An experiment in soberness

What a party! I danced as I haven’t danced for a long time. I danced even though I didn’t have a partner to flirt with, a partner to bring out my best moves for. In fact I danced with everybody who would dance with me. I danced like crazy even though many songs weren’t anywhere near my favorites, in fact I would disdain them in any other setting (that doesn’t go for all of the songs played there, I would not include songs played by the band, I could’t face M. or K. if I did :P). I danced to every style from folk to reggae to twist to pop to rap. I danced in the slight cold and damp of the august night, having shed any clothes I could, and still sweating. Had there been a man, I would have done what I generally do with them (no need to be more specific right now). I absolutely enjoyed every moment of the time.

Now you must think I was absolutely drunk while doing the things listed above – that is why I started like that anyway, so this is a must – but the fact is that I was not. In fact, I was absolutely sober and still I didn’t have any limits as to what I could do, I could do anything people mostly do only while drunk. How come? How come I was not drunk at a party? How come I didn’t have any inhibitions?

Now let me start from the other beginning. It was lunchtime at our company’s summer days on Naissaar, a small island near Tallinn, when I decided it was time to get something refreshing to drink, meaning something of slight alcoholic persuasion. I checked out what we had there.

  • Beer – predominant refreshing alcoholic drink among men in Estonia, but one I have never developed a taste for. If there is nothing else and I really want something, anything, then I can drink it, but if there is a choice, I’d rather choose something else. But choice is a rare thing to come by…
  • Cider – I have very bad experience with it, my head hurting after drinking it. Not in the morning, oh no – right after finishing the glass. And it doesn’t taste very good – mostly it has too yeasty taste. I do like some exceptional cases of cider – Strongbow, an apple cider that tastes almost like apple juice, only slightly better, and some bottled ciders – but we didn’t have them there. We had something on tap and it didn’t taste inviting.

We actually had some vodka, wine and J├Ągermeister there as well, but at lunchtime they were not accessible or at least weren’t openly so. I wouldn’t have chosen any of them anyway in that sun.

While checking out the choice, I was thinking about possible reasons why I should want to have something of alcoholic persuasion anyway, why not something non-alcoholic. It was hard to find a justified reason. Why should I want to get drunk? Often I have drunk because it is so tiresome to refuse someone overly kind about offering a drink. Nothing like that in this case. Or because everybody is doing it. Never a good reason. Or that is cool. Well, it was the reason in the beginning when I hadn’t found my inner coolness yet. Or because I would be more open and happy and social when drunk. But I have some cases which would prove exactly opposite.

So I went and sat down again with a bottle of water in my hand and mind working. Could I stay sober all night and still enjoy it? I know it is not so hard to let go of control, let go of that image of calmness and quietness. I know it has always been quite a calculated decision on my part to lose those self-made walls and loosen up – it has not been because of the alcohol. And at other times I couldn’t loosen up and do what I went to do despite deliberate alcohol consumption.

Another thing is that just the night before when some of my friends were visiting, MDW said a sentence that almost started an argument (I am sorry that I. didn’t bother to argue, it would have been interesting) by saying that people don’t need drugs because these only alter the balance of different chemicals in the body, adding nothing the body couldn’t create by itself. I don’t know which part of that very provocative idea is what I. would have argued with, but that thought made me think of all the times I have been drunk and all the times I have been almost sober and how the happiness and communicativeness doesn’t correlate with drunkenness at all. I can do just the same things whether I am drunk or not (which doesn’t make this sentence entirely truth, at least for drugs). Only the physical, unwanted effects really do correlate with alcohol consumption.

So I decided to go through an experiment – I would be sober that entire night and enjoy it as I would have anyway. And this I did – if they didn’t “enhance” the water I drank and I don’t think anyone did.

The most surprising result was that there wasn’t any big difference at all. When others took lead on dancing, I followed up as I would have anyway. When at some point a colleague asked whether it was getting uncool (for lack of better translation) to be sober, I was surprised to hear such a question, this was so not how I felt. People who are too drunk are disgusting no matter how sober I am myself and there weren’t many there. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was just as a party has to be. Maybe I was a bit more aware of how drunk anyone was. Maybe I had just a bit of more balance and accuracy, but it was not a very big difference – and it was a difference toward the better anyway.

But in a way the feeling of being slightly drunk was there despite of no alcohol and I can’t explain it. The feeling I associate with alcohol must have always been the dancing and water loss and being up late at night? Is it just a reflex to feel as I did? Could it be that people really can be easily uninhibited as they are after drinking – without the bad effects of alcohol of course – but need to knowingly go through the tradition, the formality, the custom of drinking alcohol to let the walls down and act a bit less responsibly? To know everybody expects a bit less reason and logic at that time, that it is okay to be a bit stupid and slow and irresponsible? Could it be we don’t really need alcohol, this is only a placebo and knowing and believing in the effect makes the effect happen?

Whatever it is, I am convinced it is a very interesting phenomena and I will try being sober again soon. I want to get to the bottom of this and I will not waste my money on alcohol any more. Oh, sure, I will sometimes drink it because some of it does taste good or because I would be very cold if I didn’t, but I will never do it only because it is the place and time to drink alcohol and everybody is doing it and so should I.

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