No/No


That's what it says on my profile under the Drink/Smoke portion of the doctor's admitting form that is your standard MySpace page.  The reasons why I don't smoke ought to be as obvious as the Surgeon General's label on the packs of cigarettes or the headstones on the graves of my three uncles who smoked (and who were outlived by their older brother).  If you want more details about my position on that, you might check this "blog" from a while back.

However, what's a little more complicated to explain is why I don't drink.  A friend asked me to post this to clarify since I hang out with many of you from time to time, and I realize being the guy who doesn't drink might make for a great asset as a designated driver, but you might just as easily be interpreted as a buzzkill.

First of all, no, I don't avoid drinking because I've got some religious hangups where I think Jesus turned the water into grape juice.  I don't think alcohol came from the devil or whatever goes through the compartmentalized minds that harbor issues like these.  I don't have any moral position on alcohol.  I think if you like it, you should enjoy it so long as you're responsible toward yourself and others.

The short version why I don't drink is this: I'm an alcoholic.

The complicated thing to explain is that I've never been drunk in my life and very rarely drink anything.  Most people who identify themselves as alcoholics tend to be actively recovering or actively indulging.  I'm what I call (for lack of a better term) a latent alcoholic.  I have a number of signs (which I'll go into in a little bit) indicating a predisposition to alcoholism.  I don't know how slippery that slope is where I'm concerned, but I'm pretty sure I'm genetically hardwired to have my skis on at all times.

There are tests out there that probe for tendencies that are associated with people who go on to become alcoholics.  I ace these.  In fact, I can't think of any items I don't get to check other than ones that deal directly with drinking.  Specifically, here are the areas highlighted and how they manifest with me.

A family history.  While my dad has never had any problems with drinking, his father was an extreme alcoholic and became a belligerent drunk.  I suspect it affected his health in later years including contributing significantly to the diabetes that resulted in poor circulation and eventually amputation of both of his legs.

Obsessive thinking.  I get obsessed about things that interest me and can't stop thinking about them.  Sometimes that's a good thing because I figure out intellectual problems (e.g., designing guitar circuitry, among other things), but it can be all-consuming almost like worrying, even when it's something I'm excited about like finding out what is in a place (e.g., a tunnel) I know about and want to explore.

Impulsive behavior.  It's more than just an attention deficiency in my case; I bounce between things, so I'll go to whatever is the most interesting thing in a given moment.  If I'm working on something I don't want to be doing, and I'm a little hungry, I'll jump up and get something to eat or clean or do anything other than what I don't want to be doing.  Imagine if I had alcohol in the house.

Consuming to the exhaustion of supply.  I was a member of Sam's Club specifically so I could buy the 3lb bag of Skittles instead of 1lb bags like they sell in Walmart.  When I ran out of candy or cookies, I would go to the grocery in the middle of the night just to get another bag, and that was the only thing I was there for.  I also do this with non-food things like media.  For example, if I just rented three videos, I'll work my way through all of them as soon as I can.  (Admittedly, I don't "veg" on the couch; I'm usually working on something else at the same time.  Point is I don't just watch one and go on and do something else while there are other things I could consume.)  Addicts tend to burn through their supply without much restraint.

Thrill-seeking.  Exhibit A: There's a hang glider in my spare bedroom.

Intensity.  This is a corollary of the above, I'm sure, but it manifests differently.  I tend to like things to be even more salient than normal.  For example, with the media, I watch (or listen, in the case of audio books) things faster if I can utilize features of the playback technology to speed them up.  Similarly, I was drawn to strong-tasting candies like Shock Tarts and would eat so many in rapid succession that I would take the skin off my tongue.  I'm not being figurative here; this will really happen, and if you experience it, you need help.  A characteristic feature of addicts is the ramping up of intensity of the experience, whether that's dosage or switching to hard substances/experiences (i.e., the latter especially with sex addicts) or whatever.

Unaffected/unimpaired at moderate intake levels.  For some reason, people with a predisposition toward alcoholism have no problem consuming moderate amounts of alcohol right from the start of their drinking "career." They don't get drunk when they drink quantities that would make their peers drunk.  In my case, I haven't consumed a lot of alcohol in my life, but I remember when I was a young teenager, maybe 14 or 15, when I was cutting the grass with my dad.  We owned seven acres and kept probably four of them manicured and the rest trimmed seasonally, so this was a big job.  It was in the summer and we were all sweaty and taking a break.  My dad had a beer and let me drink one.  I was about 98 lbs, relatively dehydrated, and had no previous exposure to alcohol, yet not only didn't it affect me, neither did the next beer.  I tried drinking wine a few years ago.  I drank half a glass one night, and nothing happened.  The next night I tried a full glass.  No effect.  The next night I tried a couple glasses.  Same thing.  That was kind of scary.  Besides, it just tasted like cough syrup to me, so I gave up on it, and eventually gave the bottle to Dani's dad.

As a result of all of the above, I keep my distance.  I'm the guy with the glass of ice water trying to pass it off as, I don't know, vodka on ice?  Or something.  Moral of the story: I hate that I might give the impression I've got something against drinking or going out (unless the music's too loud; I do have issues with that).  Feel free to drink up around me.  And lucky you, I'm always okay to take your keys if you need me to drive.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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