Living Proof
By Christopher Hitchens

A tip: Try to eat something, indeed, at every meal. 

christopherhitchenseconomis.jpg

(Note the whiskey for better lecture inspiration.)

“Instead of marveling at the number of books, articles, and documentaries he produced, some of the author’s friends muttered about the quantity of booze he drank.  Now medical science backs his long-held belief that booze is a subtle weapon.   Plus:  Hitch’s tips on drinking right.”

My heart soared like a hawk when I read the recent study which recommended eating at least a clove of garlic a day.  Apparently this treatment, along with plenty of onions, would toughten up my prostate gland.  I had been vastly encouraged already by the news that tobacco smoking enhanced short-term memory and helped to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  And then it was good to read that decaffeinated coffee beans were actually higher in cholesterol than the real thing.  But the very best news was saved for January’s edition of “The New England Journal of Medicine”.  From there I learned that, in the breezy words of my hometown rag “The Washington Post”:

“Drinking a glass or two of wine, beer or any other kind of alcohol everyday can significantly reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack, according to a large new study that is the first to examine whether drinking occasionally or daily is the best strategy for taking advantage of alcohol’s health benefits. 

“The research also shows clearly for the first time that drinking any kind of alcohol — not just red wine — can protect the heart.”

I rolled this luxuriously around my tongue with the approbation that I customarily reserve for port or single malt.  Its finer points made themselves apparent in the glowing yet decisive manner that is politely imposed by a good vintage.  Not just the occasional drink — the daily drink.  Not just red wine — any alcohol is better than none.  An apple a day, they said in my boyhood, kept the doctor away.  Yeah, that’s right — just bathe your teeth in sugar water and acid and see what happens.  Much better to hurl the heartburn-inducing fruit into the trash and reach firmly for the corkscrew, which was the strategy that I began to adopt when I was about 15. 

I’ll be 54 in April, and everyone keeps asking how I do it.  How do I do what?  I’m never completely sure what the questioner means.  I *hope* they mean how do I manage to keep producing books, writing essays, making radio and television appearances at all hours, traveling all over the place with no sign of exhaustion, teaching classes, and giving lectures, while still retaining my own hair and teeth and a near-godlike physique which is the envy of many of my  juniors.  Sometimes, though, I suppose they mean how do I do all this and still drink enough every day to kill or stun the average mule?  My doctor confesses himself amazed at my haleness (and I never lie to a medical man), but then, in my time I’ve met more old drunks than old doctors.

2.

What with the garlic, the full strength cigarettes, the raw espresso, and the array of winking and shimmering glasses and bottles, I can face the world pretty heartily (despite a slight heftiness around the central portions which i keep meaning to “address,” as the saying goes, and despite a long-standing preference for nocturnal activity over encounters with “morning persons.”  I will admit that I am a standout in Washington for non-attendance at power breakfasts).  In Europe, I don’t seem to attract as much attention, or as many questions.  Indeed, it was the so-called French paradox that started the inquiry into the medicinal effects of alcohol in the first place.  American physicians, taking their cautious tours of Paris and Strasbourg in the spring or perhaps having arranged to have their tax-deductible proctologists’ conventions in Provence, went to restaurants where they predicted from observation that all the diners would be dead or dying within a year.  Then they went back — perhaps after attending a few boring funerals for their own miserable colleagues — and saw the selfsame French still browsing and sluicing away and looking more joyously fit than ever. 

Well, that surely couldn’t be right.  But an unsmiling look at the statistics confirmed that there was less heart disease in France, and meticulous scientific investigation then isolated red-wine consumption as the key variable.  So let me tell you something that I could have told you long ago, and that your doctor already knew but hadn’t been telling you.  Red wine will elevate your “good -cholesterol numbers (H.D.L.) as against your “bad” (L.D.L.) ones, and it will then and inspire your blood so that it is much less likely to go all clotted on you.  A few drinks also assist you in warding off diabetes.  And not just red wine, either.  pretty much any grape or grain product will do.  In Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, Sleeper, he plays an owner of a health-food restaurant in Greenwich village who is cryogenically frozen, and then thawed out in the year 2173.  Among the many breakthroughs made by science in the intervening two centuries is the liberating discovery that steak, cream pies, and hot fudge are positively good for the system.  The New England Journal of Medicine for January 2003 contains news much more encouraging than that.  After all, nobody wants cream pie and hot fudge every day (do they?).  And even if they did turn out to be beneficial for the health, they wouldn’t make you wittier, sexier, more vivacious, and less tolerant of boring and censorious people. Which the the daily intake of the fruit of the vine — to say nothing of the slowly distilled and matured grain — will also do, if you know how to make it your servant and not your master. 

