more of a cryptid

Not that anyone asked. I don’t believe in alcoholics or alcoholism. I also don’t think drug addiction is a disease. That’s not to say that I think it’s a crime or a moral failing. (Though, if done well, it just might be both.) And I do think medical interventions are a lot more use than police interventions, though, let’s face it, the line between the two can be blurry. But a disease? I just have doubts about that one. And alcoholism? As groups like AA think of it? As a sort of demon possession. I think that’s a lot of horseshit. Not that anyone asked.

Generally, I tend to think drug fiends are just selfish manipulative pricks who are experts in converting pain into license. Often, getting off the drugs will help them but it usually doesn’t deal with the personality than made them so terrible while on the drugs. Satan knows, I’ve seen some people sober up just to wonder why they’d even bother. Like, if they were going to keep acting like that, they could at least do everyone the service of putting a lampshade on their head. For some people, getting sober just seems like a new way to become the noisy center of the universe. But, having said that, I think it’s generally pretty good to sober up. And most of this is verdict on myself rather than on anyone else. Not that anyone asked.

So even though I believe these things, I actually don’t have much of a problem with groups like AA. They’re not for me. They might very well work for someone else. I don’t like how the 12 steps monopolize the discourse on drunks and drunkenness and I can’t stand how they often act like they’re the ONE TRUE WAY or how they operate in a weird partnership with the legal system. But, if someone gets some use out of these groups, and if it helps a person, that’s fine. Honestly, good for you. I’m happy if it helped. I can see the appeal. I might think it’s nonsense but we all have to believe some sort of nonsense to get through the day. It’s one of those things where I have my opinions and experiences, other people have theirs, and that’s all fine. No one needs to have the final universal answer on this thing. No one should pretend to. It’s just perspective. Do what you need to. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, I don’t really give much of a fuck. And if you’re making to effort to stop hurting people, that’s also good. So don’t take me too personally!

I’ve been off the drugs and drink for something like ten to fifteen years. There’s been bumps in the road to be sure. (And if the 12 Steppers I’ve known are any indication, a program is no guarantee of avoiding those.) I don’t view those bumps as relapses. Maybe errors in judgement. Sometimes as reasonable responses to intolerable situations. Other times, just as a pretty good time. Overall, I’ve stayed sober without meetings, badges, or any of that. I don’t really think about all that much. I don’t count the days. I just go about life. I find it easier sober.

For starters, no fucking hangovers.

And I used to blackout. Like, a lot. So it’s also nice to wake up knowing where I was, what I said, and what I did. Because, holy fuck, sometimes I still remember things from those blackout days. An image, a word, an act. A mystery. Sometimes, no mystery at all. Hard to say which is worse. And that shit can turn you cold on a hot day. That’s some stay awake staring into the darkness shit. Waiting for the knock on the door shit. I’m happy to produce less of those feelings. I couldn’t take any more of them. Just can’t deal with it.

Not that anyone asked.

Anyway, what brought this on? Just a weird synchronicity.

Happened to read this post by Paul Graham Raven about quitting Twitter and the recent rush to the door due to new ownership. And this part broke off and snagged in my brain.

I expect most folk will stay, and many of those now leaving will find a reason to go back. And again, I ain’t judgin’; when I quit the first time, it was a horrendous blow to my social life that has in many respects never been recovered from. It’s hard to leave a network with sunk social costs; it hurts, even when the network itself is a source of pain. Ask any reformed junkie or alcoholic, they’ll tell you the same: it’s not just the substance you have to quit, it’s the life within which that substance is entirely entangled. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, and no one will ever do it until they really want to—which, to be clear, is a very different thing to thinking they should.

I can relate. For me, quitting drugs and drink not only felt like quitting a social life but also quitting myself. (These days, I’m not sure there’s a difference. I don’t believe in souls and I think my personality is basically my social network.) The oddest part of all that I had no idea who I was without drugs or drink. I mean, what the fuck do I even like? What sort of things do I do? Who the fuck am I? I felt like I had to consciously and deliberately invent a sober version of myself and choose my interests. As scary and painful as that I was, I was also grateful for the chance. One doesn’t usually get to exercise such agency over themselves. Probably everything needs to blow up for that sort of shit to even be possible.

Then I bumped into this piece in WIRED about how AA is falling out of favor and veing replaced by new trends in getting sober. That is, something like:

All the better, I guess, to toast the charismatic influencers who inhabit the highly nonanonymous sobriety … space. (There’s always a space.) You might think there would be an oligopoly in neo-sobriety superstardom, but no, it’s a thousand points of light, and each soberfluencer has staked out a niche approach or at least some trademark design elements. Many also sit in Venn patches with lifestyle masters in apparently related realms: exercise, spirituality, prosperity, productivity, and even conspiracy. From what I’ve divined from a heady three-day scrolling bender, the biggest influencers in the sobriety space fall pretty clearly into three categories: mystical gurus who ground their sobriety in rococo superstitions, professional habit-breakers who regard sobriety as a happiness hack, and reps from the managerial class who advocate for medical interventions and cognitive science to treat a brain malfunction they now refer to as alcohol use disorder.

I mean, leave it to people to abandon AA and find something worse.

I agree with that piece’s author when she says that not getting fucked up is not so much a profitable life hack as it is a first step in being a halfway decent person. Rather than profit, one will first have to deal with profound loss. And learning to help other people is an important part of getting sober. Like, one has to think about other people. To this day, I cannot stand when someone talks about a devoted drunk “battling” or “struggling” with booze and drugs. Seems to me, it’s other people, the people around us, who have to struggle with booze or alcohol. For the drunk? What the fuck do they care? It’s all good. It feels great. It’s a lot of fun. They’ve made their problems into everyone else’s problems.

And, finally, I bumped into this by Robin Sloan, once again about Twitter, that says:

Many people don’t want to quit because they worry: without my Twitter account, who will listen to me? In what way will I matter to the world beyond my apartment, my office, my family? I believe these hesitations reveal something totally unrelated to Twitter. I don’t have words for it, exactly, but if you find yourself fretting in this way, I will gently suggest that it’s worth questing a bit inside yourself to discover what you’re really worried about.

I think that thing that we don’t have words for exactly is important to all of this. I’m not sure what it is or if it’s the same for everyone. Nor am I sure that we can talk about SNS and drugs in the same way or even should. But there is some sort of unthinkable thing there. Some sort of same unthinkable thing. Something to do with what we do to feel real. To remind ourselves that we’re still here and still there and still in the world – whatever the fuck we think all that is. And I don’t think there’s a real need “to discover what you’re really worried about” when the idea of becoming unreal is probably enough to really worry about.

That need to be real is pretty important. I don’t think it’s a bad or shallow thing. (I sure as fuck don’t even think shallow things are bad.) It may just be an urge to participate. That urge is root of a lot of good in the world and a lot of bad. We want to be real people.

But, I think, when it comes to quitting things, a person might have to get comfortable with being irreal. A lot of times quitting comes with a lot of promises about living a more authentic life. I don’t know if that’s possible or even desirable. I’m not even sure what authentic is. But I do think, if you want to quit a thing, you need to get some sort of settlement with not being there and not being real. You might not be authentic. You could just be a cryptid.

And, I guess, if any of this post has a point, it’s that it’s okay to be more of a cryptid.

Not that anyone asked, of course.

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