Published in The Ascent
Time is relative. Sober time is not.
This is the most startling thing I found about sobriety. I will be at a social event, or just hanging around the house at night, look down at my phone and think,
“Holy shit, it is only 8:30?”
So, I will distract myself, eat something, take a shower, draw a self-portrait, clip my toe-nails, then look down at my watch and think,
“Holy shit, it’s only 8:35?”
No one told me this. Everyone said things like, “you’ll appreciate moments more.” And this is true, moments like listening to the long dragging sound your slipper makes on a wood floor as you pace, moments like adjusting the rug beneath the coffee table because it is slightly crooked and making that plant over there off-center and now that you mention it I should move that plant over by the window so it gets some sunlight.
“Holy shit, it’s only 8:37?”
About Social Life:
You’re that kid at the party who is allergic to candy
Remember that kid? Me either. No one remembers that kid. He was at home being spoon-fed pureed carrots. You’re that kid now.
And every weekend is Halloween and all of the other kids in the neighborhood still want to invite you out, except they never know quite what to do with you. They might say:
“Hey Jimmy, I know you can’t eat candy but we’re all going out this weekend to Trick or Treat and get doped up on tootsie-rolls. I know you can’t have any of the candy, but you could — uh — sit and watch us and eat grass?”
People have faces that make noise, and you have to pay attention to that noise.
This might come as a surprise to some, but people aren’t that interesting.
(Except you. You’re fascinating.)
Imagine you watch YouTube videos on 5X speed for ten years. Then one day, YouTube takes that option away and you are now condemned to watch all of your favorite videos at a normal pace for the rest of eternity. That is now the way conversations now happen. In the time it takes for me to respond to someone’s question of “How are you?” I’ve already thought,
“How am I? what a great question. I am curious why you haven’t gotten that mole on your nose removed, you know it’s really easy these days — -maybe he likes the mole where it is, maybe he finds it distinguished and takes pride in its placement because he had to come to terms with it after years of teasing as a child — oh, god, would I have teased him as a child — I hope not, I was a good kid, I think? It’s hard to remember, I wonder if my memory of my childhood is fuzzy because something traumatic happened, but who traumatized me? Certainly not my gym teacher, he was cool — oh shit, wait, I’ve got to answer this question mole-face — I mean James just asked me.”
And I say,
When you’re drunk and someone says “how are you?” there are no thoughts. The conversation is instinctual.
Finding yourself in a sober conversation after being drunk for ten years is like finding that you’ve forgotten how to swim just after jumping into the ocean. You over-think, flail, close your eyes and drown.
Your invitation to the pity party has been revoked
If you’re like me, you get to the end of a long and taxing day. You eat dinner, watch something on television, then walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and say,
“oh you piece of shit. It’s still you.”
So, you play the blame game.
You’re an alcoholic. It is the alcohol’s fault that you feel like shit every day. It is alcohols fault that you can’t focus on words long enough to read a book. It’s alcohols fault that you can’t go to the gym because you can’t find the motivation to get to the gym.
Thank God for alcohol, otherwise, that asshole looking back at you in the mirror would be you.
But what happens when you stop and nothing changes? You don’t feel like crap anymore, but you still haven’t gone to the gym. Words are crystal clear, but books are heavy and hard to find. Who can you invite to your pity party if not alcohol?
Everyone has tricked you into think sobriety is the cure to your woes.
Shmuck, table for one?
Anybody, table for one under shmuck?
Some people don’t see the appeal in alcohol. High fives for them. But for self-critical people who have anxieties in social situations, alcohol is a marvelous invention.
Whenever people talk about alcohol and alcoholics, they always ignore the benefits of it. As long as that is the case, alcoholics will find themselves soberly running through a maze being chased by friends and family with fire and pitchforks. And eventually, they will give up, crack a bottle and tell the world to fuck itself all over again.
If you’ve got a Medium account and want to clap along: