…and I won’t until the end of the month. I’m trying to dry out and focus, to realign myself and my energies to the things that matter. So, I decided to “Take August Off.” This is no mean feat for me; I manage a bar and I study booze earnestly, in an effort to understand it and attempt an encyclopedic knowledge of it’s many forms and styles. The lifestyle that comes with that is, suffice to say, celebratory. I try to take a month off of drinking twice a year, in February and August, to dry out; clean the slate, reset to 0, detox, etcetera. I do it for the purpose of “focus”, but also for another reason, something I don’t like to talk about because it’s pitiful, sad, un-sexy. There is this shrill victorian, puritanical voice inside of me that warns that anything good and fun must be inherently bad. More specifically, I come from a paranoia that my love and study of booze could lead me to a problem of suffering from alcoholism, as several in my family have. Puns aside, this level of self-awareness is sobering. I pretend this span of sobriety is no real accomplishment, because if it is, I’m in trouble. ”13 days with no booze? How hard does that sound? Does he want a fucking metal?” Yes, I do. But! I won’t allow myself to accept praise for something that shouldn’t be difficult. I will, however, allow the idea that this break in toxicity offers me some personal clarity and time to reflect.
I’ve been taking cautious and introspective inventory of how and what I’m feeling every day, to make sure it’s not some kind of withdrawal or measurable response to a lack of booze that could signal the difference between a love of drink and a problem with it. I tell people I feel no different, just bored. Am I being honest? I almost went out drinking the other day because I was justifying it. I thought, “I proved I didn’t have a problem, two weeks and no hint of these internet withdrawal symptoms, so that means I proved my point.” I later said to a coworker, who was asking me to go out before rescinding her invite so as not to enable me, “I’m not doing this for my health, I’m doing it for shits’n’giggles, to prove I can do it, but I’m so fucking bored. I want to go out and have fun.”
I’m self-aware enough that that scared me. I tell myself that I don’t have a problem, then realize it’s what any unrepentant alcoholic would say. But maybe I really don’t, and I’m just really missing the lifestyle that had me at a new bar every night, trying all the new releases and writing about them, taking notes, talking shit and clanking glasses with my friends. ”I’m not some schmuck that needs a 12-pack to get out of bed before work, I’m a connoisseur,” right? Or am I just an expert at flattering myself into giving my body/brain what it direly misses? Because I am still asking these questions, I am still not drinking. The shadow of doubt has not yet been cast away by the harshly bright light of sobriety.
Let me preface this by saying that alcohol is not intrinsically evil. It is neutral. It is like wind. There is no malice in wind, no generosity; it just does its fucking job. We are wired to simplify and identify with things as a means to understand them; we find faces in the moon’s craters, and we assign personalities to things that are not persons. It’s bullshit. Booze, as an inanimate-and-thus-neutral thing, is the same way. It is a wonderful invention, heavy with power, which only leans a certain direction on the scale of good-vs-evil after you start tugging on the chains. I will admit that I have flirted with both ends of that scale. Booze offers a certain part of me the motivation to abuse it, because drunk me thinks “hey wow booze is good, so more booze is more good-er.” Let the good times roll, should we do the same thing tomorrow? ”Work bad, beer good!” Two consecutive, slammed-busy, densely-stressful weeks of life and BLAM! Suddenly I have a daily habit; a daily decompression of stress, and a recompression of guilt that piles itself onto the next day’s stress. It takes a strong person to stop and realize they could be abusing this neutral thing, that the daily recreational habit is maybe becoming a chemical habit. I am really fucking scared of not being strong enough to hit the brakes if it ever gets out of control, so I force myself to quit twice a year to remember what control feels like; cold turkey, no cheat days built in, full-stop. Is that like quitting cigarettes for a month and re-starting slowly? Or is it more like forcing yourself to sleep a whole 8hrs a night long enough to realize how beneficial it is?
A friend says this is probably worse for me than a steady drinking habit, all the rebounding from daily drinking to stone-sober twice a year. I haven’t found information that says he’s wrong. It does hurt a little, mostly on the “having fun and not being stressed about work” front, but there are definitely positive aspects, beyond the obvious revelations that weeks without alcohol are actually totally doable.
Not drinking at all makes me think about the future more; less about this week and more about this year, or the next 10 years. I don’t think about where I’m going to hang out when I get out of work, I think about what I need to do this month. I’ve realized that the internet (social media specifically) is a place I go to, habitually, to feel jealous, critical, and generally bad about myself, the world, and everything in it. Despite all this, I am bad at walking away from it. I think that is another problem I want to work on. I’m also reading a lot more. I really enjoy reading if I give myself enough time for it, but I usually don’t. I’ll usually think I don’t have the time for something so intrinsically unproductive, and then fuck around on the internet instead of whatever else I meant to do because I’ve convinced myself there’s not enough time for that particular task anyway. It sucks and I hate it. It’s a major cause of unrest for me. I am always critical of myself, to a fault, using it as a way I motivate myself to be better. But, I give myself more of a break when I’m sober. Like a strict and unusually tough little part of me softens up and pridefully empathizes with the rest of me that is bored and wants a beer but shows enough promising discipline to deny itself. I would usually call myself stupid when I make mistakes, as if I’m insulting somebody else, to try and stop making mistakes. Turns out I’m more productive when I stop calling myself an idiot. There are two wolves inside everyone, right? All comes down to the one you feed more. We’re in this together, bored-30-year-old-living-metaphorically-but-not-actually-in-parents’-basement-me and tough-love-dispensing-self-disciplined-and-motivated-me.
It is all give and take with myself. I think there is more give in February and August, but quality vs quantity makes it all even out. Like stopping drinking, being disciplined about my diet, my training regimen, work, and the maintenance of my family and personal relationships is hard for me, but it feels good to strengthen the muscle of willpower. For whatever reason I’d managed to convince myself for “taking a month off,” I can at the very least feel good about that.
Flexin’ my willpower, baby. Still got it. Getting’ strong. Feels good.
Now to will myself to sleep. Hi Ho.