Generational Sobriety

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Never one to fear a new trend here at Thirst, we are happy to examine the neo-choice, the pendulum swing of the world, as captured in the infotainment of mass media.

Shedding light into the generational darkness, we have an article from The Globe and Mail extolling the highlights of chosen sobriety. Teetotalism appears to be the new fashion, perhaps for a few select famous persons, and perhaps among the young of legal drinking age.  We have millennials, who instead of sloshing around in the gutters of a block party as the rest of us did, instead seem to want to highlight their Jack Lalanne-esque power-juicing, selfie-on-Machu Piccu, yoga-enhanced lives, in contrary action to us Gen-X’ers.  They’ve got better things to do.

And evidently if your existence runs contemporary to Douglas Coupland, you never met a frothy, triple-hopped, watermelon-infused brew you didn’t want to stay home to drink.  We love that stuff!  Bring on the Sawdust City and Lake of Bays, baby, we’re ready to sip the suds and lose our flexibility in middle age.

Yes, us Gen-X folk, significantly later than previous generations (whom we envy) and the later generations (whom we mildly despise), we – the wanton and wild lost boys of the fall of Saigonwe are finally coming into enough job security to generate the disposable income to facilitate the ordering of beer online from the LCBO and to have it delivered by a mailperson right to our front door.  Oh yes, the day so cometh.

That’s not a good thing from a health perspective, if you ask the public health nurse 😦

Meantime, the younger set has a different set of values and I’ll assume it’s partly motivated by the conscious self-reverence of youth in bloom, and the docu-culture that compounds it.  Social media has made private lives into public spectacle, and drunkenness isn’t as rave as it used to be.   That’s actually a good thing from a health perspective, if you ask the public health nurse 🙂

While it’s difficult to appreciate the guy standing in front of you at a concert who would rather video the whole thing on his phone than actually, you know, be there….if he’s choosing to be high on life than on Bud Light, then heck, more power to his Android.

Photo by Ginny, via Creative Commons. No changes. 

PONG !!

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No, not that Pong.  This Pong:

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Beer Pong.  You know, that game involving ping pong balls and Solo cups and lotsa heavy drinking.

And we can find beer pong ‘kits’ and other drinking paraphernalia at local grocery stores and big box (department) stores that sell beer as an extension of their grocery department.  Funnels or beer ‘bongs’.  Drinking games. Other fun stuff.  All to encourage mass consumption and intoxication.

People love it so much, they’ve built interactive, electronic beer pong tables, as covered by the CBC.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a tad irresponsible to be marketing Beer Pong and the tools of crazy drunkenness in the same place they sell toys, cheese and baby clothes.  We have children, many of whom that cannot discern between colorful things meant for amusement or more nefarious activities, that are going to get the wrong impression.

Open for Business!

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Wine and beer are coming to Starbucks.  I learned this from an article in the Toronto Star.  Certainly this is another of many changes combining to normalize alcohol in our culture.  The article mentions how alcohol is popping up in a number of non-traditional places, such as Taco Bell. What’s more, the grocery store I shop at in Orillia has a large new section of beer, supplanting bulk food and specialty breads.

Setting aside anyone’s wish for convenience, it is fair to say that the spread of alcohol into all these new locations – coffee shops, hair salon’s, grocery stores, farmer’s markets – serves to normalize and desensitize the presence of booze to all of us, including young people.

Politically, they call this ‘loosening of controls’ – an evolution from the way alcohol used to be sold in Ontario.  These controls, rightly or wrongly, allowed for two monopolies to sell all the alcohol: the LCBO and the Beer Store.  While the flow of free enterprise and the rise in popularity of cider and craft beer created pressure on the marketplace and actually changed the rules (because it means big money!), these changes will reinforce the sense that alcohol belongs.

Shouldn’t alcohol’s right to belong, to exist everywhere, be relative not only to our demand for it, but also its potential for harm?

Alcohol causes cancer.  It reduces the success rates or surgery and extends time needed for healing. It causes liver disease, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.  It is a catalyst for violence and crime and accidents and injury. It costs us billions in health care costs, enforcement, and incarcerations.  Let’s imagine it was tobacco, which only does some of these things.  Just to state the obvious: we are working feverishly, furiously as a society to remove tobacco from anywhere and everywhere.

Why are we working so hard to add alcohol ?

Exactly how Thirsty ARE we?

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Sometimes, there are things that feel contradictory.  Sometimes, there is an awareness of irony.

To tell the truth, I was looking forward to the Ready to be Thirsty challenge. I was feeling low energy and overweight, and I wanted a chance to ‘dry out’.  In twelve days, I’ve already lost weight and I feel really good.  No kidding.

