Reality is that alcohol is pure poison. We all know that, and we all have always known it. I knew it long before I had my very first sip of alcohol, yet I did have my first sip of alcohol. Thing is, even though we know this fact, perhaps only deep down, we don’t truly realize what this knowledge actually means. We won’t deny that alcohol is unhealthy or bad for you if we are asked, but everyone is drinking it without hesitation, and normally nothing truly bad happens so I guess that even though we won’t deny in words, we do deny in our actions.
Around the age of fourteen, we drank alcohol because it was forbidden, and the kick we got out of that was more important than the effects of alcohol on our bodies and minds. Of course our parents and teachers had told us that alcohol is bad for us young people because our brains were not fully developed yet, and yet many people have drunk alcohol at this age and their brains have developed perfectly well as far as we know and they function just as much as decent adults as people who never drank alcohol at an inappropriate age – I mean, who could tell the difference?
Around the age of eighteen, I began to get a grip on what it means that we’re drinking poison mixed with some other non-toxic fluids. I started throwing up the morning after I had drunk alcohol sometimes, even if it was only a couple of glasses, at least no more than my friends had drunk. And each time my stomach could handle less and less alcoholic drinks. It was as if my body was resisting to the alcohol, and trying to tell me that what I was putting inside me was ruining me from the inside, and somewhere I did believe that I had already ruined my stomach to the point that I would always have to throw up after drinking alcohol. Yet I didn’t think once of quitting on alcohol. Everyone was drinking alcohol so we – stupid herd animals that we are! – don’t have to think for ourselves.
In college I learned more about the human brain. The most important thing that I learned is that literally everything comes down to the brain. Everything we are capable of, everything we feel, think, do – our brain is responsible for all these things, so basically: we are nothing, or at least not human, without our brain. We learn about Dick Swaab, who said that “we ARE our brains”, and we learn how people disagree with him, but even if we are not our brains, we are nothing else either without them, and whatever we are, it’s because of our brain. Also, I learned more about how alcohol interacts with the central nervous system, and how alcohol damages it.
I know a lot of things are bad for the human body. Smoking is bad. Eating McDonalds every day is bad. Sitting on your arse all day is bad. Still, if we choose to do either one of these things, the worst thing that could happen to us is that we die at an earlier age. Some people may find this pretty bad indeed, but I think that there’s something worse than dying early, and that is: living on without being able to function properly. What scared me more than dying, is becoming dumber and less intelligent because of mental slowness and a poor memory. And this is exactly what eventually happens to your brain on the long term when you keep pouring alcohol over it. I vividly remember a picture of a brain of a person with an alcohol problem that I saw in class, and it was hard to distinguish from the brain of an Alzheimer's patient. An “alcohol problem” sounds pretty bad, but we’re all guilty. Binge drinking is a type of problematic drinking behavior. We speak of binge drinking when one drinks 5 or more alcoholic drinks during one single occasion, and this is something many of us college students like to do on a weekly base.
So if I’m going to say some things are bad for you, like alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or sugar, then it appears to me most logically to cut alcohol out first. I don’t feel like poisoning myself, and my brain in particular, just because it’s so socially accepted, when the hangover isn’t even worth the effects. There are not many people who become more fun to be around when they’ve drunk alcohol, unless that person is in a sober state very insecure or very boring. In addition, the taste of alcohol doesn’t even appear good to me! I would much rather drink coca cola without the bitter taste of vodka ruining it – so of course I could just drink only a little, to avoid getting a hangover, but if I’m not going to have the (illusionary) awesome effects of alcohol, I’m certainly not going to have its bitter taste.
The worst thing about alcohol is NOT that people are drinking it – the worst thing is that people are drinking it just because it’s socially acceptable, no, expected, to drink alcohol. Like herd animals, we tend to follow the crowd and do things simply because everyone else is doing it, and we forget to think for ourselves. What’s even worse about the latter: we do have the knowledge about alcohol and its effects, it’s literally right there to think about, but we simply ignore it! Well, isn’t that stupidity, - and I’m guilty myself.
