Over the weekend, I hit the fourth anniversary of the day that I stopped drinking. I am now four years sober! Woooooooooooooo!
It is pretty weird to me that I don’t drink. I know lots of people who do. And I spend a lot of time with them while they’re drinking. But I still don’t do it. It’s, like, this major decision that I made and that I now stick to unswervingly regardless of circumstances. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a Christian?
I guess we all gain new identities along the way. Like, I am also a queer person (still equally weird to me, by the way). And a Democrat (sort of). And an atheist (sort of). And a science fiction writer (sort of). All things that I, in some sense, chose to espouse.
I remember four years ago, when I first quit drinking, I was really worried that I was going to become a different person. And I convinced myself that wasn’t going to happen. And, in some sense, it didn’t: I still feel pretty much the same.
But it also did.
People view me in a completely different way now. They think of me as a self-motivated, responsible person. Recently, some friends of mine in my grad program called me “a morning person.” That is so laughable to me. Yes, nowadays I wake up at 7 AM*, but no one who knew me for the first 25 years of my life would’ve ever said that I was an early riser. I made a conscious choice to start getting up at the same time every day.
Before I stopped drinking, I wasn’t a very organized or self-directed person. The slight obsessiveness that now characterizes my life is something that arose almost entirely within the last four years.
Anyway, I am happy to report that the year passed without significant temptations, and that I have almost no desire to drink.
I recently spoke to a former classmate who also quit drinking awhile back, and he told me that he felt like former alcoholics can’t really recover unless they work on the reason why they drank and sort out all that emotional stuff. I am not sure that I agree. I think that if you have a certain sort of brain chemistry, the reason for drinking is obvious: it feels really, really, really good.
In general, the vagueness and patchiness of the human memory is a pretty good thing. I distinctly remember how being drunk often felt extremely amazing on a physical and emotional level, and how it made life seem glamorous and beautiful. But although I can recall that I felt like that, I can’t resurrect the feeling itself.
But I am pretty sure that if I started drinking again, I’d immediately become aware of exactly how good it felt, and it would become much more difficult to justify not drinking.
That’s why I don’t drink at all. Not because drinking is some irrational compulsion that would destroy my life, but because it is a completely rational compulsion that would destroy my life. If the point of life is to feel really, really good (and a fairly good case can be made that it is), then, for some people, drinking heavily makes a lot of sense.
But since I can’t really remember that feeling, drinking seems like complete madness. I don’t have the room in my life to be out of control for even a single night, much less for days or weeks at a time.
*How absurd is it that 7 AM passes for early rising in the world of graduate school?