There comes a time in the life of every functioning alcoholic, typically after your four-year-old child comes home from preschool with a drawing of a gin bottle, and before the blackout episode with the cops, when the mind must inevitably turn to church basements. As the mystery bruises blossom of a morning on your skin, and you search desperately for backup bottles amid the winter gear and cleaning fluids, you will begin to acknowledge that the season has perhaps at last arrived for you to reach out to that one woman at your office who still wears the tattoos of her party days beneath her peter pan collar, but now prominently displays her exhortations — fake it til you make it, let go and let God — as literal gold plaques upon her tidy, sad desk, where, since she’d shed her family and friends in a prolonged era of heroin use, there are no personal photographs. Yes, you are thirsty for bourbon at 10 AM, and you have vague recollection of having thrown a punch at your patient — but not endlessly patient — spouse the previous evening, and so the time has come, has almost certainly come, to make the humiliating march to Delores’ desk, and ask her, drowning in your own self-hatred, if she might, when she goes to her noon meeting at the Pentecostal church down the block, consider taking you along. In short, it’s time to admit you have a problem.
Or is it?
Enter Kin Euphorics, perhaps via advertising on your web browser, where some algorithm has triangulated your searches for “creeping shame” and ‘"symptoms of liver disease" or merely analyzed the rapid decline visible in your selfies over the previous thirty-six months, to deliver an incredible proposal. What if there were a beverage — but more than a beverage, an elixir, a potion, an alchemical miracle really — which would allow you to quit alcohol without quitting drinking? The language of the advertisement will be public-relations vague, but beneath the eloquent branding, you’ll understand the promise: Kin will make you feel good, without making you feel bad. “Refill your pleasure tank for a blissful night ahead,” Kin entices. Not just good: euphoric.
Will you pay nearly forty dollars plus shipping and handling for a mere 16.9 ounces of the stuff? Honey, click yes, and consider your order submitted. For several days, drink as before.
Thursday. The hangover from the previous night is still thumping at the back of your skull; around you, your sweet child and your dear husband have begun to look haunted — and worse, furtive. But forget about all that, because an attractive yellow package has arrived in the mail, and you are going to turn over a new leaf with hardly a moment’s transition. “Look, baby,” you say to the four-year-old, “it comes with stickers!”
Sixteen point nine ounces is less than you might have expected, but already you are considering how much of the stuff you might need in a given week. Will twelve bottles be enough? Should you order right now, rush?
Ignore the fine print. You’re not pregnant, don’t have a medical condition (that has been officially diagnosed) and OK, yeah. You are on SSRIs, but you’re not supposed to mix those with alcohol, and has that stopped you? No indeedy.
Do though pay attention to one exhortation: Kin is meant to be mixed. Is it because its combination of “nootropics,” “adaptogens,” and “botanics” are so very strong that it can’t be drunk straight? (Fingers crossed) Or because its flavor is so vile that it can only be withstood with additives of sugar, carbonation, and healthy sprinkling of bitters? (Having drunk rural Cachaca, craft corn liquor from a Rhode Island distillery, and once, straight sweet Vermouth mixed with the dregs of Kahlua, can you really afford to be a snob, here?) Or is it because no matter in what fashion you consume this beverage, you will find yourself doubled over on the toilet with violent liquid diarrhea, but that mixing the Kin will perhaps slow the agony down? [Spoiler: it’s this one.]
Flavor: Kin’s flavor group centers largely around hibiscus extract and reminds you of over-steeped pregnancy tea with notes of — not that you really care. You didn’t drink warm box rose or that back-of-the-shelf bottle of Manischewitz over ice for the taste, either. Knock it back.
Effect: Initially, not nothing. There’s an eerie inner-ear disorientation, the place where you jawbones meet your lymph nodes throbbing slightly as though vestigial gills there are desperately trying to open for air. You aren’t sad. Is it pleasant, per se? Is it akin to drunkenness? Only one way to really be sure. Mix yourself another Kin.
Drink two: this one time, in college, you took some bad ‘shrooms on a beach in Puerto Rico, then spent five hours producing copious mucus from all of your facial orifices. In the stinging sand, your shiny, viscous face collected silicate granules, which would not be wiped nor washed away, but at least you were high. You are not high now. You are not on a beach. Your mood, however, uncannily resembles the flavor of that mushroom, dry and spongey, sporous, with a hard edge of rising nausea. One more? Hell, yes.
Drink three: run to the bathroom. Your stomach is the terrain of a small, brutal guerilla attack. IEDs explode in your intestines. Civilians scatter. A regional power, desperate and threatened, releases its stockpile of chemical weapons. Run, goddamnit, run.
Three AM: same.
Five AM: same.
Six AM: the dust begins to clear. You recall you have a body. Your baby wakes, upstairs, and holding the monitor from which the child cries through the static, your spouse passes by, facial features grayed with exhaustion. “I love you,” says your spouse. “I really still love you, but this has to end.”
You are weak and emptied out. But something occurs to you in the dawning light: it’s your first night in perhaps a thousand without a drink.
Recommendation: see paragraph one.