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Battling the Bottle (5)

(dificuldade 5 – pode encontrar uma lista de vocabulário no final)

I well remember my first tentative steps towards an English pub and the discussion that had preceded them - “Do you think Mark looks old enough? Best not risk it. So it’s you, me and Angus. We’ll meet at the Beaufort Arms at 8 o clock.”

I remember my heart pounding as heads turned when I entered the bar, and I imagined half a dozen faces thinking “he looks a bit young”. Then it was time to take the plunge. I approached the counter and mumbled to the barman, “a pint of 6X, please”. For a terrifying moment, he looked at me closely, like he was trying to place a face, and I felt sure he was going to throw me out of his pub or call the police. Instead, he calmly pulled down a glass from above and began to pump the beer into the glass.

The reason for my nervousness was that I was 14 years old. The drinking age in the UK is 18. But having succeeded once, we were set. Every week-end we could tour the town on our bicycles trying different beers in different watering holes.

Starting to drink so young, you might think would increase the risk of developing alcohol dependence in later life. Luckily for me, despite the many occasions I have drunk too much over the years, waking up with a hangover, and on one occasion in hospital, I have been able to control my drinking rather than have it control me (my doctor would still say that I drink more than is good for my health, though, so maybe I don’t control it as well as I would like to believe).

Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. In our most recent pod, we were privileged to speak to, long-term resident of São Paulo, Sean Hill, an American who married a Brazilian and has two young children. Sean describes what it is like when ‘the demon drink’ truly takes over and you are no longer in control of proceedings.

“I thought that I had things all figured out. After my wife and kids would go to sleep, I would take care of the chores around the house while knocking back a couple of beers; then sneak out of the house until about midnight or one o’clock; sleep on the couch; wake up at six; go to the gym for half an hour; go to the bakery for a couple of beers, and get my coffee and brush my teeth at the bakery; and then come back and say – ‘Alright, let’s do it all over again!’”

So, what’s the difference? How is it, for some, we can drink heavily on a regular basis and yet not feel compelled to drink every day or to drink to the point was pass out each time we start on a beer, while for others, one sip is all it takes for them to not stop until dawn?

Sean puts it this way. “Alcohol was just like the answer for me, when it came to things I was dealing with from my childhood. I think there are two types of alcoholics in the world, right? I think you have the people who are really, truly born with it – it’s like, as soon as they get drunk, something in them sparks, and they’re off to the races. And there’s other people who sort of develop it over a longer period of time. I think I’m in Column A. Once I started drinking, I just thought about it all the time.”

So that suggests there’s a genetic element to this, perhaps? But clearly there must be other factors involved, like personal circumstances and our ability to face up to reality?

“It’s not drink number 15 of the night that gets me drunk, that puts me over the edge into, like, a blackout,” Sean continues. “I used to think that way. I used to think – ‘Oh, man. If I just didn’t have that shot at three in the morning, everything would have been alright’, you know? ‘Maybe I wouldn’t have woken up in the drunk tank…’ and now I’ve realized it’s the first drink – it’s the first sip – that gets me drunk, because as soon as that substance gets into my system, I have to start thinking, to start obsessing about it.”

So what’s the answer? How can we control our obsessions?

“There’s the process, and there’s the program, and the program, for me, that’s Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step of any twelve-step program is admitting that you, as a group – there is this fellowship part of the group. We heal together on these types of programs. So, we say, ‘We are powerless over alcohol,’ or sex, or whatever. There’s a twelve-step program for, man, just about everything! I have to put my sobriety as the number one thing in my life. I’ve got to put it before my kids. I’ve got to put it before my wife. I’ve got to put it before everything, because everything trickles down from my sobriety.”

Wise words. And thank you to Sean for sharing them. If you would like to hear the full interview, check it out here:

For more information on Sean and his role as a life coach and work with AA here in São Paulo, check him out on our guest corner.


tentative steps – passos tímidos

pounding – batendo rapidamente

take the plunge – mergulhar de cabeça

to mumble – murmurar

to pump – bombear

to be set – estar pronto (informal)

watering holes – bebedouro (lugar na selva onde os animais tomam agua)

hangover – ressaca

figure out – resolver (to have things figure out – ter tudo resolvido)

chores – tarefas (em casa tipicamente)

to knock back (some drinks) – beber rápidamente

to sneak out – sair de fininho (to sneak – esgueirar-se)

couch – sofá

to pass out – desmaiar

to sip – saborear

dawn – nasce de sol

to deal with – tratar com (resolver)

to spark – fazer faísca (iniciar)

off to the races – para começar de verdade / ficar sério

to go over the edge – ir além da borda

blackout – desmaio (também pode ser um apagão em outro contextos)

shot – dose

drunk tank – gaiola para os bébidos

to heal – curar

to trickle down – cascatear

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