Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I AM AN ALCOHOLIC WHO DOES NOT DRINK ALCOHOL - AN ALCOHOLIC IS BORN, NOT MADE

I AM AN ALCOHOLIC WHO DOES NOT DRINK ALCOHOL

ALCOHOLICS ARE BORN, NOT MADE
An Alcoholic is Born, Not Made
Incoherent Ramblings of an Retired Alcoholic
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer: These are my personal views based on my personal life experiences


ONCE AN ALCOHOLIC  ALWAYS AN ALCOHOLIC

I am an alcoholic.

I am an alcoholic who does not drink alcohol.

Yes, at present, I am a “teetotaller”.

I am an alcoholic.

And I am a teetotaller.

So I guess you call me an “alcoholic teetotaller”.

You think I am crazy?

Let me explain.

You must have heard a saying:

“All those who drink alcohol do not become alcoholics. But all alcoholics drink alcohol”.

I agree with the first part of the saying.

Yes: “all those who drink alcohol do not become alcoholics”.

But I do not agree with the second part of the saying which says that: “all alcoholics drink alcohol”.

This is not entirely true.

There are many “alcoholics” who do not drink alcohol.

For example, there is me.

I am an alcoholic who does not drink alcohol.

Of course, there was a time when I drank plenty of alcohol.

Let me tell you of the stages of my life as far as alcohol is concerned.


MY LIFE STAGES AS AN ALCOHOLIC

My life can be divided into 3 phases:

1. ABSTINENCE 

From Birth to Adulthood (0 – 21 years) – my student days when I did not touch alcohol.

2. DRINKING DAYS

The Prime Years of my Life (21 – 46 years) – my drinking days when I drank plenty of alcohol.

3. TEMPERANCE

My Acme Years (46 years onwards) – my temperance years of teetotalism after I quit drinking alcohol at the age of 46.


GENETIC PREDISPOSITION and ENVIRONMENTAL PROVOCATION

You may ask me: “How can you be an alcoholic if you could quit drinking alcohol?”

Or in other words: “How can you remain an alcoholic even after you have quit drinking alcohol?”

The answers is YES.

You can remain and alcoholic even after you quit drinking alcohol.

Let me elucidate.

You must have heard a saying:

LEADERS ARE BORN, NOT MADE

In a similar vein, I would like to say:

ALCOHOLICS ARE BORN, NOT MADE

Yes, an alcoholic is born, not made

I was a born alcoholic.

However, I did not get a chance to drink alcohol till the age of 21.

So, I remained a “latent alcoholic” (or you may say a “potential alcoholic”).

At 21, after I had joined the navy, I had my first drink of alcohol.

This first drink activated the “alcoholism switch” in my brain.

I realized how much I loved drinking alcohol.

I enjoyed drinking – and alcohol became an important part of my life.


ENVIRONMENTAL PROVOCATION

In the Navy, the environment was conducive to drinking alcohol 

In fact, the Naval Social Environment provoked you to drink alcohol

(Maybe it is the same in the army and some other professions too where drinking alcohol is a part of life and you have to resist if you want to remain a teetotaller)

I realized that, if you are an “alcoholic”, the Navy is probably the best place to be in.

Naval life revolved around drinking alcohol.

In the Navy, alcohol was the social lubricant which fostered friendship and camaraderie.

Sitting in the bar drinking together, on-board and ashore, strangers become friends as they drank together.

Those glorious drinking scenes of bonhomie established enduring bonds of comradeship and friendship which have lasted even till today.

Yes, alcohol was the golden bond of fellowship.

My best friends were my navy drinking buddies, cutting across rank, seniority and age.

In the Navy, every occasion calls for a drink.

Any event, official, social or personal, was celebrated by drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

“Make and mend” days or “stripe wetting” ceremonies were celebrated by “elbow bending” PLDs (Pre Lunch Drinks) where beer was guzzled by the gallon.

Though you did not drink when sailing, whenever you were in harbour, or posted in a shore billet, you drank almost every evening – there were cocktail parties, mess nights, or informal booze-up get-togethers of friends, or you just went across to the wardroom, mess or club for a drink.

The best of duty-free foreign liquor was available on ships, and ashore too, the bars and canteens were well stocked with the best Indian brands of booze.

In a nutshell, the naval social environment encouraged and eulogized drinking.

If you were a robust drinker who could hold his liquor well, you were considered a good officer, and that you had good OLQ (Officer Like Qualities).

On the other hand, a teetotaller was considered a sissy.

Drinking was considered “macho” – a sign of manliness – and non-drinkers were mocked and ridiculed as effeminate weaklings.

In fact, I sometimes wondered why these non-drinkers had joined the navy, since alcohol was the main attraction of naval life.

Almost every naval officer drank alcohol, and there were hardly any teetollalers.

Drinking was the mainstay of naval social life.

As I told you earlier, PLDs, Cocktail Parties, Formal Mess Nights, Formal Social Calls and informal drinking binges were a regular feature and I felt pity watching the few teetotallers as they suffered a torturous time holding a soft drink for hours while all of us enjoyed our booze during those glorious naval parties.

