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Old 9th January 2019, 03:34 PM   #1
Checkmite
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On the pressure to drink at academic conferences

There is a new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how the networking and social functions at scholarly conferences tend to be solidly anchored around alcohol consumption, and how that is a barrier which keeps people who don't drink from being able to fully participate in these conferences, or at least in those very important functions that these conferences serve.

While maybe it doesn't quite count as a "scholarly" or "academic" conference, the TAMs certainly strove to run along the same lines at least. And as a teetotaler, I found myself largely locked out of the social scene when I attended TAM4. Once all of the mid-day talks and presentations were done, it was time for socializing; and quite frankly, in large part this meant going to a hotel bar - either at the conference hotel or some other hotel on the Strip. Or it meant a group of people going to somebody's hotel room, and of course drinking there. There was the enormously popular "pub crawl" as well, which I couldn't attend because what is the point of a pub crawl if you don't drink anything at them?

Certainly there were alternatives - once I was able to go to a restaurant with a group of attendees, and in another case I was able to explore the Vegas strip with a couple of friends where although drinks were occasionally ordered the alcohol wasn't the focus and so my declining to imbibe wasn't as conspicuous. And as enjoyable as they were, these events by their sparsity served to highlight how much of the socializing I was missing out on the rest of the time.

It might be natural to argue that the solution is to go hang out at the bar or do the pub crawl anyway, and simply not drink because nobody will care. To this my rebuttal is simply that my own experience has proven that this isn't true. When you go to an event or a location that's centered around alcohol and you don't drink anything, people do notice, and they do judge you for it. They can even become annoyed or irritated at you for it; at the very least you're in for some snide comments that taint the experience. I'm honestly not sure what the reason for this is - I sometimes suspect it's because some people who drink feel that people who don't must be judging them, which upsets them. It seems to be the case that when I tell people I don't drink alcohol, they assume it must be for some religious or moral reason, which of course must necessarily mean I have to consider them to be morally bad because they drink - or they assume them drinking around me must be making me uncomfortable, which creates this feedback loop of discomfort that irritates them. For this reason I often feel compelled when telling someone that I don't drink to immediately elaborate that it has nothing to do with morality or any such thing, and that I don't care if other people drink - but I'm not sure it's always convincing. Perhaps it's like telling someone you're asexual - they just don't believe it because they can't conceive of anyone who doesn't think drinking is somehow "wrong", still refusing to drink.

And that's just the issue for someone like me who simply doesn't like alcohol. The article focuses more on "sober" people - those who are recovering from alcohol addiction. For them the problem is much worse, because "just go there and don't order any drinks, and grin and bear it through the awkward questions and snide comments" isn't even a hypothetical option - it's too vital to their recovery to not only avoid being served alcohol, but avoid situations in which everyone around them is drinking it.

Now the TAMs are long gone of course; I'm not even sure there are "skeptical" conferences of any kind going on these days. But conferences of other kinds, including ones that deal with scientific and academic subjects, do go on. Keeping in mind the article's assertion that the point isn't to "ban drinking" at events or somehow change all of society to de-emphasize alcohol consumption as a social linchpin; what are some things that can be done at conferences and other similar events to allow non-drinkers to partake in the important social networking that is at least half the point of these events?
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Old 9th January 2019, 03:46 PM   #2
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Just say "I'm on medication."

If you insist on being completely honest, take an aspirin or an antacid before the event.
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Old 9th January 2019, 03:48 PM   #3
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Drinkers gonna drink. If social networking only happens when drinking is involved, that sounds like a cultural change that needs to happen.

That said, gather in a coffee shop instead of a bar? Cater hors d'ouvres in your hotel room?

Get good at pretending to drink? I mean, seriously consider this last one. If professional networking is an important part of your career progression, and all the people worth networking with intend to tie one on... Then you probably need to think about how much you like this career, how much you want to be in a professional network with these people, and how hard could it be to nurse a beer in the service of professional cameraderie.
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:13 PM   #4
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My experience is that the only event sponsored events that involve alcohol are mixers at poster sessions and such. Usually these also involve food. Iíve been to a lot of these over te years. Sometimes I drank, sometimes I didnít. No one really cares. (Those that do are jerks and arenít worth your time.) A lot of people in the sciences are are also health nuts and drink water at finner/mixers. If you donít want to go up to the bar, bring a bottled water.

