I used to fret and worry about my relationship with alcohol. What did it mean? Is the drinking itself bad or is it the reason behind the drinking the really bad part? Maybe it was a combination of both. Next month I’ll turn 37 years old and quickly plowing myself into my 40’s. So what preciousness is to save that I’m holding onto?
Americans have a really funny way of dealing with alcohol. We used to love it, then we hated it, then we prohibited it completely and all the while our relationship and use of the substance has not changed. I notice this a lot when I go to purchase alcohol from shops, especially here in Michigan. People are so, I suppose the emotion they must feel is embarrassment, because the shops all reflexively wrap bottles of alcohol in brown paper wrappers. Like it’s shameful or embarrassing to be seen in polite society with a bottle of Jack Daniels, Jamesons, or Captain Morgan. Wine never really got the sharp end of the stick, and neither really did beer. Both of those spirits are too weak to be of mention. You’ll go to the bathroom a lot before you’ll feel much in the way of an effect from those particular drinks. It’s the harder liquors that surprise me. First off, Michigan rigidly controls the price of spirits right down to what retailers are allowed to sell the spirits for. It doesn’t matter who sells what, they all get their prices out of this dog-eared pale-blue booklet that the state hands them. I sometimes wonder why the state of Michigan thinks it’s the sole arbiter of the price and availability of spirits in their state borders? As if they could control their citizenry with laws. Hah. But there it is, artificial price fixing for no good reason. A 750ml bottle of Jameson’s Whiskey is $25 in Michigan and $17 in Illinois. The only reason I’d buy liquor in Michigan is out of laziness.
And as it turns out, my favorite liquors are Jamesons, what a shocker, and as funny as it seems, the low-brow rums, Bacardi’s Oakheart and Newfoundland’s Screech. I don’t really care for the specialty long-aged rums and apparently I prefer just the english-speaking rums of the world, as the rest aren’t very much to my liking. But really where it’s at is my relationship to a bottle of Jamesons.
What is my relationship to alcohol? I drink liberally and I become intoxicated and I enjoy myself. I do not make a mess of myself by drinking beyond my personal limit, nor do I operate any machinery while under the influence. That last bit is a lie, of course, as machinery includes my iPhone and my computer, so a few bouts of drunk twittering won’t send me to jail. I’ve never operated a motor vehicle, and almost always I’m the designated driver because, well, lets face it, I have control and money issues. So back to drinking. It’s a joy. It brings warmth and happiness into my life. Not that my life was bereft of warmth and happiness before, but while intoxicated it makes many things feel better. Many things are easier to cope with. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I share my feelings, some would say, too readily. There was a humorous picture of a boy stating what I often times find myself thinking, especially sober, and that is “We’re all thinking it, I just said it.” So we get down to the reasons why I drink.
I like to drink because it feels good. I like to drink because it tastes good. Wine is principally what I’m getting at, as there is a universe of delicious flavors in wine and more people should go exploring to see what they like. Beer? When I was a kid and very sensitive to bitters, beer was awful. As I age however, beer has become like water. It’s a drink with food, it makes you belch, and makes you have to see a man about a horse quite often. In many ways, beer and wine are somewhat okay ways to replace water, especially if you question the quality of water. I personally have never felt that the water where I live is good for me. Now, before people get really worked up, the gentle reader should be aware that I was raised on the worlds best water. The city supply of Syracuse, New York. That water is drawn from Skaneateles Lake and is some of the best tasting water on the planet. I am sorry that more people don’t understand just how wonderful it is to walk up to the tap in your house, turn it on and be able to drink what comes out without even a single iota of worry, and enjoying the taste, which is the way water should taste. It should not taste like a chlorinated fish bowl. So the water is a big reason for the more simpler spirits. But that doesn’t touch on the stronger ones. Here again I like the taste, or perhaps, in the case of Jamesons, I’m genetically predisposed to enjoy the taste, I do sometimes wonder about that. I also enjoy the feeling it gives me, and then, and what everyone really wants to know, is the social aspects to my alcoholism.
I drink because Hell is other people. This is very general and expansive and it’s not really meant to hurt others feelings, but lets face it, unless I’m in love with you or we are exceptionally close, Sartre’s statement about Hell being other people eventually finds it’s mark. I can endure a lot of things from people, especially when I have no other choice. I can be whatever I need to be to endure the situation. That’s the blessing that comes with a monumentally strong sense of self-monitoring. In work meetings I can be calm and reserved and measured, that sort of thing. Generally however I can’t stand humanity. In all the ways we are unique and special and loving, that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s the baser things that bother me, the odd behaviors, the many varied ways we abuse each other and in many ways, so effortlessly and lets face it, callously. It can range from being a real prat to being incidentally and nebulously a horrible human being. So what comes of all these unpleasant feelings? Being exposed to people who chew too loudly, snort, wheeze, moan, whine, or in one way or another do whatever they can to be as awful to others as they can, where is there to go? Where can anyone go if they are trapped in that situation? I am forever thankful for alcohol. “Please pass the wine” is a far more pleasant thing to say than dragging out (or dragging up) the varied unpleasantnesses that surround some social situations. I find that it’s almost always more preferable to prepend potentially unpleasant social interactions with a precautionary buffer of alcohol in my system. If I am nursing a beer or a glass of wine, of throwing back shots of Jamesons, I can eventually reach a place where the things that upset me no longer really bother me, and in a way, alcohol makes everything better. So yes, I drink, at least as a partial reason, to cope with the people in my life. I am not going to point fingers at who makes me drink, that would just be courting disaster, but in a general sense, Hell is other people.
So to get back to the beginning, is it a problem? Should I be concerned? The answer is, I don’t give a damn. I’m not going to fret over what drinking means to me, I’m just going to enjoy my life and all the things in it and if I spend my time in a beer bottle or a bottle of Jamesons, then that’s where I want to be. For pleasure, for joy, for happiness, and to escape Hell, at least for a short while. Anything can be endured as long as there is a break to it, a stop, a discontinuity to horribleness. In many ways, alcohol is a blessing to endurance.