Monday, 23 May 2016

All or Nothing

Regular readers will know that I hate the word 'alcoholic,' and refuse to describe myself as one.

This is not, you understand, because I am in denial. I happily admit to being an alcohol addict. And I (fairly) happily accept that I can never drink again.

BUT I will never happily say "My name's SM and I'm an alcoholic."

(I yelled at Mr SM when he used the word 'alcoholic' in relation to me the other day. Poor thing just looked confused and went back to the Financial Times).

So why the animosity to the A word? Surely it's just an innocent little adjective?

Well, actually, I think the A word does a huge amount of damage.

Because it's become loaded with such terrible baggage. It has an awful image, particularly when it comes to mothers...

If a mother is described as 'an alcoholic' you immediately picture a woman passed out in her own vomit while her grubby, neglected children forage for stale biscuits in the cupboards. Or, at least, that's what I imagine.

The implications of being an 'alcoholic' are so frightening that no-one wants to join the club.

We spend hours, days, Googling 'am I an alcoholic?' and, luckily, the definitions are so vague that we can easily convince ourselves that we are not.

So, instead of addressing the issue of our alcohol addiction (which we secretly know is there) we wrap ourselves happily in the cashmere soft cloak of denial and pour another drink.

The term 'alcoholic' is too black and white: you are one, or you're not. Whereas, actually, alcohol addiction is all about darkening shades of grey. A slippery slope. And one that it's best to get off at the top, before it gets harder.

By the time things are so awful that you'll happily accept the alcoholic badge, you've lost everything, including all self respect, making giving up terribly, terribly difficult.

But that leaves the question what terminology do we use instead?

I like to talk about 'alcohol addiction', because it makes it clear that alcohol is a drug like any other - like nicotine, heroin, cocaine. And, as a result, anyone can get addicted. Not just the unlucky few, born with some genetic disease called Alcoholism.

Then, this weekend I was reading an interview with Fearne Cotton, married to Jesse Wood, son of Ronnie the Rolling Stone.

Fearne talks about how Jesse and Ronnie got sober together: 'an incredible bonding experience.' BUT she doesn't describe her husband as an alcoholic. She says:

Like his dad, Jesse's an all-or-nothing guy, and with a growing family he felt that he'd prefer to not drink alcohol, so it's tea and fruit cake all the way, round at Ronnie's.

HURRAH for the all-or-nothing tribe!

Now that's a label I'm happy to admit to, a club I'll accept membership of.

(And I'm sure thousands more women, currently still home alone, drowning their sorrows and convincing themselves that it's 'normal' to drink a bottle of wine a day, would do the same).

My name's SM, and I'm an all-or-nothing girl. I did decades of all, and I've done 14 months of nothing. And it's great.

The 'all-or-nothing' label makes it clear that our relationship with alcohol is intrinsically tied up with who we are, and, therefore, that drinking again isn't an option, BUT it also portrays the positive side of the coin.

With that descriptor, you don't picture the slovenly mother having her children taken into care, you picture the wild, funny, party girl who's reached the age where she's had to throw in the sequinned towel.

And that, my friends, is me. Not an alcoholic, but an alcoholic addict and all-or-nothing girl.

Love SM x




33 comments:

  1. Hii hit the nail on the head again,, I too refute the term I alcoholic..I was addicted to alcohol, now I don't drink alcohol....end of story.....well sort of...I am totally an all or nothing person with almost everything I do...it's quite a hard personality..but it is the way I am. I read a lot of literature, blogs and yours, Kevin Ohara, the Naked Mind etc all have the same opinion..I refuse to be labelled or label myself an alcoholic...

