Tag Archives: binge drinking

Drinking and ‘mocktails’

This story in the UK’s Guardian really stopped me in my tracks today. What shocked me is not that alcohol is served to parents at school events, but it’s taken them this long to figure out that this may not be the greatest example to kids. Some bright spark also had the idea that it would be fun to serve the kids ‘mocktails.’ How cute! Little fruity drinks with umbrellas in them so the kids can then pretend to be like Mummy and Daddy.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Talk about priming future consumers.
They should have got a vodka or beer company to sponsor the school sports day and be done with it.
The UK has a rampant binge-drinking problem that most people seem to still be in denial about. The criminal justice system, police and health care system are all united in their calls for urgent action to address this crisis. But the alcohol industry remains self-regulated and the government remains incapable of taking any decisive action. The general population is in complete denial about the difference between healthy responsible drinking and abusive drinking.
I would be deeply horrified to attend my kids event and find out they were serving ‘mocktails’ to them. I don’t feel school is an appropriate event to have alcohol at. I also don’t want my kid trained to drink alcohol as if this was a normal and inevitable part of adulthood. Why can’t sobriety be aspirational? I have no problem with adults drinking responsibly, but why should we be made to feel that not drinking alcohol for whatever reason is against the norm? Having alcohol in schools is indoctrination into the binge drinking culture.

I feel the current relationship the UK has with alcohol will look like a scene from Mad Men fifty years from now. In the 1960’s people smoked everywhere, pregnant women smoked openly and alcohol use in the office was normal. We just didn’t know any better.
What does everyone else think?

How did we normalise abnormal drinking?

It is the mythology around drinking that does the most damage. The consistent brain washing message that drinking is harmless, just a bit of fun. That it’s only a ‘small minority’ that have a problem.*

It is this blatant lie that irks me.

Image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There has always been a history of inebriation in western culture.
But now we have created a culture that has utterly normalised abnormal drinking, to the point that when challenged, perpetuators of this myth feel genuinely aggrieved.
They sincerely believe their relationship with alcohol is normal.
Normal only because the wider culture reflects it back.

What are the mechanisms that have enabled us to ‘normalise’ abnormal drinking, as this is what essentially has happened?

By normalising our abnormal drinking behaviour, we minimize the dangers and risks, then justify the consumption of it by repackaging it as something else i.e: Fun.

Then everyone feels better, because we are not abusing a central nervous system depressant or taking risks, we are having innocent ‘fun.’

It may not feel like fun when your head is stuck down the toilet all night; it may not look like fun when you topple into the gutter and everyone laughs at you; it may not sound like fun when some drunk slob, whose name you’ve forgotten, is grunting over you.
But rest assured, the message is out there, repeated again and again.
This. Is. Fun.

They’re lying to you.

One of the ways to do this, is by justify your consumption compared to other people.
Find someone who drinks more than you and immediately your own drinking feels ‘normal.’
Binge drinking has been ‘normalised’ by the sheer quantities of people doing it. We all want to belong, be part of the crowd.
Besides, they all look like they are having fun.

On the outside.

It is the dishonesty I am taking issue with here, the lies we are told, not the drinking necessarily. Go ahead and drink till you fall over, till you vomit all night, till you shag someone you met 3 hours earlier. Go ahead and drink everyday, drink with lunch, with supper, with breakfast.
Binge at the weekend, abstain in the week. Drink as you wish but at least have the decency to be honest about what you are doing.
Do not lie to me that this is harmless.
Do not try and spin this another way, because alcohol is a central nervous depressant, and by the sheer volume we are drinking it’s going to be sending moods down rather than up. So i know that can’t be true.
Do not repackage this and tell me we are only having a laugh.
Do not mock the people who enjoy alcohol as it’s meant to be enjoyed.
Do not compare yourselves to them.
It’s is not the drinking that is offensive, it’s the dishonesty.

Our abnormal drinking is destroying what’s good about alcohol.
The right kind of wine with your food, for instance. Or to unwind after a stressful day occasionally. One whisky is normal, not five. To celebrate an achievement, not get so drunk you can’t remember what you achieved or worse, fail to fulfill your potential.
Alcohol can be an aid to having fun, but is not fun of itself.

How have we created this dynamic?
Well, just look at main stream media.
They popularise and perpetuate the myth that alcohol abuse is a harmless past-time. This is not about being some out of touch moralist who is horrified by ‘yoof’ broadcasting; it is about the standards we are setting our young people and the lies we are feeding them.

They deserve better than that.
I deserved better than that.

