Below is a comment I received last week on a piece I wrote earlier this spring: "An Open Letter to The Sugars: Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond."
I decided to share it as its own post (actually, Holly suggested I do) because this commenter captures so much, and better than I ever could.
Up until a couple years ago, I'd have rolled my eyes (deeply, dismissively) at my letter to The Sugars. I would've thought things like: Overdramatic much? Or, What? Now she wants to make alcohol a villain because she can't drink? At the very least I would've muttered, Ugh, killjoy, as I picked up a bottle of "Mommy's Little Helper" (marketed just for me!) at the wine store, or hastily snagged a beer from the Booze Boat that made its way around my office every Thursday afternoon, 3:30 on the dot.
But I won't be quiet to save my former self or anyone else a little discomfort. The people-pleasing girl in me died somewhere along the way to sobriety, right around the time I noticed that it wasn't me who was fucked up, but a whole system and society that supports, encourages, markets, practically BEGS us to get in on the fun, right up until we've crossed that elusive line and *cringe* become someone who can't handle themselves any longer...or perhaps even more dangerously (and commonly, at least in my demographic), remain someone who appears to handle themselves very well, but has a gnawing sense that something is deeply troubling about their relationship to alcohol, and is too ashamed and afraid to look at it, much less say something.
Never underestimate how important your work here is, Laura, or its deeply positive impact on readers like me who have been searching in the dark for help and a way out of the alcohol prison that was created for us by the fact, from a young age we are taught it is acceptable and encouraged that we drink for all the reasons the alcohol & advertising industries will have us believe. I most certainly did not choose to become addicted to the shit, but here I am, a 44 year old mother of two little kids, completely struggling every day (for the last 15 years) to kick my "habit."
In Australia the level of care and effective treatment for alcohol dependence is a joke. I know more about alcoholism and quitting than any shrink or counsellor I've met. The number one reason is because I know what they won't let themselves know. Alcoholism in any form is not a choice someone makes. It is something that happens to them because they joined in the national past time of drinking for every and any reason and they became hooked. The more you have, the more you need. We're made to feel strange by society at large if we decide we've had enough and don't want to drink anymore. It's warped and a big portion of the world operates on this level. I remember hearing so many racist comments about Muslims not drinking when I was a younger drinker, but I have to say, I think they are the enlightened ones in this equation.
I'm furious the alcohol industry is allowed to get away with peddling their drug in all its cheap and beautifully packaged guises in broad daylight. Right next to where I buy my kids veggies and milk. It should be sold in a seedy dark back alley in a shop with the windows blacked out (symbolism) where you have to ring a doorbell to gain entry and walk past a slobbering, growling Rottweiler to get to the dealer to ask for your Rose. It should be packaged in black ACME bottles with major warning labels instead of filigrees and birds. "DANGER: drink at your own risk. Contains a highly toxic and addictive poison. Certainly causes altered mental states, confusion, violence, extreme birth defects, relationship break downs, physical harm, including cancer, slow, painful liver failure, renal, brain, eye, central nervous system failure and psychological disturbances. We will not be held responsible for your behavior while consuming our poison, nor will we compensate you for the physical harm it will definitely cause you because we are too busy rolling in your money to give two shits about your, your family's or society's wellbeing. We just want your money. And - yes, this is legal. Sucked in."
I feel it is my role in life to warn my kids about the lies surrounding alcohol. I hope they never touch the stuff and by the time they're old enough to, it will have gone the way of tobacco although a doubt it. The liquor industry is too powerful, a massive source of tax revenue for our governments.
And all the bullshit research into whether there's a genetic link to alcoholism, etc. I believe it doesn't matter what genetic make up you have. Alcohol is out there in the super market being sold cheaply to the masses. Of course people in our society are going to have trouble managing their consumption because that's what alcohol does. It fucks us and our lives up, and for the "normal" drinkers, they're the lucky ones I suppose, but they're also living in delusion. Anyone who drinks alcohol is really never far away from "alcoholism" whatever that is. It can and does happen to anyone. Thanks for agitating for change for all of us who are enslaved to this drug and who feel marginalized and humiliated by society's take on that addiction.
You can read my original post here.