When you spend a lot of time on the streets, you begin to classify bums by the different drugs they use as an easy way to predict their behavior. You, of course, have your languid weed bums and their new sub-group, the K2 bum, who spends all day in a semi-psychotic state talking to himself and starring at the ground. You have your heroin bums who nod off mid-sentence and you have your crack bums who rage all night and into the early morning hours until they finally hit some kind of critical mass around sunrise and begin to believe the birds are out to get them.
Then you have the old mainstay, the drunken bum who has, by virtue of variety, multiple sub-distinctions. At the top of the tree is the beer bum who is usually somewhat more functional and articulate than his brethren. The whiskey bum is reduced to a semi-human state in which even simple panhandling becomes an insurmountable challenge. Not to be outdone is the MadDog bum, shunned even by his own kind for his uncivilized behavior and brutish countenance. In all cases the drunken bum is a primal being who lives or dies by his integration with his environment. If a bum is skilled you can barely see him as he blends in, chameleon-like, with his surroundings.
If you think there could be no further rung down the ladder than the MadDog bum you are mistaken, because no matter how depraved he may become, he has the comfort of knowing that his drug of choice was, in fact, manufactured for human consumption. Not so the mouthwash bum, who would be shamed by the horrible social stigma his poison incurs if only he was coherent enough to perceive it. Alienated from society, mocked by other bums, the mouthwash bum stands alone as a symbol of how far some people have to go before they finally hit “rock bottom”.
This is the strata that I occupy.
Oh yes, I've drank mouthwash. If you weren't careful I might have drank all of yours when you weren't looking. Before you hone in on the negatives I want to call your attention to some of the benefits of drinking mouthwash:
1: It's legal to carry anywhere. You can bring it in the library if you want to. This is no small consideration to the bums who live under constant threat of citation or arrest for drinking alcohol in public.
2: It's dirt cheep and at 27% alcohol it's a much better value than MadDog., especially if you get the generic brand.
3: You can buy it on Sunday. Have you ever woken up with a bad hangover on Sunday and counted down the minutes of excruciating agony before you could finally buy a drink? Not the mouthwash bum. He just heads to the oral hygiene section.
4: Minty fresh breath.
Now I know what you're saying, “You can't drink mouthwash! It's made with isopropyl alcohol. You'll go blind !” This is a common misconception. Mouthwash is made with Ethanol, it's all the other stuff they put in it to freshen your breath that makes you sick. And make you sick it does, my friends, and deranged beyond all reason.
I went on a mouthwash binge myself not long ago. I like to think of it as an Arthur Rimbaud kind of thing, warping the senses to experience the full the limits of the human experience and true mental freedom. A courageous adventure into the depths of the human soul. Unfortunately, my girlfriend didn't see it that way.
Fun Factor---2 : Does waking up in the morning, shaking so bad you can hardly stand up and stumbling to the pharmacy where the cashier eyes you with open disgust and grudgingly rings you up in awkward silence sound like fun? All alcoholism is ugly but add mouthwash to the equation and you have a phenomenon most people aren’t even prepared to process. As for the high I can only compare it to absinth as it is like the standard alcohol buzz with a little something extra added in. In this case the “little something extra” is Eucalyptol and Methyl Salicylate, both of which are toxic in high doses. I can't say if it was just my imagination, but it seemed like the effect was more disorienting than most alcohol. One thing I can say for sure was that after a few days it started to wreak havoc on my throat and stomach. If you think throwing up tequila is bad try Listerine. I give it two instead of one just because it's always a little bit fun to do something so anti-social, even if one of the side effects is vomiting blood.
Social Stigma---10: People are very sensitive about the whole “drinking their mouthwash” thing. The girl I was seeing at the time just couldn't get over it. Even if I went to the store and bought it with my own money she would harangue me for hours. Hey, I can understand your position, but try to understand mine. If they sold beer on Sunday I would never have even thought to drink mouthwash in the first place. We live in a deeply broken society and I am simply a product of it. The government, with it's acquiescence to the “moral authority” of the Church, made it inevitable that I would end up drinking mouthwash. It was a foregone conclusion. Anyway, that's what I told her but she wouldn't let it go.
Fear Factor---3/10: Much of alcoholism is tied up with the cycle of anxiety and relaxation that is inherent to the alcohol binge. A large part of your consciousness is tied up with how relaxed you are feeling at the moment and whether or not you should be feeling better than you do. When the booze is at full tilt, you become calm and even-keeled enough to function, albeit in a confused and fool hardy manner. When you are in the middle of a dry spell, like at night or on Sunday morning, the soul crushing anxiety begins to take hold, and soon it is all you can do to keep yourself from shaking wildly. The obvious way to avoid this negative feedback loop is not drinking in the first place, but once it's started, the cycle can be very difficult and even dangerous to stop.
Value of Psychedelic Insights Obtained---0: This one is a toss-up because in some ways the insights you obtain while drinking mouthwash are completely accurate. The problem is that they only pertain to the stupidity of drinking mouthwash and the fragility of human life. You wouldn't need those insights if you didn't drink mouthwash in the first place so they are of limited value. One side effect that's of some interest to the psychedelic warrior is that during the detox phase you experience vivid hallucinations and frighteningly realistic dreams. I can't say I obtained any valuable insights from them but they definitely constituted an “altered state of consciousness”. You will see the pink elephants my friends, and they will not amuse.
Detox---10: Detoxing from alcohol is something everyone from New Orleans experiences at least once in their lives. It's a right of passage akin to catching a Zulu Coconut or sleeping with a teenage runaway from Monroe. As brutal experiences go, few compare to checking yourself into the the ER and telling them you have a four pint a day mouthwash habit. If you're lucky they'll give you some Ativan but some states don't go for that kind of thing and if you don't play your cards right you can end up in the padded room. Detox takes a good week or so and includes several shades of paranoia that you weren't previously aware of. Definitely not worth the menacing hallucinations no matter how realistic they are.
But you didn't need me to tell you that did you? Most people would never consider drinking mouthwash even if I told you it was the best thing since Hindu Kush. And that's a good thing. The chaotic vortex of depravity that is mouthwash is not for the curious observer but only for the experienced aficionado who cannot tolerate the tyranny of the government over his drinking habits and has a hearty tolerance for the disdain of his fellows. Whether or not this disdain is deserved is debatable but you can rest assured that you will not have people lined up to invite you over for dinner. Even if you do it's only a matter of time before they start hiding their Listerine.