Well I’m down to little more than a week left, and it really has not been difficult. There have been a few brief moments where I felt a bit left out, but any angst always went away fast, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on any fun that only drugs would have allowed me to have.
I will say though, that part of the ease has been the knowledge that I will be allowed to indulge if I want after the 30 days is up. Not that it’s that appealing, but if my commitment had been six months, it may not have felt so easy on a day-to-day basis.
But such a lengthy abstinence is not necessary. Basically, I have two goals with this experiment:
1) Find out what I feel like physically after not having ingested any drugs for a while, and
2) Discover if my social life and working life have developed a need for caffeine and alcohol.
So far I’ve discovered that (1) I feel physically awesome almost all the time, and (2) I have been able to both work and have fun just the same without drugs.
I can’t say I’m not excited at the thought of having a few beers with my buddies after the experiment is over, or enjoying a traditional after-dinner coffee with my mom. I really do want to do those things, but mainly because I feel like I can bring a new sense of awareness and appreciation to the experience.
Of course, reintroducing drugs into my life means conscious moderation. Staying away from years-old habits for a month isn’t going to obliterate them. It would be easy to fall back into the same patterns if I didn’t take steps to prevent it, so I will be vigilant.
With reasonable certainty I can say: gone are the days of drinking coffee at work, except maybe after a fancy lunch with a client. I do not want to use coffee as a productivity tool, it just doesn’t work very well. It supplies energy that must be paid back twofold in the afternoon, and it makes one animated at the cost of being focused. Surely my ‘base state’ is good enough for me to get my work done.
If my first coffee after the experiment is anything like my disastrous tea experience (see Day 8 in the experiment log) I may find that I don’t want caffeine in my life at all. The tea caught me off-guard and made me completely loopy. Disoriented and uncomfortable. The opposite of relaxed. Of the two main drugs in question, caffeine is the least tempting.
Alcohol, on the other hand, still beckons. Not drunkenness, just a cold beer or two. It’s summertime and I’ll soon be ten thousand miles from my dear friends. I want to sit in the July evening air and have a beer with my friends. It’s one of those great simple pleasures I’m sure will flash through my head when I’m dying.
But gone are the days when I drink six beers in front of my friend’s TV, flipping through movies we’ve all seen. Staying sober has so many upsides, that it’s too costly to drink as casually as I have in the past.
Drunkenness no longer appeals really. Friday night, I went to a friend’s house. Of the six of us, two weren’t drinking (she’s pregnant), while the other four consumed beer and/or Grey Goose steadily all night. I drank Perrier. We played Rock Band and had an absolute blast.
My friends had a great time, same as me, only they began to slur their words eventually, bump into things, talk too loud and misunderstand a lot of things other people said. From the outsider’s perspective it was difficult to see what copious alcohol consumption could possibly be adding to their night.
Of course, that’s the way it is with drugs: the non-user generally only sees the bad parts. But I do have a hell of a lot of experience being drunk, and very often I have wished to be clearheaded again.
The Glass Ceiling
Once you start consuming, there is an expectation (at least in me) that a good time should just happen through the gradual course of the night. I think this expectation appears after a young person’s first few drinking experiences: things just get inexplicably fresh and fun when alcohol is introduced, and the drinker is always looking for that. The good times have a way of rolling in on their own.
But often they just don’t, and you’re left with a distinct feeling of incompleteness, of lack. And that’s when you drink more, or seek another kind of high, chemical or otherwise. Stimulation has to keep coming, you can’t just sit and be present with a swimming head full of ethanol.
In that state you can’t enjoy the subtle miracle of life, or the blossoming of the present moment. You can only enjoy form: the limited nature of things and events, not the mysterious and unmanifested backdrop behind it all.
Earth, not Heaven.
There is a whole higher realm of wonder and pleasure out there, one that I’ve become more and more in tune with over the past few years. It is the state of mind that produces the best experiences, and it’s completely asleep by the end of my third beer.
In those dreary instances I’ve had to admit to myself that alcohol doesn’t guarantee a good time by any stretch, and if the night’s not going so great it’s much easier to change that if you’re not drinking. You can go somewhere else without a taxi, you can socialize cleanly with people who aren’t drinking, and you can always call it a night and still get something done, read a book, or write something.
Anyway, at the end of Friday night, I drove my (very thankful) friends home. I hung out for a bit, watched, chatted, gratefully free of the chore of waiting for a taxi or a bus. I enjoyed their presence, and mine, and there was no neediness or heaviness, no sloppiness or difficulty.
The whole night cost me about eight dollars, including gas.
It was just so easy. I was free.
Photo by Jenny Downing