Addiction is a word that’s followed by scrutiny and judgement, sympathy and sadness but one thing addiction often isn’t followed by is understanding. More often than not we pass a homeless man on the street and we instinctively think that he has a drug addiction, heroin or crack, something that we deem below the social standard. We often look at those people and forget that addiction comes in many forms, some of which we actually idolise. We’re taught from an early age that being a drug addict is a bad thing yet simultaneously we’re asked by peers to swallow a bottle of vodka before a party.
Everyone wants to know how much you can drink until you drink too much, everyone wants to ‘drink you under the table’ until you actually end up under the table. There’s a sense of pride that comes with being able to drink more or not suffer the consequences of drinking that isn’t associated with other addictions. That is, until it’s too late.
Recently I heard a young girl, about seventeen, joke about how she hadn’t been out over the weekend to drink her usual bottle of wine and ‘socialise’ with her friends. This then led to her joking about how she may be going through withdrawals. Anyone that knows me knows that I am one of the hardest people to offend, however in this circumstance I wondered how different it might have been if it was cocaine or heroine. No one would have laughed, they all would have turned and either walked away in disgust or tried to help.
When people you know try to deter you from drinking they all bring up stories about how someone they used to know, usually a person with so many prospects who was good looking, is now an alcoholic. They usually mention how they bumped into them in a garage or an off-licence buying a bottle of booze and how they’re not so good looking anymore and the stories are usually told with disgust. What about the people that function? What about the people you pass on the street day after day, or even the people that may be training you to do your job that you have no idea about? What if the only reason why they always have a joke to tell or the reason why they are so outgoing is that they too are a slave to their addiction?
There is never an air of sympathy towards the people who they used to call friends. When people talk about alcoholism in schools they always show you the same pictures of the down and outs covered in their own piss and vomit; “don’t be this guy” they’d say. Walking down a street seeing the men and women all red-faced and puffy eyed is meant to make us aware of the lowest points you can reach. But what no body tells you, what they all fail to mention, is the side effects and withdrawals that these people are actually going through. They’ll mention the degenerates parents and how it makes them feel, how they no longer have any friends and that they obviously didn’t care enough. They’ll ask you or themselves what they did to deserve being treated in that way, not what the alcoholics themselves are feeling.
There’s no compassion towards them because ‘they did this to themselves’. they chose to sit on the stoop outside Tesco with a can of white lightning at 11am on a Wednesday. But that’s not all; according to modern education and social stigmas, they also chose to wake up and have their bodies convulse uncontrollably, providing they sleep at all. If they manage to get to sleep eventually the sweats begin like a broken faucet that’ll continue through three shirts and the thickest of bedsheets. After waking up cold and wet, they’ll try to stand only to find that they have no feeling in their limbs as there whole body continues to shake, feebly hobbling towards whatever day they have planned. That’s just the beginning, then there’s the headaches, the unshakeable sick feeling, stomach cramps and in extreme cases hallucinations that make you question everything around you. That’s what happens when they don’t drink; waking up like this and knowing that it can stop or be made easier by just one drink, one tiny splash of alcohol can make things seem normal again. But they choose to do it right? They chose to live this way.
In modern TV we see day to day the hilarity that comes with alcoholics; Rick and Morty, Bender (Futurama), the likes of Homer Simpson and even characters such as Phoebe Buffay (Friends) and Kitty Forman (that 70’s show) all exhibit excess needs to drink from one time or another yet it’s seen as a joke. Now I can hear you all scream, ‘ALCOHOL IS LEGAL’ and where that may be, the addiction is still real. The addict may still map out five local shops that they can buy from, all of which they can alternate so no one judges on the frequency of purchases. The addict also knows how much every bottle costs, how much they need to borrow or how much they need to give. This addict is also aware that vodka looks like water but vodka also smells like hand sanitiser so in an office or work environment who is going to know?
I’ve done my research and I find myself bombarded with nothing but people that conclude it’s all down to the person. Addiction fits like a glove. There’s the nature versus nurture argument and there always will be. Nature is the bullet and nurture is the gun, anyone can be an addict and as such, no one should judge.
It’s never as personal as people make it, however, the friends and parents of these people, providing they had them, were never intentionally the victims of these peoples actions. It’s more of an occupational hazard that comes with the territory. It’s like smoking a cigarette after dinner and leaving your friends feeling isolated, it’s like being the designated driver and having to be a taxi for the evening or suggesting karaoke when no one can sing. As the addict, you’ll always sing, you’ll always find a way to sing wether that be through running to a friends for a glass of wine or suggesting you go to a local pub event.
The glamorous addiction, however, allows you to keep up the facade and hide it under talent. Yes, I can drink more than you can, the secret is I need to. Yes, I’m going go out three nights in a row but I don’t feel it because addiction allows me to stay sober. The fact that it’s legal allows one to keep day drinking or to stay drunk as a matter of principle. Meanwhile those who are suffering, who can’t live without a drink, are fining it that much harder. Until it’s too late.