It's Friday. It is the beginning of the weekend, a time to catch up with chores, spend time with family and friends, and relax. For some, it means it's time to get blotto (does that still mean what it used to mean when I was younger?) and to stay that way until it's time to sober up and go back to work on Monday.
My son and I have been talking a lot about drink and drugs lately. He takes a city bus home from high school every day and encounters other, older students, who speak to him about getting drunk or 'wasted,' and who even offer him drugs. One older kid offered him free samples of whatever drug he was pushing, marijuana I think.
I pointed out to my son that offering free samples is a form of marketing. In order to create a customer, you have to get him or her interested in your product. If someone tries your soap, or soup, or marijuana, and likes it, he or she is likely to come back to you as your customer. The name of Robert A. Heinlein has come up in this blog and in Bellezza's recently. He coined the term TANSTAAFL, an acronym for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. The peanuts at your favourite bar may appear to be free, but the cost is really buried in the cost of the booze you consume. The proffered sample of marijuana may appear to be free, but its cost will quickly be recovered in the high mark-up typical to illicit drugs.
My son, so far, has had the good sense to say no.
Why use drugs at all? Or booze? What is the attraction? Why does someone take that first drink, that first toke, or pop that first pill?
Peer pressure surely plays a part. Teenagers, in particular, like to feel like they belong. They might participate just so they can be like their friends. Or, they might give in to the taunting typical of teenagers and even some adult bird-brains: "Whutzamatter, are ya chicken or sumthin?"
I have tried to teach my son that doing something just because 'everyone else' is doing it is foolhardy and weak. That is never an acceptable excuse.
What about adults? What is their excuse for irrational behaviour? I am not speaking here of just having a drink or two. I have a well-stocked liquor cabinet and occasionally take a drink. Sometimes, my wife and I will have a bottle of wine with dinner. No problem, right? That is moderate behaviour and is perfectly OK. I am referring instead to those who live for Friday night and the weekend so they can drink or drug themselves into a stupor.
Again, why do people do this? Some people, I explained to my son, find false courage in a bottle or in a drug. It enables them to get past their shyness or inhibitions. It enables them to do things they might otherwise not do, and then not to care afterwards. Other people, I explained further, hate their lives (and sometimes themselves) so much that they take every opportunity to escape from reality. Booze and drugs are the tools they use to accomplish that.
I asked myself, even when I was a teenager, why people do this. Why would anyone live a dismal life, spend two days escaping it, and then have to go back to that same, dreaded life, on Monday? Why not do something about the underlying problem instead? In an unhappy relationship? Break-up. Or get counselling. Crappy job? Find another one. No-one else will hire you? Improve your skills or your education so you will have more to offer. With the money saved by stopping to use booze and drugs to escape, there will be funds available for more constructive use. Bored? Do some volunteer work. Take classes in the evening. Get a hobby. Talk to friends, spouse and children.
One of my companies produced financial software back in the 1990s. One of the products, Success Financial Software*, helped with financial calculations of various types. It is no longer in production, but anyone can download a free version here, then use it to calculate how much money would accumulate if they no longer spent $80.00 (or whatever) on booze or drugs every week for the rest of their lives, and invested the money and generated interest income instead. It is amazing how much money some people manage to piss away on things that aren't even good for them. This one thing alone would be enough to make me swear off booze, drugs, or even cigarettes.
I am not railing against anyone's right to do whatever they wish to do with their own bodies. I just want everyone, especially teenagers before they develop any bad habits, to understand the implication of their actions. Every dollar spent polluting their bodies is a dollar that they can't use to invest towards their future financial security or to help take care of themselves and their eventual families.
Well, that was hard work. I think I'll go home tonight and pour myself a drink. Maybe a nice, ice-cold, delicious, glass of orange juice.
*It is a DOS program, but will run fine under any version of Windows. You may not be able to print out reports, however, because the program used the old DOS 'print calls' which are no longer supported by Windows.