I’m 36 years old. Until a few months ago I had never been drunk. In the mid-90’s I became aware of straight edge as part of my growing love of punk and hardcore music. For those unaware, it was a term coined by Ian Mackaye (of Minor Threat and Fugazi) to denote his abstention from drugs and alcohol, and it grew in popularity enough to become a thing. I won’t dwell on the psychology of why this was appealing to me except to say that I legitimately had no interest in drugs or alcohol for most of my life. That not doing them was something connected to music I loved only reinforced that noninterest. It’s been a little over a decade since I ended my involvement in that particular scene and while I kind of stopped thinking of myself as straight edge, I continued to not partake.
In 2016, my wife and I were in Latvia. At a chocolate bar, a very cool thing that should be everywhere, we learned about the country’s traditional drink, Balsam. It sounded really cool and I decided “fuck it, I want to try this.” So I did. At first, I tasted what I thought were some of the ingredients that were described, but it was followed by what I can best describe as pure fire. Or maybe it was the reverse of that – I can’t seem to remember. It was pretty good. However, it was only a sip – I didn’t want to lose my wits in a place I’d never been.
Since then, I’ve tried various things, but none I’ve really cared for. Wine is fine, but I can barely drink more than a glass. I like it with dinner primarily because it limits my liquid intake in the hours before bedtime (otherwise I drink a ton of water with meals, which leads to obvious results). Beer is pretty gross, although I’ve not hated a few kinds. Mixed drinks are almost all terrible. I kind of like whiskey, but not enough to actually buy any – shit’s way too expensive. Overall, I’m fairly certain I’ve passed the point in life where one is able to get over bad tastes in order to achieve the goal of getting drunk. Most, it seems, are able to get over it, the switch is flipped, and they develop a very real affinity for it. It’s not likely that’ll ever happen with me.
By last November, I still had never had enough alcohol to actually be drunk. A few times I’ve felt hot in the face, and that things were slower than normal. I wouldn’t classify it as enjoyable, though one time with friends it was kind of okay. But finally, it happened. My wife and I were visiting her parents in New Orleans, and my father-in-law insisted on getting me drinks while out in the French Quarter. He was paying so I was like sure whatever.
I eventually became drunk (on Makers Mark whiskey if you’re curious). It was… weird. I was constantly evaluating my brain-state and preoccupied with what was happening and whether or not I’d remember what happened that night. While walking, I was very focused on not falling, and frequently tried to walk in a straight line – I was pretty good at it and was proud of myself. More than a few times I thought “How the hell can anyone DRIVE like this?” I still think this. Drunk driving doesn’t seem like it’s a good idea IMO.
When we got back to where we were staying I threw myself on the couch and incessantly told my father in law that “We need to get wings!” We did and they were great. Though still, as I am wont to do on the few occasions I eat meat, I felt shitty for eating animals that lived brutal, terrible lives. I’m glad alcohol didn’t completely dull this sense.
Overall, it was much more enjoyable back at the AirBnB, rather than being out. I was more relaxed. Fortunately, I apparently drank the “right” way (through no fault of my own): I woke up without a hangover.
(I should note that my wife said I was a bit more weird and quiet than normal. Sounds about right.)
I can kind of, but not totally understand the appeal after having this experience (I’ve always understood on an intellectual level). As I noted, perhaps there’s an optimal time for introduction to alcohol and I’ve missed it. Maybe if in my younger days I sat around crushing beers with my bros, I would get it. Or maybe I’m just not wired this way: I greatly dislike not being in control of myself. Also, while drunk, I had to urinate roughly a billion times which really sucked.
My father-in-law has asked a few times since if I’m drinking more now. And the answer is no. Partially because I’m cheap and don’t view it as a worthy expenditure. But mostly it’s because when I buy something to drink, it’s going to be because I like the taste. Most of the time I’ll take a good soda over any kind of alcohol. Those other times will likely not result in me drinking enough to get drunk.
This is a weird blog to write, and I’ve only done so because I think it’s a bit unusual that one waits so long to do something that most people have done before the end of their 20’s. Rereading this, I’m not sure it’s very interesting. However, after I do magic mushrooms, the subsequent blog will blow all your fucking minds .
 Just kidding about the second part of that sentence. No one needs to read about some dipshit doing psychedelics. Unless, of course, I find God and need to write one more post about leaving this atheist network.
Getting drunk can be great fun, but I generally find actually being drunk is rubbish. Fortunately, being Scottish, I’ve drunk enough over the years to develop a fair tolerance… Nowadays I mostly find myself wishing that the alcoholic drinks I really enjoy (which covers most of them) were less intoxicating, so that I could enjoy them without the side-effects. Unfortunately, for various complicated chemical and bio-chemical reasons, you can’t reduce the alcohol content without affecting the flavour.
The best way to have whiskey is Baileys Irish Cream.
I Have Forgiven Jesus says
Ooh, I actually do like Baileys Irish Cream
Tabby Lavalamp says
I’ve never been drunk, and I’ve never looked at drunk people and thought, “That looks fun, I’d like to try that.”
But mostly for me it’s about the taste too. Why not drink something I enjoy drinking?
I Have Forgiven Jesus says
Oh yea. Seeing other people drunk was another reinforcement to my noninterest
I’m 56 and I’ve only been tipsy with drink once, at a party with a particularly persuasive Greek pushing the drinks on me. I didn’t enjoy the sensation and will never repeat it. I prefer my brain to be functioning normally.
I’m actually a little drunk right now on Dewar’s scotch whisky, and I’m enjoying the experience. The trick is to not over do it, and not drink garbage.
Wouldn’t even consider driving right now, but I’m not going to be the annoying drunk that you all have dealt with that makes you not want to drink. To each their own though…
I Have Forgiven Jesus says
Tabby Lavalamp says
Just as so many drunk people think they’re fine to drive, there are probably as many if not more who think that they are a pleasant or even fun drunk.
Holy smokes, Lofty!
Except for the part about the “particularly persuasive Greek” your experience matches mine, exactly! (My one experience was at an uncle’s wedding – I think I was 12 at the time).
Are you sure you aren’t me? The antipodian mirror image of me out of a Twilight Zone episode, at least?
Something I also totally fail to understand is the “watching other people get drunk” thing. When I was going through university, people would occasionally say to me, “hey, but I bet it’s funny watching everbody else getting hammered, right?” I don’t think I ever said anything in reply, I just remember being utterly baffled – what on EARTH made them think this?
I generally don’t drink more than about half-a-glass of wine, having little tolerance for alcohol. I have been mildly elevated often, but actually intoxicated just once. That was Election Night, 2016. That was a bad idea. I eventually stopped ranting and lay down, because I felt dizzy, but had the feeling of still falling even while flat on a mattress. Didn’t really see the point. Don’t want to do that again. And I don’t think I was very drunk, since I felt fine the next day, if you discount the effects of not having slept well and, of course, the election results.