Words by Stephen Powdrill
It was only at 6pm on a Tuesday, after I had pulled off my work-worn boots, wrapped my exhausted self in a duvet burrito and cracked open a gloriously frost-ridden can of Carlsberg on the kitchen table that I was met with the damning accusation – ‘You’re an alcoholic.’
My house-mate, who had been brewing a tea in the dark side of the kitchen, rose righteously from the shadows, with a strict index finger quivering at the offending beverage. This was the same friend that had been gyrating wildly on a podium, with a WKD stuffed in each hand, pocket and bra compartment at our local nightclub only last weekend. I tried to draw parallels between the steaming brew she feverishly clasped and my own innocent, singular tinny of lager – but I was swiftly shut down with statistics and anecdotes warning against the perilously thin line between casual drinking and alcoholism. What was the difference between unwinding after a long day with a caffeinated drink and relaxing with an alcoholic one? Furthermore, just what distinguishes a ‘normal’ drinking habit from a one-way ticket to Alcoholics Anonymous?
For a young person in the UK, binge drinking is not only the norm, it’s expected. Research shows that approximately fifty percent of students admit to drinking to a level that is ‘hazardous’ to their health and those around them on a standard night on the tiles, suggesting that exceeding the recommended daily alcohol intake (3-4 for men, 2-3 for women) is as commonplace as the hangover that comes after. ‘Drinking to get drunk’, whether at a house party, night-club or pub-crawl, seems to be the only context in which most young people will consume alcohol – setting a worrying relationship between being social and alcoholic extremism.
Many of us learned the liver-crunching effects of alcohol abuse back in high-school, swallowing nervously as the act of stomach pumping was described in gratuitous detail by your solemn Year 10 science teacher. In 2016, Ed Farmer – a 20 year old fresher at Newcastle University – died as a result of a drinking game during an initiation into the agricultural society. As a result, universities all around the UK have begun to limit the advertisement of alcohol around campus and place bans on public society initiations based around drinking. With the unattractive risk of death at play, should social binge drinking be more acceptable than having a beer in bed or a glass of wine in the bath? Drinking on one’s own is commonly associated with anti-social behaviour, depression or even an alcohol dependence but keeping to your limits and drinking in moderation is surely a more beneficial than attempting to down fifteen vodka shots in a row to an uproar of sporty student applause.
Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that drinking in moderation can even influence your health positively. A study of around 15,000 people, conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts offers that the optimum amount of alcoholic drinks is seven a week, in order to set up for a healthy later-life. Participants in the study that confessed to consuming approximately one drink a day over a long span of time were recorded to be least likely to develop heart failure in their later years. The negative connotations based around to drinking alone seem to based within a worry over alcoholic dependence, but when done responsibly and in moderation, I fail to see how a solitary tipple can be the tip of a drunkenly bobbing iceberg. If you applied the same critical stance on addiction to other addictive items people readily consume daily – such as the caffeine within a cup of tea or coffee – it would not be surprising to see you shunned as a hippy health freak, high off of their own incense stick with a turned-up nose for people’s business.
Whilst I’m not condoning a risqué tumblr of Brandy every evening, I’m not condemning it either. In the words of poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson – ‘Moderation in everything. Especially moderation.’