Sobriety is a myth, and even if it weren’t, it’s dangerous and bad for us all.
It’s a myth because these days, in the real world, most of us no longer inhabit the real world on a full time basis. We spend multiple daily hours in virtual reality, and probably living differently than we did even three or four years ago.
For me, when I have a spare moment, my default action is to pick up my iPhone to check for voicemails, emails or texts. Or the latest news or weather. Or to listen to my iTunes. If I were active on Facebook, you’d probably never hear from me at all…except on Facebook.
Technology has become so powerful and enthralling, it’s slowly rewiring us. It’s not your mother’s television anymore, and it’s not your dad’s porno either. Net, porn and video and computer game addiction are becoming scourges we’ve only begun to awaken to. And the ten year old who texts all day and night? You call that sobriety? Or the guy playing Max Payne 3 or the woman playing Farmville three hours a day? If we believe these things do not intoxicate us, change our brain chemistry, or alter our states, then I say they got us just where they want us.
Sobriety is a myth, and culture has become our drug of choice. It alters, inebriates, and addicts us. The only ones in society who Just Say No are the Christian Scientists, or the Amish who live on the land and off the grid. God bless ‘em both, because they’re not hypocrites. Everyone else who thinks they live a sober or unmedicated lifestyle just because they refuse to indulge in illegal substances is just kidding themselves. Who really Just Says No these days? The guy in the dentist’s chair about to have a root canal? The mom with the splitting headache from screeching kids? The person who’s so anxious or depressed they can’t function anymore? The office worker after a 55 hour week, at 6:00 pm on a Friday? I don’t think so.
But what I’m trying to say here is that sobriety is not only a myth, it’s dangerous. Sobriety today means doing nothing to counteract the day-to-day, moment-to-moment impact of technology-infused urban or suburban living, or the processed food and processed information we’re constantly being fed. It means doing nothing to counter a culture that encourages materialism, self-obsession, conformity and spiritual deadness.
Speaking of which, religion can be an antidote to culture, but let’s not pretend that fervent prayer to He Who Is Most High doesn’t make a person completely snockered. Indeed, that may be the idea, as people have been altering their consciousness, usually during religious rituals, for thousands of years. (Today, think Ramadan, Purim, Yom Kippur, revival tents, etc.) It seems to be one of our fundamental human needs and inclinations.
So-called sobriety means doing nothing to counteract the impact of simply waking up in the morning, having your cup of black speed and reading the front page of the Times. I mean, speaking of mood-altering substances, there’s two of them right there! Compared to your state of mind when you woke up, you’ve just acquired a chemical imbalance. (By the way, I discourage clients from drinking colas or coffee during a session, as they tend to skew chemistry and emotion towards anxiety, excitement, over intellectualization and away from more vulnerable feelings.)
In other words, our culture has now become inherently intoxicating, and if we don’t take it upon ourselves to take charge of our personal chemistry, we leave it to others to do so. Because these days, it’s not a question of whether you’ll be altered, but how, and by whom.
So if nobody’s sober as I contend, then it’s a matter of where you draw the line.
And when it comes to that line, I do draw it. I’ve had to, because I’ve struggled on a very personal level with this issue for decades. As the son of an alcoholic (although my father, never a common anything, was a drinker who neither slurred nor stumbled) I know I carry the “A” gene. In the 70’s I struggled for a short time with amphetamine addiction, ultimately flushing them out of my life. In the 80’s I medicated myself from time to time with cocaine, a substance I would give to my worst enemy. I still can’t allow myself to be anywhere near it.
To this day, I love to drink and smoke grass. But I found over time that the more I’d do either, the less I’d enjoy it, and the bigger the price I would pay. Years ago I had to face reality: If I didn’t draw boundaries around my usage, I would certainly fall into addiction, and its debilitating aftermath, sobriety.
It turned out I so liked a good drinking or smoking high – especially one that would come after abstaining a while – that I decided to limit my intake so I could keep taking them in. There are just too many benefits they offer me: a new perspective on things I’m thinking about; a way of flushing out the work week; of losing my rigid and structured mindset for a few hours, like taking a brief vacation; and the sheer physical and psychic pleasure they bring me, including a heightened appreciation of all things sensual, especially sex, art and music.) So I set rules for myself: I allow myself to drink a fair amount, but only one night every two weeks. I allow myself to smoke as much weed as I wish, but only once every six weeks. And I have followed these rules assiduously for the past 15 years.
And there’s more to my story, as some of you know, but that’s for another post and time.
And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who have pulled themselves up from the dark pit of addiction and have instead chosen life and have, usually through a 12 step program, saved themselves. Thank God I can control my drinking and smoking, just as I could not control my snorting, without such a program.
So for me the solution has been to follow the middle path between the two extremes of addiction and (so called) sobriety. Because, I contend, each holds a great danger, and a similar one, which is the trap of entrancement, be it chemical or cultural.
Or as the Buddhists say, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
So where do you draw the line? If you draw it, all the way down the line, according to Food and Drug Administration-approved substances only, what in heaven’s name are you doing? Are we really supposed to believe the federal government or the corporations that run it (including Big Pharma and the alcohol companies) have our best interests at heart when they determine who gets legally high and how? (Consider, say, Ritalin; Vicodin; Oxycontin.) Do we really want them to decide for us what our personal chemistry should be? Or allowable states of mind?
Reclaiming one’s body chemistry is not only an individual right, it’s a social duty and obligation, because what we’re talking about here is cognitive freedom, which we all need to be exercising now and in every way.
Or, as the man said…
— Terence McKenna
Preaching or promoting a Just Say No sobriety is tantamount to believing one can Just Say No to being involved in politics, which of course is a political position, one that favors and furthers the status quo. There is no No.
I’m against sobriety because it’s a lie, and because to not take control of my own chemical destiny (you heard me right) forfeits it to other forces with their own agendas. Making wise and well-educated choices about how I alter my mind and body is a way of fully participating in my own life.