Ask Schmutzie: Thrill-Seeking, Fun, And The Best And Worst Of Times

I asked you to ask me questions about my sobriety. This is my fourth response to your questions. Check out my first, second, and third sets of questions and answers.

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A question that often gets brought up when talking to former addicts: were you ever addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes from knowing you quite literally can die in this moment, that a mere tip of the scales will decide on which side of the life line you will land?
     — Barbara@TheMiddleAges

There is apparently a gene identified with thrill-seeking behaviour, and I definitely do not have it. My father coerced me into going on a kiddie roller coaster once when I was ten, and I still hold it against him.

Sometimes I did want to die, but I was less attached to looking for an adrenaline rush and more attached to the then-chronic depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation I used alcohol, in part, to outrun.

I'll ask you the question I get asked the most from those contemplating sobriety: What do you do for fun?
     — Tricky

This question is surprisingly difficult to answer. I have spent the majority of my fall, winter, and early spring primarily engaged in not drinking and not running back to that pub where most of my social life happened, so what I do mostly looks like sitting at home. The relative quietude of my life since I quit drinking, though, belies the joy I am finding in living the full psychological/intellectual/emotional experience of my life without being anaesthetized against it.

It turns out that hanging out at non-drinking events like movies in theatres and podcast recordings are more than thieves of good drinking time.

So, what I do for fun these days is soak up whatever I do sober — whether it be writing, recording a podcast, or talking with the Palinode — and relish my ability not only to actively take part but also to recall it later. It's amazing how much more interesting life can seem when you are actually able to remember how you've been occupying your time.

What is your worst memory from your drinking days? What is your best one? What is your worst memory so far from your new sobriety days? What is your best one?
     — Bobbi

When I originally read this question, I thought it would be so easy to answer, but as soon as I tried to nail down a best time and a worst time, my entire twenty-some years of drinking came back to me.

The thing is, as a grand avoidance tactic, I think part of what I was looking for was the best of times every time I sat down with a beer. I wanted epic conversations, epic parties, epic play, and I got it a lot, or at least the self-induced rush of it, because alcohol made me feel energetic in between the first glass and the eventual glimmer of a blackout, indefatigable even. I was on.

And so I was on throughout most, if not all, of my major life events over the last more than twenty years. I was intoxicated both times I got engaged. I drank before I walked down the aisle at my wedding. I was drunk during most of my sexual encounters. I was good and tipsy whenever I met any of my blogging heros. And it is the same for my worst events. When being out and being social was pretty much synonymous with being drunk, almost all of my best and worst times were drunk best and worst times. Being drunk was no longer a special occasion separate from the rest of my life; it was my life outside my house.

What I'm saying is that it doesn't mean much to ask about best and worst drunk times when almost all of my life events were drunk times. Being drunk is barely a differentiating characteristic when talking about the events of my past.

When it comes to defining the best and worst times of my recent sobriety, I am doing my best not to cast my experiences since August into good or bad categories. I am too close to the now, to making it through one day at a time, to be able to look at the broader picture and pick out a best and worst.

Sober life has been hard, and, although I haven't liked most of it, I deeply value all of it. I am learning to live a daily life that doesn't involve the constant pursuit of anaesthetization and instead to live one that embraces and honours real movement both within and without.

My new sobriety has been both the best and the worst of times, and I don't think I can effectively pick one apart from the other right now without losing the integrity of the whole.


Grace in Small Things: Sunday Edition #60