Mike Gyi

November 21, 2022

Alcohol isn't your problem

Being British, I'm a huge booze monkey. It's embedded in our culture. I've realised how much this is true since living in Spain and seeing our culture from afar, from an objective viewpoint.

My first foray into trying to avert my booze monkey-ness was in January 2012 when I was a Dry January pioneer. That might sound ridiculous as lots of people now attempt alcohol abstinence in January after a merry Christmas. However, back then I managed to raise ~£250 for cancer research, demonstrating how hard people thought it would be.

Thankfully, attitude toward alcohol amongst the masses has changed, but we're still fully in the grips of a habitual vice. Since 2012 I've taken a few breaks from alcohol, varying from 1 month to 3 months long.

Last August I announced to my friends that I was done. My dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and after losing my mum to cancer in 2017, I was hyper-aware of the bad health effects of alcohol. Coupled with trying to start a business and a boozy summer, I didn't see any positive benefit of the juice anymore. I was sure this was it, I'd stopped. My life as a sober man would begin.

However, it didn't last. After 3 months, where I saw clear benefits of weight loss, increased mental sharpness, and skin improvements, I was missing something.

I had always pinned all my problems on alcohol. Whenever I'd hit a mental down patch, I blamed alcohol. Many of us do, and we try and fail to quit, or even decrease our intake. It's double hard when it's everywhere. During these 3 months, I started to be very negative toward alcohol. Seeing it advertised all over the streets in Spain shocked me. Why is a DRUG advertised in such an accessible way on the streets? Why is everyone ingesting a liquid which is proven to be detrimental to our health?

I was on my high horse, but then around December 2021, and after 3 months of thinking I was "done". I hit a low mental patch again. I went skiing with some friends and I didn't have much to contribute to conversation. I got called "boring", and I was. On another occasion, I'd gone to the pub to watch football with some other mates and I didn't have much to say. My brain was foggy and there wasn't much going on up there. This was without alcohol.

I realised I wasn't having fun. Well, I was having lots of fun, but as a Brit I realised I needed a blowout every now and then, as quick cheeky pint is so embedded in our psyche. I work hard, life moves fast, and alcohol actually is really fun. In moderation. Achieving moderation is the promised land though and it's almost impossible. However, with me it's all or nothing and it’s something I'm getting better at.

Now, I'm speaking from a standpoint of someone who has an ingrained alcohol habit and I know friends who have an unfortunate alcohol addiction. This distinction is vital as people with an addiction just need to stop entirely, there's little choice in the matter.

Adrian Chiles made a fantastic documentary about alcohol called Drinkers Like Me where he revealed he was a dangerous habitual drinker, and as a result at high risk of disease. In the documentary, he talks to his close friend Frank Skinner who was a near fatal addicted drinker. Frank explains that there was no choice but to stop. Perhaps it's an easier decision for the latter, but it's sadly the worst of the two scenarios. There's no doubt that not drinking does provide many benefits. However, you'd rather have the choice on your own terms. 

After much investigation, I've come to the conclusion that alcohol isn't my problem. It's more complex than that. As humans, we try to simplify immense complex problems with a silver bullet. A lot of people think giving up alcohol is achievable and a silver bullet. 

Unfortunately, if you live in a culture where alcohol is woven into the social fabric, it's almost impossible to give it up without making serious social sacrifices. My advice, and what I try so hard to do now, is to be more conscious about my drinking. It's not easy. 

So, I hate to be boring, but this is the silver bullet: it's about discipline and balance. Isn't everything in life?

If you're feeling down and thinking it's all due to alcohol then here's what I would say. Alcohol isn't your problem, it's you. If you think alcohol is your problem then you're drinking too much. 

I know how hard it is, but try to be conscious about drinking, reduce your intake, exercise, eat well, talk to friends, and get good sleep. You'll find your general problems will evaporate whilst still allowing yourself to have fun with mates, drinking, on your terms, without socially ostracising yourself or being hard on yourself about drinking. 

I hope this helps someone give perspective on a topic I've wrestled with for nearly 10 years. 

About Mike Gyi

UX/Product, ex-architecture, ex-TW, community addict, building https://www.townspot.uk