Hell, I deserved one, just one person who was bright and intelligent and funny talking about what a great night they had SOBER.
But no what I got, what we still get, is some Radio DJ or TV presenter or actor or reality star describe a night out on the ‘lash’ and their ‘monster’ hangover they’ve come to work with describing the ‘mess’ they got up to whilst ‘plastered.’ How ‘fun’ it was and they can’t wait to do it again that night.

Our perception has been skewed so much that we have been hypnotised into believing that alcohol is somehow necessary for fun.
That fun without alcohol is not real fun at all, it’s a ‘lesser’ fun.
Really?

I was so sold on this belief that when I first quit drinking, I sincerely didn’t believe I would ever be able to have fun or be sociable again.
Alcohol = Fun was a fact for me, even when it wasn’t.
When I found out I how wrong I was, I was truly shocked.

When I stopped drinking and my life exploded into Technicolor and was rich, exciting, sponteneous, fulfilling, hillarious and fun.

It was then I realised how much I’d been lied to.

I’d like to know what you think?

*Please see embedded links for the research that backs this up.

1973

photo

I am from the generation of women that embraced drinking as a national past-time.

I am from the generation of women that drank purely to get drunk, as drunk as it was possible to get.

I am from the generation that finally broke into the male preserve of pubs and bars.
For years they were dark, dank, smoky all male domains that only very loose women dared enter.
They were a place that men retreated to, to discuss the football or the racing, they served pints of beer next to overflowing ash trays. But in the 80’s the alcohol industry realised they were missing a whole segment of the population they could sell booze to.
Before this, women drank at home or in the company of a male companion at a suitable establishment. Then bars and pubs realised they had to change in order to get women in of their own accord…

By the time I hit my peak drinking age, they had been transformed into chic, tasteful, gastro pubs. Large glass windows meant you could see the friendly faces within enjoying ‘Sex and the City’ cocktails and Tapas. It’s somewhere women felt comfortable going in on their own, sitting at a table with a glass of wine whilst waiting for friends to arrive.

I am the generation that invented ‘vertical drinking’. Vast spaces with loud music you couldn’t talk over, deliberately limited seats and 2 for 1 drink specials.
There was literally nothing else to do but grin at the person you couldn’t have a conversation with and drink cheap booze.

I am the generation that embraced the nighttime economies that Thatcherism unleashed onto our city centers. All of a sudden ‘going out’ was the most important part of being in your twenties. It was an industry of itself.

IMG_1820

I am the generation that embraced drinking as a national past time.
I am the generation of cheap, cheap booze.
I am the generation that took cheap flights to Europe, stayed in cheap resorts, drank cheap booze and behaved in ways that I never would at home.
I am the generation that embraced illegal narcotics so much that it launched the UK to the top of the charts in cocaine use.
I am the generation that grew up listening to Sara Cox and Zoe Ball on the radio droning on about how much they drank the night before and what a blinding night they had.
I am the generation that embraced the concept of the ‘ladette’, women who wanted to drink like men, as the truest demonstration of our equality.
I am the generation that believed that was something to aspire to.
I am the generation that discussed their hangovers as if they were medals to be displayed.

I am from the generation of women that is now dying in higher numbers than any other, because of our relationship with alcohol.

Because I am from the generation that normalized abnormal drinking.

Drunk girl-child

The nineteen year-old lying in her own vomit outside a bar with her group of friends shrieks in mirth as she staggers to get up, inadvertently exposing her G-string to the passing crowd of boys, who all make crude and disdainful remarks about her.

Me at 15

Me at 15


But the boys, seeing her later in the club, buy her more drinks so she won’t resist one of them feeling her up in the alleyway behind the disco. She can’t recall the boy’s name and he didn’t ask for her number. She pulls down her skirt, aware that passersby can see, and she feels fleeting shame that is quickly extinguished by the amount of vodka she has drunk.

The boy disappears, she isn’t sure how she got home or where her friends ended up. Her head is spinning as she passes out fully clothed on her bed.

The next morning she wakes with a hangover. Nothing a fry up and Bloody Mary shouldn’t fix.
Recollections of the night before float through her mind. Who was that boy? He wasn’t even good looking. Why did she let him do those things? This time shame floods through her body and this time it doesn’t leave her.
She calls her friends and ‘spins’ what actually happened and how she truly felt. They tell her she was ‘out of it’, she tells them what an amazing night she had. Her friends lie too and agree they had a ‘blinding’ night. “It was a scream,” they said.

The nineteen year-old swallows her shame, her loss of dignity, the unworthiness she feels and she ‘re-frames’ the night’s events under the category ‘good night out’; she cross references it with ‘fun and excitement’ and it is filed in her memory. She has created the belief, through her own spin, that her behaviour the night before adds up to a good night out.

The pattern is set. She repeats the pattern.

The nineteen year-old begins to feel anxious when she goes into college on Monday. Everyone is laughing about how she behaved on Saturday night.
She laughs too, but can’t shake the feeling that they are laughing at her rather than with her. She feels confused.

She thought she was just like everyone else, except that she doesn’t feel right inside despite her ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. A knot of anxiety develops in her stomach and doesn’t leave.
She doesn’t understand herself any more.
She feels like she is a good person, a considerate person and yet she has behaved terribly to one of her friends. A couple of them are barely speaking to her because of stuff she said when she was drunk. She doesn’t remember, but she feels frightened every time she sees them. She doesn’t know if they like her any more and that frightens her.

Veronica Valli age 19

Veronica Valli age 19

These fears creep in and take up residence in her mind. They are never quiet, always nagging at her. Someone asks her if she is ‘all right?’ She says, ‘of course,’ because she doesn’t know how to put words to the darkness spreading through her mind.
It’s better to close it off, push it away, pretend it doesn’t exist.
For brief periods she can forget she’s afraid of anything. She looks forward to those periods more and more.
She’s going out again this Friday, and Saturday, and probably Sunday as well.
It’s something to look forward to. It takes her mind off things.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and how to stop: a journey to freedom,“.
I wanted to publish this extract because of the previous post I did on Serena Williams.
I believe her remarks were indicative of a culture that perceives rape is a women’s fault and abusive/alcoholic drinking is a choice rather than a need. My book illustrates how an alcoholic feels and thinks, why their drinking is just a symptom of an emotional and spiritual illness, and how to recover.

Binge drinking and rape – who’s responsible?

Serena Williams caused outrage a few weeks ago when she described the victim in the Steubenville rape case as ‘lucky,’ then went on to say ‘she shouldn’t have put herself in that position.’
Her comments have caused controversy because they imply that the victim was at fault for causing her rape.

Red wine

Red wine


I related to the Steubenville rape case, because I was that girl.
I drank to black out when I was 16. My drinking put me in dangerous situations; I was a vulnerable, drunk, girl-child.

The argument that usually comes up at this point, is that we have to take ‘responsibility’ for our actions. If we make the ‘choice’ to put ourselves in dangerous situations, then we have to take some responsibility for the outcome.

In the case of rape, this is where you would be wrong.

Because it perpetuates the belief that male sexuality is basically uncontrollable. That men are like wild beasts and if you add booze and a drunk girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing, then they cannot be held responsible for their actions. That it’s not really their fault, they just couldn’t help themselves.

If you think Serena was right, then this is what you are implying.

I’ll give you a minute to digest that one.

I also want to challenge the other ‘myth’ around ‘choices and responsibility’ when someone is drinking abusively.
When someone drinks recklessly, abusively or alcoholically they are not exercising a ‘choice’ to do so. What they are actually doing is using a substance to manage or anesthetize their feelings. They are using alcohol, because they simply cannot bear how they feel a moment longer and need something to take the pain away.
They are driven by need not choice.
It was need that drove them to drink the first drink, then the second, then the third, then the fourth… Emotional pain is no different to physical pain; it demands your attention and treatment.
Emotional pain is so consuming that all your mind will focus on is relief.

Therefore, how we behave, what we do, is always a reflection of how we really feel. Believe it or not every action you take is dictated by your feelings.
Look around at the people you know and you will see it is true. People may say they’re ‘ok,’ but how they act will reveal the truth.

Woman drinking red wine by James Barker from Freedigitalphotos.net

Woman drinking red wine by James Barker from Freedigitalphotos.net


I can only guess from looking at this girl-child’s behaviour, that her need to drink beyond the point of feeling anything, may have had something to do with how she felt. Like me, maybe she already felt uncomfortable in her own skin, maybe she didn’t like herself much. Maybe she felt like she didn’t ‘fit in,’ maybe drink made that feel better.
Maybe that was all that mattered.

Now, she not only has to deal with the rape, she has to deal with the absurd opinions of Serena Williams who is perpetuating the myth that her choices led to her rape.

Why are we not discussing the choices those boys made?

I mean seriously, what were those boys thinking?

Did they go to that party hoping to get laid, to ‘hook up?’
Or, did they go with the intention of finding a drunk girl, who was incapable of defending herself or saying no.
Or did they just notice her and think, ‘it would be kinda fun to stick something up her vagina, she’ll never know.’
Did they think, ‘it would be cool to get her breasts out and fondle them.’

How did they convince themselves that what they did was acceptable?
Was it because their culture views drunk girls differently?
With drunk girls, all bets are off, they don’t care, their feelings don’t matter?

These boys had a complete lack of empathy. They didn’t view her as a person, they viewed her as an object, a drunk object they could play with.
These boys were held up as heroes in their society, star football players on the path to a good college degree.
The kind of boys that you would want to date your daughter.
The injustice from this case is that those footballers and the town that supported them, still believe they are only partly responsible for the circumstances. They still believe the myth, that she had a part, in her own rape.

I’ll give you a minute to think about how ridiculous that is.

As long as we continue to buy into this rubbish, we will continue to foster an environment where drunk women are judged in this way.
That drunk women are choosing to drink destructively.
There are far too many girl-children out there right now, who never learnt how to manage their emotional lives, because no one ever told them their feelings matter. They are hurting and they are struggling and they are looking round for role-models, someone to look up to.

And Serena Williams just slapped them in the face.

Steubenville rape case

Me at 16

Me at 16

I was this girl.

When I was 16 I used to drink so much I couldn’t remember what I did. I looked older so I could get into bars and I drank what ever was put in front of me.
I ran with a much older crowd.
I was a girl-child in stilettos and a mini skirt, smoking cigarettes desperate for attention, to be noticed, to belong.

I remember literally waking up in the gutter outside of a pub with the landlord throwing a bucket of water over me.
There had been a lock in. I’d stayed, thrown up and was carried out into the street.
Fortunately, (oh god so fortunately) a friend stayed with me (I forget her name, angel that she was).
She was drunk too, but not as much as me.
She dragged me up to standing and we tottered home in our mini skirts and heels, blabbering on about what a crazy night it had been.
We got home and I passed out in my bed. Sick in my hair.
It was the days before mobile phones, before social media, when our private shames and humiliations could stay undocumented and unpublicized.
Thank God. Because my shame and degradation was so acute, I don’t think I would have survived the public scrutiny.
Back then we just gossiped, we whispered and giggled in each others ears, quickly re-framing what actually happened into something we could brag about. We laughed, oh how we laughed remembering how I was carried out of the pub. Surely this was a claim no one else could beat; surely this proved my…..my something, my party credentials?
I was a party girl, I was hard-core, I was fearless, and this proved it surely?
I was proud.
Proud of being a drunken teenage girl-child. Dressed in a way that gave off messages I couldn’t understand and couldn’t protect myself from. I felt like I had achieved something.
What would have happened if my friend had left without me, would I have been left there, in the gutter?

Drinking ended for me 12 years later in another black out.
I’d met a guy in the bar I happened to be in about an hour earlier.
He was sitting next to me. I suggested we go to a party. He agreed and we got into his car, which was parked conveniently outside.
And then I don’t remember anything.

I woke up the next day fully clothed in a strange bed. It was late afternoon. I’d been in black out for 16 hours.
My heart raced along with my mind. Where was I? What happened?
I checked myself. I was pretty certain I hadn’t had intercourse with anyone. I was pretty sure no one had undressed me. I had no bruises, I wasn’t sore anywhere.

I was terrified.

I had lost a whole night. Anything could have happened.

Shaking I opened the bedroom door which lead into a living room. He was sitting there watching TV. I wanted to sneak out, to not have him witness my shame, but I didn’t know which way the front door was.
I had to face him and I didn’t even know his name.
“Hi,” I said, “What happened?”
He smiled, he looked kind. He told me that had we got into his car and I was obviously really drunk. So he just wanted to take me home, but I couldn’t tell him where I lived. Without any other option he brought me back to his house, put me to bed and left me to sober up.
He looked at me with half bemusement and pity.
I burned with shame, muttered a strangled thank you and skulked home badly shaken.
It was very clear to me that I had just played Russian roulette with my life. If I had picked a different random guy…
But I hadn’t, I had picked a decent human being. The kind of man I hope my son grows into. Who would know what to do if he were ever in that situation with a vulnerable young women, who clearly couldn’t take care of herself. Who would do the right thing and protect her, make sure she was safe.
I wasn’t raped. But I so easily could have been because I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing. I was drunk a lot when I was 16, I had no self esteem and was desperate for male attention.
That is a very dangerous combination.

In the reports I’ve read of the Steubenville rape trial, two former friends of the girl who was raped, said that she was known to drink heavily and lie.
Implying that she can’t be trusted, that maybe she deserved what happened.
She’s 16 years old.
And I need to tell you, she isn’t drinking like that because it’s ‘fun.’
She’s drinking like that because of something inside of her that she doesn’t understand and can’t explain.
She is vulnerable girl-child and she needed protecting.