A friend and I had an interesting conversation yesterday evening about how people drink. She’s not a drinker because both of her parents are/were alcoholics (her father has passed away but mom continues to drink). We started pondering all the reasons people drink and how and why it affects so many people in so many different ways.
She stated that she doesn’t mind being around tipsy or even drunk people who are happy but that people who are mean or sloppy are no fun at all. She asked me about my experience with alcohol and did I identify as an alcoholic or did I just decide to quit drinking.
Let’s see…do you have a month for me to explain? Nevermind…here’s the link to my blog.
I shared some more of my story with her and my feelings about why I quit and that sometimes I call myself an alcoholic and sometimes I bristle when I hear the word. No matter because the facts are that I will not drink because I value my peace of mind more and that, if I drink, one is NEVER enough and I will always end up shit-faced.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…
She asked if it was always this way for me and I said yes but…and here’s where it may get controversial…I had a crap ton of fun before everything went sideways. And when I say a crap ton…I do mean a crap ton.
In my youth (my 20’s) the hubs and I drank like fish. We traveled and partied and had parties and went to formal functions and a whole host of other activities and all of it included alcohol. I didn’t ALWAYS get drunk (most of the time but not always) but we had a really really good time. Most people who drink have a period like this in their lives but they grow up and passed it. They know that life is about more than where the next drink is coming from and whether or not there will be enough. They can have a glass of wine once every two or three weeks and then not think about it for months.
Me? Not so much.
Here’s the thing though, I refuse to deny that I had a good time. I refuse to believe that just because I can’t drink that no one on the planet should drink. I won’t demonize alcohol just because it bit me in the ass. Honestly? I should have known better. It’s not like I didn’t have enough data. I did – I just chose to ignore it and fall face first into a bottle of wine.
The farther I am into recovery, the more I realize that the blame lays directly and completely on my shoulders. I was fully aware of the risks, I was “of age”, it was legal and taxed, and no one held a gun to my head and told me to drink. It was the same with smoking. I knew the risks and I did it anyway. My bad.
If I blame that bottle of Chardonnay, then I turn over my power to the bottle. Alcohol only has power if we give it power. When I put down that wine glass and entered recovery, I chose to take back my power. I’m not letting go of it ever again.
Don’t get me wrong. We have issues in this country (and the world for that matter) that are alcohol related and need to be addressed. According to the National Institute of Health on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2012, 87.6 percent of people age 18 or older reported using alcohol and of those, 24.6 percent engaged in binge drinking in the past month and 7.1% reported that they drank heavily in the past month.
Even more frightening, the study states that approximately 17 million adults over the age of 18 had some form of an alcohol use disorder in 2012. This included an estimated 855,000 youths between the ages of 12-17. Almost 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes annually in the U.S. which puts it up there as the third leading cause of preventable deaths. DUI’s? They accounted for over 10,000 deaths in 2012 which was 31% of all driving fatalities.
In spite of MADD and other organizations designed to educate the public on the dangers of alcohol, alcoholism and over indulgence, a study by Gallup performed in 2010 found that 67% of adults over the age of 18 reported using alcohol and 58% of 17 years and younger used alcohol.
The numbers are going UP not down.
I think that instead of blaming it on the bottle, or the bar, or the brewery, we should be educating on the effects of alcohol. Educating on genetics and how alcoholism runs in families. Removing the stigma of mental illness and addressing a host of other conditions that exist and have people looking to the bottle to help the take away the pain. In other words, let’s uncover and treat the causes of our alcohol issues in this country rather that transferring the blame and then treating the symptom or result.
Of course I can only speak to my own experience but I have six kids, four of whom are of legal drinking age and the other two are only two years away. I fear for their alcohol use. I’m afraid I’ve passed down the gene. I worry.
But what bothers me the most is the lack of truthful information that would help them make informed decisions. AA remains shrouded in mystery and, many time unfairly looked upon, “rehab” remains a dirty word or something celebrities do to get out of trouble, mental illness and alcoholism are spoken of in hushed voices with the proverbial “tsk-tsk” clucking of tongues. My kids still picture an “alcoholic” the way I used to, that of a skid row homeless person who had lost everything and was lying in a gutter. No matter how many times I call myself an alcoholic, they persist in thinking I’m some kind of “exception”. Let me assure you, I’m not.
In fact, if the sober blogging community is any indication, I’m in excellent company.