A new documentary tells the story of me and others whose lives were controlled by drinking but who couldnt acknowledge the toll it was taking
For a long time, for me, one of the best things about the new year and Christmas was that it was a time for socially acceptable drunkenness, an occasion when even falling-over-in-the-street-drunkenness would be tolerated in the name of festive merriment. I am one of the people featured in a new documentary about alcohol addiction. Its called My Name Is and Im an Alcoholic, after the introduction often used at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is out on 13 January.
When I stopped drinking, nearly five years ago, I wasnt sure whether or not I qualified as an alcoholic. What I did know was that Id never possessed any control over the amount I drank, and alcohol had always occupied an elevated stance in my life. That told, I rarely drank in daylight hours( except for Christmas and the odd Sunday lunchtime always socially though, never by myself ), I didnt particularly enjoy spirits, and I didnt consume gallons and gallons of booze. My tipple was largely white wine, and I likely drank, on average, a bottle a night more at the weekends.
An alcoholic, as I understood it, was someone who was physically addicted to alcohol: who woke up with the shakes; who necked at the least a bottle of vodka or whiskey a day; who had lost their task due to alcohol misuse; who was a sad and lonely person with nothing much to live for except the bottle. None of these things represented me, or my life, as a drinker. To me, alcohol was fun. I used it mainly as a social lubricant but also to alleviate boredom, stress and loneliness. And of course I drank at any and every celebration.
Throughout my drinking years, I managed to remain, for the most portion, on the right side of alcoholism that is to say, my problem didnt worsen sufficiently to warrant any of my friends and family voicing their concerns, but it was significant enough for me to develop a nagging fear that I was turning into an alcoholic.
There were too many mornings when I woke up and despised myself for something Id told or done the night before when under the influence; too many blackouts that scared me to demise, whole nights disappearing into a fog of alcohol-induced blankness.
And there was a persistent knowledge that I could not moderate that I genuinely never recognised when Id had enough to drink, continuing to pour the wine long past the stage when I should have gone to bed.
Theres a phase in My Name Is and Im an Alcoholic when I say that I put alcohol ahead of my daughters happiness. This is true. But when I watched the cinema back, it was the part of my interview that stung me the most. My daughter was always well cared for, and most of my heavy drinking occurred when she was at her parents house. The way in which I prioritised alcohol over her happiness was far subtler than overt neglect or abuse. It came in the form of my unpredictable moods because of being hungover; of having no energy to do anything fun with her because Id drunk too much the night before; of losing sight of the important things in life because I expended the majority of members of my waking hours in a tired, lacklustre nation of consciousness; of spending money on wine that could have been spent on things that benefited my daughter.
Its only since becoming a mum for a second time( after I became a nondrinker) that these things have really been highlighted to me. I was so accustomed to the negative consequences of my wine habit that I never fully appreciated just how much of a toll it was taking on me.
Alcohol is a unique medication, in that it is widely revered and enjoyed in western society, including by policymakers who control how its sold and marketed and by those in the medical profession who deal with the physical repercussions of its consumption. However, in the UK in 2012 -1 3, there were 1,008, 850 alcohol-related hospital admissions, and 8,367 alcohol-related deaths in 2012 alone.
The documentary discloses the normal face of alcohol dependency. It depicts people from all strolls of life: a professional musician, a teach deputy, a newspaper editor, a GP. It touches on the fact that when youre drinking too much, “youre supposed to” dont realise that you are. There will always be someone whos in a worse nation, the one you can label the real alcoholic while you quaff nice bottles of wine and remain assured that youre not yet that bad.
A common theme that emerges from the documentary is that those featured in it all arrived at a place of acknowledgment regarding their alcohol dependency only after they stopped drinking.
In the thick of it, we were all people who simply enjoyed a beverage. The extermination and frightening hazards simply blended into background noise, lost in a sea of booze. Merely now, with clarity, have we been able to recognise simply quite how bad things were.
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