My relationship with alcohol has a long history and in this blog post I want to put a topic to rest. In 2015 I had a shocking realization:
I like myself more when I’m tipsy, than when I’m sober.
“Wow, that’s dangerous” I thought. 2016 was my first year-long break from alcohol. 2020 up mid-March was the second . But before going through lessons on personal and societal levels I have to set the stage first.
Holes in Personality
I first tasted alcohol in my 14th year (7th grade). In class excursion at 16 years I first drank to the point of memory loss and unconsciousness. How do you know your limits, if you don’t cross them, right? In last years of school we would break some beers after school time, on several occasions even during lunch break (meaning we would return to classes and cringe).
Damn, I just remembered I saved one picture, how my locker looked at one point:
First time I drank vodka in freezing cold after classes, I drank it like it was beer. Lucky, I got home before I got sick. Never puked more times in 4 hours since.
I was never a fan of status games, I would not attempt to be a member of “cool” kids in a class. Winning status game for me, was not playing. Of course I would put that into words years later. However at times of drinking we, the group of classmates seemed to bond better and be “more equal“. Getting external approval for a shy introvert meant something.
During my 16-18 years I would also get drunk alone. It might seem counter intuitive, but those sessions where the only tool to enter another level of consciousness at the time. Drinking alone seemed like a very beneficial time to learn and reflect about self.
Too much have happened since to validate this critically. Might have been true for a young teen.
Time in University
First semester was “quiet”. Occasional beers with new study buddies and several classmates, that joined the same faculty. On the second I was invited to a poker game (/s) with drinking on the side (of course), which overtime led to several foundational friendships for a lifetime. However alcohol became an inseparable friend to all of us at the time. Some exceptional memories and pictures (both mental and digital) were made at a time.
In Master years, we started professional careers. Drinking venue was shifted from flat to city bars.
Drinking with your buddies on weekdays or weekends blocks self-reflection. We had great laughs, moments, but it did not support individual growth. On contrary, I felt supported for whoever I was at the time.
My first kiss with my future first girlfriend in school was after 1,5 litre of beers in both of us. My overthinking head was racing forever as I can remember myself. Let me assure you, it does not make dating easier.
For a young and extra horny individual like myself cracking the secrets of dating and attraction was a little hell, deserving a blog post on its own. Drinking in the city with (outside closed circle) people has brought my deep weaknesses in socializing to a broad daylight.
I take time to know people, build some trust and get comfortable around them to the level I feel sufficiently free to crack jokes and just be myself. Nightlife is nothing like that. Either you have it in an instant, or you are suffering. I did a lot of suffering and alcohol not only helped, but solved some of the problems.
Slow Downward Spiral
2014-2015 I was still working full time, eating self-help and Game material on headphones while at semi-automatic tasks. An unsustainable loop had developed:
- Thursday – it’s almost there;
- Friday – call to my buddy, plan for the evening; get home, dinner, get a 1-2 hour nap to restore some of week’s sleep deprivation; another call addressing logistics; meet at city at 22 – 23, when some folks have been already done for the night; bar-roll across city center, attempting to socialize, dance, reflect, bond, laugh; get to sleep location (mine or his place) at 3-5 AM;
- Saturday – fight hangover, eat kebab, reflect on the night, laugh, get to some place to eat decently; on evening – repeat;
- Sunday – hangover + emotional hangover, get home, watch a movie;
- Monday – emotional hangover persists + early waking for work x “fuck my life” = emotional / existential hangover;
- Tuesday – still sleep deprived, mood a bit more at ease, but still remains from weekend are felt; questioning reality;
- Wednesday – Whoop whoop, mood is back, but work still sucks; week almost half-way done. Most productive time of the week in terms of self-development inside and outside of work;
- Thursday – from the top ^…
I suspect around 75% of weeks in at least 9 months of 2015 looked exactly as described above. Different strangers, conversations, different drinks, jokes.
Overthinking head brews questions without asking. “Why am I feeling so bad?” Natural conclusion and new years resolution was born to quit alcohol for whole 2016 year.
I would not categorize myself as an alcohol dependent at any point. I was not craving for a drink in the morning, nor did I drink before work.
However formally there are clinical degrees to alcoholism, and in 2016 local blogger had put a post on alcoholism degrees (in Lithuanian, use translate if needed). If you answer yes to at least three of following propositions, “congratulations, you are an alcoholic” in clinical terms.
- I’m definitely not an alcoholic, I use alcohol responsibly;
- At least once in my life, it has happened to me that I didn’t remember everything after drinking;
- I wouldn’t feel drunk if I drank two half-liter bottles of plain beer;
- I think beer should not be seen as alcohol because it is very weak;
- In the last year, I have had cases where I drank more or drank longer than I initially planned;
- I drink too often, though I could come up with some free time without a drink;
- If I don’t drink at a party, I feel uncomfortable, it’s hard to relax, I don’t get to communicate freely with other people;
- Alcohol consumption in the last year has caused me some problems or conflicts in family, work or so;
- In the last month there has been at least one time when I drank 5 or more bottles of beer in the evening (same – 5 cocktails, 5 glasses of vodka, etc.);
- I have had occasions when I put off some work or other activities and chose to better drink with friends;
- I don’t understand people who don’t drink alcohol;
- If I didn’t drink with others in the company, I wouldn’t be understood.
