Alcohol is a truth serum. When people get drunk the truth comes out— whether you want it or not…. But every time someone says this I bite my tongue. No matter how true the statement may be, it always seems incomplete. It begs for a "yeah, but… (insert catch here)". But frustratingly, while the catch seems obvious, I've never been able to capture it in words.
So last Friday night, finding myself with nothing to do and beer in the fridge, I figured the time had come. It was time to capture the catch. The following, polished in sobriety, is what I came up with:
When people get drunk they express thoughts they normally repress because of social consequences. And these slips can be very revealing. The missing pieces in the puzzles we present each other. But—and I'm slapping myself on the forehead this is sounding so obvious—drunk people also express thoughts they're having only because they're drunk. "It's just the booze talking". And if a person gets drunk enough, the booze is all you get. And that's the catch. Drunk people tell the truth, but the more they drink the more distorted that truth becomes.
The trick, I've found, in getting to know the real person you're drinking with, is for both of you to be in the drunk "sweet spot". That shining phase of inebriation where you're buzzed to drunk, but sober enough for higher brain functioning. See image at top of article for illustration.
As you can see, the sweet spot usually begins around the second or third drink. You're not yet drunk, but your buzz is coming on strong and inhibition is slipping. The other person is suddenly more interesting. You're suddenly more interesting. And even the most forced conversations begin to trickle with flow.
The truthiness of the conversation then generally plateaus for around three drinks. In these three drinks inhibition continues its steady decline, leading to increased openness and flow— and therefore truth. But as the quantity of truth increases, quality decreases. The brain's truth making/comprehending machinery is well lubed and cranking along, but beginning to slow. And somewhere around the fifth or sixth drink the first gear slips. This is usually marked by the first slurred word or other such minor mental lapse. At this point you're standing on a cliff. One step forward (another drink), and truth takes a freefall. Conversation may continue to be good. Sometimes it gets better. But the real you. The real them, is quickly blurring into oblivion. Think I'm being overly dramatic? Try remembering the last time you hung out with drunk people while sober. Not pretty.
Ahh, but what about those oh so juicy bits that come out only when you're reeeeally drunk? Lots of truth in those. Welcome, my friends, to the "wet spot". For me, it usually happens somewhere around the eighth or ninth drink. It's where near-zero inhibition meets the last of your brain's capacity for worads. It's also, as many of you know, prime time for regrettable drunk sex. Which, in my opinion, can tell you a lot if you can remember it. "Did she call me dad?"
And finally, a word of caution. While alcohol is oft a friend of truth (hell, if it wasn't for alcohol some people wouldn't talk at all), it can also lead you astray. Especially if you don't know the other person that well. Just knowing the drunk version of someone isn't the same as knowing the real person. The catch to that, of course, is if the person's always drunk.