We begin with a familiar scene: a debilitating, nearly vomit inducing hangover. I mean this is fucking bad… easily one of the worst I’ve had in quite some time. Sharp pain radiates from my brain to every corner of my face; with one sudden move, whatever the fuck is sloshing around in my stomach is going to end up on my carpet because there is no goddamn way I’ll make it to the bathroom.
Given that I’m a very hedonistic 26 year old, you would think I should know better by now. I cannot even imagine how many fluid ounces of alcohol my liver has filtered out of my body over the last several years. So yes, I know as well as anyone that mixing liquors is one of the cardinal sins of drinking; one that you commit at your own peril.
Anyone want to wager a guess as to what the fuck I did last night?
The plan was to have a relatively tame evening. Have a few glasses of Black Label with a splash of ginger, meet up with friends for another round or two, bullshit for about an hour and then go home. Nights like this one reminds me why I never like making social plans…rarely do they ever turn out precisely how you intend for them to.
While meeting up with friends, I run into some people I met in Miami the weekend prior. They have a bottle of vodka and two bottles of champagne. They invite me to drink with them.
How could I possibly say no? That would be rude.
I figure one vodka | cranberry shouldn’t be too bad despite the scotch I drank earlier. The waitress pours us shots a few minutes later… all right, I’m game, I should still be fine. Then there comes a round of champagne for everyone. I’m 85% positive my superego is advising me not to go beyond this point. Only, I’m kind of drunk, so I’m not really paying any attention to him.
More champagne is consumed. Two more vodka | cranberries follow.
Fuck…I need to get the fuck out of here…
Wait, what’s that? We’re going to another bar? That sounds like a fucking brilliant idea. Of course there are more friends here. Oh and look…one of them is still celebrating their birthday. Hey, let’s do a double Kamikaze shot together.
Happy birthday motherfucker!
It doesn’t take very long for the sensible part of my brain to remind me what a fucking horrible idea this shot is. I proceed to drink it anyway. I am very intoxicated. Another friend is heading to the bar and asks me do I want anything? Sure…another vodka drink please so I can have equal amounts of clear and dark liquor in my stomach; rumor has it you feel really fucking awesome the following morning when you combine the two.
I can handle the standard hangover. Proper hydration, some B-12 pills, a few hours in a position resembling a fetus and I’m back to life by the middle of the afternoon.
But this…I cannot fucking escape this.
Unfortunately for me, passing out in a drunken stupor hardly qualifies as ‘sleep’ so even after I vaguely regain the smallest desire to put food in my mouth, every bite feels like a turn of the wheel at a roulette table. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m still in horrible shape. I have another night of debauchery ahead of me, and any additional consumption of alcohol sounds about as delightful as a trans-orbital lobotomy right now.
It is during this period of self-inflicted suffering that I have a sudden moment of clarity: I haven’t completed my annual detox and now is as good a time as any to start.
A marriage between my Catholic upbringing and my self-destructive personality, I began my annual detox experiment two years ago. The goal is simple: one week without alcohol, ‘hard drugs’ (loosely applying to cocaine, MDMA, LSD, and any prescription drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse for example), and cigarettes. Perhaps in the haze of my dreadful hangover, I make the following decision too hastily; since there’s exactly 21 days between now and New Year’s Eve, why don’t I detox until then?
This turns out to be both a stupid fucking decision and an enlightening one.
The first evening out is easy…I’m still so fucking hungover, intoxication isn’t appealing to me. News of my temporary sobriety is met with understandable skepticism; my reputation for alcohol and drug use (and at points, abuse) precedes me. But I want to accomplish this…if for no other reason than to say that I did.
My relationship with controlled substances is complicated. Marijuana curbs my neuroses, alcohol (partially) remedies my social ineptitude, and psychedelics and MDMA have been instrumental in cleaning several skeletons out of my existential closet. Of course, there’s also the matter of chemical dependency. Cocaine served as a social crutch for longer than I care to admit. Once that became more trouble than it was worth (and believe me, with cocaine, that didn’t take very long), copious amounts of vodka became a ‘suitable’ replacement. Cigarettes have remained a regular part of my life for the better part of five years and while I put away the glowsticks long before the recent ‘rave’ revival, MDMA is a primary intoxicant of choice.
After the first week passes, I’m not certain how I feel. I don’t miss cigarettes as much as I originally anticipated. I don’t miss drinking either…rather; I don’t miss the feeling of being drunk. I could use a few glasses of scotch though, especially during my family’s annual Christmas brunch. A celebratory glass during the lighting of the Menorah would be nice as well.
I want to say sobriety makes me more productive…but it doesn’t. Mostly, I vacillate between vague disorientation and finding ways to distract myself from thinking about intoxicants. The things I love, reading, writing and cooking, almost feel more like errands, ‘busy’ work. The desire to use isn’t consuming me…I know that feeling and this isn’t it. It’s the deprivation; the knowledge that if I want a cigarette or a drink or a capsule, I cannot have it.
By the end of the second week, the comparisons of a life in which altered states are a routine occurrence versus life as a teetotaler no longer cross my mind. Both existences are about as similar as they are different…and it isn’t until I wake up with my first hangover post-detox that I realize why. When the cashier at the liquor store said my total out loud, $202.48, I realized that my excitement may have gotten the better of me. It was the first time I had been in a liquor store in 21 days and the kind of scotch I like to drink these days doesn’t exactly come cheap.
One of the aspects of this entire experiment I was most curious about was my tolerance. A week off for my liver is like a week off from your job; nothing is really different except for having some time away from the usual bullshit.
Now imagine being away from your job for three weeks…shit, many of you might question if you even want to go back to it. Sure, my liver is still very busy filtering bullshit out of my bloodstream, but the usual assortment of intoxicants hasn’t been a part of the equation. It is entirely possible that I would learn that my best drinking days are behind me…
So despite the nausea, slight headache, and disgusting taste in my mouth from the combination of dehydration, morning breath and questionable decision making, after my performance last night, I’m happy to learn that I just may have some quality drinking days still ahead of me. In a strange way, I appreciate this hangover…over the last three weeks I had (almost) missed this feeling. I didn’t mind sobriety, but knowing that it was a temporary state certainly played a role. As it stands right now, I’m fortunate to walk the razor thin tightrope of psychonaut, frequent user of intoxicants versus being an addict.
Everyone reading this who will be a ‘recovering’ addict for the remainder of their lives understands just how razor thin this line really is. While pouring myself some pomegranate juice in the hopes it will at least vaguely remedy this hangover, I realize that I like drugs…more specifically, my ‘drugs’ of choice: alcohol, cigarettes, and a host of other intoxicants I won’t name at this time because I’m at my drug references limit.
These are a few of the ‘dragons’ I chase and I’m comfortable with this.
Because the most important thing I realize from this experience is we’re all chasing the proverbial dragon in one way or another; chemically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. Ecstasy, Ketamine, ‘faith,’ accomplishment, fame, sex, money, success, notoriety, curiosity, acceptance, understanding, ‘enlightenment,’ love (perhaps the most powerful drug known to man)…
It all comes down to choice in the end… and whatever ‘high’ you enjoy the most.