“There’s a theory that we [all] should be born with a small amount of alcohol in our blood, and that modest inebriation opens our minds to the world around us, diminishing our problems and increasing our creativity.” — opening line of an official boilerplate synopsis for Thomas Vinterberg‘s Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Films, 12.4)

Speaking as one who happily sipped wine for decades before realizing it was no longer an option, I can say without question that alcohol really did seem to bring a certain glow and ebullience to my life. I used to think that civilized drinking was essential to a certain kind of joie de vivre. My European visits in the late ’90s and aughts were, I sincerely believed, immeasurably enhanced by the right kind of vino, especially when the bar or restaurant was lighted with candles.

I was never a pathetic, falling-down drunk, although I experienced some truly insane and hilarious episodes when I was buzzed. Especially in my 20s and early 30s. (Like falling asleep at a party in Marin County, and waking up in a sitting position in a large high-back chair with a half-full glass of Jack Daniels and ginger ale in my right hand.) I was almost never shit-faced (or at least not after high school), but at the same time my motto was “life would be unbearable without alcohol.” I was just having a good time. Breaking no laws, spilling nothing, getting away with it.

I’m especially glad that I got to carouse around Italy three or four times before I renounced. Drinking good wine in a sensible way can be wonderful.

My first cold-turkey renunciation happened in ’96 (I was mainly determined to quit vodka), but after two or three years I gradually started to sip wine from time to time, and it felt pretty cool for the most part. My last and final quit (no wine, no beer, no nothing) happened because nightly Pinot Grigio sippings had began to play hell with my looks, and because it gradually over-heated my personality and made me behave in an intemperate manner from time to time.

Sobriety isn’t easy at first, granted, but the morning wake-ups are wonderful, and you gradually learn how to smile and even laugh again. And that feeling of a terrible 700-pound wet gorilla no longer clinging to your back is heavenly.