The Joy of Misery

George Washington, feeling miserable

George Washington, feeling miserable


The best part of drinking is the hangover.


I haven’t had more than a few drinks in the past six months. Nothing definite made me want to quit drinking, I just lost the desire for it [1]. I feel the same way about drinking as I do about visiting Indonesia—I suppose I could, and I’m not opposed to it, but I don’t care enough to do it either. Something that’s been a moronic ritual in my life since college has vanished without a trace.

I don’t hear the boisterousness coming from a bar and miss the spirituality of shouting matches. I don’t walk by a liquor store and miss my signature pinotmakers (three parts red wine, one part bourbon). I feel neither disgust nor fondness. It’s like someone else had those irresponsible memories.

However, I do miss one thing about drinking—the hangovers.

When you’re drunk, you know it’s a lie. The exuberance, the decreased inhibition, the camaraderie, and the fighting—it’s not real. I don’t care if you Waco Kid a fifth of Wild Turkey, you know deep down you don’t feel like that, and life doesn’t feel like that. It never has and it never will. But the hangovers, that’s the real part. Because then the challenge is to feel good by the end of the day—good enough to drink again.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no physical explanation for the hangover. It’s not because you’re dehydrated—running ten miles makes you more dehydrated than drinking ten beers. It’s not because booze is still in your system—if it was then you’d still be drunk. It’s not because the byproduct of alcohol consumption, acetic acid, ravages your body—if it did then any sugar would make you hungover.

The real reason you’re hungover is you feel worthless. (It’s why college kids don’t get hungover, because they feel worthless no matter what they do.) The hangover is 100 percent psychological, and only five percent of that is the stress of trying not to poop your pants. You know you’ve wasted your time and everybody else’s by going out and getting drunk the night before, and it makes you feel terrible. Now it’s time to compensate—you do more with your day, and with more intensity, to make up for being an idiot.

Even if a quick-fix hangover cure existed (which it doesn’t), it would completely miss the point. It’s like not telling your friends about that time you pooped your pants when out on a coffee date—the point of embarrassing yourself is to have your friends make fun of you.

I especially loved the feeling of waking up with such an excruciating hangover, you seriously think to yourself, “I’m never going to feel good again.” Every great achievement has come after feeling awful. Socrates, Aristotle, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Roth, Rose, Lee—do your research and you’ll see all these men who can only be thought of as heroes led miserable lives. Feeling like crap is the only way you’re going to put any effort into doing anything. As my brother says, “it’s not what you do but how you do it,” and if you’re not putting at least a little bit of psychic pain into your how, you may as well not be doing the what.

Let’s take a page from the greatest time in history, the American Revolution. Sam Adams wasn’t feeling accepting and serene when he found out about the Stamp Act. Thomas Paine didn’t wake up the morning he wrote Common Sense to first do yoga. John Adams and the rest of the Continental Congress may have only sat around and made friends that Summer in Philadelphia if they weren’t still stewing in resentment over the Boston Massacre. Sure, these guys had a vision for a new country that made them psyched when they imagined it, but they never would have put the wheels to the road if it wasn’t for getting pissed about King George and his inbred face.

Years ago, when I was clueless and dateless, I only approached girls sometimes, got numbers sporadically, and experienced nary a whiff of success. It’s not like I was a virgin but geez it was sad. During this time, in the midst of a dry spell, I’d think a thought similar to my hangover thought: “Holy crap, I’m never getting laid again.” When I had this thought, and seriously felt its truth, I would end up with a girl by the end up the week. I had this theory that girls treated guys like spinning plates, and if one was about to fall off they would say, “Hey look, that guy looks miserable, one of us better sleep with him before he goes on a shooting spree.”

But knowing what I know now, the reason I would get laid after feeling the overwhelming dread of celibacy is it conjured up an ever-increasing expanse of my neurology. I approached girls with more intention, with more steadiness of purpose. I didn’t notice I was doing it, but girls noticed, and they responded in kind.

It’s counterproductive now that psychology is full of gratitude lists, meditation, and doing whatever you can to feel good about yourself, no matter what’s going on in your life. If you know you can make yourself feel good regardless of how far behind you are on your bills, then there’s inevitably less motivation to pay your bills. A healthy psychology now is one suffocated by Sanskrit chants to suppress the chaos, instead of cultivating that which grapples with the chaos.

This is because psychology has become run by women, so they tailor the field to a woman’s needs. The need of the woman is to feel good about herself without having done anything, hence feminism, an intellectual movement steeped in positive reinforcement. This wouldn’t be so bad except we think gender is a social construct, so men too are taught to feel good about themselves no matter what, hence the men’s rights movement. But this feminizes men, and so cripples them. Every man who has gone through a psychological growth profound enough to decidedly improve his life has first experienced a plethora of pain. Comfort is fundamental for the female psyche to grow; pain is fundamental for the male psyche to grow.

The number one problem facing men in the West is there is no problem. No urge, no impetus, no need to do better. So sometimes you need to create a problem for yourself. Sometimes you need to bury yourself alive so you can learn deep truths by digging your way out. Sometimes you need to drink your goddamn face off. Then you wake up to an approximation of what John Hancock’s pain must have been when redcoats were trying to push him around.

The revolution takes over from there to what you want.

1. To be honest, I probably stopped drinking to have one more thing to feel better than other people about.