Words by Bridget Bisset
I’ve boogied in some of the best nightclubs in the world. I’ve spent many transcendent hours in Berghain. Sober.
And you know what? It was bliss.
If you had asked me in 2011 I would have said the only way to experience that level of crystal clear clarity was through popping the finest of the finest Grey Dove, not the absence of drugs and alcohol.
Now, I have been ‘clean and sober’ since September 2016. No drugs, no alcohol, and I’ve even kicked the cigarette habit. It was a gradual process: stepping off the Class A train in 2015, only smoking weed a handful of times in 2016. And now here I am.
If you’re living the party life but the lows have gotten bigger than the highs, then this guide is for you.
I’ve tried pretty much all the usual party drug suspects – speed, ketamine, acid, cocaine and MDMA (I’ve also probably inadvertently snorted a concoction of meth, rat poison and crushed glass. Thanks, New Zealand drug scene!)
I cast my memory back to the first time I ever took ecstasy. It was at a New Zealand music festival, Rhythm and Vines. Located in a valley, the dance tent was at the top of an incredibly steep hill and the water tent was at the bottom. I took half an ecstasy tablet and spent the rest of the night eagerly running up and down the hill fetching water for my friends. I was pumped to say the least. Two days later I collapsed through my front door 4kgs lighter with a toned ass, my Mum commenting: “Gosh, you must have danced a lot”. I sure did Mum. I sure did.
When was the last time I felt that kind of high?
I remember the day I experienced my first sober high.
I was doing this (somewhat controversial) personal development course called the ‘Landmark Forum’. Part of the whole schtick was calling up people from your past and acknowledging the elephants in the room of your relationship.
I called up this guy I used to ‘see’ and still had lingering feelings for. We had our first ‘real’ conversation of the entire relationship. Normally we just shot the shit or talked film and music. This time, I delved into my deep and meaningful personal stuff and laid myself bare.
It was probably a bit random on his end of things, me calling him up out of the blue and laying the heavy on him. But he took it like a champ. I told him why I had never felt comfortable baring myself to him during our brief fling. He said thank you for being so honest ,and he was sorry if he had behaved in a way that made me feel like I couldn’t confide in him.
I hung up the phone feeling pumped full of adrenaline, experiencing a bliss that was reminiscent of a half-gram of the finest MDMA.
I first knew I had a problem with alcohol when at age 15 I was hospitalised with acute alcohol poisoning. I woke up in the ICU ward with my Mum by my side, a tube down my throat and a catheter up my whatsit. My kidneys had stopped working and I was on a breathing machine as my lungs had collapsed. By some miracle I pulled through and my lungs and kidneys went back to normal function.
With the world’s worst hangover, I immediately started bawling my eyes out, overwhelmed with guilt for lying to my Mum about the ‘sleepover’ I was going to – AKA a party where I was drinking a bottle of vodka (through a straw, no less). I thought I had drunkenly wandered onto the road and been hit by a car, but my Mum told me I had essentially pickled my brain with alcohol.
This incident was one of the first of many binge drinking blunders and also the first time (but not the last) I was told to seek drug and alcohol counselling.
Fast forward to now:
I was on the cacao buzz before it was trendy. My beautiful hippie-soul of a friend introduced me to the good stuff at a concert a few years ago. “Try one of these, it’ll give you a buzz”, she said. And so it did.
I was hooked. Not gonna lie, they are a pretty bitter bean to swallow and the gritty texture has made me nearly choke to death on the d-floor on more than one occasion.
But it’s going to take more than just magic beans to kick your party-hard habits.
It’s important to face your demons.
At some stage you have to confront and forgive all the stupid shit you did while fucked up. It’s hard, I know. So many bad decisions – the gross guys you hooked up with (why drunk brain, why?), the money you wasted, the embarrassing shit you said and did, the awkward places you coma’d out in. It’s okay, I understand: I was there too.
I’ve done all sorts of crazy stuff to try and make peace with some of the more gnarly situations I’ve allowed myself to get into. I’ve tried shamanic trance meditations, energy healing, clearing my chakras and handing my life over to the divine. But one of the most powerful things I have done is go to drug and alcohol counselling, plain and simple. There are many free programs out there and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a therapist. Just ask your GP for a referral.
Now, back to the party part:
Once sober, you can no longer attend shit parties. Now that you don’t have an alcohol blanket to shield you, lame clubs and parties will be torture. Get used to it and start getting selective. Learn to overcome FOMO. If you can’t find any good events to go to I strongly suggest just starting your own.
What you will need: raw organic cacao beans, soda water and lemon, beautiful people (inside and out), some serious quality sound systems, music that just makes you want to boogie, quinoa and raw veg salad, fresh coconuts, cacao and coconut milk, and beautiful scenery.
Choose good people and good music. Stay hydrated.
You will get hungry/hangry.
So be prepared. If you have your dinner around 8pm (make it something sturdy that will keep you going) you will start getting hungry again around 11pm-12am. Some clubs like Kater Blau in Berlin provide delicious food options (like soups and salads made with vegetables from their very own garden!) and some clubs will let you take food in with you.
I’ve had my bag checked at the entrance of Berlin’s Sisyphos and was waved through with my quinoa salad and pastry treats. Eyebrows were raised at my container of cacao beans labelled ‘tiny treats’ heading into Berghain, but I got in nonetheless. If the club has a meagre menu of crisps you just might have to make do with nipping out for a kebab pitstop.
Take a nap.
If your friends are preloading and aren’t planning on hitting the club until later, take a nap! Get them to wake you up just before they leave so you are prepped and ready to go. You don’t need to listen to their bullshit smack talk anyway.
If you follow these tips, your sober ass will be able to make it to roughly 8-10am, alongside the speed freaks. If you make it this far, congratulations.
And yes, you will still sometimes feel a bit ‘hungover’.
Sleep deprivation is sleep deprivation. If you dance til 10am you’re still going to wake up ache-y with a bit of a headache, just like a mild hangover.
And yes, sometimes being ‘the sober one’ makes you feel like a fish out of water.
But it’s a beautiful feeling to watch the sun come up and get a cup of tea to-go as you calmly make your way home: clean, sober and high on clarity.
Feature image: Aftonbladet
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