5 Promises That Alcohol Makes And Breaks
If you haven’t seen the 1962 film “The Days of Wine and Roses“, starring Jack Lemon and Lee Remick, I highly recommend it. It’s probably the best film I’ve ever seen about alcohol and alcoholism.
In the film, Lemon’s character Joe is an alcoholic. He meets Remick (Kirsten) who has never really drank before. However, over the course of the movie she sinks into the depths of alcoholism with him. And in the end, ironically, he is the one who manages his way out.
“This is the way I look when I’m sober. It’s enough to make a person drink, wouldn’t you say? You see, the world looks so dirty to me when I’m not drinking. Joe, remember Fisherman’s Wharf? The water when you looked too close? That’s the way the world looks to me when I’m not drinking.”
Bottom line, the culture of alcohol makes many promises that are not delivered. Moreover, they are broken almost as soon as they are made. Looking at life through alcoholism is like looking through a stained glass window. Pretty at first, but you can’t see reality or anything much beyond it.
Promise #1: Alcohol Makes You More Social
What alcohol actually does is remove inhibitions and skew judgement.
Over the course of my condition, alcohol has actually done nothing but make me less social. Why?
The more I drank, the more people I alienated. Eventually, it came to the point where I was content with drinking alone, because that way I didn’t have to endure any criticism. If it sounds sad, it is. but it is the reality for many alcoholics.
Also, those reduced inhibitions and sometimes tendency toward sociality can also lead to risky sexual behaviors. SoberNation has a great write-up on the many risks of lowered inhibitions. You can read that here.
Promise #2: Alcohol Brings Happiness
I had my first beer at age 13. The euphoria I felt was something entirely new for me, I can assure you. Due to my age, I didn’t instantly become a drinker. But I can tell you this – I never forgot about it.
Other than relative and fleeting euphoria, alcohol has never made me happy. It’s made me emotional, mixed poorly with medications, and as I said, alienated me from others. In fact, I began drinking more due to tolerance in order to regain that same feeling. But soon I began failing almost every time.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers a good description of alcohol and tolerance. You can read about that here – keeping in mind that is tolerance is what keeps one from feeling happy with a beer or two – versus a pint of whiskey.
Promise #3: Alcohol Will Reduce Stress
While this may be true for a very short amount of time, over all, it does not.
It messes with our brain chemicals, and makes our bodies actually less able to deal with stress when we need to do so.
That’s when alcohol becomes a dependence. We don’t learn to use healthy coping mechanisms and therefore we don’t want to function without it.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a great article about the relationship between alcohol and stress. You can read that here.
Promise #4: Alcohol Opens Up Conversation
Again, what drinking does is lower inhibitions. And yes, in small amounts, it might foster creativity. But there’s a lot more going on.
Alcohol also gives you what is known as “liquid courage” meaning that you say things that wouldn’t normally say. Some people contend that this is just honesty in the face of lowered inhibitions, but there is also a reason why we have inhibitions – to protect us from ourselves.
If you’ve ever been drunk and said something to someone you didn’t really want to say, this is exactly what i’m talking about.
Promise #5: Alcohol Offers Pain Relief
In very limited quantities, perhaps. But over time, heavy consumption has done nothing but bring me more pain.
Emotionally, it has made me isolated, selfish, and sometimes downright suicidal.
Physically, it has torn up my digestive tract, leaving me with chronic gastrointestinal issues.
The problem with getting any chronic pain relief from alcohol, is that it can cause more that it was originally intended to cure.
So you see, alcohol is very deceptive. In very small amounts, its promises may be realized – to a point. However, even at moderate levels, promises begin to break. And it’s the highly addictive nature of alcohol that brings people to heavy consumption.
And at this point, I can assure you, alcohol has been the world’s best politician for me. I continued to believe in it long after it began to fail me. And maybe it some ways, I’m still waiting for those promises to be delivered.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A, Psychology