Citation: mefe. "Thinking Faster Than I Could Write: An Experience with Absinthe (exp97652)". Erowid.org. Sep 24, 2016. erowid.org/exp/97652
A Fantastic Experience
I am a quite fit young male with a reasonable level of experience in altered states of consciousness and drugs in general.
For a long time I had wanted to try Absinthe. I decided to order a bottle online. I ordered a 50cl bottle, which was about £30, and waited for it to arrive. It also came with an absinthe spoon, which I thought was a nice touch.
It came about four days later and I was excited to finally have some of this legendary and highly fêted drink. It was a lovely deep green colour and it satisfied my expectations in respect of colour and smell. Even the bottle was nicely designed! The smell is strongly reminiscent of aniseed and licorice. Aside from that, it is just extremely alcoholic - the bottle I received was 68% ABV, which is pretty high for a spirit (apart from Everclear or Poitín or something).
An interesting point of contention surrounding Absinthe is whether the 'effects', those subsidiary to those of simple alcohol inebriation, exist at all or are simply psychosomatic or a placebo. I cannot comment on the source of the effects I felt, as I was experiencing them from my own subjective perspective, but I shall describe here as best I can what I felt and the effects Absinthe had on me.
Wanting to go for the authentic experience, I filled a jug with ice and water and ensured it was very cold before use. I then put about 1.5cm to 2cm of absinthe in the bottom of a large flared straight sided glass I found at the back of a cupboard. In retrospect I think it actually was a 'proper' absinthe glass, judging by the shape, but this was unintentional. I put the absinthe spoon on top of the glass and put three sugar cubes on the spoon and then poured the iced water over the sugar on the spoon until I had reached about a 1:5 concentration - this was personal preference over dilution and volume, but I cannot say whether the level of dilution has any effect on the speed at which the effects come on or the intensity; there are too many variables to be sure, and I have not tried enough different levels of dilution to be sure if there even is a difference. For me, a 1:5 ratio worked well but, once again, this is is dependent on the amount of absinthe in the glass to begin with. I eyeballed it so I can't be certain of the volume of absinthe in my first drink, or dose. I judged it as if it were another spirit I was familiar with, but I used less as it was stronger. Contrary to what various sites tell you, the mere passing of water over some sugar cubes is not enough to make them dissolve and I found that to make it more palatable I needed to crush up and stir in the sugar cubes with the spoon - it served more of a useful purpose here than in its intended use, but for authenticity it was a nice touch.
What I ended up with was, in volume, about 2 thirds of a wine glass, and in colour a very milky green. This is the 'louche' that is formed with all aniseed type drinks - Ricard and Ouzo being two very good examples of similar drinks that do this. As it turned out, the mixture I had chanced upon was pretty nice tasting to my way of thinking. I drank the whole glass over the course of about ten minutes and then waited for the effects while I read 'The Doors of Perception' by Aldous Huxley - perhaps apt reading matter for this sort of endeavour…?
After about 20 minutes from when I started drinking my glass of absinthe, I began to notice the familiar beginnings of being slightly drunk
I began to notice the familiar beginnings of being slightly drunk
- only very mildly - a slight heaviness of the eyes and a pleasant feeling of contentedness. I carried on reading. After about half an hour from when I began, the effects of the alcohol had definitely become noticeable, but not more than if I had drunk a large glass of strong beer. Encouraged by the pleasant feelings so far, I mixed another drink of the same size and dilution. I downed this one faster, in about 5 minutes, and carried on reading. Roughly ten minutes after my second glass, it became slightly harder to concentrate on what I was reading and I started to notice that I was more inebriated that I was after the first glass. Being a pretty regular drinker and with a high alcohol tolerance, I can say that I was not near what I would consider to be 'drunk', but I was certainly aware of the beginnings of alcohol inebriation.
I carried on reading and, as I did so, I felt that, despite not being able to fully 100% concentrate on what I was reading, it was making so much sense and Huxley was saying such fantastically true things about the nature of the world and I felt I could really appreciate what he was saying. I will transcribe here a section from my notes that I took at the time. [See the next paragraph for more on my writing while under the influence of Absinthe].
