Alcohol Culture 12/23/19

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

It’s also a season of celebration. Earlier I wrote about the Bleil Christmas Eve tradition. I remember my mom always made her special beverage for the guests, “Pussycat”. She bought the drink mix, but online I can find a recipe that calls for bourbon, amaretto, orange and lemon juice.

Alcohol has permeated our culture. It’s not just humans, ironically enough, as many animals will gravitate towards rotten fruit (like apples that rot on the tree) apparently for its alcohol content. Today the alcohol industry in the US produces 200 billion liters of alcohol a year (that’s over 50 billion gallons), making it a $250 billion industry. It’s available nearly anywhere. Just today I had lunch at a little place near my home, kind of a cross between fast food and a fifties’ style diner. And, yes, you could order beer and margaritas with your lunch.

This is not meant to be a lecture. I could remind everybody not to drink and drive, not just for your own safety but for others as well. If you pay attention at all, you’ll get plenty of these reminders throughout the season, and if you’re smart, you’ll pay attention to them. In my class, I like to remind students that alcohol is a toxin (which is the reason for the intoxicating effect), and the danger of drinking hard liquor too quickly as this can lead to alcohol poisoning and a myriad of permanent dangers including death. You’ve heard all of this before, so it would be redundant for me to say anything about them, which is why you won’t read anything like this at all in this blog. Nope, not a thing. I won’t even mention it.

I would like to discuss, however, my own struggles with alcohol in the hopes of reminding my readers to be tolerant of alcohol choices. Just as everybody who drinks has their preference of alcoholic beverages, the decision of alcohol is also a preference. There are many of us who simply do not drink. Like me.

Frankly, I’ve never enjoyed the flavor of alcohol, and I never liked the effects of it. I’m not an alcoholic, but, frankly, I just don’t see the point to it. Many times I have been told that it is an “acquired taste”, but if I don’t like being drunk, then why would I want to acquire the taste for it? So, I don’t drink.

Unfortunately, many people simply do not want to accept not drinking as an option. When I say I don’t want a drink, usually the response is something along the lines of, “Come on, just one?” or “Just one won’t hurt you” or even, believe it or not, “but you can’t toast if you don’t have an alcoholic beverage.”

Really? Who made up THAT rule?!?

A number of years ago, there was a marvelous movement to make non-alcohol beverages “cool”. The idea was to create a beverage that COULD be used in toasts, that had the feel of Champaign without alcohol. These drinks largely were based on sparkling fruit juices, like sparkling cider (which I love) or sparkling grape juices. They’re a marvelous addition to holiday celebrations, and a great way for kids to feel more involved without actually giving them alcohol.

The reality is that everybody should be accepted for who they are, and for the choices that they make, without being made to feel uncomfortable. For me, it got to the point where I just started telling people that I am a recovering alcoholic, even though I am not. When my decision to not imbibe lead to this subtle pressuring, it was just easier to say that than to explain my reasoning. Somehow, I felt that “recovering alcoholic” as a better respected answer than “it’s not something I enjoy” or “I’ve decided against drinking”. It’s sad that it became necessary to make up a condition to be accepted.

Not everybody who decides not to drink will want to give you a reason. Some people truly are recovering alcoholics, and simply don’t want to have to admit it. Maybe there are religious, or family reasons that they don’t want to drink. Whatever it is, don’t make them repeat themselves. If they don’t want to drink, don’t try to force the issue.

These days, as marijuana legalization is slowly spreading across the country, it’s important to note that this, too, is a choice. I have a friend who was visiting her friends in Colorado. At a party, one of the guests brought brownies for everybody to enjoy, and she decided to partake. Fortunately, just before she took a bite, another guest informed her that it was a pot brownie. She was in a particularly precarious situation; not only did she not partake, but with her job, the tolerance for THC in the system is absolutely zero. Although I don’t recall any random drug tests prior to this, but had they decided to spring one, THC can remain in the system, and show a positive test, for weeks.

I don’t judge. I have a good friend who tells me that she can’t afford alcohol and marijuana, so she chose marijuana. I can respect that; she thought about the choices, did her research, and made her choice. Bringing brownies to a party but not making it clear, to everybody, that it is laced with marijuana is something that I do have a problem with. Failure to disclose such knowledge is the same as removing that choice and failing to respect the decisions of others.

Be okay with not imbibing or partaking. It just makes everybody’s day better.

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