Well... kind of true. Problems, achievements, company, lack of company, boredom.... all drive an alcoholic to drink. Problems drive an alcoholic to drink, yes, but so does everything else.
Alcoholics are only showing their true nature
This is not true. Alcoholism changesthe perception of needs so that the need for alcohol is always urgent and more critical than the need for relationships, dignity or other objectives that drive social interactions. It is not "inner nature" to court damage to reputation for example - even for exploitative or self-destructive people, but it is a frequent sacrifice in the pursuit of alcohol. The laziest alcoholic will court a mile long walk to buy alcohol, for another example.
I write/paint/sing/whatever better after a peg or two // Alcohol makes me creative
What alcoholism does is lower inhibitions. It removes internal censors by the simple means of reducing the brain's capacity for complex thinking. It may seem like increased productivity if you have self image issues or other inhibitions preventing you from working freely, but it most certainly does not improve quality unless your standards are really low. The lowered inhibitions are as likely to let your creativity through as your lack of it.
I don't drink in the morning, so I am not an alcoholic // You turned me into an alcoholic
Alcoholism evolves. If people have raised concerns about your drinking, if you drink compulsively, if social occasions seem boring without drinks, if you avoid non-drinking company in your drinking timings, if being denied drinks makes you angry... then it is a matter of time.
A person's presence in another's life may coincide with an escalation in drinking, but one person cannot turn another into an alcoholic. Period. Such accusations by alcoholics are a way of shifting the burden of guilt. They should be ignored.
I drink from my own money // I know my limits
On running out of alcohol, the ownership or source of the money (or directly alcohol) are no longer issues. Limits get reviewed and approved extensions automatically. It does not matter where the money for the drink comes from, when it runs out, the price of alcoholism is paid by the home with emotional damage, physical damage, financial damage that goes well beyond the cost of the alcohol consumed. This could be anyone coming into intimate contact with the person if the alcoholic no longer lives with family.
I am really respected and loved by the people who work at XYZ Bar/Club/Liquor shop // They let me pay later if I don't have money
If you are known and regular enough for an establishment serving alcohol to be paying special attention to you, it is worth considering that you have become business they count on. This is not to say that there is no genuine affection and friendly relationship that grows, but it is extremely concerning when a person flaunts these relationships in front of other relationships. Many alcoholics also start nurturing their self-images that are damaged badly by alcoholism by seeing this as servitude and superiority, much like a ruler of the bar. This fantasy is profitable to waiters, because it invariably leads to magnanimous gestures and generous tips. A very definite warning sign for the person reduced to asserting self worth in this manner.
If you have used these explanations for yourself or someone else, know that the need for those explanations to be required in itself is a sign of alcoholism. No one asks a person who doesn't drink too much why they drink so much. At least not often. Requiring explanations for drinking, particularly when speaking with people who drink themselves, means those explanations are myths, unless they are "I drink, because I feel I cannot do without"
When words that convey extreme contempt are used, they ought to be used with responsibility, if at all they must be used. For, is not telling people what to think an insult to their ability to reach conclusions?
This post is about an article by Sujata Anandan where she essentially calls Anna Hazare a Tin-pot dictator and condemns his dictatorial policies. I would like to address several things in her article.
Flogging of alcoholics
As the wife of an alcoholic and an occasional drinker myself, I see drinking alcohol and alcoholism as two different things with little in common other than the consumption of alcoholic beverages. For example, a regular drinker could comfortably visit Ralegan Siddhi to cover this epic news and have a drink later after returning home. An alcoholic would travel to the nearest town to find a bar, try to wriggle out of the assignment altogether, sneak in his bottle or finish it fast and return to an environment where alcohol is possible.
You cannot reason with an alcoholic. I mean, you can, but it becomes irrelevant when it is time to drink. It is also not only about the mind. The body forms a dependency and doesn't function properly without alcohol - this is how "medical licences" for alcohol happen.
It takes what many recovered alcoholics call "hitting rock bottom" or overwhelming and undeniable bad consequences for an alcoholic to undertake the overwhelming effort to fight his/her own body and mind to quit. Most alcoholics go to their graves without ever attempting this fight. Others try, lose momentum and lapse.
In other news, while drinking alcohol may be a personal choice, alcoholism is a social, economic and security menace. Alcoholism is almost always associated with domestic abuse - not even because the person is evil, but he is simply too drunk to care that others hurt because of him, and he always wants things his way, because he is too drunk to deal with anything. They destroy domestic relationships, make enemies out of friends, deprive dependents - particularly children or resources that should rightfully be theirs for nurture.
Alcoholics will buy alcohol no matter what. It isn't a multiple choice question, unless you are talking which brand. They will switch to cheaper brands, dubious quality, spend their last dime, borrow, steal, prostitute themselves or their wives, whatever it takes to get their quota. It is a compulsion. Alcoholism itself is a dictatorship.
