Monday again and a feeling that is slowly becoming my New Normal radiates through my whole body: joy! I’ve always been of a sunny disposition but right about now my happiness knows no boundaries and I find that I’m often trying to rein myself in as I’m beginning to suspect I’m getting on people’s nerves. Not everyone feels true joy and for those poor souls especially, another person’s happiness and optimism will be nothing but annoying. I’ve been sober a month and without the crap that follows in the footsteps of Sauvignon Blanc, I feel free and full of excitement. I’ve discovered something I’m actually amazed I didn’t see until now – that I bought in to what might possibly be one of the biggest lies ever told. For all my adult life I bought this lie and for the past decade, in spite of being on the fast track to total destruction of my own life I still believed this lie to be true. What lie? The lie of alcohol.
It’s there from day dot. I defy you to even switch on your TV and see if you can get through a whole evening without being served several images that glorify alcohol. Now I bloody hate Sex and the City just because of that whiny Carrie alone, but you don’t need to be further into any given episode than half a minute and you are presented with the fairytale of booze. Successful, smart and independent women sipping on their cosmos. All neatly packaged as something for us other chicks to aspire to, filling us with desire to be just like them. One of my favourite ads of all time is for Pripps Blå. It’s a Swedish lager. The 30 second TV ad is gorgeous imagery of goodlooking people, enjoying shimmery and beautiful scenery in the archipelago to the lines of a Swedish song where the lyrics go something like “I never loved you like I loved you then, when you were all the shades of blue”. OK, that’s a pretty free translation but you get the gist. It ends of course with the goodlooking guy, he’s straight out of another ad for Boss suits I’ll bet and he has just the right amount of stubble, then he gets a bottle of Pripps Blå out of a cooler box on his boat, the bottle has drops of condensation on it because the beer is chilled and perfect and glooooorious, he puts the bottle to his lips and against glittering waves and sunshine as a backdrop he greedily gulps back the golden nectar. If you don’t want a beer watching that, there’s something really wrong with you. Don’t believe me? What about James Bond? The very epitome of suave, masculine charm and sophistication – and throw in intelligence, bravery and that he’s clearly God’s gift to women too! – and “shaken, not stirred” at the very core of his magnificence! We are fed images non-stop of how alcohol is fun, cool, sophisticated and every other positive adjective you can possibly think of.
Not that I ever aspired to be a spy or bed lots of women (a couple of adventures at university was plenty, ta) but even I as a woman, based on James Bond alone, considered Martini a really sexy drink. I’d order it on occasion but could never finish it because let’s face it, it tastes FOUL. I’ve never been able to drink liquour without diluting it for the simple reason that it makes me gag. Period.
So what chance do we have, really? We’re brainwashed into believing there are so many positives with drinking alcohol no wonder it’s hard to let go. Then throw in my unfortunate predisposition as an alcoholic to react so badly to the stuff – if I have a single drink I cannot stop and lose control – and you have the recipe for disaster right there. And it’s because of the fact that I’ve all this time still believed that alcohol is something to be associated with good times, positive effects (for those non-alcoholics, that is) and an added little glow to life in general, that it’s taken me so long to finally wake up to see it for what it really is: poison. Hell, if you were to drink it neat it’d kill you on the spot!
I’d be willing to hedge a bet that with enough brainwashing in a similar manner you’d soon convince us all to drink arsenic. Not neat and not in the amounts that’d instantly kill us, but why do that when you like with booze dilute it and make our untimely demise a really drawn out process? OK, I realise I’m starting to sound a little more than just a bit mad, but think about it logically for a moment. Mother Nature equips us with these amazing bodies and brains. With this extraordinary machinery comes five little things that are all designed to keep us alive: our senses. Clever as hell! Mother Nature sure knows what she’s doing. We can see and hear imminent threats, we can feel sharp edges and avoid them and feel the cold so we’ll know to try to get warm, and she’s also ensured that we’re equipped with alarm systems to alert us to when we might put things into our system that’s bad for us: smell and taste. Rotten food, fermented fruit (also, sometimes, referred to as wine) and stuff like, you know, SHIT, smells awful and so we recoil and don’t go near it, much less put stinky stuff into our mouths. Poison tastes awful, again Mother Nature steps in to keep her amazing creation – us! – alive by equipping us with tastebuds so that if we do inadvertently put something poisonous into our mouths, we’ll know to spit it out because it tastes BAD.
