I'm an adolescent at that magical age where I can finally stride up to the muscle bound doorman and pacify his alpha male complex with my ID. I feel manly as he nods me through the portal to another world.
A world where, it seems to me, my whole generation gathers. They gather in this land to consume a magic potion that can make everything and everyone cool. This potion comes in many different colours and flavours of liquid, and they guzzle this liquid because they believe it to be a social lubricant.
Because really we're all so uptight and so nervous and so scared of rejection and scared to be ourselves that we just need something. Something that's going to lower our guard. So I can let you in, and you can let me in. And if I do something unacceptable, hey come on I'm a little drunk. Everything becomes more acceptable once you get this magic potion.
The first thing noticeable stepping through the portal is the loud music, beats vibrate my whole body and bounce about my head. I feel dizzy as I gaze across the ocean of youth. Then I observe my fellow teenagers; some sitting, some dancing, some kissing, all of them drinking. They all seem to know exactly what theyre doing. I'm a foreign person who doesn't speak the native language. I'm an imposter to this world of socialising and intoxication and cigarette smoke.
The air is thinker inside here. I wade through a veil of body heat and inhale the collective cheap aftershave of 100 sweaty men. Passing a fragrant girl is like briefly taking refuge in her scent. Then I'm back into the melting pot of beer, sweat and lynx deodorant.
The seething mass of bodies has created an uncomfortably hot room temperature. A constant haze presses against my skin like an extra layer of clothing.
5 seconds pass and I realise I'm surrounded by my generation yet completely alone at the same time. I desperately scan the sea of faces for a set of features I recognise. Its coming up to a solid minute of walking round awkwardly looking for my friends. I feel the disapproving eyes of all the attractive people, they know I don't belong here. They can smell my anxiety.
Salvation. I stumble past pretty faces and smile my way through girls I'll never talk to untill finally Im stood in a circle of people I know.
Over loud, unfamiliar music I talk to my friends, I shout jokes and point out people I know, we laugh, we catch up, they drink. Sometimes I find myself uncomfortably alone and do my best not to be the creep with no mates.
As the night (and everybody's intoxication) progresses I feel more and more comfortable and care less and less about, well, anything really. Everyone's too drunk to notice how crazy Im now dancing. In fact I take advantage of that and see what outrageous moves I can pull to the delight of many intoxicated bystanders.
When I run into people I know I pull them into the fray, we jump around like loons and have a good time.
As an athlete I need to put my body and its function above a lot of other stuff in life. And my commitment has alienated me from my peers significantly. Although I exaggerated for your entertainment my level of social discomfort, I remain unresponsive and introverted in many social situations. I have always known drinking was unhealthy but used to do it anyway with a close brotherhood. We were allies and would attend house parties often, taking over music arrangements with our clearly unparalleled taste.
But as I researched more and more the effects of alcohol on the body, I found that I was unable to participate.
Forget true self expression and forget doing shit you may regret, forget all the moral stuff and the money... It was going to damage my fight game, so I just lost interest.
Years have passed since I became the guy who doesn't drink. I have always said its not that I don't drink, just not while Im in camp, then the camp was over and I was celebrating my win. Ah Ill keep it going, Ill be competing again soon anyway, why take steps back right?
Then weeks turn to months and months to years and now I feel like even if I had the inclination to get wasted I wouldn't because of how terrified I am about damaging my meat vehicle. This vessel is all I have to depend on when I compete.
I will never have a problem loosing to a better guy. However, if Im beaten and I can say, yeah but if I skipped that night out, or if I didn't drink at that party, I could have done better; then it will be far harder to accept defeat and grow stronger.
Simultaneously, I also feel like Im missing out the nights out and parties that lead to meaningful connections to other people.
So the question is, what will I regret more on my death bed, missing the parties to train and fight, or missing the successful fights for the sake of bonds forged in a bath of alcohol and vomit?
In no way do I consider myself 'above' drinking, I have experienced how fun it can be and would never tell anyone what not to do. But just because everyone does it, it doesn't mean its not weird.
'May you always do what you are afraid to do' -Elliott Hulse
' All I'm trying to say, is if you were to look from the outside looking in where would you begin?'- Newton Faulkner.