As many of you know, I recently published a book about my sober journey. On the day of the launch, I took a risk, one I was very hesitant to take. I asked a few people, including my publisher, about whether or not I should open up to some of my colleagues about my accomplishments. After some deliberation, I decided to open up to those with whom I felt I at least had a connection and not to everyone. I crafted a short email about my journey and book launch titled, "Very Big Day for Me" and then I sent it out to about fourteen people. I was surprised to only receive four replies back. Many of the people I reached out to I have since seen in person and there has been no mention of my reaching out to them. For whatever reason, this bothered me a little, not from a hurt feelings perspective, but more from a, why wouldn't people respond, perspective. I talked a little bit about this with my partner and I finally came to a surprising realization. It may be coincidental, but I think it is actually quite relevant. Those who did respond are people who either do not drink or those who drink very little. Is it a coincidence? I am doubting it.
"I am not one of those people." Are you sure?
The realization I eventually came to was the idea that people are not comfortable talking about alcohol, especially giving up alcohol. It is somewhat taboo like politics, religion, sexuality, or any other addictions. I say any other addictions because all of the "other" addictions are widely believed to be things bad people do. You know the addictions of which I am talking: drugs, gambling, sex, love, and even food. People have a distorted view of most addictions, they see them as things associated with very bad people, homelessness, and extremely unhealthy living. It makes sense, right? This is how drug use, sex and love addiction, gambling, and food addiction are portrayed in the media. Anyone involved with such things is considered an outcast and someone who has a "problem." Because of the media portrayal in books, movies, television shows, and news, it is easy to stand on our pedestal and point to someone suffering from addiction and say, "I am not one of those people." Are you sure?
Alcoholism is also perceived in this way, but only when it is blindingly obvious. We see the drunk and homeless person on the street, the overbearing and embarrassing person at the party, the loud and obnoxious neighbor, or the abusive parent, and we think, that person has a problem with alcohol. Nobody ever points at those people and says, "Alcohol is a problem." Why? We can't say, "Alcohol is a problem" out loud or even to ourselves when we too are drinking because that would mean we have the potential to have a problem as well. Nobody wants to be the person who has a problem with alcohol, but guess what? It's not the person who is the problem and we have to stop viewing alcoholism and addiction in this way. Nobody ever says, "That person has a problem with heroin." It is widely considered to be common knowledge that heroin is a problem, for everyone. I guarantee you if heroin was advertised and revered in the same way as alcohol, it would be an even larger problem. The same is true with cocaine, methamphetamines, oxycontin, and any number of other drugs available on the street or even in the drugstore. We do not have a problem, the drugs are the problem and, sorry to be the one to tell you this, but alcohol is a drug too.
How many people do you know who have offered a drink to a child?
The society of alcohol, as I like to call it, is truly a silent killer. I do not know how it started, but somehow alcohol never received the same rap as other drugs. We do not look at it in the same way, we do not talk about it in the same way; in fact, we do not even acknowledge it as a problem at all. We are certainly quick to point out the problem "those" people have with it, but it, as a chemical, is not the problem. We are all, generally, highly intelligent people. How on earth have we allowed ourselves to be coerced into believing such false sentiments? Even when the truth about nicotine finally found its way into our general knowledge, we made drastic changes about our beliefs regarding it and its acceptance in society. It is still used but it is highly frowned upon, especially in community settings. And, may we all be damned if we even considered encouraging our children to smoke or use tobacco. How many people do you know who have offered a drink to a child? I've done it. Here, just try a little drink. Then, we all laugh at the grimace made by the innocent after tasting the toxicity. Nobody ever says, here just take a small puff of my cigarette. Why? Because nicotine is not accepted, any longer. Why? Because "it" is a problem. Alcohol is not only accepted but it is also encouraged and even worse, a person may even be questioned, negatively, if they choose not to partake in the deception. I am sorry, but that is a fucking tragedy.
One statement I read early on in my sobriety hit me incredibly hard and has stuck with me ever since. It was said by Annie Grace in her book, "This Naked Mind." She said, most people rarely drink less over time. Think about that statement for a moment. Is it true? How many people do you know have talked about cutting down on drinking? Well, that's a tricky one because people do not like to talk about it openly. But, I am willing to bet we have all heard it said from someone we are close to, or we have even said it ourselves at one point or another. I know I have said it many times. I have talked at great length about all my failed attempts at moderation. Why is it so hard to moderate? Because alcohol doesn't work that way. It's not even created to be consumed sparingly. Look at the way bars, restaurants, stores, television, movies, and literature not only advertise and promote alcohol but actually promote the overconsumption of alcohol. It is considered cool to drink too much. We brag about it, joke about it, make fun of each other when we do it. It's a freaking party, let's literally destroy our physical and emotional body with poison. What the fuck?
Alcohol is a problem, and nobody is immune to it
It is a scientifically proven fact alcohol is one of the most addictive and destructive drugs on the planet and we, what? Don't want to talk about it. Don't want to admit it. Don't see the destructive power of it in someone we know. Don't believe it? Don't want to celebrate someone who has walked away from it. Don't want to take an honest look at our own relationship with it. What? What is it about alcoholism that makes us afraid to talk about the truth? It is not hidden. It is not hard to find. It is not only present in a small, isolated group. It is not "those" people's problem. It is not outside our circles and friendships. It is not outside most of our families. No, it is highly prevalent in each of our own communities, societies, families, circles, friendships, and loved ones. Alcohol is a problem, and nobody is immune to it. That is ultimately what we are all afraid of, isn't it? We do not want to be "that" person but guess what. "That" person is our friend, our spouse, our ex, our sibling, our parent, our child, our colleague, our doctor, our therapist, our professor, our...
That person is us.
Let's stop ignoring the problem. Let's start a real conversation about alcohol. You might be surprised to find that conversation may start with a very close friend.