Hedonism through Abstinence?

Image: John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My decision to give up drinking had a strange point of origin. I finally committed to the decision after reading an article on the subject by Roger Ebert, but I first started thinking about it after an embarrassing episode on Facebook. Someone I know had posted a link to a video of a large-breasted woman on a roller coaster showing a great deal of cleavage with the caption: “Girl has orgasm on a roller coaster while her boyfriend watches.” Now, this is the kind of inane babble that would make me rail against Facebook. That particular morning, however, I was groggily mesmerized by the boobs and I clicked the link. Up popped a window that claimed the video was unsuitable for underage viewers and that I needed to enter the ‘captcha’ phrase to proceed. As anyone who has been caught by this scam will tell you, instead of loading the video, the phrase you type is posted as a comment from you and the bogus link is now on your Facebook wall.

I did it twice.

You’d be right to wonder what that has to do with alcohol. I wonder the same thing, in fact. While I’m not sure why there was such a connection, the moment I realized that I had been tricked was one of the most embarrassing things I can recall. The post and everything related to it was removed by Facebook moderators within a few hours, and I doubt more than half a dozen people even saw my name attached to it. The point, however, was that I had allowed baser urges to overshadow my reasoning – twice. I found that totally unacceptable.

Though I’ve had a sip here and there, I effectively stopped drinking at that point. Looking back even three or four months, this seems like an extremely unlikely path to have taken. Four months ago I would have sided with my friend who claims he can’t stop drinking because he’s a hedonist and doesn’t believe in giving up things he enjoys. I understand that perspective. I’ve looked at my life and concluded that I’m a bit of a hedonist as well.

The point where our opinions diverge, however, revolves around whether you can be a hedonist and still deny yourself pleasures.

In the past I’ve followed a more classically hedonistic lifestyle. I ate anything and everything I thought might taste good. I drank excessively, regularly. Though I didn’t seek them out, I did consume some less-than-legal substances and only stopped when I wasn’t enjoying the sensation they provided. During that time, I felt like I was living a lifestyle that was in-tune with my true desires. After all, if I wasn’t denying myself anything, that must mean I was being true to myself…

From where I sit now, after a month or more of sobriety, I find myself wanting to remain a hedonist, but in a very different sense. I’d like to think that hedonism should revolve around really, fully enjoying life, the universe, and everything (to loot a phrase from a man who really understood).

I enjoy sleeping more than I ever did. I also enjoy getting up. My diet could be called strict (I avoid carbs and try to eat organic food as much as possible) but I find that I can appreciate flavors more than ever before – and that is quite a statement considering my background in fine-dining restaurants. When I drink, I choose beverages that I really like and/or am curious about – and I have just enough to enjoy them. In short, I may consume less, but I enjoy more.

Hedonism is a very poor and very lazy excuse for destructive behavior.

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