this post is three songs long
Oh hi, remember being young and having fun by toting your label-less bottle of mixed liquor to a random dark field and getting belligerently blasted with dozens of other under age kids who all convinced their parents that they’re going to spend the night at some friend’s house playing a wholesome board game while being safe and supervised? Good times, good times.
Maybe that wasn’t your exact experience, but take a second and have a look at how substances are treated in your social culture and how it started for you. What role does being “under the influence” play for you in having a good time? How does a night out look like without it? Culture has a slow and complex effect on us so we typically don’t think of asking questions like these until a significant event forces us to check our perspective. For me, self-reflection was prompted by tragic circumstance.
Drinking culture is big where I’m from, and we got on it early. Junior high school was a common starting point to experiment with the forbidden sauce, and suddenly every weekend was a binge session. As young people we simply don’t have the faculty for regulation to do much of anything responsibly, and so drinking to excess becomes normal and synonymous with partying, letting loose, and having fun. Alcohol isn’t the only no-no that your parents warned you about so maybe you dabble into other substances, and before you know it you hit your 20’s and a party isn’t a party unless getting messed up is involved.
I’ve been DJing and going to clubs and parties for years. I’ve partied through dawn. I’ve had great times, scary times, hilarious laughing fits, epic adventures and misadventures. I went along with the ride without a question or concern for what its effects or implications could be to my well-being, as we so often do when it comes to our culturally cultivated behaviours. Then, the inevitability of hidden generational trauma entered my life like a freight train, they call it alcoholism.
It extinguished the life of both of my mother’s parents and was passed onto her, without a choice she carried that trauma with her throughout her life, and subsequently to me. Watching my mother’s gradual annihilation by alcohol, I resolved to stifle that particular pattern veiled within my genes. But how would that affect my social life? Nearly every party or social event I could think of was fuelled by substances in one or more forms. I realized that social interaction was going to be a lot different without the aid of inebriation and an enhanced energy level. How was I going to make it through another 4am gig and keep up with the crowd? As it turns out, it can be done.
Getting used to norms is a great way to miss details, especially the big ones. Ironically it’s easy to miss the people through the crowd. The energy they all exude, a room filled with unique expressions bouncing off each other to a common rhythm. Substances provide insulation from personal exposure to others, which is comfortable, safe. But the deeper connections remain distant in that kind of mind state, and we can get distracted away from something more substantial than substances. Without any extra-cranial influencer, your brain and partying can create a deluge of natural chemical intoxication for your enjoyment.
You’ll find it in the music, in those melodies that are divinely far greater than the sum of their sounds. You’ll feel it when you watch others, those beautiful humans who came out to feel free and let loose, people just allowing themselves to be themselves. You’ll know it when you let yourself be open, and to receive others as they express themselves to the beat, bouncing and jumping without regard for decency or decorum set by our weekday cultural norms that beseech restraint and conformity. This is a process that might take time for those who have been unwittingly fortifying a substance-based pattern over the course of years, so let me share some of the things that have helped me cope with the change.
1. Step back, set a goal
Analyze and experiment with your behaviour. Take a step back and look at your norms, and make a plan to disrupt any patterns that may have negative impacts. With a stated goal you’re giving yourself something to aim at and a clear direction in which to push your effort. Everybody hits their target in a different way so apply some patience during your journey as you figure out what way is best for you. Maybe you reduce the amount of times you partake within a certain time period, maybe you abstain totally and say IWNDWYT. Research has shown that even for those who relapse, you can achieve your goal by simply trying again. Each attempt builds a bank of effort that can break any addictive behaviour – don’t give up!
2. Social support
Check in with your social network and let your friends know what you’re going through. You’ll need to be open to criticism in order to grow beyond rigid patterns. This should feel uncomfortable as you’re exposing the less-than superficial aspects of who you are. Don’t worry, change is good, inevitable, and constant. We need to move forward, and we could all use a little help from our friends, family, and people who are trained in the art of counsel and therapy. Online you’ll find plenty of positive communities to help with either leaf or liquid, or whatever poison our friend fate has picked for you. Nurture that emotional intelligence to build a strong mental foundation.
If you’ve found yourself in with a group that isn’t supportive of your new found sobriety, it might be time to expand your hobbies and find new friend circles. Try to figure out if there are certain items or individuals that might be an obstacle or obstruction to your progress, and put some space between you and them. The latest research shows that addiction is caused not by a lack of willpower, but by a lack of meaningful connections and the quality of our environment. After you’ve had a look at yourself have a look abroad.
3. Club soda is your friend
If you’re trying to pass on the alcohol you’ll quickly find out that people get uncomfortable if you’re not holding some kind of beverage in one or both hands. Order a club soda. People think your drinking gin, and you’re enjoying a refreshing beverage. Add a slice of lemon or lime for flair.
4. Get lost in the music
It’s hard to describe the effect that music instills. Organized sound of a certain flavour and composition is received by your sense organs, and instantly your mood and physical presence are altered. Music effects nearly every part of the brain, so let it in and respond to it in the way that comes naturally to you. Explore it and nurture music’s ability to drive your creative flow in the moment, and work with its warm reverberations that make everything else in life kinda just, glow a little a more.
5. Positive patterns
Our mind and body are inseparable. They constantly communicate with and affect each other, and both need to be stable to grow in a positive direction. They keys to a healthy life are found in proper sleep, intermittent fasting, exercise, breath work, meditation, and a diet free of processed foods. Set a reasonable sleep schedule and go for a regular 7-9 hours. A lot happens behind our shut eyes so let’s give our body a decent opportunity. Reduce night time snacking by restricting your eating to a specific and consistent window, find the power of circadian habits. Do some form of exercise and movement as often as you can, build a small 20 minute routine you can do every day. Deep breathing is essential for wellness and is the technical way in which our body gets rid of fat, and you should take some time every day to take conscious, deep breaths and engage the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Take 10-20 minutes a day to sit still and do nothing, this is the way in which our brain declutters its email inbox and allows us to operate as less distracted individuals. Stop putting junkish food into your body because you are what you eat and when you eat good you feel good.
Sometimes we’re unlucky and sometimes we’re careless, but when we help ourselves we become capable of helping others and expanding our experience with joy, passion, and meaning.