Every time I make it sober to the end of the day, I feel like I’ve tricked myself. My fate – my destiny – is to end each evening a slurring mess, a slurring mess happy to fuck the woman I no longer love, a slurring mess who hates the monotony and patterns of his current life but has found a way to make it bearable, just, barely bearable, for a few hours.
Every time I make it sober to midnight, I make it sober to bed, I feel like I’ve won. The real me – the optimistic me, the me that still wants to create and explore and see the world and read the world and write prose that makes other people feel something; that used to excel at school, the part of me that used to excel when I could hold down jobs, the part of me that people used to respond to with excitement and invite me to places and events – feels like I’ve won. Now, no-one invites me anywhere, nobody needs me. And I know why that it is.
It is because I am a drunk.
I hate my day-to-day life, but drinking will only prolong its unpleasant stasis. Drunks don’t sort their life out while they’re still drinking. Drunks don’t sit down to write at midnight, slip into a blackout and reappear the morning after with Tender is the fucking Night. Drunks can’t edit up the manuscripts they wrote years ago and know are probably just about good enough for publication with a bit more work, because drunks fear work, and to do work – proper work, good work, safe work – you need to be sober.
So why did I start drinking? Simply because everyone else was. It was fun and exciting and it made me feel alive in a way that only books had before. My school grades were slipping before I got into drinking; the adult world I entered was one already tarnished, already unwinnable. I set myself up to fail with adult life, and my consolation prize was alcohol, alcoholism. Alcohol does something to me that, now, I need. I need it but I don’t want it. I have to have it to feel whole, to feel alive, to feel real. But when I don’t have it, now, I feel an illicit thrill like adulterous flirtation – like arranging a drug deal, like doing something naughty.
Drinking is what is expected of me by my partner, my friends, my family – and myself. They expect me to be drinking and to be drunk. All of them, even me. To not do that is to act out of character. To be sober, for me, is the same as the gourmet chef sneaking himself a Big Mac. It is something I do in private that gives me great personal pleasure but few people would understand if they saw it.
Sobriety feels more taboo to me than masturbation, my only other secret, private pleasure. Masturbation is a private pleasure I’m allowed to like, it’s one everyone enjoys. But sobriety is a pleasure I am not expected to want. Sobriety for others is a necessary chore: people who aren’t addicts see sobriety as normal. For them, drinking and drug use is the taboo, is the rarity, is the – and here’s a key word – treat. Sobriety has become that for me. In my mutually-destructive, loveless relationship that still lingers on, drinking is the only thing that keeps us together. I crave my sober evenings alone with my dog and a book or – increasingly – something to write on or sing with… When I’m sober and alone, I can try to be the man I wanted to be when I was a boy. I crave solitude and sobriety like other men crave promiscuity and intoxication; they yearn to escape their stable lives and fall into flesh and inebriation… I want the opposite. I want to swim up and out of this decade-long rut, I want to crash through the vacuum holding my mind and body hostage, I want clarity and solitude and the freedom to pour forth language and song instead of pouring four Negronis.
The thrill of sobriety is almost sexual; it is a bodily pleasure that is only mine – my intoxication is usually shared. I would love to bring another body into this sobriety, but that is what I’m unable to do (yet). I would love to have someone to slip inside my clear mind, and have a fuck I don’t regret. When sobriety sounds like a sexy, tempting, illicit concept, there is definitely a problem. I know there’s a problem, I’m just yet to find a solution. But I’m desperate. I’m aching. I’m yearning for it.
Keep my throat dry. But lather me with saliva.
Written by Scott Manley Hadley.
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