The project of quitting alcohol is driven by a need to gain control of my life and a desire for some kind of emotional stability. That is what might be gained from doing the project; the reward that comes from no longer drinking alcohol. But there is also something that is lost, I think. Something that I cannot really figure out how to align with a life of serene sobriety (…if what is something that can ever be achieved…). And that is the intense sense of freedom that I sometimes experience after having consumed large quantities of alcohol. Even during the latter years when alcohol increasingly became associated with something that was fundamentally wrong, drunkenness could still generate a fleeting sense of absolute freedom and joy. For a brief moment in time, the world was charged with euphoric energy that seemed to unhinge and relax every tightly held assumption and idea about how things were supposed to operate. And so, suddenly, everything was possible. Everything at once.
While I do focus on and appreciate everything that I gain from quitting alcohol, I cannot get rid of the feeling that I have also lost something valuable. If I were to compare with something else that might generate a similar sensation, the only thing I can think of would be abstinence from sex. Suddenly an immense void of sheer meaninglessness would be at the heart of my well-functioning and highly organised adult life. And I really don’t want that.
I have been thinking a lot about why it is that alcohol produces this sense of absolute freedom and joy – other than because it numbs the emotional infrastructure, of course. I am still not really sure but I think it has to do with the sense of honesty and directness that sometimes arises from consuming alcohol. In my everyday life I am overly concerned about producing a version of myself that people want. I don’t do this in order to please everybody but, rather, to confirm the image that I think exists of me. That is also why the version that I produce of myself might confront or challenge people on their opinons and ideas. Because that might be part of what it is that people expect of me. But when I am drunk, I often feel that conversations become much more honest and direct. The more I drink, the more honesty there is. And this is not just about myself. I also feel that those around me - who are also drunk - get more honest and become more true to themselves. I often experience such conversations, which are often just brief encounters at parties partially drowned by the massive sound coming from nearby speakers, as moments of absolute freedom and joy. Right there in that moment, I feel that I am the person I should be: Completely honest and immersed in the enjoyment of the moment. And staggeringly drunk.
I don’t know what to do about the feeling of loss. If I am absolutely honest – as honest as I can be without alcohol – it feels like I have prevented myself from accessing one of the most important realms of my life. Something that has previously allowed me to momentarily relieve myself of my thoughts and simply enjoy the sensation of being me. Somehow I have to figure out what to do about that.