Posted on January 9, 2015
In which Heath attempts sobriety.
I’m going to come out and say it: by no measurable account am I an alcoholic. Being of weak constitution, I drink often and to excess, but I would not consider alcohol essential to my social and psychological well being. It isn’t a crutch, it’s a multiplier.
That having been said, if I start drinking alcohol, I don’t usually stop drinking alcohol. I have the same problem with spaghetti, fig newtons and graham crackers. As alcohol is a known diuretic, I don’t touch the stuff the day before I fly, because I get dehydrated very easily. Not even a sip.
And this year I flew back to Switzerland on January 1st. Meaning I was sober for New Years Eve. Pretty much the only night on the calendar where “I’m sorry judge, but I had been drinking” would be admissible.Then I realized that, for the first time in my adult life, I was going to be surrounded by drunk people while I, myself, was sober.
For example, if I’m sick, I wouldn’t drink. But I also wouldn’t go to a party. If I was really hungover, I was probably on the floor of my room, or I had been pursueded by persons with my best interests at heart to start drinking again. There was a period in college, during racing season, where I didn’t drink, but I also didn’t go to parties because I was lame and also sleepy. I also was on antibiotics for a period, but I think that was also during racing season.
Long story short, if there was a party and I was at it, I was probably drinking, almost certainly to excess. Otherwise I was in my room doing super cool things.
The first question I had to ask myself was what was I going to drink? I’m not going to drink non-diet soda for an entire night because I wouldn’t care to die of a malfunctioning glucose-insulin system. And I was too stupid to bring my own beverage. So what did I drink? Diet Pepsi. Diet fucking Pepsi, the Nickelback of soft drinks. Another first for me. I drank two cups, and when my friend said, “Are you seriously still drinking Diet Pepsi?” I switched to water.
And I watched the party unfold.
Let me just say that there is a definite sweet spot. Between 1-4 drinks, I found that most people were funnier, more outgoing and generally more bubbly versions of themselves. I could joke around with people, their jokes would make sense. It’s not that these people change when they’re drinking, it’s that they’re more likely to speak their mind or try out a joke, risks that usually pay off.
I also noticed that the groups that arrived together tended to break up and mingle around this point. Now, this could be the nature of parties in general, but it was interesting to see the flow kind of change from solid to liquid.
Conversations were real back and forth affairs. They would have the same sort of flow sober people, but with a little more embellishment.
But there is a tipping point. People that I found downright charming just half an hour ago were pretty much impossible to talk to. It was really rather subtle, it’s just that we wanted to talk about different things, or maybe at different levels of intoxication. And it was hard for me to put my finger on it. All of a sudden I just felt like there was a barrier between myself and almost everyone else at the party.
So I just kind of sat there and watched as people yelled at each other. Seriously, people are loud when they’re drunk. And are quick to interject and man, the jokes were not funny. People are more interested in being in groups, as well. Large groups. Again, this could be in the nature of parties in general, but people like to be in one giant group and yell dumb shit at each other at this point. I should also mention that I was really sleepy from being out drinking the night before and it was after the ball had dropped, so what’s the point, you know?
But in general I found that most people at this point were not interested in one on one conversations (at least with the same gender). Also, while in the middle of a party, people tend to cram into the kitchen, here’s where they move to the living room, where I’ll point out, there is often a couch.
It would be like if you were forced to go to a model train enthusiasts convention, where everyone simultaneously hated and loved each other, and you had absolutely no interest in model trains.
I’m planning on giving up alcohol for Lent this year, so this was a brief glimpse into a possible future. And it was interesting to look at something I enjoy very much from the outside. I didn’t draw any conclusions from it except that, in general, I like being on the side I’m normally on. Just another adventure to a different side of the human experience.
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