Hello hello hello and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Katya and today we have a unique episode of our podcast – from now on, we get to have three guests over here. And today I have here with me.
Ken, from Manila, Philippines.
And lovely Mike from Sydney, home of the sun.
And today we’re gonna be talking about quite, you know, an interesting topic, which is alcohol – to drink or not to drink? So, let’s get the party started. So, guys, tell me- what’s your attitude to alcohol? What’s your relationship with it?
You know what, I must say that I used to drink a lot, and well, in my younger days, when I was late teens to early adulthood I would go out often with friends. I often saw alcohol as a way to distract myself from my daily routine.
Or whenever I feel, you know, sad, or, you know, down and out – so it kinda magnifies the emotions, So if I want to feel sad, I turn to alcohol.
And how often did that happen?
Well, nowadays not very often, but in the past – yeah, I would say like quite a lot.
Alright. Mike, what about you?
Yeah, it’s a sucker’s game. It’s a sucker’s game. Do you want me to explain that now or a bit later?
I started doing it – just like any teenager growing up in Sydney, we all start doing all the bad things when we’re about 15.
Fifteen’s about the magic age when you start getting into alcohol, drugs, sex, right? These three things. Right, so basically that’s when you get into the naughty stuff. And by the time you are 30, you should sort of start phasing yourself out of it.
Certainly happened to me a little bit earlier with alcohol, right. So, roughly about 26-27. So it’s been about 10 years for me, since that I’ve pretty much been sober. So, I don’t drink it, and it all came from the realization that alcohol, essentially, is poison.
What was the turning point? What made you realize that?
There was no big event, there was no ‘I hit my wife’ – none of that, no regrets afterward.
So, not the day when you had a blackout and woke up the next day like ‘Oh my god, I’ll never drink again’.
No no no, it was a realization. What happened at that time was that I had graduated by then, and I started working and I started seeing the world in a slightly different way. Basically what I realized is that, what is alcohol? What is alcohol, what is that?
Well, that is a drink that contains, what is it, ethanol?
Well it can be liquid, it can be, you know, in the form of like jelly beans.
Yeah, yeah, so it can be altered into different shapes and forms, right?
However, basically, it’s poison. It’s stuff that we use to clean biological things off the surfaces. It’s actually cleaners that we use. That’s 100% what we use. We use it to clean surgical tools with it. We infect, I remember when I was a kid, we used to do the dissection of frogs in science classes in schools.
And one of the things they make you do is to actually wet a cotton bud with alcohol and put it into a jar of frogs. And they all go to sleep. Now if you leave it in the for a long period of time, the frogs will die. It makes them basically…
Well, we aren’t frogs. Okay. I get the point, I get the point. But still, you used to party like there’s not tomorrow.
Yeah, when I realized that basically. I had a little bit of a perception shift, alright?
So I’d graduated and I realized that actually most businesses around the world are essentially rackets, they’re rackets to make money. For an individual at the top, or a group of individuals at the top.
Wow, that escalated quickly.
You know, but if you look at it this way, I can kinda see, I could kinda see at that age what was happening here with alcohol. They take a dirt cheap substance that was toxic to human body, mix it with a little bit of coloring and flavoring.
Call it Midori, call it Kahlua, sweeten it up, essentially. And put marketing on it and say that if you drink with your friends, you are loved, you are valued, you are in a higher social hierarchy where you dress up fancily and you drink Midori in a bar.
We can talk about it a bit later. When we’re gonna talk about…
Yeah well cause I asked you if you want me to talk about it now or later, you said now.
Well I didn’t know that it would escalate like that. Anyway.
Well, cause, to be honest with you, I would also like to hear from Katya, what she thinks about, you know, alcohol.
Well, it’s kinda late for that. Well, I mean, I feel positive about it. But I’m not talking about, you know, getting wasted and whatnot pretty often. But I don’t see anything wrong with, like, having a glass of wine every now and then.
Having a cocktail at the weekend. But not, you know, getting too drunk to the point that you can’t really walk. So.
Absolutely. Because it’s one thing to be totally wasted and do it on a daily basis, because that’s a problem of alcoholics. And it’s another thing to just enjoy, it’s a way to unwind. Of course, you would want to do something a little different.
