It is common understanding that if a person is not an alcoholic with a drinking problem, then he or she should be able to consciously make a decision to avoid drinking and driving and should know when he or she has had too much to drink and will stop as the signs of impairment set in. I propose that there is another possibility that after many years of "social" drinking, a certain level of toxicity and tolerance to greater amounts of alcohol develops in the body. This tolerance and toxicity will creep up insidiously on people and appear suddenly in their lives after 20 or 30 years of social drinking with catastrophic consequences, such as drunk driving. This will happen to people who have been leading successful and effective lives.
Most of us understand when someone is an alcoholic and they have a genetic predisposition that turns them into a chronic alcoholic from an early age. That genetic condition means that there is an absence of enzymes in the liver that process and eliminate alcohol and its metabolic by-products. One percent of the Italian and Jewish population have this predisposition. Northern Europeans have a 30 percent rate. Asians about 50 percent and indigenous North Americans about 90 percent. The percentage is in relationship to how long the group has been drinking alcoholic beverages. Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that the Southern Europeans have been drinking for 5000 years, the Northern Europeans for about 1500 and North Americans about 100 years. The process of Darwinian selection will gradually over thousands of years eliminate this genetic flaw from a particular population. Genetically disposed alcoholics usually get addicted to alcohol at a young age, have a very difficult time quitting and it shows up in their behaviour by their thirties. Alcoholics are known to make many errors in judgment and create much wreckage in the wake of their lives. But how does it come about that a successful person could make an alcohol related mistake at the peak of their career while on a vacation, for example, away from the stresses of their everyday work life?
Alcohol and its metabolic by-products are quite toxic to the body and the brain. If a person gets into the habit of tranquilizing themselves with alcohol on a daily basis to alleviate the stresses of work or if they are in a social environment, such as where politicians and their constituents find themselves regularly, then physical and mental deterioration will usually set in over a long period of time and often in a way that is not noticeable to the individual. Cellular damage occurs and without going into the complex biochemistry of the deterioration process, adaptation begins to set in, in an paradoxical way. This adaptation entails developing a tolerance to alcohol and improved performance when he or she is drinking, and deteriorating performance when he or she is not. When a small amount of alcohol is consumed, feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and well-being will immediately be felt when this level of toxicity has been reached. His or her performance is slightly better than normal. Concentration, memory, attention span, creative thinking are all improved. And as he drinks more, these feelings get stronger, while a person not in this stage of deterioration will feel worse and exhibit the characteristic symptoms of the unpleasantries of too much alcohol. Again paradoxically, when he or she stops drinking after an evening of imbibing, and the blood alcohol level starts to fall, impairment sets in, including loss of coordination, poor judgment, memory loss, and confused thinking. The cells are addicted to alcohol and the drinker learns to keep his blood alcohol level at a maintenance level. For a non-alcoholic (genetically) this kind of excessive maintenance drinking can go on for years until the gradual deterioration causes disasters in their life.
The businessman who works twelve hour days, has a few drinks before he goes home, has a bottle of wine at dinner, and a few nightcaps before he falls asleep, and then wakes up and starts the process all over is using alcohol to solve the problems of life while the alcohol is destroying every cell in his body, impairing his judgment, causing relationships to go unattended for years with attendant congestion of human and emotional problems left unresolved. A person who uses alcohol to manage his or her life in this manner, will create many losses along the way, neglect relationships and eventually as the brain deteriorates make serious errors in judgment. Once they awaken to the tragedy of their life and quit drinking, they must go back and clean up the damage that they have caused which they are usually in denial about. .