On alcohol and drinking, 2

So um… the more I think about this topic, the more bored I am with it. It doesn’t matter really, but at the same time it does. The topic of the role of alcohol in identity and society still intrigues me. It’s just a question of wanting to talk about it.

But first, the photos: How are they related? One is the train platform at Broad Channel where everyone was to meet. The second is the reason why people are late. There are the compulsory apologies, but all will be excused, along with any untoward behavior over the course of the prior evening. That’s how it works. Nobody has to explain themselves. And it really isn’t that big a deal to me but maybe it’s worthy of mention.

I had mentioned in my recent post ON DRINKING AND ALCOHOL I very rarely miss drinking. Not having a ready excuse though can be something to miss. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve had loved ones laugh off any number of truly embarrassing and often heinous things that occurred on nights out on the piss. A group of us actually planned what we called NO SHAME weekends during which the entire point would be to… well… exhibit shameless behavior and remarkably poor judgment. The behavior was so easily and readily dismissed that it never occurred to me to think about them until sometimes much later on, by myself.

Attitudes towards drinking are sort of like the episode from the Star Trek Original series, THE RETURN OF THE ARCHONS. Everyone is peaceful and toes the line until a the clock strikes a specific hour and everyone goes apeshit, but then everything is forgotten and dismissed by the morning. Everyone has rejoined The Body. There is no judgment. There is no recrimination. Everything is absolved. The only thing you can really do to commit an offense is to defy The Will of Landru, and then you are persecuted for being “not of the The Body.”

There are those of us here, on Planet Earth, who are not of The Body. We don’t adhere for whatever reason to this very specific cultural mandate. You are marked not of The Body. I’m going to stop short of using the word persecution here but it can really feel like it. I will not shy away from using the word ostracized. It’s not always physical distancing, but there is distancing. This distancing is hurtful for quite a few reasons for whatever reasons anyone chooses not to drink or use drugs. I can’t speak for people who are sober for reasons not related to health or whatnot, but having spoken to devout Muslims who don’t drink, for example, I think the hurt feels the same.

To distance from someone who has made a specific health or dietary choice (mine falls more under the former), is a sign of reductive and dismissive thinking. It displays an attitude that someone is somehow weak or has failed as an adult. It’s often dismissive of the very hard work that a person has done to become an whole, functioning adult. It’s insulting, and furthermore it puts strains on any possibilities of healthy relationships, whether they are romantic, friendships, or professional. It’s not something that someone should be compelled to explain. Nobody owes an explanation, and yet it’s kind of demanded.

I brought up a specific example in my previous post on this topic. A woman I cared about deeply said she didn’t know how to integrate me into her social (read drinking) circles. What exactly does that even mean? Was it fear of making me feel awkward? Was it fear of making them feel awkward? Fear of putting me in harms way? I asked, what exactly do you suppose I do for a social life? She responded honestly that she didn’t know because she’d never known someone in recovery.

That’s perhaps at least partly the fault of the very common “anonymous” approach to recovery. While the founders of the 12 steps programs are correct (apparently) that nobody else would understand, sooner or later everyone who has taken that anonymous route is going to be in some public situation and the stigma will certainly present itself. Yes, there is a stigma and socially speaking it’s the Mark of Cain. No, I’m not exaggerating the social and often professional impact. Its very real. This is one of the reasons I am very unapologetic about my sobriety and proud of the personal growth I’ve achieved through sobriety. I found it easier to live with the Mark of Cain than to disguise it. The Crocodiles of the 12 Steps always talk about the principle of “Attraction Not Promotion” so I do believe it’s important not to preach or proselytize, but to be entirely open and naked about it. There was one time on a job a few years ago when a man I was talking to in the lunch room asked me if I’d like to go get drinks after work. I explained that I’d love to hang out but I’m not really one for drinking. The apres-work socializing never happened but he did ask me several times after that about not drinking, but more in a curious way than prying. Also, he seemed to be struggling with something.

I fucked up. I distanced myself from him, trying to protect my own anonymity professionally. I avoided him when possible and shut down conversations more quickly than I should have when we met in public spaces. Long story short, he was let go about a year into my tenure there. There was very little explanation but it was swift and quiet. Then of course, rumors. I did try reaching out to him but never got a response, and I made a vow then to never, ever put myself before anyone who was clearly looking for some sort of help or guidance.

  1. I shouldn’t have been afraid to help or have been concerned with stigma.
  2. He shouldn’t have been afraid to ask outright
  3. The rest is on everyone else. He and I should have never been in that position. That’s on you.

Now see, there is no way to talk about these things without sounding defensive and angry. The key words there are without sounding… It’s not anger nor defensiveness. It’s fact. The rest of the shit is on you guys.

I do think that everyone should examine anything they do on a ritualized basis. Drinking is ritualized in our culture quite nearly to a degree of religious importance. Why not examine that, as individuals or culturally? Why not examine one’s part in that? You can say it’s not that big a deal but so many people drink as part of their rituals, that it probably is. Question that if drinkers are clearly in the overwhelming majority, why are they so defensive about it? Nobody ever knows just what their life is until they add something or take something away. Not saying it’s a problem, but it’s potentially a problem not to examine ritual. Saying that you only do it because you enjoy it is all well and good, but why is it an issue if someone else doesn’t enjoy it? Don’t be dismissive of the people who have experienced that distancing.

And now this is lapsing into tangents, but I’m glad I got it out. Don’t stigmatize and dismiss and cancel people. It’s just not nice.

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