My Relationship with Alcohol

The first time I drank alcohol, I was 18 years old. There’s a decent chance I had a sip of my uncle’s beer when I was 2 or 3, but it must have been some really strong beer because I don’t remember it.

I had vowed to myself to stay pure when I was 7. No pills, no alcohol, no drugs. But years later, in the middle of my depression, I was observing others enjoy themselves when they drank. I was already prepared to die, and even though I wasn’t planning on it, I figured “what do I have to lose if I drink?”

Ever since I was about 6 years old, I’ve always struggled to sleep. My mind would run wild with fantasies and questions and philosophies and never let me sleep. It was a serious problem for me. I averaged about 4 hours/night throughout my school years, trying to make up for it on weekends. To make matters worse, after countless nights awake in bed, I eventually said to myself “well if I’m going to be awake all night, I might as well enjoy it.” So then I’d get up and play video games and push until I was so tired I’d have to fall asleep. Obviously not the best approach, but I couldn’t manually shut my brain off any other way.

Then came alcohol. If I had enough shots of vodka, I could fall asleep no problem. For a full year, I was essentially a semi-alcoholic, taking 4 shots every night to help me fall asleep. I didn’t like that I relied on it, so after a year I decided to look at other options. I discovered marijuana, switched to that for a while, and then eventually settled on a blend of the two.

Truly not proud of any of this. My 7-year-old self would be thoroughly disappointed in me. I was so strong for so long… and I just cracked. The reality was, I was addicted to thinking, and I was trying to do something about it. Substances were an attempt at shutting down my primary addiction: thinking.

Alcohol became a friend for a second reason too. It didn’t only help me sleep, but it helped me be less shy too. Alcohol dissolves a lot of things, and vocal filters are no exception.

My biggest fear with alcohol was losing control of my very logical perspective that I held tightly as some kinda badge of intelligence. When my tight self-control met with the dissolving effects of alcohol, an interesting relationship ensued.

It became a bit of a dance, a game if you will. How much alcohol could I consume while still making conscious, intelligent choices? The true tests began with getting drunk while trying to perform. Whether it was a video game or bowling, I saw it as a challenge to perform while intoxicated. I would try to focus through the effects of alcohol, fighting through to perform well.

Eventually, I had converted alcohol into a tool for focus. That probably sounds a little hard to believe, but at the time of this writing, only 9 of my 26 perfect games were sober. That alone isn’t conclusive evidence, there are certainly other variables, but I’ve run other experiments on myself as well.

The sweet spot for me has always seemed to be around the 4oz mark (depending on other variables like speed of consumption, what’s I’ve eaten, and how much I’ve slept.) 4oz is usually a strong enough buzz that I feel the slight difficulty in keeping control of my focus, and I’m still aware enough that it pushes me to be like “Hey! Don’t be losing control now, buckle down and focus here!”

I would describe it as an angry focus. It becomes especially angry focus after a mistake. The elevated anger towards the mistake drives me to focus harder, to ensure the mistake/anger doesn’t happen again. Of course, too much alcohol and this goes out of whack for me. The anger/focus ratios start to fall apart.

One of my breakthrough bowling seasons in my Sunday morning classic league was when I developed a drinking ritual. For 8 weeks in a row, I showed up with a bottle of vodka, a shot glass, and a chaser drink. I’d pound 4 shots of vodka in the parking lot before going in, get hit with the buzz pretty quick, and had 8 amazing weeks in a row. The 9th week I pushed too hard and when I bowled bad, I felt like a real jerk for having gotten away with it for that long. I wasn’t supposed to turn to alcohol to help me bowl better, just like I wasn’t supposed to turn to it to help me sleep. I was quite ashamed of myself.

The interesting thing is that at that point in my life, I was still using alcohol wisely most of the time. It was reasonably controlled, it was being used as a tool, and I had many amazing moments in multiple areas of my life. From bowling, to more filter-less conversations that I would never have had otherwise, I can’t deny that alcohol did bring some good into my life. It also taught me a lot about myself.

But it hasn’t all been pretty. This is by no means meant to be a glorification of alcohol nor a recommendation to rely on it. I’ve had many awful experiences with alcohol too, don’t be fooled. It’s these awful experiences that have had me concerned over the past few years. For a long time I never got blackout drunk, until it finally happened once on vacation many years ago. I said a bunch of things I don’t remember, things so bad I couldn’t ever imagine myself saying them. My friend filled in the blanks, and it was clear to both of us I had been a complete asshole to people I loved. This was not okay.

These blackout drunks started out as a once a year kinda thing. They weren’t always vocally destructive, sometimes they were simply loss of memory and falling asleep fully clothed somewhere. Then it got to 3 in a year, then more. I managed to turn the upspike around, and although less frequent, they started becoming more dangerous.

I spent some time looking at why this is happening, and the answer is pretty clear. I’ve gotten so good at pushing my conscious focus through the intoxication that it takes more alcohol to shut down my brain. The problem is that it takes a blackout-drunk amount of alcohol to actually work. My brain has essentially made itself immune to the thought-shutting-down effects of alcohol. And as it turns out, that’s WHY I drink in the first place.

So I find myself here again, looking for a new solution to my thought addiction. The only solution I can think of at the moment is to make good use of my addiction. I’ve essentially said to myself “If I’m going to think, I might as well share it.”

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