3.

A few swift tips here, to show that I am perfectly serious.  On the whole, observe the same rule about gin martinis — and all gin drinks — that you would in judging female breasts:  one is far too few, and three is one two many.  Do try to eat the olives:  they can be nutritious.  Try to eat something, indeed, at every meal.  Take  lots of fresh or distilled water.  Don’t mix from different bottles of red wine:  Dance with the one that brung ya.  Avoid most white wine for its appalling acidity and banality.  (Few things make me laugh louder than the ostentatious non-drinkers who get plastered when they condescend to imbibe a glass of toxic Chardonnay, and who have been fooling themselves for so long.)  Avoid Pernod and absinthe and ouzo.  Even if it makes you look like a brand snob, do specify a label when ordering spirits in particular.  I once researched this for a solemn article and found that if you just ask for, say, vodka-and-tonic the barman is entitled to give you whatever he has on hand, which is often a two-handled jug labeled “Vodka” under the bar.  It can be even worse with scotch, where imitation blends are rife.  Pick a decent product and stay with it.  Upgrade yourself, for Chrissake.  Do you think you are going to live forever? 

4. 

In a way, that is the whole question to begin with.  I noticed early in life that some colleagues drank because of the writer’s life, and others had seemingly become scribblers because it gave them a high-toned excuse to drink.  Some drank to meet a deadline, and some drank to give themselves an excuse to miss one.  The latter crew had a tendency to clock out prematurely.  When the late Mur… Kempton was asked by a copyboy how much longer it would be until his column was ready, Kempton held up a bottle and jovially said, “About an inch.”  That piece, you can bet, was band on time and word-perfect.  Whereas John Coleman, the smashed movie critic of the old New Statesman in my day, retreated at press time into his den with a bottle of hooch.  Soon after,the reassuring sound of the typewriter keys was no longer to be heard.  One day Martin Amis, who was editing the pages, decided to look in and found Coleman’s slumbering face making a faultless left-profile impression in the keyboard.  Wondering if the short burst of typing had produced anything usable, Martin yanked the paper from he machine and read the two words “Clink Eastwoo…”

In a highly “judgmental” study entitled “The Thirsty Muse:  Alcohol and the American Writer,” Tom Dardis examines the careers of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Eugene O’Neill.  He maintains that booze was not the making of them and their writing, but rather their undoing.  That’s relatively easy to argue with letters like this from Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins:

“Will have to take Marty to the movies as a present for being drunk Saturday night… Started out on absinthe, drank of bottle of good red wine with dinner, shifted to vodka in town…and then battened it down with whiskeys and sodas until 3 a.m.  Feel good today.  But not like working.”

Good, but not like working…Good?  how good is this?  I couldn’t possibly drink like that, but then, I am not a genius.  And I certainly couldn’t have gone even one round with William Faulkner when he was on form.  Mr. Dardis demonstrates with ease that drink was the death of these men and eroded their talent in the end, but he cannot account for the fact that they did some of their finest work when blotto, smashed, polluted, shitfaced, squiffy, whiffled, and three sheets to the wine.  It’s true that O’Neill did his best stuff after he sobered up, but he had obviously learned a lot from the years when he couldn’t remember which train he had boarded, or why.  Here’s some advice, from a different book about O’Neill, on how to deal with the shakes:

“O’Neill would prop himself against the bar. The bartender, who knew him well, would place a shot glass in front of him, toss a towel across the bar, as though absentmindedly forgetting it, and glide away…. Hanging the towled around his neck, O’Neill would grasp both the glass of whiskey and one end of the towel in his right hand, while he clutched the other end of  the towel with his left.  Using the towel as a pulley, he would laboriously hoist the glass to his lips.”

I actually saw this maneuver executed once, by a deeply troubled delegate at the British Conservative Party conference.  When you get the shudders, even slightly, it’s definitely time to seek help.  But this wreck of a Tory wasn’t going on to compose plays about the perils and splendors of addiction.

