Girl on the River Tyne

A photograph emerged over the bank holiday weekend of a young woman, presumably drunk, perched on the edge of the River Tyne in Newcastle’s Quayside as she relieved herself in full view of all those in the near vicinity. Unfortunately for the ‘reveller’, as she was referred to in at least one newspaper, her actions were also caught on camera and have since been widely shared on various social media channels.

This image has been on my mind for most of today as I was called this morning and asked to comment on it for BBC Radio Newcastle. My immediate reaction was more to do with the response from the media and the people viewing the photo via the Internet rather than with the girl herself and what she was up to in the picture.

Firstly, there is a gender issue. Would people have reacted in the same hostile manner, branding this person ‘scruffy’ and ‘disgusting’, if it had been a man in the photo? Society does not regard women – and especially women who are obviously under the influence of alcohol – equally to men. Women are not supposed to act with such outlandish disregard for themselves and the thoughts and feelings of others, and being drunk is no excuse; females should remain ladylike at all times otherwise they are labelled shameful and unfeminine. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to get drunk and display tomfoolery because it is simply illustrative of ‘boys being boys’.

Secondly, there appeared to be a response to this image from some quarters that could be described as light-hearted, a trivialising of the event. A hand in front of the mouth hiding a smirk as people observed the cheeky lass from Newcastle exposing herself in broad daylight; giggling because it’s all a bit of a laugh.

shutterstock_296166824

I’m not banging the temperance drum here but I don’t think it’s funny at all. This picture reminded me of myself back in the day, legless and stupid, having a ‘bloody good time’ as I drank myself into a stupor day after day and consequently found myself injured, in dangerous situations, being abused and falling way short of my potential because I was always either pissed or recovering from being pissed. Fast forward a few decades and I can see this girl in her middle years, dying of shame and self-loathing because women of ‘a certain age’ cannot joke so easily about their drunken behaviour like teenagers can. Furthermore, when I was a teenager and doing stupid, mortifying things when I was drunk, I didn’t have the humiliation of social media to cope with on top of my own deeply felt self-hatred.

Thirdly, there is major concern, I think, for the fact that this girl may well have slipped through the railings and into the River Tyne where she could have drowned (as many do in the UK each year). Not so funny if that happened.

Agreed, this girl shouldn’t have become so inebriated that she dropped her trousers and took a slash in public, and yes, she should have more dignity, and OK, whatever happened to personal responsibility? But none of us start drinking with the intention of acting shamefully and idiotically, dangerously and with no self-respect whatsoever – most people are under the illusion that alcohol will just make a social event go with a bang, inject a bit of excitement and glamour, and help loosen them up a bit. These type of outcomes are never planned or desired; rather they are the fall out from being immersed in a binge-drinking culture which, hypocritically, condones alcohol consumption on the one hand while chastising those who take things too far on the other.

Advertisements

Soberistas – A Summary

Here’s a summary of what Soberistas is, where the idea came from, and what it can do to help you if you are struggling with your relationship with alcohol. Our logo is the Bird of Paradise flower, which means this: freedom, magnificence, good perspective and that something strange and wonderful is about to occur. Going alcohol-free can be a positive lifestyle change, representative of all these things.

Bird of Paradise flowers

Soberistas emerged out of my desperation to get alcohol out of my life once and for all. By the time I quit drinking, alcohol was scaring me to death but so was the idea of living without it. I craved an existence that was booze-free but also one in which I was happy and not tormented by the ongoing desire to get drunk – a desire that had caused me so much trouble throughout my entire life since being a teenager. Was I an alcoholic? Who knows, I still don’t know. What I did know was that life had to be better than the miserable cycle I’d found myself trapped in, of drinking, hangovers and self-hatred.

Soberistas.com is fundamentally a website where you can write and offload, anonymously. It’s an online place where you can meet other people who know exactly how you feel and who will support you in your journey to becoming alcohol-free. It’s a space that you can drop into and ask people to convince you right there and then to NOT go and buy a bottle but to stick to your sobriety instead because you’ll feel so much happier in the morning if you do.

