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Tuesday
Sep042012

Psychology Today: Booze Analysis

I like to drink alcohol almost as much as I enjoy analyzing human behavior. As I've continued in my growth from ego-maniacal, self-absorbed adolescent to somewhat ego-maniacal, self-absorbed spirits buyer, I've tried to document as much of it as possible; sometimes here on this blog. I always focus on myself first, which allows me to better understand the actions of others. I like to think I'm becoming a better person by doing so. Today, while unloading our groceries at the supermarket, my wife spotted the latest issue of Psychology Today titled Life Lessons: 5 Truths People Learn Too Late. We about fell over ourselves trying to pull it out of the newsstand because we'd been talking about this subject all weekend - about people we knew from high school who had never developed into healthy socializing adults. As with everything, I can always find a way to relate these lessons to alcohol, so I've come up with a revamped version of the article for your enjoyment. 

Here are the five lessons most drinkers learn too late when it comes to booze:

Lesson 1: You Can't Fix the Ones You Love, So Focus on Fixing Yourself. While we know that we all have our issues in life, there comes a point when you just can't help a person get over their problems. As much as it pains you to watch it happen, not everyone can appreciate life's many spirits the way true boozehounds do. The article states:

A healthy dose of ego often convinces us that our way of looking at things is right, but the truth is that trying to correct someone's flaws usually backfires. It implies that we're coming from a more enlightened place, that we have a deeper knowledge of what's best.

For that reason, there's no point in trying to bring a bottle of Benriach 20 over to your buddy's house in order to wean him off that bottle of cheap stuff. Don't try and preach to him the merit of single malt whisky or fine Four Roses Bourbon. Sometimes you just can't fix people and that's perfectly fine. You can still have a rewarding relationship with someone who doesn't like to drink the same things you do. Don't be a snob, don't be pedantic. You need to preserve your friend's autonomy. All you can do is continue to develop your own palate.

Lesson 2: It's More Harmful to Overparent than to Underparent. Overinvolvement in your child's life can be disastrous if you don't let them learn from their own mistakes. As the article calls them, "helicopter parents" are constantly hovering over their kids, hoping to save them from any issue they face on a daily basis.

There's a huge distrust in other parents and society's institutions that pushes parents to overparent. They overestimate the influence they themselves have on development, says Hara Estroff Marano, author of A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.

At some point, your child is going to drink a bad bottle of tequila. They're going to throw up out the car window on I-5 while driving back to their dorm room from a wild night in Tijuana and that vomit is going to fly all over the other people in the car (or maybe that's just my own personal experience?). Bad alcohol choices are all a part of developing a palate for good alcohol. Like I've said many times: you can't know what's good unless you know what's bad. Parents who try and prevent their children from healthy experimentation with bad booze are going to contribute to our "nation of wimps." You can't always run into the party with a bottle of Oban 18 and expect to make everything OK.

Lesson 3: Seek a Mate Whose Values and Background Echo Your Own. They say that opposites attract, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the fact that you drink and she doesn't just isn't going to work. Or maybe it's the case that you want to open a bottle of Chablis and he spits it out in favor of some cheap, yet manly canned beer.

The more a couple shares a similar perspective, the less conflict there's likely to be in their relationship.

If you like whisky, you'd be better served with a whisky-loving partner. At the very least, someone who can stomach a whisky cocktail.

Lesson 4: The Strength of Your Friendships is as Critical for Your Health as the Lifestyle Choices You Make. According to the article, low levels of social interaction have the same effects as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, with worse effects than being obese or not exercising. That's crazy! The lesson is: you can't sit around at home by yourself, sipping from your shiny new bottle of Ardbeg Galileo alone in your living room. Booze is social, so make it a social event by forming relationships with other people who also like to drink.

While cellphones and Facebook can help us to feel connected, it's worth the effort to build-up our in-person network as well.

Did you read that? Posting pictures of your whiskey collection on a message board doesn't count! Leaving replies about what you drank last night also does not cut it. You need to meet with someone, face to face, and chat with them while you sip something alcoholic. Just don't drink so much that it ends up worse than smoking fifteen cigarettes. That would be counterproductive.

Lesson 5: Lust Diminishes, But Love Remains. We all know how exciting it is when you experience that first kiss.....uh...I mean, sip. The fireworks that explode, the passion that tingles your body, and the thoughts that pass through your mind as you stay awake in bed at night, dreaming about that next encounter. We've all had that experience with a whisky. A year later, however, that same bottle is not nearly as exciting as it once was. According to PT:

It's normal to experience a waning of desire once you've progressed past the giddy initial stages of a relationship. Arriving at such a point actually offers an opportunity to deepen your relationship in ways that would have been impossible from the outset.

You see? It's perfectly fine that you've lost that loving feeling for your Elijah Craig 18 or Weller Larue. Sometimes you have to spice things up to get the mood back, however. Try buying your bottle a beautiful, sexy red vermouth, throw in some ice cubes, and watch the sparks fly! A cocktail can be a great way to introduce new flavor into your relationship. Other positions.....whoops, I mean...ways of drinking your whiskey can also put your relationship into a different light. Be open minded and understand that it's perfectly fine to lose interest after a while.

These are the real lessons from Psychology Today. I've quoted them accurately and I think you can see how we drinkers can learn something from each one. Human relationships mimic our relationships to alcohol in strange ways. It's part of the reason I love my job. Everyday I learn more about whisky, other people, and most importantly myself.

-David Driscoll