It would probably be best at some point to sit down and put together some cohesive thoughts on my relationship with alcohol and various intoxicants, and maybe self-medication in general. It is a personal relationship and it would be vain to speak for humanity at large, though there are some interesting observations, as an outsider, that some people might find useful.
Outsider is a key word here. I don’t drink and I haven’t for over ten years now. The reasons aren’t important to anyone but me. It is a personal choice to remain sober. Sobriety is as big a part of who I am today as being a hard drinking man was before. These are also things to get into at another time. Suffice to say that sober me is the authentic me and all that other stuff was the costume I wore to disguise who I am now. Again, this deserves so much more attention but it’s early and the work day is right around the corner.
The starting point here is the question I get so often: Do you miss drinking, MacGregor? It’s valid enough, though I believe it’s couched in certain prejudices, but it’s valid.
Do I miss drinking?
Sometimes I do but usually I don’t. Most times I don’t. What I miss most of all is not having to explain myself. The comedian and internet celebrity Tony Baker was on a talk show panel with a bunch of other comedians and the question the that the host posed to him was, “So Tony Baker… you don’t drink…” It was lobbed out there with some degree of gravity, like it was a sensitive topic. Tony responded with kind laughter and said it plainly. You tell people you don’t drink water and they accept it like no big deal at all. You tell them you “don’t drink poison and they get all like aw man what’s wrong what happened did you beat your kids???”
That little exchange resonated with me. It’s really not resentment or envy with me but there is a deep curiosity for me that people can’t conceive of this as a choice. There’s a prevailing attitude that there must be some deep character flaw inherent to you that you can’t do what most other adults do. The simple explanation to me is that for people to react so strongly to this is that a lot more people than care to admit are troubled by the ease with which they turn to alcohol and other intoxicants as their go-to tool. That’s simplistic though and sounds accusatory. It’s not. I do believe that people become alarmed though when their given symbols of their own adulthood and perhaps emotional and mental health are challenged. I do believe there is an element of self-doubt.
But yes, I miss not having to explain myself.
Also, because I started this, I should explain myself. There is a very short story. That is, that I got sober to address issues that couldn’t be properly seen to while alcohol was in the way. I began to discover things about the way I viewed myself and the world that were stilted and/or entirely false. I found that in order to change for the better that it was going to require more than just being sober. Staying sober allowed me to do that. I really really like and admire the authentic self that wandered out the other side after all the exploration.
That’s the short story. There will be a longer version and its not going to include drawn out war stories. I more want to address why it is that people who’ve made this journey are seen more of an aberration than an inspiration. Who even wants to be an inspiration? That seems an ego-driven pursuit. Beyond that, it should be addressed that sobriety is even recognized as all and as I’ve intimated above, I do believe that it’s because sobriety in another person can cast self-doubt in a lot of people. Maybe that’s true with anyone who has made any positive change in their own life.
It’s not that I preach tolerance or abstinence. I don’t preach at all. It’s not even something I would recommend for everyone unless they’re looking to examine things about themselves that they can’t get sorted. It’s not about morals. There is perhaps a level of fear, I suppose. If you look at our media, television, film, literature or whatnot, any sober/clean person is a minute away from a relapse. That’s what creates the theatrical drama in the story. I concede that there are people who are needlessly afraid of my imminent implosion (people should be as concerned about people with peanut allergies) out of concern for my welfare. That’s fair enough. It’s deeper though and it’s about self-fear and that’s really what’s sparked my curiosity.
It should not be such a big deal. Sobriety, that is, should be as invisible as the question of who likes brussels sprouts and who finds them vile. That it’s not says more about humans than it says about human alcoholics or alcoholism. A woman I was involved with who professed deep feelings for me told me that she didn’t know how to blend me, as a sober person, into her social circles and couldn’t get her head around that. It was admittedly very hurtful, but again, it’s not really a reflection on me, is it? It’s the prevailing societal feeling around the topic. Frankly, it’s immature, but not as an indictment of her personally, but on everything. And by immature I mean underdeveloped as in not fully grown not in any pejorative sense.
That we take on consumption of alcohol and drugs as a character trait, and I was entirely guilty of that, is troubling.
I have chosen to take on being in the moment every moment of the day, not as a character trait but as a way of life. It’s made me feel energized and connected in a way that I never got close to before. Does intoxication prevent that? I don’t know. It did for me. It’s really just that simple. It doesn’t make me superior in any way, shape or form. In fact, sometimes I’m still a right cunt. I’m always me though.