And there are a bunch of people out there doing the challenge at the same time, and we are working – individually, collectively – to stay alcohol-free for the month of February.

Yet, this morning read an article about wine in grocery stores from Martin Cohn in the Toronto Star, and I feel like the mountain grows taller as the climber is upon it.  Like trying to ice-skate uphill.  Like swimming a bunch of pineapples out to Hawaii.  Like an oil-field worker in Alberta, perhaps.

There’s no denying that alcohol is a business, and this is just another in a series of decisions to stimulate the alcohol industry and create growth in Ontario.  I don’t know – perhaps Ontarians are happy (or indifferent) to see beer and wine in grocery stores.  But we know that increased access equals increased consumption and harms and costs.  To the health care system.  To lives – you know, like…people, children, us.

It seems ironic to me that we can be working hard as individuals to control, or learn about our own alcohol consumption…and we have an industry working hard to shove alcohol to the top of the shopping list. Even though the risks of moderate to heavy consumption are massive, well-known and being broadcast farther.

Alcohol causes cancer.  So does tobacco.  If we were seeing the same work to expand access to cigarettes, there would be protests and outrage.

 

Photo by Robert Terrell via Flickr.  Creative Commons.  No changes. 

You’ve Got Personality !!

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Evidently, our personality factors into our relationship with alcohol.  Or so I have read.   Not sure whether this is something so obvious we might have known it all along…or something hidden in plain sight.

They’ve done studies on teenagers to see what character traits most predispose them to alcohol problems later in life.   They are:

  • Being sensitive to anxiety
  • Feeling hopeless or depressed
  • Impulsiveness
  • Seeking thrills

Problem is, these traits don’t suddenly fade away as we enter adulthood.  In fact, I would venture to say that they may even become more prominent.  Maybe I think this just because I work in the health care field, but I doubt it.

Rather, I see friends, acquaintances and family members struggling with depression, anxiety more and more.   Impulsiveness, recklessness…not as much…but they are there.  As adults, we thrill seek in a different way.   Additionally, there are some with adult ADHD, and this can lead down a path towards problems with alcohol too, as stress management issues and snap decisions are part of that.

At any age, alcohol connects strongly with emotion-based decisions.   As adults, we can try to create distance from our emotions, but let’s face it, they get the best of us more often than we care to admit.   The pace of our world is always speeding up, and emotional decisions are made quickly, lightning fast – alcohol can just as easily accelerate.

Photo by Vic, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.  No changes.

Telling the Whole Story

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This is a fascinating document  

Essentially, we gathered the perspectives of people who live and work in Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka, as they perceived alcohol use and alcohol culture.

This was the good, the bad and all points in between.  We simply wanted honesty.

Once all the stories were gathered together, we noticed intriguing patterns, and insightful common themes.  This is a chance to understand how people really see alcohol in our communities, from law enforcement, to medical services, to your neighbour.  Take a few minutes and look it over and you’ll likely find many ideas and thoughts that reach you.

Any which way, we hope this document creates discussion and the opportunity for positive change.

Down the Chute to Moderated Consumption

1024px-Big_chute_acansinoI am ruminating on the motivations to cut back on alcohol consumption.   Not just my own drinking, as despite being the primary blog man for this spot, I do occasionally drink.   But for anyone’s drinking.

I’ll guess when we feel the urge to change our deleterious behaviours, it comes from wisdom combined with a dose of vulnerability… or a sense of our own mortality.

I’ll give you a comparative.  When I was a younger man, we used to swim in a run-off channel that ran parallel to the Big Chute on the Severn River.  This secondary channel had been blasted out by dynamite. As such, it had several odd cliffs and high spots where one could leap off, plummet to the water, get swept into the current, and emerge, bobbing up 20 feet away.

Later, in my late 30’s I went to look at the channel, for nostalgic reasons…and gazed upon the perch where I had historically leapt for my life.  I was in shock.   I thought, ‘I must have been insane!’.  Truly, I thought if I had done it but one more time, I would have slain myself, the place being so perilous.

So now, I read this article in the Toronto Star about older folks being urged to reexamine their drinking habits.  Because:

  • As we age, we become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, chemically, physically
  • We have less water content and less muscle mass in our bodies as we age, meaning alcohol takes longer to process
  • We need to work at little harder to remember, to concentrate on tasks like driving. Impairment makes things much harder
  • Our health on the whole can deteriorate, and alcohol can make things worse.

Now, I am not saying that having a drink is like jumping off tall rocks into a small pool of swift flowing water.  But what I am saying is that if we could look at our drinking from the outside, or with fresh eyes somehow, we might see that the choices of our youth might not match the needs and realities of our more mature selves.