If you've followed my writing over the years, even out of your periphery, then you know that I enjoying drinking. A lot. On a regular basis. Beer and I have been friends for a great many years.
But lately, beer hasn't exactly been a good friend to me.
It's not the drinking that's become the problem. Beer and I can still spiral down into our familiar, warm, safe place. It's the hangovers that have become unbearable.
It's the waking-up-late; it's the feeling-like-dog-shit; it's the hating myself--so much that I wish I could somehow get out of my own dog-shit-feeling body--that I can't fucking stand anymore.
So beer and I are through. At least, I hope we're through this time.
It's been nearly two weeks now since I've had a beer. There have been a couple of tempting nights. Walking home after work, I can feel the gravity of the Crosstown liquor store. I can feel those 12-packs, behind glass and lit so beautifully, calling to me.
That's when I remind myself of the waking-up-late-feeling-like-dog-shit-hating-myself back-end of this deal. So far, that's been enough for me to stay the course, to go home to my apartment, and to deal with the litter box, and the bills, and the laundry, and the good, the bad, and the discomforting feelings that I feel about myself and the world.
What has been interesting to note in the past (almost) two weeks is how much more enjoyable gaming has become. Gaming and beer have gone hand in hand, arm in arm, for me for nearly 20 years now. I typically don't like to do one without the other. These two activities had become so entwined that on the rare occasions when I did game without a beer, I'd find myself during pauses in gameplay--load screens, etc.--involuntarily reaching for a phantom glass.
In the name of convincing myself that I needed beer to game, I carefully explained to myself that videogames tend to feature long, boring, and often frustrating stretches. Beer was what got me through those stretches.
But it didn't.
What it did, usually, was leave me in a foggy, lost place where, with each drained bottle, my motor skills and hand-eye coordination would diminish ever so slightly, until I'd finally encounter a point in said game that I could not overcome.
The next day, as fucking sad and pathetic as this sounds, I'd have no choice but to load up a Saved game from an earlier point in the evening. A Saved game at 8:32 p.m.? That's fine. But a Saved game at 11:32 p.m.? That's not fine.
In the not-quite two weeks of beer-less gaming, I've noticed that whenever I am no longer enjoying a game, I now stop playing the game. This happened during Splinter Cell: Conviction about a week ago. I was barreling through levels, simply to get to the end. No longer was I feeling anything that I should be feeling while playing the game--no tension, no empowerment, no mystery. Instead, all I was feeling was the need to get the damn thing over with.
So I shut Conviction down for the night and went to bed and read a book and fell asleep.
Like, I would imagine, a normal person would do.
If I'd been drinking while playing, no doubt I would have continued to barrel my way through the game, not especially enjoying, or appreciating, anything that I was doing.
So far, in these almost two weeks, I've finished three games in total. Which, as any gamer can tell you, is a lot of game-finishing in a very a short period of time.
And I've enjoyed myself, far more that I ever did while beer-gaming. (New term I just coined.)
I've been able to gauge tedium better. I've been able to appreciate the beginnings, middles, and mostly dull endings of games better.
And I've finally stopped reaching for those phantom beers after boss fights and load screens.
This is good. This, I believe, is the right way to go.
This issue is also on my mind because next week, I'll be in L.A. for E3. Around 50 percent of the event invitations I've received involve the promise of gratis booze that will be flowing like a big, decadent river in my direction.
So much of this industry is tied to parties, and drinking, and let-me-pick-up-the-tab culture that I suppose it's not surprising that I am what I am.
And I am what I am.
I'll keep you posted on my progress. And if I should fall off the wagon and find myself loading up those 8:32 p.m. saved games again, you'll be the first to hear of it.