I am attempting to go thirty days without a drink. Here is my diary on the subject.
After enough time away from alcohol, you have a weird and somewhat startling realization: what does it mean to be sober? What does being sober feel like?
You know what sobriety means—Being completely clear and clean of any third party substances.—but a long, unbroken string of sobriety feels a bit strange as you realize that the overlap between drunk and not-drunk aren’t that far away from each other. Instead of felling like a pendulum raging from one extreme to the other, you find that it’s more of a kind blow from one state of mind to another. That’s something you forget when washed up in alcohol.
That was this past week’s realization: am I really sober? The answer is clearly yes. Yes, I’ve had a few sips—SIPS. Teeny tastes, three total in half a month.—of The Drink since taking on a dry January but there has been no joy in the act. There is no buzz, there is no giggle to it: it’s just a different flavor on the palate. They’re essentially non-alcoholic wines.
Still, there has been a strange “Am I hungover?” feeling sometimes confused with a strange “Am I drunk?” feeling. While maybe (and hopefully not) a sign of something bigger and wronger, that feeling has nipped at my feet all this second week like some sort of child trying to alert me of a sign on my back that I cannot see. No, that isn’t a phantom spirit of spirits in you: that’s just a lightheaded feeling because you haven’t eaten or you ran too far or you’re feeling sick or you’re tired. That’s not drunk. There are differences in wooziness and you’re re-learning them in sobriety.
After half a month of non-drinking, you resign yourself in a comfort of the non-drink. Sparkling water is a well of bubbly joy. Teas are basically soda. A cookie(s) after dinner might as well be a bottle of champagne. The strength of being comfortable without the release of alcohol is difficult but not impossible. Boring, yes, but not impossible. You have to make peace with that, that you’re going to be alone in some regards: that is what it’s like to be a non-drinker in a drunk adulthood.
There are still new challenges though. No, they aren’t the people (Bobby.) lovingly saying it wouldn’t be a big deal if you broke your dry month promise. It isn’t even going to a bar, watching people drinking their drinks in joy as you pant into your water hoping it turns to wine. Those are difficult but not impossible to endure drinkless.
What is impossible is doing something leisurely and normally tied to alcohol without The Drink. For example: taking a weekend trip. Bobby and I frequently go to Palm Springs to lie by a pool, drink champagne, and relax. The activities may change—Cooking dinner instead of eating out, going to an art museum instead of swimming, going to a fancy dinner instead of a gay bar, etc.—but alcohol is always an underline somewhere, a reward for not being in your normal life.
This past weekend we went to Palm Springs and it was a challenge marked by a dark sober shadow over my head. Yes, the shadow eventually cleared but there were so many desires and wants and reaches for alcohol only to rebuff myself. After the first two taunting glasses, the desire faded and I was able to pour others drinks without any pangs of want. It was more of a service, a knowledge share dedicated to booze.
A solve for this was weed. While drinks were looked over, I absolutely did not overlook weed. A handful of week nights and all through the weekend away, various strains of marijuana were experimented with as a means of rest and relaxation. The results were quite fun, albeit a more subdued answer to the drink. While I enjoy weed—It is great.—it is nothing compared to splitting a bottle of wine with a friend. A high is not as high as a buzz. Splitting a joint is not the same with a meal. The two are culturally alien.
And that loops me back to a question of sobriety: is indulging in marijuana a lapse in the month’s “dryness”? I’m conflicted on the subject but not a staunch enough Drynuary practitioner to have an answer. However, the use of marijuana did muddy the sober feeling waters: although I know there are barely hangovers from weed, there were a few mornings and days where I was convinced the marijuana had a lingering effect. Perhaps it did but it felt like a self-induced phantom seeking to help me feel that which has been absent.
Who knows? That is my challenge this week: to further understand consciousness without a filter.