The #BoozeBritain Debate – Our Alcoholic Children

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

Have you ever noticed, you can bang on about something ad infinitum until you go blue in the face but often, many people just won’t listen until they decide they want to. Either that or they get a rude and/or painful wake-up call which actually forces them to listen and take action. Our Booze Britain culture and the consequent anti-social behaviour is one such issue…

Booze has become something of a political and commercial proverbial hot potato in recent years. It is also a subject of verbal conflict in our household of late, there’s a kind of pro and anti feeling towards alcohol emerging that was never really there before. If I say my wife was born into a Salvation Army family and I was born into a publican’s family, you can start to see where the differences of opinion might come from. That said, after life-long police careers we have both seen and dealt with the impacts of too much booze.

It’s not that one of us is teetotal and the other is an alcoholic, although we can draw on the experience of those circumstances. Neither is it the fact that neither of us drink, we both do. It’s more about the rights and wrongs of alcohol consumption as a whole but in particular, the quantity issues.

Our opinions have probably been even further polarised of late; since retirement from the police I have returned to working in the hospitality industry and my wife is working with a local community addiction service. I serve beer in a pub and she spends all her time helping people to kick the booze, this ‘conflict’ of interests often makes for some ‘interesting’ discussions!

It’s a kind of professional rivalry, in professions that are a world apart. In a nutshell, I say it’s not the booze that causes the problems, it’s the people who consume too much of it. The wife usually argues how the chemical and bodily reactions to alcohol are the issues causing over indulgence and addiction. 

I then counter with; “ok, but despite the physical/chemical reactions to alcohol, isn’t ‘addiction’ also a kind of personality disorder, one that some are prone to more than others? Ergo, the problem is the people and not the booze, and so the debate continues!

Calling Time on Booze Britain is something most of us would like to see but there are no easy cures for the problem, as I’ve pointed out before. I’ve also discussed the Minimum Unit Pricing issue before but that is only one aspect of the problems we see. One thing that my wife and I are usually in total agreement about are the quantity issues. We (our society) need to cut-down on our consumption levels and we need to understand and acknowledge the fact; our bodies need ‘recovery time’ from drinking. We also need to start considering the impacts of our overindulgence upon others.

News items on the subject, and they are myriad, often provoke further discussions about booze. One such piece came this week from Carrie Armstrong, a Geordie TV presenter and herself a recovering alcoholic. In a recent blog post, Alcoholic Children: Britain’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (also reproduced in the HuffingtonPost), Carrie explored the root causes of Booze Britain. Irrespective of her own addiction, coming from Tyneside which is undoubtedly one of the Nation’s cultural capitals of the phenomenon, Carrie is probably better placed than many to talk about the issues.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of her views about the causes of our current problems e.g. children surrounded by booze at home, her acknowledgement of the fact that many of today’s problems are down to “copied behaviour” and a “lack of consequences” is true. I agree that as a society, we have to stop looking at drunken behaviour as if it is in some way acceptable or inevitable. Neither should alcohol be seen as a valid excuse for our behavior, socially or legally.

As Carrie says, we must look towards “tightening laws on adolescent drunk-child behaviour.” By that I don’t necessarily mean create new laws, we have plenty of legal tools to deal with the issue, it’s just for one reason or another, not least the cut-backs born out of austerity measures, they aren’t often utilised to their full potential.

Carrie suggests that we can also make inroads to the problem by “adjusting our homes to protect our children from what’s in them,” referring to the availability of booze at home. I wouldn’t subscribe to that observation per se, I was raised in a pub, so were several members of my family. I have friends whose parents were/are licensees, I and many people I know have spent all their life surrounded by ‘available’ booze and they aren’t alcoholics. Or indeed, the type of individuals who inflict anti-social behaviour upon others.

I’m still convinced that as a society we have allowed generations to grow up without boundaries of ‘acceptable’ behaviour, both at home and in the street. We have a general social acceptance that it is cool to get bladdered at any and every opportunity. It is (generally) the psyche of the people not the substance (irrespective of the chemically addictive properties) that cause most of the problems. This factor was also (partly) an underlying theme within Carries blog post, and one that is set to get worse with reductions in resources available to deal with the issue. 

We need to start and provide the consequences for our drunk children’s behaviour. Not have them be the consequences of ours…(Carrie Armstrong)

The problems that we see on our streets today, in our Hospital A&E departments during most weekend evenings, as well as being dealt with by our Criminal Justice System (CJS), are just the first sips of the big booze glass. Yes alcohol problems are a massive drain on our public services however; for all the drunkenness we see in the media and pouring through the revolving doors of the CJS, there are many more people suffering in silence. Ones who mostly evade the radar of general public perception of the issues. People from all walks of life, both professionally and socially, who have a constant struggle with alcohol addiction and all the associated issues.

Like some others (thankfully), Carrie Armstrong knows this and is doing her bit to try to help others going through the problems and issues she has experienced. In How To Be A Sober Girl | Because Alcoholism may be Ugly But Recovery is Beautiful, Carrie says; “I believe that Recovery is the greatest experience life has to offer. That it is exciting, empowering and satisfying.” I have a great friend in the USA (and she knows who she is if she reads this) who would wholeheartedly agree with that ethos!

Living a sober life should be everybody’s aim, but by that and from my personal point of view, I don’t necessarily mean absolutely no booze, unless that’s what you want or have to do. As one old bloke always used to say to me, during my formative drinking years; “there’s nowt clever in o’er much strong drink lad”. By that he meant, don’t drink too much or you’ll get into trouble.

When I started drinking it was in the controlled environment of a public house, not on a street corner or in the park with packs of loss-leader power fiz from the local supermarket. This is a total contrast to the drinking ‘apprenticeship’ most receive today.

I drank in an environment where my peers and I were being social; getting a bit tipsy may have sometimes (but rarely) been a side-effect of that social interaction but I (unlike many) don’t like not being in control, or not knowing what is/was going on around me. Unlike today, there was never any aim to get as much strong booze down our necks as quick as possible, get out of our heads and cause problems for others. If we did, we had the social and legal consequences to face, unlike now.

Each path to (total/partial) sobriety is different and a personal one but as Carrie Armstrong points out in her blogs and videos; it was “the greatest gift I ever gave myself.” She shows how she achieved that point in her life where she was happy without booze, she can also show you what a sober girl’s (or boy’s) world should (and can) look like…

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