Quite often, while I’m doing mundane, repetitive tasks (e.g. replacing selective “n” dashes in my manuscript with “m” dashes), I listen to CBC podcasts.

Yesterday, a short (six-minute) piece from Cross-Country Check-up caught my eye. The title was “‘Our house was chaos’: For this man, Christmas and alcohol is a traumatic combination.”

It was really interesting to me, because it’s only recently that I’ve become really conscious about my drinking, which is, I don’t.

It’s a funny thing to say to people. It’s actually been much easier, over the years, for me to tell people things you’d think would be difficult, like “I was anorexic,” or “I’m having a colonoscopy,” than it has been to just say those words – “I don’t drink.”

There’s this huge aura of judgement around saying that. First of all people judge me. I must not be any fun anymore – yes, this has been said out loud to me. I must have had a religious conversion (seriously, this is a not uncommon reaction). Essentially, there must be a reason – and not a flattering one – why I don’t drink.

Then there’s also this unsaid thing where I feel like other people feel like I’m judging anybody else who does drink. Like “I don’t drink …” (… and I’m better than you) or (… and you shouldn’t either). Neither of which are true. Other than not drinking and driving, I really don’t care if you drink.

I’m not sure what it was about the above audio clip that got to me – I think it was a couple of things:

  1. That feeling of “chaos” or of things being out of control. I don’t like that, and I remember, particularly as a child, not liking that. I’m very lucky that alcoholism hasn’t touched my immediate family but, still, in this society we are all exposed to times when a person(s) have had too much to drink, and they act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise – I have never been comfortable with that and it’s never something I’ve wanted to expose my own kids to.
  2. The normalization of alcohol consumption. Like, if alcohol isn’t part of your seasonal celebrations, what are you going to do? It kind of baffles me, because there are many forms of liquid that aren’t alcoholic, and that are quite delicious, so if you’re worried about being thirsty – well, no need. If you’re worried about being bored – well – similarly, there are many forms of fun / entertainment that don’t require alcohol. If alcohol is the only way you can face the people closest to you – well – in the spirit of not being judgy, I’m just not going to comment on that …

Bottom line (and this is a discussion I had with a good friend earlier this year), is my kids are growing up in a household where it is both completely normal to a) not drink (me) and b) to drink responsibly (their father), and I’ll be interested to see what that means as they go on in life.

While, again, I must emphasize alcoholism was not a factor in my immediate household growing up, I still didn’t have one single adult role model who didn’t drink. I can’t think of one, anyway. Not even the nuns who were my school teachers at the religious school I attended until grade six. Those ladies didn’t have men in their lives, but they loved their wine.

I do, sometimes, wonder how things would have been different if I had grown up believing it could be perfectly normal just to not drink. Much of the drinking I did in university was because it was done, it had to be done, I had to learn how to do it anyway, so I might as well get on with it. It definitely wasn’t because I liked the taste of alcohol, because I truly never did.

At the very least, I could have saved quite a bit of money.

You know the funniest thing of all? I still feel quite illicit when I pick up wine or beer for other people in the Beer Store or the LCBO. Like any minute somebody’s going to say, “Hey! What are you doing here? You can’t buy alcohol!”

Which means, obviously, there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to set foot in the CCBO (Cannabis Control Board of Ontario) when it opens …