A more honest title would be: “Why I’ve Decided (Repeatedly) to Stop Drinking, At Least for Now, But Will Probably Fail Again Because–Let’s Face It–Drinking Can Be a Hell of a Lot of Fun until You Wake Up the Next Morning with a Blistering Headache and a Stomach Like a Nest of Dyspeptic Vipers.”
To those of you who drink, cheers. To those who’ve quit, kudos. And to those of you who, like me, are ambivalent about the whole alcoholic enterprise, I commiserate. Have you tried moderation? It works for some. Doctors recommend it. It’s good for your heart. No harm in getting a mild buzz on once in awhile, as long as you’re not driving.
But it’s hard not to have a love-hate relationship with a hobby you’ve had for decades, one in which the old adage definitely applies: familiarity indeed does breed contempt. You might also notice, if you look carefully, that drinking, far from being a creative act of rebellion, is just another expression of conformity and admission of defeat. Winston Smith, the embattled protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, drinks something called Victory gin, and you can’t deny that Orwell’s choice of brand name carries Orwellian significance, especially if you consider the final scene of that novel.
Don’t get me wrong–I have nothing against drinking–especially when other people do it, as long as they’re not in my face about it. Although I’m not eager to drink or get drunk these days, as T. C. Boyle would say, “The flesh is weak, but the mind is weaker.” But there’s an undeniable incentive to remaining sober beyond being a goody two-shoes. Here are a few good reasons not to hit the bottle:
1. Alcohol is a depressant. Having a few beers or glasses of wine can make you feel good; having a lot makes you feel like shit, especially the next morning. I’m not a morning person to begin with, but the morning after a night of drinking is particularly excruciating; the symptoms of hangover are just part of the formula of nastiness. The rest boils down to a crabby, cranky, misanthropic mood of snarling rejection of all that’s around me. Most of this is largely hidden from the view of others; keeping up appearances is mandatory if you don’t want to end up as a street person. But it’s there, festering away inside like Rosemary’s Baby, a beast “slouching towards Bethlehem to be born,” to paraphrase W. B. Yeats’ “Second Coming”.
2. Booze is fattening. Since I’ve reduced my drinking (“aha! but you said you’d quit!” you say; true, but I exaggerated), confining it to relatively small quantities of beer once a week or two (three or four glasses at most; about three or four weeks ago I had maybe twice that over the course of three hours with a couple of friends), I have managed to lose a little weight. Don’t get me wrong–I’m still fat and out of shape and need to work out if I want to have anything but a laughable physique–but the gut has gone down even if the butt’s still big (according to my wife Jina–more about her in a moment).
3. I’m broke. Since my wife is a card-carrying member of the Korean Nazi Party, her motto for me is “Arbeit Macht Frei!” This is German for “Work will set you free,” and was written over the gate at the death camp in Auschwitz. She works very hard herself–most Koreans do–and as a presumable manic depressive is not big on the art of relaxation. You can guess that she’s not a cheerleader for my drinking; her sense of smell is acute and she detests the scent of alcohol on my breath, regardless of what kind. This, among other things, has compelled her to wrest from me my entire financial supply and parcel money out to me in parsimonious portions. My guess is she also does it to prevent me from having the chance to cheat on her, even though to round off the equation she also denies me sex. What a catch, eh?
4. Drinking destroys your dreams. If I’ve been drinking, I can’t remember my dreams when I wake up in the morning. It makes me want to say, “What the hell! I want my money back.” Then I remember I don’t have any money anyway, and shrug it off. But heavy, repeated drinking over years or decades also destroys the other type of dreams, the kind that make you want to do something with your life besides get loaded. Taken to extremes, of course, drinking can also rip apart relationships, alienate friends and siblings, and lose people jobs. I’ve never paddled that far down Rio Cerveza; I’ve just let it be one of the banal assassins who’ve conspired to ruin my life. Here’s to skid row!
5. Alcohol wreaks havoc on the body. When I finally lie down on the slab at the morgue for good, med students might want to pass on slicing me open to see what’s left for organ recipients, as a lot of it’s apt to be shot. My stomach has taken a beating over a years, and my liver and kidneys have been taxed not only by drinking but by painkillers and antibiotics. I don’t think my heart is in such great shape anymore, and my brain keeps me from getting bored, even though it has the nerve to drive me crazy, but I don’t think I’d wish it on anyone else either.
These are just a few reasons I’ve decided to keep booze at bay, rather than swimming in a bay of booze. It’s also nice to have a relatively clear mind, to be able to think straight, to get through a book without puking, and to not have to get up and take a piss every fifteen seconds.
In the event that you’re a drinker who’s trying to quit, I can only advise you to seek help from the outside world if your situation is desperate enough. Otherwise, if you’re just someone whose impulses are occasionally self-defeating, but your life doesn’t need a major overhaul, remember that nature abhors a vacuum cleaner. You can get rid of a bad habit by replacing it with a good one. Just please do me a favor and don’t become a born-again Christian. (As someone who lives with one, I can assure you that the pathological practices of an obsessive religious fanatic do not constitute good habits; they’re more like the overcompensating control mechanisms of a dry drunk.) God has enough believers already and “His” waiting list for heaven’s immaculate parking lot is long. Not that I believe in the immortal, incomparably majestic bastard anyway.
Good luck to you, and don’t forget to recycle your empties.