If alcohol is no big deal, go without it for a month
It was around 11 in the morning and Aunty Mavis came to the door. It had been raining: her wig was askew and her badly drawn on eyebrows were running down into her eyes. As usual, she had a bottle of Stone’s Green Ginger wine in a string bag.
It was just before lunchtime and my sisters and I were sitting around the Formica table in my grandparents’ kitchen shelling peas onto newspaper, preparing for a baked dinner. She came in and was drinking with Nanna who was peeling potatoes in the sink. Grandad was out the back, drunk, listening to the races.
Aunty Mavis was very animated at first, then she went very quiet. She stumbled over to the sink and threw up. Nanna yelled out to Grandad “Your sister’s thrown up on the spuds”.
Grandad yelled back, “Just bloody wash ‘em”.
Welcome to working class Australia in the 1970s. In that time and place it wasn’t out of the ordinary for adults to be pissed while taking care of kids. And in some sections of our community - not just working class Australia - it still isn’t.
Why I’m telling you this childhood anecdote is not to put you off your food but to emphasise the fact that while stories about pissed people and their antics can be funny, there is also a serious side to drinking that still isn’t that cool to talk about.
Let me say straight up that while it’s true that alcohol has negatively affected my life and the lives of some people close to me, I’m no wowser. I’ve probably spilt more than you’ve drunk. When I was teenager I thought if you weren’t doing shots off a stripper’s arse you should go back to the suburbs and leave partying to professionals like me.
But as life goes on you can easily go from the life of the party to the person that no-one wants at their parties and that shift can creep up on you in a way that you may not even notice. Especially if you’re in denial, and immersed in a culture that justifies this denial.
I can hear the howls of protest from libertarians who see drinking as a matter of personal choice and personal responsibility. Well, it’s not the personal choice nor personal responsibility of children to be abused and neglected; it’s not the personal choice nor responsibility of people who are driving home whether to be wiped out by a drunk driver; it’s not the personal choice or responsibility of the bloke in the pub to be glassed or to die from a king hit that cracks his head on the pavement.
What the personal choice argument also fails to recognise is a fundamental point about drinking alcohol: that pouring a neurotoxin in your body that directly effects that part of the brain responsible for making good choices takes away that capacity.
In other words, people who drink excessively have no choice over their choices.
The initiative FebFast - an annual education, awareness and fundraising campaign which encourages people to have a booze-free February - will have a lot of ‘cool’ people rolling their eyes. But if alcohol’s no big deal, then it should be no big deal to go without it for a month.
Hell, why not try three months - the recognised period of an addiction cycle - and see how comfortable you feel.
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