How a Man Drinks Responsibly: Ask These 3 Questions

The following is adapted from an article appearing on the Art of Manliness website.

As adults, . . . we are encouraged to become close friends with alcohol. It is a commonly held belief that alcohol should be a necessary part of our dining out experiences, not to mention any celebratory event.

It is common to link a [19th] birthday with celebrating the legal right to drink. What’s a bachelor party without a hangover the next day? Or a . . . dinner without a bottle of wine? What’s a Super Bowl party without . . . beer?

But perhaps it’s wiser to take a closer look at our overall acceptance of alcohol. Maybe we need to be more reluctant toward imbibing. More skeptical. More wary.

Consider three questions everyone should ask:

1. Do I know when enough is enough?

On a recent two-hour domestic flight I was seated next to a middle-aged businessman who ordered a double Scotch every time the stewardess passed by.

He was an affable sort, and we talked about the Seahawks and business and our [children]. By the time we had landed, he had consumed six double Scotches and was slurring his words. He pulled out his smart phone and posted a smiley-faced message on Facebook about how much he had to drink on the flight.

Alcohol companies themselves offer this same message: alcohol is safe when used responsibly; but alcohol is not safe when used irresponsibly.

Just think of every episode of COPS you have ever seen. Alcohol impairs judgment, inflames passions, and invites conflict. It is a common link in car accidents, neighbourhood disturbances, assault, divorce, theft, rape, and all-around stupidity.

According to modern history, the solution is not prohibition.

Yet a wise man will know the true nature of any product he ingests. As much as he might marvel at alcohol and respect the craftsmanship of making it, he will also be wary of it. A man should be aware of and honest about what “moderation” for him means — about how many drinks he personally can consume before his judgement becomes significantly impaired. He should be able to know his limits and be disciplined enough to honour them. He will know the hollowness of insisting that being hurt by alcohol cannot happen to him.

2. Is anyone pressuring me to drink?

We tend to think of peer pressure as something only teenagers wrestle with. But peer pressure exists anytime the people around us goad us to do something we do not want to do. It happens in adulthood, too.

Have you ever attended a Christmas party or wedding reception where the host has paid for an open bar and everyone’s drinking heavily? You feel out-of-place, even rude, if you stand around sipping water.

Or have you ever been out with your office buddies after work and a few pitchers of beer are ordered? You’re expected to drink up, or else you’re not a team player.

Maybe we need to question these practices.

I have got a good friend who struggled with excessive drinking in his early days who is now completely on the wagon. Everybody loves him — he is still fun to be around. These days he usually orders Coke at a restaurant. To be polite, he will toast with a full champagne glass at a wedding but not drink any. He is Catholic and eats the wafer but carefully avoids the wine when taking communion.

A wise man understands the fine line between fitting in with social convention, and doing something simply because everybody else expects you to do it.

If you do not want to drink, then do not let anybody pressure you to drink.

3. Do I drink to escape my pain?

I have worked with any number of WWII vets who have been candid in describing the drinking problems they battled after returning home from conflict.

They describe how alcohol was their generation’s drug of choice, and how the habits that began innocently enough as young men often developed into big problems later on.

The vets who pulled out of it are blunt in their assessment today. A real man does not try to self-medicate away his problems, they say. He tackles his problems head on, gets to the root of the issue, and positively works through his difficulties.

The vets do not say this to shame any man or put him in his place.

They say this because they have been there. They know what works and what does not. They know alcohol won’t heal any wound.