By Paula Henriquez

HAVANA TIMES – I haven’t had good experiences with alcohol. Ever since I was a little girl, I have had to deal with bad experiences. I’ve grown up hating this damned drink that can take everything away from you, even what’s most sacred: your family. My feelings haven’t changed over time, but they have weakened, almost by force.

Alcohol is a legal drug in most of the world, except for in Islamic states. Alcohol addiction is the cause of many, many deaths, every year. I don’t understand how people continue to start drinking, even when they know what it can do to them.

I also don’t understand how events and publicity to promote alcohol consumption exist. Although it’s very clear that it is more than a lucrative business. Drinking alcohol is also a way for many people to step outside of themselves. Others do it so they can see their problems from another point of view. It might even seem like a back door to escape a rough and relentless reality.

Nevertheless, it is far from being a solution to any problem, rather it’s the exact opposite. The only thing people who seek refuge in drinking alcohol find is social rejection and a loss of credibility. They even lose their dignity, in the most extreme cases.

Even so, you can go down to any store here, any day of the year, during the worst economic and commercial crisis in the country, and you will find shelves full of all kinds of alcoholic beverages.  Tequila, Whisky, Vodka, Rum, Liquors, Wine… there’s a long list.

The butcher’s is full of empty freezers, the perfume store is just as well-stocked as the butcher’s and so on. Except for the liquor store, which is always packed with a great variety of imported and national brands. If that isn’t enough, there’s also the so-called neighborhood kiosks. These retail sales points have ended up pretty much becoming extensions of the liquor stores.

I don’t believe my hate will ever disappear. The presence of this elixir is omnipresent every time I go out looking for something. Reminding me of everything it took away from me when I was a little girl.

I’m sure that many people identify with my experience or know somebody who has endured the same thing.

I wonder what’s so different about this drug and all the others that are persecuted and sanctioned so much? Tradition? Culture? Excuses.

Alcoholics don’t know their limits when consuming, which grow as they gain greater tolerance. If not treated, it can turn into a chronic, incurable, degenerative and deadly disease. 

Read more posts from Paula Henriquez.

Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

One thought on “Elixir of the Gods?

  • I suppose the answer to Paula’s article about excessive alcohol consumption is simply moderation.

    Countless medical studies have been done about the health impact of alcohol consumption and usually the final conclusion to most studies is drink in moderation.

    Alcohol consumption has been with man/women kind for eons. Europeans, particularly, the Italians, French, Greeks consume the beverage with their meals daily, in moderation, and many medical studies have correlated their long, healthy lives with moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine. Without getting into the chemical analysis of the drink, it is a specific ingredient – the red grape skin – called resveratrol that aids in red wine’s health benefits. For the Europeans, wine has always been an elixir from the gods.

    The problem arises as Paula discusses with an over indulgence. Absolutely, too much alcohol consumption no matter where one lives in the world will lead to a myriad of social, psychological and physiological problems. Much of domestic violence begins with alcohol abuse. Paula refers to her own personal situation in that alcohol had a negative imprint on her family.

    Paula asks herself how people begin to drink knowing what the negative consequences will be. Ask any teenager why they begin to drink and the usual answer is to be part of the peer group who are also drinking, to have a good time, socialize, and for some simply to get drunk. Alcohol consumption in high schools, colleges, and university dorms is par for the course. Many know how to regulate themselves with the drink, others do not and become addicted like becoming addicted to any other dangerous drug.

    In Cuba, alcohol consumption may be used by some as a way to escape the intolerable, sometimes hopeless, economic circumstances one faces on a daily basis. Young men on street corners or sitting under the shade of a tree or on the porch of a house with no work, no hope of work, whiling away their time with a bottle of cheap rum is, unfortunately, a common site.

    Those unfortunate circumstances are also common among young Indigenous natives in northern Canada who are in the same plight as their Cuban counterparts who see no hope in sight, who feel society has abandoned them, so turn to a drug, alcohol, to sooth and smother their inner most demons.

    In both cases entire blame cannot be administered to either Cuban youth nor Canadian youth for their malady without fully understanding the true social, and personal causes of their addiction. It is too easy to simply write them off as lost souls with no hope of ever changing their negative, harmful behavior.

    Paula is absolutely correct when she concludes that once passed the stage of moderate alcohol consumption and the drinking veers into alcoholism, a dire deadly disease, if not treated, can become chronic, incurable and degenerative. Moreover, in her personal case cause life long negative impression, negative feelings towards any type of alcoholic drink.

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