Habit-Forming Substances / Activities

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this is a pretty generic title because i think a lot of things fall under it. originally i was just going to call it "Drugs & Alcohol" but then I realized gambling and other habits (like playing videogames) also involve the same kind of discussion.

- These things have good effects and bad effects. if they didn't have any good effects then nobody would do them. if they didn't have bad effects then everybody would do them.

- It seems the common pattern here is a trade of long-term benefits for short-term benefits.

- I think the big question is, then: Will a certain activity result in more good in your life than if you didn't do it?


Some great descriptions here:
http://www.quora.com/How-does-it-feel-t ... -on-heroin


  • Alcohol has good effects and bad effects. if it didn't have any good effects then nobody would drink it. if it didn't have bad effects then everybody would drink it.
  • the good effects of alcohol can include: a feeling of euphoria, being energetic, feeling less nervous/stressed out. this can lead to really good things like making new friends more easily, feeling less shy, etc. it's been called a "social lubricant".
  • the bad effects of alcohol can include: impaired judgment, impaired vision/coordination, blacking out, decreased motivation to work for longer-term benefits. this can lead to really bad things like car accidents, losing your job, ruining relationships, etc.
  • I think the biggest problem with alcoholic drinks nowadays is the extremely high strength of them. my understanding is that for most of man's history alcoholic drinks had much lower concentrations of alcohol. most of the problems people see from alcohol seem to be a result of getting extremely addicted / intoxicated, which would seem to be more difficult with less-potent alcoholic drinks.
  • I personally drink alcohol very sparingly, and only when with other people who are drinking (e.g. I'll have a beer or a glass of wine). I never drink hard alcohol (although I have tried it), but I'll take a sip of a mixed drink if someone asks me to try it. Up until I graduated college I didn't drink at all (except for rare occasions).
    • As of 2015/2016 I have relaxed this behavior so that I'll drink more than one beer / glass of wine / mixed drink / shot, but I still drink slowly. I experimented with drinking while programming but didn't find it so helpful that I continued with it. I don't think it is anywhere as helpful as having a mentor / friend there to help you.
  • People often ask me why I don't like to drink as much as other people. The reason is that I worry about the loss of control that it seems to bring. I've done things I've regretted in the past by getting so angry I lost control of myself, and I'm worried about that happening with alcohol.
  • John T Reed claims to have never had a sip of any alcoholic drink; his dad was apparently a pretty bad alcoholic. Reed has a much more aggressive opinion of alcohol than I do.

Journal of alcohol-related observations

  • 2015.12.01 - Alcohol may reduce anxiety while programming
    • On Sunday I had my first-ever alcoholic drink on my own initiative, without being prompted by someone to drink (it was a Stella Artois in the fridge at work).
    • I decided to try it as an experiment to see if it would take away this anxious feeling I’ve been getting for years when I’m trying to program and I’m running into one error after another; the feeling ends up making me procrastinate really heavily, to the point where I’ll go an entire day without getting anything done.
    • I got the idea from reading Mark Zuckerberg’s blog posts from when he was creating Face Mash, in which he seems to describe drinking to take away the anxiety of not having your code working: “It’s taking a few tries to compile the script…another Beck’s is in order.“.
    • Well, it seemed to work. I’m not sure if it was just the placebo effect or not. I didn’t finish the beer. I’ll probably keep experimenting with it. Obviously it’s something to be careful with.
  • 2016.03? - I went to BierHaus in Mountain View with a bunch of people from Infer on a Wednesday for Richard's b-day and I decided to indulge, so I got a pint of weissbier and German food, and was very talkative, relaxed, happy, and just enjoying myself. I can see how doing that repeatedly could make a person a bunch of friends. On the other hand, I've had similar fun experiences while playing ping-pong and playing GoldenEye, so it doesn't seem like drinking is necessary. I've also had good conversations with coworkers over a meal when I wasn't drinking, but I didn't relax to the degree I did when I drank. I was more formal / polite, not making jokes, for example.
  • 2016.09.26 - Yesterday I went to a bar in Mountain View to talk to a guy about helping him create a feature for his start-up, and I had two Heineken beers while we talked and played pool against some other guys there. I felt very outgoing / relaxed / happy, and was reminded of my vacation, where I was also playing pool, drinking, and hanging out with people, and I felt similarly happy. I think my good-feeling was a combination of 1) the alcohol, 2) talking to people, and 3) playing pool, which I enjoy. I can see, though, how having a habit of drinking could make it easier to make friends.