Sober September vs. The Dumbest Drink Yet

So the big thing these days is “hard seltzer”. It’s kind of a hard thing to swallow, no pun intended. Basically, club soda with flavourless alcohol in it. Which people who drink it say is less filling than beer, and more refreshing than wine, etc. At this point we seem to be on a natural drift to just drinking plain grain alcohol. Do you really need somebody to put plain alcohol in club soda for you? Really?

But wellness might be raining on the boozed-up-seltzer parade, according to articles including one in Markets Insider. The Youth — who the seltzer is mainly marketed toward — are participating in Sober September in greater numbers than ever. 

There seems to be more sobriety in the air than ever recently right down to more celebrities and people in the public eye ‘coming out’ as sober. 

It’s interesting to see trends collide — sober-curiosity on one hand, and really dumb drink trends on the other. I’m looking forward to seeing which wins out (I think it’s obvious which one I’m rooting for). 

Photo by Nicole Wilcox on Unsplash

Do you celebrate sobriety when the sober person’s a jerk?

This came up the other day with my wife — not that we’re huge voices, and not that we command the attention of thousands, but every little bit helps. 

Part of what helps motivate me in sobriety is success stories. I try to flatter myself that I’m not a starwatcher, and that I’m immune to the charm of celebrity. That’s probably not entirely true, though. I notice. 

So when somebody is sober, especially a widely known public figure, that’s good. It models a good lifestyle for people. It could inspire other people to make better choices. 

The inclination is to talk about it and celebrate it and signal-boost these choices. 

But what if the person’s an asshole? 

I started writing this a couple of days ago, prompted by something in my feed about Ben Affleck (in the wake of the #MeToo movement, pretty undeniably a creep, and also, tangentially, not a great Batman). The next day, Charlie Sheen, who is just awful, crept into Jay Leno and talked about being sober for 18 months. And now, today, Brad Pitt, who I gotta admit I don’t really have a problem with. But some people might! 

The heart of the question is “is sobriety worth celebrating when you don’t want to celebrate the person who is sober.” It’s an interesting question and goes pretty directly to another question that you have to grapple with head-on when it comes to sobriety: what percentage of behaviour do you attribute to person, and what percentage do you attribute to substance? Is Sober Charlie Sheen a non-monster and Booze-Drugs Charlie Sheen a different entity? Do I give Sober Charlie a pass on what Drunk Drugged Out Charlie did? 

That latter path is huge and worth discussing but not in this space. 

Talking about it with Ms. Mighty, her take was immediate: yes. It’s worth celebrating. Even when the sober person is objectively horrible, it’s still a demonstration of willpower and self-worth to take that big step, and maintain it. 

She has a better moral compass than I do, I think. And, as stated above, if Charlie Sheen is a role model for somebody then God have mercy on them, but at least he’s doing one positive thing that might make a positive impact on a whole lot of people who — if they’re looking to Charlie Sheen for guidance — could be faced with a huge deficit of positive influence in their lives. 

Great, now I think dubious people who make sobriety decisions should get more attention. The people they sway probably need those positive influences more. Somebody who admires Kid Rock could probably use more lessons in self-control than somebody with a Ghandi poster, after all. 

So that’s a 360. Let’s lean into the horrible people making good decisions, because the horrible people probably need that support most of all. 

“Drunk people don’t protest:” Moldova, Ontario, and booze as state control

Reading a TIME article on Moldova’s drinking problem, this quote jumps out, from about the ¾ mark: 

This perception also exists in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, where corruption and political instability are rife. “It’s a way of keeping the population passive,” says Ivan Lungu, a 38-year-old recovering alcoholic, who quit drinking a couple of years ago. “Drunk people don’t protest.”

Lots of stuff to unpack there. Correlations between poverty, access to education and alcoholism. How a drinking culture can permeate a society (not just nationally). How there’s a general societal push toward drinking as a natural, normal part of daily life. How that can be pernicious anywhere, not just Eastern Europe.

In Ontario in 2019, though, the thing that resonates is the Conservative Premier’s singular focus on making alcohol cheaper and easier to access.

The second is his passion for making education worse and more difficult to access.

One of the cites in the TIME article is Vodka Politics. In this book, Mark Schrad explains how Soviets used alcohol as a means of control.

Vodka Politics by Mark Lawrence Schrad

I don’t think our elected officials are trying to engineer a Moldova to keep the population sedate and under their control.

Well…

Maybe there’s good reason to.

I’m not normally given to broad-scale Matrix-style paranoid government theorizing.

But if you were deliberately trying to create a public that’s distracted, doesn’t understand civics, and reactionary, this is how you’d do it.

If you wanted people prone to support authoritarian leaders without much self-reflection or forward thought, what would you do?

Making alcohol cheap and easy to obtain, while cutting off access to higher education and strangling children’s education in the crib… that’s pretty much the recipe, isn’t it? 

Image: Moldovan (I assume) market. Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash. 

Career purpose as a sobriety tool

From Jacksonville: the story of Heath Mooney, a firefighter who (via a groovy-sounding program offered by the International Association of Fire Fighters, kudos to them) has found his job itself a way to combat alcoholism and PTSD: actionnewsjax.com/news/local/i-know-my-life-has-purpose-jacksonville-fireman-battling-ptsd-alcoholism-finds-help-through-iaff/980361839

It’s an interesting thought — when you do a quick scan of why people drink, “stress from work” is a big one. Is it the biggest one? Is it number one with a bullet? I think it might be; “I drink to take the edge off after a hard day at work” definitely seems to be the cultural thread linking a lot of drinking together. 

So the idea of work (or at least the purpose you get from work) as an anti-drinking tool is an interesting one. If you think what you do has value, and you can do it better when you’re operating without hangovers, lost days, blurry mornings, etc., that’s a compelling reason to not drink. 

I’m fortunate to be doing something in the neighbourhood — marketing at a university isn’t something that I feel always offers direct value, but it works to promote something of value in the broader sense. My wife, at a hospital, can track what she does directly to patient care and people getting better, even though she’s there in a support role. 

Something to think about; if your job is something you value, and if you’re getting a sense of mission and purpose from what you do, it might just be possible to flip “job stress is a reason to drink” into “my purpose through work is a reason not to drink.” Mental judo. 

Not everyone has a job that they find gives them a defining purpose or life’s mission, though. And it’s not always easy for people who do to see or feel that 24/7. There’s other things, though: family, hobbies, friends, volunteer work. Finding your purpose thing (I’m sure somebody has a clever word for that) and digging into that as your anti-drink is a tactic worth unpacking. 

I will not drink today! 

(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-hard-hat-on-brown-and-yellow-fireman-s-suit-162540/