The rest...pub crawls and such...are not normally conference events. These are friends and acquaintances socializing on their own time. Iíve been to plenty of dinners at brew pubs where half the table drank water. Iíve been on pub crawls in parties that included non-drinkers.

My point is that people probably arenít judging you as much as you think they are.

I canít think of too much to do as an adult with acquaintances (as opposed to friends) that donít include alcohol as an option for those who choose to drink, but I also donít see too many cases where someone is judged negatively for choosing not to.
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
There was the enormously popular "pub crawl" as well, which I couldn't didn't want to attend because what is the point of a pub crawl if you don't drink anything at them?
FTFY.

I agree that doing a pub crawl without drinking alcohol sounds kind of pointless, but you still chose not to go. And if the socializing really is that important, well, that's the point of going even if you don't drink.
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:41 PM   #6
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I think if you are feeling pressure to drink the problem is you.
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
I think if you are feeling pressure to drink the problem is you.
"Baby it's cold outside."
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Old 9th January 2019, 04:57 PM   #8
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My ears are ringing.
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Old 9th January 2019, 05:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
FTFY.

I agree that doing a pub crawl without drinking alcohol sounds kind of pointless, but you still chose not to go. And if the socializing really is that important, well, that's the point of going even if you don't drink.
The entire next paragraph explains why doing what you suggest is not as simple as it sounds.

And the paragraph after that brings up the question of recovering addicts, for whom going and just not drinking, is not a reasonable or safe option
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Old 9th January 2019, 05:11 PM   #10
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I spoke at and went to plenty of workshops, local, Intrastate, Australia wide Conferences and the occasional International Conference over about a 15 year period. I rated them from low to high mostly on how good the food was, and how well the bar was stocked.

Plus the bonus was always the free travel, accommodation, booze and food.

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Old 9th January 2019, 05:15 PM   #11
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What pressure? Self-imposed?
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Old 9th January 2019, 05:59 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
The entire next paragraph explains why doing what you suggest is not as simple as it sounds.
No. You explained why it isnít pleasant or easy. But that is different than simple. It is indeed simple.

Quote:
And the paragraph after that brings up the question of recovering addicts, for whom going and just not drinking, is not a reasonable or safe option
Sucks for them, I guess. Not everyone needs to be accommodated all the time.
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Old 9th January 2019, 06:15 PM   #13
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Drink a soda, problem solved.
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Old 9th January 2019, 06:51 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
I think if you are feeling pressure to drink the problem is you.
Originally Posted by applecorped View Post
What pressure? Self-imposed?
No.

Pressure to drink alcohol is a thing, and it is widespread. It's something that people who don't drink have to manage in pretty much any social circumstance. It is worse if you, like me, are an alcoholic, because then your own body is trying to succumb to the pressure. And it is worse again when, like in the OP, the majority of social situations and networking events revolve around the consumption of alcohol. A non-drinker can very easily feel alienated in these situations.
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Old 9th January 2019, 07:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
It might be natural to argue that the solution is to go hang out at the bar or do the pub crawl anyway, and simply not drink because nobody will care. To this my rebuttal is simply that my own experience has proven that this isn't true. When you go to an event or a location that's centered around alcohol and you don't drink anything, people do notice, and they do judge you for it.

Uh, don't pick a drinking activity?? I've been to two TAMs, there are plenty of skeptics interested in doing other things besides drinking.
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Old 9th January 2019, 07:35 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
No.

