Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 81: alarming behaviour.

The more I don’t drink, the more I am alarmed at how much other people do; the quantities, the frequency, people’s social reliance on the stuff. I know “they” are simply “me” 81 days ago, but as the distance grows further between me and that whole routine, I am starting to appreciate the enormity and ferocity of the beast that is our drinking culture. Drink is everywhere: at dinner parties, at picnics, in bars, at work, at lunch, in homes, at the movies, the rugby, the cricket, on aeroplanes, at the hairdresser’s. It is used for celebration, for sadness, for relaxation, for courage, for socialising, for stress relief, for meeting the opposite sex, for sex itself, for having a good time, and for forgetting a bad time. Versatile stuff yes? That or we’re hooked on it, to the extent that any excuse will do. Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of alcohol, it’s donuts people are consuming. Let’s map out a not abnormal week for a twenty-to-thirty-something Sydneysider. “Well, I’d usually have one or two donuts with dinner on most weeknights, and anywhere from two to five donuts with lunch on a Friday depending on if it was someone’s birthday at work, or we were having a long lunch at the pub. Then I might have say four more donuts later that night out with friends if it wasn’t a big night, maybe eight if it was. Then on Saturday night I could have anywhere from four to twelve donuts depending on when I started, then on Sunday I might just have a couple in the evening, to ease me back into the working week”. If you knew someone who was eating between 14 and 35 donuts a week, you’d think they had a problem right? (And don’t even start to give me question marks on where that mystery layer of lard sprang from.) For a lot of people I know, that little run-through constitutes a modest estimate. Why are we doing it? Are we trying to fill gaping holes in our lives/personalities/confidence/personal achievements gulp by gulp? The problem with that approach (I have found) is that the alcohol quickly drains away, taking useful things like brain cells, energy, good looks and good moods with it, leaving a bigger hole than before and fewer resources with which to construct something more satisfying and lasting to fill the void. As I have pointed out before, you’ll notice that quite a lot of the world’s more conspicuously successful people, aren’t big on getting hammered. They know the value of keeping their beady eyes in sharp focus, and their minds whirring and tick-tocking in the best possible working order. (Not to mention the general helpfulness in any career or endeavour of good skin, bright eyes and perky, lean muscles.) In any case, what I think is starting to dawn on me, is that where before I thought alcohol overconsumption was a symptom or manifestation of other problems, now I’m starting to think it might be the source of much that hampers us as humans. Depression? Frustration? Stagnation? Unhappiness with our bodies and appearance? Antisocial behaviour? A lack of energy or motivation? Feelings of failure or not being in control of our lives? Just not having your shit together? All of these things can be linked directly to drinking too much. And then we drink more to try and block out how bad we feel about the whole sorry state of affairs. Alarming right? And an alarming proportion of our society is geared towards behaving this way. The problem is enormous. It’s sprawling and almost impossible to control. It’s like some fast-moving runner bean plant or vine, squiggling like a maniac on some zooped up fertiliser. It’s freaking me out! I think I need a drink (of green tea or camomile or something).

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