Thursday, 31 July 2008

For the Binge Alcoholic In Your Life - Gifts From Argos

If a loved one bought you any of these gifts (click on picture to enlarge for grim details), would you see it as an act of love? Or would you see it as a sign that they wanted you dead, soonest? Would you check to see if any of the family had bumped up your Life Assurance cover recently?
Would you ask for the receipt and take it back to exchange for something more life affirming? A Breville sandwich toaster for example...?

My brand new Autumn Argos catalogue happened to fall open at this edifying page, this damning endictment of modern Britain as a national disgrace, where youngsters spend hours preening themselves to look flawless for the big night out, but seemingly care nothing by the early hours for being found unconscious in the street in their own vomit, undies akimbo. Or who stumbles upon them in that state, be it friend or foe.

Drunkenness used to be a normal-ish rite of passage, a phase, circumscribed by the high cost of drink, the refusal of the pub or bar to serve 'one over the eight', the long arm of the law who still had the power to administer 'tut tuts' or 'thick ears' accordingly, and the young drinker's own sense of self-respect. Then there was the sophistication of being seen to sip your Cinzano rather than turning potential mates off by witnessing you crassly glugging pints and necking shots.

This all now seems to have been swept by the wayside so that despite all their material advantages over previous generations, today's hardest drinking generation displays a worrying degree of often-exhibitionist nihilism, a devil-may-care, so what if I die? attitude. Some indeed are attaining their inner death wish, foi gras-ing their livers with booze, and not seeing middle age.

More and more older people are also drinking to excess or never calming down from their Uni days. Retirees too seem to be opting to take up alcoholism (usually alongside boredom in the sun as ex-pats) and eschewing the golf, ballroom dancing, community work and allotment-keeping of yesteryear.

Is life really so awful that an alarming number of people seek escapism in these excesses? Is life becoming more awful because an alarming number of people are seeking escapism via excess rather than trying to make it better and doing that much-missed community work?

Does excess really = happiness?

Or just numbing, dumbing down?

Funny how a page in a catalogue can lead to a whole train of thought. But lest anyone mistake me for a born again Temperance evangelist, I would just like to make it clear that shocked though I am at Argos promoting binge drinking, I am not against social drinking, only anti-social drinking. And if excessive drinking only killed the a***holes of this world, I'd personally bulk buy these aids-to-suicide for them, but fact is a lot of good people are being sucked into this toxic world and lost to it too, no matter that there has never been more psychological and other help available to them to help them face up to whatever demons are driving them to drink destructively.

I remember being a mess and unhappy with myself in earlier years, but never self-loathing. Where does self-loathing come from (if a person's not actually Hitler), and how do we as a society address this scourge (apart from trying not to indulge in behaviours that can only make self-loathing worse and offer no sense of achievement)?

Here endeth my lesson for Thursday...


teeni said...

Wow. Awesome post. I like your idea of "anti-social" drinking! You made so many great points. I too, don't mind social drinking. However, I know there are many who cannot handle only drinking socially. For some reason, be it genetic or otherwise, they cannot stop before becoming a bumbling boob, and some weren't the epitome of grace before imbibing. And yes, my family has them too. Which is why I've curbed even my social drinking to only when I'm with certain people and have a limit of two drinks. A lot of good people are sucked into the vicious grips of the demon. And I agree with you that people are seeking escapism and that there is a lot of self-loathing. It's a good lesson and well written.

nearside said...

A dark sentiment, but perhaps the anti-social drinkers of the world should be quietly, gently, encouraged in their habits, while the rest of us trust to Darwinism to take care of what needs to be taken care of...

*steps back into the sullen shadows*

Wisewebwoman said...

good post Laura.
"Drinking Gifts".
though I do remember going off on a picnic with partner and his buds and a guy breaks out this big leather suitcase which had the fixings for every cocktail known to (wo)man at that time. We all fell down a few hours later.

Steve said...

I've never been a big fan of alcohol so can never quite see the pull it has for other people. However I think your post does raise lots of interesting points... I honestly believe that young people drink so much out of a combination of boredom, lack of imagination, lack of opportunity, peer pressure and a sense of hopelessness. None of these are good reasons to drink alcohol. There's nothing celebratory or life affirming about it at all. Just the opposite. It's very sad. Most violent crime is committed whilst the perpetrators are smashed on alcohol too - another reason to see its consumption controlled.

kaylee said...

I do do not drink at age 16 LOL!

Rol said...

Weird health-related peculiarities mean that I had to quit drinking a good few years ago, and though I missed it at first I don't at all now... except, I suppose, as a social lubricant.

That said, I can well understand why unhappy people use drink to dull the pain of loneliness or whatever, because in my early 20's I did the same thing. I'm kind of glad to not have that crutch to fall back on anymore as it's a little too easy to tun away into the bottle rather than facing up to your problems and doing something about them.

Reluctant Blogger said...

There is always a tendency in Northern places where the climate is inclement for people to turn to alcohol hence the pricing policies in Scandinavian countries. But clearly there has been a big change here. I'm not sure why that is - cheap availability I guess.

I am a bit of a drinker myself, I tend to use a glass of wine as a stress buster. I rarely drink to excess because I am in charge of my sons - but I do drink a glass or two of wine most evenings. But then again I do not turn to food or TV or anything like that as a crutch - I think a glass or two of red wine a day is probably better than sitting scoffing crisps, chocolate or pizza. (I'm trying to convince myself here - by the way).

