Dry November: Day 9

November 09, 2018

Another is that reflection involves the act of recollection, and memory itself seems to have an elegiac effect on my writing. It is not that I am nostalgic; it is more like a sense that respect must be shown for the irremediable nature of the past. My partner said the past need not be sad, it is merely what has happened, but to me, that is like saying a funeral need not be sad. Of course one may try to celebrate the dead, but there is something inherently troubling, for me, about the indelible, the unchangeable nature of either type of passage.

Then there is the potential dreariness of alcohol withdrawal, that can cause all sorts of delirious and deleterious effects, not least of them death, which is not true of more famously addictive substances, for example cocaine. When in contact with medical professionals, as I unfortunately have been, the drink question often comes up. I’ve found that what they really want to know is whether you drink every day, and maybe secondarily whether or not you binge drink. So they ask you how many units, but, at least in the UK, they’re not really interested in the answer, provided it’s some fairly reasonable number daily, or even a number like 20 units, but not every day. Of course you’d probably get told off for that. But it seems like most of them drink as well, and I’ve not found medical professionals unduly judgmental, in the UK, at least on this point.

The NHS page on withdrawal has some interesting info on this:

Your withdrawal symptoms will be at their worst for the first 48 hours.

They should gradually start to improve as your body begins to adjust to being without alcohol. This usually takes 3 to 7 days from the time of your last drink.

So as I’m on day nine, I evidently can’t blame alcohol for whatever mood I happen to be in.

You’ll also find your sleep is disturbed.

You may wake up several times during the night or have problems getting to sleep. This is to be expected, and your sleep patterns should return to normal within a month.

It also specifies that even >20 units per day can be detoxed at home, with tranquillisers. It does not sound fun. I don’t think the intermittent drunken weekends I’ve had this year have caused me anything like the issues they describe. Any despondency is more likely to come from other sources. At times this year, I’ve thought: “This is, far and away, the best year of my life.” And yet now I seem somehow to be paying for that, though it’s not totally clear why.

I considered putting a content warning at the top, telling you that my reflection on why my posts have been a bit depressing might itself be depressing. But I’m reading Jonathan Haidt’s excellent new book The Coddling of the American Mind, in which he posits (amidst a fascinating look at many facets of American political history) that such warnings and their implicit message that “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker” are dangerous, and tend to promote people’s thinking of themselves as fragile. I knew you could take it, and now you’re stronger.

I also got to see Adam Curtis last night, at a contemporary dance collaboration he’s done with Rosie Kay, called MK Ultra at the Southbank Centre. I’ve run out of time today so I shall have to write about that tomorrow.

Bryan Kam

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