I stopped having fun when I stopped binge drinking. I know how that sounds—pathetic? Sad? Fucked up? All three? Yeah, it’s pathetic and sad and fucked up, but when I stopped getting wasted, I also stopped experiencing a sense of unadulterated joy. 

I was never the person who drank to escape—well, not always, but sometimes I did—or who got terribly morose about life the moment a whiskey hit my stomach. Nah, I was happy when I drank. Elated. Full of possibility, looking for lips to kiss and smiles to make and laughs to be had. I used to drink in order to feel, to quiet the cerebral aspect of myself long enough to be able to have fun and lower my inhibitions in a way that my mind never allowed. This is probably not a healthy thing, but I didn’t care. I was young and incapable of letting myself experience anything without first running it through the filter of my overactive mind. I drank to quiet my thinking, to increase my sensory experience. Frankly, I’m grateful I was too terrified to be a drug user because, looking back, drugs like Molly could have seduced me. 

There was a point a few years ago when I was experiencing intense hangovers and was battling a stubborn cold on and off for months. My immune system had had it with my binging—turns out my body did not care what my intentions for alcohol were. It was a poison and it had caught up to me. Partying into the early mornings and taking drags off stranger’s cigarettes had done nothing for my health and so I quit, just like that. I was falling in love at the time and the high of alcohol had been momentarily replaced by the high of romance. Yet, when the heightened, chaotic romance of new love faded and we slipped into a rhythmic sort of love, I was left yet again with a brain that did not quit and a thirst for oblivion which refused to be quenched. 

I drink infrequently now, because the pesky thing about alcohol is that the less you drink, the more devastating the hangover. Now that I have all but wiped my body of alcohol, one glass of wine at night has the possibility of feeling like I had raged when I wake up in the morning. It’s awful. Getting older sucks the fun out of a lot of things, as it turns out. 

I’m learning that life eventually catches up with you, no matter how many whiskeys you drink thinking you’re escaping your reckoning. 

I miss the oblivion. This is a mostly unpopular opinion and it sounds mildly unhealthy, but it’s honest. I’d rather be honest here. I miss the feeling of three whiskeys in, that warm glow the world becomes bathed in. There is nothing that can reproduce that feeling for me and I miss that artificial joy. Sure, it’s contrived happiness, but it’s still happiness. It’s still a sense of possibility. It’s still the feeling that anything should and could and will happen. It’s still a legal way to forget about the world—if only for a night. 

I suspect that most young people who used their twenties as an opportunity to party and defer Real Life come to a strange moment in their lives when they decide that season is over. I suspect it’s as jarring as my experience has been — to be faced with the monotony of life beyond the rage, the live-out-loud, the 2 a.m. stumbles to a 24-hour diner. That life suddenly becomes a droll worry about which bills need to be paid at which time and whether or not a job will provide health insurance is all just a massive party fail. A real fucking buzzkill.

I’ve been learning how to live with my real self. To hear my thoughts out loud without the dampening and blurriness alcohol provides. I’m learning that life eventually catches up with you, no matter how many whiskeys you drink thinking you’re escaping your reckoning. The day comes. The blinding light of day blares onto your skin and shows you who you really are. And, when you have nowhere else to turn — no more addictions or vices to anesthetize the call of Truth — the work has begun. The real work.

Because, the quick-fix Band-Aids always peel off. The instant gratification is gone in a blink. The recklessness is consequential. The oblivion is a lie. And the only thing those vices are doing are building up your wounds like plaque, caking onto your heart until you take a chisel to it all. The vices never erase the past, the pain, or the pain of the past. They only create a larger chasm you must continue to fill.

Seeing yourself in the harsh blare of an afternoon light is not going to be easy. It’s not meant to be. But, I think it’s the only way to know yourself, to really have a relationship with who you (truly) are. The process may leave you raw and it will likely remind you of all the reasons you initially ran to pray at the altar of distraction.

There will be a stretch of time where you are not quite who you used to be and not quite who you’re about to be and that will be dark and weird and sad and scary. You’ll be angry and you’ll let yourself feel it this time. You’ll run through your past like a movie inside your mind and your soul will ache for the vulnerable child who didn’t know better and the self-actualizing adult who doesn’t know how to get from here to there quite yet.

I want to be the kind of person who can exist in life without the need to numb it out. I want my experiences to be vivid and pure and real, not simply heightened by a substance. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t need their mind to shush the fuck up for a night. Yet, I’m not there yet. And, maybe I never will be. Maybe the artificial high of alcohol is something that cannot be reproduced, that there might forever be a thirst for the way my brain would go wavy while sitting on a bar stool. I hope not. I hope that’s a sensation I can create in the world without lining my body with poison. I hope.