How Much Is Enough?

First, I should tell you that I’m not a tea-totaler. I enjoy a beer now and then, or a glass of wine with a meal. I’m a pretty big guy, but I learned long ago that my body can’t tolerate much alcohol. Depending on the day, sometimes I’ll sprout a headache before I’m even done with my first beer, so in addition to thinking that it doesn’t make sense to get drunk, my body just couldn’t handle that much alcohol.

We were at a wedding last week, and while it was very nice and fairly restrained, there was much drinking. Most people were drinking within their ability to control bodily functions and the power of speech, but a few young men teetered dangerously on the edge of a major malfunction of one sort or another.

I know that drinking has been part of society since the time when somebody figured out how to ferment a grape. I know that alcohol is called a social lubricant, and I also know that just because I’m too up-tight to want to give up any self control doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t.

So, all that being said, I wonder what the appeal is of becoming so drunk that throwing up becomes a good idea, since it reduces the hangover the next day, and so drunk that any memories of the night before will be in the form of the video that was taken by the wedding photographer.

There seems to be a sense in society that it’s just something young people do. It’s a phase. It’s an important part of growing up. I don’t see why it has to be that way. And a percentage of those young drinkers become raging alcoholics with ruined lives.

I read an article last week that talked about the increasing number of college students who are dying of alcohol poisoning. One case the article mentioned was about a young man who drank what I guess has become a tradition of 21 shots of whiskey on his 21st birthday. Another part of the tradition is to start the drinking at midnight on one’s 21st birthday, so all 21 shots happen within an hour or two. How sad it is for a young life to be taken by such a silly dare.

Like I said, I understand that people enjoy drinking and getting drunk. Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, as long as they’re not driving. Drunk people also shouldn’t engage in domestic violence, or high-risk sex, both of which are correlated with heavy drinking. But, when is enough enough? If “drunk” is defined as .08 blood alcohol, is twice that much enough? Or, if .16 leaves a person still able to stand up, is doubling that to .32 enough? Most people can’t remember their name at that point.

I ask these as hypothetical questions, of course. People will do what they want, and won’t, and shouldn’t look to me for guidance.

I remember Otis on the old Andy Griffith show. He was the town drunk (note the use of the singular form) in Mayberry. Once a week he would get drunk, and basically arrest himself for public drunkeness, and sleep it off in the jail. People didn’t compete to get drunker than Otis, or look up to him as an icon. he was a pathetic character because he had no self control. He was the exception.

How things change!

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