I live in Vietnam; there are no laws here about alcohol and a lot of western late stage alcoholics come here to finish themselves off. They’re doing a fine job. I’ve seen Vietnamese get red-faced, sweaty, and slurred from one beer. Common interview question is “how many beers can you drink” and men here do NOT socialize without getting drunk on beer, not EVER. When I say “I don’t drink” they hear “I won’t drink with YOU.” Seeing me drinking water men try to pour beer into my glass; the idea that someone would choose not to drink is inconceivable..

Full disclosure first .. I don’t drink alcohol. Not occasionally, not at all. As a teenager I sneaked a few beers and somewhere around age 17 I decided the time had come to get drunk with a bunch of friends. Rum. I drank so much I should have ended up in the hospital or the morgue, and I felt a little tipsy but it really didn’t do much at all and the next day I had no aftereffects. So my decision to not drink didn’t come from a bad reaction. I watched my friends getting stupider every minute, I played along and pretended but after a while it was like socializing with mentally retarded people. And it tasted like gasoline.

I found the experience distasteful but didn’t make the decision to not drink again until about a year later when I tried weed, which I liked a lot and would still smoke if I could get it safely. I decided right away that I would continue smoking it and that one inebriant in my life was enough.

There is no alcoholism in my family, not on either side, and nobody has married into it, which makes us, from all I’ve seen, an extremely lucky bunch. Almost everyone I know drinks in moderation and I was completely unfamiliar with alcoholism until about three years ago when my friend of fifteen years came to stay here a few weeks, and the night he arrived he drank a case, not a sixpack, a case, and did so every night, loading up my fridge with the filthy stuff. It had no visible effect on his speech or coordination but his personality was completely altered: nasty, vicious, condescending. There is still a decent person inside; he dumped a big part of his family for racism, but, well, one night he burst into our bedroom at 2AM over a misunderstanding about a goddamn pastry.

Since then, now that I know the signs, I’ve seen that a number of my coworkers are alkies and there is a syndrome of personality that comes with it. Self-elevating anger, nastiness, viciousness. I want no more to do with alcoholics than with Trump supporters, they are nothing but trouble.

OK, I know, most people who have a glass with dinner are not alcoholics and most people who drink control it just fine. If you don’t have the gene you don’t become one. But I do know organic chemistry and I know that the entire alkyl alcohol family is toxic; ethyl is simply the least toxic but that whether it’s that “relaxed and uninhibited” feeling or “roaring drunkeness” it’s a sublethal poisoning. It’s not a drug. Not at all.

I was never militant about not drinking, I just didn’t get invited to drinking parties. I smoked weed, most people smoked weed and drank. Live and let live. But even that one time I tried to get drunk it was like siphoning gasoline and if I fake a toast and it touches my lips it feels like neurotoxin.

HOWEVER. Knowing what I do now about alcoholics and learning through court-ordered counseling after a weed bust just HOW MANY PEOPLE are having problems with alcohol, seeing kids beaten by drunken parents, etc., if I sum up the whole alcohol experience I no longer feel so tolerant. I don’t think anymore that Prohibition was as misguided as I used to think. I don’t lecture people but frankly I no longer see the humor.

And when you don’t drink, being around people who are drinking isn’t a hell of a lot of fun.

Most people begin drinking before legal age, and their sense of doing something illicit (“naughty”) doesn’t end with reaching legal age. I don’t mind being around people having one or two but when they start that tee-hee-hee giggle giggle crap I get disgusted. I hate that with an awesome intensity. If you drink then drink but don’t act like you’re getting away with something. Jesus Christ.

American Software Developer living in Vietnam. Classical musician (guitar, woodwinds), weightlifter, multilingual, misanthrope • XY

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