I debated writing this post, because it is sort of personal. But, ultimately, I think it’s a worthwhile topic to raise for discussion.
I recently had a doctor of mine reprimand me for having an unhealthy lifestyle — because I have a drink or two most nights. Wine with dinner, a couple cocktails with friends, nothing I consider abnormal or excessive. But, according to this doctor, one of two drinks a week would be alright. My habits, he implied, verged on alcoholism.
As I sat in his office, defenses, refutations, and curses filled my head, all the things I wanted to say to him. But instead of saying these things, I just sat there. I sat there as tears filled my eyes, feeling judged and accused in a place that was supposed to be safe and comforting. I wish I could say that I said nothing because it wasn’t worth the fight. But I said nothing because I felt ashamed. This man actually made me question what I do and how I live.
But, like Socrates said (in so many words), there is nothing wrong with a little self examination. And I have emerged on the other side of examining my life, feeling pretty well assured that my relationship with alcohol is entirely healthy. There are so many messages in our society about the dangers of alcohol. And I strongly believe that this attitude towards alcohol is actually what makes it dangerous. In Europe, children grow up having a little bit of wine with dinner. They are taught that wine and spirits are something that can be healthily and happily enjoyed every day. Drinking is part of the culture, part of eating, part of family, and part of socializing — part of life. And because of this, you will hardly ever see any abuse problems in these countries.
In the United States, on the other hand, you find very few households where children grow up being exposed to a healthy consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is treated as illicit and dangerous, something that is strictly prohibited. And, of course, when kids are out on their own, drinking becomes a form of rebellion. Abuse, dependence, and overuse follow — and then alcohol becomes dangerous.
When I first went off to college, this was the kind of drinking I was exposed to. Kids my age drinking cheap alcohol in excess. No one wanted to taste and enjoy what they were drinking; they just wanted to be drunk. I had to watch my classmates stumble home with strangers and throw up all over the sidewalk, and I quickly came to despise the culture of it. This is what drinking was to me, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
And then — Rome. I studied abroad in Rome, and came to love wine, spirits, and the culture of drinking that exists over there. Huge carafes of red and white wine were plopped down on every dinner table; aperitifs of aperol and prosecco were had with friends; limoncello was drank at the end of every meal. I once had the owner of a small restaurant give me and my friends small glasses of grappa because I wasn’t feeling well. I met, mingled, and engaged with people who I couldn’t speak a sentence to, over a bottle of wine. And back home, I have met some of my best friends in this industry. People who can engage in the delight, pleasure, and variety of wine and appreciate the stories and effort that surround its creation.
Here’s what I think: If we all approach alcohol with a stick, warning yourselves that any more than a drink or two a week will cause us harm, then it probably will. But if we approach alcohol as a healthy and fun part of life, then it will be just that.
Posted by Jane.