Since I Stopped Drinking Alcohol, I've Come To See Clearly — America Has A Problem With Alcohol

Want to know if Americans drink too much alcohol? Quit drinking for a day. Better yet a week — or a month. Better yet, quit drinking entirely. I wasn’t forced to quit drinking by the mood stabilizer that saved my life. Alcohol can increase the intensity of any side effects the lamictil causes but, by itself, it can’t hurt you. What I found lamictil does to alcohol is give it a terrible aftertaste that ruins the whole experience.

It doesn’t matter whether the alcohol’s in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or in a martini — just when you expect the glorious aftertaste of whatever you’re drinking to carry on, instead you get grapefruit skin and lots of it. I was cooking clams al vongele the other day. It’s basically clams, parsley, garlic and a bottle of wine (I like to add a little celery and some Pernod to kick up the licorice qualities). I poured in the wine and Pernod — got the sauce back to a simmer and sampled it, expecting exquisiteness.

Instead, I got grapefruit skin. A bottle of wine is a bottle of wine whether it’s in your glass or simmering away in a sauce. It takes a lot longer than you think to burn off alcohol as you cook with it. I forgot that basic fact at first — then wondered why the sauce tasted so awful.

When I was growing up, my dad collected wines — French reds. He and his friends would buy Bordeaux futures — as yet unharvested (ungrown even) grapes in the expectation that they’d become great, age-worthy vintages like 1970 or 1971. When I say my dad “taught me” how to drink, I mean he taught me to appreciate the thing I was guzzling like it was bug juice at summer camp.

I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a responsible drinker — same as there’s no such thing as a responsible gun owner. 99% of the time — absolutely — most people behave responsibly toward both alcohol and guns. It only takes one slip up however to produce tragedy — one half glass of wine too many that resulted in an accident or traffic fatality or a gun that wasn’t locked up properly in its gun safe — and became a murder weapon.

In both instances, “responsible” becomes “irresponsible” just like that.

I was a lot less responsible than I gave myself credit for being. I’ve no doubt I drove while over the limit on multiple occasions. I know for a fact that I dodged a bullet or two or three where alcohol and driving are concerned. I know for a fact that I am hardly alone having that in my past. Sometimes I marvel that any of us are actually still here and walking (or driving) around.

Before lamictil made alcohol taste like shit, I LOVED drinking. I adored it. I marveled at the craftsmanship that went into a great scotch or a complex bottle of Petit Sirah (I loved em big and inky). I drank every single day — usually two glasses of red wine, sometimes a third glass. On rare occasion a fourth.

I was kinda known for getting even more opinionated than I already am. That’s a lot of “opinionated” to drunkenly throw at people. I don’t recall ever being drunk. I don’t recall ever being wasted or shit-faced or rat-arsed. But then, I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching me.

These days, when I go to a party or a bar with my wife and/or friends, I’m the lone teetotaler. When the bartender or wait-person turns to me for my order, most of the time I don’t have one: I’ll have water, I say. Their face always betrays them. My beverage will not benefit their tip. I might as well be dead, as far as they’re concerned.

It’s strange to watch your friends as alcohol takes them over. That’s what alcohol does. It changes how people act. While making them feel good for a bit, it also undermines their motor skills and slowly destroys their capacity to make good decisions. I’ve never seen my friends get out-of-their-heads crazy from drinking. But I have seen them get loud, belligerent, unreasonable, disrespectful and downright unpleasant.

When my kids went off to college, I feared for them as they encountered the drinking cultures on their respective college campuses; I worried especially for my daughter since campus rape culture (like campus fraternity culture) is tied to campus alcohol culture. I was grateful to learn that she and her friends prefer marijuana to alcohol. No one has ever died from marijuana poisoning as they have from alcohol poisoning.

I feel almost blasphemous saying this: alcohol prohibitionists weren’t wrong. They wanted to accomplish something impossible in a free society — prohibition of a product the people want. Prohibition didn’t just make alcohol illegal, it criminalized virtually the entire population while giving organized criminals a nearly perfect product to sell. Prohibitionists used the wrong methodology though their insights were rock solid. Alcohol is far too easily abused. And alcohol abuse causes far too much long-lasting social and personal harm to too many people.

Ads for alcohol are aimed (alarmingly) toward young people. Hell, alcohol products themselves are aimed alarmingly at young people. If you have to fruit flavor alcohol up to make it palatable, maybe you aren’t really ready to drink alcohol. That may look like an umbrella in your drink, it’s not; it’s training wheels. And if you really need training wheels on your alcohol, maybe you shouldn’t ought to be drinking alcohol.

My suggestion? Pick up a gram of top quality sativa or hybrid instead (unless of course you want to go to sleep then pick up a gram or two of indica). As self-medcations go, cannabis blows alcohol clear out of the water. It’s so much more versatile (you cannot work with alcohol in your system just like you can’t drive with it or do athletic things with it because of how profoundly it impacts your motor skills).

