It happens every year without fail. About a month before St. Patrick’s Day my heart begins to fill with a mixture of loathing and dread. It does not feel like a day of religious and cultural celebration. In fact, it seems more like a holiday in need of renaming. Perhaps “Chug Green Beer Day” (or just “Beer Day”!). Or “Make a Drunken Asshole of Yourself Day”. Or “Day Drinking Day”. The amount of alcohol consumption deserves an Olympic event. The masses come out and the booze worship commences. I am sadly reminded of sheep at a trough.
The other week I was driving to work and noticed a deranged woman teetering down the center line of a very busy and dangerous street. She tried to win an audience from every vehicle that passed. It was like watching a scene from the Walking Dead unfold before my eyes. She put her mittens against my window as I tried to creep by and all I could do was shake my head at her through the glass. I felt a mixture of horror and pity. Not wanting her to get run down, I made sure local law enforcement were aware of the situation. Later, I learned she had been asking drivers for her favorite libation. In the days that followed, she was struck by a car as she engaged in the same alcohol seeking behavior.
In recounting the story to others, it was theorized that she was suffering from dementia or some comparable illness. But I recognized the wet brain before she was close enough to reach out and touch. I was not surprised to learn I was right.
The last time I saw my biological father alive was an eerily similar situation. I stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” was playing on the radio (“The lunatic is on the grass…”) The pedestrian was my father. Except it wasn’t really my father. It was an empty shell. A zombie. There was nothing human about what I saw drift like a ghost across the street.
I don’t know if I ever actually met my father, the man, in my lifetime. The sickness took everything and it took everything early. All I knew was the disease and its complete moral bankruptcy.
This is what alcohol does. Sure, it can be relaxing or “fun”. But it also makes people sick. It kills. It alters our state of mind and therefore robs us of the ability to be wholly present in the moment and to form genuine connections with others.
I fail miserably to understand how people can turn a blind eye. Our society is absolutely saturated with and enamored by booze. We continue to choose it even as we kneel next to the coffins of our dead.
I’ve focused a lot in my posts on “wearing the world like a loose cloak” and not allowing it to break my spirit. I try to live and let live. I work on keeping the focus on how I can change myself and not on how I can change others. For the most part, I think this is the healthiest attitude. On very rare occasions, however, I think it’s more appropriate to take a stand and ask people to wake up and take a good, hard look around.
In thinking about the sheep analogy I made earlier, I am reminded of Dr. Lecter …”Do the lambs still scream, Clarice”?
I am certainly haunted.
“I don’t drink that much,” you say to yourself as you read, “I am not part of the problem”.
But you are definitely part of the problem as long as you are silent. The status quo is perpetuated by silence. The stigma around addiction is perpetuated by silence.
Turn on the radio. How many songs do you hear about getting wasted? One of my favorites is about this guy who “works his ass off” but can’t pay his rent so he says fuck-it-let’s-blow-it. Party time!
Awesome. How about “turning down” and being responsible? That would be a travesty, huh? What about having a loving, healthy relationship instead of “fucking bitches up”? What about having fun without a lubricant? What about dealing with reality, good or bad, without a sedative?
I’ve said this before, I’m not a prohibitionist. I’m about positive change. I’m about spreading love. I’m about saving lives and creating a better world. All I’m asking is for anyone who will listen to stop and think.
People absolutely flipped their shit when they thought Ebola was coming. Where is the same outrage for those dying from alcohol and addiction?
Maybe I’ve pissed you off. Maybe you’re feeling very defensive about your drinking. If I’m right, you’re only serving to prove my point. If alcohol doesn’t really matter that much, why guard it so protectively?
My time has been worth it if only one person stops glorifying alcohol use and abuse after reading this. Seriously, waving alcohol consumption around like a brightly colored flag is not something worthy of pride. We should not be proud that this is the norm in our media. We should not be proud that our youth are aspiring to escape and excess and consequently dying.
I challenge you to break free from the majority. I challenge you to be a lion instead of a sheep. I challenge you to say enough is enough and to live that truth. You can make a difference. Change happens one person at a time.