5.

What the soothing people at Alcoholics Anonymous don’t or won’t understand is that suicide or self-destruction would probably have come much earlier to some people if they could not have had a drink.  We are born into a losing struggle, and nobody can hope to come out a winner, and much of the intervening time is crushingly tedious in any case.  Those who see this keenly, or who register the blues intently, are not to be simplistically written off as “dysfunctional” cynics or lushes.  Winston Churchill put it very squarely when he defined the issue as, essentially, a wager.  He was a lifelong sufferer from the depression that he nicknamed his “black dog”, but he could rouse himself to action and commitment and inspiration, and the brandy bottle was often a crucial prop.  I have taken more out of alcohol, he said simply, than it has taken out of me.  His chief antagonist, Adolf Hitler, was, I need hardly add, a fanatical teetotaler (though with a shorter and less wholesome life span).  The most lethal and fascistic of our current enemies, the purist murderers of the Islamic jihad, despise our society for, among other things, its intolerance of alcohol.  We should perhaps do more to earn this hatred and contempt, and less to emulate it.

Such wicked thoughts are almost verboten in our new, therapeutic, upbeat boring idiom, where there is always some mediocre jerk who knows what’s best for you.  I remember going to Aspen about a decade ago to cover the Bush-Thatcher summit that coincided with the invasion of Kuwait.  The town sponsored a reception for the press, held at the top of the ski lift on the summit of a perfectly nice mountain.  When we got up there, pointlessly beautiful and white-toothed girls offered drinks.  I thought a gin-and-tonic would meet the case nicely.  “Sorry, sir,” I was told with faultless politeness, “but that would be inappropriate.”  When I queried this, I was told that gin-and-tonic was much more potent at that high altitude.  “In that case I’ll have a double,” I said flippantly, and was rewarded by a millimetric contraction of the flawless but phony smile.  So I got back onto the ski lift and went down to spend the evening at Hunter Thompson’s place in Woody Creek, where we ended up doing some pretty accurate target practice with high-velocity rifles.  I think I had a better time than those who stayed correct — and what’s more they can’t take that evening away from me, try as they may. 

I’m perhaps straying (though quite soberly, I assure you) from my initial point about the connection between alcohol and physical well-being.  The relationship between booze and mental well-being is much more oblique, and even more fraught.  But there is a connection.  The very word “spirit” preserves the initial intuition of the “inspired” that was detected by the Greeks when they hit upon fermentation and employed it to lubricate their symposia.  In moderation, of course, yes, if you insist… but how was “moderation” established except by transcending itself just a bit?  John Keats caught the point deftly in his “Ode to a Nightingale,” which is actually not all that much about birdsong, sweet though it may be:

O for a draught of vintage!  that hath been / Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, / Tasting of Flora and the country-green, / Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth! / O for a beaker full of the warm South! / Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, / With beaded bubbles winking at the brim…

These are, indeed, matters of the heart as well as of the mind.  Perhaps the most damning disclosure arising from the recent findings is the one:  a medical investigation into cardiac disease, started in 1948 and known as the Framingham Heart Study, found that alcohol was beneficial.  In his 1996 memoirs, Dr. Carl Seltzer, one of the Framingham researchers, confessed that he and his fellow physicians had been prevented by officialdom from publishing their evidence.  When a guy called Zeltzer tells me that drink is wholesome, I pay attention. But something in the Puritan soul is committed to making and keeping people miserable, even when it is *not* for their own good.  Some of us have at least an inkling of the pursuit of happiness, as well as of happiness as a pursuit. 

58 Responses to “Hitchens on Booze!”

  1. Bill Crocker Says:

    Christopher: I wished I lived next door to you. We could talk, write, drink or whatever you like. I saw the C-Span ditty on you at you house. Wonderful – you, of course and the house.

    All the best. BC

  2. Bill Crocker Says:

    Chris; typo in last email. “..you..” should be YOUR. Sorry. BC

  3. DaHata Says:

    Hitchens is a self-loathing drunk and an insane Clinton-hater.

  4. Mark Dobbins Says:

    I also heard that he and Andrew Sullivan made out during a holiday drinks party. I wonder if there was any tongue?

