Sober second thought on booze

The music is loud, the lights are low and the air stinks of stale beer.
It’s Friday night, 9 p.m., and my friends have “designated” me as the driver. But soon I’ll be policing their behaviour like a babysitter.
As people shuffle in and the bar staff hustle to fill drink orders, my enjoyment of the evening quickly dims. Drinking Coke doesn’t quite cut it.
I can’t drink. Not because I’m a recovering addict or smugly perched on some moral high-ground. It’s called alcohol intolerance and it’s like an allergy.
At least that’s how I explain it to drunk people when they ask. It’s hard to give medical definitions to someone swaying on the spot whose only concern is getting bombed and getting laid.
So why do I go to bars and clubs if I don’t drink? You can only see so many movies before you go crazy. Bowling you say? They serve beer there and I don’t enjoy dodging 12-pound bowling balls being flung backwards by inebriated friends.
And it’s these plastered friends who reflect how our society is obsessed with booze. There are more expressions for getting shit-faced than I can count on all my fingers and toes.
Speaking of counting, the Alberta government has some pretty startling statistics associated with “the sauce.”
Currently in our province, there are upwards of 1,800 liquor retailers. From October 2009 to October 2010, over 3.4-trillion litres of alcohol were sold through these liquor stores. (That means over $700 million in revenue for the provincial government, btw.)
And there are over 8,000 establishments with liquor licenses.
That’s a lot of booze.
In fact, 32 per cent of Albertans consume alcohol one to three times a week.
And binge drinking – consuming more than five drinks per guy and four drinks for women in one sitting – is another story. A hilarious story.
When I watch bar patrons dance after taking in too much liquid courage, I can’t help but laugh my ass off. People walk around double-fisting drinks, spilling, sloshing and slamming them back until their eyes glaze over and speech slurs.
Ladies become loud and inappropriate girls. Groups of gentlemen suddenly become wolf-packs of hyper aggressive alpha-males looking to fight anyone brazen enough to make eye contact.
So why – given the inevitable end result of a pounding head and empty wallet – do people choose to get loser-pissed until they vomit and lose their dignity?
Alcohol is a social lubricant. Having a few drinks will loosen people up and make us humans more sociable. But I have to admit, it looks like a lot of fun.
Still how many stupid situations have people gotten themselves into that revolve around alcohol before they realize a few good laughs aren’t worth the risks? The tigers in the Calgary zoo can tell you about one of them.

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