C l e a n

Not drinking.
Resolve // Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003

I am still beset by drinking dreams. In the most recent, I decide on the spur of the moment to have a drink or two in a social situation. Nothing bad happens. I don�t get drunk. But later on, that same day or the next, I start feeling terrible. Not sick but diseased, desolate, creepingly but irrevocably guilty and broken.

On September 7, the New York Times published an article called �The Futile Pursuit of Happiness,� by Jon Gertner. It�s about recent studies on the psychology of happiness performed by researchers at Harvard and other places. The results show that people�s expectations about what will make them happy and unhappy are consistently wrong. Changes that people expect will make them happier in the long term (new jobs, marriage, and children) do not. On the other hand, disasters such as deaths of family members and career failures also do not leave a lasting impression.

All this is fascinating, and has implications for sobriety (both pro and con), but the most interesting part of the article to me was the description of this experiment:

�One experiment of [the researcher�s] had students in a photography class at Harvard choose two favorite pictures from among those they had just taken and then relinquish one to the teacher. Some students were told their choices were permanent; others were told they could exchange their prints after several days. As it turned out, those who had time to change their minds were less pleased with their decisions than those whose choices turned out irrevocable.

�The photography experiment challenges our common assumption that we would be happier with the option to change our minds when in fact we�re happier with closure.�

So. This has the ring of truth to me. I suspect that these drinking dreams are haunting me because I�ve left a door open. I mean because I still refuse to say I�ll never drink again. Because I think I�m happier with the option to change my mind. And frankly, no matter what I say or promise myself on the matter, I will still have the option to change my mind. That closure will not come. Unless I am incarcerated or become a paraplegic with an unsympathetic caretaker. Actually, I could probably drink in prison, so I take back the first one.

prev // next

Visitation - Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2004
Tired of This - Monday, Jul. 12, 2004
Watershed - Thursday, Apr. 29, 2004
First Date - Friday, Apr. 23, 2004
Online Dating - Sunday, Mar. 28, 2004