Taste the Void: Alcohol
It’s time to crack open a cold one in our spiral back down into the wonderfully wicked world of drugs. In previous instalments, I explained that these are not the views or beliefs of CVLT Nation as a whole. I have personally done every drug we are exploring, but have not used recreational drugs in fourteen years, following over a decade of use that ended with me having to deal with some serious addictions. If you have read my other work, it should come as no surprise my views on drugs differ greatly from the largely Christian recovery community. I feel all drugs should be legalized, rather than having a militant straightedge like view of them; just because I can’t use them doesn’t mean other people should not. I had some very positive experiences on certain drugs and adhere to the hallowed words of the Butthole Surfers: “it’s always better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done.” But at the end of the day, I personally neither condone nor condemn what you, the reader, do – I’m just giving you some facts and my personal experience.
Drinking seems like the great American past time, but worldwide it’s estimated that half of all men consume alcohol, and one third of all women. In Europe, it’s the third leading risk for burden of disease, and Europeans double the global average in consumption. However, in the US one out of ten drinkers is an alcoholic. While drinking is more socially acceptable than even smoking pot, alcoholism is an ugly word. Alcoholics make up twenty percent of patients seen in psychiatric facilities. The diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, in it’s fifth edition released in 2013, classified the disease of alcoholism as Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. Those diagnosed with this are placed along a disease continuum ranging from mild to severe.
Alcohol was never my favorite drug. It’s not very potent, taking several grams to get you where you want to go as opposed to the milligrams needed by other drugs to intoxicate. I never saw the point in drinking one beer, and given the choice to get drunk or get high on any other drug, I would ask you what else you had. I typically resorted to drinking in situations like weddings and family gatherings, where it wasn’t kosher to be on more potent chemicals. Most of the world sees alcohol as a social lubricant, yet getting drunk made me feel like a Neanderthal. The slurred speech negated whatever I had say about anything, erasing the years of therapy that kept my aggression in check.
Like 90 percent of alcoholics, when I drank it was until I blacked out. It was, however, easier for me to stop drinking booze than it has been for me to stop drinking soda. I still drink soda, and can’t imagine quitting even if the aspartame is embalming my brain. I have never wrecked a car or gotten in a fistfight due to Diet Coke. I do notice a tendency to try to manage my soda consumption like I tried to manage my drinking, with rationalizations such as, I’ll only have one at the movies, after I have had a glass of water, before I work out, on Tuesdays, with meals – and then a case later, nothing has changed. Inevitably, when I run into a friend who is drinking at a show and they know my history, I get parade of explanations. It’s always the first drink they have had in a week, or they tell me they are cutting back. I could give a shit how plastered they are, so it must be something they like to say for their own benefit. The only time I care about other people’s drinking is if they are in the driver’s seat and I’m riding shotgun.
Alcohol effects everyone differently. Many differing elements factor into this, ranging from body composition to social climate to the type of alcohol ingested. Unlike other drugs, the ethanol molecule is small and easily absorbed by all compartments of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s onset is fast and duration short. Since it’s more easily absorbed out of the bloodstream by muscle tissue than by fat, it brings on higher blood alcohol level in women and older men who have proportionally higher body fat. Heavy drinkers expect more positive and fewer negative consequences than more casual drinkers. People who drink in public experience more stimulant-like effects than solitary drinkers, who experience more sedative-like effects. When it comes to hangovers, the darker the brew, the more congeners it has, so the greater the chance of suffering the next day.
There are plenty of mixed messages in regards to the use of alcohol. Some studies show that moderate use, defined as no more than two drinks a day, has shown benefits when it comes to reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. The CDC released a statement saying that no woman between the ages of 18 and 44 should drink alcohol unless they are on birth control. It was stated that the reason for this is they might be pregnant and not even know it, since over half the pregnancies in the United States start that way. This seem to a be a rather puritanical warning, implying that if you get drunk you will get pregnant, and ignores a study of 5 year children in Copenhagen whose mothers drank one to four drinks a week while pregnant and showed no ill effects. Alcohol is the single most common denominator in criminal activity and domestic violence, and in a study of treatment centers it was reported that 80 percent of women admitted into an inpatient program had a history of sexual abuse. It impairs the faculties in the reverse order they were developed, with complex cognitive first, followed by fine learned motor skills (playing an instrument) and then more simple gross learned motor skills and unconditioned reflexes.
Unless you are behind the wheel, the real danger would come from liver damage after years of extended abuse, as the fatality from acute alcohol exposure would require a 165 lb. man to drink 23 drinks in 4 hours. Vomiting or passing out from the stupor normally occurs before this. A 2010 study in Europe showed that 1 in every 7 deaths in men and 1 in every 13 deaths in women was related to alcohol. Europe is loaded down with lobbyists from mega corporations like Anheuser Busch who commonly suppress data in the States regarding such studies. When it comes to treatment for alcoholics that doesn’t involve an Antabuse-like medication, the 12 step model and the Moderation Management movement, which draws heavily from cognitive behavior therapy, seem to be the most popular options. The 12 step model was pioneered in the 1930’s, while Moderation Management’s movement began in 1994, so it has not been able to establish much of a track record for research and admits to not being for those who face withdrawal symptoms – some might argue this doesn’t make them real alcoholics. In the end, it all comes down to balance. A couple of drinks a day for someone who isn’t an alcoholic is really big deal, but if you find yourself making excuses in regards to your drinking then you might want to have a little talk with yourself.
When I drank, preferred things that were big, dumb and loud so my favorite albums to drink to were:
Motley Crue – “Shout at the Devil”
Sepultura – “Beneath the Remains”
Misfits – “Walk Among Us”
Faster Pussycat – “Wake me When it’s over”
Weezer – 1994 Album
Ozzy – “ No Rest For the Wicked”
AC/DC – “Highway to Hell”
Morbid Angel – “Altars of Madness”
Kiss – “Alive 2”
Slayer – “Reign in Blood”