Mark Reid reviews The Accidental Soberista by Kate Gunn and Sunshine Warm Sober by Catherine Gray
Gunn and Gray tell us how they moved from sobercurious to heartfelt abstinence . They strongly agree on a central point : you don ’ t have to consider yourself an alcoholic to stop drinking . Some understand alcoholism as leaving you down-and-out through drink , and don ’ t see themselves as that bad . So they just carry on and drink too much anyway . There is an ‘ us ’, of drinkers who are still functioning well enough , says Gunn , and a ‘ them ’ – ‘ controlled ’ by alcohol , with ‘ ruined ’ lives .
Both writers believe that it ’ s not character flaws that account for harmful drinking , it ’ s the addictive nature of alcohol and a lack of information about what
it does to us . Then there ’ s the din of marketing which insists that , without a drink , we are ‘ missing life ’ says Gray .
They want to keep the best of their previous social lives . Four years into sobriety , Gray has dropped only one in five of her old friends . Gunn ticks off her event experiences without alcohol and , ‘ with sober dancing accomplished , I was ready for anything ’. There is great emphasis on personal skills and passions as ways to wellbeing . These individual choices are enjoyed in the long term , so theirs is not a one-day-at-a-time philosophy . Gray tells someone in recovery : ‘ If you ’ ve done five years , you ’ re more than capable of forever ; you don ’ t have to gawk at
the cliff daily , hourly ’.
Sunshine warm ( not stone cold ) sober follows the science , complete with sources . There could be more care here though . Gray says a 2018 study shows selfmanagement ( including SMART ) is ‘ as effective ’ as 12-step AA . But the full source only ‘ tentatively suggests ’ this – due to the small number of people studied , and the lack of similar research . And of course those who head for AA are more likely to want to stop , rather than be sober curious . The course of action set out in these books may appeal to people whose recovery was established in AA but want to bring in a less programmed
The Accidental Soberista is published by Gill Books ; Sunshine Warm Sober is published by Aster .
approach . It could be liberating .
Over time ’, says Gray , the ratio of ‘ discomfort to comfort , has tipped overwhelmingly , ridiculously , towards comfort ’. Now she feels ‘ safe ’. Gunn looks back on her former self as ‘ scattered ’. Now she feels ‘ calm ’. There ’ d been a niggling thought that there was ‘ a better version of me available ’. And so it has clearly proved .
LET ’ S TALK ABOUT LEGISLATION
I welcome the views expressed in Nick Goldstein ’ s article , ‘ We need to talk about attitudes ’, ( DDN , March , p20 ) and I think it represents the thinking needed to take the issue of drugs legislation forward . I will defend anyone ’ s right to challenge hypocrisy whenever it is part of government decision-making , but I suspect that any newfound fervent libertarianism was probably founded on self-serving opinions rather than a desire to come to the aid of the public .
In the same way that Nick calls out those who want to turn policy making into the pick and mix counter of democracy , I think we also have to reflect on the complexity of drug dependency and society ’ s attitudes towards it . I have no doubt that there is a cogent case for redrafting the outdated drug laws , but if the current interest in pandemicrelated public health policy
‘ If anyone thinks that making life easier for the police is a valid reason to legislate then we have truly lost the plot ...’
teaches us anything , it seems that whilst everyone seems to know one or two good answers , nobody knows them all .
If we reflect on how we ended up with an approach that enshrines prohibition , we have to consider that there were probably a lot of self interest groups around that table in Geneva all those years ago – not least the tobacco industry – but there were possibly others more knowledgeable and impartial than us who reluctantly agreed that prohibition was the least-worst option at the time . Of course it was ultimately unenforceable , but if anyone thinks that making life easier for the police is a valid reason to legislate then we have truly lost the plot . Pause for a moment to consider that those responsible for the convention may have seen prohibition merely as a brake on the worst outcomes , rather than a solution .
The issue is about finding a way to give public health primacy without criminalising users and still being able to prosecute those that profit from the trade . Prohibition may not be the answer in the 21st century , but that doesn ’ t
determine a path to legalisation either . The instincts of many of these new-found campaigners for civil liberty lie firmly in free market profiteering and somewhere , somebody will be getting rich on the backs of other people ’ s misery .
So I agree with Nick Goldstein – let ’ s hold these charlatans up to inspection . But in doing so let us make them think far more deeply about the subject and avoid the trap represented by big money pouring into the legalisation debate at the moment . They aren ’ t investing in the betterment of society , they are dicing with others ’ dependency . Allan Brown ( 45 years in law enforcement ), by email
DDN welcomes all your comments . Please email the editor , claire @ cjwellings . com , join any of the conversations on our Facebook page , or send letters to DDN , CJ Wellings Ltd , Romney House , School Road , Ashford , Kent TN27 0LT . Longer comments and letters may be edited for space or clarity .
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