Out of your head

A nonalcoholic writer writes about a month of sobriety:

I am not an alcoholic. I don’t get sick, fall down or start my day with tots of whiskey. But I do love wine. I am entranced by the socio-historical and chemical properties of the vine. It is, for me, an intellectual pursuit–albeit one that is also literally intoxicating.

The threshold of addiction is a foggy place. You more or less know when you’re dependent, and you know when you’re independent. But most of us stumble around somewhere in between: we’ll just have one more; we don’t need it, we just like it; we could stop anytime. My social life runs on alcohol like a bicycle on its tyres: it could keep moving without it, but the ride would be bumpy and uncomfortable and I would worry about looking foolish.

So I decided to give up drinking for a month. How hard could it be? Not that I thought it would be easy: not only do I enjoy drinking, but also I am good at it. I merrily buy fine wine and hold it well. Yet given my lack of discipline, going completely without seemed easier than moderation. I believe La Rochefoucauld had it right when he said, “Moderation is the feebleness and sloth of the soul, whereas ambition is the warmth and activity of it.”

    Supportive friend:  “Seriously? For a whole month? Wow. You should write about it. People love to read about the misery of others.”

    Less supportive friend:  “In January? Are you mad? What other joys are there at this time of year?”

    Even less supportive friend:  “I’m just off out for a lovely evening of dinner, chat and lots of red wine. Oh, and martinis. Envious?”

So I did it. It’s not difficult. Just dull. I felt unsociable. I missed the glow of self-satisfaction that alcohol brings, and the clear division it offers between work and recreation.

So what else did I learn after a month of stone-cold sobriety? That it’s over-rated. There is a reason why people drink proportionally more the less they like themselves: alcohol takes you, as so much slang for drunkenness has it, out of your head. I’m no self-loathing Hemingway or Parker, but a month is a long time in your own uninterrupted company. Nobody wants to spend that much time with me–not even me. This is despite the fact that I found abstinence to be good for my self-esteem, not the other way round. People keep asking me if I feel healthier. I don’t, particularly. But I do feel smug.

Wow. What a great job explaining the difficulty of quitting drinking for someone who simply likes drinking–for someone whose brain hasn’t even been hijacking to seeking alcohol as a survival need.

It also does a great job of explaining some of the ways in which a tribe within mainstream culture can offer many of the same barriers that are face by people who identify with a tribe the culture of addiction.

One thought on “Out of your head

  1. Thanks for the post.I have a freind who just started ‘giving up booze’ for a month. Although is taste is for maritini and not wine the story is similar. It will be interesting to see how it goes. However, he does say he is only going to do it one day at a time to see what happens.

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