I was designed to drink alcohol.
The rod was cast. I was dragged screaming and kicking from the sanctity of the womb. I was to be called Lee, after Bruce Lee. I didn’t choose my name.
That’s not all.
I didn’t get to choose my school, my religion, what language to speak, my mannerisms, my beliefs or my values. And I didn’t get to choose to drink alcohol.
My parents drank alcohol. My friend’s parents drank alcohol. My aunties and uncles drank alcohol. My grandparents drank alcohol. My teachers drank alcohol.
When I was a kid nobody in the world was as important as Santa Claus. Deities like God, influential figures like my parents and Bryan Robson were nothing but plucked feathers from a chicken when it came to Saint Nick. He drank alcohol. I am pretty sure Rudolph had a swig as well.
Alcohol was consumed at birthday parties, christenings, weddings, funerals, Christmas, New Year, vacations and the climax of sporting events such as the FA Cup and Grand National.
Alcohol was symbolic. It represented happiness and joy. It was the way adults relaxed and unwound after a hard day’s graft. A red-faced uncle Alan slipped me a fiver, my mum smothered me with hugs and even my dad seemed to perk up a bit.
Alcohol advertising hooked you with you even knowing it. Their greatest promoters were my parents. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Their role in life was to spin me around and point me in the right direction. If they drank it then I would drink it.
My dad used to tell me how he looked forward to the day that he could have a pint with me. That’s how he bonded with his dad. It was my dad who bought me my first pint. I was 14, on holiday in Tenby. He was more excited than me. I was so nervous. I thought everyone in the pub was looking at me because I was underage.
It was part of the art of manliness. Every boy who grew up where I grew up knew that in order to be a man you had to drink. It tasted awful. Was I going to be a pussy and tell my dad that I didn’t like it? After he had put faith in me, signifying that I had at last made the giant leap from boy to man? Was I going to fuck that moment up?
I drank it.
It was vile.
I was hooked.
I didn’t even know it.
Now stick my son around the dinner table with four of his friends. The waiter asks for their drinks order. One by one the children say, ‘coke.’ What do you think my son is going to order? During a recent holiday to Lake Tahoe the same thing happened with a family that did not drink coke, instead they all ordered water. What do you think my son ordered?
He won’t stand a chance when it comes to beer.
The peer pressure to drink is incredible. There is a biological urge to fit in. To not drink means ostracized from society. My son talks to be about the indifference he feels about having to go against his instincts in order to fit in. He doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t feel like he has a choice. I know exactly how he feels.
I have described a schema. I was introduced to the term by Melanie Joy the author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows. Joy says a schema is, ‘a psychological framework that shapes – and is shaped – by our beliefs, ideas, perceptions and experiences, and it automatically organizes and interprets incoming information.’
Create an image of a doctor in your mind.
Was it a man in a white coat wearing a stethoscope?
Why a man?
There are female doctors.
Now picture someone called Gwen.
Did you picture a girl?
This morning I interviewed a man by that name. Until I saw his photo, I thought it was a woman.
These are examples of schemas at work, your brain assimilating information and categorising it in the most energy efficient manner possible. We see something, or think of something; we cast the rod and pull out the appropriate perception.
Alcohol = A perfectly acceptable way of life.
This is why I never chose to drink alcohol. The schema was created for me. I inherited it. We rely on our schemas so intently that we rarely, if ever, question them. Like everyone who has consumed alcohol, there have been times when I have said that I would never drink again. But there was never a real intent to quit. Cut down, maybe, but quit? It was never seriously considered.
Cocaine, heroin, speed, crack and ecstasy are drugs that can create arguably a better buzz that alcohol. Think about all of the reasons why we drink, and all of these drugs will work much better than alcohol. So why don’t we take them? The schema we inherited wouldn’t allow it.
Drugs = Bad.
More people die per year from alcohol related diseases than all of those drugs combined; facts as invisible as your own head in a world without mirrors. It’s the invisibility that allows us to continue consuming.
Did you think of a bum, sitting on a street corner, homeless, swigging a bottle from a brown paper bag?
The alcoholic is the perfect foil for the brainwashing that we have been subjected to. The alcoholic is the one who dies of the alcohol related diseases. It’s the alcoholic that has taken things too far. We can all point to that poor excuse of a human being and say that’s what alcohol will do to you if you don’t maintain control.
It’s an illusion.
You are not in control.
My father thinks he is in control. He has been drinking alcohol every weekend for the past 50+ years.
“I’m not addicted.”
Sure you’re not Dad.
Invisibility is at the heart of our problem. It’s what hooks us. It’s what stops us from even thinking about the problem, because if you can’t see it, how can you define it?
We would be disgusted at the thought of drinking ethanol. We put it into our cars as fuel. But that’s not what we are sold. We drink Hooch, Carling Black Label, Bollinger and Chianti. The next time you watch an alcohol advertisement consider what they are advertising. Is it alcohol? It’s not. They are selling an experience, and it’s one that fits snugly next to our schema. If they sold ethanol you wouldn’t buy it. Why do you think the alcohol companies spend so many millions on advertising, without promoting the brand? It works.
Look what happened with our schema surrounding cigarettes. When I grew up I thought it was so cool to smoke. My parents smoked; there were advertisements everywhere, and all the movie stars and pop stars smoked. Back when I was a kid it seemed everyone smoked.
Cigarettes = Cool
What about today?
There are zero advertisements. People no longer smoke in public places. They are confined to plastic boxes in airport lounges. Each package has a warning that you will die. Smoking as turned from the most social pastime in the world to the least. Smokers are ostracised from society.
Cigarettes = Bad
The same is slowly happening with marijuana as I type. Marijuana = Bad will pretty soon become Marijuana = Good. It’s happening. The schema is changing.
Our beliefs lead to our actions, and our actions reinforce our beliefs; and we didn’t create our beliefs. We inherited them. Whilst it’s true that we can change them, it’s not that easy. Not to mention we are hooked. Alcohol is an addictive substance both physically and socially. We own that truth, as that’s not part of our schema either. That’s reserved for the man with the brown paper bag.
Melanie Joy says people have three choices.
“We can change our values to match our behaviours, we can change our behaviours to match our values, or we can change our perception of our behaviours so that they appear to match our values.”
We always choose the third option.
Adolf Hitler once said, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Over six million Jews were killed during World War II. And that’s not counting the other so-called ‘sub-humans’ that were killed such as homosexuals and gypsies.
It must take a lot of people to kill six million people.
Where did they all come from?
Hitler developed a new schema. The Jew was public enemy number one. The Nazis controlled all of the advertising, television and radio. You only got to see what they wanted you to see. That’s how they managed to persuade normal everyday people to kill millions of innocent people.
Is it so difficult to believe that we have been duped?
Is it so difficult to believe that we have been brainwashed from birth?
Is it so difficult to believe that we choose to perceive value when there isn’t any?
Once we take a step back, drop our defences, justifications and denial, and inject logic into the ‘why’ of drinking alcohol, you will see that the alcohol industry has well and truly pulled the wool over our eyes.
Only then can you begin to create a new schema.
Only then can you make your own choice.
Only then can you truly be alcohol free.
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