Drunk drivers on the streets are a risk to more lives than their own.
I don't see alcoholism as a personal choice, if it damages other people. It is far worse than say exposing people to passive smoke.
While I don't agree with the method of flogging, as someone who has read extensively on alcoholism, I can see how a rural environment lacks absolutely any leverage that is "legal" to prevent this damage to families. For a population of alcoholics amounting in the millions, we barely have enough affordable support for de-addiction in cities. Leave alone villages. Obviously, there is a point where you either bend rules, or watch many people suffer the consequences of one person's alcoholism. Would I have done it the same way? I don't know.
But this is far from a dictatorship. In focusing that Anna "sometimes" flogs alcoholics, it is easy to overlook who is doing it other times. Sure, it is human rights abuse according to fancy, imported ethics. So where are the facilities that an alcoholic can be arrested and rehabilitated if found in a village where alcohol is banned? Is it more "human rights" friendly to get an alcoholic arrested, likely beaten by the cops instead, accommodated in some prison while the country's over burdened system waits for his case comes to court? Or should this glorious Sharad Pawar experiment be ignored - I thought she liked it, but it shouldn't be enforced?
Power to women to close down liquor shops
A little more research would have told this writer that this isn't an experiment by Sharad Pawar, it was an ammendment to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 - her tin-pot dictator Anna Hazare is the one to demand it. Ralegaon Siddhi was the model on which the conditions were developed for banning liquor based on a vote by the women of a village - very dictatorial, huh? Nice style, calling him a tin-pot dictator, and attributing the result of his appeal as an experiment by someone else. It is obviously an article written by a gushing fan, but the facts stand there. Also the RTI, etc.
Banning alcohol and cigarettes
I smoke and drink, but as a citizen of a democracy, I also recognize the right of that village and its elected body for self-determination. With the number of people who smoke and drink, I don't think it is something that can be imposed by some freak dictator on the majority.
Which brings me to - this is the second mention of youth running away from Ralegan Siddhi rather than bear "dikkats". I only want to point out that with all the publicity the village got, as well as the massive mud slinging efforts mobilized, it should have been relatively simple to interview a few of those youth about the tortures they escaped. Surprisingly, months along, I'm still searching news for this epic article that would kill all support for Anna among youth, etc.
That said, I was a staunch supporter of the IAC movement, but I see it drifting away from the things about it I supported. However, this doesn't mean that our national sport of mud slinging is a good idea, and this is one big reason media today cannot be trusted for information in order to form your opinion. You are fed conclusions.
Thus, when an editor chose to do this, I thought why not debunk it, for no reason other than I value the freedom of thought and oppose vilifying anyone?
Passive alcoholism is what I have started calling the experience of being under the influence of a person under the influence of alcoholism.
Those following me on Facebook were aghast a couple of months ago and then again last week, when I spoke of suffering the effects of my husband's alcoholism. It seems that as usual, I broke quite a few of society's norms by having "no shame".
Those who think that "dirty laundry" shouldn't be washed in public need to think about what they call dirty laundry. I am speaking up on the subject of passive alcoholism in our home. The face is, at least a tenth of the adult population of our country drink often. Among these, at least a third of them drink regularly. Far from being a private matter, this is a big concern for today's world, but remains unspoken behind a curtain of shame.
The government is content to make laws that change nothing. Expensive alcohol only means more money needs to be raised. That it will be raised is never in doubt. Guess who pays? Overburdened and deprived house wifes, parents, children.
I am taking a risk speaking up, but it is not to defame anyone, or to ask for pity. My husband did end up fielding a lot of awkward questions from friends. I did end up getting a storm of messages from 'conservative' friends for speaking up. I also got a lot of friends openly offering me help, advice and support. Not a single person criticized my husband. Nor was that the intent of the conversation.
I hope it can't be said that I attacked him unfairly. He didn't say that either. It seems that the criticism was of me and in private messages for bringing up something that "decent people" hide. People are even ashamed of criticizing someone speaking up on alcoholism. Not a public thing.
Yet, there seems to be absolutely nothing wrong in sitting publicly in a bar and drinking. Only in saying that that drinking happens. In saying that a drunk hurts many people with inconsiderate, irresponsible behaviour. In admitting being hurt.
There isn't a locality in Mumbai without a bar. But apparently, no one drinks in all these places. Or at least, if they drink, they are all graceful, witty people bonding with true friends after that. Nothing ugly exists.
