[Editor’s note: Every week New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
My entire family are teetotaling religious types who never tasted a drop of liquor or tried a single drug. They even find dancing offensive. Well, I drink, and just last week they had an intervention on my behalf. Now they’ve got me thinking I may have a problem. I’ve never missed a day of work due to drinking. I pay my bills and keep up with all my responsibilities. But I do drink at least a six pack or more every day. Do I drink too much, or can I just do what I like since I’ve never run into any problems with it?
– Poppin’ a Top
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Dear Poppin’ a Top,
You can always do what you like, even if you do run into problems with it. The question is, what do you really want to do?
When it comes to personal pleasure, whether harmful to you or not, it should ultimately be up to you to decide how you live your life. As you’ve seen with your family, there are lots of people who get off on telling other people what to do. It’s not enough for them to think for themselves — they want to think for other people too. It’s probably because it helps them feel more secure in their choices if they can inflict their ideas and standards on others. We see this not just with family and friends, but also in institutions, workplace dynamics, and most of all, the government. Some people just really think they know better, and they think they’re helping us when they try to outlaw or control certain stuff — everything from large sodas to what kind of sex people can have.
You must be able to think and choose for yourself. But with that freedom comes responsibility, and it’s up to you to be honest with yourself and not get lost in a tangled web of self-deception. Be brutal with the deepest truths lying somewhere in the back of your mind, and dive deep into your soul. Ask yourself the questions you don’t really want ask, like…
Why do you drink?
Are you just trying to rebel?
I can imagine being raised by a very strict family would cause most people to strike out and go against the family grain, as a form of vengeance and to find their own identity. But was that just reactionary and is it no longer necessary? Did you start pursuing interests like drinking just to upset them? Also, what do you really like about drinking? If it’s an escape, what are you trying to escape from? And has it really been working?
When the method of escape becomes its own form of prison, we must find another way out. What would happen if you just stopped drinking for a while, just to change it up? Habitual behavior of any kind — even “good” behavior — can eventually have a soul crushing effect. Don’t become a slave to your own routine, even when you enjoy it. Changing things up adds contrast and variety to life and helps the days from blending into a blur of repetitive boredom. You get more perspective and appreciation for how big life is when you pull it apart and switch it around. Next time you feel like starting a regular beer session, what if you just try something else instead? Like bourbon! Or riding a bike, cleaning your room, making a painting, anything different.
Your family’s concern for you is real. You should be glad they care about you. And their concern has at least given you a chance to think for yourself about what you really want. But only you can decide how you really want to live. You have the power to think and act for yourself, even when it’s not easy. The power to change is inside of you, not outside you or in other people or in anything else.
It’s also not in the beer. Even if you turn outward for help, whether to a system of therapy, an individual, or a substance, it is ultimately only putting you in touch with the powers you already have inside yourself.
There are lots of people who can function highly despite incredibly intense behavior and potentially damaging choices. What can be too much for one person can be totally manageable for another. The main point is simple: If drinking beer is fun for you, keep it fun and don’t let it become the opposite. There are an infinite number of ways to party, but never let any of those ways kill the party. Know your limits, and sometimes push past them to set new ones. But always respect them and the power of your self and what you love. Life itself is the ultimate party — and if you love getting wasted, just don’t let it waste your chance to party.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.