Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dealing With Others

And so, I’m going to Poland and potentially the Czech Republic and plan not to drink beer. “They INVENTED PILSNER there” says a well lubricated friend of mine, who may be historically accurate (I’m not sure), but by commenting about it, he brings up another strong dynamic associated with not drinking: how the hell do you explain this to friends? Also, how might friendships that, while not fully centered on drinking, did involve at least above average levels of imbibing, change? While I can’t hope to answer this in a few paragraphs, I can say that friends will wonder why you’re not drinking. The tricky phenomenon to explain is that, while you’re not quite an alcoholic (at times characterized by an unabashed love of booze over all other things, and a complete inability to stop drinking without help), alcoholism is not a disease that people either just have or lack. It is, instead, a progressive process of annihilation, which means that I may exhibit relatively normal behavior around friends and hold my life together (albeit loosely) in a way that outwardly manifests as harmonious, while internally, it isn’t going so well—and that, without changing current behavior, 5 years from now I will be doing less well regarding alcohol consumption. And of course there are myriad other items that you want to talk about when queried from a friend or acquaintance.

Now you’ve got a problem though, because the friend you’re currently talking with turns out to have about the same consumption patterns that you used to maintain (as of yesterday, let’s say), so their choice in the matter is to take you seriously and think about their own drinking or not take you seriously. At least that’s what I’ve run up against. People don’t generally like to talk about their drinking, especially if they happen to drink daily, over 3 drinks at a time, or have remotely tried to push away any intuition that might swim to the surface regarding their patterns. Beyond that, though, for most people, the act of drinking is also an excuse to fall into a more oblivious socially enhanced mindset, not just because of the booze. You’ve all seen the ultra peppy or egregiously garrulous person appear in some people after a few sips. In this laboratory, inserting actual comment about the activity itself is also likely to be returned with, well, some reluctance, let’s say. That’s to say nothing (for now) of the serious full time alcoholic who has decided to steer completely clear of watering holes on pretext.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is, in fact, historically accurate; it was invented in a Czech town of Plzen.

Dealing with others may actually be one of the hardest long-term parts of not drinking. It's so hard that many time I've resigned to pretending to drink--for example, on a night out I'd keep ordering non-alcoholic drinks that look like cocktails, just to make the weird looks stop.