Thursday, 9 April 2015

I hate the word 'normal'

Day 39. Back at home. Another week of school holidays left and it's hard.

During term time I get at least a couple of hours during the day to 'de-stress'. Like many of you, I've found that going to the gym, taking the dog for a walk, meeting a friend for a coffee, cooking food for the freezer or just blogging and reading take my mind off the not drinking and give me the strength to cope with the more 'full on' bits of the day, and the dreaded 'wine o'clock'.

When #1, #2 and #3 are on holiday, all day, every day is full on, so when it gets round to 'wine o'clock' I'm on my knees and finding it very difficult to step away from the wine rack.

So, today I got up while the children were still fast asleep to blog, and *spoiler alert*, I feel the need to RANT. I realise that many of you will not agree with the following argument, and I even realise that in a few weeks/months/years time I may not agree with it myself, but at this point in time I:

HATE THE WORD NORMAL.  I particularly hate the expression NORMAL DRINKER.

Over the last 39 days I have read LOADS of books on getting sober, and lots of amazing sober blogs and personal stories, and they are all (including my own) littered with the word NORMAL.

We compare ourselves endlessly to the 'normal drinker'. We admire them. We envy them. And as a result we secretly hate them (go on - confess!). But the problem is that, in defining them as 'normal', by implication we believe ourselves to be 'abnormal'. Freaks. Sad case losers. Well SOD OFF!

(I told you I was cross today).

I turned to the good old world wide web. I found this amazing article in the Washington Post from last September. According to this article (based on government statistics), 3 in 10 American adults do not drink at all! Who knew? (Incidentally, in the UK it's only around 2 in 10). Another 3 in 10 drink less than one drink a week. That leaves only 40% of American adults who drink more than one drink a week.

Here's the interesting bit. 1 in 10 US adults drink more than 10 drinks a day. That's 2 bottles of wine a day. Now, if you add those two sets of facts together it means that of the American adults who drink more than one drink a week, ONE QUARTER of them are drinking more than two bottles of wine a day. I double checked the maths (and I did get a first in econometrics from Oxford, back in the day), and I'm sure it's right.

How can one quarter of all drinkers (I don't include the 'less than one drink a week' people as drinkers) be abnormal?

These statistics, I think, back up Jason Vale's argument that there is no such thing as an 'abnormal' drinker or, indeed, an 'alcoholic'. He argues that alcohol is a highly addictive substance - just like nicotine and heroin - and that ALL regular drinkers are addicts, the question is just how far down the slippery slope you have slid.

We don't look at people who smoke 5 cigarettes a day and call them 'normal smokers' versus those on a packet a day. Nor do we define the occasional heroin user as 'normal'. Why do we treat alcohol so differently?

Jason argues that we shouldn't envy the 'normal' drinker. They are trapped too (just less far into the cage), and if you suggested to them that they gave up their two small glasses of wine per night they'd be horrified! They may be 'moderating' but they, too, are constantly watching their intake and setting themselves parameters.

How many times have you heard your 'normal drinker' friends talk about "giving up for January. Not drinking on school nights. Shouldn't have more than one"? Many (if not most) of them deal with the wine witch, too, it's just that she hasn't got as loud and insistent with them (yet).

So who is normal? The person poisoning themselves on a regular basis and slipping further and further into the trap, or us - the alcohol free?

Besides, I've never aspired to 'normality' anyway.

Now I feel much calmer. Better go wake up the kids. Onwards and upwards.

SM x

Related post: Am I an Alcoholic?


  1. Hi sm thank you for your frank and honest post ( as always) x drinking has become "the normal through advertising etc etc exactly as Jason points out throughout his book we have just all become brainwashed into thinking that slowly ( some faster than others ) poisoning ourselves is normal . Normal is in fact alcohol free ( think children!!) normal is not "controlling" your intake of alcohol , normal is waking up with a clear head ( even one that occasionally needs to rant ;-) ) I really hope we are the new normal !!! I have actually now ( 32 days in) realised over the last couple of days I actually have heard the wine witch less in fact on odd days barely noticed her at all - let's hope this is the new normal !! Although trying not to be too smug as I know she will be lurking around at some point trying to catch me out when I least expect her x keep going you have definitely faced the hardest part there will be lots of challenges ahead but I think a family holiday with no alcohol counts as one big step x lots of hugs k x

