Since I outed myself about my relationship with alcohol, I’ve had so many people comment both online and in person on how “brave” it was to be so public about such a “private matter” that it’s got me wondering: why?
Why is it so shocking that I would be open about this admission? And why am I surprised that people are shocked? Haven’t I just admitted in public that I’m an alcoholic?
My answer to that is no, I haven’t. I don’t identify with the term “alcoholic”. It’s an awful word with dreadful connotations. When we think of an alcoholic, we think of the homeless person on the street clutching their brown paper bag, all hope gone, their life wasted away by a terrible addiction. Alcoholics are scorned, considered shameful that they lost control and let it get so far. The blame is laid squarely on the drinker.
According to society, there’s just two types of drinkers; normal drinkers who can moderate easily, and hopeless alcoholics – two extremes. In actual fact, alcohol dependence is a spectrum. There’s degrees of dependence ranging from take-it-or-leave-it, up to that alcoholic extreme, and most drinkers, like me, sit somewhere in between. Most of us can lead productive lives, keeping families and homes ticking along, hold down high pressure jobs, maintain relationships. There’s even a word for it: “high functioning”.
We can do all that, but just feel crap all the time and pile on weight.
So I admit to being one of those in-betweenies, which means I do admit to a level of addiction, absolutely, or I wouldn’t be here, but alcoholic? No, I don’t accept that term – I don’t take on that shame.
You see, I have learnt enough about this poison that to know that it’s the drink not the drinker that causes the addiction. We grow up in a world where booze is revered. As kids we watch our parents drinking every night, with more on the weekends. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with images of people having fun together with drinks in their hands.
Now it’s all over our social media feeds – hundreds and hundreds of bright coloured, witty, fun memes (whatever that word means); we all have these come up on our feeds on a regular basis. It’s the only drug in the world that those who don’t use it have to justify. Every event from kids parties to book clubs to dinners out to play dates involve booze. We have booze to relax, booze to celebrate, booze to commiserate, booze to socialise, family dinners, holidays. Almost everything I do involves alcohol.
Point being that society literally PUSHES a highly addictive drug onto us every. single. day. The “addictive drug” part is a scientific fact, it’s not under debate. Regular use will change the neuro pathways in your brain over time, literally changing your brain to make it think it needs it and that it gives some sort of pleasure and stress relief.
No one told us this fact when we were watching our parents drink and roar with laughter with their friends, or seeing glamorous movie stars elegantly sipping champagne, or singing “I feel like a Tooheys”. We heard about the dangers of heroin and tobacco and marijuana and cocaine, but we were never told about the dangers of alcohol. We were never taught to treat it with caution like we are with those other drugs, quite the opposite.
So no shame here. I’m not afraid to talk about it. I didn’t know.
My name is Lexy, and I am not an alcoholic.
PS. in case you’re wondering why I did go public, it’s purely selfish – it’s keeps me on track and gives me accountability. Without that Facebook post last week, I absolutely would have drunk one the weekend. I intend to keep blogging the journey (don’t worry, not every day), even though I risk never being invited to anything ever again, and I don’t for one second expect anyone to keep following. But if you do..feel free to ask me any questions you’re curious about.