While describing and even celebrating some of the many benefits of drinking wine, beer and spirits (hard liquor) in moderation, Richard Thatcher's Thinkin' Drinkin' also shares an abundance of ideas and scientific evidence that, when taken together, add up to a cautionary tale about careless drinking. The book is informed by Thatcher's own troubled, early, and long-sustained experience with alcohol and his subsequent success at getting the problem under control. In addition, he brings a wealth of professional expertise to his writing task.
Dr. Thatcher draws upon various aspects of that accumulated knowledge to inform and provide guidance to help teens and young adults establish enjoyable, safe, worry-free approaches to drinking. These approaches can be readily adapted to any healthy lifestyle and can become good habits that last a lifetime. The author firmly believes that, if widely adopted, those "good habits" will save an enormous amount of heartache, emotional and physical injury, and many thousands of lives.
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Thinkin' Drinkin'From the Teen Years Forward: A Rational, Safe, Worry-Free Approach to Lifetime Alcohol Use or Abstinence
By Richard W. Thatcher
Balboa PressCopyright © 2011 Richard W. Thatcher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Purpose of this Little Book With the Silly Sounding Title
This book has been prepared for you if you are a teenager or young adult who thinks that getting "wasted" on booze is a hoot—and getting drunk is a "blast."
If you are in the same age group and you think that spending time with friends on a regular basis while "getting into the sauce" but just getting a little "tipsy" might become part of your lifestyle, then the book is also for you.
The book is also offered up to those of you who haven't yet given much thought to how you should approach drinking – probably most of you - but, when the subject comes up, you recognize that it probably makes sense to give the matter some serious attention.
In North America, social scientists now apply the terms "youth" and even "adolescence" to not only teens but to anyone who falls between the early teens and the early thirties. The reasoning is that, for most young people in the United States and Canada today, the road to self-support is much longer than the one their parents travelled. In fact, this change has spawned a new term, specifically, "emerging adulthood." The term — emerging adulthood — has been coined in response to the extended length of time it now takes to settle into a full-time occupation, establish a career, and sever financial and residential dependency on parents; it refers to those of you in the early twenties to early or even mid-thirties.
So, in terms of age, my target group is pretty wide-ranging. It includes the "emerging adult." I do expect, however, that the age range of my most common readership is going to fall between fifteen and twenty-four years old—and for the younger segment of that range, the book's contents will most often be passed on through searching parents, concerned teachers, substance abuse educators, guidance counsellors, and, occasionally, by friends who are avid readers in general.
I also recognize that people do start drinking at many different ages and, for this reason, the book is intended for all age groups with members who are now or will soon be confronted with critical decisions about the nature and quality of their own drinking practices.
The book is also for youth of all sexual orientations, including females, males, bisexuals, gays, lesbians, the transgendered, and the "rainbow vanguard," by which I refer to the most sexually open-minded of young people. Drinking to excess is all too often an escape from the pain and complications caused by the prejudice of mainstream sexuality. Those with an alternative lifestyle of intimacy have every reason to carefully consider how drinking fits into their lives.
Our society has come a long way in gaining a civilized understanding of alternative expressions of sexuality but it has a very long way to go and, on that path, cruelty remains a very familiar part of life for gays, lesbians and transsexuals—even for those with bisexual preferences. The psychological burdens of being stigmatized, experiencing painful comments and, sometimes, bullying, can lead to an overwhelming sense of isolation. In reaction to that marginalization members of sexual minorities are often tempted to turn to overly frequent drinking patterns or drinking binges as an escape. Unfortunately, both are unhealthy choices and, at times, very dangerous forms of relief, leading to alcohol dependency or unfortunate, even tragic, incidents. So, if you are a member of one of these minorities, having a solid handle on your drinking practices is extremely important, maybe even a life saver.
In the book, I don't give special emphasis to sexual minorities but it will become obvious as you read on that the background material and the sensible drinking (or abstinence) strategies described in the book apply equally to you. It is left to each of you to personalize both your reflections on the various topics covered and your own adoption and modification of the strategies proposed to meet your distinctive, personal needs.
The Growth of Female Drinking
It is also worth noting that getting drunk during adolescence used to be far more common for males than females. That situation has apparently changed substantially in recent years. A study published in September 2001 by the Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and Other Drugs surveyed college and university students under age 25 years old in the United States and Canada. The researchers, who were on the faculty of several prestigious American and Canadian universities, including Harvard, found that girls were even more likely than their male counterparts to be current drinkers and they were almost as likely as males to report having participated in heavy drinking episodes. The researchers also found that,
the average age at which youth in America first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls.
By age fourteen, 41% of American children have had at least one alcoholic drink (mass [communion] wine excluded).
