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Emperor's New Clothes

You know this story, right? The emperor who is obsessed with fancy clothes and falls for a con trick spun by two men posing as weavers? They convince the hapless emperor to commission the weaving of a set of wonderful clothes that are invisible to anyone who is incompetent or stupid. They shower praise on the vain emperor, persuading him that he will look incredible in this fancy creation that only those who are sufficiently clever will be able to see. Off the weavers go to their looms and begin work... After several days, they inform the emperor that his new outfit is complete and ready to wear, and mime dressing him in the clothes. The emperor embarks on a parade through the city, wearing what he believes to be the most amazing outfit ever seen. Everyone, including the emperor, goes along with the pretense (of there not actually being any clothes) because nobody wishes to appear incompetent or stupid. Depsite the emperor being stark naked, the crowds look on with admiration, as if full of awe at such a beautiful outfit.

After a while, the emperor walks by a child who points and laughs, and blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The honesty of the little boy breaks the sham, and the crowds suddenly erupt in peels of laughter. The emperor, too proud to admit he has been fooled, continues to walk on, head held high and refusing to accept that he is unclothed.

This story reminds me of alcohol. The hold it has over so many people in society. Growing up, we are not told that it is harmful to consume alcohol. Instead, we are taught that we must learn to "hold our drink", "know when we have had enough" and "drink responsibly". This creates the illusion that alcohol is a positive and necessary feature of our lives, and that our time on earth will only be enhanced by its inclusion.

As times goes on, and the degree to which we are detrimentally affected by alcohol hits home, we become more and more like the emporer. We do not want to stand out and say "hang on a minute. This stuff makes me feel like crap! It's ruining my sleep, ageing my skin, sapping my energy and filling me with regret and self-loathing".

We want to be a part of the crowd, not appearing boring or on the periphery of the accepted norms of society. We want to be approved of and included. We want to be the same.

We want to sip cold white wine in the sun.

We want to enjoy an Aperol Spritz before our meal.

We want to lie on a sunbed by the pool and sip cold beers in the sun.

But underneath this exterior lies the truth. This stuff is horrible! It's poison and making me hate myself every time I drink it. It's making me fat and stopping me from achieving my healthy lifestyle goals. It's getting in the way of me living a life of fulfilment, preventing the optimisation of my mental and physical health. It's making me worry about disease and premature death. It's making me have stupid arguments with the people I love. It's making me wake up with a blurry memory of what happened the night before, filling me with dread and fear. This stuff is terrible!!

And then, slowly but surely, we get lured back into the myth. We started to feel as though we were "one of them" and not "one of us". We craved the inclusion. Convinced ourselves that we were missing out. We didn't like explaining that we were different and not part of the in-crowd.

But with the same honesty and authenticity demonstrated by the little boy in the Emperor's New Clothes, we are able to be brave. We can say out loud and with conviction, "this alcohol stuff is shit!" "It takes me away from my best self". "It is stealing my precious life from me and I won't give it the power to do that for one more day."

It truly is an illusion, alcohol. It's rubbish. And once you have broken free from the con trick, you will be free to live your life as it should be led - just you, being you. No mind-altering drugs required.

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