Giving Up Alcohol

The 5th precept – abstaining from intoxicants- has always been a part of Vipassana that I have conveniently forgotten.

My job, the people in my life, where I live – key elements that make up who I am, tend to revolve around alcohol. Being able to choose from time to time to enjoy a good whiskey or a cold beer was one of life’s pleasures, why give it up?  Drunkenness over sobriety is rare for me, but part of my life that I enjoy and saw no need to give up.

After my first course I did cut out alcohol and other intoxicants for the best part of six months. Looking back, I remember avoiding situations where others may be drinking alcohol. I became more of a recluse. Life lost its colour.

That was a long time ago,  I like to to think that I have progressed along that path.  Out of practicing Vipassana for several years changes naturally occur. Whereas when I first tried to cut out alcohol I did it almost because I was told to, without really understanding why. It did not come from my own volition. Since my last Vipassana experience I have returned to my normal life with the intention to change my association of alcohol with ‘good times’, I have begun to imagine how different my life could be if I was able to celebrate life without it. Rather than impose a total ban, to use not drinking alcohol as a tool to observe what happens.

Now almost a month back alcohol has passed my lips, but I did not enjoy its taste or effect as much as I thought I would. Rather than enjoying the blurring effect it has on my consciousness, what appears to be more important to me and my resolve is the clarity and sharpness of my mind, and my ability to be equanimous with my reality as it is.

But what I miss and have not been able to experience – is being silly.  What I mean by ‘silly’ is being able to laugh at myself and life. With the knowledge of impermanence I know this will change in time. Some part of me believes I can only be ‘silly’ with the help of alcohol, without it I will forever have a large stick up my arse. For now all I can do is observe and examine this belief, maybe like a sensation that comes from meditation, it will pass.  As I continue on the path I have to except change, in time I hope I will be able to experience again the lightness of being able to laugh at myself, but without the need for alcohol.

Is it possible?

7 thoughts on “Giving Up Alcohol

  1. Lisa Griffiths

    Watching the ego’s resistance can be pretty laughable; I found the anecdote about overcoming your pride to wash the toilets quite amusing! 😀

  2. Anonymous

    I enjoyed your post as I can really relate. I too have struggled with the fifth precept and have gone back and forth giving up alcohol , once stopping for nearly three years l probably like you grew up around alcohol with every social event involving drinking. Being an Australian this is the natural course of your journey into adult hood and up until I was about 25 I didn’t know anyone who didn’t drink. I am now 42 and can safely say I am a non drinker and wont ever go back, For me I really had to get the insight that drinking caused more suffering than happiness, the habit pattern of the mind can trick us into thinking that drinking equals happiness and when we think of drinking our mind will often only show us a snap shot of the 2-3 hours the actual so called pleasurable experience. We need also to reflect on all the negative aspects of drinking like the craving,loose speech and actions and the after effects of hangover and agitated mind. Not to mention that meditation becomes extremely challenging the day after drinking. Vipassana cemented my non drinking and before I sat my first course I simply couldn’t break the habit, I am a much happier, peaceful person without it. The fifth precept its a trickly little one!

  3. anonymous

    This rings true for me too. I recently came back from my first 10-day and was completely NOT on board with the 5th precept. I don’t drink, but I do enjoy marijuana on occasion, and I refuse to abide by a rule for rule’s sake. It has to come from within me. I feel like this is consistent with the Buddha’s teachings. So I decided to continue the vipassana practice and see if my inner wisdom might lead me to an understanding of the 5th precept.

    Then, on my 3rd day back, I smoked a joint. It shook me to my core. The openness that I had achieved and held so gingerly since the retreat remained, in fact may have been enhanced, however my ability to abide with my emotional and physical vicissitudes was gone. It was an awful rollercoaster of a night, but very educational. I haven’t smoked since. I think I get the the 5th precept now. 🙂

    I have been missing the easy laughs and happy times associated with smoking, and I’m not sure that I will ever get them back, but I understand that those good times are reflective of myself in a hyper-reactive state towards external stimuli, and my clinging to those states seems to prove that point. It’s not a balanced way to be. I’m a newbie so we’ll see if it lasts…

  4. Ryan Shelton

    Good luck! This is a challenging practice, especially in the beginning, but if you can stick with it, your practice will become a wonderful asset.

  5. Anonymous

    You definately need to have awareness of your thoughts/sensations prior, during and after drinking/smoking . This way you can measure your state of mind which tends to be in craving mode . This state of mind is not one of peace thus doesn’t not bring happiness. Sometimes this insight can take a long time as we do get such pleasurable sensations from intoxicants and we think this is happiness. I think it took me 5 or 6 years to see that drinking definitely caused more suffering than happiness. The practice definitely helps with this as your awareness deepens you can easily measure the state of your mind, Good Luck!!

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