French scientist Pierre Fouquet was an early researcher of alcoholism. He broke the illness into three categories, two of which describe the circumstances of people we now describe as “alcoholics,” such as drinking in secret with the goal of blacking out.
The third, “alcoholitis,” is “the most common form of alcoholism in France, particularly among men,” Fouquet noted. The subject has a high tolerance and lacks serious psychological complications — they mainly drink beer and wine in social settings, just in too large quantities for it to be healthy.
“We drink to drink with others,” Fouquet said, but “the toxic effects of consumption are still felt.”
Our sneakiest addictions are those we don’t consider to be problems at all. If you drink with coworkers four nights a week and everyone has two beers, that seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.
The question — and this may be Fouquet’s greatest contribution to the world — is:
The loss of this freedom is the mark of an addict, Fouquet claimed. When we no longer feel free to abstain, when it seems as if there is no choice to be had, that’s when we should scratch our heads — because we always have a choice.
I love coffee. I usually drink two cups every day. Yesterday, I just had one, and occasionally, I’ll skip an entire day. Not because I want to, but because I must remember that I can.
It is nice to give yourself a break, even from things you love, especially if the break will prevent the thing from becoming a chain around your ankles.
It is also profoundly liberating to sit in front of a foregone conclusion, like “I will drink this beer,” and realize, “You know what? I’m free to abstain. I can just say no.”
Don’t let harmless habits become dictators. Innocuous addictions can secretly run your life. Use your freedom to abstain. It is something you’ll always have — even when you think you’ve already lost it.