As the month of gratitude unfolds, we want to bring some joy into the mix! Our guest post today comes from The Guardian; you may access the original article here.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
The Joy of Sobriety
by Mary Kenny
I stopped drinking almost 20 years ago, and I sometimes think that my real life began on that day in 1991. Getting sober was one of the best things I ever did, and, strangely, one of the most liberating. Drinking was one of the worst things I did, and I did it continuously and abusively from the age of 18 into my late 40s.
It’s obvious that alcohol can enhance pleasure and conviviality, taken moderately; it can also bring people together in a warm and supportive way. The local pub is a great institution and a social lifeline for many. In my misspent youth, both in London and in Dublin, it was also a location of some great conversations, terrific stories and legendary characters. But for many who drift into problem boozing, alcohol represents a trail of disasters, a ghastly series of flashback of bad memories, horrible embarrassments and near-lethal experiences. (I owe my survival to the poet Derek Mahon: he physically stopped me from driving a car when hopelessly plastered back in the 1980s.)
So I am really glad that alcohol consumption has fallen once again this year – and this trend seems now to be established. Because that’s a step towards changing the culture of drinking, which can be such a snare for alcohol abusers. Many of the campaigns against alcohol focus on the damage that it can do – that it harms your liver, can be a factor in throat and bladder cancers, and wrecks your personal and professional life. All this is true, but it’s emphasising the negative: what about stressing the joy of sobriety?
I once thought that life couldn’t be fully experienced without alcohol: but the truth is the opposite – life can be more fully experienced without alcohol. Drunkenness deadens experience: it renders delight oblivious and pleasure dull. Although I get anguished flashbacks from my drinking years, I have also forgotten huge tranches of my life. Regrets are pointless, but it is sad that I lost so much of the prime of my life in that haze of alcoholic amnesia.
And then, sobriety turned out to be the true champagne – bringing everything into focus in clear colour and full recall. One of the strangest things that happened to me after I started getting sober was that I had this intense sensation of colour all around me. The colours of life became so heightened.
We seem to be so nagged at and scolded about so many health and safety issues that I am not sure if gloomy warnings about the health dangers of alcohol are all that effective. Two things clearly help: increase the price of dirt-cheap supermarket alcohol, and emphasise the pleasures of sobriety. Justin Webb wrote recently about an experience he had in America – which appalled him – when he went to a smart Washington party, only to find that the “punch” being served was cherryade. I thought, “Bravo for the hosts”. American culture, for all its faults, does not have this general idea that you have to be plastered to have fun. Honestly – you can have a great time on cherryade. Well, preferably, elderflower spritzer.
Searching for a birthday card, recently, for a young relation who was turning 21, I was hard put to find any greetings card aimed at young men which didn’t emphasise the glory of getting pissed (drunk). But getting pissed isn’t glorious: it’s shaming. It is life, fully savoured, fully aware, that is the glorious intoxicant.