Alcohol is lighter fluid.
It soaks into whatever you pour it on, and then it waits to be lit. You light a match, and it bursts into flame, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.
Lighter fluid is tricky and dangerous, so there are rules around its usage — how much is safe to use, how to keep things you had no intention of burning from catching fire, and how not to burn yourself in the process.
It’s not safe around children.
But it seems to have its uses — it keeps you warm in winter, and the glow of a fireplace with friends around it is like liquid solace. It’s cocooning and comforting, and to want that is to be human.
But alcohol is trickier still, because it knows no boundaries. The flames will escape, and you will only see the flickering trail out of the corner of your eye. But it’s there, and it’s stealthily moving along paths in the brain, burning its way into desire, lapping closer to your body, but you are mesmerized by the flame and that feeling of well-being and comfort, and you can’t see what’s happening.
So your life moves along, and you carry the can of lighter fluid with you, lighting this, lighting that, until soon you begin to see flames in the distance. How did that happen? Now you smell smoke, and it’s acrid and makes your eyes burn. You begin to suspect that the whole house could be burning, and you are powerless to stop it. And it’s getting hot. Too hot to be comforting.
You want to control the flames but you can’t put down the can because you’re afraid of the cold. Because the fire has told you that you need it to survive, and now, in your mind, you do. A mind soaked in ethanol cannot think clearly, no matter what that mind tells itself.
What happens next is up to you.
Once you see the danger, once you see what’s happening, do you struggle to put out the flames here, but light a little something there, clinging to your can of lighter fluid? Or do you see that it’s better to fight the fire without carrying a combustible can with you, playing the odds that you won’t explode along with it? Your brain is fractured, but if you want to, in a moment of lucidity, your better angels will show you what is happening, and they will show you a way out, and whether you listen or not is up to you.
It’s up to you.