This is a little off topic, but I love this video + audio experience on this specific topic, encourage you to go through several minutes of Massive Attack:
Lessons from 2016 Sober Year
It was 5 years ago and I regret I did not put some of observations to writing at the time I first got them. I’ll try my best to recollect my impressions on different levels.
Filling Personality Holes
Alcohol suppresses pre-frontal cortex, the newest part of the brain in evolutionary terms responsible for self-awareness, willpower and other important stuff that actually makes us human, the most known intelligent species so far.
In close friends circles I would notice, I would play this weird unspoken game of “who can outdrink me”, trying to drag anyone on the same “unconscious” level. When the image of self is stripped away, it’s far easier to bond:
“I respect you”; “I love you”; friendly hugs and kisses – they are welcome on both ends and easier to express without questioning what it all means and where is this coming from.
In social environment with strangers, it’s completely different game being overly self-conscious, anxious, shy and transforming into this charming, witty and confident persona in minutes. It’s like going into phone booth as Clark Kent and leaving as Superman.
Can you see why I would like myself after few drinks more?
Oil to Conversation
What has became apparent even before quitting drinking, motor aparatus required a drink in a hand.
Mineral water, non-alco beer, various lemonades, kambuchas, even teas took place in my hand in bars. I don’t know a lot of people that have took a year-long break from alcohol. What I was afraid would create a vacuum in conversation and put me in even more anxiety has actually provided a great conversation starter, and usually a positive response on self-determination and willpower.
Of course each conversation is different and at times of failed “vibe” I would by default jump to blame myself, which is of course not true. Perhaps a dude was an asshole or chick just a spoiled bitch, or any number of other reasons rapport did not get built.
It’s physically impossible to describe what your prison looks like until you get free.
It’s extremely interesting observing each stage of the evening. My introversion in the past might have been on the higher end of distribution, but not to the point I would not go out completely. Seeing how tense some people are before their drinks are served, actually helped me internalize and normalize self-image/worth.
A lot of signals indicate various levels of intoxication: bodily movement, speech loudness. How clear and correct speech is. Some people star cursing, others get aggressive or slutty. Surprisingly, people loop: they tell same stories during the course of the evening.
Ultimately we are animal, depending on environment in which we were raised, that animal possesses different dominating traits, but I doesn’t change the fact, that when you turn off prefrontal cortex you set your inner animal free. Be it the animal of movement (dance), lust, aggression, community.
Setting animal free. From what? Honestly I did not believe the day would come that I would reference this post on Dance. I was weed-high and had very liberating lessons observing my work colleagues on booze and strong drinks during the night. Difference in how open and free people can be prompted me to question some fundamental questions.
- Why do humans drink in the first place?
- Is this an unconscious counter-balancing act to 1/3 of awake hours people hate spending in work?
- Is this cloud of “entertainment” pulled under our eyes to hide some deep truth?
- How come some states of consciousness are legal, while others aren’t?
- How come legal intoxication is far more detrimental to our health?
You can judge my contention by the framing of questions, but don’t get anchored. Why society and particular individual drinks may have different answers.
Sober (?) Parties
It’s worth mentioning: when life goes well, party is great even though you are completely sober. You are high on life. My friends can attest to that. There were times when I partied sober on same energy or even higher.
In other times, I had an opportunity to work on myself. I knew my weaknesses. 2016 was a great year for personal growth: getting out of comfort zone, face the awkwardness and complete reiteration of personality altogether.
2016 new-years resolution only mentioned alcohol so… on some occasions joint had replaced a drink in the hand. My one big takeaway framework I got from 2016 was:
Alcohol lowers awareness. Cannabis heightens it.
Difference between two intoxication methods is staggering. Some lessons from trips were internalized, integrated into personality and pushed to subconscious.
I had plenty of less socially comfy sober parties, but my internal conscience was let down on some level and pistol was loaded to make completely sober year sometime in the future.
Completely Sober 2020
So yeah, forward several years and I did another, this time completely sober year+. Age, pandemic lockdowns, desire to cultivate skills in SQL, back-end, neural nets, investing has dramatically decreased number of occasions to “party”.
One big takeaway I already mentioned in “Missing Abstract Thinking” post:
It’s far more difficult to relax. And from what I know about substances, alcohol is actually more suitable in this situation. On some Friday’s I would have loved to crack a beer and let go. Be it diving into music or my lover.
I have doubled-down on my willpower and did 365 uninterrupted days of meditation sessions during 2020 and you might think it could easily rescue an over-thinker in global turmoil, but I estimate only ~20% of meditative sittings have cleared a head space and provided a deep internal peace.
I assume I have dealt with majority of personal socializing issues throughout 2015-2018, so nothing particularly challenging, surprising or new there.
Obvious physical and mental benefits: mental clarity, increased focus, more energy, generally more optimistic attitude.
