"Shame dies when stories are told in safe places"

Clearing away the empties after a big night, I’ve sometimes considered scribbling out the ABV % and instead pencilling in the measure of my shame, on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Let’s just say, a ‘1’ was never in the running. 

A whole bottle of wine + five gins = one deeply private overshare, gallons of tears and at least 24 hours of deepest depression. 

Little mental calculations flying everywhere. Like ‘yes it was bad, but next time I’ll drink more water’, or ‘if I’d stopped at the wine everything would have been fine…’ 

Fundamentally though, those sums are all underpinned by the belief that giving up alcohol would be a socially or personally unsurvivable loss. 

Remarkable, isn’t it?

Alcohol is actually thought to affect around 50 different neural mechanisms, most significantly:

  • by increasing the uptake of a neurotransmitter called GABA, it reduces stress … by acting basically like a sedative – Valium in a bottle. 
  • By flooding our reward circuits with dopamine, making us feel great and crave even more alcohol to sustain the feeling. 
  • by reducing the uptake of glutamate, which triggers inhibition in the prefrontal cortex – cue flawed judgment and tunnel vision. 
  • And releasing opioids (endorphins), which make us feel goooooood. For a while. 

Feels great, chills us out, makes us loosey goosey – what’s not to like??

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing a whole lot. Bagfuls of regret, poor self-esteem, self-blame and shame.

Yet, for some reason, we hold on to the notion that alcohol has something positive to offer. That’s the part that keeps us hooked. We feel the shame, see the consequences and yet we tell ourselves that being without will somehow be worse.

Interestingly, what I sense from a lot of the women I coach is that we’re stuck in a kind of shame sandwich. Drinking makes us feel bad, but giving up feels like a statement about us having a ‘problem’. Also ‘shameful’.

And that’s where those wise words from A. Voskamp come in: 

"Shame dies when stories are told in safe places." 

Please consider this the safest of spaces and listen when I tell you, we have all been set up to fail. Alcohol is a pernicious beast that takes our self-worth and our confidence and then gaslights us into believing that the solution is yet more. That we cannot be ‘whole’ without it.

To be blunt, the issue is not so much that YOU have a problem with alcohol, but that alcohol IS the problem. And was designed to be. So, while we all begin this journey hoping to normalise our drinking, the truth is that excess and shame is the ‘norm’ when alcohol is in play. And the only true way to exorcise the excess and the shame, is to exorcise the alcohol.

My friend, this may not be the answer you were looking for, but it’s the truth we all need to hear.

That, and the promise that better lies ahead. That there is no loss – only incomparable gains: the ability to think clearly, and kindly about yourself, to be present and truly engaged, to discover what it is to be comfortable just as you are – without a buffer or a shot of courage, and to listen and truly respond to your own needs.

If you’re ready to tell YOUR story, I’m here. No shame, no blame. 

Get in touch.

Emma xx


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