Oh for goodness sakes

by erics1100paces

So.  A colleague from Wuxi wanted to take me out for drinks tonight, my last night here.  He’s a good guy, a Brit, I like him.  He indicated the desire to “buy me a beer” a couple of times, and I told him that I don’t drink alcohol but that I would be happy to go have a beverage with him.  It was scheduled for tonight.

I text him around 6PM to find out the time and location, but he does not actually reply until almost 9PM.  By then, I’m ready for bed, but he pushes a bit and I end up going, primarily for work reasons.  He’s fairly “important,” he likes me, he’s a good connection to have, networking, etc.

He takes me to this bar.  Fine.  I haven’t actually sat at a bar since I quit drinking, but no big deal.  My housemate drinks beer every night, and alcohol is everywhere in Shanghai, and sobriety is not about avoiding proximity to alcohol anyway.  The bar wasn’t the problem.  And really, there wasn’t any big problem.  But I am feeling a little un-serene at the moment, and here’s why:

After he gets a few in him, he starts voicing some opinions about intoxicants.  He explains how alcohol prompts creativity, and how it’s being demonized unfairly, while marijuana is being made to seem OK, while it’s actually really bad, etc.  My opinion about such things is to have no opinion for other people and how or what they want to consume.  That’s their business.

I do find the notion that alcohol generates creativity rather ridiculous.  But I elect not to respond to that.  Then we talk a bit about pot in California, and I defer there as well for the most part, but say that I think it depends on the person and the culture.  He pushes a bit more, and I shrug and say, “I don’t do any intoxicants,” hoping that he’ll infer I therefore have no knowledge or opinion about them.

However, he points to the soda and cigarettes and says, “yes you do.  What about caffeine and nicotine?”

I don’t really want to have this conversation.  I answer that while they may have some impact on mood, there’s a point where a difference in degree becomes a category change, and more or less leave it at that.  He pushes back.  “Are you saying you wouldn’t be irritable if you didn’t have caffeine?”

I acknowledge I might, and get drawn into a bit a definitional debate, that I do not want to have.  Eventually the conversation moves to different topics.

But I left the place feeling not very great, frankly.  Why didn’t I want to argue with him about this?  Don’t I like to argue?  Usually, maybe.

But these sort of things are things I don’t want to talk about with non-alcoholics, or at least with people who don’t know my story.  Because the real answer is this: trust me dude.  I know what gets me high and what doesn’t.  I’ve done more drugs and drank more booze than you can possibly imagine.  And frankly, I don’t want to argue about this with someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I don’t like where the conversation took me emotionally.  I don’t like the ego part, and I don’t like the not being able to address it honestly part.

Anyway.  Whatever.  We left on great terms and everything.  I didn’t argue with him (much).  I accomplished the desired work outcome, had a couple of sodas, chatted, and came home.  The meetup took longer than I would have liked, and it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but it’s over now, and I didn’t drink.  I’m not afraid to find myself in such a context again, but I really don’t want to if I don’t have to.

Sitting in a bar listening to someone with beers in him tell me my smoking and my soda consumption are comparable to alcohol and drugs isn’t very much fun.