Contagious Keith

Good, ol’ Keef! I was really cheered up this morning when an article saying Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has quit drinking. This is awesome in the same way that I think it’s awesome when other celebrities openly say this – when someone is in the public eye, it has such an impact and so when the platform is used to promote such a great message (as opposed to using their fame to be a brand ambassador in order to compel their following to consume, consume, consume) it makes me really happy. OK, he didn’t – from what I understand – specifically set out to announce this, but media got wind of it and he openly responded. Awesome. When it’s one of those old rockers who have spent a lifetime as the very embodiment of sex, drugs & rock’n’roll, it’s particularly great. I think some of us feel that alcohol becomes part of our identity, but in Richards’ case I’d say his lifestyle has almost eclipsed his talent as a musician. Mention Jagger and you think first about the music, possibly also his huge mouth and skinny jeans. Mention Richards and yep – sex, drugs & rock’n’roll. I think I even used to joke about being able to drink like Keith Richards when I was still in those stages when I knew I had a huge problem but tried to disarm any comments by joking about it. Anyway, this might be a bit daunting for our kid Keef, no? Who is he going to be now?

According to the article, Richards conceded that playing sober was a little strange at first. I love this! I wish he’d expand on this. I want to hear how he feels. The wild lifestyle that has defined him for decades stripped away, does it now mean we get to witness instead an incredible musical legend in his own right? His talent without distraction and without the dilution of this additional, messed up persona? Isn’t that something? Richards is already an integral part of one of the world’s most influencial bands – just imagine what he can be now he’s sober.

It’s only rock’n’roll but I like this a lot!

The other thing I think is very positive when someone – famous or otherwise – says out loud they’ve stopped drinking, is how it almost forces those around us to kind of think about it. When it comes to Richards, believe it or not he was someone I used to take comfort from: “ah, well, I’m still safe and can keep going, just look at Keith Richards! It’s about your genes! Hasn’t done him any harm, has it?” As addicts, it’s comforting to be able to point to someone who drinks or uses more than we do because if they’re OK (read: alive) it means we don’t have a problem! When I still smoked I always referred to this old lady I knew, who was 95 years old and in amazing health despite chain smoking since the was a teenager.

This is one of the reasons why I’m sometimes hesitant to divulge how much I used to drink. I mean, I often find that people have lots of questions when they find out I stopped drinking. Sometimes I just know, partly from the things they ask and sometimes because I’ve seen them drink and recognised myself, that their questions are code for I’m-trying-to-work-out-if-I’m-OK-by-comparison and it’s in those instances that I never quite know whether to account for the actual amounts. Let’s face it, Drunk Me would use the information to confirm she’s fiiiiiiiiine and take it as a green light to carry on. Besides, I suppose it doesn’t really matter as we’re all different and there are lots of factors at play when it comes to how much alcohol our bodies can tolerate. I’ve sat in AA meetings and someone will talk about how they used to drink a bottle of wine and two beers every night, and I’d wonder why they were even there! Compared with my almost-three bottles of wine per sitting, this didn’t seem bad at all to me. In fact, when I was still drinking, a bottle of plonk and a couple of beers would have been fucking ideal, lemme tell ya. That wouldn’t even give me a hangover! Puhr-lease! You can be sure that in the same meeting there’d be someone else who’d hear me talk about my boxes of wine containing three bottles’ worth and chuckle at my amateurish drinking levels.

Regardless of the amounts however, I think one of the best things we can do when we get sober is TALK ABOUT IT! I don’t mean ramming sobriety down people’s throats at any given opportunity, but I think it’s really fucking positive when we are able to be open about it. Those questions almost always get asked! In fact, I don’t think I’ve had any conversation about this without being asked about it – whether it’s been situations where I’ve told friends and family I stopped drinking because I’m a drunk or situations where I’ve declined alcoholic drinks by saying I don’t drink. Every time, now that I think about it, I’ve been asked questions. And do you know what else? Every time, now that I think about it, I’ve been praised! Anything from “well done” or “I’m proud of you” (when I’ve told the person the full story) to “wow, you’re so good” (when a random person hears me say I don’t drink – usually to point out how healthy it is, like you would say it to someone who hits the gym a lot). You never know – it might just be that Drunk Me will hear you say it and it might get them thinking. They might take away massive amounts from hearing you talk openly about it and seeing for themselves how great you feel now. Or it might be someone who never had any issue with alcohol whatsoever who feels a little bit inspired to make a healthy choice too – like my gorgeous husband who recently commented how he so rarely drinks now that I no longer do, plus how much better he feels despite never having guzzled like I did. Health and happiness = contagious!

As I’ve heard in AA meetings so many times: “I’ll have what he/she’s having“! This is precisely what some of us need to see when we take that scary first step! We need to see how awesome sobriety is and how much better life is without booze. Just like we will love hearing Richards play and discover how this rock legend is even better now he’s sober. No, we don’t always feel comfortable talking openly about it and some of us may have judgmental families or other circumstances that mean we prefer to keep our sobriety to ourselves, but I’m not saying we only help when we go around openly talking about it or need to get ALCOHOLIC tattooed across our foreheads – there are many ways to share without having to be public about it: anonymous blogs, AA, and so on. No matter how we share, even the tiniest whisper could be the start of something really fucking great.

And so I want to applaud ol’ Keef for saying it out loud, albeit a little bashfully. Good on ya. For this particular alcoholic, it underlines how I’ve made the best possible choice! For a drunk like me, to see one of the world’s most notorious drunks turn his back on booze is empowering! It helps me to hear this. It helps me to know Richards stopped drinking.

To round this off, here’s one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs and I currently have it on my run playlist:

Today I’m not going to drink.