The ‘A’ Word
Every so often a beautiful soul will write to me, “Bex, do you consider yourself an alcoholic?”
And reading between the lines, I feel the real question she’s asking herself: “Do I have to stop drinking completely? Was I really that bad?”
How do you feel about labels?
Do you find certain ones (like alcoholic, addict, teetotaller, forever, etc) hold you back from choosing what’s best for you? Does the Wine Witch have a field day in your head on this very topic?
Now that I’m almost nine-years alcohol-free (holy moly!), I love my non-drinking status, but I must admit, early in my journey it would rattle me whenever someone would comment: “Oh WOW, how bad WERE you?” Or, “Woah, I didn’t know you were THAT bad!”
Instantly, a wave of shame would wash over me. I didn’t want to be labelled ‘bad’ by them, or anyone else.
I didn’t have the words for why it bothered me so much at the time. But I do now.
They were forgetting one thing. Granted, alcohol affected me deeply, and my behaviour whilst drinking definitely wasn’t ideal. But I wasn’t a bad person. Becoming emotionally addicted to something (whether alcohol, comfort eating, online shopping, or technology) isn’t a moral failing.
As Holly Whitaker so aptly put it: “Addiction is an experience, not an identity.”
Really think about that with me for a sec. While we might refer to someone as an ex-smoker, we’re unlikely to call them a ‘cigarretteaholic’ for the rest of their lives, or ask someone if the reason they don’t smoke is because they were ‘that bad’, or because they have ‘a smoking problem’. As though they’ve done something so shameful that they’ve lost their ‘cigarette privileges’.
We know that smoking is ultimately not a healthy habit for anyone. Instead, we’re impressed that they had the gumption and self-respect to walk away from an addiction and choose something better for themselves.
Likewise, we can choose not to inhale, drink, or otherwise consume a toxic substance, simply because we want to be happier and healthier. And we don’t need a label to do it.
In A Happier Hour, I wrote:
“Because in the end, it didn’t matter whether I drank every day, or binge-drank once a week. What mattered was the effect drinking was having on my soul. Alcohol wasn’t good for me and I was much better off without it. People could call that what they liked.”
Labels only hold weight if you want them to.
The label of ‘alcoholic’ resonates with many people around the world. Many people embrace it for themselves because it helps them to remember why they don’t drink. And I love that for them.
But personally, I’ve never found this label particularly well-defined or helpful.
I know I was most definitely emotionally addicted to alcohol, just as I’ve been addicted to sugar in the past. But for me, freedom lies in being able to heal that addiction and evolve beyond it.
That is: I was addicted, but I’m not an addict. I have screwed things up in the past, but I’m not a screw up. My mistakes and experiences don’t define me – I’m growing and changing every moment of every day (as we all are).
While I’ve never called myself an alcoholic or addict, I do love to say, “I don’t drink”, “I’m a non-drinker”, or “I’m sober.” All of those phrases and labels feel positive and empowering to me.
And that’s precisely the key point here. Your labels should feel good to YOU.
No-one else can hang one on you without your consent.
You don’t have to reach your ‘rock bottom’. You don’t have to decide whether your drinking was ‘bad’ enough to stop completely.
The only question you need to ponder is: is my current situation good enough? Is this what I truly want in my life?
Choosing to stop drinking completely is not a public admission that there’s something wrong with you. That you’re ‘diseased and can’t handle your alcohol’.
Quite the opposite. It’s an incredible act of maturity and strength to choose not to ingest a Class 1 carcinogen – an addictive substance to which anyone can become addicted. It takes courage to smash through limiting beliefs, face things head on, and actually make huge changes in your life. Most people don’t.
The great thing about labels is you don’t have to decide on them right now. You don’t have to assign one to yourself before you can take action. You don’t have to choose how you want to define yourself from now until forever.
What if, for now, you just said, ‘I feel better when I don’t drink, so I’m not going to drink’?
What if you simply chose self-love?
And if you need some help to go deeper into your sobriety mindset, I have a ton of resources for you!
Start by watching a free special screening of one of our most popular coaching videos – Why Sobriety vs. Moderation.
Ooh, we dive deep into ALL the big topics in this one: identifying triggers, conquering cravings, overcoming self-sabotage, the benefits of ‘moving the goalpost’, and my thoughts on the concept of ‘forever’. Enter your email below for free instant access!
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