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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Drinking and Smoking: A case of "hand in hand"

I've realized that much to the general aversion I've imposed on myself about the whole drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco thing, it remains a reality that from time to time I seem to enjoy either activity. Worse still, there are often times when I seem to enjoy both in tandem. So, and because the thought happened to cross my mind during lunch, I thought I'd look into these "activities" a little more and see what I came up with.

Way back in my last two years in high school I found myself delving in the art of drinking to get high. An escape though it was, I now realize that at the point in time in which I engaged myself in this activity I didn't understand the full import of what I was doing. Why I was doing it was easy because it seemed to me to be a form of release in spite of the potential dangers of "getting caught" by any one of a number of school officials, such as my dorm parent or the chaperones on duty at the weekend "canteen". Now, when I say canteen I am referring to a high school dance session that lasts for about two and a half hours where the music played is the most popular rock, reggae, heavy metal, pop, or otherwise "hit" songs of the time.

But like I said, I didn't realize that outside of this binge drinking in high school, there existed a kind of drinking that seemed to be more in line with what 'adults' do; social drinking. After the 12th grade I soon realized that I didn't enjoy the drinking for the sake of socializing simply because it was a waste of time for me. On the other hand, excessive consumption of alcohol at family get-togethers didn't seem to work for the other people at these gatherings, so I made up my mind that I didn't know how to drink for the sake of drinking and gave it up altogether. Needless to say there were several incidents during this self-realization that led me to reinforce this belief, but I'd have to say that it was all part of the ongoing discovery, or the process of such, anyway.

So, there I was at Koshy's for lunch today. I decided to go for my favorite Steak and Onions, with a side of Kingfisher. In the midst of my meal, I happened to just wonder about the fact that I was, in effect, going against some of the very things that I'd set out to not do in my own life; to avoid non-vegetarian wares and alcohol, to name a couple of things. Yet, here I was relishing the beef steak and washing it down with a decent amount of the 'tan bubbly', as I like to call it. I don't seem to be able to give you pictures of the meal and beverage, and I'm also going to have to say that the lighting in Koshy's is not particularly conducive to photography, so I'm giving you a look at the bill...or bills, as the case may be.

First up, the alcohol bill:
Kingfisher beer...because it's good?

And now for the food bill:
Steak and Onions followed by some Lemon die for!!!

For those of you who are ignoring the point I'm trying to make by focusing on the bill amount, let's just say that I decided to treat myself, ok?

But I began to ask myself what it was that I was trying to achieve or do by becoming vegetarian and refraining from consuming alcohol. It seems that the answer to this question came up last month when I was talking to someone about my non-vegetarian endeavors and realized that it was a 'political' cause. I wasn't doing it for reasons of my own well-being, but instead, for the suffering of countless animals who are born in cages, spend their entire lives in cages, and meet cruel ends to land up on the dining table as a meal...or two. And the drinking thing, or giving it up altogether, was more of an issue of comfort for me. In other words, I didn't seem to be comfortable with drinking because when I did I went the whole nine yards and the results were usually disastrous.

In a case of "the obvious next step", I've often found that when consuming alcohol, tobacco seems to be a perfect companion. Moreover, when there is a sumptuous meal involved, the need for tobacco, or the craving rather, seems to be that much stronger. And as is always the case, the quest for rationalization often results in a "Yeah, just like he said" line of arguments. So, I decided to look up what the Internet had to say about the "benefits" of consuming alcohol and tobacco.

The results for alcohol were not as startling as those for tobacco. This is not to say that the findings for the latter were as startling or more so, but you have to realize that almost a liter of beer later the reasoning seems to take on a more exaggerated hue.

As far as the benefits of alcohol go, there have been more than enough studies to indicate the pros and cons of consumption from time immemorial as voiced in this particular finding. The Harvard School of Public Health also seems to adopt a more moderate stance on this subject, as was further echoed, to a certain extent, in a report by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing citing the benefits. These studies or reports seem to be a bit "on the fence" when it comes to the issue of alcohol consumption, and for the sake of their own health, they're probably right to adopt this stance.

When it came to the benefits of tobacco, well, I must say that I was feeling somewhere in between pleasantly surprised and shocked. The first study that I came across was on the website, and it seemed to be a compilation of previous studies found to support the smoking of tobacco. Then there was this bizarre story on the BBC website that was titled "Fury over 'benefits of smoking' report". The main point of this "report" as it were, was that by encouraging people to smoke, and therefore die earlier than they normally would, the government, in this case the Czech government, would not incur additional costs of "healthcare or housing for the elderly". To add madness to the already outlandish, there was this beauty from titled "The cultural and economic benefits of smoking". And at this point I decided to call it a day.

There is a maxim that I came upon in my life when I was a teenager, and that was "To each her/his own". Needless to say that it's been modified to be more politically correct, but it's something that I've lived by, for the most part, these past 10 years or so of my life. I have to admit that I ignored it in my quest for the one true way of living, or to attempt to reach the zenith of such an existence. But as time has gone on, I've realized that the best way to live is to live the way one is comfortable. True that this may involve any number of acts of treason, sacrilege, human indeceny, and outright unholiness...but there is the ultimate balance that will sort out whatever mess it is that you create in the world. More realistically speaking, if your way of life was terribly out of synch with that of the people around you, you would either be pressed to change it, or exterminated altogether. Such is life, and such are the ways of this world.

So, what can I say came of this splendid meal and the constant chattering of my mind? Nothing that I hadn't already come upon prior to this, unfortunately. And such an outcome is never futile or otherwise not worth it because it just goes to show that no matter what we do, we barely scratch the surface of this Earth. The only time you truly do that is if someone decides to stick you six feet under, and by that time it's too late for you to notice.

Therefore, eat, drink, and be merry...for tomorrow you may not be able to.
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