A lot of people ask me if I miss drinking and I’m never quite sure how to answer; it’s so complicated. I enjoyed drinking for many reasons. Reasons separate from those that ultimately caused me to stop.
People often assume that those who have a drinking problem like the feeling of being drunk. Perhaps some do; after about the age of 20, I was not one of them. I liked the initial softening of hard edges, the relaxation that washed over me. But I could rarely hold myself at that pleasant brink without overdoing it. Once past that point, I’d irrationally try to regain it by drinking more. Obviously, this was never a winning game.
Beside the physiologic effects of alcohol, though, I miss a lot of the sensory qualities of drinking. For one, I liked the taste and smell. While pouring some Pinot Grigio into a simmering risotto recently, I heard myself say to my boyfriend, It’s a shame I can’t drink this. I miss the taste! I loved studying viticulture and being able to detect certain notes in wines – I’m getting just a soupconne of banana and pencil shavings. And the beautiful smells – grapefruit wafting from a sauvignon blanc or cucumber spiraling from a Hendrick’s gin martini.
There is some evidence suggesting that people who have a tendency toward alcoholism simply taste alcohol differently. While others think vodka or gin have a chemical flavor that seems more appropriate for cleaning one’s jewelry or rusty pipes, I enjoyed the extreme, almost painful, sensation of hard liquor trailing down my throat. And I consistently favored wines that had a higher alcohol content, such as California Zinfandel, Italian Amarone, and port.
Alcohol touched my other senses too. The design of bars, bar stools, and taps – from old fashioned to retro to modern. The classic outline of a cocktail shaker. The shape of the different glasses – martini, red wine bowl, champagne flute, brandy snifter, cordial. Each type of wine or liquor bottle conveyed a different feeling to me. Pick your bottle to match your mood: the curvy elegance of a bottle of champagne or the upright boldness of a bottle of cabernet.
I don’t think that the sound of a cork popping from a bottle of champagne will ever not be a favorite sound of mine. Not to mention the clinking of glasses and the choruses of Cheers! Sante! Cent’anni! Salud! Na zdorovje! Kampai! Fisehatak!
Sometimes I think I miss the sights and sounds I associate with alcohol even more than the taste and smell. I certainly miss them all more than being drunk.