----- '..but when reading his [Aldous Huxley's] experiences when under the influence of Absinthe the sort of things he talks about are totally understandable. He says SUCH TRUTH. I MUST experience what he has…' -----
As a result of this feeling and the fact that no further effects were obvious, I mixed a third glass of a similar size to the last one, although in this case I can be less sure of the exact quantities of Absinthe, water and sugar as I didn't seem to care as much about the mixture. This is unusual as I am usually very precise in my dosages when it comes to anything like this, even Absinthe, which is not even really much of a psychedelic at all. [cf. my relative precision in making the first glass]. I'm still not sure if modern Absinthe has enough thujone in it to have any effect whatsoever and I'm leaning towards potent placebo effect as an explanation for the effects I experienced. I found that the Absinthe meant that I could drink more alcohol, in unit terms, than non-Absinthe alcoholic drinks. The upshot of this was that it took longer for me to feel the effects of the alcohol, but also it meant that I felt clearer in the head than I would have done if I had drunk a similar amount of a similar strength spirit or more of a less strong spirit. It made me more lucid than I otherwise would have been having drunk that amount. This, though, did not persist, and the alcohol eventually overrode the other feelings I felt - which I will describe now.
I think the main effect I noticed after my second glass and even more so after my third glass was that I felt absolutely compelled to write down what I was thinking. And I mean everything, and this was with an almost obsessive fervour - I grabbed the nearest pen to hand and a stack of lined paper and in the end wrote in red pen about ten pages of rather illegible and mad scrawlings and ravings. My writing changed size dramatically between normal and massive and I would lurch from one semi-coherent paragraph on one topic to something totally unrelated, possibly an observation about my surroundings or how I was feeling, and then I would go back to what I was writing before, without thinking it odd that it was so fragmented. I made this observation in my notes from the time: 'It seems that Absinthe lowers the reasoning process for compulsive/random ideas/urges. I go with the first thing that comes into my head and my writing is outrageous beyond belief' This reflects how I felt about things at the time - I would just go with whatever I felt like writing. It was almost as if I was just following my thought patterns - as true a 'stream of consciousness' as I could manage to get on paper.
I also found a lot of the things I was writing very funny, but I wasn't entirely sure why they were funny. I can certainly appreciate why Absinthe is so associated with creativity and outpourings of writing or painting, as it made me feel it was totally imperative to get down on paper what I was thinking. I also thought that what I was writing was profound and fascinating, when in fact the majority of it was not. I read it all through the following day and some of it is rather good actually, but the rest is just assorted and disjointed ramblings and twisted madness on a variety of unrelated topics. Throughout the time I was drinking Absinthe and writing I was listening to a playlist that consisted of a mixture of Classical music and Ambient Electronica - Autechre, Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, Verde and Boris Kovac & The Ladaaba Orchestra. My appreciation for the music I was listening to was immensely heightened, and I wrote in my notes at one point 'TCHAIKOVSKY IS INGREDIBLE!!' - this was interspersed between other ravings and observations. Note also my mis-spelling of 'incredible' - I am always very precise on my spelling, and I didn't even notice at the time, or if I did, I didn't care. The process of writing felt really good and I was writing at such a phenomenal speed a lot of it was illegible, but I felt I needed to get down everything I was thinking and I was thinking faster than I could write.
So if you are the sort who enjoys writing normally, don't be surprised if Absinthe makes you want to write like mad; have a pen and lots of paper to hand just in case. It also serves as an excellent way of recording the experience, as there is a lot of interesting detail on how I was feeling in my notes/ravings. In other respects I was feeling mostly normal, with only a slight rise in body temperature, although this is likely to be as a result of sitting in a small room with the door closed for a while. The only other effects were those of alcohol inebriation, as mentioned.
Which brings me onto how I was feeling otherwise, putting to one side the writing for now. After the third glass and several pages of fast writing, I leant back in my chair and the movement backwards was accompanied by the familiar slight trace and pseudo-slow motion effect that comes with fast movement when drunk. This made me truly appreciate how drunk I was by now. I had gone from baseline sober and not under the influence of any other substance to being really rather drunk, in just about an hour. When I was writing I was unable to see how drunk I was - only when I moved did it become obvious. I had to concentrate and listen hard to have a conversation without sounding drunk, which I managed quite well I thought, although I have got pretty good at appearing sober when in fact I'm pretty drunk. The reason I was forced to encounter people was that I thought having some food might make me sober up a little and I might be able to enjoy a more relaxed come-down from where I was and then go to bed. I was also pretty hungry. Eating was fine, no nausea or anything, and in fact food tasted pretty damn good, which was nice.
