Friday, 12 June 2015

The Off Switch

Day 103. Last night the husband was at a work do, so I took the opportunity to indulge myself by downloading a copy of the new documentary on the Brits and their drinking: A Royal Hangover, by Arthur Cauty.

It's well worth a watch. Many of the themes got me thinking, and I'm sure I'll come back to more of them over the next couple of weeks.

The film starts and ends with a lady in her twenties talking about her drinking. One particular phrase stuck in my head. She said "I never, ever had enough to drink."

I've heard many people say this. They talk about having one drink and then not being able to stop. They decribe a raging thirst that is unquenchable. They were born, they believe, with a faulty 'off switch.'

It reminded me vividly of an old friend of mine. Once she started on the vino she couldn't stop until she was either physically incapable of drinking any more, or physically restrained from drinking any more. I once bumped into her in a restaurant. She was on a date with a relatively new boyfriend (they never hung around for too long!) and was obviously the worse for wear.

I noticed that there were three barely touched bottles of red wine under the table. My friend kept ordering new ones and then, when she wasn't looking, her date would hide them from her. That must have resulted in a very large bill.....

Every time I heard someone talking about off switches I'd feel a little smug, and hugely reassured: that's not me! I don't have a problem! I am not an 'alkie.'

You see, whilst I was physically incapable of having 'just one drink', and would always drink as much as I could, I would be able to stop at the point just before I lost control. I would never get to the vomiting, falling over, passing out or shagging strangers stage.

So I watched the documentary last night which focussed on the classic 'no off switch' binge drinker, and was littered with shots of people dribbling and vomiting into gutters, knowing that in the past the wine witch would have been cackling gleefully, shrieking "not you! not you! Have another drink!"

But now I realise that alcohol is an extremely pernicious drug that insinuates itself into the fibre of your being in very different ways.

From what I've read, and from the stories people tell me, it seems that the 'no off switch' drinkers get into trouble at a relatively young age. They know that they are 'different' almost as soon as they start drinking alcohol in their teens.

My problem crept up much more deviously. Yes, my off switch worked, but as my tolerance increased, it kicked in later and later, until it would take at least a bottle of wine before it had any effect at all.

Plus, many of the 'no off switch' drinkers are classic bingers. They don't drink for days at a time and then they go on a bender.

Not me. You see I think my 'on switch' was the problematic one. I found it very difficult - from my early twenties onwards - not to drink every day. And then, over the last year or so, it became very difficult not to drink every lunch time as well as every evening. And at the weekends (and sometimes on Fridays) lunch times and evenings would blend into one.

So, I might had had an off switch, which meant that I could fool myself (and all my friends, plus most of my family) that I was perfectly ok, but, in reality, over the course of a week I would drink at least as much as a classic binger. Just on a drip feed basis.

I discovered right at the beginning of this journey that my drinking type is known as a 'maintenance drinker' (see my post on maintenance drinking), and is a typical middle aged, middle class, educated female profile. And the profile most associated with self denial. It's also the type of drinking that is most easily hidden from everyone else, which is why I called this blog 'Mummy was a Secret Drinker').

So, whilst I loved A Royal Hangover, I found it a bit frustrating that it focussed solely on one particular drinking profile, therefore re-enforcing the stereotype of the binge drinking, gutter hugging alcoholic.

I wonder how many women watched it, patted themselves on the back and opened a second bottle of sauvignon blanc?

It's Friday! Have a great one.

Love SM x



38 comments:

  1. I have no 'off switch'. Worse than not knowing when to stop is you carry on drinking (in my case anyway) and appear fully functional. You have conversations, sing on the karaoke in a pub (even though it's not officially karaoke night), drink that extra 2 bottles/line of shots/whatever you can get your hands on - all without being fully conscious. I didn't start out like that, but that's the behaviour I've been following for the last 18 yrs. It's awful. Not being able to remember how I got home, the utter humiliation of to ask how the night ended/where my clothes were/and worse. This happened more frequently in the months before I quit. And not because I was drinking more. My off switch happened sooner and sooner. One day a bottle of wine was all it took. I am still trying to live with regret and remorse from past events many years on. At least I can rest assured I have done nothing to feel guilty/sorry/ashamed/mortified for over the last 15 wks. Big hugs on a sunny Friday! x

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    1. Big hugs to you, LNM. At least you can wake up every morning now knowing that you don't have to worry about the night before. You're the best xxx

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  2. I'm the binger..I'm on the other side of the coin...I look at every day drinkers and think ...not me !! I go 7-14 days between drinks easily....but when I drink its 9 beers !

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    1. If we combined your drinking habits and mine, second half, we'd have been dead years ago!

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  3. I was more of a binge drinker, never Monday,Tuesday or Wednesday but then came Thursday (the new Friday) and the drinking would begin. I am going on my first Sober vacation tonight, heading across the pond to your part of the world, Ireland! Is there any AF at the pubs there?

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    1. Have a great holiday! 'My time to shine' is Irish. From what she says they practically brush their teeth in booze over there ;-) xx

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    2. When I said I've given up wine, you do know that all other liquids that enter my body have an alcohol content, right? We boil our spuds in vodka and wash our windows with carlsberg special brew. Gives the windows a lovely shine...
      Anyway, if you're in Dublin, Cork or Galway you could try funky seomra (dancefree.ie). They do alcohol free club nights. I wouldn't say there'd be any alcohol free pubs here but you could get alcohol free beer, if you're into that, at most pubs. Dublin has a really healthy cafe scene, great places for people watching! You'd be doing yourself a favour if you found a pub with a really good music session, they're great craic and you really don't have to drink (not that I'd know)..If you would like more info just let me know and I'll try and help you out! x Mtts

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    3. And you bath in guiness don't you? That's what I heard! !

