I’ve slowly been coming to the somewhat sad and slightly aggravating realization that while my sobriety is incredibly important to me, my newfound attitude about alcohol doesn’t have any effect on anyone other than myself and those around me who also choose to abstain. Wine memes and Pumpkiny Booze Drink recipes and Instagram beer photos are fucking everywhere these days. It’s really starting to annoy me. The whole attitude, you know? Those shitty memes that make fun of something that is actually really serious.
You know the type. All you have to do is type “national wine day” into google image search and you’ll get thousands of results showing fancy-ass women raising a glass while saying something witty and Facebook “likable”:
“May 25th is National Wine Day. Like We Need An Excuse.”
“Today is National Drink Wine Day. I’m confused. Isn’t every day National Drink Wine Day?” (No. That’s why there’s a specific day called that.)
“Finally, a day we don’t have to pretend there isn’t wine in the coffee mug” (WTF??)
“If wearing leggings and reaching for a bottle of wine is considered yoga, I worked out every day this week” (newsflash: IT’S NOT and NO YOU DIDN’T)
I’ll have you know, though, that my annoyance with these stupid memes hasn’t always been an issue. I probably shared a few of those back in my day. I’m sure most of us have. True, none of us are truly innocent in this regard. But as soon as you take a step away from drinking culture and really evaluate how deeply-rooted our cultural love affair with booze is, it’s kind of surprising. And actually, it’s pretty scary, too.
Because I was never a rock-bottom drinker and I never needed rehab or an intervention – I stopped long before the “real” trouble began – I don’t think that there are many people who know me who can understand or appreciate the mindshift that occurred when I went from being a daily drinker to a total abstainer. I say this as someone who, when I drank, was confused and somewhat irritated by non-drinkers myself. I didn’t really understand their lifestyle, and beyond those who needed to abstain because of health problems or hitting rock bottom, I didn’t really “get” why people chose not to drink.
So the further I get into sobriety, the more I realize how wrong I was for judging non-drinkers in the way that I did. But there’s a new problem, now: I’m trying my hardest to avoid judging active drinkers in the same way.
It’s actually pretty hard.
It’s hard because what I’ve learned about alcohol over the past 3 months has greatly shifted my worldview on drinking. Before I quit, I was absolutely one of those people who saw alcohol as just another part of life. It was so ingrained into my way of thinking that celebrating it, making plans around it, designating whole days or nights to consuming it, and accepting the aftermath of its effects was just normal. That’s how life was. Even when I realized I was starting to over-consume and over-rely on it, it was hard to question the perspective that alcohol just belongs in daily life.
These days, I’ve come to unlearn many of those beliefs. I am much more aware of how pernicious alcohol is in society, and I see it glorified everywhere I go. I’ve written a bit about how I worry about my step mom, who has chosen to continue drinking even after reading This Naked Mind and attempting a quit.
I bring up This Naked Mind because, at its core, the book aims to challenge the thoughts and beliefs we have about alcohol, in order to change our subconscious desire to keep drinking while consciously wishing we could cut down or stop completely. It challenges the idea that alcohol is some kind of magical elixir that brings happiness, sexiness, togetherness and joy to those who consume it. It challenges the idea that it is necessary to have fun. It challenges the idea that consuming alcohol can be healthy – it’s SO NOT HEALTHY – by diving into the very real and very scary health effects of consumption. And it does this in a way that aims to empower readers with knowledge. It doesn’t dictate that you HAVE to stop drinking; it simply asks you to consider the idea that you don’t NEED to KEEP drinking in order to have a beautiful, fulfilling life. It asks you to consider that there is a life beyond alcohol, and that it can, in fact, be better than you ever imagined – if only you give it a try.
I bring up that book because it changed my perspective on drinking so much that after absorbing the book’s message, my desire to drink alcohol was almost 100% gone. There were just small echoes of desire in my brain that were easily quashed by this newfound freedom. I loved it. I wanted to share it with everyone.
And so when I handed the book over to my step mom, and she voluntarily chose to read the entire thing, I had high hopes. I thought maybe she, too, would consider a life beyond alcohol to be a possibility. She’s the only regular drinker in the house these days. She consumes way more than my dad in any given week, and because I don’t drink anymore, she consumes exponentially (infinitely?) more than me. She will often imbibe alone. She gets giddy at the idea of drinking. It appears to be a safety blanket that she’s having a really hard time letting go of.
When I handed her the book and she read it, I felt so happy because I was able to spread the idea of something I really believed in to someone else. For some reason, I had (unreasonably high) hopes that she would come to understand the message in the same way that I had. I hoped she would be able to view alcohol through the lens that I’ve been using to look at it. I wished so badly for her to choose to abstain.
And she tried. By god, she did. I was proud of her. It was the first time in 6 years that I had ever seen her willingly abstain for something other than sickness.
But now, she’s back. She’s drinking again. Not quite as much anymore, as far as I can tell. But the box wine is back in the fridge and it’s not getting any heavier. I don’t know what her reasoning is because honestly, I haven’t wanted to ask her. I don’t want to come across as pushy. It’s not my business to try to understand her reasoning. But all the same, it confuses me.
How could someone read the same exact book as I did and not want to completely steer clear of alcohol? How could someone consume the same message that I did, yet decide to keep drinking, despite all of the damning evidence against alcohol’s benefits? Had she not paid attention? Was there some missing link that I didn’t pick up on?
It’s confounding. But, at the same time, I know this is actually completely normal, and I know that it’s not necessarily going to make sense to me. My worldview is what I’ve made it to be, which is a worldview that sees alcohol for the poison that it is. My step-mother’s worldview is completely different. For her, the benefits of continued drinking still outweigh the risks. She didn’t experience the same shift in perspective as I did. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for this that go wayyyy beyond reading a single book. Oh, how I wished that could’ve been a jumping point for her like it was for me. But, it’s not.
Similarly, when I get annoyed with booze memes, I have to stop and remind myself that when it comes to my opinions and beliefs about alcohol, I am truly in the cultural minority, as are most people who choose to abstain. The resounding idea is that booze makes the world go ‘round. No doubt, as people come to learn that I’m not longer drinking – ME, the craft-beer fanatic, who used to be married to the brother of a big-time brewmaster – they’ll be confused. They might think I’m doing it as some sort of challenge. I might stop hearing from some friends who had no reason to get together other than to drink. Maybe they’ll feel the same way about me as I once did about non-drinkers. Perhaps some will be intrigued.
Regardless, though, I highly doubt the booze memes will ever go away. Those stupid little quips that poke fun at a serious societal problem will continue to be shared, laughed at, and related to. It’s too easy to lose track of how many people comment “Totally me” or “Same” or “So true lol” on those images every day. And so, the booze merry-go-round continues to spin.
I guess for now, that’s just the way it’s gonna be.