I had been traveling the breadth of the U.S. for close to five years, going from non-profit to non-profit volunteering my time in my late teens and early twenties. I got to take part in feeding and clothing the homeless, spending hours practicing ministry to people at the lowest points in their lives, spent a significant amount of time doing manual labor to help build these organizations, and even got to do an after school program for middle schoolers.
I thought I understood the world. Everything seemed to make sense and was so black and white. Then real life finally settled in. I got a full-time job and moved to the middle of the nation to a state I never intended to live in. That's when it happened; life hit me harder than Mike Tyson at the peak of his career. It had been waiting in the shadows of my early and mid-twenties waiting for me to pass by. WHACK! I was knocked flat on my back like a professional football lineman tackling a small child with all his strength. Life suddenly went from having a purpose, happiness, and being bearable, to painfully hard.
In my naivety, I thought the simpleness of my first quarter century of life was going to continue. To my remembrance, though, no significant influential figure in my life had taken the time to sit me down and explain that the tide of life will change, that it is not a respecter of persons, and if you are not ready, it could be a struggle of life and death. The ebbs and flows of our existence is more than willing to make life amazing one day and hell the next. This lesson was a painful one to learn. Life can be hard.
Once I finally discovered the wisdom which revealed the potential of life's difficulty, I realized I naturally wanted to start medicating to help cope with my "matured" existence. Now initially I doubt this was a conscious thought I had. I just did not wake up one day and realize that if I did certain things it would help with the stress of difficulty. Rather it was more of the exploration of trying to numb the pain that I realized many people within proximity of me were distracting themselves from the painful reality that is like an unprejudiced slap to the face. Some methods were socially acceptable and others not so much. I started to explore the options for myself. Through this, I felt massive amounts of guilt and solitude instead of relief and happiness. I scanned all the files of knowledge stored in my brain that were imparted to me through observation and conversations about how to cope with life, and I found little to nothing in those memory banks. I could only find a massive file of things not to do, but no solutions for "healthy" ways to grapple with reality. I felt so unequipped and alone. To be frank, I still experience these feelings from time to time.
One of my best friends and I were discussing this topic and at one point in the conversation I said something along the lines of this, "Life is hard, and I find the implication that it is evil to medicate in life fascinating. How am I suppose to take a break from what seems to be the insurmountable stress and pain I feel? How am I suppose to cope?" The rest of the conversation we had left me with more questions than answers which seem to be a resounding theme in my life. Regardless I know that there are healthy ways to deal with life like having hobbies and serving others, but at the end of the day, I honestly do not know how people are expected to exist without any form of sedation. Please show me a human being who does not partake in a kind of momentary distraction from life.
Over the past few years of experiencing this tension. I started using the term "Beer Tax" as a jovial reference to coping with life. What I meant when using this phrase was this. The "Beer Tax" is an equation of cause and effect. The greater the stress level of life you choose to take on the higher the cost to cope with the self-inflicted burden. For example, if you were a simple pizza delivery driver the stress level for that is on average pretty low, now compare that to being a brain surgeon or the president, and I think the stress levels would not even begin to be close to the same playing field. It seems with the growth of pressure comes the need for an increase of release.
So how does one go through life temporarily decompressing through a form of medicating? Whether it is watching tv, drinking, playing video games, smoking, serving at a food bank, or whatever the action. Is it okay? What defines something as a right or wrong form of medication?
Those are my thoughts at this point. Your thoughts and impressions are welcome.