We seem to be the only species who actively seeks intoxication. Certainly there are other species who will get drunk, or eat plants that intoxicate, but none have made it such a social ritual as have human beings.
We both vilify and celebrate the intoxicated. the bible has passages and stories which admonish the believer regarding the use of alcohol (chiefly wine) yet we have incorporated the drinking of spirits into religious rites; even weddings. We toast those we admire, we throw drinks in the face of those we dislike.
We consider those who resist being intoxicated to be strong of will and a bit too uptight. Depending, of course, on whether you like them or not.
Regardless, humans have always sought ways to alter their mental state. We have greatly rewarded those who have facilitated that search by finding new intoxicants or by increasing the effectiveness of existing ones.
What is it about intoxication that draws us so?
I got drunk for the first time when I was 14. A party. I have no idea whose party or why it was being held. At the time, that did not matter. An older friend with a car had taken me along to this party in a trailer park somewhere in North Miami. There was a lot of booze floating around. No one seemed to care that at least half the attendees were under age. Way under age.
All I recall from that party was there was a boxing match on the TV (Archie Moore, I think) and riding away while leaning out the window of the car and puking my guts out.
I had done a little drinking before that but never more than a beer or two. I was left to walk home from a favored hangout (a "Mr. Donut" coffee shop) at around 4 in the morning. Somehow I made it.
There would be many more bouts with alcohol before I wandered into other areas of intoxication. I got drunk frequently in the last year before I went into the Navy, especially in the last 3 months. Every weekend, in fact. Blitzed. Stinking drunk.
Then came boot camp and I dried out. Two months of absolute sobriety. Then a short Christmas leave where I managed to get drunk maybe once... or twice. Then sobriety again for another 6 weeks. Once in the Fleet, getting drunk was a routine activity at any port overseas... and in the States.
At some point in all this, I began to dread the hangovers. The best way to curb your drinking is, I think, to dread hangovers. The idea that I would suffer so much the next day inhibited my drinking quite a bit. Especially when I knew I would not be able to imbibe any more alcohol to ease the hangover for many hours.
My moment of truth came in San Francisco. I made the mistake of trying to match, drink for drink, this well practiced Petty Officer 2nd Class. I also made the mistake of eating each cherry in each whiskey sour. When the time came to seek "Ralph" in the restroom of some bar, I thought I had permantly damaged my stomach. Or at least destroyed the lining. It certainly looked like blood and tissue to my blurry eyes.
I managed to get out to the street on my own two (very wobbly) feet and then slid down the pole I was leaning against when the Shore Patrol stopped by to give me a "lift" back to my ship. And then carried me onto it since I was no longer in control of my limbs. The Officer of the Deck found a couple of my shipmates to carry me to my bunk (with a stop or two to further attempt to empty my stomach).
It took me two days to get over that hangover.
It is the most likely reason I have not become a lifelong alcoholic. I do not like what I wake up to in the morning.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago