Sunday, October 25, 2009


If you're an alcoholic or someone with a serious problem, I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to the college crowd who thinks it is fun to drink and harmless to get totally smashed.

Man was created in the image of God. When you get drunk to the point that you are slurring your words, bumping into tables, and have reached a point where you are totally unable to control yourself, you debase and degrade yourself. You are no longer a human being created in the image of God, with the dignity, self-respect and self-control such a person exhibits. You have lost all of that. You're throwing up on the floor, for God's sake. I find such behavior disgusting. Disgusting.

Aside from the fact that it is totally irresponsible to get that drunk, that it leads to poor decision-making, embarrassing situations, and doing things that you regret, what is much more important is that it is entirely unsafe. Maybe this time you were with your friends, but who says that's always going to be the case?

When it comes to me personally, my worst nightmare is to be totally out of control of my behavior. The songs on the radio that advocate "losing control" speak to my fears, not a desire of mine. I cannot understand the appeal in losing control of oneself. It is something I truly cannot wrap my head around. You open yourself so totally to others. You make yourself completely vulnerable. You say things that you don't even realize that you are saying. Why in seven hells is that appealing? I don't understand.

And if you won't stay sober for yourself, consider the impact you have on others. Personally, I feel very unsafe around people who are that trashed. Aside from the fact that it is extremely disconcerting for me to see a human being masquerading as an animal, the smell of alcohol on your breath, your uncoordination as you stumble around the room, and the fact that you have grabbed hold of my shoulders and I can see your unfocused eyes staring into mine terrify me. I have a deep-rooted fear of people who are unpredictable like that. Out of control to me signifies that you can do anything at any time. I cannot accurately expect appropriate behavior from you. You frighten me. The person who makes me freeze up in fear whenever I see her? Well, she wasn't drunk when she spoke to me. But she was unpredictable in exactly the way you are. To see you like this makes me scared. I half-expect you to suddenly slap me across the face, then look shocked that you did it. In short, to me it feels like you are dangerous.

So please, for yourself, for me, for God, don't get that f-ing drunk. And if for some reason I absolutely cannot understand you must do it, then make sure you don't show yourself to me like that. Because here's the rule: I lose absolutely all respect for you when I see you like that. It's done. Gone. Totally unsalvageable. This is my line. I'm warning you now, in advance. If I see you drunk to the point that you are out of control and make me feel scared, either for you or of you, I will never be able to think of you the same way again. From then on you're going to be the one who either disgusts me or brings that scared feeling up in my emotional memory; I will not be able to be around you.


Anonymous said...

What do you do on Purim?

Dorron Katzin said...

Anon 3:23:

Why do you assume that it is necessary to get drunk on Purim?

Rav Willig has given a shiur on the subject, in which he makes it very clear that people should not drink to excess on Purim. I don't have the link at hand. If I track it down, I will post the link.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I would say "Puk chazi mai ama davar"
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

I, the first anon., once many years ago as a bochur got very drunk on Purim more than usual and I spoke divrei Torah for three hours straight.

inkstainedhands said...

I just want to comment on these few sentences:

"You open yourself so totally to others. You make yourself completely vulnerable. You say things that you don't even realize that you are saying."

Why would someone want that? Perhaps because it makes it easier for them to connect to others. I am not justifying the drunken behavior that you rightly condemned; I am only saying that sometimes people DO want to feel completely vulnerable and open, letting all their walls down, getting past their insecurities, in order to open up to someone else.

Personally, I always seem to be most vulnerable when it is late at night and I am exhausted... I find myself saying or writing things I never planned to discuss. Most of the time, I don't regret it, even if I do wake up in the morning thinking, "Wait, did I really just talk to her about that?" Because my tiredness and lack of 'control' helped me get past the barriers that were saying, "No, don't let others know you so well, don't tell them these things."

I'm not saying that this is a good thing to do, but the fact is that it DOES help some people connect to each other, whether it is the result of alcohol (in small amounts) or being too exhausted to think about whether you should address a certain topic or not.

Obviously though, you're not that type of person.

I agree with you though that it's horrible when people are drunk to the point that they are tripping over their own two feet and throwing up and behaving unpredictably.

Chana said...

