An acquaintance of mine posted on social media on July 5th that if the people he heard shooting off fireworks from home the previous night would just spend 1% of what they spent on the fireworks on the wine he makes and sells, he would be very happy. He made reference to the money people spent on fireworks as “going up in smoke.” The crystal clear insinuation was that money spent on craft wine was classy, elegant, refined and clearly more socially esteemable than money wasted on celebratory explosions.
So much of the stigma that keeps alcoholics trapped is encapsulated in this one misguided post. Wine is desirable. People who drink it are savvy and wise. As a wine producer, he holds his industry and his product in high regard. He is proud of his alcohol, and he is fearless in throwing a little shade on people who don’t share his passion for using their disposable income for intoxication.
Could you imagine a cigarette company executive teasing people about recklessly sending their money up in smoke rather than buying tobacco? How about an illegal drug dealer? If you sold meth or heroin, would you brag on social media about how much less of a waste of money your product is versus fireworks?
There were a lot of booms and explosions late into the night on the fourth. Here in Denver, where home-launched fireworks are illegal, there were no professional fireworks displays near my house, but the sky was-a-rocking well past midnight. I get my acquantance’s point. There was a lot of semi-scary activity going on late on Saturday night, and if you’re not a fan, calling it wasteful or excessive on social media in no sin at all.
But to suggest that ingesting an addictive poison is a more culturally revered alternative to fireworks, that’s unfortunate. What makes it despicable is the resounding approval his stated position received from Americans indoctrinated to carry the banner of the alcohol industry and who are unable to conceptualize the financial, medical and mental burden alcohol is on our society.
And during the pandemic, the burden is getting much larger.
I spoke to a sales representative for a large alcohol distributor last week. She told me her sales in June exceeded her sales in both November and December of last year, traditionally her two biggest months. In fact, she said June eclipsed the holiday months by over 25%, and that it was totally unheard of. She also shared that beer, wine and low-cal hard seltzers were in the highest demand, while hard-alcohol sales were not spiking at the same levels.
What is driving the market segmentation? Day drinking. Drinkers want something they can drink from 11am until they “fall asleep” in front of Netflix in the evening. Anecdotal evidence of a crisis, right? One booze schiller in one market does not a trend make. I direct you back to social media if you want more evidence. Day drinking memes are everywhere. People are laughing about their own dirty little pandemic habits. You know what they say…if we weren’t laughing, we’d be crying.
Well, I’m not laughing. As a former weekend day drinker, I know just how slippery that slope is. If you think you’ll scramble back up after the crisis is over, you might want to reconsider. What if your drinking is the crisis, and extracting yourself is going to take a lot more than having somewhere to go everyday.
Look, this stuff is serious. Exalting poison-in-a-wine-bottle as an esteemable alternative to fireworks is appalling, and switching to White Claw so you can drink all day instead of rethinking your habit when your health is most at risk is tragic. What makes it all OK? Post to social media about it, and you’ll find plenty of people in your same game of denial who will justify it for you.
I like a good joke as much as the next guy, but this just isn’t funny. You can believe me and join me in crushing the stigma, or you can wait until you’re on the wrong side of it. Remember when racial jokes were funny? Archie Bunker sure does. Do you remember when gay jokes and jokes about blonde women were bantered about like the marginalized group was in on the punchline? Turns out, they weren’t. And those jokes from a decade or two ago will get you punched in the throat in civilized company today.
That day of reckoning is coming for laughter at the expense of alcohol abuse, too. You’d better pick a side carefully, because you don’t want to be the only one left laughing at a funeral for someone you love who thought beer consumed from a red plastic cup while on a ZOOM meeting didn’t count and wasn’t a sign of danger. Until it killed him.
I slid down that slippery slope. Hell, I dove down it head first. But I got out after a decade of clawing and clinging and scraping. And I want to help you get out, too. If you are ready to admit that the joke’s on you, please check out our SHOUT Sobriety program for people struggling with early sobriety. We’ve been there, and no matter how unique you think your story is, the root cause is the same. When you are ready, we are here for you.
If you believe in our mission to crush the stigma of alcoholism, and you want to be part of this sober evolution, please consider making a financial contribution to our fully-tax-deductible nonprofit, Stigma. Please donate now!