19.12.2010 Feature Article

Alcoholism: The Curse Of The Verdant Chalice (part 1)

Alcoholism: The Curse Of The Verdant Chalice part 1
19.12.2010 LISTEN

Alcohol enters as an innocuous object of pleasure only to forcefully displace the rationality of once astute men, transmuting them into puerile pawns. Frank Robert Silverson

In William Shakespeare's Othello, the Moore of Venice, Cassio laments: “O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!” Such is the serious but sometimes funny actions of men who have suffered the curse of the bottle that I present my take on alcoholism; what I call the curse of the verdant chalice.

One unknown author recounts that: “The first thing in the human personality that dissolves in alcohol is dignity.” Irrespective of this statement, people continue to drink without care. This article could not have been timelier considering that the festive season is imminent and the booze is flying off the shelves at a pace that the Concorde never managed in its lifetime.

There are so many reasons that people give to support and justify their views on why they must have a drink. Some have even found scriptures to support why there is nothing wrong with falling for the verdant chalice. An unknown author goes further to suggest that: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”. This is quite a strange suggestion by all accounts. Would it be a surprise if the unknown author (usually deemed to be Benjamin Franklin) was under the influence of the drink to have made such a statement?

There are three groups of people who may be identified when alcoholism is considered: those who are habitual drinkers; those who are social or occasional drinkers; and those who are teetotal. In my observation, the period associated with most drinkers is around a festive period like this. It appears that even the most accomplished teetotal is susceptible to straying in times like these. Mark Twain believes that: “Of the demonstrably wise there are but two: those who commit suicide, and those who keep their reasoning faculties atrophied by drink.”

I do not intend to get into a biblical argument about whether we should drink or not drink. This kind of debate is for another time. My focus here is to focus the discussion on alcoholism whiles calling for people to be teetotal if possible as well as advocating moderation for those who need divine intervention to loosen their grips on the verdant chalice.

The harm caused by alcohol is there for all to see and statistics to corroborate this are not farfetched. Alcohol has and continues to adversely affect and strain personal and family relationships. Children of alcoholic parents often suffer from low self-esteem and emotional disorders such as anxiety. The evidence remains that families are being destroyed by this green bottle, not to suggest that all liquor is packaged as such. I believe you would agree that most of our beer sold is normally in green bottles. I therefore use the term 'green bottle' or 'verdant chalice' to represent alcohol in its entirety. I hope you do not follow Henny Youngman who stated that: “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading”. I urge you to read through to the end of this article.

The euphoria in a festive period like this has proven a viable recruitment bonanza for new drinkers to the fold. Some people have sought to take advantage of the moment by having a drink in a willy-nilly manner. On the contrary, others have ended up being drunk, aided by the genius collusion employed by friends amongst others.

In office parties amongst others, men and women have displayed such behaviour that could best be described as manifesting the signs of the verdant chalice's curse. Graham Greene argues that: “Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.” Such people fail to heed to an advice by an unknown author who stated that: “If you wish to keep your affairs secret, drink no wine.” They also forget Samuel Johnson's caution of a disadvantage of wine: “it makes a man mistake words for thought.” Most drinkers rather subscribe to Robert Louis Stevenson's view that: “Wine is bottled poetry.”

Alcohol has provided a false sense of confidence to many drinkers leading them to do the unthinkable. It influences the way people behave, causing rather calm people to become more violent and easily agitated. It adversely reduces their mental alertness by dulling the senses and succeeds in altering their perception of situations and surroundings.

Alcohol has been blamed for contributing to promiscuity as people have shed their inhibitions and ended up having one night stands amongst others, increasing their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. It so appears that when people get drunk, their level of shyness appears to go through the door and nearly all things become possible.

In The Piccolomini, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller rightly observed that: “When the wine goes in, strange things come out.” I am sure you have come across people who under the influence of alcohol, have gone on to do things that they have regretted when they became sober. To George Gordon, drinking is a “mere pause from thinking!” Mignon McLaughlin adds that: “The chief reason for drinking is the desire to behave in a certain way, and to be able to blame it on alcohol.” Oscar Levant also continues the observation by saying that: “I envy people who drink - at least they know what to blame everything on.”

William Shakespeare's character Cassio, rightly refers to alcohol as an enemy as it has proven destructive to many. It has left untold hardships on individuals as well as families. When the sought-after pleasure has evaporated, alcohol leaves a detrimental impact on the physical, mental and emotional health of its consumers. It is not a surprise then that Giuseppe Garibaldi believes that: “Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune.”

Contrary to what most people expect, there are times that alcohol rather acts as a depressant making one feel unhappy instead of the expected pleasure sought. It is also the case that some have sought to stick to beer or cider and avoid spirits to satisfy their 'conscience' that they are not really heavy drinkers. What they forget though is that in whatever form you drink alcohol, in a nutshell, it has a similar effect on your body.

