For us frail humans on this complicated planet, drink has always been the salvation, and the curse.
Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that WE are the curse. Booze—like marijuana and assorted drugs—is just there, either grown from the soil or concocted in distilleries, sold legally or illegally by people, purchased and consumed by people.
So what is it that drives the humans of this world to ingest into their systems just about anything that’s available? Clinical professionals blame lack of self-worth, low self-esteem, and poor self-image, and it’s hard for any of us to deny we’ve felt this way one time or another. But what about jobs? Jobs take up at least a third of our lives. We work hard, are driven, deal with bosses, deadlines, competition—it’s a constant grind. Most jobs, because of intimidation and boot-licking, carve out a bit of our pride and dignity. No jobs are easy. They cause us to have faulty nervous systems, bad stomachs, irregular heartbeats, ongoing headaches.
Is it any wonder we hit the sauce?
What about guys who slave away in the blazing sun on rooftops and ladders, inhaling tar, paint fumes and sawdust, ruining their elbows and backs, wearing themselves into arthritic conditions by 40? You think they need a brew? Try and deny them one when they drop that hammer at five in the afternoon after hacking away on a summer day. My advice? Don’t try it.
So what drives us to drink?
Having been a bartender and a totally joyous, well-adjusted alcoholic most of my life, I’d say pain, boredom, and the opposite sex. You don’t go anywhere in life without experiencing some measure of physical or emotional pain. Anybody who claims not to have felt periods of loneliness, depression, and boredom is either a liar or brain-dead or delusional.
As for the opposite sex? Well, let’s face it, damn near every song ever written concerns some guy or gal who’s been jilted, dealt a broken heart, or is in love with somebody who loves somebody else. The stuff of life. What’s more, when it comes to men and women, the common ground has always been studded like a minefield, and those rocky barriers are usually broken down in local watering holes after a few healthy belts of our evil potions.
Now, I’m well aware that a large percentage of folks out there are going to tell me people should be strong enough to deal with all these problems without resorting to booze, pot, escapism, hedonism, debauchery, and so on. That we should be made of sterner stuff, maybe even embrace religion, find a hobby, join a health club, seek professional counseling. They probably feel my way of thinking is pretty damn disgusting, weak-willed and self-indulgent.
Well, they’re absolutely right on all accounts.
But you see, there is possibly no greater rush than being a disgusting, weak-willed, self-indulgent drunkard, a real swill-hound, a barfly, a person who generally has trouble figuring out whether responsibility is more important than having a good time, or vice versa. What I’ve learned is that many of the most responsible, well-meaning people I’ve ever known are drunks. It’s a way of life. Some of us just can’t get by without the right amount of booze. During certain hours of the day (happy hour!), during certain times of the week, during birthdays, all holidays, and special occasions, it’s next to impossible for many of us without imbibing those spirits that achieve the golden glow.
It’s not any easy thing for a drunk or any kind of serious drinker to pass a local pub and not go in, especially if the pub is lined with people—people who are smoking up a storm, guzzling beers, downing shots, slapping backs, hugging, laughing hugely, dancing to music, or engaging in exultant, emphatic, totally aimless conversations that are instantly forgotten.
A lot of us are very sensitive about being the lushes we are. We don’t want to be told we’re drunks. We don’t like being told we’re impairing our vital organs and destroying brain cells and shortening our lives. We don’t like being told we’re a danger to decent society. And we don’t like being told that our behavior is embarrassing, that we are not especially amusing, that we’re actually boring, repetitious, and sometimes overbearing asses.
We are deeply suspicious of and disturbed with the sentinels of sobriety. We feel that the born-again recovering alcoholics, the Religious Right, lifetime teetotalers, and the various pious zealots of this world carry their self-esteem around like a shroud of accusatory doom, vilifying us as catalysts of our morally decayed and collapsing civilization.
Hell, we just think we’re a lot of fun. So please, leave us alone!
Certainly, as drunks, we go out of our way to leave YOU alone. We respect your desire to be sober, respectable, serious, upright, strong-willed, and constructive members of our grown-up world. We know that you mean well and want a better world. We want a better world, too, you know. The only serious problem is that we find it most ideal while totally snockered. Otherwise, it’s not the great world it’s cracked up to be.
You see, in most cases, we just can’t help ourselves. We love the sauce and almost any substance that’ll scramble or unscramble our brains, deaden our senses, impart a whiff of ecstasy, and more or less give us a reprieve from a rather thorny reality. Most of us aren’t troublemakers, brawlers, dangerous drunken drivers, wife/child abusers, sexual predators, or general nuisances. Most of us find a way to get home safely. We hate to fight, and want to be liked, want to make love, and want to be loved and soothed in return, like most people.
We are just a bunch of drunks. Our kind has been around for centuries—eons—and quite possibly we are good for the morale of any country. In fact, it is my firm belief that if you took away our booze, took away our bars, honky tonks, nightclubs, and pubs, and denied us our escapism, hedonism, and debauchery, it would be an utterly dull, joyless, empty world. It would take only a year or so to destroy it and ourselves. §
Dell Franklin writes, and drinks responsibly, always within walking distance, from his home in Cayucos, Calif.