alcohol and me

I am drunk right now, and it’s fine. I am not falling down drunk but “I’ll drink more than I planned” drunk. I don’t have a source of alcohol and its effects are wearing off so I’ll be fine. But it’s clear to me that I’m better off without alcohol, because tonight I was feeling fine but I still allowed myself to get inebriated beyond my control.

I grew up Mormon. Mormonism is a religion that takes a hard line against alcohol. It’s forbidden. I love my family and I wanted to believe Mormonism (to the point of capitalizing it when I write about it), but as many people who were raised religious but became atheists or agnostics have done, I researched and couldn’t believe it anymore. I still have moments where I want to believe it but I just can’t. What I’ve found from my research contradicts my interpretation of Mormonism. I didn’t, and don’t, accept any watered down interpretations of Mormonism as real Mormonism, so there are certain things that I believe have to be literally true in order for me to believe that Mormonism is true. And some of these are refuted by scientific observations which I refuse to deny.

When I left Mormonism my worldview was shattered. I was in college, only visiting my family on occasion. I wound up being one of those ex-members that members of a religious group love to vilify. My rules that I only had because I was Mormon went out the window! I still had compassion that I felt as a human being, but I had no rules about certain things. I tried to keep things the same because I feared change, but I was also frustrated with how I was living a lie and I looked for ways to rebel. Eventually I tried a Corona, at the age of 21. It was a bit like I expected. I had clearly crossed into another land, but it wasn’t enough to be out of control. It was what I expected, and also the dreaded feeling of doing something that I had vowed never to do, back when I had a different belief system.

A few months after that I tried drinking on occasion. I got drunk a couple of times but felt like I never really lost control, any more than when I’m mountain biking I could fail to turn and wind up falling off a cliff. My lack of disdain for hedonism combined with my lack of knowledge about alcohol wound up with me in the emergency room for drinking too much alcohol following my first introduction to “jungle juice”. Jungle Juice is a fruity drink that sometimes contains a lot of hard alcohol. It’s easy to drink, but when made strong, has a strong effect on intoxication. After having some fruity Jungle Juice I was too drunk to want to stop drinking, and I wound up in an emergency room having my stomach pumped. This was slightly more than ten years ago. I’m not sure I remember the ambulence arriving to take me to the hospital but I distinctly remember waking up in the hospital thinking that I’d really and truly made a mistake. I went to a class meeting, ate pizza, and pretended everything was normal until I talked to my dad and he knew about it. It turns out that the police chief was mormon and a friend of my dad’s and he told him about it.

I realized that my mistake had partly been because I lacked knowledge about how much alcohol was dangerous, and which drinks had how much alcohol in them. I chalked it up to inexperience and drank alcohol on occasion.

Since then there have been a couple of times when I’ve got drunk and thought, wow, if I wasn’t with good friends it could have been a problem. I thought I learned from those experiences and adjusted my behavior, yet they happened again.

Today I planned to drink three drinks but drank six, and wound up saying stupid things that are in fact a part of my brain and perhaps should come out, but came out in a way that wasn’t fully under my control. Not being in control is a bad place to be in. Tonight I was with a good group of people, at a well tended bar, and still got more drunk than I should have. I think my experiment in drinking has shown, that due to either psychology or a combination of psychology and physiology, that I’m not able to handle alcohol. I was reminded of a post by Paul Carr where he publicly stated that he’s going to quit drinking. I realized that that’s just the thing for me, so here I am publicly stating my attention to quit drinking, even alcoholic beverages that were inevitably going to be discovered by an industrious species, like wine.

This period of drinking despite my prior bad experience was one of rationalization. I rationalized based on myself and based on society. My rationalizations based on myself were that it was lack of experience and not weakness that caused me to wind up in the emergency room and wind up relying on my friends to be OK despite drinking too much. My rationalizations based on society were that alcohol is not an advanced technology relative to many of the things I use in daily life.

Now, just over 10 years after my first experience drinking and less than 10 years after my second beer, I am giving up drinking. I am rejecting my rationalization based on my states of mind and based on society. My state of mind was only partly inexperience. There is a psychological and/or physiological component as well, that persists despite me gaining experience. Otherwise I would not have got drunk enough to make a mockery of myself in front of people I know tonight. In other circumstances this level of being drunk could have caused me to drive drunk or get into a fight. I am rejecting my rationalization based on society by reminding myself that reality itself is more important than how reality becomes known. A century ago we didn’t know the details of how alcohol occurs in beer and wine, and how alcohol influences peoples’ thoughts, but we do now. I think the simplicity of how alcohol is made is part of why prohibition is such a bad idea, but I don’t think it’s as relevant to an individual person’s choice of whether or not to drink as the scientific findings about alcohol are. And the scientific findings are that alcohol is harmful when people drink too much of it, no matter how simple the beverages are. If I could consistently be a moderate drinker I might choose that path, but tonight I had a valid test and found that sometimes I am likely to drink heavily even when I explicitly planned not to. So I’m going to try to revert to being a non-drinker. I’ve done that for long periods of time after I tried alcohol and I stopped because I rationalized drinking. What I’m doing now is starting a period of non-drinking and removing my excuses, and my goal is to never drink again.

My worldview is largely indifferent to this. I have a background in a religion that prohibits drinking but atheist beliefs. I appreciate scientific reasoning that’s based on drinking decisions, indicating that moderate drinking may be ideal, and science that averages everything, which shows that people who don’t drink at all are statistically better off than the average of all drinkers, including heavy drinkers. I appreciate that other mammals don’t drink alcohol and are very energetic and also that humans are different from other animals, due to self-domestication. It is based on my personal experiences that I’ve decided that I’m better off drinking.