The Sweet Spot

Or How To Get Drunk & Why

The judicious enjoyment of drunkenness can be a wonderful thing. I realize there are people who can not enjoy drunkenness judiciously and I do not mean to offend them. I’m the same way with tobacco. I know what it’s like to be standing at a party, watching other people indulge casually in a habit that is way too serious for me. It’s not exactly the same thing, but the similarity lies in the fact that if I smoke a cigarette, I will slide inexorably into smoking a pack a day, get lung cancer, and die. Kind of like taking a drink, sliding inexorably into an entire bottle a day, getting liver disease, and dying. Anyway, please don’t misconstrue my promotion of drinking as a lack of sensitivity regarding a very serious problem. If alcohol is a tool you can not use, I feel for you. And you should probably stop reading here.

The fact remains, however, that I can enjoy drunkenness judiciously and I thought I’d share why and how. The trick is to find the sweet spot and stay there for the evening. This is the place where I am pleasantly buzzed. Still coherent enough to carry on a conversation (albeit in a slightly slurred fashion), still on track to remember everything I did when I wake up in the morning, and yet blissfully free of the many things I’m usually worried about as I go about my day. Money, work, that stupid thing I said that could be taken the wrong way, global warming, war … you know, the usual.

Many people disparage drunkenness because it entails a loss of control, but that is precisely why it can be so positive. I no longer care that you’re laughing at me because I spilled my drink. In fact, I’m laughing, too. I no longer care that we disagree about rap music. I no longer care that I may be the victim of some lunatic with a gun when I go to the mall tomorrow. It’s all good. I’m in the moment. Right here, right now, I’m feeling friendly, forgiving, and ready to go with whatever the flow proposes. My desire to regulate all my experiences into safe, acceptable boxes is asleep somewhere in a corner. The rules my boss or my government or my circumstances say I have to follow are forgotten, piled in the back room of my consciousness. I am free to be contradictory, inefficient, unruly. For a control freak like me, it’s very rewarding.

I want to stress here that this kind of blissful abandon is only possible in a secure situation. I would not seek the sweet spot alone at a party full of strangers. I would not lower my defenses this way alone at a concert. In fact, the only place I would explore this kind of freedom alone is at home. But if I’ve got friends around, not just acquaintances but people I really trust, I can seek the sweet spot wherever we are. If it’s just us, the depths of worrylessness can be plumbed. If there are non-friends around, a certain amount of caution prevails because my friends are also seeking the sweet spot and we must all still look out for each other. In other words, I’m talking about the sweet spot, not the oblivious, falling-down-drunk spot.

Maintaining the sweet spot can be tricky because, of course, as I lose some of my inhibitions I am tempted to throw out the monitoring of my alcohol level with the rest of the pesky rules. But that’s the beauty of the sweet spot. I want to maintain it. I don’t want it to degenerate into darkness, nausea, and helplessness. I want to ride that lovely, stress-free high for hours and then be able to remember it in all its glory later. I want to sigh with satisfaction the next day, feeling more relaxed and able to cope because my rule enforcing muscles got a break. I don’t want to be hunched over the toilet, retching like a teenager, or shaking my pounding head in disbelief at the world’s shenanigans, red eyes burning, mouth sticky and foul.

So here’s how I maintain the sweet spot. There are a few levels within it and as long as I’m on one of them, I know I’m good.

LEVEL 1: I realize I’m not nervous when talking to people. If I’m not around people (and even if I am), I realize that my thoughts have turned to how much fun everything is instead of how much work I have to do. I can continue drinking, but if I haven’t eaten in a while, some nuts or cheese are in order.

LEVEL 2: I’m having a great time. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I’m having a great time. I probably feel more in control than I did before I started drinking, but that’s just because I have forgotten all the crap I was dealing with before the party started. The world has taken on a warm glow. Everyone is really interesting and I feel totally connected no matter what we’re talking about. I have little flashbacks to other times I’ve felt this good. (Commonly known as, “Remember that time when?” syndrome.) I am tempted to say, “Wooooo!” every time a good song comes on. This level is the actual sweet spot and I try to stay here as long as possible. It’s also the most dangerous because there are times you think just one more drink will make it even better. DON’T DO IT! Drink some water, snack some more. Enjoy the ride for a while before reassessing. Once you feel you’re solidly back on Level 1, you can consider having another drink, but you should drink a lot of water along with it.

LEVEL 3: I’m laughing a lot and pretty loudly. If I’m alone, I’m talking back to the television too much. I’m having a little difficulty forming words. I still know exactly what I’m trying to say, but it takes longer. My legs still work, but I have to concentrate harder when I walk. I try to avoid this level, but if I find myself here the situation is still salvageable. I immediately stop drinking, get a big glass of water and drink it all at once. And if I’m not too full, I eat a small meal, like a sandwich or some noodles or something. (A piece of pizza is perfect.) Typically I will subside back to Level 2 within fifteen minutes, wiping my brow in relief that I saw the warning signs in time. I usually find myself on Level 3 if I’ve been involved in something really fun while on Level 2 and continued drinking without thinking. I don’t really ease into Level 3. I suddenly realize I’m there, look around, and head for the nearest water bottle.

I’ve heard legends about mean drunks and obviously, if you’re one of those, the levels above probably don’t apply to you. But if you’re like me and you’re looking for that place where you’re automatically a little nicer and having fun is a little easier, my observations might help you get there and stay there for as long as possible. Just remember what kind of situation you’re in before you start looking for the sweet spot.

I leave you with things I usually say while drunk to demonstrate just how nice the sweet spot can be:

  • “You know how great you are? You’re really great!”
  • “This is the best show ever!” (Regardless of what I’m watching.)
  • “The weather is amazing today. I’m really enjoying this weather.” (Regardless of what the weather actually is.)
  • “I feel much better. Today was pretty crappy, but now I feel much better.”
  • “You know, I was thinking. And (x) really isn’t as bad as I thought. I could probably handle (x).”
  • And of course, the classic … “I love you, man!”

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