One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about something you were afraid of as a child and to share whether you’re still afraid of it. Immediately, an interaction I had with my husband a few weeks ago came to mind that brought back my extreme fear of denatured alcohol.
My husband offered me a sip of vodka because I had a bad cold and he’d heard that strong drinks help with this. They don’t, but I wanted to try a sip anyway just to have an idea of its taste. Then we got talking about the time my ninth grade science teacher distilled alcohol and let us drink some. This would’ve been a totally stupid idea if he were any good at distilling, but well. I had it in mind that we had drank pure alcohol, which my husband said would’ve led to our esophaguses burning up in smoke. Turned out my teacher was really bad at distilling alcohol, because the vodka my husband gave me tasted stronger than I remembered the distilled alcohol tasting.
Then we got talking about mehtanol, a poisonous kind of alcohol, which surfaces at the first distilling round. I remember my father, who worked at my school back then, talking about how some students the year before me were either allowed to taste the first distilling round or almost did so despite not being allowed. I assume it was the latter even though memory tells me otherwise, as I’m pretty sure that teacher would’ve been fired and prosecuted for allowing students to taste something even remotely resembling methanol. My husband joked that if his teacher had allowed him to taste distilled alcohol, even if it was safe, he’d be tempted to fake methanol poisoning just to get the teacher fired.
I was by this time quite scared already. The evening of the alcohol tasting experience in ninth grade, I discovered my vision had worsened. This was due to a cataract, which is a known complication of my eye condition. However, I had the irrational thought for years that if I hadn’t tasted distilled alcohol, it wouldn’t have happened.
You see, I had and still have no clue about the signs of methanol poisoning other than blindness. Even though I ran a much higher risk of going blind from my own eye condition than from methanol poisoning, as soon as I learned about this, I was deathly afraid of methanol poisoning. Since denatured alcohol usually contains methanol, I was scared of that too. I would never touch any surface cleaned with denatured alcohol, afraid that I’d get methanol on my hands and lick it off. Worse yet, in my magical thinking, denatured alcohol could somehow replace tap water. Each time I was about to have a drink of water, I looked at the running tap water to see whether it was blue. After all, in the Netherlands, denatured alcohol is dyed blue.
I still have a pretty bad fear of denatured alcohol. For soap making, I use alcohol spray to make soap bubbles go away, but I somehow never made the connection. As soon as I did, I wanted to discard my denatured alcohol spray. After all, what if some leaked out of the bottle and somehow dripped onto my coconut oil, which I use for lip balm making? Both the spray alcohol bottle and the coconut oil can are tightly shut, but you never know.
I was also somehow scared that I’d accidentally drink denatured alcohol at home. My husband went looking for it to see whether he even had it in the house and he had. He joked that the bottle of denatured alcohol was next to the vodka, which of course made me freak out.
It’s not like I never handle any other poisonous products. I mean, soap colorants and fragrance oils are probably not the healthiest thing either. I also have a few shower products, which I use daily, which state clearly to keep them away from children. I reckon this is for good reason. However, it never crossed my mind to drink shower gel. Not that I would purposefully drink denatured alcohol, but if that can replace tap water, what substance can’t?