[Originally posted 20th January 2018]
#DryJanuary has become such a ‘thing’, that yesterday I caught a luxury Scottish hotel using this hashtag in an Instagram post advertising drinking #champagne and #celebrating because #itstheweekend with a beautiful inviting picture of two flutes of bubbly at a decadently laid table.
“Why are you using the ‘Dry January hashtag’ to promote drinking your champagne?”, I asked them. “Don’t you think this is a little insensitive to those who are following this hashtag because they are trying to kick alcohol addiction?”.
No response yet. Secretly hoping they’ll send me an apology and vouchers for a luxury weekend stay and a magnum of San Pellegrino.
“Unwad your panties, Violet”, you might be thinking, “It’s just a little marketing. It’s just advertising”. Yes, yes it is. And it’s not acceptable. There’s a reason why people recovering from alcohol addictions are angry with this sort of thing. It’s because it is everywhere, and it IS a major reason why people are dying every day from alcohol-related illness. It is a reason why families are destroyed by alcoholism. It is a reason why people get behind the wheel after a bottle of wine, to go to the shop for more wine, because their pre-frontal cortexes are so shot by addiction that they cannot reason out why this is a wrong choice.
“It” is the constant, pervasive, aggressive normalisation of drinking alcohol. And of course, as is the case with most things that continue despite being wrong, it stands to make a few people very rich indeed.
Things have shifted for other addictive substances. Today’s generation of children no longer grow up surrounded by subliminal suggestions around the glamour of smoking cigarettes. No. Instead, they are picking up discarded cigarette packets outside their houses and asking their parents what the HELL that picture is (“it’s a photo of a cancerous tongue tumour, poppet, caused by smoking”).
I grew up with the slogan “Just say NO” (to drugs), and, being a very good girl, I duly said NO to drugs, with the exception of a joint or two at teenage parties – which, luckily for me, made me vomit, and was just not my jam.
But alcohol? Alcohol made me vomit too. Probably every time I had it for the first 10 times or more as a teenager. But interestingly, this never put me off. Is that because I believed, deep down in my bones, that alcohol was a normal, healthy part of ‘grown up celebrating’? I think so. And why?
Marketing. So pervasive, so EVERYWHERE is it, that we don’t even notice it. I literally never noticed the advertising of alcohol until I started pursuing sobriety. That’s because it’s so EVERYWHERE that it’s like beige wallpaper.
It’s common knowledge that, if alcohol was only discovered today, its oral consumption would not and could not be legalised for medical purposes**, let alone for recreational use. It is addictive and is linked with higher incidence of several types of cancer, even when consumed ‘moderately’.
So anyway. I failed* Dry January 2017 after 28 days, after starting on 2nd January (because obviously, the only way to treat a New Year’s Day hangover is with a glass of wine or three). But listen- here’s what is important. IT WAS NO FAILURE. It was part of the warm-up – a gentle stretch, or a bit of essential strength training – in the run up to the REAL race: the rest of my life.
Which, it turns out, just so happens to be a life free of alcohol. A life that – yes – does NEED to be free of alcohol. But it’s a gift, not a hardship.
Now, pass the #SanPellegrino – #itstheweekend, let’s #celebrate!
*It’s not really failure
**It’s a useful antiseptic though!