I’m what you call a booze enthusiast. Aside from writing, drinking is one of the few things at which I’m marginally talented.
(Know the rules: Never drink in the daylight. Don’t mix red wine with cheap pizza. Stay hydrated and, for the love of God, take the bus home.)
The old adage is, “Write what you know.” Well, that’s what I did.
My novel, Sketches of the Wigwam, is about Billy, an underachieving artist and smartass who isn’t fond of sobriety. When he gets lost in the woods while being hunted by a creature from his childhood, his penchant for boozing is one of the few tools in his repertoire that could keep him alive. (Provided he doesn’t pass out drunk in the bathtub.)
A friend of mine who helped proofread Sketches of the Wigwam suggested that if Billy was not a drinker, he likely wouldn’t have a chance. This made me think, “Hey, if I’m ever the main character in a horror novel, booze just might save my life.”
You’re Probably More Likely to Believe the Monster Exists
In every horror story, there’s the obligatory scene wherein the good guys argue about whether or not the monster is real.
“Maybe it’s just a guy high on bath salts!” they plead, even when the obviously-a-zombie’s guts spill out of its belly.
Drinkers don’t have this problem.
Imbibers that we are, one night my wife and I polished off a couple bottles of wine and watched Paranormal Activity. After another bottle we watched The Walking Dead. (It was Season 2 and nobody got through all the farm scenes without drinking first. Anyway…)
As we went to bed we heard a scratching noise in the wall, then in the floorboards directly below us.
Had we been sober, we would have said, “We need mousetraps.” But we weren’t.
We concluded that there was something unnatural in the basement. I’m not saying I thought it was an undead rat or a poltergeist, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
I immediately charged into the basement with a crowbar.
I found mouse poop. It wasn’t sentient or radioactive or zombified. (As far as I know.)
Now had that been a rampaging zombie rodent or a gang of invisible boogermen, I would have been prepared.
When I’m drunk and I hear scratches in the basement, I get smashy. Sober? I huddle under the covers like the wimp that I am and we get eaten by self-aware rodent feces.
Alcohol Makes You More Likely to Survive Major Trauma
The myth that being hammered makes your body more limp and relaxed and, thus, more resistant to injury is baloney.
But only the “more limp and relaxed” part. A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found data suggesting that we’re more likely to survive car accidents, long falls and beatings from monsters you stumble upon in the woods because alcohol boosts myocardial contractivity.
Or in layman’s terms, the way booze enhances your ticker’s ability to pump blood.
Let’s be realistic here. Very few of us are grizzled monster killers or crossbow-wielding vampire hunters. If and when we face psychopaths in hockey masks or the zombie rat that lives in my old apartment, in all probability we will get our asses handed to us.
But sip a few Johnnie Walkers before you throw down with the wolfman and you stand a better chance at surviving the inevitable throttling you’ll receive.
Booze Helps You Think Outside the Box
Alright, think fast.
Bigfoot just kicked in the front door. Your imaginary friend has a butcher knife and is clamoring at the window. You have the shotgun. I have the ammo, however I’m getting eaten by a radioactive rat turd in the basement.
What do you do?
Since it’s early in the day and you’re probably sober (unless you’re my mom), you’ll need a few minutes to think about it. Well now you took too long. The rat poop gotcha.
But if you had a decent buzz, your “think outside the box” skills would have been amped up.
There’s evidence that moderate drinking elevates our problem solving skills.
In a study where two groups of guys – one buzzed, the other not – were asked to complete verbal puzzles while watching a movie, the drunks did better.
The study does not say whether or not it helps when you’re besieged by mutants, but I’m inclined to think it does.
Science! That’s why.
It Reduces Anxiety (In the Short Term)
The occasional drink can reduce stress and anxiety, so before you reach for the chunk of garlic to hurl at the vampire in your living room, you should probably sneak a shot of Smirnoff first.
Instead of hiding in the closet messing yourself when your monster breaks in, the booze will relieve your stress, which goes great with the previous entry, as thinking of ways to slay your boogeyman is made easier if you’re not crapping your pants.
Yet alcohol isn’t a long-term stress reliever. In fact alcohol can make anxiety worse over time. So if you’re hunkering in an anti-zombie fortress for a month, you shouldn’t be downing grandpa’s favorite anti-depressant by the gallon.
But if we’re talking about a brief dash through the woods or a night trying to keep demons from gnashing you to bits, booze will help keep your nerves in check.
For even more super scientific evidence, look no further than From Dusk ‘til Dawn. Did those characters really panic when the vampiric strippers and bikers went bonkers? No. They calmly decided to mix some holy water and exterminate the bad guys because they enjoyed a few drinks before all hell broke loose.
Alcohol Makes You Stupid, and That’s a Good Thing
Alcohol earned a reputation for facilitating stupidity. While this is usually not ideal, it would be beneficial in a horror situation.
Let’s say you’re bombed. One of your buddies dares you to do jumping jacks on the roof, you know, because alcohol. By drinking and experiencing the subsequent (and completely unwarranted) boost in confidence, you’re more likely to do it.
Which dramatically increases your chances of suffering a medical condition known as YOU’RE DEAD NOW, yes, because climbing onto the roof is a tremendously bad idea.
Do you know what else is a bad idea? Fighting your boogeyman. He’s got knives for fingers, a hatchet and, depending on how many pins are sticking out of his head, a highly dangerous set of demonic nipple clamps.
A rational human being would run away. A drunk person is more likely to fight. And that will help you survive because any horror buff knows that running rarely works.
How many horror stories start out with a band of fidgety, fearful good guys who decide they should run away from the monster? Most of them.
But they never get away. Eventually the plucky main character finds himself locked in mortal combat with Mr. Vamp-Zombie McMurdermonster.
I think if the good guys had enough liquid courage to begin with, they’d fight the bad guy right away and increase their chances of surviving. Running away just doesn’t work.