When I first got interested in Buddhism and read Buddha’s recommendation on refraining from intoxicating substances, I didn’t think that would be something I’d be going along with. I was aware that there had been times in my life when I’d used alcohol (and occasionally other substances) self-destructively, but I still enjoyed a drink and the odd smoke too.
However, with meditation practice, I found myself becoming a lot more aware of my habits and my social conditioning around alcohol, since I come from a heavy drinking culture in the UK. My desire to drink (and indulge in social smoking) reduced considerably and it surprised me to find myself able to imagine living a life without intoxicating substances, while not quite being at the point of actually living that life. I have to say, I was quite pissed off the first time I had a smoke and found that I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
So, when I got completely trashed a couple of weeks ago, the booze hit me really hard because my tolerance for it has dropped over the last couple of years. Still, I got home in one piece, and managed to nurse my partner who was at that point sicker than me. I’m usually sick when I get drunk and went to bed thinking that I’d got off pretty lightly. Then I woke up at 6am and realised that all I’d actually done was go to bed while still drunk and that the nausea simply hadn’t started. I was so damn sick, I felt like I was being turned inside out and even water came back up again. After a couple of hours of this, I managed to go back to sleep for a little while, but woke up again with violent nausea, too late to get to the bathroom, I had to fling myself across the room, grab the wastepaper bin (which is fortunately made of plastic) and hurl into that.
I certainly don’t recommend getting plastered as spiritual experience and I won’t be seeking it out again anytime soon, but my goodness, as I lay on my bedroom floor, sweating and retching my guts out into my wastepaper bin, all my illusions of being in control of my body were quashed as my poor poisoned body took over and did what it had to do. All my pretensions of dignity and self-control gone! I was made very much aware of being a body and of how much my sense of personal pride and dignity is constructed in relation to having a sense of control over my body.
I would like to say “never again” but I’d better not.