Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why papa drinks

Dear Hannah,

It's strange to think that people drink because they want to feel things they wouldn't otherwise.  It isn't just the numbness of a buzz that attracts us to drinking; it's that drinking makes us like things we wouldn't otherwise like, enjoy conversations we might not otherwise have had, ignore fears we might otherwise have felt, celebrate people around whom we'd otherwise be bored.  It makes us care about things we wouldn't normally care about, and give things away that we might have never given.  Some people even drink to be more comfortable with an aspect of themselves that they hate (although I would argue that this is a bad reason for drinking).  In a certain sense, intoxication does make us more charitable, whatever fun I made of the Rastafarians earlier.  It adds a certain humanity (at least to some of us) that we'd been missing all along.  A negative person might say that drinking allows us to live a life we wouldn't otherwise have lived; a more sensible person might say that drinking allows us to enjoy the life we already have. 

It's stranger still that what drinking does somewhat, ecstasy does far more.  Profess your love for a friend after a few drinks, and you'll profess your love for a complete stranger after a couple of pills.  And it's even stranger than this to think that if you drink and do ecstasy too much, it does the opposite for the rest of the time you're not on them.  A man who's had a couple of drinks every couple of weeks could be much better company than someone who doesn't; but the man who has too many drinks too much of the time is a nuisance.  Sobriety in alcoholism makes him think and say and feel and do things differently; but he does things differently in the worst direction possible.  Instead of loving his neighbors, he despises them; instead of being more carefree, he's full of anxiety.  The little things he used to ignore become major annoyances; the people he celebrated just the night before, he's ready to kick off his couch and onto the street.

What are we, that charity, amicability, and passions ebb and flow when we add substances to ourselves -- that angels turn into ogres, and ogres into angels only by the interruption of our chemistry?  How much of us is actually us, and how much of us is a lab experiment?  Speculation leaves us wanting.  Whatever the conclusion, supposing one can ever be found, I hope you'll understand that drinking can never be a lifestyle, but is most always preferable when celebrating something.  Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding; I doubt He would have done it on an average Wednesday afternoon. I also doubt He would have given everyone cocaine. 

If you do decide to drink, make sure you pay special attention to how you feel in the following days and week: make an experiment of it.  My experience has been that drinking too much has made me a worse person and my daily life more difficult, which has made me decide to drink as reasonably as possible without making myself entirely sober.  Three to four drinks on Sundays twice a month works for me, and I prefer drinking during the day so that I sober up before I sleep; but you may find a better method.  If doing good is not only useful, but dutiful, then certainly we can agree that whatever we can do to make goodness easier is dutiful as well.  The same goes for eating, sleeping, and all the other things of life.  We do maintenance on our cars so that they can take us where we want to go; we should maintain good chemistry, so that we can do the things we want to do.

Your father,

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