Recently The Guardian's Naomi McAuliffe wrote a piece about drinking, with particular reference to the Ladette Culture of the 90′s and the apparent link between it and the increase in women's health problems in relation to alcohol. Anyway you can read it here
This is the bit where I tell you how wrong she is? Right?
It's a very good piece. The moniker of Ladette is inaccurate and irritating at the best of times (I always secretly suspected it was a marketing ploy created by the manager of the Spice Girls anyway). Naomi loves alcohol. It's her passion. And fair play to her, after all what's the point in writing about something unless you feel very strongly about it?
There was another journalist. Equally as erudite called Caroline Knapp. She spoke of her tempestuous relationship with alcohol in a book she subtly entitled "Drinking-A Love Story". In the early days of sobriety that booked touched my soul. She knew. She just got it. How it felt all the time. The yearning. The achingly hollow parts of a person that drinking filled. That spoke to an alcoholic's heart in a way nothing else could begin to manage. The most special relationship imaginable. Love at first embrace.
I was wrong. Obviously. But we've already discussed that here so I'll leave it alone eh.
The more I read of Naomi's attitude to alcohol, the more it reminded me of Caroline's. So I decided to pick some paragraphs. See if there was a difference between a woman who professes to love alcohol and still be able to have a normal relationship with it-and a woman who recovered from alcoholism, having realised it was destroying her (I changed the tense of Caroline's words so they wouldn't be in retrospect). Here are two of them:
"I love the way drink makes me feel, and I love its special power of deflection, its ability to shift my focus away from my own awareness of self and onto something else. I love the sounds of drink: the slide of a cork as it eases out of a wine bottle, the distinct glug-glug of booze pouring into a glass, the clatter of ice cubes in a tumbler. I love the rituals, the camaraderie of drinking with others, the warming, melting feelings of ease and courage it gives me."
"Drinking is a social lubricant; it makes you wittier, more erudite, and frankly irresistible. A sober person simply loses the ability to see how funny and clever drunk people are; it is the key deficiency of sobriety. This intimacy and camaraderie is just as important to women huddled around a bottle (or two) of Pinot Grigio. As are the potential contacts, lifelong friends, job opportunities and intellectual enrichment that comes from a drinking culture."
And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is obvious to others that these are two very different women after all...so I did a little drinking story mash-up, picked a few sentences at random and strung them together. Here is an excerpt:
"Not drinking makes you realise how important drinking was to you, your identity, yes: this is a love story. It's about passion, sensual pleasure, deep pulls, lust, fears, yearning hungers. A hangover is necessary for life and self-reflection. All you know is you'd die without it, and there is no simple reason why."
I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that one...
I don't believe in protecting people from the opinions of others. In fact I find it faintly ridiculous that people devote so much time to worrying on the behalf of other people. Acting like addicts are a bunch of unruly 5 years olds, likely to go off on the tear after reading a well-versed piece of prose on drinking. It's not dangerous to display these views. It's eye-opening.
To me there's no separation between the way Caroline writes about alcohol and the way Naomi does. To me there is no difference in the way I felt about alcohol, and the way Naomi seems to.
I can only tell you what I know. That I was flawed in my thinking. That drinking was not the love affair I held it to be. That I was not more interesting, that life was not the glittering magical place I held it to be. Only you can decide what your truth is. No one has the right to do it on your behalf. But trying to stop people like Naomi from saying their piece does not work. So let's stop wasting each other's time please.
Naomi's attitude to alcohol does not give any of us an excuse to be insecure in our own sobriety. She's fully entitled to believe whatever she likes. None of us are capable of maintaining sobriety on behalf of another. And there's not one recovered alcoholic who did not share her opinions at one time or another-but fine. Let's even the scale a little anyway and point out the obvious just to keep everyone happy
-Alcoholism does not enhance creative endeavour. Any more than banging someone's head against a wall repeatedly- then telling them their puppy has died. It inhibits brain function and it is a depressant. Many people manage to create beauty with words in spite of alcohol abuse. Not because of it.
-People are not boring without alcohol. You are not boring without it either. Or rather no more boring, no less. Life is as exciting as we make it. People are as interesting as we make them. A person excited by life will be surrounded by exciting people. Sober or drunk. Learning to cultivate social skills and achieve consistent happiness irrespective of external circumstance are some of the most interesting parts of sobriety.
-Drinking is not part of someone's identity. Who we are, what we believe, how we contribute to the word outside of ourselves. That's what makes up our identity. Not the contents of a glass. Inanimate objects do not make the individual. People create things. Things do not create people.
If we all expended less energy on railing against those who we feel are endangering other people's recovery through their own love of alcohol. If we focussed that energy into shoring up our own sobriety. If we cared half as much about how we make ourselves feel, instead of how we assume the mainstream media is making others feel. We'd all live much stronger more vibrant recoveries.
And who doesn't want to be strong and vibrant?
Drunk or Sober.