This post was suggested by a drinker, which I thought was pretty funny. He goes back and forth on it, though, so maybe he’s on the fence and I can help push him to one side (hopefully my side).
I don’t drink. I’ve had five sips total in my life, three of them accidental. I’ll admit that this does give me a certain lack of perspective. I have no idea what it’s like to drink, but I’m happy to concede the point that it’s probably a whole lot of fun.
Most people drink because… most other people drink. It’s a rite of passage in our society, is universally seen as cool (probably because it’s in the best interest of beer company execs for it to be seen as cool), so most people don’t think all that much about it.
Due to my stubbornness and general disinterest in doing anything the way society wants me to do it, I never wanted to drink. I was never tempted and it never seemed cool to me. Most of my friends didn’t drink in high school (and many didn’t in college). Even now only a minority of my friends drink, and I can’t think of any who drink regularly.
Several of my friends used to drink, and they all sort of laugh at how ridiculous it was. As in, “Yeah, that’s hilarious that I used to think that drinking was worthwhile”.
One of my friends who quit drinking asked me if I felt like people who had never been drinkers and were our age seemed sharper than those who did drink. I’d never thought about it before, I don’t know if it’s causation or correlation, but I realized he was right.
The benefits of moderate drinking appear to be overrated if they exist at all. I don’t really put much stock in the studies on either side of the issue, but I think it’s pretty clear that it’s not the elixir of life certain people might wish it to be.
Heavy drinking is unambiguously bad. We all know it. It’s bad for health, it’s very bad for relationships, it’s bad financially, it’s bad for sleep, and it’s basically bad for everything else. It is a social lubricant, but that seems to be true only for very light drinking, or in cases where both people are drinking equally.
The problem is that moderate drinking, which may not be that bad, but probably isn’t actually good, often leads to heavy drinking. Somewhere around 6% of Americans are alcoholics. That is a huge percentage of people. Twenty-seven percent binge drank last month. That’s an even huger percentage.
When you drink, you open the door to really negative outcomes. Far worse outcomes than pot, lsd, mushrooms, or maybe even MDMA. I don’t think any of those drugs are great, but I’d say they’re all better than alcohol. And yet everyone drinks alcohol because it’s okay to do it.
Alcohol tends to be used for specific purposes, and those purposes could all be amalgamated into a general umbrella of “not facing reality”. Whether it’s in dating, work, self improvement, or even travel, I believe that facing reality and dealing with it head on is important. Alcohol is an easy and cheap way to avoid doing so.
Depressed about something? Why fix it when you can drink? Nervous? Why learn social skills when you can drink? Stressed out? Why manage stress when you can drink? Lonely? Why make friends when you can drink?
I get that there are connoiseurs who appreciate the subtleties of fine wines and liquors in the same way I appreciate tea. I think that’s interesting and probably a pretty cool hobby. But it comes with a wide open door towards excessive drinking and alcoholism. That’s way too big of a price to pay, at least in my opinion.
I’m sure that a glass of wine with a friend or loved one can be a really great experience. But so can a bar of 99% chocolate, water, or a walk. Like any activity, the company is more important than the activity.
I don’t have much hope that our society will become less interested in drinking. It’s been entrenched in our culture for too long, it’s addictive, and we encourage our children to do it once they turn the arbitrary age of 21. But maybe I can convince a couple people to try life without alcohol, or make some people who drink rethink the pros and cons.
Photo is from a tea tasting at my favorite place in Shanghai. Tea is basically the opposite of alcohol because it’s almost impossible to find bad things about drinking it.