Flat Earthers and alcohol drinkers have one thing in common. They deny the truth in the face of mounting evidence (I could add people who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen to this category, but I don’t want to get political, because Trumpsters drink alcohol, too).
I wasn’t hanging around Greece in 500 B.C., so I really don’t know how the initial conversations went, but maybe it was something like this: “Hey, do you see the end of the earth over there? Well, I sailed over there, and the edge just kept moving,” said Greek guy 1. Greek guy 2 probably retorted, “Oh yeah, well I’ve never sailed over there, and I can see the edge of the earth from here, so I think you’re full of shit.” The edge of the earth, or lack thereof, didn’t impact Greek guy 2’s daily life, so there was no reason for him to pay attention to his friend or adjust his belief system. He just kept living his life and believing the plastic he put in his recycling bin was being melted down and reused, and not that it was being dumped into the Pacific.
Now, 2,500 years later, evidence is mounting that there is no safe quantity of alcohol, and it is a leading contributor to all kinds of chronic and acute human disasters, yet we drink on with reckless abandon because we can’t see that it impacts us directly. It makes me want to walk over to the end of the earth and jump off in frustration.
A new study was released last week that shows that alcohol consumption in any quantity causes brain damage. All the major news outlets gave it the compulsory 30 seconds to three minutes of coverage. Stephen Colbert even talked about it in his monologue on his wildly popular CBS late night show.
Stephen Colbert is one of my favorite entertainers because of how he combines intelligence, empathy and a biting wit. The guy is funny. Sure, Trumpsters don’t think so, but they still think Mexico is going to pay for the wall that will keep us from falling off the edge of the earth, so I don’t think they are interested in my new-fangled ideas about their favorite beverages, anyway.
Stephen routinely drinks whiskey (or iced tea pretending to be whiskey), as part of his bits. He consistently describes his drinking as medication for worry and stress about the state of national and international affairs. His attitude related to the release of this new study about alcohol and brain damage could be summarized as, alcohol might be killing me, but we’re all going to die from stupid public policy and political malpractice anyway, so who cares?! OK – he’s a political satirist who is paid handsomely to make light of our hopeless tribalism and gridlock. Maybe he shouldn’t be my go-to for the facts on a new study adding to the pile of evidence that alcohol is not meant for human consumption.
But here’s the thing: Stephen Colbert represents the attitude of the vast majority of Americans. The cycle reminds me of the evolving attitude regarding climate change.
For decades, a huge percentage of Americans, if not a majority, believed “global warming,” as it was previously referred to, was bullshit. Then, Biblical fires, floods, hurricanes and ice-cap melting happened, and a few doubters were swayed, but many remained unconvinced because of the NIMBY principle. There was not a hurricane or wildfire in our backyards, so we just kept on putting our plastic in our recycling bins and hoping those two surfers would dredge it from the Pacific to make more of their hipster bracelets. Now, a clear and overwhelming majority believe climate change is real, but we continue to ignore it almost as if incinerating the earth is impossible because everyone knows flat things don’t burn.
And the same thing is happening with our awakening about the dangers of alcohol. We went from centuries of ignorance (those Greek guys were probably drunk while arguing about the intangibility of the horizon) to decades of misinformation. Do you remember that crapola about red wine being good for our hearts? That was brought to us by the same doctors who promoted smoking as being good for digestion (that really, truly happened). And now, the scales are tipping. Undeniable mounting evidence continues to trickle in about the dangers of alcohol consumed in any quantity.
It is undeniable, but thus far, it is not unignorable.
Knowing isn’t nearly as important as doing something about it. I am living proof as I meticulously rinse my gallon milk jugs before crushing them and depositing them with my cardboard boxes and glass bottles.
The point is, public opinion moves at a glacial pace, and it doesn’t help when Stephen Colbert, an influencer of millions, does a bit about the dangers of drinking one minute, then drinks whiskey with his first guest to appear in-person on his show in 14 months the next.
Knowing and doing are very different things. At least we are growing increasingly aware.
Are you a flat Earther as it relates to alcohol? Or do you think cancer, heart disease, memory loss, obesity, diabetes, brain damage and all the other killers linked to alcohol consumption are just a foregone conclusion? Are you satisfied to die a painful death earlier than necessary content with the memories of alcohol-induced fun times of which you have little or no memory? Don’t you want more out of your one ride on this non-spinning plane of flatness?
I don’t smoke cigarettes because I don’t want lung cancer. I also don’t want to smell like an ashtray, I don’t want to light thousands of dollars a year on fire, and I don’t like the stigma attached to smoking, either. But make no mistake about it – the reason I don’t smoke cigarettes is the very likely early death from a painful cause.
Many people quit drinking alcohol because they can’t handle their consumption. Addiction is the one and only causation of their reformation. All the rising clamour about health risks falls on deaf ears. Sobriety is for alcoholics, and it is as esteemable as growing a third nipple on the middle of your forehead. No one wants sobriety.
The dangers alcohol presents to everybody, alcoholic or not, is undeniable, but it is not yet unignorable.
What will change that? We’ve got to shift our focus away from putting out the wildfires to preventing them from starting in the first place. Sobriety and recovery for alcoholics has no influence on our culture. Sobriety needs to become more appealing than ignorantly drinking whiskey – or iced tea – on TV and glorifying alcohol for millions.
I didn’t stop smoking when I got lung cancer. I stopped smoking to reduce my chances of contracting a deadly disease. Likewise, we must stop waiting to contract alcoholism before we stop drinking. Recovery rates hover around a single-digit percentage. There is no guarantee you can stop once addicted. We need to stop drinking to eliminate our chances of a life of misery and regret.
The question is not, “Am I an alcoholic?” The question is, “Do I want to become an alcoholic?” The other correct question is, “Do I want to increase my chances of contracting cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, brain damage and memory loss?” If the answer is, “No,” then the answer is sobriety.
Take a trip around the world, buy a 4Ocean bracelet, and have faith in our American democratic process. Just don’t drink to celebrate your enlightenment, intelligence and freedom, or you just might lose all three.
If you would like some help from a community who understands, join us in SHOUT Sobriety. It’s where undeniable meets unignorable.