Pressure to drink alcohol is a thing, and it is widespread. It's something that people who don't drink have to manage in pretty much any social circumstance. It is worse if you, like me, are an alcoholic, because then your own body is trying to succumb to the pressure. And it is worse again when, like in the OP, the majority of social situations and networking events revolve around the consumption of alcohol. A non-drinker can very easily feel alienated in these situations.
Reading the article makes it clear we are talking about herd mentality which is what I was leading into with my last response. The pressure to drink comes from one's own desire to be a part of the herd not because someone is twisting your arm. It is a strong human urge but the urge isn't to drink, the urge is to belong.
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Old 9th January 2019, 07:37 PM   #17
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Find yourself a range of non-alcoholic drinks and drink types that you can tolerate or even like in social situations, and go with those. I'm sure most Muslims have this covered, no problem.

Also I'm pretty sure that those drinking alcohol don't think you're weird or a stick-in-the-mud for not imbibing ethanol with them. It's more likely because you aren't joining in the conversation. That a soda in your hand? Great! What's your take on...

Here's something that may help! Zero alcohol beer. OK, so it's "fun-free" as my daughter tells me, but it tastes pretty good and you look like you are beering along with your buddies.

https://cub.com.au/cub-to-re-write-t...-carlton-zero/
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Old 9th January 2019, 07:39 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
And the paragraph after that brings up the question of recovering addicts, for whom going and just not drinking, is not a reasonable or safe option
That's a myth created by Alcoholics Anonymous.
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Old 9th January 2019, 08:08 PM   #19
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Letís face it, social networking involves a lot of things you would really not do if you werenít trying to get something out of it, such as talking to people you find boring. Booze lowers peopleís inhibitions so that people who find each other boring either become more entertaining or at least bearable. Of course if you donít drink, the people who do often become extremely boring by repeating the same things, laughing too much at things that arenít funny and blaring in your face, ďIíVE GOT TíGO TO THE TOILET!Ē

At least the upside if you donít drink is that you get plenty of blackmail material from those who do.
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Old 9th January 2019, 08:13 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
Reading the article makes it clear we are talking about herd mentality which is what I was leading into with my last response. The pressure to drink comes from one's own desire to be a part of the herd not because someone is twisting your arm. It is a strong human urge but the urge isn't to drink, the urge is to belong.
That is a distinction without a real difference if "belonging" in the case of academic conferences happens to require going to bars and imbibing, or "appearing to" do so at least. And you are missing the main point of the article, which isn't so much that non-drinkers feel deprived of "social company" generally, but rather that there's real, career-affecting professional networking that is built at these functions that non-drinkers and sober-alcoholics lose access to.
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Old 9th January 2019, 08:20 PM   #21
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I hate "networking". I like to keep my personal life and my professional life separate. I don't object to the occasional meal out with coworkers, but I don't want to drink with them and have wild parties and "really get to know them" and all that crap. If I got to know them better I'd dislike them, and if they got to know me better they'd be terrified. I have friends for that, and they've grown accustomed to living in fear.
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Old 9th January 2019, 08:27 PM   #22
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I'm too friggin' old to socialise with my younger work companions like that. I gave up drinking and partying 'til the wee hours many decades ago.

Perhaps it might be an opportunity to look at other ways of socialising besides noisy bars and the like. At other symposia I have attended over the years, there were often organised quieter outings of select small groups to local restaurants with the specific objective of one purpose such as one-on-one discussion, or possibilities of job offers, etc. I landed one or two contracts that way...!
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Old 9th January 2019, 08:41 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
Reading the article makes it clear we are talking about herd mentality which is what I was leading into with my last response. The pressure to drink comes from one's own desire to be a part of the herd not because someone is twisting your arm. It is a strong human urge but the urge isn't to drink, the urge is to belong.
You've just entirely dismissed the whole concept of peer pressure.

Originally Posted by qayak View Post
That's a myth created by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Try being an alcoholic, and see whether you still think so.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:26 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I hate "networking". I like to keep my personal life and my professional life separate. I don't object to the occasional meal out with coworkers, but I don't want to drink with them and have wild parties and "really get to know them" and all that crap. If I got to know them better I'd dislike them, and if they got to know me better they'd be terrified. I have friends for that, and they've grown accustomed to living in fear.
This.

If I have to go to some event I typically find one or two people to hang out with and do nothing productive. Without fail those people will be the least likely people to have any positive influence on my career.