Alcohol augments the risk of various health conditions in a body, amongst others, heart and liver diseases. Consultant hepatologist, Mark Wright explains that the liver is the central organ in getting rid of the alcohol that is taken in. He argues that to the liver, alcohol is poison that has to be metabolised to make it safe. Too much drinking, he notes, deposits fat on the liver, and as the liver does not like the toxic effect of the alcohol, it becomes inflamed as if one has burnt him/herself. He goes on to say that with a repeated cycle of damage and repair, this can accumulate so much for one to end up with cirrhosis, one of the later stages of alcohol liver diseases.

Further research has found that excessive consumption of alcohol impacts the central nervous system, leading to an impairment of brain function. The result of drinking whiles pregnant may also be the giving birth to children with defects due to foetal alcohol syndrome.

An unknown author serves us with a rather funny quote: “If drinking is interfering with your work, you're probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you're probably an alcoholic.” Alcohol may cause problems in a person's work situation leading to a difficulty in keeping a job.

Irrespective of all the dangers of alcohol, some people remain unperturbed and obdurate in their resolve to drink. It is just like people who smoke although the cigarette pack displays a clear warning that “smoking kills”. They forget that alcohol is a drug that is addictive and can lead a person down a dangerous path.

Some people, particularly social or occasional drinkers feel like they can save up units for when they drink. They are therefore likely to binge drink or drink a lot in one go which is very risky and is responsible for most of the problems associated with drinking alcohol. Others also choose to mix alcohol and other drugs which may prove dangerous and even fatal.

I have seen some parents introduce their children to wine in the hope that they would become responsible drinkers. I wonder who such parents blame when their kids end up becoming addicted to alcohol. Lawrence Balter argues this point better by saying that: “Some parents feel that if they introduce their children to alcohol gradually in the home environment, the children will learn to use alcohol in moderation. I'm not sure that's such a good idea. First of all, alcohol is not healthy for the growing child. Second, introducing alcohol to a child suggests that you condone drinking—even to the point where you want to teach your child how to drink.” P.J. O'Rourke asserts that: “If you are young and you drink a great deal it will spoil your health, slow your mind, make you fat - in other words, turn you into an adult.”

The reasons for people drinking are just too numerous to enumerate. I note though that there are those that use alcohol as a ticket to escapism. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. offers some words of wisdom by insisting that: “If you know someone who tries to drown their sorrows, you might tell them sorrows know how to swim.” It so appears that those who use alcohol to limp through their issues may someday learn that, problems that escape by the exorcism of intoxication finally return in a setting of calm and sobriety.

In a festive period like this, lives are wasted by people who are under the influence of alcohol. There are so many adverts to warn against drink driving yet that does not seem to deter people. In The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell argues that; “Drunkenness is temporary suicide.” Seneca also adds that: “Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.” It so happens that such people end up taking the lives of not just themselves but also other innocent ones.

If you are drunk and still want to get behind the wheels, you must think twice. You must remember that you are not capable of driving as your full mental and physical faculties are not intact. You need to know that alcohol has impaired your coordination, motor skills and judgment and you now have slower reflexes and reaction times. As a bumper sticker advises: “If you must drink and drive, drink Pepsi.” That could be a real word of wisdom to anyone unintentionally planning their own death on the roads, facilitated by the curse of the verdant chalice.

Another piece of advice to those who drink could be that offered by an unknown author who claims that: “It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road.” People who consume much alcohol may suffer physical injuries and experience a reduction in their coordination and mental alertness invoking staggering, swaying and double vision which may result in falls and other injuries amongst others.

If my call for you to be delivered from the curse of the verdant chalice and to become teetotal, is not one you want to be associated with and you would still drink no matter how cogent and persuasive the arguments are, then at least heed Knute Rockne's advice that: “Drink the first. Sip the second slowly. Skip the third.” In any case, my clarion call is for you to aim for total abstinence.

Jean Kerr draws our attention to a very interesting finding: “Even though a number of people have tried, no one has yet found a way to drink for a living.” An unknown author also adds his voice to the debate by pleading that: “Your body is a temple, but keep the spirits on the outside.” I shall return in Part 2 with suggestions for those interested in breaking the curse of the verdant chalice.

Dr. Frank Robert Silverson is the author of articles like Gambling - Addiction or Choice (Parts 1-4), Contemplations of an extra-marital affair: a didactic (Parts 1-3), The Ultimate Leak, and Free Press or Foolishness. He is currently working on Pornography – The Silent Killer (Part 2), Churches – Commerce or Compassion (Parts 1&2), The Verdant Chalice (Parts 2), and Politicians - Machiavellians or Messiahs (Parts 1&2) soon to be published.

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