Alcohol is a drug. Fact. Alcohol is highly addictive. Fact. Alcohol kills people and causes disease. Fact.
The more I learn about alcohol, the more shocked I am that it is still legal. One description of alcohol is –
‘A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid synthesized or obtained by fermentation of sugars and starches and widely used, either pure or denatured, as a solvent and in drugs. Also called ethanol, ethyl alcohol. Intoxicating liquor containing alcohol‘.
The words used to describe alcohol are wholly unpleasant and don’t make it sound like something pleasant to ingest however, when disguised in a beautiful wine bottle or hidden in a can, we quaff it back like it’s the freshest water from a Highland spring.
So why are people still swallowing it? Why are people spending hard earned cash on something that may ultimately kill them?
I believe part of the problem is that while you’re drinking alcohol, you can’t see the damage that is being done. Yeah, you get a hangover but 24 hours after the event, you feel well enough to carry on right? Yeah, your skin is dry but that’s just your skin, right? Yeah, you vomit after a night of hard drinking but that won’t damage you inside will it? Yeah, you feel low after drinking but that’s because of the stupid things you did, right?
Wrong. Every time you drink alcohol you’re causing damage. You just can’t see it and therefore it is easy to ignore. Alcohol has now been proven to cause some cancers, liver disease and mental disorders to name but a few. And yet the shelves of supermarkets are emptied each weekend in a frenzy to get hammered.
I am well aware I was one of the sheep who downed alcohol like it was going out of fashion and at the time, I didn’t care about the consequences. But I do now from the other side of the fence. I find it fascinating that we treat cigarettes in such a cloak & dagger fashion but continue to proudly display alcohol in front of our children. I find it unbelievable that alcohol can be advertised at 8am while our kids get ready for school. I find it incredulous that it is legal for anyone over the age of 5 to drink alcohol. Yes, you read that right. Age 5.
Unbelievably, it’s only 25 years ago since I smoked a cigarette on a plane. I was on holiday with my mum and her friends and we all sat on the back row in the ‘smoking area’. How ridiculous does that sound now? The ‘smoking area’ that filled the whole plane with smoke! The fact we actually smoked on a plane! And yet it wasn’t really that long ago and look how our attitudes have changed towards smoking. I’m convinced the same will happen with alcohol when we understand exactly what we are doing to ourselves.
Perhaps it’s time we started to see adverts on TV about what alcohol can do to a person. Perhaps it’s time to display photos of damage caused by alcohol on bottles of wine. Perhaps it’s time to face up to the fact that alcohol is a poison and will cause damage no matter how little you ingest.
Perhaps the time is now.
When I came up to London yesterday, I knew I had a couple of hours to kill between going to the hairdresser & taking my 97 year old grandad to a prearranged hospital appointment. I also needed to fit my walking in but had no idea where I was going to go.
Lightbulb moment ‘I know, I’ll practice using my gut’.
I had about 3 hours before the hospital appointment on the other side of London so thought I’d head that way so not to be late. As I was driving, I saw a sign for where I was born & brought up in North London so decided to go back to my roots and take a wander round.
I arrived at my old town that we left when I was 16 & recognised nothing. It felt weird, looking for something, anything to jog my memory. Suddenly, I saw a road name I recognised & drove down it. Still nothing. Until I got to the end and it was like my memories just unfolded before me. There was the church and the bus stop and the bend in the road leading up to where I used to live. Ironically, I also remembered that I’d actually had a dream about the exact same spot just a couple of days before. Coincidence?
I followed the road up towards my old house, memories flooding back of friends I’m no longer in touch with & boys who broke my heart & school & snow & my first job & Christmas & a happy time before alcohol came along.
It was quite emotional but I’m not really sure why. Nostalgia I guess. I was very conscious that my memory had distorted things beyond recognition when actually lots of things like hills & houses & shops & stations hadn’t really changed.
As I left my old town and drove towards my grandads, I saw even more places I recognised .. schools & a memorial & a hotel & the photography shop where we’d had our professional baby photos taken in the late 70’s! Obviously a successful business! I drove past the hospital I was born and then into the countryside where the tears started to flow.
Like I say, I’m not really sure what I was crying about. A build up of stuff I guess but it came out and that was ok.
When I got to my grandads care home, it was obvious he had deteriorated massively since I last saw him. He was frail, weak, mumbling gibberish & in my opinion, in no fit state for a trip to the hospital. But he has a pace maker which needed to be checked so off we went.
My heart was breaking in the car. He’s deaf, has dementia, has no idea what’s going on and can’t communicate. It was getting dark and he was probably frightened. The traffic was heavy and I knew we had a mission ahead when we got to the enormous hospital in Hertfordshire. Parking was always a nightmare but again, I was using the power of my mind, willing for there to be a space near where I needed to be.
As I turned into the car park, there was a space. I was overjoyed. This made my life a whole lot easier and I quickly parked. But, as I did, I heard the most awful noise next to me and turned to see my grandad had been sick literally everywhere.
I panicked. What the hell was I supposed to do? Luckily, I guess, he didn’t have a clue. I leaped out of the car to his side and grabbed some wipes I handily kept in the glove box and started the clean up operation.
In the midst of the nightmare, something just took over me to get the job done. It was cold, he was freezing, it was dark, we had to get into the hospital and the car was in a state. I bundled him into a wheelchair, wrapped him in my shawl and got inside. There, I just lost it. It was so upsetting and I found myself starting to think about having a cigarette. Just something to take away the awfulness of the whole situation. The planning in my head started. ‘After I drop him off, I’ll just go to Tesco’s to get some cleaning products and buy a packet of 10. I’ll only have one. No one will know.’
But similarly to alcohol, I know I won’t have one. And I know no one will know. But I will know. And that is enough.
Eventually, I got my grandad safely back to the home and knew that was probably the last time I will see him. I got back into my foul smelling car and drove away sobbing. Life really is so bloody cruel sometimes.
I drove to Tesco’s, still battling inside. I was aware the battle was more about cigarettes rather than a large glass of Sauvignon but to be honest, either would’ve done. Instead, I bought a massive packet of Mini Eggs & did the lot. Boom. The craving was gone.
Emotionally drained and exhausted, I finally arrived at my friends last night, my happy hair photo a distant memory. So do redheads have more fun? The jury is definitely out but they definitely have more drama for sure.