Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Proverbs 23:29-31 (NIV Bible)
It’s funny. Back in my days in high school I used to hang out with a friend I won’t name. He loved to drink and party and I was always trying to win his graces by being invited. We would get obliterated, to the point where this realized he could get over a hangover by shoving his fingers down his throat and forcing himself to puke. I know because he told me to do the same one rough morning after which I saw him do it.
This shit went on into our 20s. But then it finally hit me: I was tired being hungover and wanting to die after a long night at the bar. So I stopped drinking. Sure, I’d go out to a bar and have a social beer with friends, but I damn had a cutoff point.
During this time my friend kept up the lifestyle. At one point I actually was his roommate saw how much he could drink. He was also a bartender and boasted about drinking on the job.
I’ll be honest, it crossed my mind that he could be on the start to being an alcoholic. Almost to the point where I wanted to say some. But I never did. I never saw him lose control of himself, never sneak drinks off after breakfast.
A couple of years went by and then one Christmas Eve I saw on the news that my friend had been killed in a drunk driving incident. My immediate concern was that he had been the cause of the accident but the cruel twist of the phenomenon was that it was the other driver who was drunk–and in an even more crueler twist–lived.
So what’s the point? My friend had been sober and he wasn’t an alcoholic. He was a social drinker and liked to have fun. Maybe I’m an idealist, or perhaps trying to create meaning where there is none, but it’s telling it was my mom and I sat in horror watching the news unfold on Channel 11 asking ourselves could he have really been the cause of such an unnecessary crash?
Since that happened I always try to make sense out of the event. How fucking ironic that the guy I thought might be an alcoholic was killed by another social drinker. The same night a drunk dude killed my friend, he had posted numerous times he was getting obliterated on Facebook, to the point that a friend commented and asked if he needed a ride. He said he didn’t.
I get so mad thinking about, but it always hits me that that the friend and I were just the same. I can’t count the times I’ve drove drunk or slightly buzzed, nor the amounts of time my friend did. No, he wasn’t the drunk driver that fateful night, but he could have easily been, just as I could. Just as numerous people of my generation could have. We tell ourselves that we’re just having fun. But chew on this, I beg of you: Go to a bar and watch how many people slam down beer after beer and drive home. And then think about whose family will watch the news the next day.
Written in 2015 as a reflection of hedonism in the music video “Habits“