The Truth About Cheap Booze
It was 7am at the tail end of a party, when someone suggested that the drink might have run out. People started to ransack the flat, desperate to find a bottle of something, anything to see them through to opening hours. The only thing we found was a bottle of White Lightning that someone had brought round for a joke. We all sat there looking at it for a moment. “Fuck that” someone said, “I’d rather drink the dregs”.
Chemical cider tastes rank, it’s made from industrial leftovers that are otherwise fed to pigs, and it gives you the shakes; all of which are good reasons not to drink it. But the main reason why most people avoid it is a thing called self-efficacy; the in-built safety mechanism in your head that reminds you there is a point in life that you won’t allow yourself to fall. Self-efficacy is the ability to influence the events that affect our lives. If you believe that you’re in control, then you also believe that you’re worth something, and you won’t gamble it away by smoking crack.
We build up self-efficacy through experience and modeling. But most of it’s drilled into our heads by parents and teachers who keep reminding us that we’re worth something. And the pushier the parents and more expensive the teachers, the more self-efficacy you have. Which is how you produce posh idiots with wavy blonde hair and wide nostrils that genuinely believe they can (and often do) rule the world. It’s nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with perception.
The news hook to this story is that the Government can’t decide if they should make cheap super strength booze more expensive, as lots of campaigners are encouraging them to do. If you price penniless drunks out of the market, so the campaigners say, they won’t drink so much and we can all go on our merry way. But they’re wrong. Here’s why.
Number 1:Anyone that’s been even mildly hooked on hard booze, drugs or fags – and most decision makers have not - knows you can and will find the money to get them. It won’t be long before 20 Marlboros hit £10 and ten million people in the UK won’t be quitting anytime soon.
Number 2: Cheap booze is one of the few products made specifically for the underclass. Successful people don’t like it because it makes the place look ugly, it frightens the children when people drink it in the street, and it spoils the neat display on the supermarket shelf. But the people who want 69p cans of White Lightening (7.5%) banned are probably less passionate about reassuringly expensive pitchers of Hoegaarden (8.5%).
Number 3: If people with no money and no prospects want to bail out and self-destruct then it’s nobody’s business but their own. There are lots of jobs which are far worse than being a drunk.
But then, I would say that – I’ve been in and out of alcohol rehab programs for fifteen years. I’ve never been homeless and I’ve not done hard drugs, but I have spent time drinking on the street. It’s not like a badge of honour or anything, in fact there’s nothing romantic about it whatsoever. The fear and loathing you provoke, as normal people go about their business, is like nothing else. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world. You are the point at which they absolutely will not fall below.
Most people disagree, but I think it takes bigger balls to give up when the odds are stacked against you, than to carry on struggling further down a pipe dream, especially when you end up an outcast to 99% of the people around you. At 69p a can, White Lightning is cheaper than a dose of Prozac, and easier to come off if you want to get back to being normal again. The truth about cheap booze or any other escape option is that it’s nobody’s choice but our own.