One of the most valuable things that I have learned through this process is that everyone has a very different relationship with alcohol…….and it’s deep rooted. When someone looks at another’s drinking they are specifically looking at it through the eyes of their own beliefs and habits. I am sure this is true for lots of things and there is likely a very technical and well researched term for this phenomenon.
So, when I say that I blacked out after drinking people get this image in their mind and quickly compare it whether or not they blacked out, check the box yes or no, and then categorize accordingly. I know this because I too used to do the same thing. “Oh, I have never had a DUI so I must not be that bad.” Or, “You don’t drink? There must be a dark past.”
There is a HUGE divide in our society. Many people believe that there are those who can handle drinking and those who cannot. Sure, there are plenty of people who have one glass of wine at dinner and nothing more AND there are also those in which their addiction destroys lives. But I think there are millions and millions of people who are in the middle of this.
It’s true that when I drink too much coffee I get the shakes. I hate those shakes and over time have I have made the decision to limit myself to just one cup of coffee to avoid feeling that way. When I tell people this, I don’t feel ashamed and I generally don’t feel judged. People either
A.) Understand because they too have felt the side effects of caffeine. Or,
B.) Have built a pretty good tolerance for their caffeine intake and don’t have that particular side effect.
I have never gotten the impression that someone felt judged by my decision to stick to one cup. Nor do I feel that they are curious as to what kind of story my history holds about coffee. And last, I have never gotten the impression that someone thought less of me as a mother when I was shaky and over caffeinated. For the most part people respect my decision and completely understand the concept of no longer wanting to do something that makes me feel like crap.
Not true when it comes to alcohol. When I tell people I blacked out after drinking and that I had horrible hangovers there is a very quick categorization or assumption. Sometimes it’s met with a “That’s not that bad!” or “You must not be able to handle it!” and of course the constant curiosity and question “Are You Addicted?”
I too, made these very rash judgments. That is, before I learned more. Now I have to do better. I want to change the STIGMA and to break down the walls. I don’t want to categorize between people anymore (about alcohol or anything). I don’t want to project my own experiences onto others and assume I know what I am talking about.
Here is my promise-I promise to know more by learning more. I promise to listen instead of waiting for my turn to talk. I promise to continue to learn how media, big business, and money create a lot of my “reality.” I promise to be open and vulnerable even if it makes me uncomfortable. I promise to own my feelings that when someone is different from me I sometimes feel threatened. I promise to interrupt my judgement (because I know it’s normal) with love and empathy.
I promise that I will fail at all of this at times. But, I promise to never stop bringing it into the light.
Stats about alcohol aren’t easily available. And like most service projects, I am sure that there is limited funding for fancy marketing and slogans. Frankly, I was shocked at how little I knew or understood. But, I am really glad I learned….