Every now and then, I get asked why I don't drink. Not accusingly, just out of curiosity. I've never had a good answer. There are two things that seem to stand out as originating factors. First is the notion that alcohol kills brain cells. I believe this has largely been debunked, but when I was in school and the only real asset I had working for me was my brain, and the alcohol-killing-brain-cells idea was still accepted wisdom, that was influential.
The second concern I had was one of self-control. I have a strong sense of personal responsibility and free will, and the idea that I might do something when I wasn't in complete control of my own faculties scares the hell out of me. I like to think of myself as an intelligent, rational person who puts careful consideration into his decisions. But I also feel like that there are always wild and potentially destructive imaginings burbling just below the surface, ones that could be let loose if I didn't have some significant mental safeguards in place.
Between that and this memorable comic book ad from the 1990s visualizing that basic idea, it probably sounds overly dramatic. (Memorable, by the way, because of the poorly drawn illustration, not the concept. I mean, how does the bottom half of that pant leg not fall down around Hulk's ankle?) I never quite felt like I was staving off a Hulk-like transformation, but rather something more like a Human Torch accidentally cutting loose situation.
Still overly dramatic, given that I can't shoot fireballs from my hands, but the basic concern was there. If I didn't keep things in check at all times, something really ugly could happen and I might hurt someone. Hence, no alcohol. The handful of times that I have let my emotions get the better of me, even in a restrained fashion, it didn't end well. Nothing disastrous but, as I said, I was still able to mostly restrain myself. Had I not, well... I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be working at the level I'm at today.
It's curious to think that was something I picked up from comic books. Many of the same stories that featured the Human Torch also featured the Thing, who had no problems smoking and drinking. (At least, back in the day.) And yet, despite there never really being an overt message of teetotaling, it's something I picked up on and embraced as part of my personality. Even knowing those origins, it's hard for me to see why that was something I took from the stories versus the hundreds of other subtle, social messages. The combination of that message with my belief in free will? Maybe with my parents' teaching me about responsibility? Maybe a strong desire to be something of a non-conformist? What about completely independent, external factors I can't even recall -- movie characters getting drunk-people-drunk? I know that I still have no desire to drink, and it's still largely based on a heightened sense of personal responsibility, but it still seems like a strange message to pull out of Hulk and Fantastic Four comic books.