“I tell people, ‘what are you drinking for?’ And they don’t even understand what I am saying.” Donald Trump.
Try asking yourself the same question.
“What are you drinking for?”
In truth, not many people actually have an immediate answer. It’s just a habit that has become a way of life. So you wrack your mind for an answer and it spews forth such gems as: –
- I like the taste
- It calms my nerves
- It gives me confidence
- Because I want to
- It makes me high
- I deserve it
There is only one way to get to the root cause of this question and that’s to remember back to when you first decided to drink.
Have a think back to that time.
It’s not easy is it?
I can’t remember the name of the person I met 10-minutes ago, so what chance do I have? I can guess, but the answer will depend on your biases, beliefs and convictions. I hate alcohol and so when I think back to a time when I first started to drink I will think of a host of societal reasons that were stacked against me. People with a bias for drink will likely say they loved the taste and the buzz that it gave.
I am fortunate to have a 12-year old son. He is beautiful, and as a father I not only want him to live forever, but I don’t want him to ever come to harm.
One of the many reasons I gave up drinking alcohol was to become a better role model for him. It stands to reason that if his father didn’t drink, there is less chance that he would drink?
So you can imagine my surprise when he told me that he is going to drink alcohol when he is older. Although this disappoints me, it’s expected. What it does do is give us a ‘real time’ moment that we can scrutinise when we ponder the question, ‘what are you drinking for?’
So why does a 12-year old boy already know he is going to drink when he is older?
Having never tasted alcohol he will be totally unaware of the perceived benefits that drinkers con themselves into believing exist. Instead he chooses to drink because he wants to conform to society. He understands the importance of being – not only a member of a tribe – but a significant one at that.
He will drink because to not drink makes him an outcast. He believes all of his friends will drink, and if he doesn’t follow suit then he will have no friends. So the root cause of why he is going to drink has to do with the structure of society.
Now imagine his first taste?
It is not going to be nice. Even if it has been loaded with sugar, it still won’t taste as pleasant as his favourite tipple Diet Coke.
Now imagine his first drunken state?
It is not going to be nice either. Loss of control terrifies everyone. Then you have the spinning room, followed by the vomit.
Now imagine his first hangover?
He is just going to hate life.
So what does he do next?
If he is authentic then he will hold his hands up and say, ‘Whoa! What’s going on here? There’s no way I am doing this again.”
But nothing has changed. The reasons that he started drinking in the first place still exist. If he were to tell his friends that he thought his alcohol tasted awful he would no longer be a significant member of the tribe.
You need to show strength to be a leader, and telling your peers that you don’t like the taste of alcohol when you start out is not how to get hold of your stars and stripes.
So what will he do?
He will tell lies. He will be inauthentic, and he will do such a great job of it, that by the time he reaches my age, he won’t even remember why he started drinking in the first place.
He will believe that he drinks because he likes the taste, that he likes the high, that it’s fun, that it calms his nerves and that he deserves it. He will believe all of these things and nothing will be able to change his mind.
How do I know this?
Because that was me.
My son is going through the same process that I went through, and so will his friends, and so will billions of people around the world where drinking is ingrained into our culture.
My son believes that if he doesn’t like alcohol once he has tasted it then he will just stop. After all that’s what I have done. He doesn’t realise that once he takes that first sip he’s doomed. Perhaps, he’ll get lucky and become a part time drinker. The types that tell you that they can take it or leave it (the same types who never take you up on your offer to go six months without any), but I don’t think so. My son is me. He will want to climb the tribal ladder and that means going through the alcohol phase and becoming addicted.
The beauty of this knowledge and understanding is it acts as a kind of paint stripper. Your lies around alcohol are like the layers of paint that coat the bannister in a 500-year old home. Each time you burn a layer off there is another layer to get through.
So now you have peeled back a layer.
Once you realise that you only started drinking because you wanted to conform to society, you can ask yourself more questions.
How does that make you feel?
Do you still need to conform?
Are you stronger now?
Will you be ousted from the tribe?
Do you want to be friends with people who would oust you?
Getting to the root cause of alcoholism is critical. Peeling away the lies is critical. If you are a parent that has a drinking problem, then take a look at your kids. Watch and learn and see yourself in them and then realise that you are all grown up. You don’t have to conform to society anymore.
Take control of your life. Stop the lies and ditch the drink, but most importantly, become a better role model for your children. Stop drinking for them, and then be there for them to offer the right advice at the critical times in their lives, and guide them through whatever decisions they choose to make.
Photo courtesy of Jesus Leon cc @ flickr.com