This year I gave up alcohol for Lent (again) fully anticipating to begin drinking again come Easter. But upon more reflection lately, I’ve been thinking about giving it up for good.
One resource that has been particularly influential for me is Nick Riotfag’s “Towards a Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle“. Its a straight-edge, self-published zine that was released in 2003. One of the issues Nick explores is the “complex relationship between intoxication, gender, and rape.” He asserts that alcohol is usually involved in male violence against women, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape. Our “intoxication culture” is dependent on alcohol for finding sexual partners and even for having sex. Nick claims that alcohol negatively impacts conversation and greatly reduces our ability to give and receive meaningful consent. “The intoxication of both or all parties makes it difficult to sort out accountability.” His critique continues on to examine “bar culture” and intoxication from an anti-capitalist perspective: “We bond over buying, consuming, numbing, and things rather than creating, experiencing, feeling, and personalities.”
It seems as if alcohol and violence are closely intertwined in our culture. No wonder some the Suffragettes and First-Wave Feminists were also early advocates of the Temperance Movement!
Of course I have other reasons for not drinking. The absurd capitalist exploitation involved with “the bar” dawned on me a while ago. A bar is a place where people go to buy extremely overpriced alcohol and bartenders and servers are making less than minimum wage. The workers’ wages are supposed to be made up in tips from customers. So in the end, bar customers are paying relatively outrageous amounts of money in comparison to any other establishment, and bar owners are making outrageous profits. What makes things worse is the fact that for some people, alcohol is an addiction, and bars are preying on the weaknesses of those people.
Another reason I feel led to give up alcohol is that my family has a history of trouble with it. My sister can’t stay out of jail because of it. My dad can’t get his driver’s licence because of it. There has been a history of alcoholism and domestic violence in my family. Even if alcohol has never caused me to become violent, or even get into too much trouble, I feel that it is my responsibility to help create alternative activities to drinking in my life, both for my family and for other people that I love. If I participate in drinking, it makes it that much harder for the next person to say “no”. If I choose not the drink, it makes it that much easier.
Part of me fears that choosing not to drink will make me less interesting of a person. Even deeper down though, I think that is not true.
Recently, I listened to an interview with Tom Waits, where he had this to say about giving up alcohol:
“Well, I wanted – I’ve always wanted to be curious and provocative, I guess, and interesting, and interested in this kind of sparkling, you know, sapphire we all call home, you know. I always wanted to be mystified by it all – and rather fascinated with life itself. And I don’t know, when, you know, I think maybe when you drink, you are – you’re probably robbing yourself of that genuine experience, even though it appears what you’re doing is getting more of it. You’re getting less of it. And it takes a while, when you’ve had a rock on the hose like that for so long. It takes a while for the hose to be a hose again, you know, and for things to start flowing.”
I think I’ll take his word for it.