Having a glass of wine or beer after a hard day at work is commonplace. It's become so accepted in our society that maybe sometimes we forget it's a drug, and how damaging it can be. And I'm not just talking about the damage to those doing the drinking, but the impact on those people's partners, their friends and their children.
I certainly know how alcohol can affect kids, because my dad was an alcoholic. I remember seeing him drink in the morning when I was little, and thinking it was normal. It wasn't just my dad either - my gran had problems with it too, as did others in my family. I was lucky - my mum protected me and my siblings from a lot of what was going on. But I remember when it dawned on me that other people's dads didn't do this - they didn't have a whisky first thing with their breakfast. As a result, I know I view alcohol as a much more serious drug than most of my friends, and it means I'll want to talk to my kids about the dangers of alcohol when they're old enough.
What happened with my dad made me want to talk about alcohol and the problems it can cause, because I don't remember it being talked about much when I was growing up. I felt like there was a stigma attached to speaking about it - it was something we all knew about but didn't feel it was appropriate to address in polite company.
What's worse is that the stigma around having a problem with alcohol is still there. Alcoholism is more widely understood than it was in the 1970s when I was a child - most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and might even have a couple of friends who are recovering alcoholics - but we still don't really talk about it much. The fact that our standard reaction to a hard day at work might be to have a glass of wine, instead of talking about what happened, isn't something most people are comfortable discussing. Maybe it's because we're just too British and not very good at talking about these sort of things.
It's Alcohol Awareness week right now. That's why I'm writing this - to help get people talking about alcohol and break down some of the stigma around it. I'm also speaking at an event today, held by the charity RAPt (Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust) who run an alcohol project in Tower Hamlets. The project helps all kinds of people who have been affected by alcohol - from those who might not be an addict but know they are drinking too much; to alcoholics who need help to physically detox from alcohol and attend counselling. It also hosts meetings for the loved ones of those who have a drinking problem and a group to help people once they have completed treatment, to try to support them so that they don't relapse. It's the kind of project we to need have more of, so that people around the country can get the help they need.
So let's get talking about it. Bring it up in conversation. Debate it. Confront your own pre-conceptions, and those of others. Not just for us, not even solely for people who have problems with alcohol and need to hear it's OK to talk about it, but for those who have seen a loved one struggle and don't know how to bring it up. For people, like me, who grew up seeing the damage it can do and want a better future.
If you're worried that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol, please visit RAPt's website for more information: www.rapt.org.uk.
For more information on Alcohol Awareness Week visit https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/alcohol-awareness-week/