And you know, there is something about alcohol that makes you, you know, feel good about it. At least, I don’t know, it’s what it does to me.
Well, I mean, there are different reasons for people to drink. So, let’s say, okay, I’m not asking you about, like, now. What a second! You said… Okay. Well, Ken, what are typically your reasons to drink?
Well, when I want to feel good. Of course, when there is a huge occasion with my friends. A big event, for example, a year end party. You know, alcohol will help you relax your senses, because sometimes you feel like a little uptight, you don’t want to do something crazy. But with the help of alcohol, it brings out the crazy in you. I see nothing wrong with that.
I mean, sometimes you feel kinda tense, because you are surrounded by people who you do not know, and you kinda wanna blend in maybe, to get a little bit relaxed.
And you wanna get lost in the moment.
True, true. So for a lot of people it’s a way of blending it, to socialize. Like, it helps you with that. What were your reasons for drinking, Mike? Before you went on the right path?
Well, it’s exactly the same reasons that a 15-year-old kid drinks, right? It’s to socialize and fit in and be cool. All the things that the alcohol companies market, all these images and you know, it’s exactly that. I do it because everybody else does it. Right.
Fair enough, but not all the time. I mean, it’s not always the reason. I mean, so let’s say, for me, sometimes I drink wine just because I love the taste of it. I love to see different aftertastes, to try to be able to recognize the aftertaste, both in, let’s say, wine and in coffee.
So for me it’s just a way to, maybe, broaden my horizons about the world. Like, to see how wine form New Zealand is different from wine from, I don’t know, from Provence.
And besides, I think everybody knows here that some great writers, they drink when they write. Because there is something about alcohol that somehow offsets you mind, I don’t know. I mean, you’ve heard of some writers who drink.
I have no problem with people drinking if that’s what they wanna do, should they enjoy the taste of it. What I have a problem with is the companies marketing things up like a 1000% and they make profit from you of it at ridiculous prices.
Because a cup of Kahlua, a shot of Kahlua in a bar is what, like, 7 bucks? 8 bucks? Australian dollars. Can you imagine how much it costs to make that and transport it?
Oh yeah. Like, even if we compare prices at the bars and in shops. So, let’s say, a glass of wine at a bar is, typically, like… Well, I mean, in here, in Russia, it’s 5-6 dollars. Let’s say, in Boston area, where I lived for quite a while, it was 10-12. But at the same time I could buy a bottle of almost the same wine for, like, 10-12. The same price.
So, someone’s making money off you, by the buckets, right. So when you pay for something that’s not worth that value and you’re overpaying by far margin, what do you call that person? A sucker.
Okay, now I understand. It seems to me that you are criticizing form the business aspect of it.
Okay, but look, when I go to a bar and I pay this amount of money for it for, I don’t know, a cocktail or a glass of wine, I’m not only paying for the booze itself, I’m also paying for the atmosphere.
Like, you know, to be there, to sit there. I don’t know. Well, let’s say, I’m thinking about occasions and situations when I go to a bar.
It’s not always to go and socialize, but, let’s say a year ago, or a couple of years ago when I was living in Boston area, I had to get home, to my hometown, well, not to my hometown, but the town where I lived, by the shuttle. And it was running every 2 hours.
So very often I had to kill the time somehow. So I would go to a bar, order a cocktail and read a book, which, I don’t know, may sound a little bit weird.
Speaking of which. We just want to clarify that people don’t drink just because they wanna be with company or to fit in, because you can also drink alone, which I would do occasionally.
True. But I’m looking at it from a minimalist. I’m gonna offer a counter to that from a minimalist’s point of view. Right. In minimalism we address needs before desires. Right? So if you’re after being sociable with people, socializing with people, if that’s what you need – do you need alcohol in a bar to do that?
I have, you know, like, on the one hand, no you don’t, cause you can have fun without any kind of a substance. On the other hand, I used to have the saying – there’s not fun story that ever started with a salad.
Oh, I like that, I like that!
If you have a story, a great fun story that started with a salad – let me know!
Fair enough, fair enough. But I also want to propose a question – when you say you want to socialize, do you want to socialize with a group of people or maybe two or three people? Or maybe just one person? Maybe ask yourself that.
Because by nature, going to a bar means you’re socializing with a lot of people, sharing the same space with a lot of people in one time.
