Mastering Your Brain

Before I bring you the latest from Science, let me relate a brief personal anecdote. So there have been a couple of instances recently where even I, who have a much higher tolerance for the amount I drink than the rest of the people in my life seem to have for the amount I drink (go figure), have been like, wow, you have kind of been drinking a lot lately? To the point where it’s like, you know what, maybe you should drink just a little less? So after those couple of instances (actually, if I’m being honest about it — and why the hell shouldn’t I be? It’s not like you people know where I hang out well enough to intervention me or anything (BUT! I am always suspicious of invitations to small gatherings now! I have pleaded exhaustion or schedule conflict to avoid at least six events in the last three months because the still, strong voice in the back of my head that tells me what to do and is a big fan of me being drunk is all, “Those people think you’re stupid! ‘Intimate party to celebrate my book launch’ my ass! They’re gonna intervention you!” Or, “Yeah, right, ‘engagement dinner just for our oldest, dearest friends.’ They are SO planning to intervention you. (And be wary of their wedding invitation too.)” And, of course, “OH, SURE, ‘I don’t think Grandma’s going to make it much longer.’ Could they be more obvious about wanting to intervention you?” So I have missed out on a bunch of things recently but, what with the popularity of that damn A&E; show, everyone thinks they’re qualified to judge you for your hobbies these days, so you can’t be too careful. Still, I do kind of wish I had had just one last time to visit my grandma and hold her hand and hear her sing me that song she sang to me since I was a baby. I mean, I’m not saying there are no regrets.). Anyway, the point is, the part before where I said “a couple of instances recently” is a little more like “every day since a few weeks before the Super Bowl up to now”) I have risen the next morning firm in my resolve to consume a smaller quantity of alcohol for just that one day, only to find that no matter what I do (for example, drinking 80 proof instead of 101, or refusing to take a sip until the evening news — the local edition, I’m not some kind of ascetic or something — comes on, or putting a cube of ice in the glass to dilute it) it is still suddenly 3 in the morning and I’m half on the couch and shirtless with an empty bottle in my hand, a deep and shame-inducing ache in my head, and an old Steve McQueen movie on the TV. (It is always Steve McQueen, for some reason. Usually it’s Thomas Crown, but not all the time. The other night — okay, last night — it was Soldier in the Rain. Also, I don’t own any Steve McQueen movies. But I apparently I subscribe to the Steve McQueen channel as part of my cable package. It’s weird.) Once I had actually stabbed myself in the right arm with a vegetable peeler. At least I assume I stabbed myself; there was nobody else around. Plus, it was my own vegetable peeler; it was part of the huge collection of utensils that my grandma had collected over a lifetime and since I associated so much of my time with her as being spent in the kitchen, it (the collection, not just the peeler) was the first thing I asked for when she passed. (I didn’t get much of an argument. Not everyone was as attached to her as I was. Probably because she was the only one who thought I was special.) They don’t make things that last like the way the did in her day. That peeler was forty years old and it still took such a chunk out of my arm that the wound remains concave four weeks later. Anyway, I have started to feel a little bad about all of this, because, really, how hard can it be to not get so plastered that the awful feelings of self-recrimination are actually a pleasant distraction from the hangover? Well, good news: According to Science, you can teach yourself tricks and strategies that help you better exert self-control. So once I figure out how to do that I think everything’s gonna be a-ok for me. Maybe I’ll start working on it next month or something.