Phil Cain is a writer and journalist. In 2014 he began working on a book, Alcohol Companion, published in 2016 is a groundbreaking science-based account of alcohol for both professionals and general readers. The book is an exploration of our multi-faceted relationship with alcohol, covering the history of human drinking habits, the science of alcohol, sleep, dependence and more.
Old Balkan hands will tell you anyone who says they understand the Balkans doesn’t understand the Balkans. It is the same for alcohol. But, as with the Balkans, being realistic about what we can know should not mean we deny ourselves the benefits of learning more.
The insights available to us about alcohol can add up to a “big rethink” which provide solid foundations for the future and for a life focussed on pursuing long-term happiness. Being able to see the subject from the range of perspectives offered by Alcohol Companion allows us to make reliable, positive decisions.
Phil outlines, for example, how alcohol has been thought to be a healing elixir for most of human history, a belief we only now realise is false. Letting go of this long-held misconception can mean we need never fear to reduce our alcohol intake.
We can also look at ways alcohol acts on our brain’s reward system and see that “liking” and “wanting” things are different. Alcohol can make us want it without actually liking it. We can actually benefit from ignoring something we only want and, instead, pursue things we like.
But it is not all about brain chemistry. Alcohol’s compelling qualities are also like those of connecting with social media. This can help us hack the alcohol system, getting access to our social networks without any side-effects. And alcohol-free drinks are a useful tool.
We can find ways to enjoy all of alcohol’s apparent upsides without consuming any of it, so avoiding all of its downsides. Understanding the ins and outs of this, messy as they are, offers us significant advantages in our pursuit of happiness…