Historic addiction

"I don't have a drinking problem. I drink. I get drunk. I pass out. NO PROBLEM!"
"Also available in sober."
For fuck's sake...
"If found, please return to the pub."

I mean really. What on earth must go through someone's head when they buy an article of clothing with such a slogan on it? The kind of slogan that is only vaguely funny the first time you ever hear it when you're fifteen years old but loses all comedic value mere nanoseconds later?
Woah... That's freaky! You know I have trouble controlling my drinking and often lose all memory of the end of the evening. It's as if the author of that t-shirt somehow could see into my life... I've got to buy it. It's fate. It's not enough that I'm suffering from a crippling addiction, I want to shout it to the world!
To be fair these t-shirts are usually only available in souvenir shops in city centres so it's a fair guess that most of the time people buy them for someone else. They're a last minute gift for a so-called best mate when you've been on holiday or an eleventh hour Secret Santa for that bloke in the post room. Somehow that's even worse though...
You know I don't know much about Baz, but he has got that severe mental disorder. I'd know what he'd like - a t-shirt that draws attention to it.
Imagine if that kind of reasoning was applied to other problems people suffer from. If nothing else it would be a lucrative new line of products for t-shirt manufacturers:
I self-harm - ask me about my scars!
Dissociative identity disorder: who do I want to be today?
SSRI seems to be the hardest word
...and so on.

The difference of course is that there's a peculiar doublethink about alcohol. On the one hand consumption of ridiculous amounts is seen as a badge of machismo. I recall our current Foreign Secretary boasting that he used to be a 14 pint a day man in an attempt to appear hard whilst Leader of the Opposition. On the other hand everyone who claims to sink these gargantuan quantities of booze also denies being an actual bona fide alcoholic. However much we drink, we always like to think there's someone else who's worse.
Yeah, I do drink every night, but I'm not an alcoholic - it's not as if I piss in a bucket next to the bed and then suck the alcohol off the top with a drinking straw first thing in the morning like some people...
It's not helped by the recommended daily amount bandied about by the medical profession. Four units a day? That's two pints of gnat's piss lager. This guideline is so ridiculously low that it's not surprising that most of us just think sod it and go over the limit anyway. If you're going to stick to it you might as well give up drinking all together.

Which of course might be the preferable course of action in the long run. However, it's far easier said than done. Even if someone admits they have a problem they tend to do so in a manner that tries to pass the buck.
I've got an addictive personality!
No. Alcohol is addictive. So is tobacco. And heroin, come to that. Your personality most certainly is not, I can tell you that first hand. Just as “my bad” seems to allow the user to accept responsibility for something without apologising or shouldering any of the blame, claiming to have an “addictive personality” is still pleading not guilty to addiction just as much as denying you have a problem in the first place. I wonder if it would stand up in court?
Normal Stanley Flickknife, you have been found guilty of murder. Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence.

Yeah, it's not my fault your honour, I just have a murderous personality…
Whether we admit it's us or blame our misbehaving personalities, it's difficult to work out where such a strong addiction comes from. How does it evolve and how is it selected for? Overeating can at least be explained; in the past it would have been impossible to supersize me; likewise OCD makes sense in the context of hunting tigers out in the tundra...

But intoxication is another matter. Thugg and co came up with a cheeky little pinecone cider that they used to ferment in the skulls of mammoths; the hint of pachyderm brain used to give the beverage a certain je ne sais quoi… The problem was that cousin Glugg used to like it a little bit too much and one night drank so much that he fell out of the cave and down the cliff face. In the morning the only trace of him was a pool of sick, some smears of blood and a trail of tiger footprints leading in the direction of the distant outcrop. As it turned out, drinking yourself to distraction and the associated perils were guaranteed to ensure you didn't pass on your selfish genes yea even unto the ninth generation.

Why is it such a problem then? How did it survive? Either every new generation discovers the pleasures of the hydroxyl carbon compound afresh or there's something else going on. Perhaps drinking alcohol somehow mimics something else that's very difficult to shake.

It's certainly very difficult to stop drinking, even if only for a while:
"People who've never tried not drinking have no idea just how hard not drinking can be. Some days you succeed, win a white-knuckled battle against yourself. On others you don't, and it's those days which feel like the victory. Fuck it, a voice says. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it all. You've no idea whose voice it is any more, but it seems to speak sense and truth."
Michael Marshall Smith, One of Us
All this talk of drinking has made me a little thirsty. I need a drink. NO PROBLEM!


Tanya Jones said…
I think the key to the love of booze surviving down the generations is the fact that, if you don't have too much often enough, you're able to conceive children.

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