Is that what you need when it comes to socializing?
Or do you need something more smaller and intimate?
Again, that depends on the situation, but I think that if I wanna socialize and spend time with one particular person, I would not go to, you know, a huge bar where I know there’s gonna be a lot of people. But I would probably go either to a quiet place or just spend some evening at home.
So usually it’s either a group of people, like, three or four people, or just some kind of a party or whatever.
All I’m saying is that if you don’t figure our what you need, the world will tell you what you should want. They will tell you…
They will tell you, in order to socialize you will go to a bar. You wanna pay 7 dollars for a drink. And you wanna be drunk. And you wanna tell stories and you wanna dance. But the question is – do you need that? Right?
How do you entertain yourself with this philosophy?
Oh, I entertain myself vey well as you know, right. I have terrific time. Remember, the mission was to find the culture of this place, right. The art, the architecture, what happened to the history after here the fall of the USSR.
Right. And that’s how I entertain myself – I sit down with people, I hear their stories. We go for walks, cycling, walks by the river, little picnics. I’ll go for a swim, right. This is the stuff I need. I need depth, I need width when it comes to relationships.
Fair enough, fair enough. Speaking of culture by the way – so you guys have lived in different countries, you have traveled a lot I guess. So have you noticed the difference in the drinking culture in different countries? Let’s say, what about Australia, the Philippines, and Russia? How’s that different?
There’s a slight difference. You go first, Ken.
Well, in my country we drink a lot, and I think that the difference is that I would say most of us allow the alcohol to control us, because after, you know, a night’s drink we begin to do something crazy or stupid.
We can even take a fight, and that’s why, you know, there are certain prohibitions or limitations to us where we can drink, how much we can drink. Sadly, in my country, if we talk about bars or clubs – most of the fights are caused by alcohol.
And it’s not just about the clubs and bars – even, you know, drinking at home. Sometimes we drink and then we do karaoke – that’s a super Filipino thing, people always do that. And it can be a little annoying for the neighbors, because for example it can last till midnight or even beyond that.
And they don’t even care about their neighbors. So you see – we even have a law that prohibits people from doing karaoke and drinking beyond 12. Although, of course people, you know, somehow they are able to find their way out, they don’t really complain.
Because the thing is, there is a penalty – you only have to pay, how much, like 5 pesos. I don’t know how much that is in the US dollars, but it’s just a very small fine.
So people just don’t care – like, who cares, I’ll pay the fine, I can afford it.
Wait, you mentioned limitations – so do you have any limitations on what time of the day you can buy alcohol?
Well, when it comes to the time, actually, no. I mean, part of the day – no. We don’t have such a rule like in Kazakhstan, like, what time is that? Or here in Russia, some supermarkets are not allowed to sell alcohol beyond 10 o’clock.
Yeah, yeah, I think it’s like that.
We don’t have such a thing.
Alright. Actually, the laws about the time differ, depending on the region in Russia. Cause in my home region you can only buy alcohol from 2pm to 8pm. And at first, you know, they thought that it would be of good and bring good, and people would drink less. But no!
Cause people think like – okay, we can only buy alcohol from 2 to 8, and what if we want more after? So they buy more beforehand, and then they drink it all anyway. And like, ugh! This is like a vicious circle.
But there are also 24/7 services here, you call certain numbers and some guy will come up and bring the alcohol. I’ve seen that as well.
So, what about drinking culture in Australia?
Yeah, well, how do say this, the drinking culture in Australia. It still persists very strong. However, while it was revolutionary, this happened about, let’s say, 4 years ago. Sydney instituted what’s called lockout laws, lock out laws, so they are locked down in quarantine, locked down.
These things are called locked out laws, which means that by certain time, I believe it’s around 2am or 1am, all pubs and clubs have to close.
Something like that. So you have to leave the premise and they have to shut down. Right. Which…
It used to be all night, as long as you want. I think there was a little bit of a period, between 5 and 6 in the morning, when they had to close, But they basically said you can’t operate a business after 1am or 2am. Right.
So what that caused is a lot of these hospitality industries to essentially go broke. And they were protesting and whatnot. And this was obviously to stop things like alcohol environments and misdemeanors.
