Christmas Cheer?

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 …

Comments (8)

  1. Lynn December 15, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I lived through this for many years – I didn’t drink at all through university and beyond. It is weird how people can take your own personal choice about this matter as commentary on their own lives. I was in engineering at university and there were a handful of very aggressive men – heavy drinkers all – who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Every party and event, they were all over me trying to get me to drink something. UGH.

    These days I have a drink twice a year – a cup of Bailey’s on Christmas eve, and a glass of wine at my friends’ annual wine and cheese party. Even that small amount totally freaks out my kids. Sometimes I wonder if I should have something more, every now and again, just to show them that it’s nothing to be afraid of, and that you can choose to drink in moderation. But it’s all just so fraught, you know?

    • admin December 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      I hear ya. What I will say, is I’ve had a couple of occasions just this fall, when I was SO glad not to be a drinker. One was when my son called me from a Scout Camp at Chaffey’s Lock at 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night saying he wasn’t feeling well. If I was even just a social drinker, there’s a good chance I would have already had a drink (or two) and I would have had to tell him to tough it out overnight. Which, when you’re 15, and it’s dark, and cold, and you’re sleeping in a tent, and you can’t keep any food down, (and, yes, you’re starting to feel a little sorry for yourself) is a real drag. I was so glad I was able to jump in the car and go – safely.

  2. A Kirkpatrick December 15, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    I really enjoyed this Tudor , and have felt many of these exact feelings since a teenager although I must confess I have given in to the social pressure many times as an adult just because it seemed expected of me. Sometimes I managed to pour a drink down the drain when no one was looking at a cocktail party.

    • admin December 19, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      I find it the same with food – it’s like people are really uncomfortable if they want to indulge and you don’t want to. I get lots of comments like “Oh, you have such willpower,” and I think, “No – I just don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol, or of cheesecake, for that matter.” It shouldn’t make me a hero, or a stick-in-the-mud – I’m just somebody who prefers other things.

  3. Lynn December 19, 2017 at 9:11 am

    A friend of mine just posted this on Facebook, in her own defense – so you’re not the only one, even if it does feel like it sometimes!

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/why-people-dont-drink-its-none-of-your-business/article37367578/

    • admin December 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      I have seen this making the rounds! I was interested to read that 1 out of 4 adult Canadians doesn’t drink. I don’t think most people know this, and they might feel more empowered not to drink if they did know.

  4. Carol Lynn Coronios February 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

    This is a thought-full blog-piece, Tudor. My parents always (well, perhaps not EVERY night, but frequently) had a cocktail before dinner. Wine with dinner on special occasions – I specifically remember holidays. My older sister and I were given a glass with a bit in it – she never has enjoyed any alcoholic beverage, and I thought wine or sips of cocktails were nasty.

    So I didn’t sneak drinks during high school – nor did I participate in the parties at college. I was curious in college – wondered if the excesses were in response to restrictions at home. I suspect that might have been part of it – with another part definitely being peer pressure.

    Interesting comments of those who find it necessary to wonder out loud about reasons for our choices – whatever they may be.

    • admin March 26, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Hi Carol, Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Due to a quirk in my comments section I’m just seeing it now, but I appreciate reading your thoughts!

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