Having switched from alcohol to cannabis, I’ve also come to see that America has a cannabis problem too. We don’t smoke anywhere near enough of it.

More Notes From A Former Drinker — Drinking Culture Wouldn’t Be Half So Stupid If People Learned “How To Drink”

Want to feel like a social leper? Decline an offer of alcohol from your host — whose whole experience of you is as a drinker. I might as well have said I’d turned cannibal and wanted to eat him. “You’re not drinking?”

“No. Had to stop, remember — my mood stabilizer makes alcohol taste like shit.”

“For real? Hunh… well, you want some water? There might be soda in the fridge…”.

If you don’t drink, that means you’re not an adult. That’s how it feels when everyone toasts before drinking — and your water glass (or ginger beer) clinks against their wine goblet or highball glass. The irony (one could get drunk off it ffs!) is that the non-drinker gets to watch all his drinking friends drink themselves toward increasingly un-adult behavior.

Wanna make that irony a double? Won’t cost any extra… What I’ve learned, now that I’m alcohol-sober is that we’ve evolved into a culture that encourages people to drink — and drink lots — from a very early age. But we have no interest in teaching people how to do this thing. Because we see drinking as a vice — like sex — we assume you don’t have to be “taught” how to do it; nature will teach you.

For most of us, Nature sucks as a teacher of sex. Experience — and a lover you care about — teach far more, far more quickly. Drinking works pretty much the same way unfortunately. Experience does the teaching except, with drinking, there’s no lover you care about. There’s just the alcohol. And alcohol does not love you no matter how much it says it does.

While both drinking culture and cannabis culture are social, there’s a difference between drinking together and smoking together. While one might share a bottle of wine, one does not share (normally) the cocktail itself as one does a joint. Sharing cannabis — passing it around to all who want — is part of cannabis culture.

Aside from falling asleep, the only appreciable effect of continual cannabis use over the course of an evening might be more laughter. Cannabis users don’t get sloppy high. They don’t puke their guts out or risk alcohol poisoning. They don’t wake up the next morning, bleary-eyed and confused about how they got where they are, their memory having been blotto’d by the drink.

The effects of alcohol lag a bit — usually 20 minutes or so — before kicking in. While it can take up to an hour sometimes for cannabis edibles to noticeably kick in, the effects from most smoked flower begin to roll across your consciousness within a few minutes. That’s one of the reasons young drinkers especially get into trouble. Most of them don’t KNOW that fact about how alcohol works on their bodies.

Young people ODing on drugs of any kind should never happen. It especially shouldn’t happen with alcohol. Drugs still operate in the shadows because we insist on seeing drugs as a criminal issue instead of a health issue. It’s understood that any kid wanting to experiment with most drugs will have to do it off the grid as it were. Alcohol, on the other hand, is right inside their house just waiting to be sampled.

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, we’d probably do ourselves a hell of a lot of good if we got over our discomfort with alcohol culture and taught young people how to think about alcohol as informed consumers and not as naughty boys and girls with a naughty vice they’d rather keep quiet about.

We’ve tried it that way, haven’t we?

My best advice to my drinking friends — and most of my friends are friends who drink — put down that bottle. Pick up a piece. Pack some lovely cut flower into it and let your mind flow instead of burying your mind under waves of increasingly dense alcohol fog.

Drinking Culture Vs Cannabis Culture: We’ve Got It COMPLETELY Upside Down…

Long story short: A few days before Christmas 2016, I not only ‘flirted with suicide’, I stared long and hard into its eyes.

I was lucky — and walked away alive.

The medication that helped me walk away alive – Lamotrigine – is mainly used as an anti-seizure med for epilepsy sufferers; anecdotal observations suggested it stabilized mood too.  That’s what I use it for — and part of my luck was that Lamotrigine worked and works for me as well, as completely and as quickly as it did.  One of the unexpected side effects (unexpected becasue there IS no ‘literature’ on my use of this drug.  I’m one of the guinea pigs) is that alcohol now leaves a terrible aftertaste in my mouth.

It doesn’t matter how beautifully structured that glass of  Zinfandel is, or how inky and taut the tannins are in that Petit Sirah — the aftertaste is so profoundly unpleasant — and so particular — that it simply made drinking anything with alcohol in it cringe-inducing.  So, I did the logical thing:  I stopped drinking.

I had already turned to cannabis for other things.  That I had turned to cannabis at all was a testament to my NEED for cannabis.  It was not terribly attractive to me when I was young — it made me too sleepy to be functional.  And, back then, I wasn’t having sleep problems.  Cannabis was ‘solving a problem’ I didn’t have.  So I used other drugs.  Alcohol.  Cocaine.  But mostly alcohol.

Those drugs DID solve my ‘problem’:  They made me social when I needed to be, sped me up when I wanted and made me feel like I was Golden.  In point of fact, my drugs of choice weren’t ‘solving’ anything; they were making more problems and harming my body — in small ways but significant ways.  And the Drug that I chose most often — every day, in fact — three glasses of red pretty much guaranteed — was alcohol.

