My White Month

Thoughts From My White Month

Exactly 30 days ago, Charlotte and I sat down to savor a delightful dinner at Hotell Kullaberg in the village of Mölle-by-the-Sea. It was no ordinary Saturday evening; we were celebrating our silver wedding anniversary. Our conversation was adorned with joyful reminiscences of that enchanting day and night, a series of magical memories from two and a half decades ago.

As the coffee arrived, I, in my habitual manner, ordered a Sambuca, the Italian avec adorned with three coffee beans. After our meal, we strolled leisurely along the harbor to the spacious annex that the hotel had reserved for us for the night. Before Charlotte and I went indoors, we sat outside for a while beneath the stars, appreciating the tranquil August evening. We finished the remnants of the bottle we had opened before dinner, just enough for about a glass each.

Since I swallowed those very last, somewhat lackluster drops of Champagne, I’ve abstained entirely from alcohol.

With the exception of 1996, prior to a solo exhibition at Gallery Viking in Gothenburg (Chalmersgatan), when I decided, at the beginning of the year, to remain sober until after my vernissage in November, I haven’t had a dry month since I was 15.

Hm. When I read that last line, it sounds rather dreadful. As if I hadn’t done much else but indulge…

Anyway…

After another summer where alcohol played a somewhat excessive role, it feels healthy to be on the wagon right now. I had no preconceived notions about how this hiatus would unfold; I decided from the outset to take it one day at a time and not project too many scenarios where my occasionally feeble character succumbed to irresistible temptations.

I must admit, however, that the initial weeks were unsteady and sweaty. It wasn’t so much that I missed the taste of beer, wine, or whiskey; I surprisingly managed without any phantom pains in that regard. It was more the vacuum left behind by that seductive euphoria (the release) that alcohol had always so generously offered me, requiring some form of mental withdrawal strategy.

I also felt a bit anxious about how I would navigate our social life without it becoming awkward, forced, or complicated. Dinners and situations where I knew in advance that alcohol would be present or even the focal point. How could I handle such occasions without disappointing anyone, most of all myself?

But it turns out I had underestimated my latent resilience and managed several dinners and gatherings without falling off the wagon or feeling like a bigger oddball than usual.

Temptations crop up everywhere: when I pass a bar in town, people drinking in movies, and particularly when images and clips flash by in my social streams, especially during weekends. The scenes I see all look so enjoyable, and the weakest, seediest version of me immediately wants to end my dry month, throw back a shot of cheap bourbon, and quickly wash it down with a large, ice-cold, and nameless draft beer.

If I have a long-term goal with this ongoing period of sobriety, it’s to eliminate my spontaneous and routine habit of drinking just to reward or indulge myself. I jokingly tell Charlotte that we’ve had a bit too much child-free time since Elle flew the nest.

Physically, I don’t feel a significant difference, but it may arrive. I exercise about the same and feel similarly well in my body. However, I do believe I sleep better, and my mood seems more even. I also experience a different kind of emotional stability, as if I’m steadier in the cockpit and have better visibility. Especially when I am working creatively.

I know that consuming alcohol nearly every day puts extra strain on the body. And now, having recently turned 60, I want to at least try to help (not hinder) this old, slightly worn-out body by reducing the stresses as much as possible.

I really don’t want to pass judgment, advocate, or lecture. The most important thing is that Joakim/Kim benefits from this hiatus and that I’ve come to realize that yes, I have indeed been drinking too often and too casually. The question now is whether I can ever change my rather nonchalant relationship with alcohol and enjoy it in a healthier way. Right now, when I don’t miss it in my life, I’m somewhat doubtful. But… one day at a time, right?