    I think it is what stops lots of people getting help sooner or admitting to themselves they have a problem which is a tragedy......glad i found you, and every day sober reinforces my gratitude....xx

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  2. I swear you not only have a gift for writing but also timing. I am sat in the breast clinic having something checked out and the breast nurse has just asked how much alcohol I drink. I said none and she looked sad and said "everything in moderation!" Really!
    I replied that I have no off switch, just like my mother who unfortunately died of breast cancer. She still looked sad for me!
    This sums up perfectly the struggle that exists to battle against the perception of alcohol, if you're having to justify NOT drinking!
    I think things will change, eventually. Friends with older teenagers tell me that drinking nowadays is viewed as not cool and a bit of a Jeremy Kyle show type activity.
    I hope so, not for me, but for MY kids sakes xx

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    1. Good luck at the clinic ScousMous. Laughed at the older child thing. My son is 16, he and his friends don't drink, they see it as "an activity for tragic old people" As far as the label alcoholic goes, I just don't think it's helpful to anyone. If your alcohol consumption is stopping you from being your best self, then it's probably time to stop.

      That's what happened with me. I was fed up of feeling old, tired, bloated and constantly under par. It was a choice, continue this way for the rest of my (considerably shortened) days or do something about it.

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    2. Hope all is okay at the clinic Scous Mous! As you know, I have been there, done that, big time. If you need help e-mail me on sobermummy@gmail.com and I'll hold your hand for as long as you need me to. Hugs xxx

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    3. Thanks lovelies. It was an odd lymph node thankfully xx

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    4. glad you are ok! In light of the Breast nurses response to you not drinking, I hope you still felt empowered by saying that you don't drink!! xo

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  3. I've really struggled with this one! I have tried AA (and NA which was a bit scary) and they are SO strict about the rules. I was lying in bed last night thinking ok AA is one way, and hurrah for those that love it. But it's also kind of terrifying "you don't follow our path you will end up on the street covered in vomit etc" which for us lot isn't true is it... I think this way, the sober bloggesphere, building each other up and holding each others hands is another way. This will be frowned upon by AA but I find this way so much happier and more positive, let's focus on what we can do rather than do-or-die, thank you Sober Mummy xxx

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  4. I'm a big fan of using the 'all or nothing' term. It has the added bonus of opening dialogue with other mummies who may be facing the exact struggles but don't want to branded as an alcoholic and suffer away in silence.

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  5. I think the term 'alcoholic' isn't helping me at the moment. I like the 'all-or-nothing' idea (although I'm currently not doing very well on the nothing part of it.). Annie x

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  6. I agree SM...I don't use the term alcoholic to define myself because in my mind in contours up bad images...but...if we want to change that negative image, maybe people like us need to step up and show the world that it could be anyone...not just the down trodden that we picture in our minds. Of course, I am not willing to step up and do that, but if we all did, it could really change that image! So here's to a good idea that I'm not willing to execute! Hahaha

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  7. I totally agree with you! The word "alcoholic" has such a negativity connected with it. It almost feels as if the word was coined as a marketing tool. Powerlessness is associated with it as well as all of the horrible images. It feels so much more empowering and positive to know that because I'm an all or nothing kind of person, I have chosen not to drink. Thank you for this and all of you wonderfully written posts!

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  8. Yep that's me, all or nothing. That's how I describe it to my family. I'm all or nothing, there is no balance and no inbetween. I like nothing for now. My problem is I keep switching between the two and would like to stay at nothing. Almost at a month now.

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  9. Great post, SM. I appreciate your thoughts and have been struggling with this labeling/how to label/if I should label myself. I've been to a couple of AA meetings, and I got something out of each of them, especially the women's one I went to. I felt uncomfortable not being able to say I'm an alcoholic, though. I wanted to if it was the correct or honest thing to say, but I just wasn't sure if it was. I also think the thing about AA is there are a ton of different groups out there, so for some folks who have thought the program was too dogged, I think there may be some other less rule-obsessed groups; just may take a bit of time finding a good match. Anyway, love your blog! <3

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  10. I'm an all or nothing person. My father died of alcoholic liver disease. He never accepted he was an alcoholic. He was a very nice middle class man. It is dangerous to think that just because we choose how we define ourselves (which I wholeheartedly support - I abhor labels) that our medical prognosis might be different. When it comes to life and death, the terminology is all semantics.

