Are you in your teens, twenties, thirties or even older, still riding the wave of immoderation that we Americans call "partying"? G_d bless you, you savage, but know this: respect and observe that "all things in moderation" rule, choose day-to-day mental stability over that delicious buzz, or you're liable to end up like me: too old and too crazy for any kind of substance abuse, period.
You think I'm joking? Despite my flip tone, I'm actually dead serious. I find myself, just past the crossroads of my forties, unable to engage in any kind of mind-altering consumption of any type. Sad, right? Or is this what they call "maturity"? Not that it matters what my personal philosophical opinions on the situation are, as it's hard physical realities that have brought me to this sober (and sobering) state.
The fact that I don't really drink alcohol or coffee anymore separates me tremendously from my fellow humans. "Have a drink," they say, "it's legal and everyone's doing it. Besides, one little drink won't hurt. It'll loosen you up." One little drink, of beer, tequila or champagne (I hate the moldy, rotten stench of wine, and haven't touched the "hard stuff" in years) gives me an immediate sour ache in my stomach, and the next day I'm so depressed that I'm suicidal, ready to hang myself from the tree in the backyard. So much for booze.
What about coffee? It's fun, it's tasty, gives you that little lift, and is sold in endless varieties on literally every street corner in America. One-half cup of non-decaf coffee turns me into the madman that the media had people convinced Howard Dean was after the 2004 Iowa Caucuses; a whole cup, and the slightest aberration in my routine can and does provoke homicidal feelings of anger, spraying death like the Luftwaffe.
I used to smoke cigarettes, never heavily, but a little bit in high school, and then off-and-on throughout the 90s. Now, 30 minutes of exposure to second-hand smoke leaves me with a 24-hour sore throat. If I forget myself and actually take a drag, a defibrillator may be required.
"Have a hit of weed; it'll relax you." Yeah, I'll relax, as soon as you convince me that my wife, my friends, my co-workers and everyone else in the world are not conspiring against me. (While you're at it, convince me that we're not going to war with Iran—can you say WWIII?) Somehow, the gradual onset of adult life, with its looming concerns like child rearing, full-time work, slowly failing health, world politics etc., has all but negated the mind-soothing effects of cannabis for me. Plus, the stuff is so expensive that it ultimately just becomes another burdensome monthly task and a bill to pay.
Those of you reading this who know me personally know that I had a good long run at the deep end, and perhaps this fact speaks to my current state more than anything else. I stare that cold, brittle-boned old schoolmarm named Sobriety in the face for a brief moment every day, and neither of us looks away or even blinks.
So where does this leave me, with sobriety not as an option, but as the only option? For me, it's all about avoiding those harrowing ups and downs that are part and parcel of the "short-term fix" and the "mild lift." Every day can be a struggle, whether you're copping a buzz or not. If I've only my own unaltered mind to deal with, at least I stand a chance of getting through the day.