“But I love the taste of wine.” Really? Show me the person who tasted alcohol (beer, wine, diluted or neat) and tried again because they loved how it tastes. I’m willing to bet they drank again because they’ve been sold the lie that alcohol will do something for you. Other than slowly kill you, that is. No spotty teenager EVER took a sip of even the finest wine and thought it tasted splendid. EVER. Nor has any human smoked for the first time and loved the taste of tar and other toxins. EVER. But we tell ourselves we enjoy the taste because it seems a damn sight more intelligent to do something harmful if it at least does some good. Except it doesn’t. Nicotine doesn’t. Alcohol doesn’t. But who wants to seem stupid enough to admit that we’re actually only doing something because we’ve been brainwashed to do it?
I think we acquire the taste for alcohol. Just like a smoker comes to believe he enjoys the taste (and if he does enjoy the taste, why not just eat the damn things?!) I think a drinker (and certainly an alcoholic) believes she likes the taste of her chosen tipple. And why not – how humiliating to admit we are slaves to what is in actual fact a foul tasting poison! I actually think we end up drinking not the booze we find the tastiest but the booze we find the least revolting. Honestly. Our brain is the most powerful invention – once again, hats off to you Mother Nature – and we can make ourselves believe almost anything. How else can someone be convinced to blow themselves up and die a certain death? That only happens if you believe without a shadow of a doubt in eternal life and, in some cases, 72 virgins waiting for you on the other side. That’s what brainwashing does and how powerful it is and our brains are amazing computers. If we want to enough, like the alcoholic who is still trapped in the bottle, we can convince ourselves that we only got here because we know a good grape when we taste one.
Either way. It’s a long leap to take, this whole booze-is-nothing-but-poison angle, no? But even if it did give me even a fraction of the advantages I’ve been bombarded with images of since I was a child, I am still so much better off not drinking at all. At best, alcohol – after one or two drinks – makes me a little fuzzy around the edges. I feel slightly elated and with a warm glow inside. But what IS that? That, my friends, is alcohol numbing my senses. Is it a coincidence that we say we drank ourselves senseless? Or legless? It’s an exercise in disengaging the safety measures Mother Nature gave us. One by one, we switch them off – it’s what alcohol does. It’s like switching off the fire alarm in a fire. Sure, the alarm stops but does it remove the problem? Nope.
So anyway. I am still putting my heart and soul in to AA. No, I don’t have – nor do I want to take – the time to go to meetings everyday. I make the occasional phone call. I pray and I do my best to be the best I can be. Am I struggling? Of course there will be times – like last Thursday evening – when my old friend the devil appears on my shoulder, but overall I am just so grateful I escaped the trap of alcohol. I don’t particularly agree with having to live just one day at a time because that in itself makes it so much harder than it needs to be. For ME. I will continue to absorb the things that work for me, respect others in what works for them and never push my opinions on anyone if not asked for it. Sparks and I are very different and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time I see her she’ll tell me to find someone else if I want a sponsor – I think my views, thoughts and musings are too far away and I am not dishonest enough to say only the things I think others want to hear. I was raised to speak my mind and old habits die hard. All I can do is keep as open a heart and mind as I can and pursue the life that is best for me in the ways that work for me. Just like everyone else really.
Some people may benefit from always living in the shadow of the booze and be forever fearful of its workings. I am trying to see booze for what it is and no way am I about to allow booze importance or significance enough to warrant a support network in order for me to have some semblance of a life. No way, José! Yes, booze was beginning to destroy me and stole a decade from me. Yes, I was trapped in the bottle. But I don’t need to go over and over and over again all the reasons why it was bad – STOLE A DECADE FROM ME sums it up plenty, no? Do I really need to mull that over? Nah. What I need to emphasize is just how little alcohol adds to my life. It adds nothing. That’s what I need to focus on, not sit and feel awful over all the bad things it’s done. If I do that and spend the rest of my life – or one day at a time – in eternal fear over the beast when I should in fact just see it as a pathetic banana fly I have gained nothing. I will feel I lost something. And I didn’t – I lost nothing at all. What I did do is win my life back and that, my friends, is what I would call jackpot.