Smoking unaffordable, but alcohol on sale: According to ex-addict Hans, we think too easily about alcohol

Due to excessive drinking, Hans (54) is forced to walk with a walker. He has broken the habit but still fights temptation every day. As in the ‘dangerous road’ in the store: “Five bottles of wine on sale is not good for people like me.”

For more than 20 years, Hans drank far too much every day. “After the second glass, the end was lost. Then the well had no bottom.” He was admitted to rehab at the beginning of this year. The diary he kept during the two months he was hospitalized is penetrating and confronting.

Diary in rehabilitation

“This is no longer possible. I knew that for a long time, but for a long time I added the word ‘actually’ to that sentence. My drinking is such that I can only walk with crutches. Even when I’m sober. I hardly eat during the day. I’m pretty hungry, but I ignore it. And like my friend Lenny and I go to dinner in the evening, there is little room for solid food because of the wine already consumed.”

It was never intended to publish his diary, but a few months later, Hans still likes to read from his own work. He hopes that a publisher will publish it. “If I can help others with that, I do it gladly,” says the former journalist, who has a finely tuned, dry comic pen.

Muscle disease due to alcohol

Hans has polyneuropathy, a muscle disease. “My legs don’t do what my brain tells me anymore. It’s because of the structural abuse of alcohol.” Years ago, he tried to get something in the kitchen: “And then my legs went back and forth. I thought: this is strange. But I knew immediately that it was because of the alcohol.”

When we pick up Hans, minutes pass before he is down from the second floor – where he lives. When the door opens, he greets you kindly and grabs a walker. The crutches have since been replaced. “Without that thing, I fall over,” he explains. “At home I still want to run wild.”

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The environment is getting smaller

In the park, Hans walks slowly and carefully with the walker, and he constantly looks down at the ground. “Sorry about that,” he apologizes. “But it has to be. I’ve hit enough bumps in the road. And if I’m not paying attention, I’m suddenly lying on my giggles.”

His world has become smaller and smaller in recent years due to his addiction. “I have kept my environment to a minimum. My environment is my girlfriend,” he explains. “Ultimately, I myself am responsible for this situation. My girlfriend has said to me several times: “You are the one who poured them in. No one else.” And I agree.”

See the report about Han’s story here

‘The dangerous road’

On a bench, Hans picks up his diary again: “My first day of big vacation. (…) Being at home is wonderful. Homely. I went to the supermarket (the source of much evil) and passed the ‘dangerous road’ without difficulty.”

By the dangerous path, Hans means the shelves with beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages. “I thought: this is the dangerous road. And it still is. Every day. Yesterday I went there again and I saw five bottles of wine for sale. And then I think: this is not good. I anyway: not good for people like me.”


Almost 8 out of 10 adults in the Netherlands sometimes drink alcohol. 56 percent drink more than one glass a day, which is more than the Swedish National Board of Health recommends. 7.3 percent drink too much alcohol, and 8.3 percent drink a lot. (Source: Trimbo’s Institute around 2021)

‘Society’s problem’

Hans is not the only one who is worried about the many temptations to drink (again). The Trimbos Institute also warns that alcohol is too easily available. “It’s a social problem,” emphasizes Ninette van Hasselt from the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology. “It’s about how we deal with alcohol.”

The cabinet now plans to allow wine tastings in supermarkets, as well as allowing hairdressers and fashion stores to serve a glass of wine. The Trimbos Institute is very concerned about this. “For people with addiction problems, this will create many more incentives,” says Van Hasselt.

Fight of a lifetime

Hans also absolutely does not like the plans of the cabinet. “You shouldn’t do that to people like me.” He does not appreciate alcohol policy in general anyway. “Tobacco has been made unaffordable, but alcohol has not. It doesn’t make sense.”

While the consequences of an addiction are great. Hans must fight the battle against alcohol for the rest of his life. “It’s a fight that ends in a draw at best. You’ll remain an alcoholic for the rest of your life. Even if you never touch a drop again.”

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