As a former mental health nurse, I watched countless people roll through the hospital doors in varying degrees of alcohol withdrawal. This is not a calm experience to witness. It’s more like dropping and rolling a person who’s on fire, but they have no idea they set that fire themselves.
But more importantly, as a recovered alcoholic, I know what alcohol actually does to us. I know what it did to me. I’m 4 years sober and have some things to say about alcohol as a tool for relaxation.
The most seductive part of alcohol is the belief that it will calm us down and ease up our tensions. But this is a dangerous myth. One that can catapult almost anyone into an abusive relationship with this liquid drug.
Alcohol is a narcissistic abuser. And the myth of “calm” is the initial hook.
In the beginning, it feeds you beautiful compliments and gives you a back massage. It puts a warm blanket over your tired feet and makes promises about how it will take care of you and always be there for you.
Then, without warning, alcohol turns on you in ways that you barely notice at first. But by then, it has you convinced of its curative powers, so you find other excuses for why you don’t feel quite right. It has you thinking that your headaches, irritability, and lack of focus are from some other problem outside of you.
You’re convinced that things like indigestion, sleep problems, depression, and brain fog are the result of some other health problem. Or maybe it’s someone else’s fault, or you were just given a crappy deal in life.
Soon, you’re so blind to the alcohol narcissist that you’re willing to protect it at all costs. And you believe that the only antidote to how shitty you feel is more alcohol.
Unfortunately, the longer you spend with the narcissist, and the deeper your relationship is, the less control and awareness you have to the ways that it’s destroying your life.
Yes, alcohol is a narcissist, and if you’re not careful, it can have you believing that it’s your savior. Then, it quietly crumbles everything you’ve held dear about yourself, your relationships, and your wellbeing.
Of course, if you’re someone who can spot this kind of abusive relationship, then you’ll likely not let alcohol get its claws into you. But some of us are just not that lucky, or we’re not built that way. And some of us have too many wounds that we believe are healed by alcohol. And so we succumb to it, in different ways and in varying degrees.
Alcohol will not calm you down, even if you think you’re calm in the beginning. Even though the effects on your neurotransmitters make you feel warm, fuzzy, even a little loose and euphoric. It lulls your nervous system into a veil-like state, only to spring it back violently in the opposite direction once you stop drinking.
You may indeed feel calm after that first drink or two, but no one, not a single person feels better a few days after drinking. And then, because we feel worse, we think we need to drink more to get back to that fake calmness. Which isn’t calm at all; it’s actually you being oppressed and held down.
I spent over two decades with my alcohol narcissist, and getting free of it was exactly the same as getting away from an abuser.
I know this because I happen to have experienced two different relationships involving narcissistic abuse. I hate that I can say I know what I’m talking about, but I do. The good news is that now, I can pass it on to others. The first year of sobriety was me wrestling with that narcissist in my head.
“Come on, I’ll take care of you, don’t worry, just take a little drink,” are the kinds of thoughts I coped with initially.
And then, when I wouldn’t give in, the thoughts turned mean.
“You’re fucking boring now, you know? Like everyone thinks you’re useless and square. You’re wasting your life. You’re nothing without me!”
Narcissism can’t sustain a person who’s willing to speak up about their shame and abuse and then not giving them any more power. It helped me to seek out support from others and talk about these horrible thoughts. Thanfully, over time, the narcissist gave up and left me alone. My personal empowerment grew more significant with each passing day that I chose myself and my life over this life-draining drug.
They say that alcoholism is like being enslaved, and I couldn’t agree more. Because that’s what a narcissist wants to do as well, keep you imprisoned in their clutches so they can use and abuse you at their will.
It’s like being an animal in captivity. You have no sense of what the wild is about because you don’t know any different, or maybe you have no memory of it. There is only life in the cage.
Except that you have a nagging sense that there’s something more out there. You have all these feelings and all this unused energy, but you can’t quite figure out what to do with it, or why they exist in the first place.
So then, you decide to get free. And at first, you’re not sure where you’re going, and everything feels new and terribly uncomfortable. But then it clicks. And you see yourself again, or maybe you see yourself for the first time. And you finally develop the power to say no to your alcohol narcissist.
And even when it tries to play games with your mind, you know they’re just games, and you can proudly walk the other way.
After 4 years of sobriety, I’m free and I’m calm for the first time in my life. Naturally calm. And that includes moments of anxiety, fear, and all kinds of normal human emotions. I realize that alcohol’s promise of “not feeling anything,” was a grand lie about human life.
Instead, calmness exists on a continuum that can go up and down. But I can cope with either end of it. It’s really not such a big deal, these feelings we have. And sometimes, feelings happen after random thoughts that are usually not true or not that important anyway. So you learn acceptance about who we are as humans, and that’s what calms you down.
Once you get away from the alcohol narcissist, life feels like the ocean. Waves come in and out, sometimes they’re rough, and other times they’re just a tiny ripple.
But all of it is beautiful and natural and you’re just calmly riding along with it. You find yourself floating on those waves staring up at the beautiful sky that you never noticed before, and you think, “ah, here I am.”