The trouble with drinking and self-deprecation

The trouble with drinking and self-deprecation

I have a self-deprecating sense of humour. Not only do I hope that it prevents me from ever looking overly conceited but I'm a firm believer that we should all embrace a little more self-laughter. Life is quite ridiculous when you think too deeply about it and taking myself too seriously also gives me the ick. Plus, as a nation, we Brits tend to self-deprecate from the moment we exit the womb. 

But, when I was drinking, everything became greater. Not as in better, just as in bigger. From my overwhelming anxiety to the rapidly increasing size of my overdraft, my binge-drinking habits escalated everything and my self-deprecating humour was definitely not exempt. 

My drinking and self-deprecation

“Lol, went out last night and got pissed. Completely ruined my life AGAIN.” I’d flippantly fire off to my friends like it was a throwaway comment when inside I felt like my chest was actually one giant bleak hole of anxiety. 

“Haha, you know me, I’m a fucking mess!” I’d reply when my friends sent back laughing emoji’s that silently screamed they were glad it was me and not them. 

Using self-deprecating humour to camouflage the real pain and discomfort that your drinking is causing isn’t uncommon, in fact, some experts believe that it’s an early indicator you’re in trouble because it can act as a veil for real problems – one of the several dangers of being the butt of your own jokes. 

When I stopped drinking, my friends had no idea just how severely I was struggling but I cannot blame them when I’d so masterfully gloss over the severity of the problem with eye-rolls and jokes about how it was ‘classic me’ behaviour. 

Perhaps had I stopped making light of the darkness, they would have realised sooner that I actually needed help. Instead I'd been successfully turning my struggles into stand-up material, producing lol-worthy anecdotes about losing my house keys and waking up in a randomers bed

What I learned is that when you talk, your brain listens and worse, it believes. Constantly making negative comments about yourself, even if they were only ever intended as humorous reflections, is like brewing a potion that your subconscious sips. I often remarked that I was a drunk girl who couldn’t get her life together and that’s eventually what I became. The notion that I was nothing more than a hot mess bled so far into my identity that at 26, I wasn’t really sure there was much more to me than drinking, making it all the more difficult to give it up.

According to Experience Recovery ‘The self-deprecating humour we see in drinking puns, jokes, and products is a way many of us downplay or make light of just how much of our sense of self revolves around drinking. While it may seem harmless, it should at least raise the question on just how important alcohol is for us to function in our daily life.’

My sense of self was so inextricably linked to alcohol, that every greetings card I opened made a reference to me being drunk, every birthday gift I received was drinkable and every fun story I whipped out for the amusement of others, revolved around me being hammered. I was the drunk girl, even when I wasn’t actually drinking.

There's a lot to work on when you get sober and whilst self-deprecation is still my love language, I've had to monitor the way it shows up in my life. I make a concerted effort not to downplay when I'm struggling, I don't (often) serve up my traumatic stories for others like chuckle hors d'oeuvres and I try to acknowledge when I'm making jokes about the state of my mind in order to avoid being vulnerable. I tend to believe that if it happened in the distant past, humour can actually be a really valuable tool for healing but if the wound is still fresh, I try not to minimise it. 

There are definitely moments it's fundamental to laugh at yourself and seeing the hilarious side of things is never a bad thing. But, if it comes at the expense of your current wellbeing - is it really that funny? 

Written by Millie Gooch

Millie Gooch is the founder of Sober Girl Society and the author of The Sober Girl Society Handbook. You can follow her on Instagram @milliegooch.

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