Can We Stop Calling Ourselves Alcoholics? It’s Not Cute

I’m pretty sure that picture of you and your friends taking shots of birthday cake vodka doesn’t qualify for an attached “me and my home girls are the biggest alcoholics ever” status update.
Publish date:
March 6, 2013
alcoholism, addiction

Lately it seems as though Sunday morning is reserved for 20somethings to use Facebook and Instagram to brag about their drinking escapades. And while embarrassing drunken pictures and stories are nothing new, “LOL we are such alcoholics” captions and alcoholic hashtags are proving that people are no longer poking fun at their vodka and tonic-induced regrets, but are somehow proud of their ability to binge drink their way through the week.

Since when did glamourizing excessive drinking become okay? Does our generation really see alcoholism as a means for bragging rights? Am I the only one offended?

It’s not that I am by any means innocent here. I too go out on the weekends and enjoy my fair share of over-priced drinks. I have my regrets, I have my blacked-out nights, and I wake up with the occasional hangover that makes me swear off drinking for all of a week. But making light of a devastating disease isn’t OK; it’s offensive, insensitive and irresponsible.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive when it comes to this issue, but I know firsthand what alcoholism really looks like, and it’s not some girl passed out on a lawn in her party dress.

I don’t remember my Dad always being an alcoholic, but I was probably too young to understand. He would come home in the middle of the afternoon and pass out on the floor. I, at the time, just found it funny that “Daddy was sleeping on the carpet.” And when he would be gone for nights on end, binge drinking at bars and crashing at his friends’ houses, I assumed it was just another long trip for work (he was in the Air Force before his health got too bad).

When I was 10, my parents got divorced, and that’s when things finally started to click. My Mother could no longer protect me or my brother from the truth: My Dad let his drinking get out of control, and despite her pleas, he couldn’t put down the bottle, even if it meant losing his family.

At first, he would still try to see me and my brother. He would let us hang out at his apartment, ordering us pizza and putting on movies my Mother never would have approved of. But I always smelled the alcohol on his breath, discovering hidden bottles of liquor in his cabinets.

Eventually, he was no longer a “functional” alcoholic. Diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, he ended up the hospital, so underweight and aged from his bad habits that he was barely recognizable besides his sad blue eyes. And despite the doctor’s warnings that if he continued to drink he would die, he couldn’t give up the only thing he had left: booze.

From there, our family dynamics only got worse. His refusal to even admit to his problem turned our once a week visits into once a month phone calls. There were forgotten birthdays, canceled plans and hurtful drunken calls.

Unfortunately, my brother, taking it harder than me, found himself following in my father’s footsteps. He started abusing alcohol, experiencing intense depression and anxiety and eventually taking a medical leave of absence during his final semester in college. And despite my Mom’s tears, multiple prescriptions and even electric brain shock therapy, I would still find him stumbling up our basement steps, too intoxicated to speak.

I would love to say that my brother’s struggles convinced my Dad to turn things around, to go to rehab, to set a good example for our family, but he couldn’t. And that’s exactly what sets a true alcoholic apart from all these 20-year-olds with their dumbass alcoholic references: He gave up his health, his relationships and his job because he genuinely cannot control his consumption of alcohol. He is so dependent on drinking that he would rather die than give it up.

But it’s not only the offensiveness of the alcoholic references on social media that pisses me off, it’s the ignorance.

You know that whole tendency to continue drinking after you’re already past your limit, yeah, that’s a warning sign for alcoholism. And that picture you uploaded of your extremely intoxicated friend whose entire demeanor changes after they’ve had one too many drinks? That’s another sign of alcoholism.

So maybe, just maybe, instead of thinking we’re oh-so-cool for being on a path to destruction, we should take those sloppy weekend pictures as early warning signs because the view into the toilet isn’t so pretty at 55.

I’m not leaving myself out here: I, especially, need to keep a check on my behavior. I’ve already been diagnosed with depression, as have my brother and father, and I’m quite aware alcoholism runs in the family. Often times, I see my Dad in myself -- using alcohol as a crutch when I’m feeling down, finding some sort of release the minute it enters my system. But being aware, rather than oblivious and self-deprecating, is what separates me from the people finding amusement in their destruction.

So where’s my Dad at now? After a second visit to the hospital, in which he discovered that his liver is no longer functional, he’s back at his apartment, all alone, unable to walk or eat without assistance. And while he’s on a six-month waiting list to get a new liver, alcohol has so badly destroyed his life that I honestly don’t think he has it in him to pull through the struggle, especially not without any liquor to numb his pain.

So yeah, I’m pretty sure that picture of you and your friends taking shots of birthday cake vodka doesn’t qualify for an attached “me and my home girls are the biggest alcoholics ever” status update. If you really want to see what that looks like, try entering an alcoholic’s apartment that hasn’t been cleaned in months or checking one out in a hospital bed with blood dripping into a catheter. It Aint So Fucking Cute.