On The Occasional Act of Getting Drunk

On The Occasional Act of Getting Drunk


I’m writing this with a medium-level hangover, which makes the thesis of the post particularly unlikely. Essentially, I’m going to say that I’m OK with people – me included – getting drunk once in a while: I’m warning you right now so that you can stop reading if this is likely to offend you. The timing of the writing is a clever strategy* to ensure that I’m not overstating my case.

First, let’s get the necessary disclaimers out of the way. I know and fully agree that alcohol in anything but very moderate quantities is not good for you. I believe alcoholism is a serious disease and people should never be expected or forced to drink. Also, it’s still the case that my homeland has a drinking problem and generally speaking, most people would benefit from drinking less.

I used to drink way too much according to any standard – well, possibly with the exception of the standard that university students in the young post-communist Eastern European republics used to aspire to in the nineties. Believe me, this was a pretty suicidal standard.

The combination of an increasingly feeble mind and body (it will take a day to recover, at least); the maturing of Estonian society and to a lesser extent the maturing of my thinking; having a child and a succession of demanding jobs has drastically reduced my alcohol intake. I very rarely drink during the week – it drains my energy, makes the work mornings harder and also messes with my reading. I find it very difficult to read after two glasses of wine and in most cases, I’d much rather be reading than having that second glass of wine.** Going out also happens seldom to me these days, so my weekends tend to be abstinent as well, with the exception of an occasional dinner party.

Once in a quarter or so, however, I will get drunk. When it comes to alcohol, I’m like a squirrel, carefully hoarding my units and then using them all up in the course of one evening (I’m not entirely sure squirrels actually go on nut binges, but let’s stick with that metaphor for the moment). I’m sure it’s not healthy, but I’m not sorry: one must find a balance between what’s reasonable and good and between what’s an enjoyable life for you, specifically. For me, this is the balance – at least for the moment.

I do wonder, though, why I need this. It’s not that I’m generally unable to have fun without alcohol. I’m able to have heaps of fun with a book on agriculture in Ancient Mesopotamia and some Earl Grey. I actually also love talking to my friends without having trouble remembering/articulating the most basic facts about the world. Mostly, I think the appeal is in the permission to let go a bit. With all the commitments I have, it’s very difficult to program some irresponsibility into my life. The responsible me will usually win out.*** Unless I’ve had five G&Ts and that blog post I absolutely had to write next morning suddenly becomes irrelevant.

It’s often said that the intimacy people share when drunk is a false intimacy. (I mean intimacy in a platonic sense, the general love for the fellow beings one often feels when intoxicated.) I don’t agree. I adore having half-drunken conversations with my friends and colleagues, with occasional rants and possible admissions that you’ve always found each other extremely intelligent and charming. It is a genre of human interaction that nothing else can replace. It’s also not true that this closeness automatically disappears once you’re sober – doing some silly dancing together creates a special bond (I draw a line at karaoke, but to each their own). Mostly, an evening like this serves as an accelerator or nudge for something that always had potential to be there. You would probably have connected at some point anyway, but you never know – maybe not.

I’ve been practicing drinking for years and have established some ground rules to make sure the situation doesn’t get too out of hand. I want to be in a contained, safe environment – that’s why I usually like to host parties at my own home. I really do not miss the days of walking in the snow in my sparkly red sandals, trying to hail a cab. Also, if at all possible, no shots. When I start to feel that a) wow, I’ve been at it for hours and I’m not drunk at all! or b) I really fancy a cigarette (I don’t smoke), it’s time to drink some water. Drinking water is a great idea at any point of the evening, really.

One is of course not supposed to admit that one likes to drink – even if it’s only sometimes and not THAT much.**** I’m sure many would say that this is all very sad and I’m just trying to feel younger and glamorouser or pretending I lead a more exciting life than I actually do. Possibly, although I honestly doubt it’s about feeling younger, as I feel 19 anyway. I’m sincerely glad for you if you never feel like it would be fun to have a drink or thee, but it seems to be working for me.

*No, it’s not. It’s just a coincidence.

**Glasses of wine used as a symbolic unit of alcohol. I usually don’t drink wine.

***I’m not saying I’m always responsible, but I’m usually trying to be – or at least feeling bad for not being.

****It is my firm belief that only bad things can come for not acknowledging these things. Why on earth are all those people drinking if there is nothing enjoyable about it?

8 Comments

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  1. 1
    Suss

    Agreed. As a cocktailnerd I spend a lot of time thinking about alcohol but I’m way better at mixing drinks then drinking them. But it happens. I find that nothing good ever happens if you set out to get drunk; that is a warning signal (albeit a cry heard all over Stockholm train stations as 20-somethings go not so gently into the night). But once in a while just letting go is liberating; going out for a drink and chat with a friend,accidentally getting drunk by just going with the flow and not thinking about the day after. Some people say “carpe diem”; I’m like “carpe drink” because that can be mindfulness too (or something)

    • 2
      Ykkinna

      I agree it’s very difficult to plan those things – a happy drinking night just happens (or it doesn’t), you cannot force it. I have tried 🙂 And I’ve always liked the fact that you’re interested in cocktails without really drinking many of them. I have somthing similar with baking: IF I’m going to have some cake, it better be an amazing cake.

  2. 3
    Eliza

    It’s all in the verbs here: getting drunk is great silly fun, being drunk is a horror. But both “practicing my drinking” and “carpe drink” are highly amusing 😉

  3. 5
    SophieC

    Like Suss I am really interested in cocktails but enjoy drinking them as much as mixing and learning more about them and London has a pretty amazing amount of excellent cocktail bars which are great fun. I think alcohol is, in moderation, one of life’s great pleasures- humans have spent many years perfecting glorious drinks and it’s hardly surprising we enjoy them- as well of course as the camaraderie and bonhomie that come with a little bit too much. I must admit I can’t bear the recovery after really drinking too much anymore but still enjoy a drink when the occasion is right and it’s best when spontaneous – although the right champagne in celebration or even in comfort is always a pleasure. But yes- balancing on high heels on a cold night after one too many is something I have fond memories of but no need to repeat.

    • 6
      Ykkinna

      I have probably said it somewhere, but I think I like cocktails (apart from the getting drunk thing) for the same reason I like perfume and cooking – combinig different flavours/smells/colours in interesting ways that in the best cases capture a mood or an idea is just fascinating. Where would you go in London for a great cocktail? I know in Stockholm one needs to go to Suss’ place? I haven’t been yet, but I plan to.

  4. 7
    Ann

    I just returned from a visit to Key West, a popular tourist destination in the southeastern corner of the U.S., where I saw advertisements for a Hangover Hospital. One can go there to get an I.V. containing medicine for headache and nausea. If you’re in really bad shape, they will bring these things to your hotel room. I laughed, but then couldn’t figure out whether this was a great thing or a terrible thing. I always thought it was the hangovers I endured in youth that taught me to use alcohol judiciously, as you describe.

    • 8
      Ykkinna

      Hahahahaa! To me it seems to be one of those American things that is, in fact, both great and a little bit terrible at the same time. I was hardly ever hung over whan I was young, that’s probably one reason I have learned very little?

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