Monday, July 23, 2018

Health Matters: I No Longer Drink Alcohol

Warning! I am about to say something controversial and unpopular. I no longer drink alcohol. Alcohol is a poison that damages you mentally, emotionally and physically.

There’s nothing new in this fact. So why do we persist in this toxic habit? Because like drugs, cigarettes, meat, dairy, junk food, war and all harmful practices, alcohol is normalised for mass consumption so that Big Business makes loads of money.

Family History

My father was an alcoholic when I was little. That’s not shocking. Millions of people are alcoholics. The substance is addictive.

My mother felt the full force of his drunken fist late at night when my brother and I were asleep, oblivious to the violence.

But I carried the emotional wound of my unavailable, intimidating father all my life. When Dad was home he was often passed out on the floor or slumped in a chair in a drunken stupor in front of the telly. We took turns to close his mouth to stop him snoring.

My parents were young and wild in their 20s. Dad taught Mum to swill beer like a man but she couldn’t control her sarcastic humour when tipsy and often embarrassed and shamed me in front of laughing drinking buddies.

At 18, I had my first glass of red wine in a rowdy folk club in Melbourne and immediately staggered to the Ladies and threw up. But I persevered through my natural aversion until I could drink socially. I disgraced myself more times than I can now remember.

Brain Attack

Alcohol affects the brain. The beta-endorphin receptors grab the alcohol and give you an instant temporary high. Alcoholics have more receptors. Alcohol also triggers the hormone dopamine, for another feel-good blast!

Alcohol decreases the brain’s gaba neurons, lowering inhibitions. All our inner demons come wafting out; aggression, sadness, loneliness, neediness. We can pick fights, start blubbering, talk rubbish while believing we’re hilarious and charming and intelligent. Or we can have casual sex, piss in the street or get hit by a car.

We lose control of our mental processes, our emotional states, our bodily functions and co-ordination and our usual cautious behaviour. Being intoxicated in public or even at home is high risk.

The Morning After

Awful hang overs – terrible headaches, churning nausea and crippling lethargy – that make you want to die or at least sleep until noon - are caused through extreme dehydration, as your body works hard to flush out the poison.

And the really bad feelings are also caused by a chemical called acetaldehyde, released by your over-worked liver, which can only metabolise one glass of alcohol per hour.

On top of the hang-overs, when you get regularly wiped out binge drinking will lower your immune system, making you susceptible to sickness.

No Real Loss

Giving up alcohol is no sacrifice. I have discovered that I like being stone cold sober. I can enjoy food, conversation, music, dancing and making love when I am clear-headed and feeling all my genuine emotions and senses. In fact I feel pure joy in social occasions without being tipsy. I now get my bubbles from mineral water instead of champagne and my elegant glass of Red is really grape juice. 

It is easier to make the decision 'I don't drink alcohol' once and for all, the way I did when I decided 'I don't eat animals' in 2010, than to face a fresh dilemma every time I'm offered a drink. By setting this firm boundary, I've eliminated the delicate tightrope balancing act of of choosing WHAT type of alcoholic drink and HOW MUCH I can drink - one glass, two glasses, three glasses? - without getting tipsy and losing control of my behaviour and suffering a debilitating hang-over. The one-off decision is easier and I feel empowered for having the discipline to make the clear choice. 

The track we take on the journey of life is made up of a series of decisions; the major, life-changing decisions and the small daily decisions. And, as we all know, each decision takes us in a certain direction and leads to the next place. Do I make wise choices that lead me to a tranquil, shady forest near a beautiful river or do I take a wrong turn and end up staggering on a dangerous rocky cliff in the blazing sun? 

Carefully consider each decision, the big and the small. And don't be misled on your path so that you end up in a unsafe place.  

I see young people I love smashed off their faces, wrecking their health, their dignity, their relationships, their talents, their careers and their lives by partying hard and believing alcohol is benign and normal. But alcohol, my friends, is really poison in disguise. Resist the cult. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.