Perjantai 22.2.2019
Minä rakastan sinua, Herra, sinä olet minun voimani. Ps. 18:2

Blog: "Drinking water and burning matches"

in English 22.7.2016 07:04 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
"So you just drink water and burn matches for smoke", said an instructor to me and another student teacher when we declined a drink of alcohol. We were having dinner in the training school canteen to celebrate the end of our final practicum.
The dinner was sponsored by a publishing company. The instructor was worried: If this group did not consume enough drinks, the supply would be smaller the following year.

”Drinking water and burning matches.” With these few words the instructor painted a picture that suited me fine. I do not drink alcohol, and I do not smoke.

I did not participate in student parties but heard people tell about them. They were wild and also sad. I probably missed many stories, and that was fine. I guess I was a bit of an outsider (though certainly not the only one) because I did not go to the parties, but the others let me be. That did not prevent us from being friends.

I once discussed drinking with a friend of mine. I asked her what made her drink. She said that, after a few drinks, she is better company and feels herself more relaxed. Remembering this response, I also remembered  the question of another friend: ”Is there something wrong with our society if a person needs to be drunk to feel relaxed?

Anyone who writes critically about alcohol is easily labeled as a moralist or a spoilsport. People may think that especially believers should keep quiet because they know nothing about the whole thing. I do not have experiences of the joys of drinking, but I do have experiences of the harmful effects. And I do not mean media reports of accidents or health problems following alcohol abuse. Nor do I mean public health statistics, which show that the worst enemy of good health in our country is King Alcohol.
I mean fear, shame, sorrow, and the emotions that are suppressed. I know what it means to have a hippo in the living room. I read a book about that almost 20 years ago. That book touched me deeply.
I also mean the adult who was sorry about his drinking, afraid that his children would only remember him drunk. And still, on the darkest night of the year, this safe adult once again walked away from home. His figure walked further and further and finally disappeared. A child, or actually several children, saw him disappear. His steps took him to that other place where adults became quite different, incoherent.

At the kitchen table at home another adult sat quietly, leaning her head against her arm. She sighed deeply, cried secretly from the children. Sighed again and began to put the children to bed.

I believe that every person’s childhood and adolescence contains some good and light things, chips of joy. I feel I lived in a flood of light. The more years have passed since I left home to live my life as an independent adult, the more grateful have been about my home and my dear parents. But every person’s childhood also has some shadows, smaller or bigger. Details are not important when I say that the darkest shadow on my childhood and adolescence was thrown by alcohol.

One summer day I was driving from our village to town. I had the radio on, and someone was interviewing a psychologist, whose name I have forgotten. This psychologist said that his grandmother taught him this: Remember that a drinker is also a human being. It was a wise grandmother. In our own family, we have given an honest and direct answer to the bigger children’s question of why their father did not live with his biological parents. At the same time we have hoped that our response would resemble the words of that wise grandmother.

I would also like to quote a response to a gallup survey here in Lapland. A few years the staff of the local newspaper had wanted to find out how people felt about the proposal to reduce the alcohol percentage of beer. I remember one response, which suggested that all bottles and cans should be filled with just water.  I think many children would agree.

There are many stories of why a person drinks and possibly becomes an alcoholic. But there is only one reason – or maybe a bit more than one – to give up drinking. That reason is the person him- or herself and their life. And also the lives of their dear ones.

Anna Virtanen
Translation: S.-L. Leinonen

The blog post was published in Finnish in online Päivämies on 22 February 2015.

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