This guest post comes from journalist Guyon Espiner who recently released a brilliant documentary about his relationship with alcohol, the drinking culture in New Zealand and the power of the liquor industry. You can watch the documentary here or down below.
Guyon: When TVNZ confirmed they would screen the RNZ documentary Proof I was part elated, part terrified.
Yes, of course when you set out to make a piece of television you want as many people to see it as possible. But also, you don’t. Especially when the subject is alcohol.
For most of my adult life the thing I was most ashamed of was my drinking.
If I’d had a ‘big night’ - the euphemism for poisoning yourself with our legal drug - then I would do everything to try and make it go away.
That was partly helped by the fact that excess alcohol impairs the memory but I’d take it a few steps further too. I’d never admit to feeling hungover - because that would just bring the focus back on my self-inflicted wounds.
And I would be absolutely mortified if anyone had mentioned anything about my behaviour or level of consumption. I think that is the vicious circle that many problem drinkers get into. You feel ashamed. No one mentions it (knowing it’s a sensitive subject) meaning you aren’t confronted about it and the inward agony continues.
For me the easiest way to deal with my nights of shame was to pretend they never happened. In our society being regularly drunk is acceptable anyway so you largely get a free pass (unless other people are badly harmed by your drinking).
My own belief is that we need to be more open about our struggles with alcohol. That was the main reason I put my fears aside and decided to go on camera and on the record in Proof.
I totally respect that many people simply cannot afford to go public for a variety of reasons. Maybe being in the media actually made that easier for me - I know how the game works, what the stakes are and I’m used to taking some flak along the way.
I just wanted people to know that it’s ok not to drink. It’s normal not to drink. You can have fun, have friends, go out and follow all your dreams and more. You don’t need booze to do that.
This was never about telling people what to do or taking a moral position. But there is one thing I do want from people who drink: make it easier for those who don’t drink to exercise that choice. Don’t make us feel like outsiders.
For all my fears about going public in Proof I have been pleasantly surprised at the reaction. A couple of media heavyweights had a crack at me but that was nothing compared with the dozens and dozens of people who got in touch with their own stories.
It made me feel that, on the shoulders of many who have been advocating in this space for years, the curtain of shame and silence around alcohol had been lifted just a little higher.
Loved it Guyon and as a Christchurch boy I could definitely relate.
I want to say thank you to you Guyon for your courage. Bringing the experience of people like us (and there are many many of us) out into the sunlight is helping create a movement for change.
Excellent work Guyon. Thank you!
Amazing documentary! Thank you Guyon. One further aspect I’d like to see addressed is the role of supermarkets in selling alcohol. There seems to be something wrong when a place most of us need to go to is able to sell such a harmful substance. Selling alcohol in supermarkets very much normalises consumption. It’s a challenge when you’re trying hard to move to an alcohol free life, and there’s temptation right in front of you as you buy your groceries.
This is a great doco! Thank you for sharing xox
Loved this doco, it helped to make non drinking more ‘common’. It took guts, and so does giving up the booze. Thank you Guyon.
Thank you for making such a truthful doco on the effects of Alcohol. I decided it wasn’t for me over 7 years ago and love not having the battle of shall I or shan’t I tonight. You will have opened people’s eyes who maybe sober curious to look into their own drinking habits. I was telling a friend about the cancers related to alcohol, I was shocked that she never knew Alcohol and Breast cancer were related. Thank you for your honesty and opening up the forum for that discussion with everyday New Zealanders.
Have a Happy and Safe Christmas 🎄
Kia ora Guyon,
Kia ora, kia ora, kia ora ki a koe. Thank you, thank you, thank you. By using your platform and sharing your journey, many people who will take a good hard look at drinking habits of themselves and others that they know. The shame and avoidance cycle that you describe stops so many people from taking that first step forward towards freedom. For 20+ years, I was stuck in that cycle. Arohanui/much love to you, and all of the people involved who helped make this mahi/work happen. The positive effects from this piece will be far reaching. 🙂
I really enjoyed watching this and could relate to many things. I did not like that guy from the liquor industry, he had an answer for everything and the bottom line is that he doesn’t care about the wellbeing of any of us. That industry wants us all to keep drinking and to tell our kids it’s okay to constantly get pissed, it’s fun, it’s glamorous and it’s normal. Anyway, you handled him well. I just wanted to slap his face! Thanks for sharing your story ❤
Watched this last week. The “hot shame” resonated. I was like not just me? Absurd as you hear people saying it’s not your fault all the time but those words and the beautiful ones; “the lightness of being”. I’m on another journey following the viewing but this time I do forgive myself. Cheers (yes pun definitely intended). 🐣
Loved it! And well done taking on that one alcohol lobby guy so skillfully. He was clearly giving us the same spiel as the tobacco industry used to do.
Thanks Guyon, Your doco raised big questions for a lot of people and your articulate enquiry into booze marketing was great to watch. Your personal story really resonated with me- I was a quiet drunk also, never aggressive or loud, just usually blacked out by the end of most evenings. Thanks for your part in making the world a better place.
Thank you for your bravery and honesty and thank you for taking that risk. Many of us in they community were excited to see your documentary. It was so refreshing to hear someone ask in public what many of us experience – why do people ask us all the time why we don’t drink?
I hope you’ll be inspired to do more. You did indeed pull that curtain just a little higher. Ngā mihinui ki a koe.
Thank you Guyon! Proof was excellent. I appreciate your honesty and bravery. I know it will help many people finally find the freedom they so deserve.
Tēnei te mihi ki a koe , e te Rangatira mō tō kōrero kaha me aroha . Ka huri ōku whakaaro ki tō kiriata pai rawa atu, ahakoa , i awangawanga koe ki tohatoha tō kōrero? Ki au nei, he mīharo kē koe!
Ka aroha ki a koe me tō whānau hoki. Ka whiriwhiri koe i a koe, ko te mea tuatahi ko tō hauora ahakoa te aha. Ka tukua te kaha me te aroha ki a koe e hoa.. Nō reira , ngā mihi mahana ki a koe.
Thank you Guyon. Your bravery in the telling of your story, made me feel brave to own mine .and that even though you were nervous you used your experience and shared it on a public platform. That is bravery and vulnerability of a special kind . Your influence is welcomed by me & your honesty is something I will always respect.
Excited to watch it today. Thank you for showing the world there is a better choice!