Because if you look at well-ordered societies, right, a lot of problems, social problems are actually caused through alcohol. Right. So when you say that you are a weekend drinker, and that’s fine, that’s fine. However, you have to understand that every harm that alcohol has ever caused I believe came from the exact same place.
It started that way, as a weekend thing, and then it became a daily thing. And then it went from ‘let’s have a fun’ thing to ‘let’s punch my wife’ thing. Right. So they… It has…
I mean… That’s why people, they need to know the limit, which a lot of people have a problem with.
Do humans know their limits?
Yeah. How many humans do you know that live with their limitations in their potential?
I’m not gonna say myself included.
And how many people drink? Lots.
So you can see the disproportionate. The disproportion here. And that’s why the alcohol is harmful to the individual, harmful to the society. And I can really see the sucker’s game here. At the end of the day people who profit from this are the owners of the companies and the governments who tax them, right.
You walk away with the harm, they walk away with the money.
I mean, we can say that about almost anything.
Yeah, there’s no business like the addiction business. Coffee is the same, this is why I don’t drink coffee.
Good for you. Coffeeholic here.
There’s a reason for that. Right. So, there is no business like the addiction business. Full stop.
The money’s in the comeback.
So, and what about alcohol tolerance? Has it changed for you over the years? Have you thought about it? Have you noticed anything like that?
Well, in my case, I used to be able to drink like, how many bottles of beer? I think 7, I can even go for..
Right. However, there were also times when I would throw up in, I don’t know how many bottles after, maybe 4 or 5. But it was just, you know, momentary, it was just for a short time. And then…
But nowadays I must say, because of, you know, my stomach problem, now I try to stay away from alcohol. And I wouldn’t want to drink a lot. The last real drinking that, you know, I had was in our corporate party last year, in December. But after that I stopped and now I’m on a break.
Alright, alright. I’m sorry for not letting you speak, Mike, but…
But I was just gonna say that at that… I sometimes see people, you know, not following the basic rules of drinking. You know, people just go drink and they drink drink drink, but you need to remember like certain rules, like, first, you don’t do that on an empty stomach.
You should have some food beforehand and whatnot. And then people forget to drink water. Like, if you don’t want to have consequences and have a terrible hangover the next day, drink water between drinks.
So, from time to time, I’m teaching at a college in the US and I can see first-year kids getting wasted. Just because they start drinking and then they mix as well. They start with some vodka they got somewhere through somebody, cause they’re not, you know, they’re not allowed to do that cause they’re underage.
Yeah! I mean, this is, back to the question about drinking culture, cause I feel like in Russia some parents, they tell their kids – okay, when you are a college kid, at some point you’re gonna want to drink. Just please, make sure you drink water, you have some food, you don’t mix things. So, yeah.
And then they can mix it with something and then they feel so bad they are taken away by the ambulance. I’m like oh my god! Why do you do this?
I read this statistics recently about… That most sexual assault crimes on campus that happen at colleges in the United States, most of them, alcohol is almost always involved, no matter what.
I mean, a lot of crimes, just as you mentioned. Just like several minutes ago, a lot of crimes happen because of the alcohol. But still, that doesn’t mean that, you know, that’s the only evil.
Yeah, exactly. Cause you’ve got drugs.
There are a lot of things out there, a lot of factors.
Yeah, but it’s like gun control, isn’t it? You’ve got evil people everywhere, but if you give them the means to harm other people by giving them guns. Gun itself isn’t a problem. If you’ve got issues, you want to vent out to the world.
But then I give you the tools to do that, called alcohol… I mean, John was saying it the other day, right. In a podcast. You know, a long time ago when they used to fight battles, about 200 years ago.
They used to line people up and they used to march towards each other with muskets. And they would march towards cannon fire and bullets. That sounds crazy today, right? So if I told you, get a gun, march towards a hell of bullets and cannon fire…
Yeah, But you know how they made guys do that?
I remember listening to that podcast, yeah.
So it was a tool. Alcohol has always been a tool.
I mean, if not that, there’s gonna be another tool but still. But anyway, you were gonna say something about tolerance.
Oh my tolerance to alcohol is next to nothing now. So I think in the last 14 months I’ve been here in Novosibirsk, I think I drank twice. Once was at a dacha, this old man with one eye made his homemade kvas. And he gave me…
Kvas? Wait wait one second, is that considered alcohol?
