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[twenty twenty-four day one two nine]: amaze me

centaur 0

For some reason the shapes of this countertop remind me of a maze – strange little pathways leading towards a drink. I have a fairly strict one-drink-per-day limit (with the sole outstanding exception to that being that you can have a “nightcap” if you drank your one drink much earlier in the day and aren’t driving anywhere, but in practice I have only exercised the “nightcap exception” one or two times in my life).

And I have this limit because, at one point in my life, my father started drinking too much. He never got violent or abusive – he actually just got, well, unpleasantly silly. But, for a period of time, my mother and I had to rush to get chores done and dinner ready because my dad loved Canadian Club, and if he had more than one after he got home, he would dissolve into silliness and be unable to talk to over dinner.

That doesn’t sound so bad, but that was the worst period of my youth: several years where I essentially didn’t have a dad in the evening. And, according to my late Uncle Boo, it sounds like we were lucky; he recounted a story of Dad, drunk, deciding to pick a fight with a man sitting at the third barstool of his favorite bar, just because. (Though I don’t know how much to trust this story, as – God bless them – some of the older generation of the family seemed to love to lie to me for some reason, and I have later found out that many of the stories about the family were either exaggerations or straight-up false).

Alcohol seems to affect me differently than Dad. For one, I don’t want so much of it: while I love one strong drink, I almost never want more. On the extraordinarily rare occasions (twice?) that I have more than one, or just if the drink is too strong, it gives me a headache, makes me feel nauseous, makes me feel like shit, or all three. And, two, it doesn’t seem to make me silly: it makes me, for the lack of a better word, blurry. I have to pick and choose my words with care, and the headache is sitting there, waiting to drop.

But we’re different in another way as well: a drink seems to reduce my anger against the world, rather than enhance it. I can’t see myself deciding to attack the person who happens to be sitting at the third stool of a bar, just because they’re there. In fact, after a good drink, I find myself critically reassessing my internal mental dialogues rattling around in my head about other people – stopping the tape loops, stepping back, and remembering that everyone around me is a person, not a character in my internal narrative.

This may seem odd to some, but one of the persistent elements of my (social) anxiety disorder is stressing out about real and imagined issues with people around me, near and far, past and present. It was an important part of the therapy I took up during the pandemic to deconstruct those narratives, to stop the catastrophizing about potential failure modes, and to learn to move on with my life.

Cognitive behavior therapy helped with this, up to a point. But, I recently noticed, sometimes the narratives tend to stop after a good drink, replaced by a warm, magnanimous feeling. And that can be useful, either when reviewing a situation you’ve just been in, or fortifying yourself to go into a new situation, so you can build new positive experiences with the people you interact with.

Now, all that being said, I can’t recommend drinking. From a scientific perspective, my understanding is that many of the supposed health benefits of alcohol don’t really exist, or are outweighed by the negatives of alcohol. The public health recommendation for it is that if you don’t drink, don’t start.

And my understanding is that alcoholism develops from a combination of predisposition and exposure to alcohol over time – so I really have to dis-recommend drinking alcohol unless you use a structuring tool like my one-drink-per-day limit.

I like to joke that, if you can get drunk on one drink, then, well, it’s a really good drink. But, actually, it is possible to get drunk on one drink – and that’s too strong. If you have a strict limit of one drink per day that isn’t strong enough to get drunk on, I think it would probably be challenging to develop alcoholism.

And so, while I can’t recommend alcohol, I can certainly appreciate it as a tool to help chill out about life.

-the Centaur

Pictured: An Ardbeg scotch, I think BizzareBQ, which, despite the gimmicky name, is peaty and rather nice.

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