And I LOVED IT.  I adored good red wine.  I loved a perfectly made, ice cold gin martini.  I loved bourbon and single malt scotch.  I loved grappa & calvados.

I loved the whole creative endeavor, the craftsmanship and passion that went into a bottle of ‘fermented, alcoholized fruit’.

The fact that it was legal meant that I could drink as much of that product as I wanted to — even if it made me sick.  But — as an adult — that is my right & privilege so long as I harm no one else.  This is as it should be and must be.

One of the things I adored about alcohol was ‘Alcohol Culture’ — otherwise known as A PARTY.  You arrive at a party, plop down YOUR contribution (a six pack or bottle of something too cheap for YOU to drink) and away you go — merging your drinking rhythm into everyone else’s drinking rhythm.

Funny thing?  I never used to know that parties — and partiers — had a ‘drinking rhythm’.  That’s because, back then, I was PART of that rhythm.  I might have been a BIG part of that rhythm.

And then circumstances stopped me from being part of it — and, instead, made me AN OBSERVER of it instead.

This is not a revelation to anyone who doesn’t drink — but socializes with people who do.  Going to a party or a bar — anywhere where other people are slowly surrendering their faculties to alcohol — is a fascinating — but isolating — experience.  Literally everyone else in that room is on a journey you are NOT on.  And YOU — the person NOT drinking — almost always feel relief about that fact:  Who would WANT to act as silly as all those people slowly getting plastered?

 

I live in California where cannabis is now legal.  It is already normalizing (though it still has a long, long way to go — the product was demonized so relentlessly — and so DISHONESTLY — that it will take a while just to strip out all the bullshit from Our Common Knowledge of the product.  Disinformation and misinformation are far more prevalent in the culture than actual data on the subject.  Our laws reflect that too unfortunately — but we’ll fix it in time.

As more and more people use the product and take it to heart (and mind), the laws will have to catch up — because our experience with it will demand no less.

 

Yes, cannabis can make you feel awesome.  It can take the edge off a bad mood like few things.  That includes alcohol.  Especially alcohol.

But — and this is several years of actual experience talking (anecdotal experience every last bit of it — but valid as data nonetheless — and even more valid because it’s such consistent data).

I re-considered cannabis as a product four years ago when I needed help sleeping.  My experience with OTC sleep meds was poor and I feared anything stronger.  Cannabis — indica strains — solved my problem simply, effectively and without breaking the bank.  I fell asleep feeling good — slept longer than I was sleeping previously — and awoke just about EVERY MORNING feeling rested.  Even if the quantity of my sleep still needed improvement, the QUALITY of that sleep was exactly what I needed.

I learned — as I began to explore different cannabis strains — that sativas and hybrids effect my brain differently than most indicas.  I learned from repeated experience that GG4 (a hybrid) and Durban Poison (a sativa) and Dutch Treat (a hybrid) and Trainwreck (another hybrid) and Alaskan Ice (a sativa) and Bertleberry Cheesecake (a sativa) and Chemdawg (a hybrid) — among others — brought not only a sense of ‘well-being’ but discernible CLEAR-HEADEDNESS.

Each and everyone of those strains — when smoked either alone or in concert with each other in various combinations — produced (and produce) a laser-like focus in my mind.  Whether I’m working, cleaning my house — or even playing tennis — these strains make me measurably better at whatever I’m doing.

I also discovered strains that, while not focussing me quite so intensely, did make me feel chatty and social.  Cannabis, like alcohol, gives one a ‘social high’.  But, whereas the social high with alcohol soon devolves — alcohol breaks down prohibitions but also the good sense to NOT break them down when appropriate — cannabis DOESN’T have that effect.

And, as a lot of other people have learned and are learning — if depression has any purchase inside your head?  Alcohol is not your friend.  Cannabis on the other hand is.  It’s not for everyone of course (why, oh WHY does one always have to explain that?)  Everyone’s brain chemistry is different.  But — if we look at the Big Picture (keeping in mind that even pharmaceuticals can kill you or hurt you) — lots and lots and lots of actual DATA says that cannabis is incredibly efficacious for a wide and widening group of people.

Want to argue with me?  Okay.  We may argue but we won’t fight (so long as we’re both toking).

You don’t see a lot of fist fights break out among pot smokers the way you do drinkers.  That’s brain chemistry at work.  And it describes two very different experiences inside our brains.  Perversely, we as a LARGER Culture accept what Alcohol Culture does to people (just as we still accept what Tobacco Culture has done to us — WHY is it even remotely acceptable for A SMOKER to toss their butt as if OUR WORLD were THEIR ash tray?  How the hell did THAT ever become ‘acceptable’ in the first place?)

Alcohol & Cannabis effect us — who we are, what we do — AND WHY — in two vastly different ways.  We need to recognize not only that there ARE differences but WHAT those differences are.

In the meantime — I’m thinking Allen Wrench…