  5. Joe Says:

    I’ve seen people like you, productive for a while, into the 50′s, yes they even look young, but then start to decay in the 60′s..rambling away about nothing, thinking they are so clever. Sad. I have an idea for Mr Hitchens, why don’t you drill a burr hole in your head, insert a catheter tube in, and pump alcohol via direct injection. Yes, it can be done, it has been done. Much more efficient..geterdone.

  6. Name Says:

    A perfectly delightful article, and the comments a perfect example of how the internet will undo civilization.

    • Daniel Says:

      When the time comes that idiots can no longer their points the world really will have came to an end. For now at least, the internet allows the intelligent and the idiotic alike to speak as they wish.

      Great article. It’s an American mental infirmity that just doesn’t allow the idea of moderation, or that what a person produces with their lifestyle is important, not the lifestyle itself.

  7. Lenny Says:

    Couldn’t agree more with “Name”. Very perspicacious. I’m quite sozzled myself. That must be why I said perspicacious.


  8. [...] The assault on Christopher Hitchens’ body continues – he’s been waterboarded, body-waxed and suffered through countless hangovers. [...]

  9. Nicole Says:

    My friends got a “kegerator” a few months ago. It was the beginning of the end. They may as well have flown a white flag in their front yard to show how much they’ve surrendered to middle age, booze and doing nothing. They give great parties, but I would hardly say they were witty geniuses or even interesting people. Truth is, there are a ton of boring drunks.

  10. Nicole Says:

    Still, I would rather hang around drunks than a bunch of uptight prigs. Pernod is good for loosening people up….

  11. Greg Says:

    Hey Joe,

    I hear that Christopher is taking applications for a new staff position, “Mommy.” Want to apply?

    Seriously, dude, what if he does “start to decay in the 60’s..rambling away about nothing, thinking he’s so clever?” I’m pretty sure Mr. Hitchens already thinks he’s pretty clever, and no amount of drinking is going to change that.

    I believe the above article mentions you specifically: “the mediocre jerk who knows what’s best for you.”


  12. [...] writer and notorious member of the drinking classes, Christopher Hitchens, wrote enthusiastically about a report that portended to show drinking alcohol as an advantage to ones health, significantly [...]


  13. [...] The assault on Christopher Hitchens’ body continues – he’s been waterboarded, body-waxed and suffered through countless hangovers. [...]

  14. alan church Says:

    Hitch seems not to know that more than 2 drinks a day for men can be bad for your health. And in the quantites he drinks it is usually VERY bad for your health, causing great damage,e.g., to the cardio-vascular system and is associated with increased rates of cancer, which he now has-maybe more from the smoking.

  15. larry Says:

    Big deal if he starts falling apart in his 60′s…….Your 60′s are when you should start moving off the stage and let the next generation with some new ideas in…..Most of the leaders in the US Senate and House are over 60 and look at the stinking mess they have created………..When you start wearing depends it’s time to go….

  16. Patrick Says:

    Hitch gets it. Boring Puritans begone. I would take 60 years of Godless drinking and smoking and living life to the hilt over 90 years of dull, pointless slag anytime. Fortunately, as I have invented an elixir that may just extend the former (click name/link).

  17. E Says:

    Quality over Quantity applies well to one’s years.


  18. [...] he sees no irony in his manner of demise, but one cannot help but sadly and pathetically chuckle at Hitchens’ description of drinking alcohol, one of his favorite pastimes, from early 2009: What the soothing people at Alcoholics Anonymous [...]

  19. Jeremy Judd Says:

    Beautifully worded Mr. Hitchens. I didn’t know that you and Hunter were friends, but great minds that you both are I shouldn’t be surprised.

    You have a way of wording what those of us with minds who imbibe heavily intrinsically feel in a way that makes it understandable, if still not agreeable to those that do not.


  20. I just spent an hour looking through your videolog loved it you have really good taste. cheers.


  21. Great review! You actually covered some curious things here. I came across it by using Google and I’ve got to admit that I already subscribed to the RSS feed, will be following you on my iphone :)

  22. Tom Murphy Says:

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a fascist cult religion, based on ideas that Bill Wilson stole from a Hitler-lovin preacher named Frank N.D. Buchman. It does far more harm than good. It has no success rate, only a monstrous failure rate. It increases the rate of suicide, binge-drinking, arrests for DUI, compared to NO TREATMENT WHATSOEVER. Teaching people that they are powerless over booze, and that the only thing that will save them is grovelling before God and doing a load of guilt-inducing, phobia-implanting cult practices, more commonly known as the 12 steps, has done huge damage to countless people.

