There does seem to be a lot of drunks in Thailand. I should know because I was once one of them. I am not talking here about people who like to go out and enjoy a few beers – good luck to them. What I’m talking about is the habitual drunk. The person who seems to have come to Thailand to drink themselves to death. If you have ever seen the film Leaving Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage you will have an idea of the sort of person I’m talking about.
I remember a few years ago being involved in a discussion on one of the popular Thai web forums. The subject was ex-pats who have resorted to begging on the streets of Thailand. Many of the people posting on that forum were extremely critical and wondered how these ‘low lifes’ managed to get to Thailand in the first place. What they failed to consider is that many of these drunks might have been functioning reasonably well before arriving.
How I Became a Drunk in Thailand
There were periods of my life when I was a high-functioning drunk. I even made it through university and I qualified as a nurse, despite the fact that during my mid-twenties I drank myself literally into a gutter. I was good at my job working in a busy London hospital; people respected me. I always had a problem with drink, but for long periods I could hide the worst effects from other people. I would imagine that this type of functioning might by typical of many of the drunks who arrive in Thailand.
Coming to live in a country like Thailand can have unforeseen consequences. Arriving here I was actually hoping that the nice climate and culture would be good for me. I had planned to ordain as a monk and even did a long meditation retreat during those first years. I fell in love with the drinking scene straight away. I thought that this really was Nirvana. Back in England (or my home country Ireland) I had to maintain a level of respectability, but here there were no real limits on my behaviour here. If I got drunk every night of the week there was nobody to complain, and I soon realised that nobody would be too bothered if I got drunk in the morning as well.
It is very easy to judge the ex-pat drunks of Thailand as undeserving of any type of respect. I think this is a bit unfair though. I always thing of that saying about not judging someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes; for me this really is important. Even drunks can have huge potential and all are deserving of respect; they are still human beings after all.