While I was in Thailand a few weeks ago, I happened to run into an American guy that I used to work with in Russia. He was there with his Russian wife -- they're both currently working in China.
Over beers, he asked me how I was getting along with no alcohol or nightclubs.
"Well, you know, funny thing about that. After all those years of drinking and carousing, when I stopped, something strange happened."
"You missed it."
"No, actually -- I felt fucking great!"
"Here's how it unwound. I mean, remember life there in Russia -- not just the constant drinking, the day-time drinking on the weekend, the all-night sessions at those nightclubs with no ventilation . . . the second-hand smoke alone was enough to kill a lesser man at some of those places."
"No doubt about that."
"And the quality of the alcohol. The cheap draft beer, the fake vodka. You remember the hangovers. You'd wake up at 1:00pm on Saturday afternoon, freezing cold, blind in one eye -- "
"Miserable," he agreed.
"And you're like ten years younger than me. And the weather -- below freezing 6 or 7 months of year, the rest of the time varying between rainy and muddy and a few weeks of too fucking hot."
"Mud in the spring, dust in the summer, plenty of pollution all of the time."
"And the hours at work -- no sleep on the weekend, irregular hours during the week, rarely getting a full eight hours."
"And my social life, which tended towards the . . ."
"Unfulfilling?" he offered.
"Well, stressful and sordid, at least. So I rolled up in Saudi -- I arrived at the end of summer, and there was no work. I was sleeping 9 hours a night, it's sunny and warm pretty much every single fucking day."
"Well, yeah, but the ocean is right there also. So . . . suddenly I stop drinking alcohol. All my blood chemistry is suddenly normal again. I'm swimming in the ocean every day, exercising a lot, eating healthy food, very little work to do. I have no social obligations -- I was reading, watching movies, researching interesting stuff on the internet and playing computer games . . ."
"Most people travel to get away from that stuff."
"Well you know I spent very little of my adult life doing those things. And every two months, there are holidays, with the girlfriend I somehow managed to get, the week I left."
"Yeah, that's pretty freaky."
"But I think mainly it was just a question of chemistry. All the assault on my blood and brain chemistry by cheap alcohol, lack of sleep, stress and pollution suddenly halted. My seratonin and blood sugar and vitamin B and D levels and such all got back to normal and I woke up every day feeling fucking awesome."
"Inspiring," he said.
"Happiness -- an involuntary physical reaction."
(I was unable to find a better version of this old 80's indie rock song from Boston band Scruffy the Cat, and it's hard to understand the lyrics, but happiness attacking you at unexpected times seems to be the idea of it.)