    1. Hi Kags! You give me huge hope - a whole day with no WW. Well done you! We're getting there, aren't we? Xxx

  2. Hi, I did think this as well shortly after reading the Jason Vale book but I haven't in a long time. I didn't change my mind lightly but I do think some people can drink 'normally', enjoy drinking moderately and just have a completely different relationship to it than others. Maybe it has physiological roots. I'm not sure. I have so many thoughts on it all but its your blog!! I think you are doing amazing, the adjustment period is actually tough but it is that, an adjustment. Kats xx

  3. Thanks Kats! I totally acknowledge that in a few weeks/months I may feel differently about this one, but right now I find this argument helpful! How are you doing? Xx

    1. Hi SM, maybe i shouldn't have put my post actually, Esp if it was helping you. The JV book does have many good points in fairness. I am great thanks. I feel wonderful and much more content & relaxed at the moment. Trying to control drinking is exhausting (got that from the book and its so true : > )

    2. Hi Kats! Glad you're doing well! And v glad you posted your comment. I think the more debate and different opinions we can have the better. And there's no point in ranting if no-one disagrees with you! Thanks a million for your humour and honesty xxx

  4. Dear SM,
    I have never read Jason Vale. Interesting point of view!
    I have seen that chart before. It's so interesting how much just a few people drink.
    I do know that some people drink the same forever, and it's not much. They never increase their drinking or drink in a risky way.
    You are doing amazing!!
    Keep on!

  5. I drank totally normally until I was 35. By that I mean 1 or 2 drinks, once or twice a week. Maybe a glass of wine after work on a Friday and one or two with Sunday lunch and that was it. I never thought about alcohol, never craved it, was never bothered if I drank or not. It was no big deal. Then a whole lot of things happened in one year, moving to Paris, husband having an affair, leaving marriage, changing jobs, youngest son diagnosed with autism, father dying. Just bang, bang, bang, one after another. I started to drink more and the more I drank the more I thought about drinking.

    Maybe I can go back to the way I was and maybe not. I am ok with both options. I do think I need a break of a year or two before I can make the choice.

    Anyway normal, shmormal. Who wants normality anyway. You are great SM, thank you for blogging and allowing us folk the chance to contribute. xx

    1. OMG Laura. Huge respect to you for making it through all of that! Chapeau - as you would say. I hope that your life is happier now? Big hugs from over the Channel SM x

    2. Ha! Yes, all very happy and "normal" again. Had all my drama in a concentrated dose. Clung on to the drinking like a security blanket for 10 years though. Remarried lovely man, both kids in schools which are great for them. Came through it fine. Just needed to ditch the wine to get myself back again. Gros bisous, xx

    3. well done Laura, I have a kid with autism too. it can be very tough emotionally on everyone. sounds like you're doing well x

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  7. Interesting there are no comments from males. I hesitate to say the pressures are different because I don't think they are. I would suggest the triggers are different, however, nearly all of them involve some sort of stress. Males tend to justify their alcohol intake by citing social and business pressures within their own gender. You know 'you are a limp dick if you don't have a beer with the boys'. Also, the celebration of that big contract is always celebrated with some sort of alcoholic beverage and normally expensive. Nobody looks twice at the female who drinks something non alcoholic. Now look at her pressures, especially Mums. Normally women look after the kids because physically, anatomically and mentally they are better equipped to do so. Ask any man if he thinks he is capable of doing what a mother of three does every day. They will all say "of course I could" and what's more "I have a big penis" whilst banging themselves on the chest! Very few will put it to the test. This is where female social pressures creep in and the dreaded 'wine o'clock' manifests itself. Whilst waiting for the kids after school conversations go like "I don't drink until my husband is home" and "I don't care, I have a drink at 3pm if I want one, afterall it's 7pm in NZ!" Without this evolving into a lengthy narrative what I am trying to say is you are in charge of every decision you make in lis life, many of which will be wrong initially. It is up to the individual to recognise which ones are wrong and adopt a different path. This is the hard part. I hope this made sense.