Warning: this blog post may contain sweeping generalizations about the effects of alcohol. I don't have any data to back up thoughts, just observations taken over the past few weeks in my campo. I don't admit to understanding alcoholism at its core, because I've never experienced it. I am also not a doctor, so I'm not claiming that. I know that this can be a sensitive issue for many people and I want to be up front that I don't have answers just observations and a pondering mind.
I didn't realize alcoholics scared me until I met one I didn't know.
I've had a few interactions recently with alcoholism in my campo.
The first was the day I was waiting for my friend Antonio before a celebration in the "play". I stood waiting while an extremely drunk man got in my face and repeatedly asked me to go to the celebration with him where he would buy me drinks and dance with me. I told him no, but he kept insisting. I'll let it be known that I wasn't scared. It was the middle of the day and we were in a very public location. He is a known alcoholic and it was more annoying than scary. He was antagonistic with me later during a rain storm and the frustrating part was that everybody just let him keep on with me instead of redirecting him to someone he knew. It wasn't a real problem though. Where the issue can rise is when he gets drunk at night and decides to enter my house. (This recently happened to a friend of mine in a different campo.)
The next situation was during a rain storm. I was walking near a house I've been to many times when the storm kicked up. A drunk man invited me to sit on the porch. I was timid about the decision. I have never seen this man sober. On the other hand, I've never actually seen him take a drink. He reeks of alcohol, and he is very nice. My timid comes in because I don't actually know this man. I decide to sit with him on the porch because he was with three other sober people. (Why do I always end up with drunk people in the rain?)
Now, a conversation about how alcoholism effects me in my life here in the campo.
Basically, it doesn't, any more than it would back home. I've decided that alcoholics only make me nervous when I don't know them. We all can probably name an alcoholic in our lives. Because we know them, we usually aren't scared or nervous around them because we know their drunken habits. Is this a drunk who is lovely when sober, but going to punch me in the face because he is drunk? Then avoid conversation topics of significance when drinking with this person. Is this man pleasant when sober, but a plotting house intruder when drunk? Well, keep your doors locked and don't hang around him at night. Is he going to ask me to dance all night when he's drunk and do the exact same thing when sober. Well, lace up my dancing shoes. Is he going to tell me things that make me feel bad about myself, my appearance, and my life choices? Well, consider what they said, find the truth if any, and don't drink with this person, probably ever, because you need to love yourself and alcohol isn't a good reason for being mean.
I've thought about alcoholism before I came here. I don't think you can grow up in this world, well in America, and not see it and hear about the effects of it. It is something that scares me. I avoided alcohol in college partially because I didn't want to fall down a dangerous path that almost felt inevitable. I still try to hold back now because I worry about ending on that dangerous path. Alcoholism isn't really a decision you make in my opinion. I think it sneaks up on you and before you know it you are walking around the campo, no longer holding a job, and everybody just knows you as the funny drunk guy that messes with the American volunteer. It's typically an illness, and should be treated as such, but since it is generally brought on by drinking a lot and being depressed, it's probably best that I avoid drinking while being depressed.
I recently heard a young girl say, "Sloppy girls drink and if don't want to be sloppy."
Now, I don't think everyone who drinks is sloppy. I had a great night recently with a good friend and a bottle of wine. I'll admit, alcohol makes me sloppy. I become someone I don't like when I drink past a certain line. I think some of my PC friends have learned that the line for me isn't very deep. You just need to know your own limits and stick to them. Everybody is different.
I was recently talking with the doctor in my town. He said that his biggest issue is the hundreds of people who come to his door each week early in the morning banging for assistance with alcohol gone too far at the disco. This statistic was actually very interesting to me and another PC volunteer because as we both noticed, there aren't very many people whom appear to be alcoholics here. Also, the people who are drinking seem to hold their alcohol pretty well. (America, we are much sloppier at the disco than they are!) It seems to me that most people here drink a steady amount and are mostly fine, but then one or two hit the line, or maybe the wall, and can't go a minute without the bottle. After that it seems you live your life in a constant state of drunkenness.
The two drunk guys in my campo seem happy enough. One has a family and a life of sitting on his porch talking to people all day. The other walks trough the campo with a drink in his hand. I don't see him often, but when I do, he too seems happy enough. I guess what I have to wonder though is, are they?
After my friend called and said she was being sent to the capital for a few days I really wondered about the bottle. Her campo beat the guy up who was banging on her door in the night and he is being sent to jail. She said he probably just drank a little too much and she's not even sure he knew where he was. She doesn't think he was trying to hurt her. Now, this guy who drank too much may have to spend significant time in jail. She wasn't even sure if she should involve security at first. A drunk guy bangs on your door in the middle of the night and eventually goes away... Is that a security problem?
Alcohol is cheap in the DR.
When people are depressed they often turn to the drink. (Assumption)
I know I have the tendency of the person above, so to combat that, I avoid drinking a lot, and rarely, if ever alone.
I think alcoholism in the DR is the same as it is in America (but I have no statistics to back this up).
I didn't realize alcoholics scared me until I met one I didn't know.
When I first started drinking I was terrified I was going to become an alcoholic, but have since realized that occasional drinks aren't a problem for me.
Alcoholics in the campo are annoying in the day and scary at night.
I rarely see alcoholics here drinking, you just know, the smell, the actions.
Most alcoholics are really nice. (Assumption)
Alcoholism is a sickness, generally, and probably requires professional help. (Assumption)
I can't sense what Dominicans think about alcoholism and wonder now what they think.