Our Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, is expected to imminently announce a reduction in the daily maximum intake of alcohol recommended for men. Essentially making the units recommended for men the same amount as what used to be recommended for women. (I always try to read sentences like these, but I hear the words blah blah in my head, because the are so bloody boring. So don’t feel bad if you just blah blah-ed your way through that first bit, cos so did I.)
Units never meant anything to me as a drinker. I had no idea I was meant to be consuming 3-4 units a day maximum. I used a few different types of measurements where my drinking was concerned.
If I was pretending to be sober in front of whichever boyfriend I had at the time, my drinking would be quantified in the “I’ve only had a couple”, a table of measurement which automatically made me able to convert any units I had actually consumed, to the amount of one drink or two.
The units of measurement in my head were far more simple. The amount I drank would be either until my money ran out, or just the estimated measurement of “sh*tloads”
And let us not forget the most reliable two-pronged unit measurement utilised by most alcohol abusers: the amount we drink before we black out, and then amount we may-possibly-allegedly-hmm-nevermind- units we drink during a black out.
So. We’ve all been told to drink a sh*tload less. Because 20 years ago, the last time these guidelines were composed, most people did drink less. Usually for socioeconomic reasons though, let’s be honest.
And maybe some folk will drink less. Maybe all this talk off the various illnesses that could be linked with drinking, will spur some people on to make different lifestyle choices. (Although, quite frankly, being scared into submission by doctors on the news never stopped me for even a moment.)
But I know one thing that will put lots of people off doing so. Because it was something that was a major turn-off for me for years when I was desperately trying to cut down on the amount I drank.
The Smug Sober B*st*rd Brigade. They come in various different forms, but by God they are all as annoying as each other.
You will be able to spot them straight away. Especially on a day like today, when so many people will be talking about the new recommended maximum daily unit intake of alcohol.Because they will be loving it. Many soap boxes will be out. Many ugly shoes will be standing on them. Many whiny voices will be proclaiming that they knew this was coming. That they have been saying the same for years, but no one would listen.
Without taking a moment to think about why people haven’t been listening to them.
The day that people can be bored into submission when it comes to drinking less? Then these soap box naysayers will finally make their fortune. If the moment ever arrives that people want drab lives full of pompous preaching? Then their time shall come.
But none of us like being preached to. Nobody likes to hear a priggish voice giving guidance. Most of us will run screaming in the other direction. And if that direction happens to contain a pub? Then so be it.
Conceit does not win people over. It alienates us. So whilst the Smug Sober B*st*rd Brigade may be having a grand old time having chats between themselves, their self-satisfied rhetoric will never reach new ears.
If the Great British Public are now being faced with news that they must seriously consider altering their drinking habits, then the least we can do as non-drinkers is leave pompousness at the door and, for goodness sake, just be approachable.
Just be visible, accessible, real-life examples of the myriad of alternatives that exist outside of drinking. Just be honest and say these habits are a bit strange and scary to make familiar at first, but after a while they become as easy and as second nature as drinking became after we all started doing it as teenagers.
We need to stop the smugness. Stop acting like there is some secret f*cking handshake that only a few people know about. That cutting down on drinking can be done in line with these guidelines, that all these people need do is ask and a normal, non self-conceited dialogue can ensue.
So please, Smug Sober B*st*rd Brigade, please stop erecting barriers between the non-drinkers, and the people who would like help trying to drink less. It’s unnecessary, it’s annoying.
And it’s upsetting watching people who truly want to change, get smacked down and judged to the point where drinking excessively just seems easier than trying to create inner-change without external support.