My son is soon to be celebrating his 13th birthday and I should be celebrating an important milestone for him, but instead am wracked with worry.
When I look at him I see myself.
Not aesthetically, but emotionally.
The way he thinks, the way he hates to be told what to do, and the way he likes to embellish the truth; his story telling, his calls for attention, and his streak of stubbornness.
This mirroring makes me happy in a lot of ways. I think of how these strong suits helped me through some of life’s difficult situations, but then I also think of the more insidious side.
I can’t remember the exact age that I started drinking alcohol, but I am fairly certain it was around the 14-year old mark. That means I have one year to explain to my son that the fulfilment created by alcohol is nothing but an illusion. One year to prevent him from taking that first drink-the drink that will hook him for life.
I don’t stand a chance.
It feels like me against the world.
He would rather seek relationship advice from his 15-year old friend because ‘no offence Dad but you and Mum did get divorced’ so what chance do I have when it comes to trying to convince him that the whole world is wrong and I am right?
Like I said, I don’t have a chance.
All this fuss and worry about my son’s first experiences with alcohol have made me think about the one question that tends to avoid drinkers minds like the plague.
WHY DO I DRINK ALCOHOL?
Or more pointedly
WHY DID I DRINK ALCOHOL?
It’s a question that drinkers despise became it takes them to a place that they don’t want to go.
If you have watched the movie The Matrix then I ask you to recall the scene when Morpheus explains to Neo that the world as he knows it doesn’t exist. It was nothing but an illusion pulled over his eyes to keep him from the truth.
That he is nothing more than an AAA battery.
If you haven’t seen the movie then here is the scene in question spread over to clips. The way Neo freaks out always makes me think of debates I have with drinkers over why they drink.
I used to think that drinkers lied when asked why they drunk alcohol, and whilst this is still somewhat true I now understand that they are not even aware that they are lying.
To the drinkers the illusion is the question.
They can’t see it, touch it or speak it.
It simply doesn’t exist.
They drink because ‘that’s just what they do,’ or more accurately, ‘that’s what everyone does.’ But to think this way means that you are just a member of the flock, and nobody likes to be a member of the flock.
Actually they do…that’s exactly the point.
Everybody believes they have free will. That they make their own choices and that fate is nothing but a pile of pants. But if this were true then they would have to admit that they only drink because other people drink. This they cannot do. They will not do. So they erase the question from their very existence.
Back to the question that nobody likes to talk about.
Why did I used to drink alcohol?
This is the most important question that a person who is running away from alcohol can ask, because behind this truth lies the key to your prison. Responses like taste, courage, removal of inhibitions, and social enjoyment are mere symptoms. You can drink a hot cocoa to try and get rid of your common cold, but if you keep on going out without a jacket on you are going to be right back where you started.
If you want to quit drinking alcohol then this is where your journey starts and ends. Everything exists within this question and this is why the drinker will fight tooth and nail to keep it hidden from their view.
In my Lean Life Habit Change program I help people to understand the importance of searching for the root cause, and I will use a very simple analogy to explain what I mean.
I used to hate tidying my front garden but it had to be done at least once per month. My aim was always to get the work done in the quickest time possible. There were no prize chrysanthemums for me. I just wanted the place to look half decent for the next four weeks.
I had a lot of weeds and I would deal with them by cutting away at anything that stood above the topsoil. After working hard at this I would look at the garden and it would look pretty decent.
Then after a few weeks the weeds would grow back again, and sure enough, four weeks later I was standing in the rain lopping their heads off once more. I never gave the matter much thought.
I just lopped, and lopped, and lopped.
Then one day I learned about a Lean tool called Five Why Analysis and started to understand the importance of root cause. Suddenly, I could see that if I dug out the roots of my weeds then my problem would be forever solved.
That is the difference between a root cause problem and a symptom.
I use root cause analysis in every aspect of my life, and I want to share with you an example of this as I pose the question.
Why did I use to drink alcohol?
1. It’s what everyone does when they socialise
It’s what everyone does.
That’s my belief
It’s how I was raised
Because to my parents it was a normal way of life
Because it’s the way they were raised.
Because their parents thought it was a normal way of life.
Answer: I drink because at some point way back in the annals of time there was a member of the Davy family who believed that drinking alcohol was a perfectly normal part of life.
2. If I don’t drink when I socialise then I will feel out of place and people will think I am strange
Because everyone is drinking, and if I decided not to drink then I would be different and people tend to alienate anyone who is different when you are younger.
It’s the way it is.
You need to appear to be acting in the best interest of the group of people you want to mix with.
It makes life easier for you.
You make more friends
Because they relate to you because you are drinking just like they are.
It’s a belief they have.
It’s how they were raised.
It’s how their parents were raised.
There are a myriad of different scenarios that can be painted and everyone’s will be different, but it doesn’t matter how many ways I go through this exercise I always end up with the same answer.
I DRINK ALCOHOL BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN RAISED TO BELIEVE IT IS A PART OF LIFE.
Perhaps you drink alcohol as a coping mechanism. Perhaps you believe that it helps fight off the stress and strains of life? Perhaps, you think it just helps you escape from your problems for a short while.
If you complete the root cause exercise with an open mind and an honest heart, you will end up with the same answers.
I DRINK ALCOHOL BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN RAISED TO BELIEVE IT IS PART OF LIFE.
So now you know that your drinking is automation then you can challenge that ideal.
When you consider the worldwide statistics on the damage that alcohol can cause in your life (read here my thoughts on the alcohol is good for you bollocks), then you really do have to question why you are still drinking alcohol if the only reason is because you were raised to believe that it’s part of life.
A child born into a family of heroin users may believe it’s a normal way of life. The daughter of a prostitute may believe it’s a normal way of life. The daughter of a sexual abuser may believe that it’s a normal way of life.
WE CAN CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.
LET’S MAKE UP OUR OWN MINDS ABOUT WHAT IS, OR IS NOT, A PART OF LIFE.
WE ARE NOT CHILDREN ANYMORE.
So question every part of your being when it comes to drinking alcohol. Do not leave one single beer mat unturned in your search for the truth. Always have an open mind and an honest heart.
I drink wine because I like the taste
Because it tastes good.
Because there has been a lot of fruit and other ingredients added to it.
To dilute the taste of alcohol and other less desirable ingredients.
Because if we didn’t then we wouldn’t drink it
Because alcohol on its own is poisonous and we wouldn’t be able to drink it neat because we would die.
Surely, I can find another drink that also tastes nice that doesn’t contain alcohol? Well of course I can but taste is not really the reason people drink alcohol. This is a lie they tell themselves because they need to drink. They are addicted and don’t even know it.
Perhaps you can see why I am worried about my son. I believe that I used to drink alcohol because my parents – and the society I was raised in – told a story that it was perfectly normal.
My son has seen me drink alcohol for the large majority of his life. At Christmas time I gave him bottles of wine to hand to his teachers and he has seen every single member of his family drink.
That’s every role model in his life who, through their own actions, have not only shown him that drinking alcohol is acceptable, but that it’s also a whole lot of fun.
He has been raised to believe that ALCOHOL IS A PART OF LIFE.
One drink and he will be hooked.
Why am I so sure?
Because we are very much alike and the pain of being different will be too much too bare, as it was for me. It’s so much easier to just drink this shite and fit into the crowd. After all it tastes disgusting so it’s not as if I am going to get hooked is it?
I will just quit like my Dad did.
He always says it was easy to quit.
Now it’s your turn. Why do you/did you drink alcohol?
Photo courtesy of Brad Reynolds cc @ flickr.com