Understanding Your Drinking (part 1)

As we travel on the highway to Sobriety, we will stop in various places for a cup of tea, maybe a scone and to take in the view.  Now all our highways and views are different. My road of choice is a winding costal lane with a view of the sea. You might prefer a trip down Rodeo Drive in an open topped little number, taking in the designer stores on the way.  It’s your journey to Sobriety, so you choose.

Whatever our avenue of choice is though, we would all like it to be sunny, with a clear view of the road ahead, without angry motorists causing us anxiety and self-doubt and probably with some music to complete the anticipation and excitement at reaching our final destination.

Being a true Brit, who loves a staycation (a holiday in my home Isles), I know the weather can be very changeable and my journeys have often started out wet, windy and cold.  I don’t mind.  I know that the wind and the rain make my favourite destinations the beautiful landscapes they are.  Without the variations in weather, the south of England would quickly become dusty and barren, no green grass, no meadow flowers, no sense of cleansing that comes after a storm. Even in a city, the streets are refreshed after a deluge. Storms always pass, to be replaced by another weather, one worth waiting for.

Bottom line, I don’t let the anticipation of stormy weather put me off my sober journey.  Do you?

Back to the challenge at hand, the booze. When did your drinking become a problem and how?  It’s just a bloody drink, a pick me up, a relaxant, a confidence boost, a de-stresser after a tough day, a light hearted, almost guaranteed, social glue. It’s the lubricant to a great night out (or in), it’s sexy and fun.  Everyone knows that, haven’t we all seen the adverts?………

The adverts.  Sitting in the cinema last week, there was an ad for a bottled beer.  Gorgeous young people, skinny and sun kissed, laughing in a group, carefree, happy and swigging beer.  The week before, in the same cinema (I do love a movie), there was an ad for a spirit.  Same concept, just slightly older group, maybe late 20’s in a slightly more sophisticated setting.  This time a glamorous party, the guests still gorgeous and skinny, only in this instance, a little more expensively dressed and coiffured.

The message was clear.  Alcohol is what made both situations fabulous.  It was the jewelled nectar that gave cohesion to both groups, that enabled men to approach women, boys approach girls and vice versus.  All were at ease and slightly disinhibited, well they would be wouldn’t they, as we all know, alcohol is a powerful drug.

I think I missed that part of the message in the ad though.  I didn’t see anywhere, even in the small print that alcohol is a narcotic, even though when you think about it, anything that changes your behaviour, must mean it alters your brain chemistry and is therefore a drug.  Agreed?  Or maybe not, but that’s for a later blog.

Then we have the mighty influence of television, where in the UK at least there are no alcohol adverts,  but everyone seems to drink and on every occassion (so probably more  powerful than any advertising).

There’s the pub scenes, the wine bar scenes, the restaurant scenes, the office scenes, the home scenes, the picnic scenes, the good times, the bad times and the list goes on.  From the aristocracy to the down-&-out, they all drink.

Another bottom line –  on television alcohol is everywhere.

I have also noticed since I stopped drinking that those on TV shows who don’t drink are either pregnant, ill or in recovery, and even they sometimes stray back into booze land.

Alcohol advertising isn’t new, I have happy childhood memories of  laughing at the ads for Dubonnet (Luton Airport luv) and singing along to the “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere….” joyful, catchy Martini song.

One of the biggest issues I have with the way alcohol is promoted is, that the adverts (now I admit mainly in cinemas), were then, and still are now, cleverly aimed at our far too impressionable young people who are gearing up for adulthood and all the ‘pleasures’ that come with it.

Pleasures that most have already witnessed in the home. Even those who come from ‘dry’ homes see it in other households, and those often seem, on the surface, to be more fun.

There is now the almost compulsory wine/beer after work to relax Mum and Dad, or children’s birthday parties where the parents and guests knock back a few, maybe a glass at dinner, or the tipsy BBQ –  all good, all fun, what’s not to love?

Is it really any surprise then that so many are lured into believing the powerful social conditioning around alcohol?  The conditioning that sees alcohol as harmless and an almost intrinsic part of a happy existance.  A conditioning that stays with most of us for life.

My son has grown up with an alcoholic parent and although he rarely drinks, he doesn’t view alcohol as the mind-altering drug that it clearly is.  And quite honestly if he doesn’t, its hard to expect anyone else too.

And so, when we are old enough (and for most of us, in our own minds at least, that time is our early teens), we start to drink.  I remember my first drink, it was Southern Comfort and it was disgusting.  I drank half a glass of it neat and almost passed out with the shock of the foul smelling, over sweet, revolting tasting liquid. For all of two minutes, until it hit my blood stream and I was on the floor blind drunk and laughing my head off. Classy bird.

For a very long time I viewed that unedifying episode as fun. I had grown into a giant of confidence and wit that evening, at least that is how I saw it.  The reality being it was humiliating and embarrassing to both myself and the others who witnessed it – except they too were drunk, thank God.  Then, because of that distorted view I had of the experience, of alcohol, and not withstanding how wretchedly ill I was for two days, I did it again and again.  The only learning I took from that evening was the quantity I could consume that would avoid my headlong rush from from sober to blind drunk.

If you ever needed proof of the power of social conditioning around alcohol, let me tell you about some friends of mine who have had serious cancer scares.  Really, really serious.  They stop smoking, change their diets, investigate all manner of alternative therapies, consult homeopaths, meditate, educate themselves about stress reduction and the power of a positive mindset.  They do everything in their power to give themselves the best possible chance of recovery, and still they drink.  They don’t want to be boring.  They need to relax. They deserve a glass of two with all that’s going on in their lives.  I hear all these reasons to drink, often given defensively.

These lovely, kind wonderful people, suffering from an appalling disease are beyond desperate to beat it and to stay with their loved ones.  All of them, without exception, are completely aware, because their Oncologists have told them, that there is a direct, scientifically proven and widely acknowledged link between certain cancers (breast cancer in particular) and alcohol yet still most of them continue to drink –  maybe not during treatment, but all of them once it has finished – and all because they ‘believe’ (social conditioning) the respite/pick me up effects that alcohol offers them.    I don’t actually know what more to say ………

But there is so much more I do need to say.  Social conditioning explains, to a very large degree, why we fall into the alcohol trap, why we start to drink,  but it doesn’t explain why we stay there.  It doesn’t explain why some can drink for a while, heavily even, and then stop without a backward glance.

I know the truth about the alcohol prison and social conditioning isn’t it.  The real monster lives, protected and fed by us, in our unconscious mind, in our feelings.  That is the monster that really needs to be understood.

Next week I will poke that monster with a sharp stick, and in doing so, poke you. I did say I was going to keep it real.

Check out my Working With Me & Practical Techniques for Recovery pages to see how I help my clients

Love & respect. x

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PS, Your Takeaway this week is –

Don’t let the fear of bad weather stop your Sober journey. Wrap up warm, check your windscreen wipers, drive carefully and START!

 

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