Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Demon Alcohol

In the '70s I ran with a hard-drinking crowd. We would stay up all night jamming in a garage band and drinking alcohol. We lived by the line in the Grateful Dead song, "Party hearty every day."

Come the '80s, most of us realized that the drinking could not go on. Most of us stopped altogether or moderated greatly. As Homer Simpson said, riffing on the Kiss lyric, "I used to rock and roll all night and party ev-er-y day. Then it was every other day."

A few of the old crowd did not moderate. They are now dead.

I didn't realize it at the time, but we were playing with a loaded gun. You can abuse a young body full of energy and health, but over time, as the body ages... alcohol is nasty stuff. If I had a son drinking the way I drank back then, I would not be as accepting of it as my parents were.

I have to be careful here because there is a neo-puritan movement afoot that wants to kill joy in America. I certainly don't want to endorse that. Alcohol should be legal. It is each individual's responsiblity to take care of himself. And it is the parents' responsibility to protect their children from becoming drunks, at least until the kids are 18.

Attitudes toward alcohol are changing. In one of the historian Eric Daniels's fascinating lecture series, I think it was The History of American Moral Thinking, he talks about how everyone drank hard liquor in 19th century America. Even kids would be given whiskey to drink. They didn't have Coca-Cola back then, but they did have Jack Daniels. The Women's Temperance League and Prohibition were reactions that probably created more drunks than they cured. The drinking culture lasted well into the 20th century.

There is nothing wrong with drinking if you can keep it under control. Those who let alcohol control them had better face reality before they end up with a serious problem. Life should be enjoyed and moderate social drinking can add to the enjoyment. But getting shit-faced is not joy; it's the numbing of a mind so that it can't feel anything.

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