Anger About the Ambiance of Alcohol

So I wrote about drugs before, but if I’m going to be honest, that’s not everything. That’s the intellectual analysis, certainly, but as it pertains to my life, alcohol and drugs (pretty much just pot) manifest themselves in a very specific way, one that I don’t want to have anything to do with.

People drink for all sorts of reasons. Given how many times I’ve had this particular conversation, I think I have a good idea of what the major ones are. As far as I can tell, it is: it tastes good, it’s a social lubricant, it’s what college kids/20-somethings/high school students/whatever broad community someone considers themselves a part of does, to get drunk, to relax, to forget, to not be sad.

And I think these are almost all terrible reasons. Drinking because you like the taste is fine, within moderation. I happen to hate the taste of alcohol, so that’s one reason for me. Doing something because your community expects you too is stupid unless there’s something fun or meaningful or important about it that underlies the social pressure, and to me, that’s all pretty obvious. Getting drunk is dangerous, painful and unhealthy.

Every other reason has something to do with emotion and comfort, with yourself or in a social situation. If you are trying to make something in your life go better, that’s great. Bettering yourself is almost always a worthwhile endeavor. The problem is that none of those problems are caused by lack of alcohol. They’re caused by something entirely different, and if you never bother to find out what those underlying causes are, your betterment will be artificial, short-lived and you’ll be missing out on a chance to understand yourself better. If you’re unhappy or socially awkward, those are things about your life you should acknowledge and do something about in a healthy and positive way. Alcohol seems like a pretty poor choice for that kind of thing. Again, I’m taking a consequentialism tack, here. A drink that calms you down, to extend the analogy, a hit off a bong – probably not awful things. Not something I want to partake in, but fine. But this is a general habit that people have of not understanding the causes of their problems, and that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

Finally, and possibly most relevantly, there’s a culture that alcohol creates. It’s a culture in which anything goes, in which you can be your stupidest, worst self and have a bullet-proof excuse for doing so. It’s a way to do all the things you’re ashamed of, be the person you wish you were (or weren’t) without shame or guilt. I guess to some people, that sounds fantastic, but I’m not ashamed of myself, and the parts of myself I don’t like are not shoved down into the depths of my consciousness only to be lured out by the presence of ethanol. If there’s a way I want or need to become a better person, I will work at it, day in and day out, until I’ve achieved it. Alcohol is an easy way out. People always tell me it lowers inhibitions. And if I happen to like my inhibitions? What then?

That’s just the personal part, too. In general, parties are, how shall I say, gross. Drunk/high people are often clumsy and irritating. They revel in the profundity of a conversation that would feel stupid to have sober. They almost never want to talk about anything important or interesting or novel in a sophisticated, meaningful way. There are certainly enjoyable aspects, but when everyone I know comes back saying how disgusting it was, I really want to know why they go back. The parties I’ve most liked are those in which I got to be…exactly who I always am. I got to talk to interesting people, have fantastic conversations, be loud and personable, dance and frolic, meet and hug. I do those things all the time, and I’m proud of who I am. Other people, on the other hand, do things they don’t appreciate or respect. They do things they wouldn’t normally do. If alcohol pushes you to do things you lose respect for yourself for, you need to change your priorities or your drinking habits. If it makes you have more respect for yourself, why don’t you bring that into the rest of your life?

And then there’s this arrogance. I’ll never know what it’s like and how amazing it is if I don’t try it. I’m uptight. More like, I have enough respect for myself to not want to do things I would disapprove of, and enough respect to cull all the best parts of some experience into the life I lead every day. This is a statement for me, a life-affirming idea that my life can be something I never want to escape from. I stumble home drunk, collapsing with laughter and exhaustion after a well-lived day. I dance on tables, jamming to great music and kinesthetically expressing myself with friends. I stay up too late having great conversations. I look up at the sky wondering what the meaning of life is. I meditate calmly. And I never wake up with a hangover and dozens of pictures to un-tag.

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Also, this is a good read: click

3 thoughts on “Anger About the Ambiance of Alcohol

  1. Bruce says:

    Very timely issue to address, Chana. I think a period of self-questioning for anybody who casually uses substances, prescription or otherwise, is the only way to know that you are still "sound in mind" and have not become an addict.Also an important article that you linked to, as the use of "(pretty much just pot)" plays a role in many artists expression of creativity, myself included. Yes, you get into a near-euphoric state where the music suddenly sounds better, and the ideas in your head begin to cascade and go to places that they otherwise wouldn't. But if you do not strike a conscious balance, how will you know when you've crossed the line?Julia Cameron struggled with this as well, as she notes in The Artist's Way. For her, a little alcohol and the writing process went together like Scotch & Soda (or something). But eventually she had to question this dependence too.Everybody's gotta ask that question themselves, but where I will vociferously agreed with you is that I don't see a functional purpose in getting completely drunk, either.

  2. newbia says:

    My opinion is: Alcohol is in it essence a shortcut. People can of course relax and have fun on their own, but drinks speed up this process. This makes it extremely dangerous, because people rely on it, instead of themselves. However, that does not make it inherently bad, since there is nothing wrong with wanting to relax and have a good time. What makes it bad is when people do not carefully think about why they are drinking, when they think that they *need* alcohol for anything, or when they try to solve problems with alcohol. I think that if someone is as self-aware as you, and really has a conversation with themselves about why they're drinking and what their limits are, it is not objectionable. –Sharon

  3. Strangelet says:

    Sharon, I absolutely agree. I think your pointing out of 'self-awareness' as the key issue is right on. If we're asking the right questions and being honest with ourselves, then the right answers, hopefully, will follow.

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