The Consequences of Cool

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There’s a recent article on the CBC talking about how the Craft beer industry might be fueling addiction.  An interesting subject, considering the Craft beer industry here in Ontario is similarly exploding.

Certainly, where there is growth in the alcohol industry, where there is growth in accessibility, where there is growth in social acceptability, there is the correlation of increased use, and therefore, the possibility of dependence and addiction.  We know this from research (that’s a bit dry and long – but it’s solid and scientifically sound).

In the article, there’s some cross-talk about how craft beer can’t be fueling addiction because people are drinking all this fancy beer for the taste, the experience.  Perhaps the same logic would apply then, to scotch or wine aficionados – after all, aren’t they too consuming for the sake of coolness, for the sake of hipster-ism and all the cultural gusto…?

The truth of the matter is that while our motives to drink vary greatly, the outcome can often be the same – drinking to the point of over-consumption, whether one is tippling too much at a sitting, or just too frequently.  The consequences are also there in the research…chronic disease, cancer-risk, high-blood pressure.

A related article talks about drinking on campuses – college kids getting off on the wrong foot with alcohol.  Imagine – college kids partying and binge drinking…never!  Yes, it’s true, our relationship with alcohol starts young and carries on into adulthood, middle-age and further.  If we think it’s cool either because it’s a crafty, watermelon-infused, triple-hopped lager…or it’s a bottle of 1992 California Super-Fruit Cab-Sav…or it’s a sip of a 27-year old peaty Glen-wherever scotch….  As soon as you believe it’s cool, you’re more likely to want it, try it, drink it, indulge in it.  And coolness leads where it leads.

Risky Business!

It’s been a while since we’ve showed the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and one of those cool, slightly accelerated Sharpie videos.  This one talks about how to conceptualize drinks.  How to count, really.

We can limit the damage from alcohol upon our lives, our health and our culture, if we simply become more conscious of our consumption.

We’ve been convinced by big media that drinking is sexy, fun, cool…and we see these images in movies, television commercials and in print media. But when we look at alcohol more objectively, we discover that intoxication and drunkenness are very far from those things.    Think about how big drinkers handle themselves in social situations, or within periods of stress.

Tragically, when we look at big consumers of alcohol we may discover aggression, slovenliness, habitual escapism, emotional instability.   We discover chronic illness, ravaged immune systems and worn-out livers and kidneys.  Sadly, we commonly discover pain.

More hopefully, if we learn to manage our consumption, and not pair it with our vulnerabilities, we can help ourselves.  We can create habits grounded in reality, instead of images fabricated to sell booze.  We can enjoy it, truly, and find that reasonable limits actually help to polish the good times.

There’s No Road, That Ain’t a Hard Road

I was listening to a Sam Robert’s song this morning on CBC2, and I began to think about how I handled this past February in the Ready to be Thirsty challenge.   How I fell off that one time for the Superbowl, and how I cheated one time after that…on the 14th (with the wife, Valentine’s Day, watching Downton Abbey, of all things), and I felt terrible the next day…no lie.

I was remembering how hard it was to give up booze for the first couple weeks, and how I was tempted so intensely.  I think about how it’s not as difficult now, and how not drinking during the week has become the normal thing.

On the whole, I lost ten pounds and I often sleep better (well, for me).

Now the challenge is to manage consumption for the rest of the year.   There’s those pesky Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.   Yeah, that’s the goal I should be aiming for…in fact, I am pretty much already there.

But the temptations will come when the weather turns – opportunities to rejoice, to celebrate, to get carried away.  Campfires and camping and canoe trips and cajoling with friends in the backyard.  But even then, the challenge continues – to be a gregarious, mostly-sober host, and make a great time out of moderation.

Remember, especially when the company’s not the best, the conversation’s not the liveliest, the mood’s a little dark, or the plot of the movie’s a little dim…that there’s no road, that ain’t a hard road, that’s worth travelling on.

Finish Lines !!

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Wow.  February 29th, that extra day you get every four years*

Today is the last day of the Ready to be Thirsty challenge!

If you attempted the challenge – then, congratulations.  If you didn’t, well, we would like to extend our sincere invite to join us in 2017.  Or, you could take on another ‘dry period’ of your choosing – whenever it suits you.  If you do, feel free to tell us about it on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Ready2BThirsty/

We’ll be there, prepping for next year, getting ready to hear your stories and share our own.  Any which way, we hope you gained some perspective, shed a few pounds, and learned about yourself.

Take the time to really think, even just for a few minutes, about your health, your energy, your alcohol consumption.  Carry those lessons forward – take them with you.  We think those notions will actually make you wiser, more insightful…just a little, even when the time comes when you want to have that beer, that glass of wine.  Enjoy it sensibly, moderately.

Life is about learning, from successes, from set-backs.  Take pride in your accomplishments and we’ll happily see you when we see you next!

 

Photo by Steve Garfield, via Flickr, Creative Commons, no changes. 

Overhaul the Alcohol !!

Here at Thirst, we look at alcohol from all the angles.

Big Picture:  A new plan just unveiled is changing how wine is being sold and distributed in Ontario.  Akin to how beer entered grocery stores in the past few months, we are about to see wine do the same, and be more available than ever.  This is another change in the overhaul to our alcohol distribution system.

That’s big picture stuff , systems at work – and maybe you’re happy about it – maybe it will save you a trip, I don’t know.

Small Picture: You and your community.   More access to booze means more consumption and more problems…not necessarily for you (okay, maybe you) – but perhaps for your daughter, your neighbor, your friend…and then, maybe for the cops, the jail, the hospital. You see, when you care about your community, you’re actually caring about yourself, and those you love.

When you look at both pictures…and maybe your own consumption, your own health, it starts to meld into a larger sense of knowing.

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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. 

#R2BT Kicks Off !!

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If you’ve been following along on here on the Thirst blog site, or on Facebook as part of the Ready to be Thirsty Community…or you’ve gone even farther and committed to #R2BT challenge, you’ll know that February has kicked off with a boom!  Or, perhaps more accurately, the absence of…

Akin to the non-explosion of fireworks, we’ve begun to hold back from alcohol, to abstain, to withhold, to withdraw.  To use a fancy old word, we’ve begun an abeyance.

And yes, some of us are actually enjoying this non-event, as a time to reflect, dry-out, learn about ourselves, do something different.

But we know there are many temptations to come.  Maybe you like a glass of wine after work.  Maybe you party it up on Fridays with the neighbours.   Maybe you have a dinner party to attend and the company is better when drenched in a little booze.  Or, perhaps you have a concert or sporting event to go to, where excitement and enthusiasm is key.

Certainly the Superbowl comes to mind.  Heck, you don’t have to like or even comprehend Football to enjoy food, drink, merriment and frivolous excess. That’s why they throw parties!  And even here in Canada where hockey is still king, there are still thousands upon thousands who will take in the game, drink gallons of beer, and rejoice in the biggest single-game sporting event in the world.

Beyond liquid excitement is the pressure of others, drinking alongside us in social situations.  There is still often social leverage to drink up, and everyone feels it, whether we are so very conscious because we are going without alcohol for a month, or just within the circles of our everyday living.

Photo by Ralf Κλενγελ, via Flickr, Creative Commons license, no changes.