Friday, April 27, 2012

Same Same, But Different! Part 11: Alcohol And Drugs

Still dead to the world from the previous night I managed to wake him. He was grateful for lunch I'd gotten from a nearby cart for him.

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like 'I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .' " - Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

That's how the late author's second book begins. When it first appeared as a serialized feature in Rolling Stone Magazine in November of 1971 some of my friends at the time felt as though they'd heard the word of God. "Oh, man... I'm gonna live like that!" they shouted, derailing their real lives to emulate the fiction and all too often ending up in the emergency room, some form of treatment center, jail, the morgue or some combination thereof.

What most of them didn't understand was that although Thompson could be a masterful and entertaining writer and spinner of tales he was also a troubled soul who spent his entire life wrestling with demons unknown and unfaced. He lost that match in February of 2005 when he took one of his beloved Smith and Wessons and shot himself in the head. Again, just my opinion, but the world needlessly lost a talented entertainer that day.

Being young, impulsive and bolstered by the invincibility that leads many of us into such foolishness in our youth I, too, jumped the tracks of rational living and paid the price for it. Not because of Thompson or Rimbaud or any other writer; mainly via peers, and there wasn't much pressure necessary to urge a young man with my psyche at the time to join in on what was passing as "fun" back then.

I'm most thankful that I was able to see past the sham of it all a couple of decades ago and stop putting poisons into myself on an hourly basis. Nowadays I shrug my shoulders and shake my head when I hear or read about people who are most certainly old enough to know better expounding on an addle-headed philosophy that falls somewhere to the left of whoopie.

Note, please, that I'm not judging anyone here; I'm just baffled by the behavior. People who can drink alcohol responsibly in a social setting have my profound respect. I can't, so I don't try any more. Some are in the habit of over-indulging on an occasional basis and without lasting damage to themselves, their lives or the lives of those around them, and I'd say that's fine if that pleases them.

In the lion's share of cases those whose prime raison d'ĂȘtre is to get as drunk as possible in an evening either have a problem or are one themselves, in my admittedly less than humble opinion. People who boast about their intake of recreational drugs earn the same respect from me as those who'd stand on a mailbox and shout that they beat their partner or steal from their families. I suspect that many of you agree.

The folks I feel sorry for are those lost souls who deal with a compulsion to drink or use some form of chemical; meaning to have "an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes."  That sort of compulsion.  People drink other than lightly/socially for a cornucopia of reasons, and there's no one label that fits them all.

It's a very real problem in Thailand, too. When it gets bad enough you'll sometimes see them sitting in doorways and along the curbsides of Bangkok "like punchlines between the cars", as Tom Waits put it. If you've spent any time in the country at all you've seen folks there like those in the pictures today.

There are an estimated 17.6 million designated alcoholics in the United States, but I couldn't find any figures for Thailand.  Part of it is cultural - weakness is shameful - and part of it is that there are precious few resources for recovery in the Kingdom.  As for the US figures I doubt that includes the people who don't/can't/won't acknowledge that they have a drinking problem, because their numbers are legion.

If you can drink responsibly, I say more power to you. Have one for me.  If you can't, consider reaching out for some help when you've had enough - and if you're nearing that point you understand what I'm saying.  If this sounds like you and you're in Thailand now, check out the link below.

If you know someone else in Thailand (Thai or not) who is having problems and you know them well enough to be willing to help them, let them know about Alcoholics Anonymous. It does good work in Thailand (and in well over 150 other countries), and by doing so you just might save a life, figuratively or literally.

I couldn't even rouse this couple to offer them food. I left some money under one of her pink slippers.


Anonymous said...

I think you have a good heart.


khunbaobao said...

Thank you, Dax. Under it all I think most all of us do.

It's the choices we make that determine the results we end up living with.