  23. Anthony Cook Says:

    I don’t agree with Christopher but I do love his writing. There are good scientific reasons why any alcohol is harmful to your organs. That’s not to say you can spot the drinker and the wowser simply by their health while they are alive – many factors closely and distantly relating to a drinking lifestyle exist to counteract and disguise such harm, But you pretty much can spot them with an autopsy.
    Long life Chris. Someone has to drink, it might as well be you.

  24. dominic Says:

    Why do so many substance abusers feel it necessary to justify their excesses by cherry picking “told you so…nah nah na nah nah” medical research on the “benefits” of alcohol? Few moderate drinkers do so in order to “protect their heart” or lower their “bad cholesterol” & no heavy drinker ever did. Thank God, I only started drinking in my early 30s…I’m now 40 & contrary to Hitchens biased defence of alcohol, regular consumption of alcohol has lead to depression, despair, weight gain & anxiety.

    For Hitchens, his words above are now academic. Whilst some are fortunate enough to consume alcohol moderately with few ill effects, for others their habit becomes their life. Without a glittering career in the spotlight to put it into perspective and the opportunity to philosophise sagely inbetween bouts of chemotherapy, addiction to alcohol & its lethal effects has a very hollow ring.

  25. dominic Says:

    It’s also one of life’s great myths that non drinkers are “boring”…or rather that drinkers are “more interesting” & “better company”. It’s my experience that people are generally at their least appealing when gearing up for or in the midst of a drinking session. Hitchens experience of life is not typical, neither are his acquaintances. The average “heavy drinker” is tedious, embarrassing, bombastic & cynical. Drinking is massively overrated. In the end, alcohol is not a “wager”, but a con. First it cons you, then you con yourself, then you forget you were ever conned in the first place…it’s called a drug habit & no amount of drinking tales, bonhomie & self pity alters the reality of a drug habit.

  26. Anthony Cook Says:

    When I wrote that post in June I didn’t know much about CH, including that he already had succumbed to one of the many unfortunate consequences that drinkers are prone to.
    I was quite saddened to hear of his illness but have to admit that, like a tree that senses its imminent demise, his writing and public speaking seem if anything to have blossomed.
    Yes Dominic you could say he pulled the wrong rein on that one. We humans make a habit of getting things wrong. I think Christopher was born in ’49 so we’re around the same age, I’m a ’47 vintage, and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve seen a glimmer of light on things I rejected out of hand most of my life. I speak not on matters of health but theology.
    In truth there’s not a lot these days that Christopher and I would agree on were we seated next to each other at a dinner party, but I know it would be a most enjoyable night, not in the least boring.

  27. George Marshall Says:

    well, yesterday he died of oesphegal cancer…in the light of which it is pretty appalling that he used his profile and talent to justify a lifestyle that led to his own early painful death. There’s nothing very cool and badboy rebel in being a premature corpse.

    • tonycook Says:

      Or, his widely reported death may very well have shown many people the error of his ways and may prompt large numbers to rethink their own drinking lifestyle. CH showed himself to be a quite talented and hardworking writer. If he had his faults – of course he did, he’s human – I’d rather forget about them now that he’s gone. I am full of admiration for his continuing to write of his days in the life of a cancer/chemo victim right up to the end. See: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hitchens-201201

      He has given all of us reason to think about our mortality and make provision for the day death comes to us. Or rather the month or six – most of us have to put up with the pain and discomfort of dying for a lot longer than we would like.


  28. I have such mixed feelings….I admired the man’s writing, yet all the stories I have read prove that he was a madman of a drinker, imbibing before, during and after dinner, never without a cigarette, laughing, joking and yes, drinking his liver into a fine mess. I want to believe his nostrums about how drinking is good for you, but have to admit that sometimes I am afraid that like Hitch, I am addicted to booze and though I would like to think it’s good for me….can it really be?