There are far more people dead from drinking than from cigarettes - from illness and accidents. If we look at the impact on relationships.... it is untold damage. So where is the alcoholism related information in the public space? The limit seems to be in saying "don't drink and drive". For every one person who drinks and drives, there are ten who drink and abuse. Who steal to drink. Who lose all confidence in self and drink. Who scare their kids awake with domestic arguments in the middle of the night. Who drink and fight. Who drink and get aggressive at whim. Who insult their loved ones to feel better about themselves or to bow them to their will, in the fear that their drinking might get questioned - even when no one is questioning it. Where are the campaigns?
I can understand it if an alcoholic avoids the subject out of shame, but it is the family members who suppress such talks.
Some say alcoholism is an illness. Others say it is an addiction born of irresponsibility. All agree that once established, it is compulsive.
When you live with an alcoholic, you meet more alcoholics and you meet more people suffering from alcoholics. They are as much a victim of alcoholism as the drinker. I have lost count of the times I have offered wry smiles at my husband behaving in an embarrassing way. I have lost count of the times when I have given or received an empathetic look of support to other wives at a table. When a party can go silent at some unexpectedly degrading insult by a supposedly loved one.
And before someone jumps on me saying that I'm assuming alcoholics are men, I'm not assuming that at all. Only that the ones in my husband's circle are all men.
I know I have been stunned into disbelieving silence out of fear or out of a false sense of dignity, and I know many people who are trapped in prisons of passive alcoholism. Where they make excuses why someone can't attend. Where they lose touch with society because they feel ashamed. Where they are always short of money. Where they keep borrowing to make ends meet. Where they keep lying about so many things. Where having a rational conversation with your alcoholic is an extraordinarily unrealistic expectation. The world keeps shrinking, options keep decreasing. It is difficult to endure.
I know it, because I have been there. I know what it feels like to see your mother-in-law helpless to reason with her son as he loudly demands that you be removed from the house. The tears in her eyes as she clutches your son to her chest hoping to soothe him to sleep through the racket.
It makes those around the drinker as insane as the drinker. I know I've had my share of anger, fights, frustration trying to get him to not drink. I have done many things to get him to be normal, to live up to committments. I have blamed him, been angry with him, hated him.... all the time covering up his 'failures' and resenting him for failing on simple things like answering calls from people. I have seen myself a bitter, sarcastic woman scoring cheap insults at his expense.... my world was as twisted as his was without drinking a drop.
It is all the more infuriating because he is what is called a functional alcoholic - he is able to work efficiently, which creates an illusion that I am the one being over obsessive over his actions. Not true.
I can only share that the more you hide, the more you start owning the guilt for actions you did not do and hating your alcoholic for making you suffer that. Some part of me still cares for the man. I have not given up hope. Nor do I wish to leave him and start a fresh life with a baby in my arms. But it is claiming my life and following my own desires that keeps me sane. This blog, my child, my other interests.... I have a full life. Then, the sorrow becomes a smaller share of it. Then, if I am sane, I am able to still care for my son, my family and yes, my husband too.
I refuse to return to a shell where I pretend everything is fine and suffer the embarrassment of appearing less than fine all the time. Of feeling a fraud when telling people that all is well. Things are not fine on some fronts. This is what I live with. This isn't asking for pity. This isn't defaming. It is being honest. It is refusing to be complicit in the sheltering of this disease. It is my own fight against becoming victim to passive alcoholism.
I go through tough times and good ones like us all. When the going is bad, I speak about the alcoholism as openly as I would about insomnia or diabetes. I ask for help and advice as easily as I would for an argument with a family member. And, I see nothing wrong in expressing my mood, frustration or need on Facebook, because I consider those who come there my friends enough not to pretend smiles and grins all the time. I see no need to hide things that I am not responsible for doing. Getting rid of the shame is more than half the healing.
The coming out of the closet is not only for the addicts, but addicts of the influence of addiction - if that makes sense.
If you find yourself nodding in recognition, my invitation to you is to stop drowning in shame and shrinking your world. If you suffer from someone's alcoholism, you need help as much as the sufferer, because this is a "group disease". It will help to reach out, speak with people, stop hiding things. You are no help to anyone by becoming crazy yourself. Nor are you any different if your frustration makes you equally irresponsible and abusive. Your suffering achieves no purpose, though it may seem tragic and melodramatic at times. It is only playing with the cards you have that will get you to a different place.
An organization called Al-Anon offers support to those who live with the effects of alcoholism on someone they care about. I urge you to find a local chapter and join. Or meet a counsellor, or a friend with plenty of time, or ..... reach out right here, on this blog 😉 Don't keep it to yourself. It isn't yours to keep.
Update: My husband continues to drink. However, since moving to a less urban setting, the drinking is at home, which somewhat lessens the risks as well as decreases influences of woman abusing company. Life at home has achieved a functional, if uneasy and sporadically abusive truce.