course, I moved through many different stages in my drinking and I could be okay. I wasn’t getting multiple DUIs or drinking myself to sleep every night. I didn’t spend time in bars alone. Our society makes drinking the most normal thing you can do. So I tried to be normal. I nearly stopped going out altogether, and that was mostly to avoid the toxic people and toxic situations that I knowingly attract when I’m out and blacked out. As any adult should, I desperately didn’t wanna be the asshole that I could be so often. When you have what feels like hundreds of drunk regrets weighing on your mind, you tend to become more aware of each situation where drinking may be involved.
For years, I’ve tried my absolute best to adopt a healthy mindset regarding drinking, if I could. I thought just having good intentions was enough. Everyone knew I didn’t mean to be a problem and they wanted me to have fun too. Yet this “healthy mindset” was very fleeting and extremely boring to me. And that’s the thing, my motivation to give a fuck or care about my well-being can only last so long when I have a drink in me. I have very few experiences where getting buzzed at happy hour was enough. I need more and I know that will never change. As you can imagine, I am really tired of playing this game. I’ve come to accept that I cannot be who I need to be if I keep drinking.
It is SO hard to shed this label and this part of myself; it’s a really confusing and painful process. Without a doubt, coming to terms with all of this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Being honest with yourself can suck. I get seriously intense impulses to black out because I feel like I still need that girl. I don’t get impulses to “have a few beers.” And that’s the difference.
The same exact people who have questioned my drinking, been personally affected by my drinking time and time again, and even have told me (on more than one occasion) that maybe I should STOP DRINKING, are the same people who still encourage me to drink.
“Oh, well it’s not like your an alcoholic.” Yeah? Honestly, who the fuck decides what an “alcoholic” is? Just because the social norm is to drink at every event known to mankind does not mean I am uncool or weird for simply not drinking. I do not need to box myself into a label of an addict or an alcoholic because I don’t trust myself with alcohol the way most people can. This means if I don’t identity as an “ALCOHOLIC” I can’t abstain from alcohol? Think about how fucking stupid that is! This is our obsession with labeling people and defining their behavior. If you can’t put them in a perfectly labeled box, than who are they?
I think that scares people.