A Briefly Sober Reality

For the month of February, I have been participating in Dry Feb – an initiative to raise money for cancer research by not drinking for the month. I’d be lying if I said going sober for a month wasn’t motivated by selfish reasons. I’ve wanted to try to cut back on drinking for a while and I’ve tried doing it many times. Usually, I’d start with the goal of not drinking for a month but only make it one or two weeks before going back to my regular drinking routine. I figured with the incentive of raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society, I could make it the whole month. After 24 days, that’s proving to be true.

When I talked about having a “regular drinking routine,” that’s not to say I’m a heavy drinker. Like many people, my drinking heyday was in university. And a few more years after. Now, I will go out to a bar once or twice a week. Rarely will I have more than three or four beers. Somehow that still feels like too much to me. I keep wanting to cut down. Maybe that’s because I’m in my 30s and it feels like that’s what I’m supposed to do. But as much as I might cut back, I think I will always enjoy having one beer after a long day.

What I have noticed in my three-plus weeks of sobriety is how badly I want that one single beer at the end of a stressful day. I’m surprised how closely I associate beer with winding down. (Yes, I’ve read the studies that says it does the opposite.) If it weren’t for my sobriety being connected to a charity, I definitely would’ve cracked a while ago. A particularly long week at work left me smelling other people’s open bottles of beer just to get anything resembling a fix.

Luckily for me, I know I can enjoy a beer come March 1st. Now that work has slowed back down, I’m not exactly dying for a cold one. But I will certainly enjoy one next Tuesday. Aside from a break from drinking, this month has given me an appreciation for just how difficult sobriety must be for everyone out there staying sober for legitimate reasons. The normalcy of my life doesn’t depend on staying sober. My family doesn’t depend on it. My job doesn’t depend on it. I have the luxury of not having to face alcohol as a life-altering addiction.

I thought will-power would be getting through four weeks of depriving myself of booze. That’s nothing compared to having to change your whole life to avoid it. It’s nothing compared to putting in the genuine work of not giving into temptation. Because obviously our culture completely revolves around alcohol. It’s a part of pretty much all adult social events. Make no mistake, staying sober might be the act of not doing something, but it is without a question a very hard thing to do.

This might all sound like going sober has caused me to have some kind of epiphany. But that’s not the case. Abstaining from drinking isn’t changing my life. I don’t feel any different. I haven’t lost weight. (Though I do make better use of my weekend mornings.) The only real difference is a clearer realization of how powerful alcohol is, how dependent I am on it (if only for recreational use) and how we ought to give a lot more respect to people who choose to stay away from it. They might need to.

This Budweiser Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA Isn’t An Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA

Budweiser just released their 2016 Super Bowl commercial four days ahead of the actual game, as now seems to be commonplace. The commercial itself, labelled as a drunk driving PSA, stars Helen Mirren telling any would-be drunk drivers that they are, basically, the lowest scum on the earth. The problem is, this isn’t an anti-drunk-driving PSA.

Have a look for yourself.

The commercial starts with Helen Mirren saying, “Ooh, my beer, lovely” after she’s been served with a Budweiser. So the first thing the ad is hitting the viewer with is beer. And not just any beer, but a fresh, sweet, sweet, frosty Budweiser. The King Of Beers, lest you forget.

Mrs. Mirren goes on to make some very frank declarations about how dumb and useless you are if you drink and drive. And I agree with all of them. Drunk driving is a very serious problem that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or have nearly harsh enough consequences.

However, I can’t help but feel that most people watching this ad will agree, too. No one ever comes out in support of drunk driving. So it’s not like Budweiser is doing anything notable here. They’re just doing what they know they have to do every once in a while, as one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers. But I can’t remember watching an “anti-drunk driving” PSA that so actively advertises beer. In fact, this drunk driving PSA makes me thirsty for a beer.

Forget the fact that Helen Mirren gets all matter-of-fact and tells potential drunk drivers that the whole world will thank them for not drinking and driving. That’s the middle bit of the ad. People are going to spend more time thinking, “Hey! It’s Helen Mirren gettin’ sassy” than they will actually listening to what she’s saying. They’ll see the perfectly lit bottle of Budweiser sitting next to a deliciously styled burger and fries. They’ll notice the beautifully staged pub she’s sitting in. And they’ll most certainly remember that this drunk driving PSA starts and ends with Helen Mirren talking about how great cold, fresh beer is.

This is a beer ad camouflaged as a PSA. It’s basically saying, “You shouldn’t drink and drive, but you should definitely drink. Isn’t beer delicious?” The ad features no suggestions for how you might avoid drinking and driving, it just says you’re an idiot if you drink and drive. No shit. How about giving people a reminder to call a cab, or a friend, or take the bus, or even walk home? You might plant that seed in their mind. Instead, this ad just tries to be memorable by having a famous woman with an English accent say some pithy things. All while enjoying a beer. Yes, that definitely makes me want to drive and not drink.

This is a PSA for Budweiser and how awesome it is. The company is down with Helen Mirren. She even drinks it! Maybe even in real life! You should drink it too! That’s why this alleged anti-drunk driving message ends with her holding a Budweiser saying, “Cheers. Ah, nice and cold.”

I don’t know about you, but I could really go for a beer.