Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Zen Drinker

At the start of this week, I quipped morosely that I only made enough money "to stay drunk".

It was, of course, just a throw-away line, a neat aphorism; it was not intended to be taken seriously. However, one of my 'drinking companions' pitched in, in a rather moralising vein, seeming to imply that this statement was further evidence of my alcoholism or 'drinking problem', along with my famous imperviousness to hangovers. (Initially I misidentified who this commenter was, supposing that this was a pot-on-kettle attack by an associate of mine who really does have a drinking problem.) Since I write about drinking so much on here (and since I am an unashamed fan of - occasionally - drinking to excess), it is only to be expected that I will attract such attacks once in a while. It's not the first, and I don't suppose it will be the last.

It prompted me to mount a defence of my drinking. I feel it had a lot of good points in it, so rather than leave it languishing in the obscurity of the 'comments', I thought I'd reprint it here.


I was kidding about the "staying drunk" thing. I meant I have enough money to get drunk-ish whenever I feel like it..... which is a few times a week (and can cost as little as a couple of bucks each time). Hence, the fact that I spend a lot of time in bars or restaurants does not mean that I enjoy any very significant level of financial security out here. That was my point.

My "no hangover" thing isn't really about "staying drunk"; it's about mental attitude and pain threshold.... as I think I've discussed on here before. After an occasional very heavy night out I might feel just a little fucked up; but I've been really fucked up in my life, so I know it ain't all that bad: I just shrug it off, ignore it.

I am a "serious" drinker in a different way than is commonly intended by the use of the term. I'm almost 'Zen' about my drinking. I recognise that it is an important part of my life, and I genuinely enjoy it - in, I think, a very pure and non-destructive sort of way. I enjoy the places it takes me to, both geographically and in my headspace; I enjoy the people I meet through it; I enjoy the conversations we have, and the ideas it helps to birth.

I don't drink to hide from realities or inadequacies, I don't drink to try and drown my demons, I don't drink out of self-doubt or self-loathing. I'm a "serious drinker", not a "problem drinker". There are very few of us around.

Of course, it's a fine line between the two, and I may cross over it one day.... but I don't think so. I have an 'exploratory' personality, not an 'addictive' one. It's the difference between riding a rollercoaster and driving your car over the edge of a cliff. A lot of drinkers have that 'crash & burn' impulse in them; I don't.

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