In 1985, When I wasn’t stealing bounty bars from the pull out cupboard in the kitchen, you could always find me slumped on a bean bag in the lounge watching T.V. or fiddling with the coat hanger on top of my mini black and white box trying to get a signal.
I watched anything as a kid, seduced by the tacky punchlines and tawdry outfits that filled my screen every night. There were no Instagram influencers, or you tube stars, just a load of bad ads and cheesy game shows. I watched them all, infatuated with the glitz of celebrity. Watching TV as a child helped me appreciate that there were possibilities, a world beyond my back fence. It was my connection to the grown-up world and I adopted a Hollywood fed, Berkshire bred persona, it was a way of me showing off to friends that I knew about a world outside the little Thames-side village I was living in.
T.V taught me from a very young age, that drinking alcohol was good, that I’d be beautiful if I drank, that men would fancy me, think I was sophisticated, desirable. Alcohol on T.V. was represented in a positive light, people happily congregated at the local in EastEnders and Corrie for pints of ale, long stemmed glasses of champagne were handed out in Dynasty or Howards Way. It was all so glamorous and enticing. Watching people drink on TV made me want to grow up, join in the party.
So, at 7 years old, subliminal messages were sinking in.
If the TV was off, I used to sneak my mums magazines from under the coffee table when she wasn't looking. I slouched on the garden wall in the sunshine and slid my fingers over the silky plump pages. I wanted to be one of the smooth haired goddesses that held a wide rimmed glass phallically to her rosy red lips. I used to tear out pages and stick them to my bedroom wall with blue tack and daydream about being old enough to sip at a cocktail or hear the fizz of bubbles in my glass of champagne.
Growing up, I never got to witness the downside of alcohol. It was all just glossy mags and stylish ads. There were never any warnings, instruction manuals or safety leaflets dropped through my letter box. No one told me that drinking could be bad, so it became my Shangri-La, a hangover free paradise inside my little head. All I saw, or perhaps all I wanted to see, was how alcohol would enhance me.
Make me more likeable.
This culture shaped me. It made me a drinker. And truthfully, I don’t think I could have avoided it. Alcohol was coming to get me and I couldn’t hide.
As I grew, other influences pushed me further into the belief that drinking was something I had to do. In the late eighties I was passed out in farmers’ fields after pouring a litre of cider down my throat with giggly girlfriends. We’d seen older siblings do it so we copied. In the early 90’s I became a ladette. Engulfed in a culture that endorsed heavy drinking. I drank and swore and shagged and acted like a hooligan. My environment, the music scene, fashion and culture were all telling me that I had to drink.
Then, I travelled, for 10 years. I went from one country to another, from one dreaded hippie to the next, where the only things I learned were ‘A cold beer please’ in 15 languages and how to do the walk of shame in flip flops.
And then motherhood. Time for wine memes and rewards for long days. I just had to click on my Facebook feed whilst sitting on the loo and there I am, three years ago, holding two huge steins of frothy lager bigger than my own head. So, it’s not just clever ads I can’t avoid, it’s myself too. Old pissed up pictures of me are trying to pull me back in, trying to lure me.
Every moment of my life has been, saturated in alcohol. Every turn I took, there was a bar and a sunset waiting for me. I couldn’t have avoided it if I tried. I know this is not an excuse, that I still could have said no, and I realise that there is a lot more to addiction than a cheesy ad for Tia Maria, but I do think that culture and environment have a huge part to play in pushing me towards a drink.
It makes me I wonder if I ever really had a chance?
Was I destined to over drink from the day I was born because of the era I grew up in?
Perhaps drinking culture had its sharp claws dug into me before I was old enough to make a rational choice?
I read a wonderful quote today,
So, we don’t have another generation of trauma passing itself off as culture’
Maybe if more people got sober our culture would evolve. We could swap this infatuation with booze, along with all its negative side effects, for something more wholesome, like tea and digestive biscuits. If some change the tide, push against the norm, these subliminal messages might diminish, children might not be sucked in, and the trend of getting paralytic at parties or drowning out the woes of motherhood with boxes of cheap wine, might just drift away into a distant past.
I’m trying to learn from my legless legacy. I’m trying to make sense of it all, in the hope that my curiosity will make my children more curious, make them question rather than follow the crowd,
And now, here I am writing a blog about addiction.