Please don’t say most drugs are worse than alcohol. This may be true, but not if you look at the way alcohol is normally consumed. If you drink that much alcohol on a weekly base, as a lot of people - mostly late teens, college students and early adults – do, you are not even a single bit better off than someone who does drugs every few months. That would be a lie. (Also: don’t tell me there are more people dying from pills and heroin. This may be true in a direct way, but certainly not in an indirect way. Drunk-driving, homicide by abuse, anyone?). And this is what I think is especially messed up: alcohol is widely accepted, while other drugs are taboo: when you do drugs, you are not supposed to talk about it openly, because a lot of people will judge you for it, but for drinking, you can tell the world how f-u-cking wasted you got last weekend, and people will be cheering for it! How extraordinary!
For example, and this surprised me a lot: our very Halina Reijn got in the freaking newspapers because she temporarily had to quit alcohol for a play that she was going to do. And you know why? Because Halina was slightly panicked about this, because she now realized how important alcohol had become in her life – so she threw an alcohol farewell party! That’s fun. Now look at this: what if Halina wasn’t addicted to alcohol (basically addicted, especially since later news reports told me that Halina wasn’t able to quit drinking yet, even after the farewell party), what if she was addicted to heroin. What if she threw a farewell party for her heroin! I’m sure headlines would have looked quite different!
Another example: LINDAnieuws recently published an article, which title said: “An alcohol-free wedding: good or bad idea?” Comments were outrageous. Most people thought this was a particularly bad idea. One even said: “if I know there won’t be alcohol available at the wedding, I wouldn’t even bother to come.” Wow - if alcohol is more important than the actual purpose of a wedding, namely, to celebrate two people’s commitment to each other, and if alcohol is a condition for a fun wedding, than I’m afraid that alcohol has done more harm to this society than I’d initially thought!
I know that it is hard to stop drinking alcohol in these times and especially if you belong to that age group where drinking alcohol is the norm, but please don’t drink alcohol just because other people are pushing you to do it. Don’t be a herd animal. For alcohol consumers it’s almost an automatic thing to say “Why don’t you drink? Do drink some!” whenever you tell them you are not drinking, but they don’t realize that “Why DO you drink?” would be a better question. Trust me: I don’t mind that people still drink alcohol these days (I mean even the ancient Greeks used to drink, why isn’t this old-fashioned yet?) but I DO think that we shouldn’t regard drinking alcohol as normal when it isn’t. Drinking alcohol is just as much doing drugs as popping pills or injecting heroin is, and we should treat alcohol in the same way that we do treat other types of drugs. So basically, what I’m trying to say: I’m not saying we should prohibit alcohol, I’m only saying it should go either of two ways: we’re going to accept doing heroin like twice a year equally as we’re accepting getting drunk every month once or twice, or we’re going to stop to pretend that alcohol is any better than these other types of drugs.
I’ve quitted drinking alcohol for almost three months now and I haven’t regretted it for a single second yet. I didn’t have a single sip, not even to “just try it!”, because maybe, this is – in part – a principle-thing: if you quit, you might as well want to quit a 100%, because if not, you may feel bad for drinking just a little because it is against your principle – that is, alcohol is poisonous, even if it’s just a little (and as soon as you realize alcohol is poison, you will avoid it a lot more easily). Also, it will be a lot harder to stick to it: when drinking just a little every once in a while, little sips may become 'just a few drinks' in no-time. Plus, when you tell people you don’t drink, and people see you drink anyways, even if it’s just a little, they will think they’re able to push you to drink more, and you will be more prone to be pushed. When you stick to your words, people will know that you mean what you say, and not even try to push you. What’s more: It is so much more satisfying to be able to say “I don’t drink” when this is actually true!
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