So good for you. Your case is not indicative of the whole. There are 100 people throwing up and making fools of themselves to the one spouting divrei torah.

A loss of control is not necessary for that. A sharing of secrets or personal feelings like that should not be the result of poor control (i.e. being drunk, overtired, etc) but rather a decision that is deliberately made to trust someone. You are privileging them by offering them such information. To give it to them freely because *you* are impaired (mentally, otherwise) is to use a crutch. I cannot see it as going anywhere good in the long run.

inkstainedhands said...

Some people can't make those decisions as easily as you, Chana. It often feels like jumping into a cold pool. There are some people that when they are 100% in control, they are hesitant to trust others. Sometimes they intentionally seek situations where it will be easier for them to open up. (I suppose it's like comparing an online conversation to going out with your friend somewhere or sleeping over because there is something important you want to talk about but feel awkward bringing up online.)

Sometimes a person WANTS to open up but feels uncomfortable doing so. Such people might feel less inhibited in certain situations or states of mind.

Of course, I am not saying that a person should be this open with everyone. But once a person already trusts someone else, he/she might WANT to be in a situation where the walls are lowered and it's easier to be open.

Anonymous said...

Inkstainedhands, so basically you are saying that @ times it's OK to drink a little to open up to someone. I find this absurd.

Sam said...

Anonymous 1:45,

You have never wanted to let go of--or wanted to have an excuse to let go of--your inhibitions? Mm?

Sorry, I don't believe you.

inkstainedhands said...

No, anonymous, that is not what I am saying. I am not condoning drinking, for whatever reasons. I was commenting more on Chana's question of why someone would want to be vulnerable and open. I was also saying that some people find it easier to open up in certain situations. I, for example, open up more easily when I am tired and not obsessively thinking, "I won't allow this person to know me better than she already does."

If that is something you find absurd, you have a right to your opinion... and I have a right to mine.

And as I wrote in my first comment, I was only commenting on those few sentences, not on the post as a whole.

EJB said...

My Rebbe heard from Rav Hutner that "you need to have 1000 tons of da'as to lose one ounce on Purim."

Stubborn and Strong said...

have you watch "Beautiful Mind"?

Dorron Katzin said...

Joel Rich 10:09 AM:

Sorry, my Hebrew language skills are inadequate. Please translate "Puk chazi mai ama davar".

Anonymous said...


Right on!

I find those who choose to get drunk in public (or in private) to be selfish individuals.

If I am with people I should want to spend time with them and be attentive towards them; that is simply not possible for a drunkard.

They will just choose to tune the world out and create their own stuppored artificial reality in which they cannot properly interact with anyone else.

"Hey, how are you?" "Tell me right after this six pack because I care sooo much." Rubbish!!!

That, to me is the epitome of selfish and rude.

Thanks for telling it right, Chana!

Anonymous said...

Sorry- it's a talmudic phrase which means go out and see what the people are doing. My impression is that purim drinking at yeshivot is fairly common and modeledby some role models.
Joel Rich

Dorron Katzin said...

Joel Rich:

I have never been in yeshiva myself, so I do not know what happens in yeshivot on Purim. My son was in Israel this past Purim. The drinking age is 18, so he drank. He is will be the US for the coming Purim, in a place where the drinking age is 21. He understands that we expect him not to drink. Dina d'malchuta dina.

EJB said...

Dman - "He is will be the US for the coming Purim, in a place where the drinking age is 21."
There are places in the US where the drinking age is not 21? Where? (besides Washington Heights)

Shades of Grey said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this post and have a yearly machlokes with a friend of mine (who has slightly more chassidish slant, not to berate their perspective at all) who always argues about the merits of drinking oneself under the table at Purim, where there is no clear halachic source that even implies that (only hashkafic works, etc).

The loss of control is staggering and for me personally, regarding one of the few times I've accidentally overdone it at Purim, but never to the point of harming myself or anyone, or throwing up for that matter, I would never want to re-experience the inability to have absolute precision of decision about what my body does and how I act. It's such a terrible feeling, with your mental self trapped in your mind while you body is off doing its own thing, even if that means just lacking the ability to walk normally and pronunciate while speaking.

