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Are we drinking ourselves to death?
I’m trying not to drink at the moment … I wish I could say it was just so that I could squeeze myself into my kilt for my brother’s wedding. But that isn’t the only reason.
I am what I guess you could call a problem drinker – and I am trying to take some serious action to address that.
What I mean is that I use alcohol as a crutch. I use it as a means of escape when things are getting too much for me, when things are going great and I want to celebrate, when I’ve had a stressful day and I want to wind down, when I’m cuddled up on the sofa watching a film, when I’m so mad at someone that I need it to calm down, when I’m relaxing in the bath, when I’m getting ready to go out, when I’m hanging out with friends, and when I’m writing a particularly difficult article (this is one of the first times I have written without being slightly under the influence in a long, long time).
You name the situation, however positive or negative, and I will find that it is perfectly paired with an aperitif. Except it’s not an aperitif, it’s not even a glass or a couple of glasses. It’s a bottle, or if I am at my worst a couple of bottles.
I have no off-switch when it comes to alcohol and me – I start and I don’t stop. I can’t stop. That is, until I either pass out asleep or I’m led kicking and screaming to bed.
There have been lots of tears over the years – let’s face it people drunk on alcohol, particularly to excess, ain’t that pretty. We’ve all been tagged in a drunken, gurning photograph we wish we could death stare and eye-roll into non-existence.
Imagine being like that all the time?
All the men in my family are the same. Our excuse is that we’re Scottish; it’s part of our heritage. The more whisky a Scotsman can knock back without vomiting, the more the man he is!
It’s not just my family, though, and it’s definitely not just the Scots – it’s a bloody epidemic! An epidemic which I have noticed is particularly prevalent within the LGBT community.
What is going on with us that makes us want to drink ourselves silly? I have lost count of the amount of people on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram who are ‘getting on it’ at the weekend; who indulge in naughty, school-night midweek drinking sessions; who are counting down the hours, minutes, even seconds until they can have their first drink.
How many of us are bored with the Sunday morning hung-over selfies? The constant barrage of ‘someone bring me a bacon sandwich’? #neverdrinkingagain.
Who hasn’t cringed when they’ve read someone’s drunken tweets? Drink loosens the lips, but it can also make us idiots, doing and saying things we would never dream of doing in our sober state.
People say that alcohol makes people tell the truth – I’m not sure I agree with that. In excess it can make you either so loving and clingy that you are like a limpet on heat. Or so nasty and callous that you make Katie Hopkins look like Julie Andrews. It amplifies opinions that people often don’t want to hear and generally can make you look like a bit of an idiot.
Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week. They should drink no more than four units in any one-day and should have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
Four units I can have in a single glass. 21 units can be knocked back in one particularly heavy session. Surely that can’t be right?
Alcohol is bad for us – we know this. It’s a poison that reduces the amount of oxygen reaching our brains. Alcohol provides the body with empty calories, void of any nutritional value – it is liquid sugar … It’s literally WHITE DEATH.
It also takes the body one hour to break down every single unit, and whilst it’s doing that, its other processes slow down and any excess glucose gets stored in our bodies as fat.
Alcohol contains a shed load of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, which is almost as many as in a gram of fat. And that’s before you’ve added in the sugary mixers we all love.
There a 158 calories and 14 grams of sugar in just one Jagerbomb, 180 in a large glass of wine, 215 in a pint of 5% beer. In fact, drinking as little as five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200 calories over a year – the equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.
Most of us wouldn’t eat 221 doughnuts in a single year! Many gay and bisexual men are extremely body conscious, some to levels of neurosis. So why do we think it’s all right to guzzle down all these excess liquid calories? What’s the attraction?
I know I’m not alone in skipping meals during the day when I know that I’m going to be drinking, saving up my calories to use for my binges. Other than being extremely dangerous and unhealthy, it’s borderline insane!
But calories are not the only problem that comes with drinking alcohol. Alcohol (particularly when drunk to excess) can contribute to, and even cause: liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, digestive problems, heart problems, diabetes complications, eye problems, loss of bone density, and lack of proper sexual function – the old ‘cock flop’.
Alongside the stereotype of the bingeing disco dolly are the stereotypes of the vain fashionista and the muscle Mary – so why this contradiction between caring for our appearances and yet ruining ourselves with booze?
According to a survey by Stonewall, more than two in five (42%) gay and bisexual men drink alcohol on three or more days a week, compared with 35% of men in general.
Is it simply because (statistically) more of us have more expendable income than our heterosexual counterparts, many of whom are at home with their kids? (Yes, I am aware same-sex couples have children too – I want to be one of them.)
