Hello my name is Heidi and I am free. I am free from the ghost in my machine and because of this, I’m alcohol free too.
What does ‘free’ really mean? The Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word ‘free’ is – ‘able to act or be done as one wishes; not under control of another’ and ‘not or no longer confined or imprisoned’.
I love both of these definitions because they perfectly describe how I feel now. Every morning I wake up there is never even a flicker of a thought in my mind about how much Sauvignon Blanc I’d consumed the night before. Neither is there that feeling of dread upon first waking when I would lie for a moment waiting to see what sort of heaviness or hangover pains my head and body might be feeling this morning. I am alcohol free and I am no longer confined by the feelings of shame that I experienced from participating in the vicious circle of wine consumption. Yes, that very same wine that was advertised to me as bringing me good times with loved ones, you know, the happy smiling people together in beautiful locations pictures that they use to advertise wine.
I used to think that my life would not be fun without alcohol, when the truth really is the total opposite. My life is filled with far more happiness, fun, adventures, love and purpose than ever before. I’m me 100% of the time without the numbing mask of alcohol I used to wear to quieten the ghost in my machine. I no longer spend hours or days of my life feeling hung over and I perform at my best at whatever I’m doing every day, without a single grieving moment for alcohol.
The brain and our thought processes can really do some very strange things and lead us to behave in ways that really don’t make any logical sense at all. The lengths that we will go to as a way of quietening the ghost in the machine are so extreme they can literally lead us to repeatedly destroy our bodies by drinking ethanol – which is poison! Our thoughts can lead us to repeatedly disconnect from our incredible external and internal sensory devices, in exchange for either a sense of numbness, inhibition or relief from the suffering we think we are experiencing in our day to day lives.
I vividly remember the day that I really started asking myself questions about alcohol such as ‘how does alcohol benefit me?’ My answer to myself that it ‘helped me relax from my stressful work’ actually set me off in teals of laughter at my own stupidity! I mean really?!? Because the truth was when I woke up the next morning (or at 1am, 2am, 3am) after polishing off a bottle of wine, did I actually feel relaxed? H*ll no! Quite the opposite in fact, as I would feel ashamed, fatigued and sluggish…and yet I’d get myself out of bed, ready to face another day at whatever corporate I was currently contracted to and go and earn my $1,000 a day.
By the time I’d get home mentally and emotionally exhausted, I’d crack a chilled bottle of wine and numb myself out again, often whilst still working and answering emails until late evening. Over and over again. I was literally destroying myself from the inside out using a legal and socially acceptable poison, as a way of trying to relieve the stressful tension in my nervous system. And not to mention the 650+ empty calories I was literally tipping into myself every time I downed a bottle, which could never be anything other than detrimental to my body and was playing a big part in my weight struggles.
Pure and simple, alcohol (and all other addictions whether they be consumption or behaviour based) are anesthetics. They make us insensitive to pain. They allow us to temporarily separate from the distress in our consciousness, which physically resides within our nervous system.
So why did I feel the need to anesthetise myself with alcohol when I am in certain situations and what was it that I’m trying to numb myself out of feeling? My answer was that the ghost in the machine was continually telling me that I needed to be better, preferably perfect and to never make a mistake. I needed to have the right answer to every question I was asked. I needed to meet the needs of everyone else as soon as they asked me to, because that would make me worthy of both my remuneration and my position within an organisation. Oh and yes, I totally wanted people to like me and come to me for help, because that led me to feel both Significant and Connected.
Where did this particular ghost come from? It came from some of my childhood attachment experiences of working so hard to try to win the approval and attention of a parent, as a way of seeking to generate feelings of safety, love and connection. Without an adult to meet the physical needs for an infant or child, the human body knows that it will die. The whole purpose of attachment between humans, be they adults or children, is to keep each other alive both physically and emotionally. Without this secure childhood emotional attachment, I was experiencing a primal sense of abandonment which was wired into my Autonomic Nervous System. Subsequently, my system was always on high alert for any potential threat of abandonment. I was unconsciously trying to avoid this situation at all costs, by finding ways to adapt my behaviour to meet the needs of others, thus reducing the risk of abandonment, judgement, criticism or shaming. I felt that I had become a People Pleaser, both in my career and in my personal relationships and I really didn’t like it!
By nature I am not a People Pleaser. I am naturally an independent, risk-taking, free-thinking, tenacious individual, and yet, I felt I was behaving in my work environments in a way that was contrary to who I really am. The irony is that everyone I have every worked with will no doubt tell you that I am indeed an independent, risk-taking, free-thinking and tenacious individual! In hindsight now I see that to the outside world I have always behaved in alignment with my nature, but my inner world ghost was telling me I was never good enough, never doing enough, never pleasing enough people.
As a way of shhhhing this ‘never enough’ ghost that would follow me everywhere I went, I was numbing myself with wine, just trying to find a quiet place to rest.
The day I realised that I was simply looking for an inner place to feel connected and peaceful was the day my struggle with my ghost and alcohol ceased. I can honestly say since that day I’ve not given alcohol as much as a thought. It doesn’t bother me if others choose to drink around me or if they ask why I don’t drink anymore. I am no longer playing whack-a-mole using a wine bottle.
I believe there is only one label worth wearing related to alcohol and that is the label that reads ‘Free’. I am free, happy, peaceful, purposeful and always curious about what life will teach me next.
There are many amazing resources around if you are looking for a similar sense of freedom. There is a fantastic book called This Naked Mind by Annie Grace which is a great eye-opening read to say the least. There is an accompanying website thisnakedmind.com which has great material and online programmes too.