One of my favorite Jerry Seinfeld episodes involves a discussion between Jerry and Elaine. Elaine asks, “So you’re saying that 95% of our population is undatable?” “Undatable!” Jerry exclaims. “Then how are all these people getting together?” she asks. “Alcohol,” is his answer.
There is a certain amount of truth to this statement. Social drinking is an accepted and encouraged part of our society. We drink in celebration of births and deaths, marriages and graduations, and big sporting events. A special dish is one that includes some type of alcohol. Alcohol is given as gifts. The day a person turns 21 and is legally allowed to drink is a day every person looks forward to. Drinking for social reasons is expected by all. Even dear Ben Franklin stated that “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Alcohol is a gift from God!
Alcohol is used, as Jerry says, to make people more attractive and to make ourselves feel more attractive. The current definition of social drinking actually includes drinking to feel comfortable and to relax around others. But the line between social drinking and alcoholism is a thin line and not a line that is the same for everyone.
My father was a serious alcoholic for most of my childhood, eventually joining AA later in life when, as they say, his life had become unmanageable. He had started as a social drinker as a teen. He was a shy boy who wanted to fit in with the crowd. He became a shy man who wanted to fit in with the people at work. At some point, his social drinking became alcoholism.
After joining AA, he led meetings, and served as a sponsor for several people, but that did not keep him sober. I remember meeting him and his wife for dinner and he ordered a beer. Just a beer. His drink of choice had previously been hard liquor, so seeing him drink a beer was both odd and worrying. I knew enough to know that one beer led to another, and would most certainly lead him back to his old routine. He even stated that, “It’s just a beer. No big deal.”
It was a big deal. Within a month, he was drinking wine. Within six months, he was back on the hard stuff in a big way. What began as a way to be more social led to anti-social behavior. His renewed drinking meant he no longer associated with his AA friends, went out less (since he preferred not to drink and drive), and became more of a recluse than he had previously been. His social drinking brought him to alcoholism, which made him the most anti-social person I know.