Well before I was of drinking age by European or U.S. standards, I was influenced by alcohol. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of my parents’ drinking habits, though suffice it to say when parents have healthy, modest drinking habits, their kids are likely to have them, too. What I’m thinking of is a situation involving one of my great uncles.
This was the guy whose Playboys I found at the top of his laundry closet at his lake house. When my sister and I were little, he’d tap his cheek and say, “Gimme some sugar.” He was a pretty good guy, by my estimation, although some in the family weren’t a fan. Even as a kid, I could tell he was a bit rough around the edges.
One morning he was driving down the road and ran smack into a truck carrying father and teenage son. Killed them both. My uncle was hauled away, unhurt as far as I know, and charged with drunk driving and murder.
He showed up to the courthouse weeks later, drunk. A lawyer for many decades, he insisted on representing himself.
When all this happened, not many of us kept in touch with him anymore. It was another stain on his character — a major one at that. I don’t know how long he was in prison, but I remember him coming to Christmas dinner a few years later, his health failing. He was like a wide-eyed ghost sitting in the corner. I felt sorry most of us hadn’t tried to keep in touch, that we hadn’t staged some kind of big family intervention. God knows that’s what he needed, but who knows how much regret he felt anyway, and shame. By the time we saw him at the holidays, he’d cleaned up his act, but it was too late.
I think about that situation when I see people asking, “Why do we need another brewery in Winston-Salem?” By the industry’s standards, craft beer accounts for not even a fourth of total beer sales in the U.S., which means Big Beer is still winning. Every dollar you give to Corona and Budweiser, Ballast Point and Devils Backbone, and a hundred other different brands is another dollar in the hand of some corporate schmuck. Would you rather fund the CEO of a multinational corporation or a person who actually lives in your neighborhood?
Still, why another brewery, when alcohol ruins people’s lives every day, whether they drink themselves to death or truncate someone else’s life, as was the case with my great uncle?
Ultimately, there’s no logical reason to drink alcohol. Even the jury is out now about whether it benefits one’s health to drink at all. Alcohol affects everyone differently, and those of us who do it legitimize it in various ways. The most popular reason seems to be that it has a calming effect, which can be true — unless you’re one of those people who gets into fights, physical or verbal.
Although our community loves booze and although that love may be abused by some, people will continue to demand it, so I’m all for local places to get it. However, let’s remember that with great alcohol comes great responsibility. Don’t drive tipsy or drunk. Get rides from sober drivers. If you do drive, order a smaller size, drink water with it, and take a walk around the neighborhood afterward or have a long conversation with a friend. Stay within your limits so you don’t totally ruin your health.
And by God, if your family member asks you to give them some sugar, do it — and mean it.