In my quest to understand my drinking behaviour I had to go right back to my teenage years and think about what got me started. Culturally it is important to begin with the fact that I am British and it is part of our history & heritage – rightly or wrongly. Also I grew up in a family of drinkers so they and all of their friends were drinkers, and at that time smokers, so to be accepted you drank (& smoked).
Outside of my family and culture though first and foremost I was a teenager and drinking was absolutely driven by peer pressure and the want to fit in as one of the ‘cool’ kids but also by my ‘perceived’ rite of passage to risk take and experiment. It wasn’t really a rebellion thing, though getting served underage definitely was, as if I wanted to rebel against the expectations around me I would have not drunk or smoked. I grew up in the second summer of love, and therefore as part of the raving scene, and for my family if you wanted to rebel then the answer was drugs. So I did that too.
In some ways this was a good thing as many drugs we didn’t drink alcohol with, so that curbed my excesses in that arena for a bit, but as I grew older the drugs of choice changed and some were taken deliberately to prolong your ability to drink. Interestingly I never moved beyond experimentation and recreational use with these substances and could take them or leave them much of the time. But I suspect at that time I also viewed alcohol as a recreational indulgence and not a problem.
Tomorrow I’ll look at what kept me drinking and what moved my habit from recreational to dependency.
Edited to add: to support our cultural issues with alcohol see this brilliant article in the Guardian last Sunday. My highlight:
And yet despite (or indeed because of) the fact that alcoholism is so widespread, we avoid confronting it. We still shrink from the idea that some human beings cannot drink safely, and that this is an illness. It sometimes appears we are getting less, not more, enlightened about alcohol abuse.
Society suffers from a sort of mass denial on the subject. Many people don’t want to admit that a real compulsion exists, I suspect for fear that this will have implications for their own drinking habits.
Unlike those who go on drinking in denial, people who put down the booze are facing up to their demons and living life without anaesthetic. Surely we should applaud the idea of people treating their own problems by gathering in self-help groups.