Dry November: Day 7

November 07, 2018

I dreamt I had a drink. I don’t mean that I dreamt of drinking; in the dream, it had been inadvertent, had already happened. In my fitful sleep I was somewhere on the Southbank, where I’ve been spending a lot of time, in some concrete cleft, and I had drunk some beer with friends. In the dream, I do not remember ordering it, but merely “coming to” and realising that I’d failed in my resolution not to drink. My first feeling was fear of how my friend, with whom I’d agreed to do this dry month, would feel. My second was about how I would explain the lapse here, in writing.

It was a relief, then, to wake and still find myself sober. Not the powerful relief that comes when one has awoken from a dream of something truly terrible, the feared death or imagined tragedy, but a subtle, satisfying loss of anxiety. It easily gave way to new anxiety about how late it was. I’d overslept.

I had hoped that alcohol cessation would slow down time, not just that it would give me more time by neglecting to occupy it, but rather that the clarity of sobriety, the lack of distortion and hangover, would give the illusion that time itself had slowed down. If the last week is any indication—that is, if I am not still in the grips of even earlier excesses—then time, unfortunately, still flies. It may well be an unavoidable byproduct of age, and it may even be magnified by writing like this every day. I normally write each day, but in an analogue scrawl that slowly fills notebooks rather than discrete, ritualistic posts like this one. It’s possible that posting feels more like the tick of a clock.

It makes me wonder whether alcohol is not the accelerant I had always assumed it to be. In some way I blamed booze for the loss of my twenties. Those weeks and months of leaving work with excitement, waking up with a start, not always knowing what’s happened in between. The hours burned in pleasant conflagrations, whose embers are only forgettable conversations. Above all, the sense that anything could happen, though it rarely does. Maybe as one ages, the years always begin to blur, and it is the mind itself, not beer, that blears. And even when sober I’m a bit clueless in the morning.

I suppose I’d assumed that the newfound clarity would have, if not slowed time, at least caused me to recollect more of it. This has not really happened. I record a reasonable amount, here and elsewhere, but can feel no difference in how much I recollect of the last week compared to those weeks less crystalline, more blunted, or even smashed. It is interesting to learn that, while time spent drunk can, in the cold light of morning, feel like time wasted, time spent sober does not feel like time regained.

Bryan Kam

I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter, follow me on Mastodon, or see more here.