Well, I mean, because of the fermentation it has a very low…
There’s no way it’s gonna make someone an alcoholic. So he had two buckets – one was his toilet, for the urine, next to it was his kvas bucket, fermentation bucket.
What kind of a place was that?
That was a dacha near Moshkovo, right? So he gave me a cup of kvas, right, and it was in a dirty cup. And I drank this thing and I smiled at him – yeah, great, horosho! Right?
It’s just to be polite. However, it didn’t taste too great, but it wasn’t bad. But I didn’t get drunk off this, because the alcohol was very low in this thing, right. So that was one, strike one. The second time I drank was in Lenina actually. And it was half a shot of tequila, right. And I couldn’t finish the thing, couldn’t do it.
Half a shot. That was it.
Half a shot. And then I just went- nope, I’m not doing it.
What do you think is the reason for the alcohol tolerance changing so much?
The truth is… Well, your body habituates to it I guess. But the truth is, at the end of the day, everyone is allergic to alcohol. That’s why you get drunk.
Alcohol is not a substance occuring in your body, that’s why it’s so toxic, because it doesn’t happen naturally in your body. Your body does everything to fight it actually, right. It goes straight through what’s called a blood brain barrier. It goes straight into your brain, right. And it only takes seconds for it to happen, right.
I have a question for you, for later, but I just wanna share my story of alcohol tolerance. Cause I remember when I was like 20, maybe, I would every like once in a while, once in a couple of months, would go and party and I would be out until, like, 5am for example.
Then have breakfast somewhere, go home, have two or three hours of sleep, wake up, you know, all fresh, feeling energetic and marvelous and go straight to work, to work for 8 hours. Now I just look back and think – how the hell was that possible, like, ever?
Now it’s like – okay, a couple of glasses of wine, maybe a little bit more once a month, and I’m like – no, I need like solid 10 hours of sleep after that,
Kate, you’re getting old.
Ha ha ha, no! I refuse to believe that.
Cause it has to be connected with something like that. I mean, cause I cannot even think about going out until 5am right now. I’m like no, I need my sleep and it needs to be a day off the next day. Like, drinking a day before working day? Haha, no. No.
Okay, so I’ve got the opposite proposition for you, okay. So, what happens if I removed alcohol from your life completely?
I mean, I would still have my coffee. I mean, I think I would just miss some drinks. I mean, not in terms of alcohol, but I would replace it with something like lemonades, like I did. So for like several months I was not allowed to drink, but I still wanted something sweetish, I wanted different flavors.
Sorry, sorry. Let’s go back – you weren’t allowed to drink?
I was taking some medicine that doesn’t go well with alcohol. So I was told do not ever take alcohol with it.
Cause it’ll have some… Like side effects and it’ll affect my liver, so I was like – I’m not gonna… So but I, from time to time, I really craved for this, you know, sweetish drinks, something like that. So I made lemonades or something like that.
When I went out, I would just get virgin cocktails or something like that. I just want flavors. I drink coffee very often, but almost often, almost all of the time, it’s one and the same flavor.
And this is why alcohol is highly-highly addictive. Not only does it have an addictive substance called alcohol, it also has sweeteners, right, and flavoring.
And sugar is very addictive.
So it’s actually a triple threat, yeah. If you think about it. It’s, I’m telling you, it’s designed by the ground-up by the food chemists and food scientists to make you addicted. To come back afterward, no matter what.
I mean, all the food is out there to get me hooked up on it.
And I understand it, like, okay, it has sugar in it, and it has alcohol in it.
Most of the food that’s out there.
Well, yeah. There is a famous saying – the only healthy foods are the ones that aren’t marketed.
So if you see on tv, don’t eat it. There you go.
Fair enough. Fair enough. But anyway, every time I want a drink, I’m not gonna think – okay, this has this many grams of sugar, like, can I actually do that? It’s gonna have some effect on my weight and whatnot, but well, yolo!
But then, well, when it comes to me, like I said, it all comes down to needs, like, are you… Do you need it or not? If you need it, then do it. If you don’t need it, then don’t do it, right. Don’t be sucked in into the advertising that makes you want it out of pure desire. Right. So.
I have a question though. I recently read some kind of a short article which says that one portion of alcohol, which is about 100ml of wine helps with metabolism. How’s that? I mean, like, cause you’re saying and we know that it’s poison and it gets you intoxicated, but… How does that work?