    • tonycook Says:

      imho if anyone cares, no way is it good for anyone, the world would be a better place without it. I’ve been a heavy drinker, a very light drinker, and for the last six years a complete abstainer and I can tell anyone who’s interested, complete abstinence is best. Once you’ve been off it a couple of months you don’t miss it in the least.
      Life is much more fun, much more exciting and interesting, everything in your body, including your brain, works noticeably better once you give it up. If you want the proanthocyanidins drink grape juice instead.


      • “complete abstinence is best”

        For you. You do not speak for the rest of us, kind sir. I’ve also been a heavy drinker and teetotaler and everything in between. Alcohol is a friend to me. It can be an enemy, if you let it. More often than not my life is enhanced through drink and I make no apologies for it.


  29. [...] words on drink itself. I’d like to share some quotes from two pieces I found. The first is a bit on staying healthy through drink. I’ll be 54 in April, and everyone keeps asking how I do it. How do I do what? I’m never [...]


  30. Hello Howtoplayalone,
    Thanks for that, A great deal of things in our lives count on our careers or careers. We all have to do a day-to-day chore for 5 or 6 days a week and eight hours a day. We then rightfully get a consistent sum of financial resources as our salary following operating arduous for an individual or two weeks. Our incomes allow for us to survive in this contemporary-day world. This pretty a great deal sums up the standard job or employment approach.
    Regards

  31. seo Says:

    Howdy! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

  32. Manatu Alexandru-Dan Says:

    There is no such thing as a premature fucking corpse.It doesn’t matter how much you drink, even smack dripping your arm is, as long as you continue to have a high level of functioning, which in turn, allows you to be yourself.There is no such thing as abuse on the body, abuse is a supremely personal and conceptual I might add sort of thing.There was a quote about Jimi Hendrix:”We all wish we could afford to die at 27″.Hitchens died at 62.There is no such thing as a premature corpse, though it is quite possible he would have turned into an Alzheimer ridden, bar hopping blabbering about past adventures current misfortunes and the likes, but the most sinister and soul-sobering type of stuff, is a perfectly healthy 90 year old, who has done, to quote Phil Anselmo of Pantera “fucking zero”.That is the true sadness.If there was a pill to greatness all of you would take it, actually you would most likely sell all of your possesions to afford it.Most productive drunks do that.You don’t have enough to your name to say that you have done, or that are even “morraly” capable of doing so.You cannot “degrade” yourself to greatness.He has.

    • antonio Says:

      I understand where you’re coming from Manatu and appreciate your input, but can you or Phil actually point to anyone who’s done “fucking zero” in their life? and their death? It’s easy to be dismissive of those who lead humble lives, but how capable are we of judging what is a life well-lived, a death well-navigated? There was a time when I’d have given anything to be as talented and have written and spoken as widely and as well as Christopher Hitchens, to be as “high-level functioning” as he seemed to be. But now I tend to agree with Solomon, it’s all just vanity. It could well be there’s a purpose in life that has very little to do with the things we value and Jimi may have valued most – celebrity, wealth, acclaim, admiration. And the longer we manage to live and to keep intact our thinking faculties, perhaps the more likely we are to discover it.

  33. Stacey Says:

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this
    onto a friend who has been doing a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me dinner because I discovered it for him.
    .. lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk
    about this topic here on your website.

  34. Boris G Says:

    Vale Hitch

  35. Angela Squires Says:

    We do miss you so much Hitch.

  36. webpage Says:

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  37. Hitch had it right. I made the decision relatively recently that I much rather die in my 60′s and enjoy drink (and other excesses) to my hearts content than live into my 80′s and die a teetotaling health food freak. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest.

  38. antonio Says:

    I have a dear friend who made the same decision in his 30s Colin. Today he’s 63, 3 years younger than me, and he deeply regrets what he now sees was the wrong choice. He has a range of health problems, including PAD (peripheral artery disease) which currently manifests as severe pain in his legs when he walks any distance and ED (erectile dysfunction) when he tries to make love to his beautiful wife.

    Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde which causes oxidative damage to blood vessel walls and other tissues. The addictive nature of drinking combined with the toxic effects of the break-down products mean that drinkers age significantly more quickly than non-drinkers. My friend’s doctor tells him he’s not going to die anytime soon so he has to get used to putting up with his present discomfort, and worse, for a long time to come.

    Life does have a purpose Colin. You may not yet have come to realise what it is but one day you will. The trouble with drinking is it makes understanding such things almost impossible because the alcohol becomes your purpose. And later on your purpose becomes finding a combination of medications to help you cope with the pain and discomfort.

