Today is independence day in Portugal, the country I’ve lived in for the last almost 30 years. Portugal is famous for its bloodless, red-carnation revolution, and also famous for its progressive drug policy. The Portuguese decriminalization of drugs ended the heroin epidemic that began shortly after this country opened up to the modern world. The focus on health care and compassion, rather than incarceration and prosecution, has changed the conversation about how to beat the tyranny of addiction.
I had just moved to Portugal during the debates on the solution to the heroin epidemic and I never gave the drug decriminalization policy much thought until, while in my second year sober, I read Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. In reading Hari’s book, I became fascinated with how we have learned through public policy to focus on illicit drug use while ignoring the ever-increasing epidemic of alcohol addiction in the United States where the War on Drugs began.
Alcohol is perfectly legal to use and abuse not only in Portugal but in the United States where I was born and raised. My addiction was to that mundane, everyday drug that we can buy in the grocery store and serve at our family dinner table. Alcohol was every bit the tyrant to me that we see heroin, meth, and other illegal drugs as in our culture.
At the turn of the last century, we tried to stamp out alcohol addiction with prohibition in the same way we have tried to stamp out drug addiction by prohibiting drug use.
Prohibition does not work. It’s an easy answer to a complex issue that creates more problems than it solves.
It’s a challenge to live free.
What I have learned in over 8 years alcohol-free is that it was community and compassion, not a strict authoritarian penalization, that freed me from the tyranny of my addiction –
Today is the anniversary of the bloodless revolution in Portugal and in their unique approach to overthrowing a totalitarian government, the Portuguese set another great example of how to beat the tyranny of addiction.
On Avenida Liberdade
April 25, 1974
Red Carnations in the barrels of the guns of the military,
placed there by the people,
who then celebrated together
It’s a beautiful
Tyranny was overthrown quietly and joyfully by a people united
But there was bloodshed of course and torture and the imprisonment of people’s hopes and dreams for many years before the peaceful overthrow of Salazar’s Dictatorship
And of course for many years after the overthrow of the dictatorship, people had to learn a new way of life
Freedom after years of mind control can be uncomfortable
When I moved to Portugal in 1993 there were still people who missed the false security of the dictatorship
It is a challenge to live free
To be responsible for your choices and the fulfillment of your dreams
to be responsible to your community
but I don’t want to live any other way ever again
Now that I’m free from the mind control of active addiction
Dia 25 de Abril in Portugal
A day when tyranny was overthrown by hope
and an awkward but essential freedom returned to a people who came together
at the sound of this music coming over the radio
If you’re controlled by alcohol
Unable to stop once you start
no matter how much pain and shame that supposedly soothing liquid is causing you
Pour it out and stick a red carnation in the top of the empty bottle
turn on this music
then join hands with your community and learn how to live free
Go to a meeting if you have a group in your world that works for you
ReThink the Drink
Private, Independent, Anonymous, Free On-Line Community
More Reading :
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Have you ever asked yourself the question To Drink or Not to Drink? If you ever wonder if you have a problem with alcohol, or if you ever considered taking a break from the booze just to see how different your life might become chat with us a bit and see where it takes you – BOOM Rethink the Drink – Here are some thoughts from members of our community :
Don’t let the shame of the stigma keep you from saying
“I think I have a problem with drinking”