I think it is only fair to speak on behalf of everyone who has ever had a problem with giving up the drink. It is my right. I will use this right.
People have this commonly held conception that you are responsible for your actions. Of course you are!! Otherwise you could be controlled from afar and manipulated into doing things for others without ever knowing. You could be coerced into buying things you never wanted but suddenly own three different colours of. If we did not have control over ourselves, we could find ourselves believing everything the politicians and oil companies tell us, living a life of ease and comfort.
Oh wait. Hold on a second.
Isn’t that what’s happening right now?
Bombardment. Messages. Instruction. Sales. Products. Brands. Images. Icons. Fashion. Adverts. Fame. Fortune.
Every second you spend in the public sphere, from switching on your radio or TV, to walking down the street or catching the bus, is monitored by companies who want to grab your attention to sell you their products. We are susceptible to their slogans and their tantalising ads. They appeal to our base instincts and involve us at a subliminal and emotional level. The most successful companies have embedded their products into the very fabric of our lives. Their products are so entwined in our consciousness that we accept them in the ritual of our existence.
Going for a coffee, a beer or cocktail are accepted as a very normal and enjoyable thing to do.
Who in their right mind would question whether these simple things could be anything other than an expression of the freedom we have in democratic, free society? Aren’t these the spoils of capitalism? Aren’t these the little luxuries and trimmings we are entitled to as hard working human beings?
I am in my right mind. But I question these assumptions we take for granted.
I know things about the alcohol industry that disturb me. I worked for a big drinks company for almost two years when I lived in Ireland. In this time I met with some of the high level management who lived their lives according to the brain washing that was fed to them. In turn they fed the propaganda (“marketing” in modern day parlance) onto me and others working for the company.
I know I am not uncovering any great mystery here but what really took me was how evil and nefarious their thinking was. People are seen as merely a number to crunch. They are seen as commodities which need to be attached to alcohol and kept on it – Weaned onto Mother’s Milk for this life of ease and comfort. To do this companies spend millions of dollars to maintain their myth, their story. They spend millions researching how teenagers and young adults think so they can create adverts to capture their attention and lure them into the culture of drinking. They spend millions every year to ensure famous people are seen with certain drinks in their hands at key moments in popular movies. They spend billions creating and maintaining the image that alcohol is fun, enjoyable and the thing to do on pretty much any occasion. All you have to do is look at any alcohol advert these days – fun, funny and trying to be funnier. For the most part people believe it.
What I couldn’t believe one day was what I heard at a sales meeting in Dublin, just as the recession was kicking in hard in the Emerald Isle. Figures were being bandied about, talk of targets and all that abounded. The head honcho then spoke and in an excited way began to address the issue of the impending financial crisis. There was a surreal level of salivating that shook me. Bring it on, were his very words. Bring it shaggin’ well on – his words verbatim. You see, in the cold, hard world of alcohol sales, when people are miserable and deprived, they drink more. When they have less money they cut back on luxuries such as foreign holidays, and drink more. The hard times for people in Ireland was welcomed by the alcohol companies. They have created an environment which makes you celebrate with their products and commiserate with them too. The evil monkeys which run these corporations have no regard for the alcoholic on the end of the stick. They are their bread and butter.
These companies are in the business of creating a comfortable world for alcoholics and maintaining their lack of awareness of anything different. For all the talk of less money and pubs closing in Ireland, alcohol sales are booming.
Now, I am not suggesting that these companies are responsible for people with drinking addictions. They are not. But they are responsible for creating a world where it is difficult to separate the “good times” from the “slipping into a drunken abyss times”.
So where does this fit into my current thinking. Well, I know that people are quick to blame the weak for their own predicaments. People are the authors of their own downfall.
I suppose I would like to see a certain amount of compassion for people who are addicted and who struggle in their lives. We are given free will and free choice and nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to drink. But it takes a huge level of self control to never try alcohol. And if you do try it and fall in love with it, but it doesn’t love you, what then? What next? If you have that gene in your make up which compels you to drink till you drop, and then go and do it all again, are you really completely responsible for how you behave when you are under the influence? Where do you draw the line between someone who is misbehaving naturally, and someone who is a powerless addict and behaving accordingly?
When I found the fun going out of drinking I realised I had a problem. A few years ago I noticed that I was a little bitter, twisted, isolated and sometimes even paranoid when I was drinking. When this happened my world had to change. I knew I was being given an opportunity to change my life, to retake control, and I had to take it. I still believe that when I was in the height of my drink and drug consumption and partying for 3 or 4 days solid, that there was pretty much nothing wrong with my habits. I was always enjoying myself. I was always in relative control.
Such was the beautifully twisted world that I had created in my mind. Such is the power of repeat selling and living according to heavily enforced mantras. The ubiquitous religion of drinking is omnipotent.
I was convinced that the world I had bought into was indeed a true reflection of who I was, and what I wanted to be. The world I had constructed was one which had been sold to me by my peers and the marketing ploys of massive beer companies. I thought my life was unique and that I challenged the norms, yet in fact I was a weak willed sheep who didn’t realise that he was just a pawn in a game he never knew existed.
The reality hit home when I came back to Australia and noticed that the problems I was having in Ireland didn’t relent. The environment made no difference; the only constant was me and the alcohol. Friends were fought with, relationships frayed, alley ways were woken up in. My world was just as messy when I drank over here as it was in Ireland. Again I wonder if I was completely responsible for my actions when I drank – in answer I don’t think I was. So I had to give up the drink and hence became the Sober Paddy.
Through it all the same point remains. We are living in a world where multinational corporations thrive on gullible, weak people who crave habit and the familiar. For some of us the familiar turns into something which can slowly destroy you. For others there is nothing to worry about. Next time you see someone struggling with their daemons, try to think outside the box and create an avenue of escape for them. Give them a chance to be free by pushing this man made environment away – you might just make all the difference.