A theme that came up more than once in my latest reading of Richard Nixon's Leaders was alcohol. Here are some stories that Nixon tells:
143: "[German leader Konrad Adenauer] had other weapons besides the
cold steel of logic, however. When a cabinet meeting grew difficult, he
would sometimes suspend debate for a while and pass around a bottle of
wine. After a few glassfuls and some friendly small talk, he would
resume the meeting. The opposition would then be substantially less
----Page 155: "[Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev was
then relatively new to power and unfamiliar with the leaders he would be
confronting in the free world. He was clearly intent upon testing
Adenauer's mettle. During one banquet he proposed a seemingly endless
series of toasts to see whether the seventy-nine-year-old Adenauer, so
intractable at the negotiating table, could be worn down by liquor.
Though he preferred wine to vodka, Adenauer had a stomach as well as a
will of iron. After fifteen toasts he was still both upright and
alert----alert enough, in fact, to notice that Khrushchev had been
drinking water. The next morning Adenauer confronted Khrushchev with
the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that any man who would do such a thing
could not be trusted. Surprised to find that he had been caught in the
act, Khrushchev could only laugh."
Page 188: "The table was laden
with every manner of Russian delicacy and soft and hard drinks. Despite
his well-deserved reputation for drinking heavily, Khrushchev only
sampled the array of vodka and wine. He appreciated good food and
drink. But just as his famed temper was always his servant and not his
master, his drinking on this occasion was strictly for pleasure and was
never permitted to interfere with business. He was cold sober
throughout our long afternoon of talks."
Alcohol can indeed be
conducive to camaraderie and socializing in a relaxed manner. I one
time heard a person with Asperger's Syndrome talk about how he did not
really fit in with his Irish extended family----until they started to
get drunk together. Then, they could have fun and bond with each other.
alcohol can also hinder some people from doing the business that they
need to do. Khrushchev did not want to get drunk when negotiating
because he wanted for his mind to be alert and sharp during that time.
And, speaking of the negative effects that drinking lots of alcohol can
bring, that one person with Asperger's whom I discussed in my above
paragraph eventually decided to quit drinking, for he thought that he
was degenerating into a sour alcoholic.
I used to drink for a
variety of reasons. I drank socially because I hoped that it would
loosen me up in social settings. Social settings make me nervous. I
tend to clam up within them, which is not particularly attractive to
people and which can even draw mockery. Drinking helped me to loosen
up, to relax, and to talk more. Did that make me more attractive to
people? To some people it did, and to some people it didn't. One
person told me I was fun when I was drinking, which was probably true
because I loosened up when I was drunk, whereas when I was not drinking I
was more stiff, reserved, formal, and guarded. But not everyone likes
to be around someone who's drunk and who's saying a lot of silly things
with bombast. Come to think of it, I myself don't, particularly.
I drank even more in solitude. The reason was that it made me feel
better. I have Asperger's Syndrome, and what that means is that I don't
do too well socially. I have a history of not fitting in and of being
rejected by people, and I become resentful when I think back about
that. I also have fear about the future: how will I make a living in
the future if I have a hard time getting people to like me? Drinking
was a way for me to self-medicate. And it got to the point where no
amount was enough. I would go through a six-pack on certain nights and
still want more. I could identify with something that Leo McGarry said
on an episode of The West Wing: he kept on drinking because he
wanted that feeling to go on! But waking up with a hangover was no
fun. I think of what Scotty said on that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: never get drunk unless you're willing to pay for it the next morning!
decided to stop drinking, and I have been sober for what I consider to
be a respectable number of years----though, regardless of how many years
that one is sober, it's always one-day-at-a-time. What do I do now
that I don't drink? How do I do socially? How do I cope with my
resentments about the past and my fears about the future? How do I
Socially-speaking, I'm not as nervous now as I used
to be when talking with people. But I still can be rather stiff,
formal, and reserved. I doubt that I would be the life of the party
were I to go to a party. By and large, my policy about a lot of social
gatherings that I have to attend is "suit up and show up." I show up,
do my duty, and I leave. Sometimes, I can end up having enjoyable,
interesting conversations with people. Sometimes, I just want to rush
to the door! I'm just speaking for myself, and there are plenty of
people within recovery groups who would tell you that they became more
fun----more happy, joyous, and free----when they quit drinking and did
the spiritual work on themselves that would help them to stay sober.
That's fine (even though I get rather sick of people bragging about how
happy and spiritual they are), but it's just not me. Come to think of
it, though, I do have a little more serenity now that I don't drink.
I'm not the life of the party, but I do have a quiet, flat sort of
peace. One thing I will add: I'm not sure if my social mettle has been
truly tested over the past couple of years. My Mom and her husband
accept me, even though I am quiet. I go to church, and there are plenty
of people at the pot-lucks who themselves are quiet, so I don't feel
out-of-place being quiet. That doesn't mean that I feel compelled to
throw myself into hyper-social situations, though.
How do I cope
with my resentments about the past and my fears about the future? This
is still a struggle for me, to tell you the truth. Many within recovery
groups find that working with a mentor or a sponsor is helpful. It can
be. I don't do that as much nowadays, since I'm not really in recovery
groups, due to my struggle to fit in at them. But I did find one time
that talking with my pastor really helped me. I was nervous about a
social event that was coming up, which I had to attend, and my pastor
gave me encouragement. It's good when you can
find someone who's rooting for you and can give you guidance to hang on
to within a tough setting. Another way that I cope is through prayer
and Bible reading, and, the more I feel resentful on a given day, the
more I pray and read the Bible. That doesn't necessarily solve my
problems, to tell you the truth, but it does help me to alleviate
feelings of resentment or fear that I may have.
Conversion: A Moment, a Process, or…?
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