The gods of Belgian mainstream media have been so kind to me. February marks the month of the “Tournee Minerale” here. People give up alcohol for one month in order to ‘raise money for KOTK‘ (A Belgian charity involved in all things cancer).
Just like the (in)famous ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, it doesn’t seem to me like many of the participants are actually concerned about this part and to be completely fair, I am not writing this in order to raise awareness either.
This will be yet another post dealing with something exclusively me. And yet: maybe it’s not.
While February marks the month of twitter and facebook exploding with what I’m sure are heartfelt attempts at the ‘challenge’, for me it marks the birthday of my first year sober. Which is ironic, since my last name is ‘Tourné’, I feel that I am more privileged than other critics to bitch about this for a little. Is this rational? No! But I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyway.
So one month without alcohol in order to raise awareness for cancer. Great! I mean we don’t want cancer in this world do we? Don’t we all applaud and cheer when our usually weekend-alcoholic friends decide to rave about their concious decision to say no to all things acohol for one month? Hell yes we do! 28 days of not drinking yourself into a stupor will be splendid for the rest of us! At least now we don’t have to listen to the usual monday drone of “man we got so drunk this weekend and…”
Does anybody really care actually? Haven’t we all sniggered at drinking-related memes that are ‘so us’. I sure as hell was one of those people. Considered myself the absolute life of the party as soon as I had a Bacardi Breezer in hand. Yes, I was a twenty-something Breezer-loving daydrinker. So sue me. Anyway: I loved my drink as much as the next person. Mimosa brunches, red wine tastings (right… tasting), Rum Cocktail nights, office parties… you name it. As soon as you enter adulthood it seems to become almost an obligation to get drunk now and again.
For me it wasn’t just about having a drink. It never was. I was the kind of girl that couldn’t just have one drink. As soon as that sweet liquor hit my lips, I was a goner. Downed my glasses 2x as fast as my friends did and by doing so also became 2x the sloppy drunk they were. Most casual drinkers have a maximum of 5 blackoutstories by the time they turn 30. I am now 29 years old, with as many if not more blackout stories than I am old.
Yet, I don’t seem to be an exception. About 90% of all the adults (and even a good amount of teenagers) I know have gotten blind-drunk more than once or even three times last year alone.
So why do people prefer drinking over let’s say smoking a joint?
Simple: drinking isn’t being stigmatised by the government as ‘unhealthy’ and ‘dangerous’. But let me ask you: how many of you know about the real health risks of alcohol? How many of us are educated by the results of even moderate consumation of alcohol? How many drinks are allowed before it comes a problem?
Apparently: quite a lot! Daily commercials for this or that drink to top off what is a nearly perfect life. Have a wodka to be part of the incrowd, drink this and puke gold but look awesome while you do and for God’s sake if you have even an ounce of manliness in you, you will have this beer and love it too.
Time to get real though.
Here is what I know of alcohol and its dangers: alcohol is one of the most agressive hard-drugs around and yet it is the only drug (becide pharmaceuticals of course but don’t get me started on that) that is pushed by our government. Alcoholics are only stigmatised when they reach a certain stage of marginal behaviour and we actually stimulate adults to drink on a regular basis. Alcohol destroys your entire body in no time at all and to be able to reverse the damage you have to put in huge amounts of work. The percentage of relapse in alcoholics is enormous while the time it takes to actually acknowledge a substance-abuse problem is way too long.
I am not just rambling off some list I have found online or a repeating what I remember from high school. I am telling you facts that I have witnessed with my own two eyes. In my very immediate family I’ve experienced the battle with alcohol from a very early age and it has had quite an impact on my life.
So much so that last year, on the 15th of February 2016, I decided I had had enough. My drinking habits weren’t yet to a level where anybody else could have suspected it to be a problem, but I guess that’s because nobody dared to look? Alcohol was my best friend when I felt sad and my party companion when I had even the smallest of reasons to celebrate. It came to a point where I developed a technique to refill my drink before my friends and yet make it seem like I didn’t drink 2x as fast as they did. It never worked out in my favor.
I guess I owe those people in my life who have given me so much crap because of this addiction. Because of them, I saw the signals bright and clear and made it stop. I refused to give myself even the slightest window of opportunity to ever slide down that slippery slope that is the drink. I had said it before, but on that sunday in 2016, I really know I had had enough. Another night of embarrassing drunk behavior had proven to be enough.
When I think about the past year, I don’t think many friends thought I would be able to do it. To keep it up. Hell, I didn’t even think I would actually push through this. Saw myself with a glass of wine again in no more than 6 months. Tops.
Here I am though, nearing the first birthday of what was probably the best decision of my life and I have not for one minute felt bad about it.
I don’t kid myself into thinking I have control over what alcohol does to me and I probably never will. I stopped myself in time but I don’t think I’ll ever truly be ready to drink again. I don’t think the feeling it gives me will ever go away.
A year in, I’m used to saying ‘no thanks’ with a smile on my face when someone for the umpteenth times forgets that I don’t drink anymore. I decline it politely and ask for a fresh juice instead. Drunk people around me no longer bother me or cause me to want to run and go home as fast as I can. I just take it in stride.
For me, a sober life equals a happy life. I respect everybody’s choice to drink or not drink because even though it’s obviously bad for you, so are many MANY other things. And at the end of the day we all need something to take the edge of.
I just wish society granted me an equal level of understanding when it comes to me and my herbs.
But that’s a completely different story.