There’s a chat room, a forum and a place to post blogs. There’s an Ask the Doctor service (send the Soberistas alcohol specialist GP, Dr. Julia, your questions and they will be answered and published on the site anonymously), a Book Club (a good distraction for the evenings now that you’ve stopped drinking!), a Member of the Month scheme (vote for the member who you think has made real sober progress or who has offered you amazing support and we’ll send the winner a personally engraved silver bracelet from jewellers, Merci Maman), and monthly expert interactive webinars. There’s also the Soberistas Discount Club where you’ll find a great selection of companies offering exclusive discounts to our subscribers, including DryDrinker, JoggBox and Daniel Sandler make-up. Plus we post motivational and informative features every fortnight that will help you in your goal to stay alcohol-free and healthy.

I set Soberistas up as a way out of the booze trap, an easy-to-access resource that provides a blueprint for how to live happily without alcohol. It was intended to reflect my own experiences of being AF – positive, life changing and the best decision I have ever made, for both my family and me.

If you have any questions about Soberistas please email me on lucy@soberistas.com.

 

Lucy xx

Dangerous Liaisons & The Power Of Equality

When I was a young teenager I’d rather have run around school naked than admit to being a feminist. Feminists were hippies and men haters with way too much bodily hair, in my ignorant opinion. During my later teens, however, I found myself caught up in the evolving ‘ladette’ culture and, through an immersion in heavy drinking and the adoption of a second home in the shape of a somewhat seedy pub, I gravitated towards a kind of egalitarian existence alongside a bunch of similarly hedonistic males. This unified aim of ‘getting off one’s head’ went a long way to smoothing out the differences between the genders, and I would regularly wander into the aforementioned seedy pub alone, purchase a pint (or five) and fritter away several hours playing pool with blokes I didn’t know especially well, a cigarette continually dangling from my lipstick-stained mouth.

lucydrunk

Back then, if I’d been pressed for an answer as to whether I classed myself as a feminist I would probably have said yes, before hurriedly qualifying my answer to ensure I wasn’t thought of as a staunch man-hater (a stubborn definition that took some years to be banished from my internal dictionary).

Fast forward a couple of decades and I would now, very proudly, describe myself as a feminist. When I look back on the young woman I was in the 1990s I see someone who, rather than gaining a respectable parity with the men, allowed herself to slide into a dimly restricted existence that centred around drinking and drastic mental escape. I considered propping up the bar with a packet of fags close to hand to be an admirable way to live; in reality I was drinking so much that I placed myself in increasingly dangerous situations with men who were not of especially high moral standing and who cared little, if at all, about my safety and wellbeing. This was not feminism. It was gravely reckless behaviour and I was very lucky that I wasn’t harmed to a greater degree than I was.

The late Alan Rickman said in June 2015, “I always think feminist just means common sense”. And yes, that is what it is. Heavy drinking and living a life that spins on an axis of havoc amounts to the opposite of common sense, and the opposite of feminism. Living that way means being out of control, putting your safety in the hands of people who could (and regularly do) exploit the situation for their own gains. It leads to walking home late at night, alone and unaware, taking stupid risks and abandoning the gut instincts that we all have and which serve as our early warning systems.

On March 8th it’s International Women’s Day, a celebration of the female gender and all that we bring to the world at large. I am so pleased that today aged forty I am a feminist in the truest sense of the word. I am glad that alcohol no longer unravels all my strengths and potential, turning me into a victim instead of a fighter. I’m grateful that I no longer allow myself to lose control.

IMG_5958

Not drinking has provided me with so much, not least a clear perspective on the sort of person I want to be and what I want my life to amount to. I stopped holding rebellious, self-abusive and reckless behaviour in such high regard many years ago. Instead I started to see strong people, those with integrity and self-respect, as the ones I admired the most. Quitting drinking has enabled me to move closer to becoming the person I want to be, and I’m no longer frightened to be a strong woman. In fact, it’s what I aspire to be – every day.