Tuesday, March 03, 2015

[Rant] Something from the Bar

One curious aspect of being me is that when I drink I am a happier person. That is not to say I am unhappy otherwise, it's just an observation of how I react to alcohol. As a former bartender, I can testify that there is a great range of potential psychological reactions to drink -- some people get depressed from drinking, some get violent, most everyone gets less inhibited -- in my case I tend to laugh more easily and feel stronger enthusiasms. For example, I might laugh out loud at something I would normally just smile at, or be quicker to express opinions even if they aren;t well thought out. Things I just like when sober, I love after a couple of drinks. It's not the real me, and I honestly don't think I would like to be like that all the time (although, maybe...), but it's not a bad feeling and it certainly makes drinking an attractive occasional activity to me. And if in vino veritas, then it's an indicator that I am deep down a happy person.

Drinking is not a risk to me, as far as I can tell. I do not believe I have an addictive physiology. When I was young I drank a good deal more than I do now. I can vaguely remember long stretches -- say 3 or 4 months -- where I had multiple drinks daily, yet I was never had any problem turning of the switch and doing without. About the only chemical in my life that I have ever had a physical withdrawal reaction from is caffeine, and the reaction consists of a headache for a day and then feeling out-of-it for a while because my body is so used to being caffeinated. But given how I feel when I drink, I can see the attraction of alcoholism to alcoholics. The worries fade, the world becomes a nicer place. I'm sure with frequent and consistent drinking anyone could become an alcoholic, and if you can live out your life with your worries stifled and laughing more, maybe that's not so bad.

There are trade offs, of course, otherwise everyone would be doing it. An alcoholic is effectively useless and a source of pain to anyone who may be depending on him. If you believe, as I do, the core object of life is to have a positive effect on other people, alcoholism amounts to abject failure. Judged from a purely narcissistic point of view, however, alcoholism is not a bad path. In some cases, it may actually optimize total personal happiness over a lifetime. Is it really that much different from whiling away your days in a Zoloft haze?

Tangent: There is endless irrationality and hypocrisy in our attitudes towards drugs (including alcohol). This is no surprise. As human beings there is endless irrationality and hypocrisy in pretty much everything we do. The evolution of societal thought toward rationality is a slow, ten-steps-forward-nine-steps-back process, but it does happen. For the great bulk of recorded history there were no laws or regulations limiting the use of any chemicals. The notion of "controlled substances" are a product of aggressive progressivism -- idealized behavior modification en masse. It's interesting to note how the this trend of prohibition and criminalizing drugs may have peaked in the 20th century. There was (capital P) Prohibition early in the century and the militarized War on Drugs in the later half. I detect a long term shift in this trend. Not just because we have dipped a toe in the legal pot pool. We are beginning to see acknowledgement that many of our drug taboos are too strident. The world is repelled by athletes uses chemical enhancements, but we are also starting to acknowledge that stuff like testosterone and HGH can improve the quality of life in certain circumstances. (Personally, HGH sounds wonderful to me. I hope to be wealthy enough to afford it by the time I'm 60.) The door is even opening for hallucinogenics again, if not quite at Timothy Leary levels of devotion. And I am told there are now shelters specifically for alcoholics that no longer discourage drinking. They offer a secure place to just let them drink their lives away. Changes comes slowly. End tangent.

No, my bigger concern with alcohol is the calories. A couple of beers or drinks and you're looking at 300 calories. Add 300 calories a day to your diet and you'll pack on pounds surprisingly fast. Were I to habitually take a couple of nightly drinks, I would have to knock 300 calories out somewhere else. That means finding the strength of will to forego all the sweets and such that people bring into the office every damn day. I don't think I could, which is pathetic, but realistic, of me. Were I what an economist might refer to as a "rational actor" that would imply that I am actually happier snacking at work than I am drinking at night. But I don't feel that way, so either I am deluding myself about the happiness work snacks bring me, or I am not rational. My money is on the later.

I have now completely forgotten where I was going with this, except as an observation that I should find a way to drink more and thus be happier, although as you read this I suspect you are thinking I need to drink less.