Written by Marie-Eve Ward
Most of us have experienced a toxic relationship at some point in our life. When we think of toxic relationships, often we associate them to people. Perhaps we experienced a toxic relationship with a family member, a friend, or a romantic partner. The truth is that we have a relationship with everything that surrounds us. People, pets, time, food, physical possessions, the divine, and today's focus - alcohol.
Drinking can too easily become an escape from facing our emotional struggles. As an Emotional Wellness Coach, I've witnessed how people often comfort overwhelming emotions with self-sabotaging patterns when they lack the tools to release them in healthier ways. I know this first hand too, because I've also been there. Past versions of myself used alcohol to:
- Relax after a long workday
- Forget my problems
- Be more outgoing
- Have more "fun"
- Connect to others
- Fit in
These, of course, were all temporary ways of being.
Our brain always chooses to do what feels most pleasurable in the moment.
If it feels best to go for a run after work- we'll do that. If it feels best to sit down with a drink- we'll do that. The more we associate the act of drinking with a pleasurable outcome, the more we are going to do it consistently. Change what pleasure is linked to in the brain, and change your habits surrounding it. This, of course, requires awareness surrounding current patterns that are no longer serving you and the desire to make a change. When we use alcohol as a way to avoid or distance ourselves from problems, we can usually trace it back to childhood experiences and whether or not we were made to feel safe within our emotions. If we didn't feel free to express our needs and feelings, we will most likely have developed less than ideal coping methods to ensure we still received the comfort needed. Now, fast forward to turning the legal drinking age. Unfortunately, because drinking is such a common behavior in many parts of the world, alcohol can become an added harmful behavior used to fulfill our needs in difficult moments when we have yet to learn how to regulate and process our emotions. Even more so, if this kind of behavior was demonstrated in the home when growing up.
There is absolutely NO judgment in this, only curiosity.
When I stopped judging myself for using alcohol in the ways listed above, I was able to start asking myself questions instead. Asking questions helps us uncover the truth of who we are, and this is why a coach is masterfully skilled at asking the right questions. Getting curious about our toxic behavioral patterns can be an uncomfortable process - one that I personally avoided for the better part of my life. However, questions empower us to be our most honest selves and make peace with being imperfect humans who are allowed to struggle. It was only when I made the decision to truly get to know myself and allow myself to feel ALL of my emotions that I learned to fulfill my needs in healthier ways. My relationship with alcohol didn't change until my relationship to myself changed. When you no longer use alcohol to escape your reality, you get to take steps towards creating a reality from which you don't need an escape. This means you get to:
- Find new + healthier ways to relax
- Face your problems and find solutions to solve them
- Build confidence to accept & be your true authentic self
- Give new meaning to the word fun
- Connect with others in a more meaningful way
- Fit into the right places with the right people
My motto: Everything in moderation. Because I'm in a much more emotionally balanced place in my life, alcohol now serves a different purpose - simple enjoyment. Like the occasional glass of wine with dinner, a dirty martini on a date with my love, a boozy seltzer on a hot summer day.
We live in a society that glorifies drinking, so again it's no wonder it's often viewed as the "norm." But unfortunately, the "norm" does not equate to health or happiness. Let's remember that. You have to become aware when old ways of being or managing emotions no longer make you feel like yourself and lowers your vibrational energy. These are good signs that there's some healing work to be done. And, how do we know if our habits surrounding drinking lowers our vibrational energy? Our vibrational energy is our emotions, thoughts, and patterns and is something that, although not seen, is felt. High vibrational activities will leave you feeling high vibrational emotions such as love, peace, and joy. On the other hand, low vibrational activities leave you feeling low vibrational emotions such as guilt, shame, and anger. You can quite literally understand your relationship to alcohol simply by paying attention to how it makes you feel. Of course, this goes for any relationship you have in life.
So how do you make a change when you become aware that your relationship with alcohol is no longer conducive to the outcome you want to create?
It all starts by making conscious choices rather than defaulting to old ways of being. In every moment, we're making choices. This is an opportunity to take 100% responsibility for how your life turns out. When I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to admit to the many reasons that led me to use drinking as a coping mechanism - I was able to challenge those reasons and follow through on better ways of being. It has been a beautiful journey of change for me. Changing my relationship with alcohol is only one of the many relationships that evolved into something healthier once I turned my gaze within and did the work to provide better emotional support for myself. The coach in me wants to leave you with an actionable plan so that if you see yourself in this story, you can start making different conscious choices starting today.
Try this out: Create what I call a "Nourishment Menu." On a piece of paper, write down 10 ways that help bring calmness to your being. You can find freshly washed bed sheets on my nourishment menu, buying myself flowers, a deep conversation with a good friend, journaling, and house cleaning. Yes, you heard that right! Creating a clean and clutter-free environment leaves me feeling so much peace within since our physical space highly affects our emotional well-being.
These are all examples of what brings sweetness into my life so that when old ways of handling the obstacles of life come pulling at me, I have an array of options to choose from that will leave me fulfilled without leaving me feeling guilty afterward.
Since we are highly visual beings, leaving this list in a place where you can see it and be reminded of all the small ways you can care for your personal needs will help with follow-through. Having these readily available is vital because when we want to revert to old ways of fulfilling our needs, this is not exactly when we think clearly or take the time to come up with a different solution. Hence, it's easier to have these ready and visible to refer to.
So get curious, ask yourself questions, leave judgment at the door, and get creative with building your nourishment menu!
Certified Health and Life Coach
Marie-Eve is a Certified Health and Life Coach and founder of The Chit Chat Room. After a life-changing battle with breast cancer, she re-invented herself, which led her to follow her passion for helping others unleash their true potential and overcome challenges by specializing in Habit Change.
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