Is it because our lives are more stressful? (I know I started drinking when I was battling with my internalised homophobia – the more I hated myself, the heavier my drinking became.)
Are there others out there like me, where this has spilled over from our teens and become our ‘norm’? We like to go out and dance the night away. I guess alcohol and that go hand-in-hand.
Statistically, men also drink more than women – when you put a group of men in a room together does self-control go out the window, along with the underpants? Or do we simply not care? Lesbians, too, drink more than straight women – and bisexuals consistently drink more than anyone, straight or gay.
We don’t define ourselves by society’s rules, so why should we care about their recommended daily units? Live fast, die young. Isn’t that what they say?
Alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined. It is a factor in the three leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds: accidents, homicides and suicides. It was found to be the most harmful drug to society and the fourth most harmful drug to users – more harmful and addictive than crack cocaine or heroin.
I don’t know about you but I find these statistics pretty shocking. In our community there are those that turn their noses up at others who use recreational drugs, but will happily get smashed time and time again. Alcohol is seen as a privilege and a right of passage.
Mental illness and depression are both very common within our community. I myself suffer from depression, yet still I drink alcohol. What an idiot! Alcohol is a DEPRESSANT – my brain chemistry is already out of whack, yet my drinking sends it further out of control.
I know I’m not alone in doing this. I wouldn’t shoot up in the street. I may have done the odd bit of blow, although I always feel so guilty afterwards. So why don’t I – why don’t we – have this level of guilt over drinking alcohol?
For me, it has got to the stage several times where I have been seriously concerned that I was an alcoholic. I didn’t wake up wanting a drink first thing in the morning, but in states of heightened emotion, either happy or sad, it has been alcohol that I have turned to.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of an alcoholic is:
Alcoholism: al¦co¦hol|ism/ˈalkəhɒlɪz(ə)m/ (n)
Addiction to the consumption of alcoholic drink; alcohol dependency:
‘He had a long history of depression, drug abuse, and alcoholism’
I would say I am at times dependant on alcohol, but I wouldn’t like to say I am an alcoholic, though I have labelled myself as that several times in the past. What defines an alcoholic?
I self-medicate with alcohol, to stop myself from thinking – from over thinking. Then the depressant nature of alcohol knocks my brain chemistry out even further. Then I feel worse than ever, so I self-medicate some more.
I know I should cut down drinking, possibly even stop, but I enjoy the feeling alcohol gives me. I can be quite uptight and it removes some of my inhibitions.
I love the warm, tipsy feeling I get with those first few sips, where everything just seems that little better. I am one of few people who actually like the taste of alcohol and I love a nice full-bodied glass of red, a crisp fresh gin and tonic, and my favourite tipple of all – a throat warming single malt (excuse the stereotype).
I know plenty of people who drink through a taste they don’t even like just in order to get bladdered.
Meanwhile, I wish I could stop after that first drink, maybe even the second. Then this alcohol thing wouldn’t be so much of a problem, would it? As the weekend’s social media posts prove, I am definitely not alone in this.
I’ve started tracking my drinking using the Drinkaware app on my iPhone. I was horrified when I first started, but it’s more bearable to look at now.
I am trying to improve and cut back on my alcohol consumption. Remember I have that kilt to fit into by the end of May. But I also want to be here for quite some time and I always worry after a particularly big bender that I’ve irreversibly destroyed my liver. I panic and I cry.
I do console myself with the fact that the liver is the only organ in the human body that can fully regenerate itself. It can completely renew itself in just six weeks, assuming you don’t push it past the point of no return.
I guess the point of this article is that I don’t want to hit rock bottom at the bottom of a rock glass – and I’m sure you don’t want to either.
Next time you are filling your wine glass, or doing shots with your friends at the bar, I want you to think about what you are doing to your body.
I know the old saying is ‘You only live once’, and that it is often seen as a battle cry. ‘Fuck it – let’s go wild!’ we say.
The thing is, yes, we do only get one chance. These bodies only have one chance to live their lives, so shouldn’t we be taking better care of them?
If you are anything like me you will hate the feeling of being hungover. I have been so hungover that I have got to the point where my face has felt numb and I have had pins and needles tingling all over my body.
Our bodies are crying out for us to stop. Maybe we should listen, before we live to regret it.
I would love to hear your opinions in the comments section below.
• Why do you think such a large section of gay men are such heavy problem drinkers?
• Are you a heavy drinker and why do you do it?
• Have you given up drinking and if so why?
Love life, and love.
P.S. I now fancy a nice glass of wine, but I’m going to make a cup of tea. This is definitely a work in progress.