Alcohol: how much is too much?


Location: G’s Terrace, Thamel. Time: 6 p.m. Occasion: Frat party. Present: Self, among others. Well, as a person who gets to attend quite a number of parties (no college can beat us when it comes to the number of parties that get organised), I shouldn’t have much to enthuse about. After all, it was just another party on the list. Or was it? Not quite, I guess. First, instead of a DJ, there was a live band playing. The music was brilliant and, of course, we “dance freaks”, as we regard ourselves to be, did manage to find our space on the floor. Second, I ended up drinking a whole glass of beer. Did I like the taste? It was awful! Why then did I gulp down a whole glass? Well, because, I was told once that beer is good for the skin, that’s why. I remember a friend casually referring to my drinking as “lost your virginity, huh?” Intriguing.

We’ve heard about people destroying their lives because of their penchant for alcoholic drinks. Alcohol intake in reasonable amounts is not damaging for most adults. Nevertheless, people numbering aplenty get into grave trouble as a result of their drinking habits. They go lengths to make a fool out of themselves; displaying behaviour that they would not exhibit when sober. Alcohol misuse is blamed for 3.5 per cent of all global death and disability in the world, placing it at parity with tuberculosis, measles, and malaria. A story that comes to the mind is: If you put a frog in a pan of hot water, it’ll jump out before you’ll even manage to spell o-n-e. If the same frog, however, is put in a pan of water at par with its body temperature, with the heat then slowly turned up, the frog will fail to realise what’s happening even when the water turns boiling hot! The reason: the frog remains oblivious of the gradual change in temperature. This story is relevant because of the implications that it holds for alcohol lovers. Alcoholism is an insidious malady, whose consequences don’t storm in but breeze in; the heat is turned on constantly but no one notices. Sly and mystifying! Only when it’s too late do people acknowledge a problem with alcohol.

As a part of our course requirement, a couple of us got the opportunity to research on a topic related to alcohol. A lot of our questions were based on why some individuals can use alcohol without problems but others cannot. While we did not come up with specific conclusions, we learned quite a bit in the process. For instance, acknowledging that help is needed for an alcohol problem may not be easy. In our society, the myth prevails that an alcohol problem is somehow a sign of moral weakness. And although everyone realises that too much alcohol consumption begets poverty and a world of other troubles, people have a much harder time letting go of their alcoholic habit. The truth is, if you have decided, for whatever reason, that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. But yes, sometimes admitting to yourself and others that you need help can be the most difficult step on the road to recovery.

The mystery in the end is how you do it. How do you resist that drink? Where do you get the willpower (or the won’t-power, as in I won’t drink)? For that matter... what the heck is willpower?

Personally, we would advocate the Baumeister plan (the one about exercising the willpower muscle). Tear the challenges you’re facing into bite-sized pieces. Let’s say it’s late and you’re sleepy, but you have an article due on “Alcohol: How much is too much?” Should the article get published, it would fetch much-needed grades to your platter and you keep reminding yourself just how tempting and important that is. But then, what in the world should you write? The introduction, the content, the conclusion… all eludes you, and you go blank. What do you do then? Instead of making yourself write the column, just make yourself go to your desk. Then, just make yourself sit down. And keep going like that, baby step by baby step. It works.

The evidence? You’re reading it.

(Jointly contributed by: Aditma Malla, Junni Rajbhandari, Preeti Shrestha, Rupesh Bhatta, Stuti Basnyet of KUSOM)