This is the post this whole blog is named for – a must read for anyone who wants to change their thinking around ethanol. One crazy thing is: The words I refuse to ever use, like alcoholic, sobriety or relapse, are the exact keywords I must use so anyone looking for help can find it!
“Sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you.” “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I don’t know about you, but I’m with the pen. It’s my experience that words are very powerful, and they can lift you up or push you down; they can make you feel happy, sad, good, bad, guilty, defensive, insecure, and in some cases they can even be devastating.
My awareness of the power of words has caused me to be vigilant about how I speak of having become a non-drinker of ethanol. I watch the words of others and the effect they have on my inner self. When I am in a conversation, I can actually feel how certain words and phrases tend to manipulate; I can feel their power viscerally, and that is why I am careful and aware. We are saturated with language around drinking, alcoholism, and sobriety that is generally accepted by society and the medical industry, addiction “experts” and everyday people — words that assume, judge, and condemn.
In becoming a “non-drinker,” a person who doesn’t drink ethanol, I needed to change the language. Here are some words and phrases that I find especially tricky, and have either consciously stopped using or changed the use of my language around them:
Sobriety — The word in and of itself sucks and has taken on a different meaning than its intended quality of being staid or solemn; seriousness, dignity. Today’s sobriety reeks of booze and sacrifice — things given up, rather than wonderful things like clarity, health, joy and even dignity regained. I’ll take dignity and clarity over sobriety any day. I’m not sober; I’m free!
Quit or Give Up — I did neither; I simply stopped consuming ethanol, so I do not utter such terms. Once again the language has deeper meaning than those simple words — to quit or give up has great overtones of sacrifice and loss. Stay away from those words, they are not helpful.
Recovery — This term has a wicked complicated tapestry of convoluted meaning. It is another setup for failure in the sneaky addiction industry lingo. If you are “in recovery” there is an understanding of something medical, something disease-based ongoing, like cancer remission (temporary recovery) — very iffy; you can’t trust it.
Remission also means pardon, forgiveness, as of sins or offenses. So, if you find the need to use a word that embraces the nebulousness of your state of not drinking ethanol, “remission” might be better, since it connotes the false disease model more clearly. If somebody says, “I’m a recovering alcoholic.” or “I’m in recovery.” it doesn’t necessarily mean “I’m returning to a normal state of health, mind or strength.” It tends to mean, “I’m in this shaky process of self-denial, a sort of remission, that I have been told I can’t trust and I could ‘relapse’ at any moment.” I remember joking that I was a “recovering alcoholic” when I’d have a lay-low hangover day because I was indeed recovering after ingesting way too much ethanol.
Alcohol — Ethanol, the stuff that goes in your gas tank and shouldn’t go in your body. Also note the warm and fuzzy booze advertisements that aim to make you sentimental about your relationship to it, how it’s seen as vital to enjoyment, celebration, belonging, and even commiseration. Believe me, it’s not vital; it’s a highly addictive poison.
Alcoholic or alcoholism — Words I refuse to use ever again, just say: someone addicted to ethanol or ethanol dependence.
One day at a time — A subtle societal setup for failure. It goes hand in hand with “How long?” and “sober” and “recovery.” The whole culture especially 12-step stuff is saturated with this time thing. Fact is, time is an illusion and there is only NOW, and that’s all I care about. I don’t drink ethanol now. When people ask that underhanded statement of sabotage my gut reacts as if it’s a threat, and it actually could be one if I subscribed to the common cultural myths surrounding white knuckle sobriety and recovery. I also notice that it’s the people who are concerned with their own intake of ethanol that tend to ask that question. And I don’t count days; counting keeps you in the prison you’ve already sprung yourself from.
Drink — How the heck did this word ever get to mean ingest ethanol? We drink tea, water, and all sorts of other stuff too. See how our language is so completely saturated in ethanol? Notice how powerful the language becomes when we stop using the word alcohol?
Withdrawal — OMG what a horrible sounding thing of loss, like you have to go to the bank and take out all of your money and be left with nothing! This is one of the terms that the addiction industry uses to help keep the addict addicted. This term helps to confuse people, make them fear cessation, make them fear pain that likely will never happen. I am happy to report that after more than 40 years of drinking just about every single night, I suffered no adverse “withdrawal symptoms.” I did notice a few changes. I stay up a little later; read later into the night; have better recollection of what I read; wake up in the morning feeling great; I’m more hydrated; I am happier; I find more joy in everything, I laugh even more than I already did, stuff like that. Woe is me, not.
(Disclaimer: Some may take umbrage with this and if physically addicted may feel the need for medical help. I can only speak from my own experience, that the idea of a painful withdrawl that never happened kept me from stopping sooner.)
Relapse — WTF? This word reeks of ego and self importance, drama and codependence. Oh, poor you, you’ve been stricken with a symptom of that terrible alcoholism disease of which you were briefly in remission. That word takes away your personal responsibility and makes you powerless. It’s only the end of the world if you see it that way. For god sakes, we are these tiny creatures spinning around on a dirt ball in space. Give yourself a break.
If you swore not to ingest ethanol, and did, you did not have a relapse, you just drank ethanol against your better judgement. Get over it and move on.
Mocktail — Why make a mockery of your wonderful life-affirming change? Many of us drank to “flip the switch” from working to relaxing. So, the best word for a tasty ethanol-free drink at cocktail time is Switchflipper. Cheers!
Clean & Sober — Yuck, no thanks; I’m just Clear & Happy!
Wayne Dyer said, Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.
I say, Change the lingo; change the paradigm; change your world.