I remember well the first time I got drunk. Martini ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ was my poison (well it was the Eighties!) and when I arrived at a friend’s party one night, bottle in hand, I imagined that I would soon be glamorous and sophisticated. It didn’t quite pan out like that. Swigging straight from the bottle in the Portakabin toilets of our local scout hut was a long way from the TV commercial featuring a glamorous woman in a white bikini running along a tropical beach to embrace her lover. But I was thirteen years old, I didn’t have a tropical beach to go to, or a handsome boyfriend to embrace, so this would have to do.
I remember even now how vile that peppery liquid tasted, yet somehow at thirteen I just knew that I must persevere, for this was the sure-fire way to adulthood and acceptance. At thirteen I was skinny, shy, a bit of a swot and woefully lacking in self-confidence. I was bullied relentlessly at school, but with that first taste of Martini I suddenly felt powerful, attractive, confident. And that was it – the start of a twenty seven year love affair with alcohol.
Since becoming involved with Soberistas in November 2012, I have learned that my story is not unfamiliar. There are now fourteen thousand members worldwide – thousands of us whose stories are different yet the same; Shy girl / boy with low self esteem meets alcohol and BOOM! For many, me included, alcohol is not seen as particularly problematic until a way down the line. Why would it if it does not appear to be causing you any major health problems (yet), and when half the population appears to be doing just as you are?
For years I attributed my low level anxiety and low mood to physiology, never once thinking to point my finger at alcohol. How many of us are irritable with our kids / partners because we have a low level hangover? How many of us are unproductive and simply muddling through life because of low mood? When the goalposts of ‘normal’ alcohol use shift, as seems to have happened in our society, it is perhaps more difficult for an individual to see that something is wrong. In just a generation the levels of alcohol use that constitute ‘normal’ drinking have gone through the roof.
For many, the alarm bells only begin to ring when we are already well down the road of an alcohol use disorder. But maybe, just maybe, if we lose some of the stigma surrounding alcohol and its misuse, people may begin to question their habits earlier on, before they begin to slide down the slope of full blown addiction. Maybe our society is waking up to the fact that our alcohol consumption is excessive and unhealthy.
My own drinking patterns were called into question when my sister Lucy Rocca (rather fortuitously!) set up Soberistas.com and in the year since its’ inception, I have realised several things;
It does not matter what you label it – alcoholism, alcohol dependence, alcohol misuse, binge-drinking or whatever. It does not matter if someone you know drinks way more than you. If it’s causing you problems it’s causing you problems. And you will know when it is.
Just because everyone else seems to be getting hammered all the time does not make it OK if you are unhappy with it. Sod everyone else and get on with sorting yourself out.
You are not the only person who feels as if you’re on the slippery slope – there are thousands of lovely people out there just like you. (And you can now chat to lots of them anonymously on Soberistas.com)
If you feel like you are already on the slippery slope you are highly unlikely to get off it without action. It sounds obvious but without effort on your part you cannot expect things to change. If you suspect that you have unhealthy issues with alcohol and do nothing about it, you are taking one hell of a gamble.
I strongly feel that by talking about alcohol issues and trying to remove some of the stigma surrounding alcohol misuse, people who are just beginning to question their relationship with booze may feel confident that they can take action. People who, up until recently, hardly believed they had a problem.
At Soberistas, nobody is preaching – we just want you to be happy.