Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Why I'm tee total

Few things are nicer than a good coffee or tea
Please bear with me in a brief departure from the usual running and cycling posts.  Back to normal after this post.

Just imagine alcohol didn't exist and you are the Government.  I am the food and drink industry and I have "discovered" alcohol and want to start marketing it by selling wine, beers, spirits and so on.  I come and ask you, the Government if I can go ahead.  To make things a little easier for you, I suggest you could introduce a purchase tax so the Treasury makes a little as a bonus.

Oh,  you want to know a little more?  Okay well in my trials and market research people have said they quite like the taste and different people are liking different kinds of my new product so it's diversity friendly.  Young adults and students like beers and lagers, some people who like to consider themselves more refined and sophisticated tell you they like whisky, brandy and so on, plus expensive wines with their meals.  All sounds great and it gives you a nice feeling once they've had a few drinks and their bodies have absorbed it properly.  People laugh more and giggle and some people have said in their feedback it helps give them some courage in difficult situations.  

All sounds great, doesn't it? You the Government can make some money from making people happy, could be a win-win proposal.

Oh, some further details.  Hmmmm I was afraid you might ask about that but I'm sure as we're all clever people we can work around any of these snags.

Snag 1.  
Alcohol impairs people's judgement.  Drivers crash their cars, people do daft things, take risks or maybe become aggressive.  Not just relatively harmless daft, silly or embarrassing things but criminal things or serious errors of judgement.  

In the Bible it says in Proverbs 20, verse 1 "Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise".  The way I read this the Bible (aka Best Instruction Before Leaving Earth) is not saying "Thou shalt not drink alcohol" but is giving a warning about having too much or being led astray.  Are you okay with this - we live in a world where it's nice to give some people the choice to live their lives with as much freedom as possible, even though it might destroy them - you, the Government, okay with this?

Snag 2.
It can be addictive.  Through my work in the criminal justice system I have seen the consequences of this.  Sure not everyone who drinks in a sensible manner will become addicted and find it difficult to function without a drink.  However, the memory of seeing lives ruined because of chronic addictions is tragic.  Seeing people ruled and in slavery to alcohol is very heart wrenching and then crying in front of me wishing they could give up or at least cut down or even perhaps just to be sober for a few hours.  Many I met had given up all hope and didn't believe they could lead an alcohol-free life ever again. You do your best to encourage people and use all the techniques you picked up in your training but it's often an uphill struggle.   Being in such a hopeless position is hard for many people to imagine.  Nobody chooses to be dependant on alcohol, at least I have yet to meet anyone who says that.  

The physical and psychological addictions cannot be underestimated in our society.  I am convinced those who reach the criminal justice system are just the tip of the ice berg.  Alcoholism does not restrict itself to class, gender or any other personal identifying factor.  You simply cannot say cider drinkers are more likely to have a drink problem than, say, drinkers of wine, lager or vodka.  Each one is an unnecessary tragedy of a wasted life with much pain and anguish.

I used to drink myself especially as a student, wanting to fit in and enjoy being friends with others around me.  I gradually became aware of these friends around me gradually drinking more and more and I knew then I didn't want to follow them, so I restricted myself to how much I would comfortably have.  Even so and because of that, it was very easy for me to have too much, just as others were just starting to enjoy themselves I would be having problems remaining upright.  Then those memories of being sick and feeling so awful the next day, yuck.

You, the Government, still comfortable with this?

Snag 3.
Another case which I remember well.  I admit, I might have a bit of a slanted view having not brushed shoulders with many victims very often. However, I do remember meeting a married couple on a number of occasions as they had lost their only son at the hands of a drunk driver.  Their son had recently graduated from University and had taken a local factory job while he started his real career.  He joined a local cycling club and went out for his first ride with them, got back to their meeting point and said farewell to his new cycling pals.  On the short distance to his home, late at night, he was hit by a drunk driver and killed at the scene.   The driver tried to evade capture by, shall we say, covering his tracks and that was actually his undoing in trying to hide.   His parents told me how they had been taken by the Police to the mortuary and had to identify their son's body.  I will never forget that, nor will I forget wanting to cry each time I drove home after being with them.   Even now I can recall their emotion, their loss and on-going sense of bereavement and their questions of "Why did it happen?  Why was it our son?".  All because of alcohol.   Of course, we can never really understand or know the answers to these questions and I'm painfully aware of how I can fumble in trying to be professional and yet be human at the same time.

You, the Government, are you still all right in knowing this kind of thing will happen?

Snag 4.
Health.  I might tell you, you the Government, that some of my drinks containing alcohol might be good for you.  I might tell you about grape juice being good but then you already know that because you drink different smoothies and fruit juices.  They contain all kinds of vitamins and other nutrients which are positively good for us.  People who might go on to drink too much of my new drinks in your country will develop mental and physical health problems that will cost your Health Service huge amounts of money through treating all kind of diseases.  Furthermore it might cause some people to die younger.  Are you still okay?  Really okay?  Some of those diseases and other complications are truly awful and you will wonder why so many hospital beds have been filled with problem drinkers.  Doctors and nurses will ask you how they can cope with this. Still okay with this?  Are you sure?

So, you the Government, are you happy to allow me to raise large amounts of revenue for you through selling my new wines, beers and other drinks that we might refer to as mixed blessings?  Whose interests are you protecting here?  Are you comfortable with this?


  1. Sorry, I'm a bit late commenting but thats a great post Doug. Been teetotal for just over three years now.Used to drink 1-2 bottles of wine a day,called it my 'running fuel'. I stopped following a period of emotional and then financial meltdown.I think alcohol abuse is out of control in this country.Many of the MP's drink heavily so no help from them. I thought you was a non-drinker,glad thats so. 'h'

  2. Many thanks H. Glad you liked it.
    I think I might do a blog post on smoking sometime.
    I appreciate the encouragement very much.

  3. Really great article and very helpful.

  4. Its nce the way you have written this article Doug.

  5. Many thanks to both of you Anon's. Really appreciate your feedback.

  6. Well written and very true, drink is a major problem, but the government needs the tax more than ever now rich the national debt

    1. Thanks Paul, perhaps following on from what you say is simply tax alcohol even more, not just rich people?

  7. There's something that people who advocate the use of alcohol for social lubrication miss completely, and it's the personal reasons for using alcohol in the first place. One could be tempted to think that because 10 or 50 people assemble together to drink and have a merry time, they are all free from their own emotional ghosts, but being an adult doesn't necessarily equate with being mentally healthy, as research has shown again and again. Masking our own inadequacy to share the present moment with others, without the use of mind-altering substances, is the trend of our society, and the main reason why people drink IMO.