So I’m already failing miserably at the whole ‘write a post for every day of December Blogmas’ thing. Seriously, it’s the 5th and this is only my second post. SIGH. I do have a list of things I want to talk about, and I’m going to quickly roll through what was to be Friday’s post – Alcohol, alcoholism, dual-diagnosis, and 12 Pubs of Christmas.
A friend and I were discussing the pressure that’s on people to drink in this country in general – ever been at a social event and had someone pressure you into drinking, or bringing you an alcoholic drink when you’ve said you didn’t want one? It’s worse than the peer pressure we were warned about as kids. Someone repeatedly ignoring you saying that you don’t want a drink and trying to make you feel awkward, strange or boring for choosing to not can be worse pressure than anything else.
When it comes to Christmas, the infamous 12 Pubs is planned at the beginning of the December month in colleges, universities and workplaces across the country. Aside from the fact that the idea of putting on Penney’s finest Xmas jumper and doing a crawl of twelve pubs with each one governed by a set of arbitrary rules that if not followed end in some liver-damaging penalty sounds horrific, it really puts a lot of pressure on the merry element of ‘merry Christmas’. For some reason, Christmas time and Christmas parties seem to go hand in hand with alcohol, alcohol, and more alcohol.
Aside from the fact that the idea of putting on Penney’s finest Xmas jumper and doing a crawl of twelve pubs with each one governed by a set of arbitrary rules that if not followed end in some liver-damaging penalty sounds horrific, it really puts a lot of pressure on the merry element of ‘merry Christmas’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not agin alcohol in the slightest. I was just never a big drinker
when your mother has a drink aware alcohol unit measurement wheel that she produces in an, ah, ironic fashion whenever alcohol is mentioned, you’re unlikely to end up enjoying drinking that often and after a year off alcohol due to being on anti-depressant/anti-anxiety/anti-convulsant medication in wide varieties, I never really got back into it. Most times I refuse alcohol when I’m out, whether with meals, or I’ll have one to be polite or social and then quietly switch to water or Coke. It doesn’t really interest me, I get dehydrated easily, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to enjoying going on nights out too much. I never saw how people could get absolutely hammered, be horrifically hungover all weekend, and then do it all over again the next week. Maybe that’s a BPD pain/discomfort intolerance thing, or maybe I don’t experience hangovers the same way they do. Another conversation I had with friends not too long ago was around getting drinks that look like alcohol when out in a pub or club so nobody hassles you for not drinking. The fact we had all done this at some point is really telling of the culture we have here. It may be a stereotype that the Irish drink too much, but it’s definitely a cultural feature that we expect everyone to think like us, act like us and drink like us.
All this means for me is that I’m super aware of those who don’t enjoy drinking. If an office Xmas party is 12 Pubs, it leaves out those who don’t drink out of personal choice, who can’t drink due to medication, or who can’t drink because of alcoholism.
I often hear of people not really understanding the implications of alcoholism, or what it actually means to be exposed to alcohol. I’m absolutely not trying to speak for anyone, but I do imagine that trying to manage the impulse to drink, alcohol cravings and the physiological effects of wanting just one drink, no harm is bad enough without people going ‘ah go on, you’re such a dry shite’ and all the other lovely things people say when someone doesn’t want to drink. I imagine that people would probably not put that pressure on someone if they knew they were an alcoholic, but I really don’t feel this should have to be justified with anything other than a plain ‘no’.
Not only that, but prevention and help for those struggling with alcoholism and an additional mental illness in this country is incredibly hard to come by – and that’s saying something when there are years-long waiting lists for CBT and talk-therapy. Addiction is mostly treated separately from mental illness despite the two quite often being interrelated. It’s simply not as easy as getting help and managing it. Attitudes around alcohol, particularly at this time of year, suck. I can’t imagine how hard it is for someone struggling with an addiction, not to mention with a mental illness on top of it.
Some things we can do to help: don’t pressure anyone. Accept the first ‘no’ if a person refuses a drink. If they’re old enough to drink alcohol they’re old enough to ask for one if they change their minds. Be mindful of co-workers or classmates that might be avoiding alcohol for whatever reason, and suggest alternative Christmas party ideas if an opportunity arises. If it’s appropriate to do so, suggest a smaller group go do another activity – bouldering, go-karting, or something as simple as a nice dinner.
Some things you can do to look after yourself:
These links may be appropriate for bolstering professional advice, or just for reassurance.
What do you guys think? Is the interlinked alcohol-and-christmas-ho-ho-have-another an issue? Have you experienced someone pressuring you into drinking before? Let me know in the comments!
Also catch up on my last blog post, A Very Alternative Blogmas #1 where I talk about the very cheery topic of sexual assault and personal safety.