What is socially acceptable?

Hugo and I have always found it rather funny how drinking alcohol to excess is completely socially acceptable yet using and abusing other drugs, or other destructive behavior, is absolutely not.  It is laughable and strange yet I believe this phenomenon only exists in this country, and possibly a few others.  In the United States of America, I can buy beer at 6am and start my day.  I can arrive for an outbound flight and enjoy a mimosa or two at the airport bar.  I can giggle about it being ‘happy hour somewhere’, as I pop a bottle of wine mid-afternoon in reference to it not being too early to start drinking if I were in another time zone.  And I can crawl into work or to a kindergarten conference the next morning, chalking up my hangover to a rough office party or night on the town, all while everyone looks on, doesn’t judge and understands because they have most likely been there before themselves.

Now just imagine if all of my above scenarios involved heroin.  If I hit the street at 6am to score a bag of heroin or shot up in the airport lounge before boarding my plane, we might not be giggling about it being ‘happy hour somewhere’.  Or worse, if you dragged your ass into your children’s school, with a hoodie and dark shades on, looking like hell because you used too much heroin last night and your body was struggling to come back to life.  What would the commentary be then?

Well, for starters, I bet those children at that kindergarten conference would be taken away from you.  And your employer for the office party may not be your employer for much longer.  And every relationship would suffer and all respect would be lost as you were now labeled as a heroin addict with a pathetic problem.  A gross person who had slid below the moral and ethical threshold, who lacks common decency and is completely socially unacceptable in the upper middle-class, suburban bubble.

It doesn’t make sense, particularly when you look at how outrageously destructive alcohol is for everyone it touches.  From elevating some imbibers to yelling, fighting, violent individuals, to causing those behind the wheel to take another human being’s life, alcohol is an awful, oddly acceptable drug.  While it is perfectly legal in most areas of the US (I say most because there are still dry counties), it is also responsible for some of the most horrific domestic violence incidents and murders, whether by someone’s hand or a drunk someone’s car.

We have been affected by alcohol in our own family and this is partly why this topic comes to mind for me.  Hugo’s pregnant cousin and unborn child were killed by a drunk driver in Florida – she was just 22 years old with her whole life ahead of her.  Her father, a now-retired air traffic controller and Hugo’s uncle, never recovered from the loss.  Since that tragic night, he has begun and ended every day with a travel mug full of straight vodka.

Both of our families through the years have also been heavy drinkers, with some members of the family drinking more than others.  Hugo’s mom drinks vodka like water after 4pm every day and since she was raised in a drinking environment, she knows nothing different and thinks nothing of it.  My father, right before being diagnosed as a type II diabetic, was overweight, depressed and drinking heavily, at times to the point of passing out in his underwear while sitting on the basement stairs.  Or better yet, passing out while seated at the dinner table, resting his head on his hand, in front of 16 year old me, my mother and maybe a friend I had over for dinner that night.  Thankfully that embarrassing and sickening behavior came to an abrupt end when he became sober a few short years later.

Our close friend Andy has been a struggling alcoholic for almost two decades now.  Just this month (January of 2020) marks his 15th or so round of rehab and yet another shot at reaching and maintaining sobriety.  We hope and pray to our spaghetti god that Andy can make it out of his nightmare alive.  He deserves better than barricading himself in a cheap motel as he downs quarts of cheap clear liquor and nothing else for days on end.

And finally, as I believe I have written on before, Hugo and I were affected by the nasty effects of alcohol.  Luckily and thankfully our experiences were nothing more than arguments over nonsense when we drank.  Arguments that we didn’t want to have but somehow always found ourselves in.  We made the decision to treat one another better and not engage in that lifestyle so I can now proudly say we no longer drink to excess.  The occasional glass or two of wine or beer (and by occasional, I mean once or twice a year) is our new, healthy routine and it works well for us.

I bet if you looked at most American families, their stories would be littered with similar experiences about the devastating effects of alcohol.  Too many relationships have been compromised, too many lives have been lost and too many people have lost themselves to addiction, yet this drug is completely legal, readily available, and actually celebrated in many ways.  And it is all relative and based on geography because heroin, in contrast, is legal in other parts of the world.  I am sure people in those areas have tales of how heroin has affected their family members, but I imagine it isn’t quite as ‘Category 5 hurricane’ as alcohol is here.  While there are always extremes and every drug carries its own set of issues with it, I do believe that particular intoxicants are more devastating to human beings than others.  There is also something to be said about how drugs are craved, abused and respected when and once they are legalized.



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