I loved the “My Struggle” trilogy by Karl Ove Knausgaard.
So I was really thrilled when the Norwegian author signed on to write a series for the NYT Magazine chronicling a journey along the Viking Trail that would end up in America.
As the name of his autobiographical novels suggest, Knausgaard is a tortured man. Anything he writes is wrapped in themes of personal struggle and identity.
One evening on the trip, Knausgaard and the photographer, looking for some local color, stop at “Izzy’s BBQ” in Wisconsin. Four rounds of beer and whisky are consumed. Knausgaard’s characteristic reticence gives way and he finds himself playing darts with new friends, and conversing with the owners of the establishment.
Then this from him on the following morning:
“When I woke up the next morning, I had an anxiety attack. I lay there for a long time, staring out at the empty room. The last thing I could remember was that I had gotten into an elevator. I had no recollection of seeing the room before. Everything was terrible, everything was diseased and I was a ridiculous, laughable character. Oh, God, what an idiot I was.
I had talked.
To total strangers, I had babbled away. With no dignity whatsoever, happy and enthusiastic over every little thing. I had given compliments! My eyes had filled up with tears at my own human warmth and goodness.
Oh, Jesus, was I an idiot”.
This feeling resonated with me. I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ve depended on alcohol in social situations dating back to my teen years. I’m not myself when I’m drinking and I wince at whatever silly intellectual debates or provocative things I say to amuse myself when I’m drinking socially. Unfortunately (in some ways) I always remember every detail. That’s something I used to take pride in: that I “handle my alcohol so well”.
Three years ago I gave up alcohol during the week, and allowed for wine only on the weekends. Then the weekend started melting into Monday, and I was having more like three glasses than my desired two.
For ab0ut two years, I’ve cut it out entirely. It’s what I need right now.