It’s church picnic season. That means that a bunch of churches in town will be hosting their annual church picnics. They are all about fun, family, God, and raising money. There will be rides, cotton candy, games, gambling, drinking, hot dogs, and all the fun. Just like a carnival but with the proceeds going to the church.
Every corner has a billboard with the dates and the location so that you can pick where you will have your fun summer night. The one nearest to my house has a giant sign in the front of the church (right before the steeple and the statue of a Saint) that says Hymns and Beer.
No judgement here (it’s important to note that I am not damning hymns and beer). However, I need to clear when I say that we have a cultural crisis going on when it comes to drinking. Did you know that alcohol kills 88,000 lives per year? That’s 10,000 more than opioids. Ironically, we can all agree that we have an opioid problem despite never hearing a single word about how damaging alcohol is to its users. And, I don’t ever foresee a sign in front of the church that says Hymns and Cocaine (even though cocaine is responsible for much fewer deaths than alcohol). I mean, who would go to that?!?!?!
Alcohol was the drug that we decided to legalize. That doesn’t make it less harmful, less addictive, less financially corrupt, less damaging to society. But because it’s legal our brains (including mine) categorize it as safe, fun, totally fine, no problem. Of course, there are “those people” that we stereotype as having a problem with the drug that is meant to cause severe, life threatening problems if used outside of moderation (which is a teeny tiny amount). Oh, and then we shove that drug in their face, constantly making them justify why they aren’t drinking at every single event/outing/dinner/brunch/etc. furthering their isolation and reinforcing the idea that the problem is “them” and not the ethanol (poison) that is meant to kill them.
I know. I’m being intense. It’s just that I used to have no idea. I didn’t know a single thing about this. I assumed (like everyone else) that since it was legal it was normal. But, now I do know and I have an obligation to….I don’t know…..try to break the stigma at the very least?!?
I was dooped, bomboozled, lied to, convinced, and conditioned and I won’t stand for it anymore.
Recently, I’ve been on a search to try to figure out why I feel so tired. I tried all kinds of home remedies, oils, exercise changes, diet, etc. but I’m still tired. I finally decided to reach out to my doctor for a full physical. At my intake, within 49 seconds of going over my history, the nurse asked how much I drink. I proudly said none, nada, zilch, zero (because this was honestly the first time I didn’t have to lie about this question). She responded with a very simple sentence (or you might call it a joke/assumption/conditioned response that she got from society) “That’s your problem.” I’m not gonna lie-it stung.
It stung because I could hear my own voice coming out in those words. I had said something similar hundreds of times. I promoted drinking with those same kinds of comments. I shamed non drinking with jokes and blurbs.
Here, in this space, I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to explain my argument. I couldn’t remember the data, the details, the studies, and I am tired (remember-the reason I went to begin with). It’s been about a month and I still can’t shake this experience.
This brings me to the most disrupting point of all.
A lot of the advice that we receive in this culture regarding health comes from ads. Sure, there’s research (paid for by big institutions looking to sell their product). Yes, there is science but it’s not nearly as compelling or engaging as the latest and the greatest product to make you feel good. Of course there is professional advice coming from the best of the best. But how much of their own life experience do they bring to the table. How much have they been persuaded too?
It’s hard to avoid. It’s exhausting to think about. It’s impossible to escape the messages. It’s agonizing to try to go back through thought patterns to decipher what is yours and what is that of a society focused on profit.
Alcohol is just one example. There are so many more and I am confident that I am making these same exact mistakes in regards to other very important issues that I just haven’t learned about yet. And for that, I am sorry.
So, to the maker of the sign “hymns and beer” and to the professionals that make light of drinking I place no blame, none. But I do challenge you to ask yourself if your ideas around alcohol are completely accurate? And to the person who wishes that “they” didn’t have the problem with drinking and that they could be a “normal drinker like everyone else” I give you the same challenge. Is it really just you or is that what you are sold….er….told? And to the people who judge the drunks and druggies while sipping champagne all night long I challenge you to just do a little research about your substance of choice. It may save your life.
It’s impossible to be in the know about everything and who would ever want that kind of pressure? So, I think I’ll choose to live by the very wise words of Ice Cube “You Better Check Yo Self Before You Wreck Yo Self.”