But the main reason I hate going to drinking events and not drinking is that drunks are so ******* annoying. Being around drunk people requires a drink. I have a kid who can't drink and this is something that is very irritating at college right now.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:37 PM   #25
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Disclaimer: I use "you" not in reference to Arthwollipot personally but as a generalized term representing anyone.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
You've just entirely dismissed the whole concept of peer pressure.
Not really. I just turned it back onto the only person who can make a change in anyone's life, themselves. It's like saying a comedian offended you. No the comedian didn't offend you. They told a joke and you felt pressure to feel offended and went with it. Same with drinking. Your friend is drinking, offers you a drink, and you felt pressure to drink. In both of those you have a choice: Will you drink/be offended or will you not drink/be offended.

In my view, this view puts you in charge of your own life. Recognizing that you are susceptible to the foibles of being human allows you to step outside that when it is in your best interest. Instead of just constantly being a victim of peer pressure you can actually choose not to do certain things that are not in your best interest. But you have to recognize them first.

Quote:
Try being an alcoholic, and see whether you still think so.
That's the whole catch 22, isn't it. You say I don't know what it's like to be an alcoholic but at the same time they don't know what it's like to not be an alcoholic. I would never seek advice from an alcoholic on how not to be an alcoholic.

If I want to get in shape, I don't continue with lifestyle choices and friends who are counter to that. I seek out a new lifestyle and with that comes different friends. The issue isn't peer pressure, it's that you actually don't want to make the hard choices and change things up. You want your cake and to eat it too. Several of the activities I was involved in are known for heavy drinking. Men's recreational ice hockey being one, traditional Okinawan karate being another. When I was in karate I didn't drink at all and never felt any pressure to drink. I'm into hockey now and drink socially. I will have a beer after a game if I haven't had enough water during the game but mostly I don't drink outside of my own home. Two glasses of wine in an entire evening is pretty much my limit. Not because I don't feel like drinking more but because I know that alcohol is addictive and made a choice that is in my best interest.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:41 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
This.

If I have to go to some event I typically find one or two people to hang out with and do nothing productive. Without fail those people will be the least likely people to have any positive influence on my career.

But the main reason I hate going to drinking events and not drinking is that drunks are so ******* annoying. Being around drunk people requires a drink. I have a kid who can't drink and this is something that is very irritating at college right now.
Agreed. I used to get harassed to go to company Christmas parties. My response was "The only thing worse than hanging around with ******* bodymen is hanging around with drunk ******* bodymen." These days my wife, and I, put in an appearance, eat some of the free food, then go home and have a glass of wine together.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:42 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
But the main reason I hate going to drinking events and not drinking is that drunks are so ******* annoying. Being around drunk people requires a drink. I have a kid who can't drink and this is something that is very irritating at college right now.
I'm an introvert with social anxiety. Small talk and "networking" are basically my nightmares.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:50 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I'm an introvert with social anxiety. Small talk and "networking" are basically my nightmares.
Yep, same here. (I also do not dance, for the same reason.) But I have learned to be a bit more open about this. When I get invites to company do's (Christmas parties is a recent example), I politely decline with the excuse that I would probably be the dull old fart sitting on onea beer in the corner bringing the tome of the whole thing down. Better they go and have fun!
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:59 PM   #29
arthwollipot
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Originally Posted by Norman Alexander View Post
Yep, same here. (I also do not dance, for the same reason.) But I have learned to be a bit more open about this. When I get invites to company do's (Christmas parties is a recent example), I politely decline with the excuse that I would probably be the dull old fart sitting on onea beer in the corner bringing the tome of the whole thing down. Better they go and have fun!
The difference is that I'd be the dull old fart sitting in the corner downing beer after beer, and getting more and more drunk, eventually needing someone to call me a Uber home.
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Old 9th January 2019, 09:59 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I'm an introvert with social anxiety. Small talk and "networking" are basically my nightmares.
Same for my kid who can't drink.

