Alcoholism is a huge spectrum. Those of us who became late stage, needing a drink to function in the day, are regarded as the true alcoholic. Not a badge to wear with honour perhaps but trust me to drag yourself out of that place is beyond remarkable, and stay here, in the moment, not thinking about drinking, and opening up to so many opportunities that are available to us as extremely resourceful, resilient, and brave people. So, if necessary, I will use that label.
Then there are the regular drinkers, some have an ingrained habit, drinking daily, often habitually at that ridiculous quippish ‘wine time’ or worse ‘me time’, or on some evenings the full-on bingers who often go out with the intention of getting drunk. The big difference between these three categories, us alkies are up for telling our tale, in venues, on social media because very often we have lost everything, and prior to beating it, had zero reason for facing reality. We though, have had a fresh start.
The regulars are a completely different story. They are terrified of being labelled alcoholic, having in their eyes, everything to lose. Family, friends, jobs, respectability, status. No one suspects when someone is living in a lovely house, driving a posh car and shopping at Waitrose that there is a chance of alcoholism. But it IS! This group represents many of my clients. Average age, 47.5 years, professional, well presented and still highly functioning not dragging themselves, yet, through the day with a quick snifter, but most definitely craving the first one at 6 o’clock. Average intake, two bottles of wine a day, 140 units a week.
The Bingers, party animals, are open about getting wrecked on a Saturday night, having a hair of the dog on Sunday. It’s also a Badge of Honour. Keeping up, out drinking, out dancing, living it large. They can drink at least 70 units in one session.
The point I am trying to make is that unless we all come out of the closet with our drinking, there is never going to be any change made with the way this is presented to us on TV, in the shops or online within the workplace with friends and foes. If we were all in it together, we would be able to state our condition publicly without any consequences just as every other condition, mental illness sexual preference, physical disability, shape, or size because it would mean that we would all get the better of Big Alcohol and governments, who control us with this crap.
When brave women like Dame Deborah told her story about bowel cancer, it opened up a tsunami of others to discuss this once stigmatised embarrassing problem and she propelled people to let all that ‘what will people think’ stuff go, and saved so many lives. There is so much power in numbers.
What is the worst that can happen if you tell? Do you really think that the hypocrites who may indicate that they will report you, and yes I have heard this first hand from clients whose doctors have suggested this, and when they do it is outright hypocrisy, 37% of my clients on average annually are from the medical profession. Similarly with employers, many have plenty of skeletons in their cupboard. It is so unfair, that no matter what your condition these days, you are given a pat on the back for being honest, this is the only bloody taboo that is left, and it is KILLING US! With alcoholism we DO NOT CHOOSE TO DRINK, we are ill and need it to function albeit in a fog.
We are supposed to accept all sorts these days in the workplace and society at large, so why can’t people who hold their hands up and say they have this illness be treated with the same compassion?
I had cancer at one of the worst times in my life, my husband had been diagnosed almost simultaneously with heart failure, but I stayed clean and shall probably be in remission for the rest of my days, but if I contracted the big C again, and died, would anyone ever say I deserved it, no surprise etc? Course they wouldn’t.
Can those of us who have managed to overcome this see that by staying quiet and good about it will only keep exacerbating the problem, as we can see following the pandemic, deaths from alcohol misuse are on the up, we need a massive bomb to go off with this otherwise there will never be an end to it.
If we are all in it together it’s about time we told our stories, not anonymously but in the open, and be extremely proud if we have recovered or if we just want some appropriate care for the third biggest killer in the western world.