Words and photo by Karen Macdonald
This wonderful word describes today’s weather perfectly. My lovely niece used it in one of her Facebook posts on the subject of neurodiversity, and that’s a topic for another time!
So, why do I mention today’s weather? Well, because this Little Old Granny, who should be sitting knitting in a rocking chair, has got to jump into the car and go to the supermarket for another four ten-packs of Stella. Little Old Granny (me!) has to do this every couple of days at the moment. And it’s pishindoon! And I don’t want to go to the shops today. Sometimes at this time of year the sun is splitting the clear blue skies and it’s too hot. I don’t want to go to the shops then either. Heat waves are as bad as pishindoon.
Let’s look at the positives first! A year and a half ago I got a knee replacement, followed by a hip replacement six months later. To begin with I really struggled to carry an 18-pack of Stella, but in those days my boy came with me to the shops, so I didn’t need to carry them. Besides, at that point it was a bottle of whisky every day and the cans of beer lasted longer. Sometimes there was cider. Now he is too weak and hardly leaves the house. He eats very little, and in fact ate nothing, not a morsel, for 9 whole days until the doctor gave him some anti-sickness pills. I have to go out to the shops on my own. I miss his company as it was fun shopping together and he used to choose food that he fancied, but then he ate less and less even if he had initially fancied them. But I digress (I often digress!) … so, now I’ve built up muscles and strength, and I can lift two bags from the boot of the car into the house, each one with two ten-packs. That’s 40 cans of beer at once! Not so bad for a Little Old Granny! That will last just over two days.
In fact I’d rather not be shopping for cans of Stella or any other alcohol either but, let’s face it, needs must. “Needs must” is a funny way of saying it, but it puts the idea across succinctly, which is more than I do. Well, the need that must be served is my boy’s acute anxiety. He panics so easily if he doesn’t have a ready supply of his choice of self-medication. Some people say that I’m enabling his habit, but I’ve come a long way in my understanding of alcohol use disorder (AUD) since I first heard that phrase, “enabling his habit”.
I’ve understood that 30 years ago neuroscience discovered that alcohol is a neurological disorder, a very real illness, but that the neural pathways can be retrained with the help of a drug called Naltrexone, and that used correctly the sufferer can lead a normal life again. This is a treatment known as The Sinclair Method (TSM), and it’s little known in the UK. Understanding that AUD is an illness has been enormously helpful to me, and to my boy, as it removes the guilt and self-recrimination. The other part of his illness comes under the heading of “mental health” which is why TSM has been slow to work for him, although like anything else in life, no two people respond within the same time frame. Some people respond sooner.
So, once again I head off to the shops. Sometimes it’s Morrisons, sometimes Lidl, at other times it could be Asda or Sainsburys. Maybe that way “they” won’t notice the regularity of my alcohol purchases.
So what if they do notice? Is it any of their business? It’s impossible to get the shadow of stigma out of the picture, however determined I am to speak openly about alcohol addiction to anyone who will listen. I even speak about it on TV, social media or the press.
There was a time when people could hardly bring themselves to say the word “cancer”, in the days before treatments were developed with successful outcomes. I’m passionate about doing the best I can to remove the stigma attached to addictions of all kinds, and for alcohol use disorder to be recognised as an illness which can be treated successfully, and which elicits the same compassion that cancer or diabetes does, or any other illness that faces society. People say it’s self-inflicted. That makes me angry, as a lot of us have lifestyles which lead to illness, and it’s generally down to genetic predisposition as to whether we develop those diseases or not, as it is with AUD.
In the meantime, I’m equally angry at the big business tycoons, those fat cats who produce Scotland’s pride and joy, our distillery and brewery bosses, who are sitting rubbing their hands in glee as Little Old Granny buys yet another forty cans of beer. How they must gloat as they see people helplessly drinking bottle after bottle after bottle, can after can after can, day after day after day. They are oblivious to the misery and heartbreak, the stress and nightmare, the chaos, the violence, the broken lives and shattered relationships, and they don’t care just so long as our precious drinks industry is protected.
Today it’s pishindoon, so I’m away to get my raincoat.