For my non-Western audience this may sound a bit strange, but not drinking for 180 consecutive days is a big thing for a Westerner. When I’m writing this, I’m officially on day 177 so my grandmother would say that I challenge the Devil by getting ahead of myself. But since I’m currently residing in Southeast Asia (far away from my social circle at home) and don’t see any drinking opportunities in the near future, I’m quite certain that I’ll make it to 180 days. Although it’s not within my control if such opportunities will present themselves; it’s within my control to reject them.
Honestly, I don’t feel like having a drink at all right now. With the help of great YouTube content by Annie Grace (author of This Naked Mind), Stop Drinking Expert (author of Alcohol Lied To Me) and Alcohol Mastery, I came to the conclusion that the negative effects of drinking considerably outweigh the positive effects and that it doesn’t really make sense, logically, to drink. But I must admit that sometimes the desire to drink comes to the surface. This isn’t the desire for the substance per se, but for the great moments that I associate with drinking: fun, parties, comradery and women.
Being born and raised in the Netherlands I have been part of the drinking culture for a long time. I remember my first glass of beer when I was around 14 years old. The years after, I started experimenting with different kinds of alcoholic beverages. Bacardi Breezer and Apfelkorn were immensely popular back then in my town. Soon enough, I couldn’t find anything more enjoyable than getting drunk. Alcohol lowers my inhibitions and makes me braver. Having been a shy kid, this was a very welcome side-effect: I finally found the perfect social lubricant that helps me with friendship and, of course, women.
But alcohol has many downsides as well. It often leads to violence, stupidity, and sickness. I remember one of the worst hangovers in my life when I was sixteen years old and binged on a substance called Pisang Ambon. I had to puke for almost 24 hours and certainly never touched that stuff again. An even worse case was a night clubbing Bali in my mid-twenties, that resulted in alcohol poisoning which I almost paid for with my life. I was saved by a doctor and the adrenaline injection she gave me around 5 o’clock in the morning. Lessons learned? Absolutely not.
Despite the fact that alcohol almost caused my parents to lose their son, I merrily continued my drinking habit. I will spare you the details about the havoc this caused on many occasions. I didn’t drink every day, though. But when I did: I couldn’t stop and often drank until I was wasted. This classifies me as a binge drinker.
Partly because my hangovers got worse and worse, I decided a few years ago that I had to cut down or completely stop my alcohol intake. I experimented with months of sobriety and was surprised how much more energized and emotionally balanced I felt. Slowly but surely, my relationship with alcohol changed and I don’t see it as an integral part of life anymore.
Being sober for almost a half a year, I can say that I feel quite good. Sobriety doesn’t solve all my problems. However, I discovered many new things about myself that I’d previously cover-up with alcohol. Anxieties and negative thoughts have come to the surface, and because I don’t choose to hide in substances I have to deal with them. And of course: loneliness. It’s a difficult and painful path. But things are getting better and better. Also, currently being in a country that’s predominantly Islamic, teaches me that humans can have fun without alcohol. This is an important reminder.
Even though this may sound weird and counterproductive; I actually have given myself permission to drink. This was about two months ago before I left Europe. The reason for this decision is that prohibiting myself something, often makes me want it even more. My urges so far haven’t been strong enough to give in to them. But, again, when residing in a Muslim country the temptations are kind of scarce. I think that this project, Einzelgänger, plays a huge role in this as well. It gives me a purpose. And this purpose is significant enough to refrain from destructive behaviors like binge drinking. It seems like the stronger the aim, the easier it gets to stay on track.
More about this subject? Check my video about Buddhism & Alcohol.