And really, a bit for me, too. Which explains a lot of my prior excessive drinking.
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Old 9th January 2019, 10:03 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
I would never seek advice from an alcoholic on how not to be an alcoholic.
Good. That makes sense. However, the flip side is also true. An alcoholic should never seek advice from a non-alcoholic on how not to be an alcoholic. Their advice is very rarely helpful. And usually boils down to "well, just don't drink", which is in fact about the most unhelpful advice one can give to an alcoholic.

And yes, I speak from experience.
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Old 9th January 2019, 10:23 PM   #32
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Not sure what the big problem is.

Surely there are networking opportunities at the actual conference at the free lunches etc?

If it is as bad as you say, half the people probably don't remember all their "networking" on the piss afterwards anyway.

As for "at the very least you're in for some snide comments that taint the experience. "

It is pretty easy to just either walk to the next group, ignore it, say "whatever mate", or kick them in the nuts.
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Old 9th January 2019, 10:31 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
If it is as bad as you say, half the people probably don't remember all their "networking" on the piss afterwards anyway.
Really only people who get blind blackout drunk have trouble remembering what they did the next day. I've been an alcoholic for twenty years and I can't remember the last time I got that drunk.

Um, let me rephrase that. I haven't been that drunk in a long time.
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Old 9th January 2019, 10:38 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Really only people who get blind blackout drunk have trouble remembering what they did the next day. I've been an alcoholic for twenty years and I can't remember the last time I got that drunk.

Um, let me rephrase that. I haven't been that drunk in a long time.
Think that might have been a tolerance build up thing, but your probably right
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Old 9th January 2019, 10:46 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by cullennz View Post
Think that might have been a tolerance build up thing, but your probably right
Not saying, mind you, that some people don't regularly get blind blackout drunk. It definitely happens. But the memory loss associated with being drunk is frequently exaggerated.
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Old 9th January 2019, 11:34 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Good. That makes sense. However, the flip side is also true. An alcoholic should never seek advice from a non-alcoholic on how not to be an alcoholic. Their advice is very rarely helpful. And usually boils down to "well, just don't drink", which is in fact about the most unhelpful advice one can give to an alcoholic.
I think you have that wrong. It's AA ( other alcoholics) that says "Well, just don't drink." As a non-alcoholic, and knowing AA's success rates, I would never say that.
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Old 9th January 2019, 11:35 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Really only people who get blind blackout drunk have trouble remembering what they did the next day. I've been an alcoholic for twenty years and I can't remember the last time I got that drunk.

Um, let me rephrase that. I haven't been that drunk in a long time.
Well played!
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Old 10th January 2019, 01:02 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
I think you have that wrong. It's AA ( other alcoholics) that says "Well, just don't drink." As a non-alcoholic, and knowing AA's success rates, I would never say that.
Then your advice to a recovering alcoholic that is trying to not drink anymore is to go ahead and drink?
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Old 10th January 2019, 01:14 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
Not really. I just turned it back onto the only person who can make a change in anyone's life, themselves. It's like saying a comedian offended you. No the comedian didn't offend you. They told a joke and you felt pressure to feel offended and went with it. Same with drinking. Your friend is drinking, offers you a drink, and you felt pressure to drink. In both of those you have a choice: Will you drink/be offended or will you not drink/be offended.
This is something akin to pseudoscientific psychobabble. The fact that a person makes a choice about whether or not to give in to peer pressure doesn't change the fact that peer pressure is something that objectively exists. I'm not sure what the point or intent of "turning it back onto" the person experiencing the pressure is; it almost seems as if you're suggesting that avoiding scenarios where pressure exists is somehow less valid, or represents some kind of abdication of personal responsibility, compared to immersing oneself in the pressure situation and willing oneself to be blind to or unflappable under the pressure.

The analogy about there being no such thing as offense, only giving into "pressure to feel offended" also makes no sense whatsoever. It denies the factual reality that people have personal sensibilities, limits, and boundaries that can be crossed (which is what "offense" represents).
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Old 10th January 2019, 01:15 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Then your advice to a recovering alcoholic that is trying to not drink anymore is to go ahead and drink?
Wow.
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