How to Avoid Destroying Your Dream Life in Thailand with Alcohol

Thailand is an Alcoholic’s Disneyland. In a location like Pattaya, there have hundreds of bars to choose from, and you can get drunk for a fraction of the amount of money you would pay in the west. If you have a habit of picking up red-cards when you get drunk, it’s not going to be a problem – there is always another pub ready to welcome you. Best of all, nobody is going to give a shit if you are slurring your words before breakfast.

Mae Ramphung Thailand

How Expats Poison Their Thailand Dream with Alcohol

It’s hard to say how many expats in Thailand would fall into the category of alcoholic. In a post on here last month, I talked about the growing number of westerners who are now homeless in Thailand. I doubt many of these guys ended up like this from sipping the pineapple juice. Drinking too much alcohol is a recipe for disaster – Thailand is a dangerous place to be out of control.

It is usually the expats who choose to open a bar in Thailand who have the most dramatic downfalls. These are usually guys whose only experience of running a pub is paying their bar-tab. There can be a morbid fascination in observing these people fall apart – it can be like watching a disaster movie in slow motion.

Alcohol is a perfect drug for dreamers because it makes almost any old bullshit appear plausible. It encourages a level of risk-taking that even the adventurers who want to climb Mount Everest without oxygen would find a bit reckless. Alcoholics don’t need business school – all it takes is a few bottles of Beer Chang and enough life-savings to invest in a bar. These people don’t have to worry too much about not having customers because there is no risk of their stock going to waste.

I’ve known guys who came to Thailand with the intention of drinking themselves to death – one of them was me. I’d given up all hope of breaking away from my addiction, and it felt glamorous to spend my last days on the planet sipping my beers on the beach of an exotic island. Of course, it isn’t that easy. It turns out that drinking yourself to death is a long and painful process – it doesn’t matter if you are lying on a tropical beach in Thailand or sitting in a bus shelter in Detroit.

Broken Dreams in Thailand

I’m sure most individuals who end up struggling with alcoholism in Thailand did not come here with any type of death wish. These are just people who arrived on holiday and fell in love with the place. I’ve heard from dreamers who’ve spent years working in jobs they hate just to save enough money to make their dream of living in Thailand a reality.

Thailand can be a great place to begin a new life but the majority of people who move here don’t last more than a couple of years. Of course, alcohol abuse isn’t the only reason a person might change their mind about living in Thailand, but in a significant number of cases it is what turns the dream into a nightmare.

Don’t Come to Thailand If You Have an Alcohol Problem

It is a bad idea to move to Thailand if you have an alcohol problem. Coming here is not going to cure you – it is more likely to kill you. I’m not saying you can’t build a life here later on, but you need to sort out your drinking problem first of all.

There is a Thai parable that sums up the situation really well. If you visit a temple in Thailand, you are likely to see stray dogs wandering around the grounds. They will sit down at a new location but then start to scratch furiously. After a few minutes they will get up and move to somewhere else. They do this all day long because they don’t understand they are bringing the flies with them. If you come to Thailand with an alcohol problem, you are going to be taking your flies along for the ride.

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11 thoughts on “How to Avoid Destroying Your Dream Life in Thailand with Alcohol

  1. In my small town in 7 years I know of 4 people who have drunk themselves to death. Coming to Thailand these guys didn’t seem to get ripped off – I never knew them, but their existence was sad.

    That last is a bit of a lie. I spoke with one of the guys when he was sober – late morning or early afternoon, and he had some stuff going for him, but he definitely drank himself to a slow death.

      1. Very sad about alcohol. My husband of 37 years left me and our beautiful grown children and grandchildren so he could drink and persue other relationships. I hope he finds his way….back to reality.

  2. Your craft is becoming fine tuned, your logic is clear and simple, it resonates its actuality through real life experiences, the analogies are heartfelt. They personify an “intervention” to the reader of the issinglass attitudes held by most alcoholics about their disease that life without addiction is possible and rewarding.

  3. Hi Paul, so true again. I saw the dangers of ‘Doing A Geographic’ years ago when I moved from Scandinavia to southern Europe. Being used to extremely expensive and regulated (state-monopol) alcohol, coming to a land of cheap wine – which can be found EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME – felt like arriving to Disneyland to me. But unfortunately it’s been a very dangerous amusement park. I do not mean that I wouldn’t have had problems with alcohol back at home, but this ‘freedom’ has been quite difficult for me to bear. Still in envy with those people who can drink without problems (glass of wine with a dinner…). I am not one of those and on a bad day it is a pain to pass the wine shelves at the local supermarket…just to buy food for the family. Luckily there are more good than bad days, and I can feel grateful that I can buy food for the family, and I do not need or I do not want to buy the wine.
    I’ve been to Thailand few times and I can see what you are talking about. So sad that a dream of new and easy life is often just escapism…if we continue drinking, things get only worse.

    1. Hi Katriina, I know what you mean. I think one of the dangers with moving to a foreign country is there are not as many restrictions on us – we are less worried about family and friends.

      It is sad that people work so hard to make a dream reality, but then allow it to turn into a nightmare because of alcohol.

  4. It matters a lot where you live in Thailand and the people that you affiliate with. I have been in Phuket for a long time now and if I don’t take a step back now and again, I fall into issues with alcohol. It’s more out of boredom than anything else and the environment that is constantly around me.

  5. Hi Paul,
    I read this article hung over and it is the sad reality over here in many cases, including myself. I have moved to Isan where there is little to no support for us alcoholics; I don’t even try to abstain without the support of the rooms (which I’ve been in and out of for 10 years)
    I have just landed a good teaching job here but I can feel the unmagability setting in already and sense like all other previous jobs, the bottle will bring this one south as well in not too long. I know I need to get back in the rooms but I have conveniently placed myself in a place where they don’t exist. There is a strong following in Chiang Mai and obviously BKK however I have signed a 1 year contract at the school here. I know what I need to do but I’m sure I will wait until I get fired before taking action; in the mean time carry on self medicating in the most controlled, pathetic existence possible.
    Good to get that out (!)… Thanks for the article and the many previous others, you are a good writer, good enough to rile the beast most times and at least take a step back and look in the mirror. Good luck to everyone else in perhaps a similar position, I hope you find the courage to find the rooms and escape the madness once and for all (or at least ‘for today’, anyway)
    Owen, London/Isan

    1. Hi Owen, nice to hear from you. I ended up in a very similar position. I was living in rural Phitsanulok when I got sober. I’d been in and out of AA for years, and I believed it was the only thing that could work for me. Like you, it didn’t seem feasible because the nearest meeting was in Chiang Mai. I tried the online AA groups, but I got annoyed with members who kept telling me I should keep on drinking until I felt ready to return to AA.

      Things kept on getting worse for me until it became clear that continued drinking wasn’t really an option anymore. I also finally understood the message I’d heard in AA so many times – it is crazy to keep on doing the same things and expecting different results. I’d been in and out of AA for 17 years, so it was obviously time for a different approach. I decided to not only give up alcohol, but I also gave up being an alcoholic. I’ve not wanted to drink since. I don’t believe AA would have ever worked for me, but I accept it works for other people. Maybe you do need AA – that’s something you have to decide.

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