The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

Selling Dipsomania

If you are willing to sell your ability to drink, it may fetch you a fair bit of cash.

A bottle of Unicum

Herbal goo.

I spent eleven gleeful years imbibing alcoholic beverages. As a sixteen-year-old, my head did not contain much other than muddle and a desire to increase the amount of muddle. The strategy for the increase was simple: I drank. My choice fell on a herbal liquor of wormwood and sugar. It was black and gooey, and it guaranteed memorable hangovers. I drank nothing else for years, with perhaps the occasional gallon of beer thrown in to dilute the goo.

Occasionally my drinking habits exceeded social boundaries. I was banished to Ireland for a year, where I set out on a quest to see how much booze I could take on a daily basis. I could take a lot. Towards the end of the exile, nearly a bottle of cheap whiskey vanished in my bowels every day.

Two years later, when I was writing my thesis in Mexico, I developed a flavour for mezcal. A crispy, fresh mezcal trumps the best tequila both in flavour and impact. Most of my dissertation was written during recovery sessions from mezcal overdose. The stuff was blinding.

A bottle of wine being offered to a girl at a beach in northern Chile

I shall offer wine to ladies no more.

All the joy came to an abrupt and unexpected end. I never thought I would ever quit drinking. Every year I proved myself that alcohol had no negative impact on my life: I used to take a month off from drinking. It was usually February. During the month, I was observing if I was more productive or if there was any other advantage in not drinking. My conclusion was always the same: no change at all! Go on drinking, you are fine! In that vein, the minute the month was over, I got sloshed. Stopping for good came as a great surprise.

For years, I had been on a list for potential candidates for clinical trials. Such trials are fairly safe — by the time a drug is tested on humans, the chances are slim it would cause permanent neural damage. The trials also pay well, which is a factor a famished student can never ignore. Once I was called in, but fainted when the nurse was trying to find a vein in my wizened arm, so I did not qualify. Then one day I was called again.

This time I heroically held on to my consciousness, and squeezed out quarter of an ounce of blood to the delight of the nurse: I qualified. The pay was supreme good — it was more than my scholarship for a month. They also promised they would take my blood a hundred and seventy times over the course of six weeks, which was an attractive prospect: it gave me a unique opportunity to face my fear for seeing blood.

TetraPak of Bagpiper in Bangalore

Attractive packaging, competitive pricing — the advantages of Bagpiper Whiskey are wasted on me.

The contract prohibited drinking alcohol for the duration of the trial. This was expected, they naturally wanted to control as many parameters as they could. Given the price of booze in Singapore, I knew it would also save me a pile of cash. What was not so expected was the drug being tested. It was a breakthrough medication to treat alcoholism.

The drug was administered only during inpatient stays, a few days each. Tubes were inserted in both my arms. Nurses visited every half an hour to collect blood. “Lovely vampires, take what you need!”, so I thought.

In between inpatient stays, my craving for a beverage increased. After a fortnight, I was ready to stab a baby seal, if that would have secured me a glass of anything. Three weeks into trial, my eyes became bloodshot every time I saw a lucky bastard sipping a pint of cold Tiger. Four weeks on, the craving was suddenly gone.

Empty cans of Tiger beer.

Someone else is responsible for emptying these cans of tasty Tiger beer.

During the last inpatient stay, I calmly watched the vampires draining my blood; I got used to it. When the six weeks were over, I did not feel like drinking anything. I tried not drinking for a year. Nothing was missing from my life, I did the exact same things as before, behaved the exact same way.

When the year was over, I was out clubbing with friends in Kuala Lumpur — this would have been the perfect setting to break a year of sobriety. Yet, I just did not feel like drinking. I am stuck in that condition, I cannot drink. Evil friends tempted me with fine, aged whiskeys, exceptional beers from microbreweries, and nothing worked. Even my grandfather’s home-made hooch did not move me: I used to love his 60%-strong concoction. I sold my dipsomania for hard cash, and there is no way going back.

Drunkard pelican

If you drink too much for too long, your knees will turn the other way around.

My perception of alcohol changed slowly over the years, and it became apparent that the earlier one month breaks had not been sufficient to get a clear perspective. Now I believe that alcoholic drinks support the worst aspects of a consumerist society. Most recreational drugs offer a richer connection with the world, whereas alcohol only allows you to accumulate even more empty experiences. I will never know whether I was in the control group and received only placebo. Perhaps I was meant to quit anyway — now strong beliefs prevent me from drinking again.

I regret one thing: my last drink ever was a Singapore sling. I started off with a black goo, and finished with a pink one. What a career.


  1. Andreas says:

    Hi Peter

    I have read your article on drinking, my interest is on Dipsomania, and I will be most interested to know how you have stopped altogether.
    I have a daughter who is 27 years old, her Neurologist told us she has dipsomania, I am going craze to find a cure for her.
    Can you give me some guide. Taking out a quarter of an once of blood every half an hour, can the body handle it? The drug was administered only during inpatient stays??
    Any ideas. I will be most kind if you can help me.

    1. Peter Peter says:

      Hi Andreas,

      This was four years back, so my recollection is vague. The name of the drug or that of the active ingredient was not revealed to the volunteers, so I cannot help you with that. This is an oral drug, no blood has to be taken — our blood was sampled to monitor the rate of absorption.

      Given that years passed by since the clinical trials, I suppose the drug should be on the market by now. It was developed by Eli Lilly and Company: you should check whether they offer a new drug to treat alcoholism.

      Hope this helps and good luck,