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Alcohol

22 September 201404:21PMrants

I think it's time I properly defined my relationship with alcohol. For myself, and for other people. Mostly for myself though.

Probably the best place to start is history. I didn't drink through high school. This is partly out of a possibly misplaced desire to follow the rules, partly out of a desire to differentiate myself from the kids who did drink, who were kind of douchey about it, and partly because I was part of a group which, for whatever infintely nested other reasons, didn't drink much themselves.

Then, instead of going on leavers after graduating, I went travelling through Egypt and Europe and picked up some Hepatitis A, which meant I not only missed everyone's customary introduction to total inebriation at leavers, but I also spent the next twelve months not allowed to drink under the threat of permanently damaging my poor, recovering liver. This meant that I spent the first year of uni, again a customary introduction ground for drinking, avoiding precisely the kind of camps that PerthNow likes to write about.

The few parties that I did go to, I was one of the token sober guys. This meant either pretending to be drunk in order to socialise with other drunk people, or standing uncomfortably in the corner. Usually the latter. I think the stereotype is pretty clear that drunk people are not fun to be with when you're sober, and my experiences back that up.

And I guess as a corollary to that, drunk people don't particularly like a sober person around "judging them". This led to quite a few instances of people 'trying to get Rocky drunk' which as a stubborn bastard I was having none of.

So here's basically what that means. A combination of unfamiliarity and medical reasons both left me isolated from drinking culture and occasionally cast as the one sober guy around drunk people. This left me pretty uncomfortable with alcohol, and when my medically required one year was up, I kept avoiding the stuff for a while out of sheer force of habit.

By my reckoning these are the reasons behind my gut dislike for alcohol. To go along with those I have some rationalisations, which I more or less agree with - but they are just that, rationalisations. My usual ones are something like these:

  1. I don't drink because I don't like being around drunk people, and I don't want to be a person who people don't want to be around.
  2. I don't drink because I don't particularly enjoy the physical sensation of being drunk.
  3. I don't drink because I enjoy being smart, funny, and in full control of my faculties, and I feel like alcohol impairs my ability to be that person.
  4. I don't drink - still - because I don't particularly want to participate in a pretty toxic broader drinking culture, and I don't really like the attitudes of people who do habitually participate in that culture, and I seriously still think that 'getting drunk' is not a particularly fun objective to build a occasion around. I want to do things, you know? And just like any other hobby, when it's all you do, it makes you boring.
  5. I don't drink because I'm worried about its habit-forming tendencies, particularly in social contexts. I don't want to get to the point where I can't socialise without it, I guess because of some kind of ingrained desire for self-reliance.

In the interests of balance, here are some reasons I do drink:

  1. I drink because I enjoy the beverage. Basically it's tasty, and trying new things, especially foods, is a lot of fun.
  2. I drink because it makes other people more comfortable around me. Once I'd learned how to handle alcohol, I found that other drinkers glared at me a lot less if I could drink a bit, or even just hold a bottle confidently.
  3. I drink because there's a sweet spot about two standard drinks in which is actually quite pleasant without being drunk, and which it's pretty easy to come down from should the need for relative sobriety arise. On a meta-level, finding and optimally maintaining this state is a pretty fun game for me, which is probably why my consumption patterns tend to look a bit erratic.

So now I am going to talk very emphatically about some things which are not in this manifesto:

  1. The word 'you'. I don't apply any of this to anyone but myself. There's a word for people who hold others to their own beliefs: vegansassholes. I've arrived, through trial and quite a lot of error, at a drinking philosophy that works for me, but to hold anyone else to that is not just disrespectful, it's also just not something I'm interested in doing. Like any philosophy, I'll enjoy talking about it, but I really, really try not to do it in a preachy way because I'm just not interested in preaching.
  2. The idea of 'judgement'. Building on the above: these are my choices. About me. I can't judge other people on them. I think judging other people on them is unfair and not useful or interesting. While I'm at it: unless your choices are actively and immediately endangering yourself or other people, I'm not interested in judging you on those either. I'm sure you have your reasons, which I would probably find fascinating to discuss, like, philosophically, but I'm not interested in making making moral judgements on how you choose to act on them. Life's too short for that kind of crap.

This stuff has sort of come to a head recently. I think a lot of my friends get the impression that I judge them for drinking. I need to say this as emphatically as I can: I don't. I don't think alcohol is an evil thing that should go away. I don't respect anyone any less because they drink. And I don't want to force, or push, or suggest what are ultimately my choices about my actions onto anybody else. Do what makes you happy. Choose for yourself, not for the people around you.

I know writing this down has helped me figure out where I stand, and I hope that articulating this helps clear some stuff up.

Cheers.

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