Americans tend to start drinking in their mid-teens–at least they begin to experiment with drinking. In fact, the average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.
More recent data published by the American Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that approximately one-quarter of Americans aged 12 and over report having engaged in binge drinking in the past month, including 8.8 percent of drinkers in the under-aged, 12-17 year old cohort.
Maybe the book is not for everyone ... well, maybe?
The book may not be for everyone. If you already manage your drinking wisely or if you have a firm, unwavering commitment to abstinence (a resolve to not drink at all, a "teetotaller," as the saying goes), then you won't find the book to be especially useful.
On second thought, even if you are a committed non-drinker, you might find that the information between these covers will help you scratch an enduring curiosity itch about the matter. As a result, it might provide useful information to support your non-drinking decision or it might convince you to waver slightly by drinking on occasions but doing so in a sensible fashion.
There is nothing inherently evil about drinking beverage alcohol. It really should be considered with an open mind. My life experience tells me that when people rigidly and without question adopt a and steadfastly adhere to a particular behaviour over many years of their lives, they tend become closed in their thinking about many things—and often less than sympathetic with people who think and act differently than themselves.
Whether you are a drinker or a non-drinker, the information in these pages might also assist you in helping friends to think through how they should approach drinking.
I must also add that, if you are already a sensible, moderate drinker, reading this book should reinforce and further refine your rationale for the approach to alcohol that you have chosen. The book should help you give shape to your personal approach to drinking. It advises you to establish some clearly defined goals and, subsequently, to figure out how you can best achieve them.
I want you to figure out how to manage your drinking in a reasonable way. I see safety and well-being as key components of what can justifiably be considered "reasonable" in this matter. I'm referring to both your own safety and well-being and the safety and well-being of other people you are in contact with, both during and immediately after a heavy drinking episode.
I also see good taste, civility and fun as rightful aspects of reasonable drinking.
A Few Words About the Silly Sounding Title
I know the title of this book sounds silly but there was method to my selection. I chose the Thinkin' Drinkin' title (in the South of the United States it might be pronounced "Thankin' Drankin'") to grab your attention and, yes, to irritate you just a little. Commercial advertising executives call phrases of this sort "ear worms"—annoying phrases or musical sounds that you find difficult to purge from your memory traces.
Admittedly, the "cutesy" sound of the title would annoy me if I saw it gracing the cover of a book written by someone else, but it would certainly catch my eye. But I wanted the title to bug you, to grate on your nerves a little bit. That way, an awareness of the book and, hopefully, its contents, will stay with you, hopefully, for a very long time. I want the concept of thinkin' drinkin' to have what a marketing executive would call "brand familiarity."
By the way, the meaning of the title is the opposite of what I call "stinkin' drinkin'," a phrase which, quite deliberately, also has an annoying ring to it. In writing this book, spelling out the difference between these opposites was my preoccupation.
Most People Can Choose to be Thinkin' Drinkers
I believe that, compared with other types of drinking problems, there is far too much attention paid to what is often referred to as "alcoholism." Alcoholism is a very real and tragic problem, yet it is but the type of the iceberg when it comes to problem drinking.
I'll discuss the meaning of the term "alcoholism" later in the book and, in fact, I will directly address the problem. By alcoholism I mean alcohol addiction: an overwhelming compulsion to frequently and regularly drink alcohol to the point of at least mild intoxication. Intoxication from beverage alcohol results in enormous individual, social and economic costs but only some of that intoxication is experienced by alcoholics.
Compared with the number of alcoholics in the population, there are a whole lot more North Americans whom, on occasion, drink too much. When taken together, the harmful results of the occasional binges in the general population is actually far more costly than alcoholism itself.
Personally, I advocate drinking as an enjoyable human recreation, although there is one caveat: I want you to learn how to enjoy it and get the most out of it, with the fewest negative consequences. But I repeat: I do firmly believe that most of you can drink and enjoy it for what it has to offer.
I also firmly believe that most of you can drink sensibly, although there are some people for whom drinking is simply an invitation to disaster Some of you may have a biological and/or psychological predisposition to alcohol dependency or to destructive behaviour when you drink. But you can learn to abstain without losing out on anything! Honest! The good things that accompany drinking can all be obtained without alcohol.
What I will be arguing may throw you off a little–at least at first read. It will seem like I am a champion of drinking, a don't-give-a-damn blowhard, maybe the devil incarnate. And for most people, who needs to be persuaded to drink? But stay with me. Before you write me off as being irresponsible and lacking sense, give me a little rope and read on to get my full reasoning.
Messages That Simply Try to Scare You Off Drinking Don't Seem to Work!
It is also worth noting that new evidence suggests that the conventional public anti-binge drinking ads aimed at scaring you away from the practice can be counterproductive. Such "anti-drinking" or "responsible" drinking campaigns have long been a mainstay of health departments and health-promoting non-profit organizations.
