How Much Is Too Much?

September 20, 2011

Friend or foe?

I have a friend who, back in college and afterward, had problems with alcohol. He was a drug user too, but I didn’t think too much of it, especially since I was also a drug and alcohol user, like all the people around us; it was part of the culture. After all, drug and alcohol use is rampant in college, where you can get away with it pretty easily in most cases, if you have a light workload, are living off subsidies from your parents, and you’re young and healthy, able to give up a few brain cells. After college, I cut back on the drug use significantly. I still drank, but it wasn’t nearly as much as it had been during that five year period, from about 1999 to 2004. My friend also cut back on the drugs quite a bit, but his alcohol use continued. Was he drinking too much? That’s hard to say, but what I do know is that he was getting himself in trouble with it. He was given to drinking and driving, which is, of course, unsafe and unacceptable in any capacity, and he got at least one D.U.I. that I’m aware of. So this was a problem drinker, by any definition you choose to go by, and I had cause to be legitimately concerned about him. At some point, I guess he decided that he needed some help. He went to A.A., and by all accounts, they were successful in treating and/or counseling him. He stopped drinking, he got serious about his professional life, and now, some years later, to the best of my knowledge, he no longer drinks. His being involved in A.A. did, however, have one side effect that I view as less than pleasant: he started subscribing to that kind of cult-like, pseudo-religious aspect of A.A., where you go around spouting these kind of self actualizing statements every day, like “just remember, only you are the master of your own destiny,” and other similar hogwash. It’s not even like I disagree with the things he was saying, he was just delivering them in that robotic way that all zealots do when they’ve been chugging the Kool Aid. Hey, if you’re off the booze and living better for it, great. But Jesus, Buddha, and whoever else didn’t have anything to do with it. You did it yourself, and you need to own up to that in just the same way that you owned up to having a problem in the first place. Anything else, and you’re deluding yourself just as much as if you were refusing help.

Considering the case of my friend, though, I have to wonder, going forward, as I am now seven plus years out of college, just how much alcohol use is too much. I have almost completely eliminated any other drug use from my life, because for the most part, I feel I’ve outgrown it. I can’t spare the brain cells anymore, and also, the illegality is just something that I don’t want to be always worrying about. But I still drink, and I think sometimes about how carefully I should be regulating myself. I think of my fraternal grandfather, who I mentioned here on the site recently, and who was an alcoholic for many years, which undoubtedly contributed to his dementia. He drank every day, for years and years, without fail. As for me, I drink…well, I don’t know. Most days? About one out of every two, five out of every ten? Three or four times a week? It varies, I guess, but there’s no doubt I drink fairly regularly, and it’s something that I have to acknowledge. It’s not like I get smashed several times a week. It never has caused me to miss work, or to be late for work. I don’t feel like it negatively affects my relationships with friends or loved ones, and all of these, I know, are signs that you have a problem. But I do have one or two drinks, it seems like, several times a week, on average, and I do drink to excess at least a couple times a month, especially if I’m going to a wrestling event, or a baseball game, or there’s a game I’m watching on TV. Once or twice a month, maybe, I drink to the point that I’m hung over the next day. So is it too much? I find it just really hard to say. What it comes down to, I think, is that I drink for most of the reasons other people drink. They want to catch a buzz, say, after a hard day’s work, or they want to drink to enhance an already enjoyable experience. Getting drunk is a kind of high, after all, and people have always, since the dawn of time, wanted to get high. That’s why the so-called “war on drugs” is unwinnable, and a joke, as I’ve written about here on the site before. It just seems such a cliche, to me, the writer with the alcohol problem…but we are what we are, cliches or not, and it’s hard to change. Nor do I want to, because I like alcohol, and I like drinking. I just think that moving forward in my life, I will need to continue to monitor myself carefully, because, as with any drug use, it’s easy to find yourself walking a fine line. I hope that I am always able to keep it in check, but I’ll have to reevaluate things if I ever find that I have that physical dependency, that I’m getting the shakes without that daily beer, or cocktail. Because I feel like that would upset me, sure, to find that I had come to such a pass, but I’d be equally upset with the notion of going to something like A.A., where my personal problems would be put under such intense scrutiny, such public display, and where even if I was “cured” of the “disease,” I’d still come out of it telling everyone that only they are the navigator of their own tomorrows, or other similar bullshit. I think I’d rather be a hapless drunk than sound like some idiotic self-help guru.

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