The Effects of Alcohol & Self-Neglect on the Non-Addict (Edited)
Had an interesting conversation with a good friend a while back. One of things we discussed was the effect of alcohol in a general sense, addict or not, and beyond the physical.
Alcohol, like drugs, can have a surprisingly profound effect on an individual, though it may appear subtle to the outsider. For one, it mutes the natural surfacing of deeper thoughts and feelings, but this emotional energy must be channeled somewhere, which is why alcohol use begins to amplify our emotions in both directions. Alcohol use can eventually cause greater extremes in our emotions, whether up or down, so an otherwise balanced person may begin to experience stronger feelings, thoughts or energies in both directions – mania on one extreme and depression on the other, let alone indifference and apathy.
Alcohol destroys our ability to filter thoughts and feelings through our consciousness. Our awareness becomes cloudy and begins to contort the way we assess our actions, thoughts, feelings and life events. Things that may be detrimental to self or others become unclear. The way we rationalize and reason our own behavior and that of others can become markedly different from a person who is entirely drug or alcohol free.
We also discussed internal dialogue. Even though many of us are not alcoholics or addicts, when we begin to question or assess what we are doing, how it is effecting us, and how much or how frequently we are drinking, we are assessing the use of a substance that we probably shouldn’t be using. While it is obviously a healthy and sane ability to assess our drinking and its effects, the mere presence of an internal dialogue is a message in and of itself.
We discussed the fact that when we are engaged in things which do not aid in our personal or spiritual growth, there will be a real effect. Sure the effect may not be directly related to having a few drinks at a party, but it does tend to be proportional to the weight of our initial actions or behaviors. Cause and effect, while a universal law in the physical realm, can cross lines. Any cause can lead to an effect that may occur in the emotional or spiritual realm. Physical actions may also cause an effect in the physical realm but one that is unrelated to our behavior directly. We often refer to this as bad luck, but is it bad luck or are our actions or budding habits coming back to haunt us?
The bottom line is that what we do, say and think MATTERS. Anything we do that is healthy and productive for self and others will have a positive affect, while anything we do that is harmful or doesn’t serve us or others will have some sort of negative effect.
Lastly, we briefly discussed the fact that many of us, addict or not, have some external reason or purpose which drives us to maintain consistency as a responsible adult. Children and careers are often two of the primary reasons. However, if we continue to do the right thing for an external reason, even our children, but not for ourselves, we will eventually suffer. I've recently discovered that I must embrace and apply this truth. Positive, healthy nourishment of self is important. This is something I usually scoff at and cast aside believing I must work myself to the bone. The idea of self-nourishment has in the past produced guilt, even a sense of disgust. At the same time, it is advice that I regularly offer to spouses/parents of addicts. I suppose the process of getting better should include some type of living amends to oneself, so long as it serves us, and admittedly, I've had difficulty determining whether various forms of self-nourishment are serving me or not, as well as others.
More to the point, we can continue to be responsible parents or employees yet fail to take care of ourselves. I sometimes find myself at home being Mr. Dad – playing, cooking, emoting happiness, calm and stability for my children yet I am unhappy inside. This isn’t because I don’t love my children with all of my heart. It is because I have been neglecting myself.
To enjoy the fullness of life, whether at home or at work, I should keep my spiritual, emotional and physical health as the top priority. This is not selfish, because if we fail to put our health first, we will eventually begin to suffer and fall apart. Nobody wins. Ultimately, nothing external can keep us healthy, stable, sane, content and at peace within. We must take care of ourselves and our relationship with God first, and then all other efforts will naturally benefit. Our efforts will become wholehearted, as we won’t have to force or feign responsibility, joy, strength and consistency.
Trust me, I violate this constantly, and everyday God reminds me that I must take care of myself not for anything external, but so I can be "okay" primarily. Sure I take care of self for my family and for my business, but it must also be for self, so that I can live my life with joy, or at least with some peace and contentment.
So with that said, I’m gonna go make a flatbread pizza, smother it with crushed red pepper and pour a large ginger ale. Is that the idea? Perhaps not. Well, how about I go write some inventory (much needed) and then meditate (or sweep) until my mind slows down and the peace begins to flow in. Maybe a long, hot shower as well - def one of my favorite things. Then I can start neglecting myself once again tomorrow morning ;)