Unfortunately for both the youth who are being targeted by these messages and taxpayers and charitable contributors who finance such messages, the ads don't seem to be very effective.
In America, as opposed to Europe and many other countries around the world, we tend to view the generous consumption of alcohol as a forbidden fruit for which temporary exemptions are only given for special circumstances, including being "young and wild." Our history has included a strong "temperance" element, driven by strong-minded moralists obsessed with the view that alcohol is a principal cause of individual downfall and family destruction.
The North American perspective has served to sensationalize the drinking experience. Individually, we treat a drunken state as an excuse to express our emotions in extreme ways, whether through angry or soppy, sentimental verbalization, exaggerated body gestures, raw candour and outright belligerence. By generally repressing the use of beverage alcohol – or at least being preoccupied with limiting it — and perceiving its place in society as an extraordinary, contradictory, love-hate, cultural practice, North Americans have unwillingly created a drinking atmosphere that encourages drunkenness, a state that is deemed to promise an attractive, if naughty mix of intense pleasure, low rent adventure that carries with it the potential for very, very high risk.
In fact, the cultural practice of beverage alcohol use is not especially harmful when consumption is treated as a casual, routine part of life and it is not covered with a veil of moral disapproval. Evidence from other societies confirms this. The fact is that the harm in drinking occurs when we take more than our host, physiological systems, including our brains, can easily absorb. There is a safety/harm threshold to almost anything, including even the greatest of pleasures.
Note: If you are a very impatient reader, start with Chapter 9. That's where a concrete description of the sensible drinking strategies starts.
Chapter Two'No Angel, Me!' Some Thoughts About My Stinkin' Drinkin' Past
You should know that, in my younger years, when it came to drinking, I was no angel. Believe me!
The truth is I had many enjoyable times when I drank, even when I drank to the point of intoxication. Eventually, however, on balance, I came to appreciate that the negative side of my drinking equation overwhelmed its opposite, namely the enjoyable and fun side of the balancing scale. In fact, what convinced me to write this book was the fact that there were all too many incidents of truly regrettable experience when I drank too much.
You could say that the very exercise of writing this book was, at least in part, an act of personal penance delivered dutifully to the righteous demands of my better self, as well as an apology for those many people who were negatively impacted by my drinking.
I am still smarting and sheepish about my early drinking experience. I did enjoy many occasions when I enjoyed the circumstances and tastes of some excellent libations and, on occasion, I still do. I look back with considerable appreciation on so many of those times and tastes in which I partook of wines, beer and John Barleycorn. Yet all too often I stayed for that extra few and, thus, so much of my drinking life was a "downer," as we used to say in the 1960s with galling repetition , and I truly wish that that my to repetitive visitations to that down side never occurred.
Even today, after several decades of distance from my heavy drinking years, the unpleasant circumstances and feelings that accompanied or followed my liquid adventures remain a source of considerable psychic discomfort.
On occasion, when trying to get to sleep at night, I still do my shouldn'tas, why'd I do its and my woulda's, shoulda's, coulda's in my brain while my right fist smashes the pillow in futility. Yes, I still harbour a good deal of profound regret that clearly originates in a long list of badly handled drinking episodes.
Excerpted from Thinkin' Drinkin' by Richard W. Thatcher Copyright © 2011 by Richard W. Thatcher. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 The Purpose of this Little Book With the Silly Sounding Title....................1
Chapter 2 'No Angel, Me!' Some Thoughts About My Stinkin' Drinkin' Past....................8
Chapter 3 The Benefits of Drink....................22
Chapter 4 Volume of Alcohol Consumed and Drunkenness....................40
Chapter 5 The Stinkin' Consequences of Careless Drinking....................47
Chapter 6 Types of Stinkin' Drinkin'....................67
Chapter 7 Being Young, Foolish and 'Getting Wasted'....................84
Chapter 8 Risk Factors for Becoming an Alcoholic....................99
Chapter 9 'Freeze-framing,' then Changing, Automatic Thoughts (The Foundation of the Thinkin' Drinkin' Strategy)....................111
Chapter 10 Thinkin'-Not-Drinkin' (Liberating Strategies for Alcoholics, Potential Alcoholics, and Others Who Simply Shouldn't Drink)....................120
Chapter 11 The Thinkin' Drinkin' Strategy for Potential Problem Drinkers (ie, Most of You)....................148
Chapter 12 A Concrete Strategy for Sensibly (and Safely) Managing a Typical Drinking Session....................175
Chapter 13 Reinforcing Thinkin' Drinkin' By Finding More Satisfying Alternatives....................185
Chapter 14 Afterward....................197
About the Author....................215