Freeman asks: I am worried about my health. About 3 times a month, my friend and I share a bottle of wine (half each). We think it’s the only way to go out at night and have fun, by drinking nearly once a week. We have been doing this for the last 7 months. I have a few times had some vodka as well. Is this killing me? How is it affecting me? Is it serious? Please help. Thank you.
Hi Freeman –
Okay, I’ll dare to take on this extremely difficult subject, but I’m going to make a disclaimer first. If you’re a teenager or child, the fact is you shouldn’t be drinking large amounts of alcohol ever. Your body’s still growing, and it can cause real damage, and contribute to addiction problems later. I’m not talking about a small amount you might have at family dinners (and I’m certainly not telling you to refuse any religious rituals you may partake in!), but what you’re describing is a bit more than that.
But, on the assumption that you’re a bit older…
As a dog who finds great joy in everything from garbage cans to fire hydrants, I am not able to look down on anyone for enjoying alcoholic drinks. Humans have been using and enjoying alcohol for millennia. Of course, they’ve also been suffering from the health and behavioral problems it can create for just as long. So if you’re going to drink, your job is to obey a few rules; if you can do these, you should be fine.
1) Never, ever, ever, ever drive a car when you’re intoxicated. If you don’t know whether or not you’ve had too much to drink, there are devices you can get that will test your breath and tell you. Most countries have strict laws that would mean you could get arrested or jailed or lose your drivers license if you get caught driving over an alcohol limit. But that would be a mild punishment, compared to how horrible you’d feel for the rest of your life if your drinking made you drive in such a way that you hurt or killed someone. So just don’t do it.
2) Alcohol affects different people’s emotions in different ways. Some people get silly and friendly and lose their boundaries. Other people get angry or sad. Some people get mean. Know what happens to you. And plan accordingly. If drinking makes you friendly and trusting, maybe it’s best to make sure your friends don’t let you go home with strangers (or “new friends”). If it makes you mean, it’d be best to have ways to keep you out of fights!
3) Your liver is one part of you that cannot be repaired. And it’s extremely difficult to get a liver transplant. Drinking excessively puts a lot of strain on your liver, and can cause a horrible disease called cirrhosis, which eats it away! Now again, I’m not trying to scare you off from having any alcohol, but it’s way easier on your liver if you have smaller amounts. I can’t tell you the perfect amount, but… Basically, if you’re feeling bad the next morning, you had too much!
4) Different humans also have different genetic propensities for addiction to alcohol. But you can figure that there’s a general rule that the more often you drink, and the greater amount you drink at those times, the better chance you have of developing a Drinking Problem. Is three times a month with half a bottle of wine too much? I don’t know. For some it would be, for others not. You’re the best judge. (But if you think you might be heading toward alcoholism, do anything you can to avoid it – everything about it seems just awful!)
5) Okay, the only thing that you said that bothered me was this: “We think it’s the only way to go out at night and have fun.” Really? Then you two need some serious education! The truth is that there are COUNTLESS other things to do that are fun. How do you think non-drinkers get through life?! Go to movies, go to an amusement park, go dancing, walk along a beach… Hey you can go to a bar and just drink soft drinks, and have a phenomenal time! (Maybe even better than when you have that half-bottle!)
So yet again, freeman, I’ll say that I’m no doctor, and of course I don’t even know you. When you ask if your drinking is hurting (or killing) you, I don’t have the faintest idea. But I do know two things. I know that you’re taking responsibility for it (by asking me this question), and that you’re a bit worried about it. So I say GREAT that you’re being as responsible as you are. And maybe your worry is a good thing. Maybe it’s time you and your friend (or at least you) cut back just a little. Find some other fun things to do. Or drink a little less.
Most people drink safely and have a wonderful time with it. Most likely you’re able to be one of those. Then there are those who drink unsafely and make lives miserable. By being cautious and responsible, as you’re being, you are absolutely guaranteed to not fall into that trap.
Thanks for being aware!