This alcohol-conducive environment which enthused and provoked drinking was ideal for a “latent alcoholic” like me to turn into a “full blown alcoholic”.

Since I was a “born alcoholic”, I already had a genetic predisposition to alcoholism (alcoholism is in my DNA).

Till I joined the navy, because I did not drink alcohol, I remained a “latent alcoholic”.

The various reasons due to which I did not drink alcohol as a young student can be summed up as: “in my younger days my environment was not conducive to drinking alcohol”.

So, I remained a “latent alcoholic”.

The moment I joined the navy, the environment became very conducive for drinking alcohol, and this “environmental provocation” was the trigger, impetus and catalyst which transformed my “latent alcoholism” into “full blown alcoholism”.

Thus, “Alcoholism” is a combination of “genetic predisposition” and “environmental provocation


ALCOHOLISM = GENETIC PREDISPOSITION + ENVIRONMENTAL PROVOCATION

Alcoholism” is a combination of “genetic predisposition” and “environmental provocation

We can express this as a mathematical formula:

Alcoholism = genetic predisposition + environmental provocation

I had the genetic predisposition or propensity for alcoholism.

But, in my younger student days, there was an absence of environmental provocation – so I remained a “latent alcoholic”.

The moment I joined the navy, the conducive environmental provocation triggered my genetic predisposition – the “alcoholism switch” was activated in my brain – and my penchant for alcohol was allowed to manifest and flourish.

Before I realized it, I was on the road to alcohol dependence and full blown alcoholism.

But a time did come when I did realize that I if continued drinking alcohol I would eventually slip into the abyss of alcoholism to the point of no return.

I had seen this happening to a few of my seniors, who had become alcohol dependent, and some had turned into full blown alcoholics.

I have seen this happening in the civilian world too.

Many say that alcoholism is on the rise.

In the strict sense, alcoholism always existed - only is was not visible.

In the past too, there were always many “latent alcoholics” with genetic predisposition” to alcoholism.

However, due to various cultural taboos and non-availability of alcohol due to prohibition policies, these “latent alcoholics” did not get a chance to become “full blown alcoholics” (due to absence of environmental provocation”).

This aspect is particularly evident in women.

Earlier, owing to cultural taboos women did not drink alcohol, so many women “latent alcoholics” who may have had a genetic predisposition” to alcohol did not get a chance to become “full blown alcoholics” since there was absolutely no environmental provocation”.

Now, with drinking taboos removed, and the urban social environment becoming more and more conducive for women to drink alcohol, there is an opportunity for women who are “latent alcoholics” to become “full blown alcoholics”. 


WAKE UP CALL

The first “wake up call” I got was at a cocktail party around 12 years ago.

I drank 11 large pegs of whisky (almost a full bottle).

However, there was no effect on me.

Neither I, or anyone else, could discern that I had consumed such an enormous amount of alcohol.

In fact, a friend told me next morning about the enormous amount of whisky I had drunk and that he was surprised to see me behaving absolutely soberly.

He wondered as to how I could be normal after consuming 11 large pegs of whisky, when just 6 pegs of whisky made him drunk.

This meant that my alcohol tolerance level had increased enormously – and this was the first danger signal of impending trouble if I continued drinking alcohol.

I decided to stop drinking alcohol.

I had no choice.

I had a “genetic predisposition” to alcoholism.

Alcoholism was in my DNA and there was nothing I could do about it.

So the only option was to tackle “environmental provocation”.

I drastically changed my lifestyle and tried to be in a “non-alcoholic environment”.

Even now, almost 12 years since I quit drinking, I try to avoid “environmental provocation” to drink alcohol.

This has certainly affected my social life.

I avoid occasions and places where alcohol is served.

I don’t keep alcohol at home.

And ever since I stopped keeping booze at home a lot of my friends have stopped visiting me.

You may feel that these may seem extreme steps, and you may laugh at me – but then you are not a “born alcoholic”.

Whether I like it or not, I am a “born alcoholic” – and that is why I have to be careful.


ARE YOU A BORN ALCOHOLIC” ?

How do you discover if you are a “born alcoholic”?

If you never drink, you will never come to know and that is the best thing.

But the moment you have your first drink, and the “alcoholism switch” triggers in your brain, you will come to know that you are a “born alcoholic” – you will start loving alcohol more than anything else.

And then you know what to do.

If you are a “born alcoholic”, then you have to control the “environmental provocation” so that it does not impel you towards drinking.

Otherwise, the deadly combination of “genetic predisposition” and “environmental provocation” can make you “alcohol dependent” and gradually turn you into a “full blown alcoholic”.

Remember: An alcoholic is born, not made.

Yes: “Alcoholics are Born, Not Made”.

Tell me one thing.

What should you do once you discover that you are a “born alcoholic”?

Is it wise to live in denial and ultimately become a full-blown alcoholic?

Or is it better to be frank like me and candidly say: “I am an alcoholic and that is why I do not drink alcohol”

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
NB:
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Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
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This is an updated version and repost of my article : ALCOHOLICS ARE BORN NOT MADE posted on this blog on 19 Oct 2013 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/10/alcoholics-are-born-not-made.html
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