It Sucks That I Have To Write This Blog About Gin
Of the vices we have, why do we continue to defend a dangerous one in alcohol?
Before I opened my google doc and spilled this response into it, I asked myself: Is this the sword I want to die on?
As I asked myself that I saw a tweet from Ashley Ford that read “I don’t owe you an argument just because you came here to have one.”
Now, I had a second question: Was I writing this for an argument?
Too often individuals from the sober-curious and alcohol-free movements lead with aggression. Our sensitivities make us combative as we defend our choices, and urge others to adopt them.
What we need to understand is that one never needs to defend investing in themselves, and urging someone to adopt a lifestyle ain’t it.
Let’s learn from vegans.
The sober curious and alcohol-free communities need to be inclusive and inviting. Often we are ridiculed for our decision to abstain, even stigmatized against because of it, but we must understand that objections to our choices are often another’s insecurities being projected onto us. They have nothing to do with our decision but many who do feel the need to publicly oppose are simply threatened by our decisions, or feel judged by us.
It’s all a big misunderstanding.
Wading through this internal response pond, I carried on trusting myself.
What I was responding to was one writer’s defense of the Covid-19 cocktail hour in Drinking Is the Best Part of the Day. Is That Unhealthy?
My initial response was frustration. Frustrated that an admired writer with a platform would invest in defending alcohol and that a publication claiming to have science-backed health and wellness coverage would elevate it.
Then it grew to exhaustion. Exhaustion with a culture that continues to produce and consume content advocating, suggesting, and glorifying alcohol while failing to address the favorable inequities of it when compared to other substances and leading causes of preventable death in the United States.
At last, it settled on compassion.
Considering that I may have been overreacting, I explored the possibility that the parties involved weren’t as educated on the external branches of alcohol’s aftermath, or that maybe this is exactly what this author wanted: dialogue.
I want to reaffirm that I admire this writer and this piece of work. I consider it art in structure and prose. But I do disagree with it.
My discomfort is in the highlighting of alcohol’s numbing properties as a solution to how we might be feeling today.
Using alcohol to numb is misuse.
The science cited in this piece, a study from 2000, presented evidence of psychological benefits of alcohol consumption found in experimental, observational, interview, self-report, correlational, and prospective research that subjective health, mood enhancement, stress reduction, sociability, social integration, mental health, long-term cognitive functioning, and work income/disability were attributed to alcohol consumption.
In a piece defending the use of alcohol’s numbing properties, it’s favorable to include this as it satisfies a reader’s pallet.
But, it’s incomplete.
What was failed to be shared from the same abstract was the confirmation that problem drinkers and alcoholics seek mood and other benefits from alcohol. That’s dependency. This same study then concluded it was as yet impossible to determine to what extent moderate alcohol consumption causes positive psychological outcomes and to what extent it is part of a complex pattern of mutually reinforcing variables.
An incomplete defense.
Still, some might latch onto the word problem drinker and consider themselves excluded, so for a quick departure into a definition, it’s important to share that the CDC, referencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, clarifies that the moment you have that third drink as the moment you are no longer a moderate drinker and that binge drinking is defined as having 4 or more drinks in under 3 hours for women, and 5 or more drinks in under 3 hours for men. These “drinks” are measured by volume.
There’s so much to unsew and I promised myself I wouldn’t go down the science road but quickly it’s important to include:
As a chemical depressant, alcohol can negatively impact one’s mental state.
A single episode of binge drinking can have measurable effects on the innate immune system.
A 2016 Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Alcohol Consumption and All-Cause Mortality, found that there are no health protections at low intake levels.
The medical community concludes that as an intoxicating, addictive, toxic, carcinogenic drug, alcohol is not a good choice as a therapeutic agent, and we need to begin informing the public that drinking alcohol is very unlikely to improve their health.
Sharing health data isn’t exciting. It’s boring as shit and it’s from the same spot pushing those who drink into the penalty box. So, let’s move on.
My initial reaction was directed towards the poor promotion of alcohol as a numbing agent, but as I digested this piece more, I grew concerned with the victims that defending alcohol silences.
When a person writes an article defending the use of alcohol, it’s not selective. One can’t defend the use of alcohol, yet disassociate from its role in domestic violence. One can’t defend the use of alcohol, only to fail to acknowledge the destruction on and off-premise alcohol outlets have on communities.
It’s similar to those who try to dissociate their contribution to racism when voting for a candidate that opposes climate change when we know that climate disruption disproportionately affects non-white communities across the globe.
The alcohol industry spends a collective $2.2 Billion on traditional media advertising for beer, spirits, ciders, and wines. With little regulations as to what these advertisements have to say, this marketing spend commits itself to convince us that alcohol can’t be that bad.
And those pulling the levers do a damn good job.
Promoting the consumption of alcohol contributes to community oppression, as it’s known that greater numbers of outlets will tend to open in areas where rents are low, resulting in higher concentrations of alcohol outlets in low-income areas. Oppressive because there are significant and substantive relationships between outlet densities, alcohol-related traffic crashes, violence, and crime. So, a fair extraction is that the purchase of alcohol is an oppressive vote.
Promoting alcohol consumption as a numbing agent to hardships related to Covid-19 is even an endorsement of intimate partner violence. With warnings that domestic abuse during quarantines are increasing defending alcohol consumption, a substance that increases the occurrence and severity of domestic violence, is also what one is defending.
See, one can’t just turn a blind eye out of convenience or bias.
It would be hypocritical and honestly a bit annoying of me to soapbox into your screen urging you to adopt an alcohol-free life, so I pull-up short and ask: Why?
With all of the stories one could write, why does defending alcohol feel necessary?
We can consume alcohol as a culture, yet not publicly defend it. There are far more noble causes to defend.
Writing this response even feels like a defense. I feel vulnerable as I read comment sections and twitter threads celebrating this defense. I guess I find comfort in Mark Twain's’ “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
These articles only entertain and satisfy those with an appetite for headlines that justify their consumption.
We simply don’t need these.
And that’s what sucks.
It sucks that peers feel the need to produce and consume content that defends a substance like alcohol.
It sucks that though individuals might smoke, or vape, or indulge in other substances today to deal with the stresses of the times, that it’s only alcohol that we accept the defense of.
It sucks that rather than highlight alternate ways to cope with the times, we defend the oppressive and dangerous agent alcohol.
What the opportunity this could have been for the best part of one's day to be daily celebrations of front line workers, has turned into an opportunity to publicly defend an addictive, oppressive, numbing agent.
And, that sucks.
Of the vices we have, why do we continue to defend one: Alcohol?
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