#Penntopaper – it’s all about alcohol

Mar 6, 2020

This year I completed dry January. 

I won’t lie; it was difficult. I struggled particularly at the Oxford Real Farming Conference – only a few days into January! – and Burns Night towards the end when a wee dram was nearly downed.  But that was part of my motivation in the first place – the way I’d begun to realise how much alcohol is part of our cultural fabric; how much we associate it with certain events. 

Or – if we’re honest with ourselves – is it more a question of ‘any excuse’?  Let’s have a drink because: it’s Thursday and nearly the weekend; Friday because we’ve finished work for the week; Saturday because IT’S THE WEEKEND! A tipple with Sunday lunch; Monday because everyone hates Mondays. Tuesday- perhaps it’s hobby night and you’ve got to have a drink with the lads / lasses after class; Wednesday – because it’s midweek. Let’s have a drink to celebrate! To commiserate. Because it’s sunny and everyone loves a bit of cold fizz in the sunshine. Because it’s raining and miserable. Because we’re watching a film. 

So basically, in part, I wanted to try and break some of these associations, these habits I’d formed. And when I stopped drinking I really started to see how much of a social stigma it is to not consume alcohol. It’s eyed with suspicion in most circles and on the periphery of being considered rude. I was able to ‘get away with it’ because I was ‘doing dry January’ and #dryJanuary is A Thing, but I realised how difficult it would have been to say simply ‘no thanks, I don’t drink’.

I also started to think about the production methods and contents of some of the drink I had been consuming. Yes I do make my own wine, friends make cider, Ludlow has a fine brewery and yes too,  a lot of WWOOF hosts produce very special wine / beer / cider and perhaps spirits, but that was not the bulk of what I had been drinking. Aldi do a lovely organic red for a fiver thank you very much, but I’m also aware that it’s important where your money goes (local economy, small producers etc.) And there had been other beverages too and you  don’t have a clue how it’s been produced or what’s gone into it. I never do understand that: why don’t you have to label what’s in drink when you do with food?

Anyway I digress, because the second point I wanted to make was the second reason I decided to try dry January. In November and December I’d been feeling increasingly stressed about some work which was being done on my house and how it had made my home such an unpleasant living environment. The more stressed I got, the more (I noticed with hindsight) my alcohol consumption increased until towards the end of that period I was drinking enough every night to feel drunk. Because my living situation was so horrible to me I was drinking to ‘get out of it’.

Well – that seemed bad, and quite an over-reaction in comparison to the terrible life situations that other people have. If I took myself back a step I had an enormous amount to be very grateful for. It’s so easy to focus on the bad stuff and let’s face it, there has been quite a lot of bad stuff to focus on both locally and on the world news. But that did give me a bit of an insight as to why so many people self-prescribe drink to be able to relax. To deaden mental pain.

It’s fairly obvious when you think about it, but my learning is some of the solution is authentic happiness and connection, and to do what you can make the world a better place. And that’s when I got to realising how very lucky I am to do the job I do; facilitating these exchanges that open people’s eyes, changes their lives, create their own meaningful connections. And my blessings feel like they keep multiplying the more people that have a good experience. I guess that’s the ripple effect at work. And that’s a reviving thought if ever I feel a technical or administrative or interpersonal drama threatening to get me down. It’s good to have had cause to reflect, and to be now able to see so clearly that this little organisation is part of so many solutions.

So…to WWOOF! Cheers!


image: projectknow.com

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