    Please rethink your decision while you can mate. Being seen by some as a freak is a small price to pay for keeping a healthy body and unimpaired mental faculties into your 60s (and 70s and 80s and 90s….)


    • “Life does have a purpose Colin.”

      Who said that it didn’t? Certainly not I.

      I don’t need to be saved. I really don’t want to grow old. To be a wrinkled old bag of bones with achy joints and irregular bowel movements and a laundry list of prescription meds in my cupboard. Just sitting around waiting to croak. Getting in everybody’s way. No thanks. I’ll pass.

      There are no guarantees in life. Assuming your premise, if I lead a boring life now, I could get to 70 and be in great shape and still have a lust for life. I could also die in a gruesome auto accident, through no fault of my own, at 35 because some idiot ran a red light.


      • Also, non-drinkers get ED and PAD. Non-drinkers get cancer. What a great way for your body to pay you back for supposedly treating it so well. Eh?

        On the topic of ED, I’ve been drinking for 15 years and my sexual performance is top notch. It’s quite paradoxical, I’ll admit. I always expect the drink to give me whiskey dick but it never does. Which brings me to my final point…..

        The more and more I’ve studied health and human behavior, the more obvious it becomes that it’s all n=1. Health studies are pretty much pointless. One person can live in such a way that would totally wreck another’s immune system. One person can become a vegan and thrive yet another can adopt the same diet down to the last individual morsel of food and feel lethargic and begin to show vitamin deficiencies within a week.

  39. antonio Says:

    Yeah there’s some truth in what you say. I’m sorry if I spoke inappropriately, I guess I am a bit prejudiced and a bit of a zealot when it comes to drug and alcohol use. I know nothing of your circumstances and apologise if I offended you, the choices you make are none of my business.

    I wish you all the best Colin.


    • No hard feelings. If somebody wants to live without alcohol, I fully understand their decision. I’ve gone long stretches without it and managed just fine. My main point is that we aren’t all cut from the same cloth. Some people are at their peak when sober and do amazing things, while others have an uniquely spiritual connection to intoxication. Some people call this connection “addiction” but that’s another story for another time.


  40. […] you find yourself having a rather difficult time being thankful because, frankly, life is shit. We’re all born into a losing struggle, […]

  41. Tree Says:

    Living longer for what? Destroying more and more the beautiful Earth. After thousands and thousands of living on Earth we are still fighting and eating each other, almost bodily,
    for any reason you think of.
    Christopher Hitchens did a great remarkable job. He was so brave and tried to teach us to be brave and stand firm against an idiotic ideas which we call it religions and God or Allah or whatever you call it. He is not between us now but what about his writings, books, videos. I agree with Colin when he says”I don’t need to be saved. I really don’t want to grow old. To be a wrinkled old bag of bones with achy joints and irregular bowel movements and a laundry list of prescription meds in my cupboard. Just sitting around waiting to croak. Getting in everybody’s way. No thanks. I’ll pass.”

  42. antonio Says:

    Does it have to be like that though Tree? I suspect that there’s a side to existence that dear CH might have overlooked all his life and that in railing against the obvious flaws in the thinking of conventional Christianity, Islam, and the like, he was advocating throwing the baby out with the bath-water.

    And if that’s the case, if there IS something to be discovered about what life is all about, something that might very well reverse human-kind’s propensity for acquisitiveness and its readiness to hack into the planet and destroy countless species in the quest for wealth, surely it makes sense to explore that.

    And surely the way to do that is with our mental faculties working unhindered by a daily dose of society’s favourite mind-numbing concoctions.

    You and Colin believe CH was plenty sharp, and his view of the world and life was worth adopting. I don’t agree with CH’s view – I don’t agree with mainstream Christianity’s or Islam’s either – and I think there IS something out there to be understood. And we’re not going to find understanding in a bottle.

    What’s more there’s no evidence that just because someone lives healthily, their last years will be spent in an anymore decrepit physical and mental state than a drinker’s. We’ll all die and it’s highly likely that as we get closer to that day we’ll get progressively more feeble. But, if anything, I believe giving up drinking would more likely shorten the length of one’s pre-dying decrepitude than extend it. Wouldn’t it?


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