I Thought Drinking Made Me Braver, I was Wrong

“When you are drunk, your understanding of your true self changes”- Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers

Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

At age 16, I discovered alcohol. Boldness.

Alcohol enabled me to feel braver. From being a quiet person who hardly spoke to suddenly dancing on tables at parties, I was hooked.

Painfully shy around the opposite sex, I was flirty and bold.

I loved the feeling of having myself heard without fear or embarrassment. While drunk I felt uninhibited.

It was a love, hate relationship because after coming down from a wild night, the next morning I felt intense shame and embarrassment. I looked at photos on my phone and could not remember taking them. How could I do something that I did not remember? What else did I say and do that I could not remember? But it wasn’t enough to stop, I was addicted to the feeling of bravery.

I thought without alcohol I was a boring person.

In reality, while drunk I was a boring person. While recovering with a nasty hangover I was boring because all I could do was sit in front of the TV and eat junk food to try to feel better.

My Sober Journey

I gave up drinking this year and discovered the joy of being sober. This was an act of bravery and self-care. I was terrified that without alcohol I would fade into the background once more and be lost in the crowd.

But alcohol is not an inhibitor. It appears that way, but alcohol does not cause us to release our inhibitions but causes myopia and blackouts. I always felt uneasy after a night of heavy drinking and memory loss and after reading Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, I learned where those feelings of unease came from.

Alcohol is not an inhibitor

Alcohol does not cause dis-inhibition as many believe but myopia. Myopia is short-sightedness. Which means alcohol affects the consequence-forming part of our brain.

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause a person to disregard the consequences of their actions. According to Scientists, alcohol makes the here and now seem more important than long term considerations.

Often after a night of drinking and doing something I regret, my first thought the next morning; “what was I thinking?” Why did I say that? Why did I do that?

I wasn’t thinking when drunk. I was acting without any regard for the potential consequences of my actions. I may have said things I would not normally or acted inappropriately.

Drinking puts you at the mercy of your environment. It crowds out everything except the most immediate experiences”- Malcom Gladwell, Talking to Strangers

I was far from my true self while drunk. I acted impulsively, without a care for the future. I felt great at the time. Brave. Bold. But it was not true bravery.

I never want to be drunk again. I want to be true to myself.

While I was blind drunk I was blind to my inner self.

My drunken words were not sober thoughts, suddenly released by Dutch courage. They were just drunken words spoken without thinking.

When alcohol peels away those longer-term constraints on our behavior, it obliterates our true self.” — Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers

Alcohol transforms us, it does not reveal a more glamorous side of our “real selves”. It transforms us into something far away from who we want to be.

Excessive Drinking causes Blackouts and Memory Loss

Memory loss always terrified me after a night of excessive drinking. How could I not remember? And was it even worth it? I made memories while drunk with friends. We laughed and had a blast but most of the memories I can not remember.

What is the point of those memories if they cannot be remembered?

Alcohol affects the hippocampus- which is the part of our brain that is responsible for forming memories about our lives. A couple of drinks may not have any noticeable impact but many drinks can completely wipe out your memory of the night.

Malcolm Gladwell writes, a person who is blacked out can still appear normal to the rest of the world. They can perform normal tasks, such as watching a movie, ordering food or clothes online, talking to a stranger. And while it might be easy to tell when someone is drunk, it is far harder to detect a blackout because it is impossible to tell by just looking at someone. Wives of long-term drunks have difficulty telling when their husbands have blacked out because they can appear to function like a “normal” human being.

“Drunks are like ciphers, moving through the world, without retaining anything”- Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers

Some people have booked airplane tickets and booked into hotels, all while blacked out. When they “wake-up” they cannot recall what they did because the part of the brain that should have been retaining memory was shut down.

I don’t want to “forget” any more nights of life.

In the end…

I realize now that drinking did not make a bolder version of me it just wiped out the part of my brain responsible for retaining memories and constraining my behavior. I thought I was more fun when drunk. I thought I needed Dutch courage to tell stories and be the center of attention. I don’t need alcohol to be brave. It never made me brave anyway, it made me reckless. I want to be true to the real me.

Written by

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

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