When I was younger, I dreamed of a fast, dizzying lifestyle filled with beauty and fizz. Soon, I was living it. Drinking enhanced my charisma, and I made many friends. Alcohol was laughter, romance and experience. I lived, for months, in perpetual night, dancing with shadows. When the morning came and people stopped coming to parties, it was just as though I was rudely awakened. I had been living in a dream, and when I tried to recreate it in reality, it was disappointing, and it made me look pathetic. I was inviting people who had already moved on. I was going to empty venues. Accepting my aloneness, I eventually learned to just drink with my memories. My lonesome nights began in the morning. I would start with a shot before lunch, then a cocktail after work, then more shots, and more cocktails until I teleport home. I dated around just to look for drinking buddies, so that I wouldn’t drink alone. I felt nothing because I was chasing something else, and in this chase I was going nowhere. I was in love with history; I was holding on to air with a pale grip.
Whenever I was alone and sober in the office, I would sit and cry. People would try to console me, but then a switch would turn on in me and I would get excited. I would invite them for one drink, which would turn to four, which would turn to twelve. We would skip the interval between five in the afternoon and ten in the evening, just drinking, talking about nothing. This happened often. A chunk of my salary was dedicated only for liquor. Most days, I felt like the tippler in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel. I would burn a lot of money to drink — why? — so that I can forget — forget what? — that I am ashamed — ashamed of what? — ashamed that I am drinking!
One night, smoke filled my head and I found it hard to see. I screamed, but no sound came out of my mouth. I tried to move, but I was no longer in control of my body. It was like falling inward. This was the first of many nights like this. Maybe I couldn’t accept my own demise, so it would always be delayed, but I would nevertheless suffer the anticipation of it. I kept drinking, this time as a form of medication: take as needed and, of course, do not operate heavy machinery. It was a glorious form of self-destruction. The symptoms persisted, so I upped my dose, more and more and more. This went on for months. The more I drank, the less I felt it, and the less I felt it, the more I drank. (Later on, I realized that I should’ve just gone to see a doctor for these persistent symptoms, and, eventually, I did.)
There are four levels of drunkenness. The first level is buzzed. Following that is tipsy, then flirty or energetic. Finally, hazy and tired. Beyond that is death as we fear it: a dark, dreamless sleep. During that time, I drank to get drunk, to reach the third level immediately. Then, whenever I feel like I’m about to get tired, I disappear and go to bed. I’d feel the spinning of the earth and fall down, deep down, within myself. It was a plunge into the cold, embracing depths of my own oceanic subconscious, where the voices were far away and I would feel the full peace of my own dusty afterlife. There are nights, however, when tiredness would reach me before I would have the chance to get home. Those were nights when that damned verse would play in my head, the whisper of an annoying conscience: “The wages of sin is death.” I would sit, both there and elsewhere, sluggish and thoughtless. I would become regret.
It was a sunny November day three years ago when I realized that I needed help. The bar had just opened; it was an hour before lunch. I reached for the shot glass like a reflex and understood that I was a body without a soul. Interestingly, I had an acquaintance that day who was to consult with their therapist. The therapist’s office was nearby, so I went to visit. I scheduled a consultation and was accommodated that same day. Nobody actually told me I needed help. Even my friend said to me, “You wouldn’t have known you had a problem if the people around you could match your thirst.” But I knew: if I didn’t reach out, I would be cut off. People would eventually get sick of my lifestyle and I would not be able to realistically sustain a relationship. The therapist helped me understand why I was miserable. (As it turns out, I had raised my threshold for pleasure so high that anything exciting wouldn’t seem like it, even if it is already extreme for someone else.) She also taught me how to measure my drinks and pace myself. All of it was still my work, of course, but without a constant guide, I would be lost.
To be clear, I have no intention of being sober. My recovery goal is not abstinence but harm reduction. I have no intention of depriving myself of the pleasure of drinking. I would like to live with this vice and keep it as a harmless pet. I must therefore learn to use it properly. This control is power, over memory and myself. Today, I still drink daily, but I no longer insist that others join me. I drink when I want to, just enough to satisfy a craving. And, sometimes, just enough to reach the second level. In the past, I drank to die; these days, I live my drinking fully.