The addage from the gemara in masechta Megillah talks about "nichnas yayin, yatza sod" - "wine enters and secrets/inner self are revealed" I added a corollary, "yatza sod, and not the contents of your stomach."

Certainly then, any sort of drinking without the "license" oh a mitzvah (which would be basically any other occasion than Purim, or the 4 Cups according to a minority of opinions), is pure debasement. Just look at Noach from this past week's parsha - excessive drinking leads to bad things (excluding the cup of red wine over a meal, which isn't so invasively intoxicating, and is healthy in proper moderation).

Anywho, great post!

Anonymous said...

So then ask yourselves why it is so common on purim in the yeshiva scene. perhaps (just guessing) because there needs to be a "kosher" outlet to channel something that will else come out in a non-kosher one?
Joel Rich

Dorron Katzin said...

EJB 10/25/2009 5:56pm

To my knowledge, all locations in the United States, including Washington Heights, have a drinking age of 21. I phrased it that way in case there is somewhere in the US with a lower age that I do not know about.

My son is currently residing in Washington Heights. My wife and I have told him that we expect him not to drink on Purim.

Anonymous said...

Someone who is unable to comprehend why one would want to let go and get drunk is someone who has never experienced real pain.

Chana said...

Anon 2:26,

You mean you drink to suffer twice as much? *impish wink*

Seriously speaking, I don't think drowning one's sorrows in alcohol is the way to go but that does not mean I don't appreciate how overwhelmingly horrible the sorrows could be.

Dan said...


You seem to be a person who appreciates having control in your own life. That's where drinkers differ from yourself. Some people enjoy losing control of the situation because they are not happy with their own situations.

In last weeks parsha we see the first thing noah does after he gets off the boat is he builds a vinyard, gets drunk and naked. Why? I don't know if you watch lost but when Jack gets back to mainland usa, he starts to drink heavely. He couldn't deal with the pain knowing he survived and left the others to die. Noah was the same way, he couldn't deal with the pain of knowing what he did, that he alone would spawn mankind furthermore.

You seem like the kind of person who appreciates responsibility, others, including Noah, did not.

Alcohol is an escape even to washington heights binge drinkers. Maybe they are not happy with who they are. When you drink you can become anyone you want, mr. horny drunk, mr. funny drunk, mr. smart ass drunk, anyone. It gives you the power to recreate yourself with an excuse the next morning.

I understand it because i've done it. I respect it because I know it works. Is it dangerous, maybe... but you're certainly not going to stop it...

Dune said...


Your explanation is quite insightful. I can't say I understand as I physically can't drink any more than very little without getting sleepy. However, all those who drink for the reasons you mentioned should be aware that Alchohol is a depressant. It's a biological fact that the way it works on the system is as a depressant. Therefore, if a person tries to use drinking for unhappiness or social awkwardness, the drinking will only be as a mask for that night; but, over time it will only make it harder for the person to be happy. And even the day afterwards, the person will feel like crap. If a person is unhappy or socially awkward then working on those things is what will help them in the long run; while drinking their problems away will only back there problems up in a dam. If a person feels they need to lose control or throw the weight of the worl off their shoulders, there are other, beneficial ways of doing so. Music, hiking, meditation, ... The point is, only dealing with the problem will make it actually go away; anything else will only adress the symptoms, and only for a little while at that.

Dan said...

How many people actually like to deal with their problems? People like quick fixes. You're absolutely correct in your analysis of what alcohol actually does. But what alcohol actually does, and what alcohol feels like it's doing are two different things. It gives you a "high" for the night, technically a low, but the people who drink like this can't tell the difference anyway.

The people who drink to change who they are, are weak minded people. Nervous, perhaps scared to show the world who they truly are. Some girls I knew, used to pretend to get drunk so they could act how they wanted- crazy, hyper, horny, etc. They didn't need alcohol to change, they didn't even want alcohol. They wanted an excuse. So if they did something crazy, or said something stupid- Oh! That was the alcohol speaking...

I agree with you though, for these teens/ collegites, their problems will only build and manifest into worse problems. Alcohol can be a dangerous spiral...

However, I will note, that many drink for the art of fine liquor making, whiskeys- Scotch/Bourbon, etc. And these people drink for the taste and not for the effects. Alcohol like many things can be an art or a disgust.