But yeah Britain's booze culture does need dealing with - the city centre here is not a pleasant place to be late on a Friday or Saturday. And the piles of vomit are not great if I go running on Sunday morning.

Interesting post.

teeni said...

FYI - I've finally just now put my post up accepting your award! Sorry so late and thanks again. :)

The Sagittarian said...

Great post and very good points made. Like RB I have aglass of wine or two, recent health issues have meant that I had a good long look at what I have and when, stepson is in jail owing to the fact (among other things) that he took to drinking too much and taking "party pills" so at the age of 28 he is now in jail for 8 years for a hideous crime he committed while under the influence of it all. However, he's in the right place but such a waste of a life when you think he'll be in his 30s when he's out and the only people he has had a chance to befriend in that time are in the same place as he is. Jail.
Anyway, all the comments touch on the right things...boredom, peer pressure etc I can only show your kids right from wrong and trust them to keep at it when they are older.

Perosnally I try to never abdicate responsibility for myself to anyone or anything else. Some kids miss that lesson, or learn the hard way eh?

KAZ said...

'Golf, ballroom dancing, community work and allotment-keeping'.
Wow - that sounds enough to drive anyone to drink Laura.

My ex is an alcoholic (now dry) - but never a binger - it was more the vodka bottle in the cupboard style

I wonder which is worse?

I drink half a bottle of white wine a day whether I want to or not!

LucyFishwife said...

I recently bought myself a bottle of "Creme Violette" (a pretty blue-purple violet liqueur)from the Nicolas next door, just on spec - it was actually delicious in small quantities, not remotely like violet pastilles as I was fearing. Makes a very pretty vodka 'n' violet martini! As I walked back into work my boss said "Oh, I nearly bought you that for your birthday because I know you like your bizarre drinks" ... Also bought a lovely pear aperitif in France. I love my odd drinks but not to get drunk on (on purpose, anyway), it's more the fact of them being strange and unusual... is that escapism or some kind of peculiar snobbery of rarity value? That said, we had several alcoholics and indeed depressives and eventual suicides in my family, so I'm always wary of seeing that tendency develop in me.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Thanks Teeni! Sounds like you share a lot of the same concerns and what a wise policy you have re your own drinking. And never mind premature death excessive drinking also ages the skin!

A good point nearside - perhaps we should have more faith in Darwinism to know best. Except perhaps for the innumerable good people we also stand to lose along the way.

WWW, well I think a picnic can be termed enough of an occasion to let one's hair down a little (if not one's pants!)

Steve, you make some salient points about possible causes behind the nihilist aspect. I guess breakdown of the family is not helping youngsters either, though at the end of the day we must all take responsibility for ourselves however horrid our childhoods/lacking our parents. I don't like the way being 'off one's face' on either drugs or booze is increasingly being used as an excuse to let criminals off lightly though - it is such an insult to the victims and sorry, but I think criminals ALWAYS know when they are doing evil, even if they are completely 'out of it'.

Good for you Kaylee!

Interesting that the decision was made for you like that Rol, but it has turned out to be no bad thing. I am in a similar situation being cursed with a constitution of paper rather than steel! Only have to have a late night and everyone is telling me 'You look AWFUL - are you alright?' with genuine concern in their eyes! Had I taken to any of the standard vices, have no doubt I would either look/feel 101, or be dead by now! But it's because I am SO aware of the impact on health that I care so much about what people I love (and good strangers alike) are doing to themselves, and for WHAT?

RB, you are right, there is definitely a correlation between people's drinking habits and how cold/wet the climate is! Which hasn't stopped every pub and cafe putting tables and chairs out in this country regardless of course!
But it's not so much the odd bit of merriment (or even alcohol for practical reasons, particularly pre-age of central heating), that I wanted to tackle, but the nihilistic, self-destructive kind - the kind where people put themselves in jeopardy in every sense. However there is also the alarming factor of alcohol levels in drinks shooting up and wine glasses over twice as large as they used to be in the last few years which we all need to be aware of when assessing how much we are actually drinking (though in my own case it is the odd vodka & orange before a poetry performance usually as I have pretty much given up caring about peer pressure when out). And no go areas in our city centres at night are wholly unacceptable.

What a horrendous story Sagittarian - my heart goes out to you. This must have affected your family big-time, not least after all you evidently did to support him and try and keep him on the rails. I hope however that you are not blaming yourselves - he is definitely old enough at 28 to take full responsibility for his actions/too old to blame anyone else.

Kaz, well I must admit golf doesn't ring my bell either, though at least dancing and allotment-keeping would keep one fit/eating healthily. As for community work, that can take all sorts of forms, some of which are bound to be more satisfying than others. But sadly this is the gaping hole now in our society - the lack of volunteers and people who care/make a difference. Don't begrudge you those two glasses-a-day for a moment though Kaz - think your recent post about that British family in poverty proves that a drink or two has not got the better of your social conscience & what a caring individual you are!

LucyFishWife, afraid anything mentioning 'violets' associated with food would have me retching before I opened the bottle! You are very brave to risk! Pear apertiff sounds infinitely more pleasant (and something even I might try!). Perhaps your penchent for the unusual/expensive will help keep you from harm - just as my love of expensive Swiss chocolate curbs my chocoholism! Cadbury's just isn't the same!