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    1. I'm with "walking" on this one. We are here because we have a challenging relationship with alcohol. Alcoholism, alcohol dependancy, problem drinkers all conjure up stereotypical images. I think society is definitely swayed toward the drinker as normal, the heavy drinker as problematic and the non-drinker or ex-drinker as an oddball. Don't describe yourself as an ex-drinker to an insurance company for example! However you compartmentalise it, the bloody stuff is incredibly dangerous and physically addictive and there's the real problem. Its difficult to tell how much physical and mental damage has been done. I am depressed because I drink or I was always depressed and the drink hid the extent of my depression (both for me I think). Stopping is better than good. I don't worry too much about the labels - I just know that not drinking is the only way forward and I don't seem to be staring into the abyss so often, although I still feel its pull and my moods can be dangerously black at times. Think I'll pop over to Red's site and do some swearing to lighten my mood. Nice day though here in West London.

      Justonemore

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    2. Just browsing through comments and saw this - please come and swear at me Justonemore, it'll make me laugh and I'm effing knackered after a day with small people ;-) Red xx

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  11. I relate to much of what you posted in this one. I do refer to myself as an alcoholic. I've found it the simplist and easiest way to identify correctly what alcohol does to my mind, body, and spirit.
    But when it comes to what keeps us sober, I don't care to argue. I think we all need to admit the truth about ourselves to move forward in life. That's exactly what you're doing from what I can read. You are admiting what is true for you. I think that's brave.

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  12. I hadn't thought of using that term before. I like it. I definitely don't have an "off" switch so all or nothing certainly applies to me.

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  13. Seems I'm part of the all or nothing tribe, too. Yes, let's abolish the word alcoholic. It has kept too many people from pursuing a happier healthy life for too long.

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  14. Without wishing to encourage people to drink, just to put a positive spin on the word "alcoholic", five American Nobel prize laureates in the 20th century were described as alcoholics - Eugene O'Neill, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, William Golding and John Steinbeck.

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  15. When it comes to alcohol, I'm part of the AON tribe!

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  16. I was just telling a friend yesterday that if I had a glass of wine I'd find it very hard not to finish the bottle therefore I find it easier to just not have the glass of wine in the first place. I guess that puts me firmly in the all or nothing camp. Great post. I am MrsMac and Im an all or nothing gal..

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  17. Hi SM - I agree completely. For me, it's really important that I don't label myself an alcoholic, especially in these early days of repeat failure/low self esteem. I need to think of myself as the all-or-nothing, fun-loving party girl that has just grown up out of it, so that I at least feel like I had some fun, at some point in my life. The FOMO is killing me at the moment, can you tell?? ;-) Red xx

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  18. This post gave me the confidence I needed to not say that I am an alcoholic. I quit smoking 17 years ago but I don't say I'm a cigaretteaholic. Phew. That feels a lot better!

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  19. Have you read Gretchen Rubin's stuff on abstainers and moderators? http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/
    It's not about alcohol specifically, but spot on re all or nothing.

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  20. I have trouble saying the word alcoholic too. But I'm not sure I agree on the heroinaholic/cigaretteaholic analogy that Jason Vale uses either (sorry Luci!) I think as long as you are no longer drinking that's the main thing. A x

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    1. Forgot to say, I too am an all or nothing person. Lately it's been ALL chocolate!!

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  22. I am fond of the phrase "problem drinker" or my stop button got broken. I agree the phrase (which does have medical meaning) gets blurred a lot - and I laughed as I used to take the test also. I never came out alcoholic "technically" but definitely was a problem drinker on a downward slope

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  23. Thank you I needed to hear that at this very moment. I have been reading your blog from day one. Trying to stop from then and before ((

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  24. Thank you I needed to hear that at this very moment. I have been reading your blog from day one. Trying to stop from then and before ((

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  25. I am with you on this! I stopped smoking - I'm not called a "cigarette - aholic" so as I've stopped drinking I'm not an "alco-holic" either. And I really do find moderation in many things very hard indeed - so all or nothing is a great phrase.

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