Look, that myth came out when I was a little kid.
Some French people did some research on it and said that, because French people drink little port, or cup of port every day. Look, did you read that? There’s absolutely no research that indicates that a little bit of alcohol a day helps you become healthy in any aspect.
Yeah, some say it’s the grapes that’s in the thing, some say it’s the other substances that help you and make you healthier, but who knows? I mean, that’s like one little myth that came from one research. That’s enough to justify an entire broad spectrum of human conditions and anatomy.
Not of one resource. If you were to do maybe a long-term study, so anything to do with addiction, be that cigarettes, alcohol or whatever, you have to do a research for long time, 20-30-40-50-year research, right, to actually get the result.
And that’s how they did it with cigarettes. They basically followed the history of people for decades before they arrived at the conclusion that cigarettes were harmful. Before that it wasn’t harmful, it was not considered harmful.
Doctors said – smoke if you want. But of course the research showed otherwise. Now of course there hasn’t been a similar thing done with wine, simply because there’s no money in this, doing the research.
Mike, I’m just curious. So, you’re not saying that we should totally stop making alcohol or drinking alcohol, you’re not saying that?
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying know what you’re getting into.
Know that you’re getting into a gang set up by certain people to make money off you, yeah. So you are left with a harm, they go away, they run off to the profits. If you think that way, then you realize, that’s the realization I had when I was in my 20s is exactly – the world is set up to be like that, right.
They tell us things without asking us to question it, right. If you question it, you’ll begin to start making different behaviors, because you realize that you’re being ripped. Yeah. Essentially.
Fair enough, fair enough. It’s just sometimes I see people who cannot really control themselves and they get trollied, up to the point when they cannot walk. And to be honest, looking at this, I’m like okay, this is why I have my limits. And I try, well, and I’m sticking to them no matter what.
But you know, for me personally, I think we give options to people, so they can enjoy their time or do whatever they want. But you know, I think it’s fine that there is still alcohol, that it is available for people who would want avail to them.
So I don’t think it’s a totally, like, what, a negative thing that we have, you know, alcohol, in the same way that we have, what, cigarettes, or you know, other forms of vices. So they’re just there. And we leave it up to the person on how he or she will control himself, hoping that he will not ruin his or her life.
Is there a compensatory for alcohol? So, for example, heroin addicts can take methadone, cigarette addicts can vape. Is there a similar thing available for alcoholics? Do you guys know?
So if you hooked on alcohol, how do you compensate for that? Because it’s very difficult to get rid of an addictive behavior, but it is easier to replace it.
I honestly do not know and I don’t think there is any kind of an alternative that is, well, healthier.
Yeah, I’m kinda thinking too…
But do you understand the problem now, yeah? As soon as I think heroin – methadone, as soon as I think cigarettes, I think vape. When I think alcohol, I can’t think of anything.
That is so true. Like, you can only switch to something totally different.
Why is that? They have an advanced chemistry in this world.
Maybe it’s yet to be made, you know, in the future, some time later. An alternative to alcohol.
I think the technology is there already.
I feel like there’s gonna be a but. But….
But there’s something else that’s keeping this at bay, this technology from being...
Something like that, and this is what I’m saying – this is a sucker’s game. It is the best sucker’s game on this planet.
Alright. Alright. Well then, what if we try to answer this question that we asked at the very beginning – so, to drink or not to drink? What do you say?
Yeah, I would totally agree with Ken and say – drink! But responsibly.
This is the key. Know your limits.
Governments have been preaching that mantra for two decades now – drink responsibly. Right. And let’s the success and results of that. I don’t think the crime statistics really support that.
Well, we’ll see. What if we meet in 5 years and see what this is.
And this is why I like the Islamic countries, right – zero alcohol, zero tolerance. They don’t market it, simple.
That’s kind of a topic for another podcast.
Alright, alright. Well guys. Thank you so much for coming here and for talking about one of my favorite topics. So that was the episode about alcohol, and we discussed our alcohol tolerance, our attitude to booze, drinking cultures in different countries, and we answered the question to drink or not to drink in our own way. Thank you so much, that was BigAppleSchool podcast. Like and subscribe. See ya!