The Myth of Liquid Courage: Unmasking the Dangerous DELUSION of Alcohol-Fueled Bravery
I grew up in a culture where alcohol was celebrated as a means to shed inhibitions, express all those little suppressed feelings, or just gather up the courage you needed to take on something (or someone) that you’d otherwise not have. And it’s a pattern that’s repeated in many cultures across the world.
This phenomenon, often termed as "Liquid Courage," suggests that consuming alcohol will give a person access to a hidden well of bravery or newfound grit or some level of eloquence that they might not have access to when they’re not sauced-up.
It really is such a bullshit notion. I get where it’s coming from, but it does more harm than good. So, I want to look at a couple of the ways that this idiotic idea pushes you further into trouble in your life.
1. Memory Impairment:
A major side effect of consuming alcohol is its impact on memory. Every drinker can attest to this. However, when it comes down to it, what are we but a capture of our memories. Even on the off chance that you’ve managed to string some coherent sentences together, even if it seems like you were engaging in some profound philosophical debate under the influence, the chances of you retaining the essence of the conversation the next day are slim to none. Thus, what's the point of gaining temporary mental courage if you can’t remember a damn thing that happened?
2. Distorted Reality:
Alcohol reduces your inhibitions. True enough. But that’s not all it reduces. Think about how much alcohol impairs your judgment. It’s easy to understand why certain people (and let’s face it - we all fall into this at some stage) overestimate their own abilities, whether those abilities happen to be physical or mental. Those high-falutin or ever-so profound statements while you’re drunk are unlikely to get you into any lasting trouble… But what if your drug-induced bravery starts taking on a more physical manifestation. I’ve never had a fight when I was sober…Well, there was the one fight I had with Mickey Daly around the back of the school, but I was only 7 at the time. I’ve never raised my fists, or felt the need to raise my fists, since January 2, 2013. In my life, that’s huge.
3. Dependency and Avoidance:
Relying on alcohol to gather up the courage to face life's challenges will lead to a form of dependency. Instead of developing genuine coping mechanisms or other ways to address difficult situations, alcohol becomes an indispensable crutch. Isn’t that the root problem we all face? Using alcohol as a short-cut? Using alcohol as a tool to bypass learning what we need (or needed) to learn? I spent so many years living this life as an evader instead of someone who faces his situations and problems head on. No wonder my life was a shambles. I was only ever solving the immediate symptom of the problem, never getting to the root cause and dealing with that. Again, that ended for me on January 2, 2013.
4. True Courage:
Real courage is about facing fears, challenges, and questions head-on, without needing to resort to a crutch, especially an external aid in the form of a poison in a bottle. It's about confronting your own vulnerabilities and addressing them without the need for a temporary fix. I know it might sound a bit schizo, but the most meaningful debates you’re going to have in your life are the ones that go on in your own head…or when you’re dab smack in front of the mirror... from the simplest problems to trying to figure out life's most meaningful questions… I love that side of my life now - being able to look into my own eyes and know at the very least I’ve got nowhere to hide. For me, there’s no possibility of alcohol again. It’s just not an option. No matter what else happens… No matter how daunting the task, how painful it is to delve into things, my life is done with clear-headed stubbornness… When you stop the flow of alcohol, that’s genuine bravery in the making. Resilience in a nutshell.
5. Social Pressure and Misconceptions:
This myth of 'Liquid Courage' has been perpetuated, in large part, by actors in movies, how the media portrays ‘normal’ drinkers, how the media portray ‘abnormal’ drinkers, alcohol pedestalized, and our societal norms in general. Scenes of individuals taking a shot before a big decision or using alcohol to confront someone…these are so common in movies and TV shows as to not even be noticed any more. This fake courage bullshit becomes part of our collective subconscious. It’s no wonder we start to act it out as soon as our young selves have to face a tough decision. This representation distorts our understanding and it contributes to a whole host of misconceptions about alcohol.
I think it’s essential to distinguish between the stupefied boldness that alcohol gives and genuine courage that stems from within. While the former is fleeting and distorted, the latter is enduring and authentic. Courage was never something I admired in myself when I was a drinker, specifically because I felt I needed the Dutch courage to do or say anything. The thing with Dutch courage was that it always got me into more trouble, gave me more headaches. It never solved a damn thing, except in my drink-addled brain. But, it always left me feeling a poorer version of myself, for all the supposed bravery it gave me.🥃❌
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