You are so glad you quit drinking. Really. It has afforded you the opportunity to see how other people seemingly HAVE to have their booze. Not like this was news to you! How long have you been a drinker? Alcohol always makes things more fun. But at some point, you began to realize that things, as a result, were somehow neccessarily less fun while sober. And there went the wrong turn. (And people who claim they don’t need alcohol to have a good time… sure… great… quit the stuff, spend a couple weeks re-adjusting your lifestle, your social habits and networks, and see how much fun it is.)
Every single day on this trip, an opportunity calls for a drink. Friday and Saturday nights, free music festivals, invitations to bars and cafes from strangers, new cities, new people, new ice to break… Most people would say, “Hell, I’m on holidays. Fuck it, let’s drink!”
But you are not on holidays. Travel is your lifestyle. Any lifestle which enables daily compulsary drinking (not the savoring of a glass of red wine, or a fresh beer at lunch) or the need to “wind down” with 2 or 3 is habit forming. But you won’t drop the “A” word. Habit is the kid sister of addication, and as Steve said to you, “What is addiction? Look at the word: addiction. Diction. Dictate. Dictator. What does a dictator do? An addiction is anzthing that dictates your life.”
You miss reading. You miss writing. You miss all the little productive uses of your time that somehow got pushed to the wayside for a glass of beer. And what for? Another table in another cafe in another charming old city. The booze goes down, supplemented by a cigarette and you get a nice, gentle hug. You relax a little, and within minutes, you are suddenly “gladder” to be there. Things seem “cooler.” Are you suddenly more “in the moment?” Are you enhancing your moment? Or are you drawing a screen to blind yourself from the mundane?
“What would you like to drink?” asks a friendly stranger. Maybe you met him through CS, or hitch hiking.
“A glass of tap water.”
“A bottle of water?”
“No. Tap water,” you clarify. See, you’ve got a thing against bottled water. Why pay for a plastic bottle, just 33cl, when clean, perfectly drinkable water is available from the sink in this wonderful, abundant, water-secure West? Why support an industry that profits from people’s fear and ignorance, that creates more trash, more pollution from bottling and shipping a product that has fewer guarantees and regulations than municipal water? Unbelieveable. People are willing to bathe in water they are unwilling to drink. They cook with it, wash their clothes in it, water their gardens with it… but they won’t drink it. Guess they don’t like the taste… (To be fair, flouride and chlorine are concerns, especially in America, and should people feel impelled to buy their water in bulk, go for it. But you cannot justify the booming profits in the beverage industry from the parcelization of this precious, simple commodity into millions of teeny, weeny plastic bottles while much of the world has no access to clean drinking water).
“You sure you don’t want something else? A beer maybe?”
You explain you quit drinking for the time being.
“Oh, okay…” people are always understanding about that. “But how about a coffee?”
Too late in the day, usually.
“A Coke? Fanta?”
Well, maye tea… but it is horrendously over-priced, and lately all people carry is this nasty fruit infusion full of red food coloring.
It seems that people are more upset that you, by virtue of giving up booze, have given up wasting time on beverages. Call you crazy…but you never understood the appeal of a carbonated or sugary beverage when you were thirsty. Water has always sufficed… maybe orange juice after a long summer run… But sitting on your ass all day never warrants pouring 250 calories of sugar down your throat.
When people aren’t hungry, they have no problem rejecting food. But people seldom buy beverages when they are legitimately thirsty. Far from it. They have formed a habit around it, an association, even an addiciton. The table is too bare, the hand too empty without one. And God forbid the converstaion stall! What is you had no beverage to sip as you filled the gaps?
Yes, indeed, peering into the beverage thing from the outside has given you a little more perspective on absurd behavior. Readers, don’t misunderstand. You aren’t immune to it. You aren’t blind to the appeal of beverages. You are a morning coffee drinker, after all, and had a long relationship with alcohol.
What you don’t understand is that your sudden rejection of beverages seems to really unsettle and confound people. While you have learned to derive similar amounts of pleasure from social situaions without drinking, people jave not yet learned what to do with themselves watching you watching them drink! That is, until they are so drunk they cease to care or to notice…
People don’t like engaging in behaviors alone. Company is always more fun… It validates their decisions. Night and day, you watch other people drink (and if it’s a night of booze, subsequently eat loads of garbage at the end of the night! And they look at you sheepishly and say, “I know, I know… it’s terrible. I shouldn’t do it. But it’s so good!” Great. You understand. Wholly and completely. And you don’t fault anyone for caving in front of the appeal. But you are extremely grateful to be liberated from the lures that inevitably render you sick, exhausted, polluted, and/or financially poorer.
You tell people you will not drink until that one beer is so irresistible that it must be worth it! No more drinking from habit to screen yourself from the mundane–to force the fun (as you did in Bosnia).