Education. It's such a huge tool in my recovery toolbox, the books, podcasts, the surge in sobriety articles popping up on the internet and even showing up on the news of late [hooray].
Personally, education has been vital on my sober journey so far. Learning about the damaging effects of alcohol and the prolific social conditioning that underpins our drinking culture, I'm amazed that alcohol is even legal, let alone why it is so socially acceptable, [often encouraged], to get wrecked so often.
It's one of those things, 'the alcohol trap', once you see it, you cannot un-see it. Thats how educating myself around alcohol and addiction is for me. Eye opening, scary and sometimes even frustrating. So many questions come into the forefront; 'why didn't I know about the actual long term damage of drinking?', 'why is it so socially acceptable to drink poison and so regulalry?', 'how can I 'see' it but so many other people don't see life through my new lens, or don't even question it?', 'why did it take me over 25 years to open my eyes and forge a better life for myself?', etc, etc..
Don't get me wrong, I am grateful and very thankful I have finally arrived in 'Soberdom'. Its a bright and beautiful place and nearly 90 days in it just keeps getting better. Seeing my alcohol abuse for what it was, looking back honestly and objectively has widened my focus on how committed I am to recovery and never going back there again.
It's one of those things, 'the alcohol trap', once you see it, you cannot un-see it.
However, it makes me feel like an outsider, not just because often I am the only one not pouring wine down my throat at social gatherings or at 5pm ['teatime kids!'], it's more of a dumbfounded feeling of 'how can I be here, now, seeing alcohol for what it is any yet most people around me aren't even questioning their consumption?'. It's sometimes a double edged sword, seeing the beast for what it is but then realising so many others aren't tuned into it. It's sometimes a bit odd.
I'm not the preachy type and I keep my opinions [mostly] to myself, I just find it bizarre that a drug like ethanol, used by the masses and so frequently, with often negative if not devastating side effects, just keeps being bought and over-drunk. Its not the people I want to blame, I've been there and understand the grip that boozing has, it takes over. - It's the barrage of messaging that winds me up. The never ending alcohol promotion campaign. I literally see it everywhere. Yesterday at 8.30am on the UK's prime morning daytime TV show, a couple of presenters were displaying this years 'summer looks', both sat at a small table with 2 cocktails with straws in. It's 8.30am. Is that really necessary?
At the supermarket you cannot get past the front doors without boxes of booze displaying enticing deals on huge bright yellow boards asking you to save more money if you buy 2 boxes at the same time. I know this sounds a bit spoil sport of me, however I've been that person that struggled with alcohol dependancy. I've been the person that viewed drinking memes on my social media feed and somewhere deep down I let it validate my overuse [I'm fine, everyones clearly doing it]. I've woken up more times than I haven't hungover, depressed, tired, sad and feeling trapped by consistent alcohol use, only to have been won over by the displays in corner supermarkets telling me I should be drinking more, its sunny for goodness sakes. You go in for bread and come out with Pimm's and lemonade [and probably 2 shiny new wine jugs if you fall for the marketing like me].
I also have plenty of friends, mostly female friends, that are still stuck in the mummy wine trap. One friend has commented to me recently that she wishes she could do what I do. She wishes she could stop drinking forever, but she can't. This made me feel sad. Not to be the preacher I just said 'don't ever rule it out, you never know'. I don't want to be that friend that pushes my sobriety onto other people, but it is frustrating when you've been trapped yourself, you know good friends still in that trap and then you walk out the door, or even sit inside watching TV and the conditioning is everywhere trying to pull you back into the darkness.
She wishes she could stop drinking forever, but she can't. This made me feel sad.
Looking back at when I first started drinking at 13 years old, I remember how exciting and normal it was. Everyone was stealing booze from their parents cabinet. I remember making concoctions of wine, whisky, gin, vodka and orange squash [I know, grim] and trotting off to the local park with friends, carrying my deadly mixture in a rucksack. No one ever questioned it. To be frank I remember receiving litre bottles of Taboo and Archers on my 16th birthday from adult relatives. Isn't that insane! I'd never do that now to other friends kids, or to my own children, but I appreciate life was different in the early 1990's. Still though, it's madness.
Drinking was a prime teenage-to-adult activity, you just did it, everyone did it and even back then the blackouts and repercussions of alcohol were bad. Still it didn't stop me.
There was zero education around alcohol then, a bit like sex, they were taboo subjects you learned from peers and not parents. Looking on the internet now at the information available around alcohol and the effects it has on the brain, the body, the recent links to cancer and accidental death, its much more widely covered and this is a good thing. Looking back I wish I was more informed of my choices. I appreciate teenagers are difficult to mould but I do wonder if I understood more about the effects of alcohol, the alcoholism in my family and how it could go wrong for me, if I would have taken a different path or learned to stop quicker.
For the hardened drinkers [as was I up until 88 days ago], I feel the education is still relatively wasted on my age group and beyond. Apparently mid life drinkers are the worst group globally at present, suffering increased health issues and more alcohol related deaths. Speaking from experience I believe theres a denial at play here, 'what you don't know can't harm you' type attitude. Some things are better left unsaid therefore we turn a blind eye to the damage alcohol might cause us. I genuinely hope this changes for more people in the their 30's,40's and 50's+ as the growth of sober curious sharpens with time.
- to the parent who is thinking about buying wine again tonight
- the person who is nursing another hangover at work
- those people who would love to try a break from alcohol or go completely alcohol free
- anyone that fears their lives will be over or more boring sober, and
- those of you who are questioning your drinking but only internally
I wish you the strength and focus to dip a toe into the sober-sea, just to see how it feels, it might offer you a freedom you have never felt before, it honestly has for me.
Oh, and keep reading about alcohol. Everything you can read or listen to, just keep adding those crucial building blocks of information to the overall knowledge bank.
Thanks for reading.
*Post image courtesy of https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body#2