Purim brings out a perennial question.
How much drinking is required – is fun, is responsible – on this festive day?
Alcohol on Purim is viewed by many as the drinking equivalent of the Autobahn: no limits, no control.
But contrary to popular misperception, even the Autobahn has enforceable limits in certain areas and in the event of inclement weather.
Ad asher lo yada – drink until you don’t know – is an alcoholic’s everyday state of mind. He will drink anything he can find until he doesn’t know day from night, rational from irrational choices.
It can begin so imperceptibly. Beer is an early choice of many alcoholics. It is cheaper than wine or whiskey. Then again, the miniscule alcohol content in liquid cold medicine also becomes a fix for the desperate drinker.
Purim is a day that brings out several types of drinkers. Drinking responsibly on Purim can be done by responsible people. The rest need someone else to be responsible for them.
A glass or two of wine at the seudah, the festive Purim meal, is enjoyed by many and is normal. Not a few revelers will guzzle several glasses of wine, others even a bottle or two. Some will experience nausea and perhaps begin acting less than coherently.
On the farther end of the spectrum, Purim brings serious, life-threatening challenges for those prone to alcohol abuse or in recovery from alcohol addiction.
What can we do to help?
First, drink responsibly. Sure, a designated driver is imperative, but so is avoiding the overconsumption of alcohol on Purim that often ends with Hatzolah having to transport a near-dead young person to a hospital emergency room.
Second, be a sponsor. All people in recovery, be it from alcohol, drugs, gambling or any other addiction, are familiar with the term. A sponsor is a recovering addict further along in treatment whom one can call when he feels alone and vulnerable and needs to talk with someone.
Though the term in this context refers to recovering addicts, most of us can be sponsors once a year on Purim. This requires that we be aware of anyone in our immediate vicinity who is either inebriated or getting there. It also entails an understanding that those with a drinking (or any addictive) history are most vulnerable on an occasion like Purim when they are surrounded, for 24 hours or longer, by alcoholic beverages and people consuming them.
It is unrealistic to make a blanket declaration about not drinking on Purim. But keeping a watchful eye on a young man prone to going over the edge has the potential to save a life.
Being a sponsor on Purim means following the directive of those ads we’ve all seen since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: See something, say something.
See someone in drinking trouble, do something.
Be a sponsor.
Save a life.
Save a world.