Last night I watched the Super Bowl (Go Broncos!). During the second half, Budweiser had this to say:
I sat, stunned. Not because someone was telling me that drunk driving is bad, we all know that. But that a company who makes its money from alcoholics was so blatantly shaming them into submission. I cursed at the screen. A LOT. I took to Twitter and bitched. A LOT. Of course, I received the reply, “So you advocate FOR drunk driving?”
Hyperbole pisses me off. It assumes that everything is black and white, that there are only two choices to every opinion. If you disagree with Democrats, you are a Republican. If you advocate for a woman’s right to choose, you must love killing babies. If you love chocolate ice cream, you must hate vanilla. So ridiculous. But back to this ad.
I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been to jail because of my drinking twice. I’ve been to rehab and I’ve lived in a halfway house. I took a year off of my life to straighten out my shit and I’ve been sober since 2008. And it still runs all over me that people act as though it could never happen to them.
Now, my drinking was out of control. WAY out of control. I should never have been on the road. But here’s the facts. The current DUI laws say that if your B.A.C is over .08%, then you are drunk. Wanna know how most people get to .08%? ONE BEER. That’s it. Just one. Just a beer with lunch and some bad luck and you are in jail. You owe the state over $10,000. You will run into trouble for the next 10 years with everything from finding a job to finding a place to live, not to mention the shame you will face from family and friends. And that never stops. EVER. You are now a criminal, the dredge of society. Worthless. Back to the ad.
Here’s Helen Mirren, telling my that I am an “utterly useless, oxygen wasting, human form of pollution,” a “selfish coward.” And you know what? All I have to do is “stop it!” Thanks for that. Us drunks have never thought of that before.
And Budweiser? They must think a lot of themselves to denigrate their entire customer base. In the book Paying the Tab, Phillip J. Cook tells us that the top 10% of heavy drinkers in America “account for well over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year,” (Gawker, 2014) and that “the top 20 percent of buyers for most any consumer product account for fully 80 percent of sales.” (Washington Post, 2014) Therefore, it is in Budweiser’s best interest that alcoholics keep it up, so in my eyes this ad is nothing more than showing off to “society” while shaming the very people who are keeping them in business.
Imagine the consequences of any other company doing this? What if Betty Crocker put out an ad saying, “Hey fatties! Put down those cupcakes! We’re sick of looking at you and paying for your healthcare! JUST STOP!” Yeah, that would go over like a lead balloon. But the drunks, the criminals, the dredges of society? Fair game. Because it could never happen to me!
My point is this: shaming never helps. You can’t shame people into changing. All it does is make you feel superior while the real problem is swept under the rug. What’s the real problem? Addiction is a real thing that affects people. It ruins lives, both the lives of the addict and the lives of the victims. Most addicts never learn that they can help themselves. They only learn that they are horrible people who deserve punishment for their sins. Give them some dignity, that’s all. They’re shamed enough.