I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I am rather partial to alcoholic beverages. Champers for celebrations, a g&t on a summer’s day, holiday cocktails, a glass of red in front of the fire on a cold night, a pint of draught in the pub, a whiskey and soda at the end of the day and so on and so forth. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact society encourages it.
Alcoholic drinks have been produced and consumed by humans for thousands of years and have played an important role in religion; supplying nutrition and energy; providing medicinal, antiseptic, and analgesic benefits; quenching thirst; facilitating relaxation; promoting conviviality and social cohesion; increasing the pleasure of eating; providing pharmacological pleasure; and generally enhancing the quality and pleasures of life.
However, the article does go on to say:
Still today, there exists a conflict of views as to whether alcohol is an attractive elixir or a dangerous poison.
If it’s only a few drinks on the odd occasion, then what’s the harm? But if one feels that the only way to experience bliss is to keep drinking, then I think it is a problem. Unfortunately for me I’m one of those people who keeps looking for “that first soft spring breeze of intoxication” by drinking more.
By the time I got down to the bottom of the glass …… I could feel the warm, suffusing glow of alcohol wash over me. There’s really nothing quite like that first soft spring breeze of intoxication. Keep drinking all you want, but you will never get it back. Nothing has changed, you’re still the same guy sitting at the same kitchen table, and yet everything feels just a little different: Several degrees less literal. Leavened. And whether or not this angle of mental refreshment offers anything of genuine value, anything worth saving for the consideration of more ordinary hours, it does seem to open up, however briefly, a slightly less earthbound and more generous perspective on life.
Michael Pollan: Cooked
Ordinarily, I’m a fairly sober, down-to-earth, clean-living person but every now and again I drink too much and it annoys me. What upsets me more than anything is all the time I’ve wasted being inebriated – it’s no coincidence that being wasted is slang for being drunk. My lack of restraint when it comes to alcohol has been an issue on and off for most of my adult life. I was a teenager when I first started drinking; it was something we did for fun and to give us street cred. We were the naughty kids, bucking the system and thinking we were oh so cool. Later, I started to rely on alcohol as a social lubricant; it helped to mask my introversion and social anxiety. After a few drinks I became more gregarious and less reserved. Again, it was fun and no harm done. Gradually however, over the years, drinking has become a habit and that habit gets a bit out of hand occasionally. Every evening for as long as I can remember at 6 o’clock, sometimes earlier if it’s been a long day (!), the drinks are poured. And at every social event my first inclination is to grab a drink before heading into the fray.
The thing is that when we were younger, getting drunk was something we all did. It used to be funny and we would even boast about our drunken escapades. However, as one gets older, it doesn’t do one any favours – slack-jawed, slurring, incoherent, unsteady, forgetful, not to mention the aging effects!
The turning point came for me a few days ago when we had a lunch party and I had rather too many glasses of wine. I went to bed after the guests left and slept solidly for 12 hours. When I woke up I could remember very little of the previous afternoon and it dawned on me that I’m throwing my life away by not being present. I’ve been told that I can be quite the life and soul of a party when I’ve had a few drinks. The problem is I can’t remember any of it afterwards and that, I feel, is a waste of what precious time I have left. If I’m having fun I really want to know about it! There’s a huge difference between the soft spring breeze of intoxication and having a blackout.
I tend to drink too much whenever I’m anxious about being judged and criticised by others – when I publish a post on my blog or when I’m mixing in a crowd, for example. I think it’s a hangover (pardon the pun) from my closet introvert days when I suffered from social anxiety and felt I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t. Sometimes one needs a little help to just be oneself.
So my challenge is to recognise the triggers and learn to drink in moderation. Habits are hard to break but I’m dettermined to change my ways and writing this post has really helped me to work through some of the issues. It’s helped me to see that things are not as bad as I sometimes think they are but also that things could be better. I would still very much like to enjoy the benefits of alcohol but without the detriment of inebriation.
I’m inclined to agree with Desmond Morris when he writes:
This new style of social drinking … was a marvellous invention of the first great civilizations – a form of shared, chemical day-dreaming that provided vital opportunities for social bonding. Those that drank together stayed together.
It was important that early drinking was most commonly associated with great celebrations and other festive occasions. These are times when those present are in a mood to enjoy themselves. This is essential if alcohol is to play its best role. For it is not a stimulant, but an inhibitor of inhibitions. And there is a subtle difference. Whatever the dominant mood of the drinker, alcohol will exaggerate it by removing the usual social restraints. If the drinker is happy he becomes happier; if he is sad he becomes sadder. There is absolutely no truth in the idea that alcohol helps to ‘drown your sorrows’. If you are sorrowful to start with you will only sink deeper into despair as the night wears on. For this reason, the happy social occasion is the ideal environment for the human ritual of ‘taking a drink’. As such it has always had – and will always have – great social significance.