DRUGS - February 2018 Jurek Wotzel

The Drink Made Me

“The King Drinks” by
Jacob Jordaens (17th century)

Written by Jurek Wötzel, Head Writer

You wake up. Headache. Nausea. Weakness.

Not again, you think. The cosy darkness of the night again seduced you to leave the world behind. Ethanol, a simple molecule consisting just of a few carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms had made its way through your body and done its damage.

What did I do, you wonder. You recall fragments of conversations. Friends, Strangers, and, oh god, your crush was also at the party. A fist of anxiety hits your diaphragm. Frantically you pick up your phone. You can only hope you didn’t talk about your feelings. In a rush of panic, your shivering fingers massacre your phone screen: “Soooo sorry, I really really wasn’t myself last night”. Sent.

That’s such a standard phrase, though let’s be honest, does anyone believe that? It sounds like a cover up. A cover up for the fact that everyone knows that last night’s drunk version of you was actually your truer and more genuine self.

In vino veritas, in wine there is truth, is a deeply ingrained wisdom. Alcaeus’ famous aphorism seems so evident, so unquestionable to us that we don’t even consider the possibility that it might be otherwise. Yet, alcohol may actually only influence the self, rather than reveal it.

Across cultures, drinking is understood as the magic potion that works as a mirror to our soul. “It is a peep-hole to man”, Alcaeus continues. For the ancient Chinese it was clear that “wine is followed by truthful speech”. The Persians were sure that “if you are drunk, you speak the truth”.

It seemed so promising. A way to freedom from social constraint. You remember your first drink, your second, your third. How light and pleasant the atmosphere was. Soon though, the memory becomes blurry.

In the morning, the black feeling of regret takes over. It is Judgment Day. You feel vulnerable, having shown something, having committed something, having dropped your moralist veil for a good while. Unwanted self-revelation is the name of the viscous liquid that bitterly runs up your throat as acid reflux.

Yes, it is hard to get the thoughts of self-hatred out of your mind after a night of heavy drinking, but please don’t draw quick conclusions. Humanity has yet to find out exactly what alcohol does to us. In case you accidentally confessed your love, your crush would do well to be suspicious of whatever you said last night. Let me be your hangover psychiatrist for a little while.

First of all, the self is a mythical thing. No one really knows what it is. I know, everybody says they know a little more about their, or their friends, real selves after a proper night out. We believe that we know more about our real desires, our real attitudes and our real abilities. Real, as though there is a real self that is unexpressed due to the prison of social norms.

But the self is not a stable thing. Instead, it is constantly subject to change. The self exists in a state of constant becoming, such that only a momentous pause in time could ever give us a concrete, graspable idea of what it actually is.

There is no natural you. If you feel like social norms make you behave a certain way, it does not automatically mean that you would like to behave another way. Since where would your other desire or need come from? It could come from your family, your school, your football club.

The point is, the self necessarily forms from social interaction. Without social influence, you wouldn’t know anything about yourself at all. Social influence is never done and over with, but will continue to affect you for the rest of your life. Anything you could know about yourself is just the most recent accumulation of social cues.

Whatever the self means as a concept, it changes as we live, we perform it. As Aristotle said that the virtuous man is he who acts virtuously, as Sartre said that the genius is he who realizes his genius, so are you only the role that you continuously play.

My dear hangover patient. As much as you were wrong when you said you weren’t yourself last night, anyone who would take your drunk self as your ‘real’ self would be wrong, too. There may be some truth in what you said last night but how many times did you exaggerate, deceive, or blatantly lie when you were drunk? I bet often enough to downplay the seriousness of any love confessions.

Heads up, you poor party veteran. Alcohol doesn’t really reveal who you are. Perhaps just a little bit of who you would like to be. Now take some time, stay in bed, drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can.

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