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    4. I did an ad campaign for Ireland in the 1990s featuring Keith Floyd, the drunken chef exploring all the sights. We did way more drinking than filming!

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    5. Bath in Guinness? That's only for the poor dahling. I prefer Cristal.

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  4. I too watched a Royal Hangover, and I felt a little frustrated too- I have a feeling that us maintenance drinkers are as big a 'problem".

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  5. I didn't drink every night but when I did one was never enough and, like LNM, it took less and less for me to 'fall asleep' but actually I can now admit I was blacking out. Everyone used to feel sorry for me being so tired all the time with young kids that I just fell asleep after a few glasses of wine. Oh yeah and the preloaded extra few and the odd g&t chaser. I would often have to 'check' how the night before had ended and quite often hear about something I had said or done that I had NO recollection of. Got away with it for years. There is a huge problem among women drinkers and a real mix of binging and maintaining. My maintaining would be a binge for many of my friends. Little did they know. Secrets and lies! Thought provoking blog as always and mych needed as can feel the ww trying to whisper to me! x

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    1. And the cerimonious checking of the phone the next day. And the dreaded phone call to see what you'd said or done (usually nothing, but still). Thank god that's over!

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    2. And the morning facebook check - it must have been much easier for maintenance drinkers to hide their problem before internet and email. I can spot a drunk text/post/tweet a mile off now......I echo you, My time to shine, thank God that's over!

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  6. I too had 'No off switch'. The only way I could limit myself was to only have as much alcohol in the house as I needed for the particular day or night in question. Once I started, I just could not stop until all was consumed, then at that point I would feel horribly depressed because I had nothing left and just go to bed. It makes me shiver now just thinking about that daily routine. Incidentally, today marks 100 days sober for me. Yay!! x

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    1. Way to go Tallaxo! Are you celebrating (soberly!)? You are amazing!

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    2. Go T! Go T! Welcome to the 100 day club ;-) x

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    3. People with wine racks that were actually full freaked me out. How could a person exercise that much control??

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  7. great post. i am both. A maintenance drinker during the week hols etc and a binge drinker on nights out. Not a great combination truth be told but changing slowly and practically done with booze i hope

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    1. I'd say the same for me too maintenance when I had commitments the next day, binge drinker when I could get away with it. My off switch recently started getting later, as my tolerance increased x

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  8. I was mainly a binge drinker too. With no off switch. I was able to drink a lot for along time.
    But because I didn't drink during the week I was sure I didn't have areal problem. Not like people who need to drink every day.lol

    See, we can justify anything if we want to.

    I really don't think it matter how much or how often you drink. Even if you only drink once a month. If you feel bad about it, or you wish you could not do it and still do, it's a problem.

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    1. I think that's part of the issue - it's not how much you consume compared to someone else ( I had my favourite comparisons), it's how bad it makes you feel. SoberMummy apologised for not having "proper problems" in one of her posts, and I think that's one of the reasons that we hide our true identities - because we don't feel we have a "proper problem" unless we've vomited in the street, or woken up under a bridge.

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    2. I'm sure that most people would count my ten bottles of wine a week as a 'proper problem', but because I didn't drink them all over a two day period they weren't so obvious, and I could kid myself that I was ok! I guess my point is that there is a huge variation in drinking types, and we tend to oversimplify.

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    3. When I was in my 20's I puked on a restaurant window. I'm sure that didn't put the people inside off their dinner. Pure class.

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    4. I remember puking in a bar, under the table. The drinks were buy one get one free. I'd drank the first, puked, then carried on to the second ( had to have the freebie of course!!) I then carried on for the rest of the night.

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  9. A very thought-provoking blog. Perfect to read on a Friday evening, so thank-you SM! I have a Becks Blue near to hand as a type. Have you ever wondered whether there are enough grapes in the world for all of this wine everyone is consuming? X

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  10. I so relate! Now I'm going to visit your post on maintenance srinking

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    1. I'd love to do some maintenance shrinking! X

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  12. I Too was a maintenance drinker without an off switch. Throw as much as I could down my throat whilst no one was watching then casually drink pretending everything was fine. All sat on my lonesome. Reward myself with extra wine if I managed to have a day off. Nights out was a different kettle of fish. I'd have at least three drinks before meeting friends then 'get on it', everyone just thought I got drunk easily. I was lying to myself silly girl!! I remember falling asleep (blacking out) on a park bench and woke up to people taking photos of me on their phones, I shiver at the thought...

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  13. I started out drinking on special occasions, or on a rare night out (had small kids) then went to drinking every weekend, then every day, only after 4.30pm, till in the end (and it nearly was the end of me) I was drinking morning, afternoon and night till I passed out. Never thought that would happen to me but it did. Great post as always, I might start looking up some docos myself. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

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  14. This was a great post for me to read. Just like Anne (A in sobriety) said, we can justify anything we want. I justified not having a problem, because I wasn't a daily drinker, or a morning drinker, but was rather the classic binge drinker, with a faulty off switch. It's great for me to see that someone who functioned differently from me has the same kind of thinking, the "it's not a problem, because I don't do ____"

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