After some dinner I went back to my room and carried on writing a bit, this time slower. I lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply - I am not a frequent smoker, but this time it felt fantastic and, according to my notes, made me 'tingle'. Either way, I felt pretty good when smoking, but I didn't want to make my room smell too much or piss anyone else off, so I only had one cigarette although I probably would have wanted another one at the time, and especially so if I had not been in my room. Not that I can remember it now, but my notes tell me that soon after I stubbed out my cigarette I noticed I was sobering up a bit and 'coming down' from the fantastic Absinthe high I was on before I ate. The food was clearly absorbing some of the alcohol and whatever active ingredient was making me feel so great. This brought on the familiar post drinking mildly depressed feeling that I get when sobering up after drinking enough to feel noticeably drunk. Thinking about it, I only noticed a difference between an Absinthe drunk feeling and a normal alcohol drunk when I was on my own. When I was forced to interact with other people it seemed just like I was normally drunk, however this might have been because I was trying to act sober at the time. This might also have affected my mindset when I went back to my room and felt more sober. If the feelings I experienced were psychosomatic or a placebo, they might have been more affected by my thoughts - effectively I thought myself out of being as drunk as I was.
Now that I was coming down, as it were, from my previous excellent high I decided to go back to the kitchen and eat some bread to sober up more. In the end I didn't do that, and the compulsive nature of my Absinthe inebriation took over and I decided to go outside before I made it to the kitchen. I threw a coat on and grabbed a powerful head torch and went outside. Bearing in mind that the time of my experience was mid February in a relatively northern part of the northern hemisphere, it was pretty cold and dark outside. I didn't seem to notice this or mind though, and I forged out through the snow on the ground into a large field next to where I live and to where I had hidden a chair I like to sit on at the top of a gentle rise in the ground. I could only see as far as my torch beam went and it was like I was in a moving bubble - everything else was dark and unintelligible. It wasn't too disconcerting though, and I made it to my chair without falling over or getting lost.
I sat down and turned off my head torch. The fresh cold air had done me a lot of good and my eyes were slowly adjusting to the dark. As I was feeling a lot better - the mild depression was gone and I couldn't feel the cold - I started to notice more of my immediate surroundings and I noticed that it was actually a really great night to be outside and I was very glad I had gone with my random urge to go outside. The stars looked amazing and the snow on the ground made it lighter than it would have been otherwise, so I could see quite far once I had adjusted to the dark. This formed a stark contrast with the bubble of light I had been in walking up to the chair, and it made me think about the contrast in an overly earnest manner - more so than it really deserved, but I found it a profound contemplation all the same. Once I could see enough to walk around without the torch I decided to jog a little to a hut I had built in another part of the field. Darkness, for me, makes speed seem greater usually and so what with the Absinthe still in my system a little, my jog of no more than 30 feet seemed extremely fast and I really enjoyed the sensation of running in the dark with the cold air against my face and the snow underfoot.
I made it to the hut without incident and sat down inside. When I got there though, I could not recall the jog to get there in any detail, but I remembered enjoying it. It was a strange mix of recollection and forgetting. Inside the hut it was really very dark and I couldn't see very much at all, but like earlier, eventually my eyes adjusted and I could make out my surroundings. It sort of felt like I was floating in the dark. Suddenly, just like with my urge to go outside, I decided it was time to go in so I got up, left the hut and walked back inside. By this time it was quite late, as my perception of time throughout my experience was less acute than usual, and the majority of the effects had subsided, so I decided to call it a day and go to bed. As I was lying in bed just before falling asleep I remember hoping I wouldn't be too hungover the next morning.
I slept peacefully and had no particularly exciting dreams and awoke with not a jot of a hangover. It was as if I had not drunk that much at all. I didn't feel effervescently great, nor did I feel bad - I just felt normal, which was a relief. I cannot comment on the reasons for this, as I assumed I would feel a little hungover - perhaps it is because I have quite a high alcohol tolerance, but I cannot be sure. I read through my notes from the night before and had a job to read some of it, but it was fascinating to read what I had wrote when under the influence of Absinthe when now sober. As I said before, a lot of it was unintelligible madness, but there were some good bits, and it gave me a valuable insight into the bits I couldn't remember clearly - I used it to piece together the narrative of events for this report as well as my own understanding.
Overall this was an excellent experience and I enjoyed it immensely. Thinking back on it now, with the aid of my notes, all I can really remember are the good parts. The general vibe of the experience was a good and positive one. I felt a connection with abstract concepts that would have been otherwise hard to grasp without a lack of personal experience and I really enjoyed the speed of thought it gave me, or at least this perception of speed.
The one thing I wasn't totally prepared for was the strength of it, in alcohol terms. Being a regular drinker with good tolerance I thought it would affect me less than it actually did, but the combination of high ABV and the thujone makes Absinthe something it is very easy to get very drunk on, and quite quickly. I have drunken Absinthe several times since and will continue to do so.
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