It’s funny that you should mention the alcohol thing… scene mists over and flash back begins…
My paternal grandfather died of alcoholism, my maternal grandfather had a kafeneion and my paternal grandfather would walk for hours to go have a drink at his in-laws café.
My father did not drink much, but when he did, I remember as a child, he spent quite a few times “riding the porcelain bus”.
When I was growing up in Australia, well if you couldn’t “down ‘em” then you weren’t really a “bloke”. Three of my friends ended up in alcohol rehab before the age of 25.
I worked in a “wine” shop (bottle shop) too, before I was into Dharma.
Just as I got into Dharma I moved to Greece where I became the owner-operator of an (traditional) ouzo distillery. To make a bit of cash on-the-side I would moonlight as a bar man.
The town I was living in had 3000 inhabitants and 4 distilleries, two of which were the largest in Greece. It is known as the ouzo capital of Greece. The island I live on has 15 permanent distilleries and two wineries plus they issue temporary distilling licenses at the end of the grape season for “grappa” production (we call it tsipouro).
At some point during my 12 years as a distiller (and 14 years in the Dharma) I decided to take the vow to not consume intoxicants. Now what does that mean? A distiller and barman who did not drink? Tried my hardest to sell the distillery to get out of the liquor trade altogether. I managed to finally break free.
In my time as a distiller I saw four people, that I knew personally, die slowly and painfully from alcohol related diseases.
The precepts are not standards by which to judge others, they are standards which we choose to apply to our own lives to the best of our capacities.
So what would I say to the 23 year old Dharma practitioner working at the wine shop? Exactly the same thing that I have said here. I have seen both sides of the alcohol penny from up close: the glamorous bit of the cocktail-shaking bartender getting the chicks (hell, they even did a Thirsty Traveler documentary on me and my distillery) to the unconscious alcoholic lying (dying!) in their piss and shit.
Romanticising and demonization are both equally insidious!
With the eye of wisdom we discover a lot of anger in us, any amount of jealousy, resentment, ignorance, desire - mountains of emotion whose existence we would never have suspected in ourselves... We recognize that most of the faults we perceive in others are only the mirror of our own negativity, the reflection of our own disturbed feelings... At the same time, we relieve the world around us of the burden of our own negative judgements."
Gendun Rinpoche Heart Advice from a Mahamudra Master