Q&A Three Alternative Consciousnesses
Idea has been brewing in my head for several months now and for the first time I want to pull another side experiment. I’ll pose several questions and let three states of me answer each of them.
This isn’t ideal, because obviously I’m self-aware of already posted answers, but I’ll try to focus on question and give a fresh in the moment answer. So, quick game rules:
- SB (Sober) – sober me. Asked the questions, wrote majority of this blog post;
- WN (Wine) – me after two glasses of red wine. Limited exposure to designated answers paragraphs.
- WD (Weed) – me after smoking pure joint, no tobacco. The way pachamama intended lol. Limited exposure to designated answers paragraphs.
How do you feel?
Depleted. It’s 3/5 sitting at this post and I have been writing for past 3 hours. However usual gratifying sense of accomplishment is present.
Awesome, uplifted. As if all-starts were aligned. Today’s portfolio appreciation worth is around 4 months of Eurotrip. And if you mean the wine stuff… It’s like driving a bicycle after a ~1,2 year break. Still got it.
Happy and tired. Intense, snowy day with an accelerated evening.
What’s the biggest takeaway you had from sober 2020?
“All work no play makes jack a dull boy”. Never expected relaxing to be a challenge. But when life rails are strict and tempo is high…
It’s hard to answer in all seriousness after the day I had. Actually it’s like a closed loop. Part of today’s uplifted mood is a high conviction actions in market, which would probably have been unable if I were less focused in 2020. So.. it’s a proof of work. Personal, undisputed and true. Cheers to that.
I don’t look at yoga and meditation serious enough.
Can you trust a person you never shared an altered consciousness with?
I’m not in business of building a lot of external trust. Personal relationships for sure have a deeper bond when you both “understood” each other on multiple levels.
I had outsourced trust before. Most of the time I bought experience, if you know what I mean. Jumping back to the question, I would say no. Connection on multiple layers of personality is >>> trust on one layer. That’s like a basic arithmetic.
You could. Depends on a person and even more importantly – responsibilities about to be delegated.
Why do people drink?
Running from self, responsibility. To forget. To feel less pain. To get numb and not feel.
Today, I would like to say – to celebrate, that’s an isolated, evening specific answer. I should have asked why I drink. That would be more interesting. On general population, I can’t escape myself and the answer is the same. People run from themselves, basically.
A door of complicity. Few days ago I was looking for particular Larken Rose quote in this list:
The main problem in Soviet Russia under Stalin, in Red China under Mao, in Nazi Germany under Hitler–and in fact, in nearly every other tyrannical regime in history–was too many obedient law-abiding citizens and too few disobedient law-breaking criminals.
Drinking seems like obedience in the moment. Watched Willy Wonka for 2nd time. Might be a framed idea.
In general, desire to enter different states of consciousness is a run from being self. We are trapped in our conscious heads for 70-100 years. We get tired and want to get loose. Alcohol is culturally accepted in western world and became an easy way to leave personal (/-ity) problems outside the door.
It’s hard to isolate personal transformation purely on an axis of alcohol. I know it played a major role in shaping my experiences, relationships and creating some of the most wild, iconic life moments like:
- Crossing a lake with air-leaking 80kg limit boat. Three person job.
- Building a snowman on second floor corridor.
- Guest has pooped when asleep.
- Burning jeans.
- Stealing alcohol in venue.
- Getting sick during sex.
- Showing up at friends’ place on second day, just so we finish remainder alcohol.
- Puking/pissing from 5+ floor balconies.
- Fake beer bath in Prague.
- Fell of moving car in traffic jam.
- Coaching homeless.
- Puking into palm tree vase.
- Led an unconscious heavyweight home in Finland.
- Fluffy handcuffs pulled from 18 year old polish chick’s purse during flirt in city park.
- Went to local supermarket to refill party supplies barefoot. In autumn.
- Achieved maximum beer intake speed rate of 0.5l/s.
- 2 teams, two table tennis balls in simultaneous Vermut-pong >>> beerpong.
- Drinking from floor.
- On new years eve walked 15km only to sleep in 7°C temperature.
- Minor flat reconstruction after party.
- Vegetarian ex-girlfriend ate meat after home-brew spirits.
- 5 Lamborghini cocktails in one evening. (People say 2/evening is a limit).
- Stop a taxi, ask for a price, keep going towards home till price is acceptable.
- Puking inside back of 2-door Opel “bed”.
- Broken sofa in a bar, falling on it from 50cm above it.
- Another broken sofa when jumping on it.
- Lots of falling down when dancing. Not alone.
- Knocked a 3-5 yr old kid when walking.
- Stolen and pushed each other inside a shopping cart on city streets. Saved picture:
You cant have both doors open. Idea best shown in Mr. Nobody. Presence of alcohol creates some moments, absence of it – another set. It’s up to you what do you make of this life. In 2019 I have asked some my friends:
“What’s most important in life?“. I particularly liked one answer: “so it would be interesting“.
If you drink water interchangeably with your drinks during the night, you will save your tomorrow self. You are welcome.