Not always rational

By Ash Pryce

As a skeptic I should apply my reason and rationalism to my own beliefs and life. For the most part I do, I understand that my support of the Monarchy is irrational but subjectively speaking, and despite the batty ideas of the heir to the throne, I quite like the Royals and will be getting the bunting out for the Jubilee. Of course I know that we’d be better off without them and that I would vote in favour of their removal – but dammit, I still like them and in my less rational times emotional support them. I know that my position on that is flawed, I can live with that. For the most part it doesn’t affect my life.

I’m quite open about my life, I don’t hide the fact that I have depression, nor do I hide the fact that I’m polyamorous and quite a fan of the “kink” scene. These are all things that play a part in my life and I don’t shy away from them. But there is one part of my life where my reason, my rationalism, my critical thinking skills go out the window and in a way that does have a very negative effect on my life.


We in Britain, and especially in Scotland, have a somewhat perverse relationship with the bottle. It is seen as taboo when young and as an important and essential part of a “normal” adulthood. People who don’t drink are weird. If you don’t get rat arsed once a week society looks at you like you’re a leper. To some degree this could be why there is such an alcohol problem with many people – it feels like a social obligation that we MUST drink. And here is where my rational mind caves because as reasonable as I think I am, in this situation I’m am totally irrational in my actions. I have a drink problem, I again am not shy in admitting that. But whereas my depression, my polyamory and my other lifestyle choices are controlled and not dealt with, I just can’t do what I know to be the rational thing and stop drinking.

I think being open and talking about problems is a great way to start dealing with them. Pointing out to others that they are not alone, which is why I set up the Shattering the Stigma blog.

I know that I need to stop drinking, I go into detail here about it, and despite me saying every time “Never again” I still do. A few days go by and all the bad things associated with my drinking seem to fade away, and THIS time I’ll be fine. THIS time I won’t ring people at unsociable hours. THIS time I won’t abuse someone verbally. THIS time I won’t be a bit of a letch. THIS time I won’t act like I’m superior and better than others. THIS time I won’t spill my heart out on Facebook. THIS time will be different. It never is.

I will drink, the best part of a bottle of spirits quite easily. I will drink till I actually cannot drink anymore. I have lost jobs and damaged relationships because of my drinking. Every time I do something bad, I feel like this. I need to write. And as a skeptic I KNOW what I should be doing. But knowing the rational route isn’t the same as acting on it. This weekend I didn’t drink, so Monday night I had a drink to reward myself for not drinking. I justify my drinking – I recently said if a piece of news I was expecting was good I’d drink to celebrate. If it were bad I’d drink to commiserate.

As skeptics we should be applying that scepticism and rational thinking to our own lives, but in this one case I have applied it, but can’t act on it. I want so much to stop drinking, and it’s not as simple as just “not drinking”. I have to go to the shop and buy booze, surely I just could not do that? Well try telling a heroin addict not to buy heroin. I want to tell other skeptics out there that they aren’t alone and that just because in this area of your lives your aren’t applying the rational thought processes you apply to other things, you shouldn’t beat yourself up. We can get through these problems, and talking openly about them is a start.

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0 Responses to Not always rational

  1. Gary says:

    Ash, it’s not possible to be 100% rational. We are biological creatures and are compelled to do things that we can’t control with our minds. It would be near impossible to starve ourselves to death with food in front of us, for example. We can use rationality to recognize our own self-destructive behavior and that is a vital step. I’m sorry that I can’t help you solve your problem, but I think you already know what to do. To help myself quit smoking I started with cutting down some, combined with making it less convenient and forcing slight delays, like waiting a little longer before the next one. Those things made going cold-turkey a little easier. And it took several tries, so don’t give up or beat yourself up over it. Good luck.

  2. Alex Wassall says:

    My experience differs only in that the drug involved was not alcohol. I agree with Gary, cutting down before actually going cold turkey can help.

    I also found that altering my social environment helped, I was finding that the people I spent time with were reinforcing my habit; making it easier for me to justify my actions, “It’s not like I’m the only one”.

    Good Luck

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