In my last article, I referenced Allen Carr’s book The Easy Way to Stop Drinking (2005). It’s such a great book and unique look at alcohol and alcoholism, I decided to do it again. And it probably won’t be the last time.
In Chapter 13 of his book, Carr bravely asked “Does Alcohol Give You Courage?” In this article, I will attempt to paraphrase his findings, although I highly recommend that anyone interested in alcoholism read this book in its entirety. I cannot stress this enough.
As we know, alcohol has frequently been referred to as “liquid courage.” This invokes images of taking a shot before doing a speech, drinking a few before approaching someone attractive in a bar, or even numbing the pain before a physical fight.
Carr makes one thing clear – courage is different than the absence of fear. Courage is actually performing in the face of the fear. What alcohol does is the opposite – it takes away your fear. Fear, which is a completely normal emotion, and is, in fact, the instinct most likely to keep you alive.
Consider how the absence of fear could be dangerous. You are unafraid to put your hand in the fire. You are not afraid to jump off that balcony. You are not scared to blow a torch of searing hot flames with a shot of Bacardi 151. Need I go on?
My significant other puts it this way: “That little guy inside your head – his voice gets more and more distant the more you drink. It’s that voice that informs you about the worst case scenario.”
A drunk is almost never thought of as “courageous”. Stupid, maybe. Weak and spineless, probably. Pathetic and pitiful, undoubtedly. Does alcohol give you courage? Not according to almost anyone else.
Carr uses another great analogy between nature and alcoholism, in addition to the pitcher plant. He writes about ostriches putting their heads in the sand, and how by doing so, by not seeing approaching danger, the bird believes that it does not exist. Unfortunately for the ostrich, it does exist. And it does exist for humans, whether or not we are drunk.
Simply put, hitting on the woman with the really, really large angry husband is not a good idea. Just because the fear is not there doesn’t mean the danger is not. Fortunately for us, humans have much larger and more highly-developed brains than these birds. We know that if we close our eyes, the danger is still there. Or do we? If we are drunk or mentally/physically incapacitated, we may not.
“Bravery involves surmounting fear. So if you reduce the level of fear, doesn’t it not follow that it takes less bravery to surmount it?”
So, does alcohol give you courage? If what Carr says is true, alcohol actually makes you LESS BRAVE and have LESS COURAGE than before. You are dumb, numb, and sadly inebriated. You make less inhibited and wise decisions. You do not overcome adversity. You literally reduce adversity to a place, in your mind, which is minimized compared to reality.
If you suspect you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek help immediately.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology