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OH, FISH | The ABC’s of Drinking Culture

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Alcohol Use Disorder

The label “alcoholic” is no longer appropriate to refer to someone with alcoholism. My uncle is not an alcoholic; he has an alcohol use disorder (AUD). As if this euphemism can make it easier to separate––and save––oneself from the problem. AUD is “drinking that becomes severe,” and my uncle is not a severe drinker. No, he has a problem with drinking severely at times… sometimes… most times.

Buzz

The warm fuzzy feeling that spreads through the chest once the alcohol hits. This and the nicotine high are two of my uncle’s prime sources of pleasure. He cannot do much at his age anymore, and he cannot find much to do. Who am I to deny him the right to life (however short), liberty (however free), and the pursuit of happiness (however happy one can really be)?

Control

I like to be in control. To count, check, calculate. Wait, how many did I have? Three, four? I don’t remember. Let’s say three.

Depressant

Though alcohol is a depressant, it doesn’t necessarily cause depressed feelings. Instead, it helps put its users at ease, depressing both physical and psychological activity through the central nervous system. Yet, Mother says, “Never drink when you’re sad.” Alcohol can offer a brief euphoria, a temporary release from negative thoughts and emotions, but what about alcohol as a form of self-medication? As always, Mother knows best.

Ethanol

The simple chemical formula for drinking alcohol is C2H5OH. After it enters the body and reaches the brain, it binds to neuroreceptors, preventing neurotransmitters from effectively passing information. It’s an inhibitor that lowers inhibitions.

Fuck

“Fuck your Chalupa Supreme!” yells the girl from the backseat. She proceeds to open the car door and vomit. Thankfully, it’s 3:00 am, and the only other people at the Taco Bell drive-thru are those who are drunk, are taking care of those who are drunk, or are well-acquainted themselves with feelings of drunkenness.

Good Grief

The night finally ends when the girl is delivered back home to parents who are upset but far too tired and practical to try to punish their plastered daughter then and there.

Hangover

The experience isn’t over yet. The girl wakes up to a searing headache, dry mouth, and disbelief. How did I… nevermind. Never again.

In-

Inebriated. Intoxicated. Included. In disguise, the Introvert goes in search of Intimacy. Nevertheless, he finds Insecurity still there the next day.

Judgment

He returns anyways, and so do we, because in this judgment-free zone, we don’t pass judgment on one another. We can’t––our own judgment’s too impaired.

Kavanaugh

“I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone,” claims Brett Kavanaugh, a current Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, about his party days in school.

On the other hand, there are several accounts calling Kavanaugh “a sloppy drunk,” “a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker,” “a notably heavy drinker… [who] became belligerent and aggressive when he was very drunk.”

Lonely

In college, drinking has become a rite of passage. We’re expected––no, encouraged––to explore, attend parties, and drink. The college partying and drinking lifestyle is glamorized by the media and consumed by students. If you don’t experience this particular part of college culture, then you must be missing out, and who wants to miss out on the alleged best four years of your life?

Mother Knows Best

Mother says, “It’s okay to not want to drink. It’s okay not to drink. It’s okay as long as you’re comfortable with the choices you make. Because it’s you and not someone else who must carry the consequences of your choices.” Again, Mother knows best.

No, No, No

Should we not be held accountable for our actions even if judgment comes years after? Should we be so quick to pardon drunken behavior or the excuse of not knowing any better? Are we really at an age where we still can’t decide what to drink and how much to drink?

Oh, Fish

Photo courtesy of Fail Blog

Photo courtesy of Fail Blog

Prudes vs. Pineapples

The memorable Taco Bell incident could be traced back to a bottle of SKYY Infusions Pineapple Vodka. I gag at the taste of pineapples now, and I have told myself never again. But to pursue the extreme at either end of the drinking spectrum seems foolish.

Quad

A herd of freshman make the trek from North Campus across the Arts Quad toward Collegetown, which is rife with frat parties. In the college freshman edition of the hero’s journey, we cross the threshold that is the Quad to answer the call to adventure that is the lure of loud music, the thrilling social scene, and the cases upon cases of alcohol.

Red Solo Cup

Fingers tightly gripped around the red solo cup, I stare into its contents: a transparent, slightly fizzy, golden liquid. It looks almost like urine. If I gulp this down quick enough, then I won’t be able to taste it. In one swift motion, I down the beer. It tastes like piss.

Social Lubricant

I should be enjoying myself now. I should be socializing more now. I should be feeling happier now, but I’m not. My words start to slur, my feet begin to stumble, and all I want to do is sleep. However, I can’t just leave, not when these are the kinds of adventures essential to attaining the full university experience.

I don’t know if I still want this experience.

Twenty-one

Will I continue to feel this way after the first semester ends? Second semester? Sophomore year? In about two years and two months, I’ll turn 21, and that frightens me. While most people look forward to the prospect of drinking legally and no longer having to carry fakes, I’m a bit wary. Alcohol is an acquired taste, but what if in two years and two months, I still hate it? The labels “prude,” “killjoy,” and “party pooper” may as well stick with me well into my adult years.

U.S.

Almost every celebration in the U.S. revolves around drinking. From birthdays to barbeques, Super Bowls to St. Patrick’s Days, alcohol has been and remains a fundamental part of American culture.

Volstead Act

“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” The Volstead Act, more formally known as the National Prohibition Act, was enacted in 1919 to carry out the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. But booze kept selling, and people kept drinking. Such measures to enforce sobriety were unsustainable. A little over a decade later, the Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Volstead Act in 1933, bringing an end to the era of national prohibition.

World Health Organization

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” According to a 2018 global status report by the World Health Organization, 3.3 million people died from harmful use of alcohol in 2016. No one I’ve ever known personally has passed away from alcohol abuse, and I hope I’ll never have to.

XXX

The three XXX’s scrawled on a moonshine jug meant that its batch of alcohol had been run through distillation three times. During Prohibition, some people resorted to drinking commercial-use alcohol, which needed to be distilled for consumption. Illegal and sometimes lethal, the practice was dangerous, but in this case, the benefits outweighed the risks for many of America’s hooch consumers.

Young, Wild and Free

I may never fully relate to this experience. My uncle may never curb his drinking. And the need for alcohol as a staple in our diet and social life may never change. Despite the ever-present representation of drinking in popular culture, I know I can’t be the only one to feel this way. To be one of the awkward few standing in the corner of the room, trying one’s best to let loose without the assistance of a drink. To prefer more often than not to stay in for the night, with maybe just one close friend, than to pursue the crowded party scene. To find thrill in some other shape, way, or form.

There’s no doubt that, by the end of my four years here, I’ll have missed out on some part of the stereotypical college experience, but is there anything wrong with that?

Zero Point Zero Eight

0.08% blood alcohol content: the well-established legal limit in the U.S. Any higher and you might find yourself cussing out a fast food restaurant. Any lower and you may conceive the idea to write an essay on drinking culture. Both scenarios shouldn’t necessarily be items on your bucket list.

But, to each his own, I guess. Cheers.

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