Saturday, June 22

Tory Whanau may need a conversation with herself

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau is currently suffering through a long hangover that a few Hairy Lemons are unlikely to fix. And that is OK. As a recovering alcoholic I know the forced introspection a hangover can thrust upon you can be extremely beneficial. There’s a lot of self-loathing to work through, but eventually you can arrive at a deeper truth. Not always, of course, because once the headache eases the addiction wastes no time whispering in your ear that everyone has those nights. You have nothing to worry about. 

Wash, rinse, repeat.  

So, a boozy Tory enters a bar (not the set-up for a joke), in enough of a state to make staff question whether they should serve her. They decide to because she and her friend were ordering food, and – let’s not kid ourselves – because she’s the bloody mayor. She proceeds to get more drunk, is rowdy, pulls an Aaron ‘don’t you know who I am’ Gilmore, and leaves without paying. 

The faux-Left quickly mobilised on Twitter to defend her as doing something any other politician would get away with, which, even they know is bullshit. Her fellow corporate lobbyist friend, David Cormack was offered real estate at Stuff to write a defense of her bereft of a single sentence that needed to be said. If anything, her army of apologists is only making it worse for her politically, but, and this is my concern, potentially personally. 

What if Tory has an alcohol problem? 

In booze-soaked New Zealand, would it be out of the question? 

Tory is not a teenager: this is a 40-year-old, with a reputation as a bit of a boozer that preceded the incident. She is also the mayor of our capital city but hasn’t seemed to modify her behaviour. 

It’s hardly beyond the realms of possibility. 

My own journey with drinking started with stealing Lion Red bottles off the tables of the Otahuhu League Club and wolfing down the contents around the back of the clubrooms with my mates. To this day the smell of a freshly cracked ice-cold big bottle of Red instantly transports me back to Otahuhu. 

I had to work hard to be a drinker though. I spent two years puking up most of what I consumed until I hit about 17 and had conditioned myself. And then I started a rock band and spent the next 5 years drunk. 

Alcohol had a transformative effect on me. It turned a timid, arty kid into a clumsy, and on the rare occasion handy, streetfighter. Sober, I couldn’t fight a cold. I could actually talk to women when I was drunk, too, and took full advantage of that. 

I slowed down after I quit music and entered the TV and film industry, but by the time I was a full-time writer I had settled on a ritualistic two or three red wines (or G&T’s) by noon, beer to signal I’d put down the tools, then another bottle of red in the evening. Believe it or not, I thought my close to two bottles of wine a day, plus 3 or 4 G&T’s and a big bottle or 2 of Waikato was moderate. And, indeed it was, compared to a former self. 

Alcohol destroyed my first marriage. We were both drinkers. Enough said.

My father was a drinker, and while not a man I ever wanted to emulate too closely he quit in much the same way I did. He woke up one morning and said, “That’s it. I’m done”. I did have the added motivation of wanting my children to see that quitting was possible, in case they ever ran into problems when they were older.  

I didn’t go to AA. To be frank with you, I don’t believe in it and distrust any formal recovery program. I had a friend who, facing a prison sentence, chose a stay in Odyssey House ahead of sentencing to butter up the judge. He was told by one of their counsellors that he drank because of his father. He happened to really like his dad and disputed this, but the counsellor insisted. Eventually he got angry and told her to change the record. She took his anger as a breakthrough, and proof she was onto something. It did lead to another revelation for my friend however: by making his drinking about someone else, was giving him an excuse never to quit. He learned from their inane exchanges that he drank because he wanted to. And I wanted to. When I didn’t want to, quitting, even after 27 years, was the easiest thing in the world. I have now been sober 7 years. 

Now, I don’t know whether Tory has an alcohol problem or not. I could be way off base, and I hope to Hell that I am. But she authored a worrying scene the other night. She didn’t appear to me to be in control. If alcohol is indeed a problem – and again – I will reiterate – this is a big if – her twitter defenders wouldn’t be helping her, but they would be helping any potential addiction, that would be all ears, trust me.

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