Alcohol in the Year of the Tiger
Morality. I blogged about it a little bit last week in my post Mommy, What's Evil? I focused largely on the issue of racism and the fact that we could consider evil to be doing harm to others. I came to the conclusion that acts that harm others are evil and that in harming others we in fact harm ourselves. I want to take a branch off that discussion and talk about things on a more personal level. And my vehicle for doing so is a discussion of alcohol.
Fermented beverages have been around for thousands of years. Mankind has imbibed to one degree or another since before the Buddha. Even he saw alcohol as a detriment to enlightenment and forbade monks from its use. Controversy has raged for millennia as to the effects of grog and how the individual, the family, and society have been affected by it.
In Stephen Johnson's The Invention of Air, a scientific biography of Joseph Priestley, the man credited with first isolating Oxygen, Johnson expounds a theory that I find intriguing. For countless centuries Europe's primary beverage was beer. A man would wake up in the morning and have a drink of beer and thus at the very outset of his day begin the path to intoxication. But then in the early 17th Century something profound happened. Coffee, for the first time, appeared in European life. What happened next was an almost rocket like acceleration in technology and thought as Europeans now began their mornings with a stimulant rather than the depressant alcohol. Advances like the Enlightenment which led directly to the American Revolution and the first Democracy since ancient Greece, the harnessing of steam, Newton’s physics, and countless other developments which occured--and continued to occur —as coffee replaced beer and wine as the thinkers beverage if choice.
The clergy railed against both alcohol and coffee and anything else that smelled of the devil's brew, but outside religious folk, it wasn't until the Victorian Era with its prim and proper public morals that alcohol began to truly earn a nasty reputation among the elite.
In America especially, alcohol became increasingly associated with immigrants, a group of people who comprised non-English speakers and who were thus limited to largely menial and low wage positions. Alcohol became associated with the working class and was seen as something to be despised as of the masses. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that folks in places like the Waldorf Hotel and elsewhere too expensive for those same immigrant laborers to even enter, the wealthy were getting smashed off their asses on alcohol and other designer drugs. But the hypocrisy of the Progressives is not the point. It is that the evils of alcohol then became a talking point for the middle and upper classes and the beverage became anathema to the self-righteous and self-interested who enjoyed imposing their ideas of morality on everyone below them in economic station.
Alcohol, then, became a public evil and the great failed experiment of Prohibition rankled the country for a decade and a half. Ironically those fourteen years proved the years in which America began its conversion from softer drinks like beer and wine to the hard alcohol laced cocktails that brought drunkenness all the faster and required mixers to hide the rankness of the illicitly brewed and blindness inducing moonshine. But thanks to a vote by the great state of Utah, Prohibition was repealed in 1933 and the country could again enjoy its booze without fears of Federal charges. Good thing, too, cause the Great Depression and World War Two and a half Century long Cold War brought plenty of reasons to drink and forget the evils brought about by the economic and political policies of the very people responsible for trying to legislate morality in the first place.
But then, in the very beginnings of the Reagan Era, something incredible happened. I was born. My relationship with alcohol was fraught from the beginning as I came into the world a converted Mormon who well understood the God-declared evils of alcohol. With the exception of a cupful of Schnapps I tried in high school ignorant of its alcoholic content I did not have anything to do with the fermented liquor until the last semester of my college experience.
My first experiences with the drink left me diffident. I didn't drink more than half a dozen times for nearly a year. By the time I began law school in the fall a year later I had yet to attain a liking for beer and had never been truly drunk. This of course my frat boy roommate helped me remedy quickly as he introduced me to Jack and Coke and I blacked out the weekend before my first classes.
In many ways law school proved to be my undergraduate experience that I'd been denied by Mormon beliefs. The only reason I didn't suffer any greater from my psychosis the fact that I simultaneously engaged in an exercise regime more intense than any other time in my life. But when my father died and I retreated into alcoholism my third year, I struggled more and more with my fractured psyche and as a result drank even more. By the time I got to Vietnam in 2009, I was in every sense of the word an unadmitted alcoholic.
I've related my adventures with psychosis and the years of alcohol abuse that followed elsewhere and thus will not repeat them here, but when I suffered a third psychotic break a week and a half before Donald Trump was elected I escaped my phantasmic persecutors to a forced sobriety in my mother's home. I spent a little over two years in North Carolina sober before I returned to Vietnam and entered the temptations of isolation and easily available booze. I stood strong for most of a year simply as I could not afford to drink financially, but as I ventured into full time employment I found myself seeking out intoxication in various forms and promptly lost two jobs (Though only one directly attributable to alcohol, the other to habits developed while drinking). It would take a near mental health crisis and counseling before I was able to handle working full-time for any length of time.
Even then I did not remain sober. This last year saw flirtations with beer and whiskey and a few serious relationships. As I've converted from full-time office hours to part time remote employment I've found myself imbibing frequently. This has a deleterious effect on my productivity and my other life goals. It makes producing quality work difficult and waking up, never an easy thing to do, all the more laborious a chore. It brings negative effects to my mental health as well and I suffer from moments of anxiety and depression because of it. Not as badly now that I'm not stuck in a depressing work situation, but still enough that I struggle.
Before the new year I had made a goal to abstain from alcohol during the annum of 2022, but two days in found myself bored out of my mind and took to drink to fill the hours. I have drunk too much since then and found that it affects the thing for which I am most passionate: my writing. And as such, regardless of whether my drinking harms others, it has proven to harm myself. And in such a way, I know that the sin of drink is indeed evil, at least for me, and something from which I must abstain if I wish to succeed in my life.
Luckily, I live in a country that celebrates two new years: solar and lunar. And on this, the eve of the lunar new year and the beginning of the year of the tiger I am taking the step of publicly proclaiming my goal in order to increase my accountability and the likelihood of my actually succeeding in staying sober. I am, thus, humbly submitting to you, my dear reader, that for the entire year of the tiger I will avoid the intake af all alcoholic beverages. From February 1, there will be no uncooked alcohol cross my lips for the length of a lunar year.
With this goal, aspiration, intent I am certain that other benefits will accrue. I will lose weight and lower my blood pressure. I will wake up earlier and be more productive. I will be able to do more of the writing which I find vital to my mental health and to my engagement with life. I will be able to avoid the depression and anxiety which accompanies the intake of alcohol, and I will be able to seek out more fulfilling, useful ways to spend my time. I will, in essence, be happier, healthier, and wiser.
Thus, I renounce my personal evil, something that I have judged so to be for myself, and do not judge others nor condemn except to know that liquor proves deleterious to my life in so many ways that to be whole, to be unified in myself, I must forsake this thing which brings me so much pain. For the highs are not high enough to justify the loss and it is enough to know that my life will be a better one sans booze. Please support me in this goal as I know it will bring great gains to my life and allow me to reach higher realms of thought and success that would otherwise be denied me. Thank you in advance.