I feel very strongly that the mythology around drinking causes a lot of damage. Having moved from a binge drinker, to a heavy drinker, to a drinker in denial, to one struggling to quit and – finally! – someone who is happy not to drink at all, I’ve seen it from all sides.
It’s the constant brainwashing that’s the problem. The message that drinking is harmless and ‘just a bit of fun’. From a very early age we’re taught that alcohol has magical, life enhancing properties. We’re brought up to believe alcohol is glamorous, relaxing and an essential part of any social occasion. We believe it’s totally fine to lose control of what you’re saying or doing, or be unable to remember what you did the morning after.
Accompanying this message is the well established belief that alcohol is only a problem for a small minority of people. Those poor sods shouldn’t drink because they ‘take it a bit too far’. They’re destined to a life of sobriety, misery and deprivation.
In my other life I’m a journalist and I’ve covered countless alcohol related stories. I’m always struck by how little people know about alcohol units. People are often completely unaware that they’re drinking far more than the recommended daily guidelines (2-3 units for women). The reason they’re so surprised is because we – as a society – have normalised abnormal drinking.
We’ve minimised the dangers and the risk of drinking to excess. We’ve also made it very difficult for people to stick their heads above the parapet and say no, this isn’t for me. It’s strange really because societal attitudes towards other poisonous drugs are quite different. I don’t think your mother would be too happy with you taking heroin at the weekend. Or legal highs. Or even plain old cigarettes. But a bottle of white wine and three cocktails? She’s probably ok with that.
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