Jakub Zając
 made in halt

So.I listen to interviews with Kuba when I cook and when I do my makeup. Then I have time.

He`s nice when the questions are big and important, and he`s nice when it feels like it`s better not to ask him. Calm, upright, smiling, rocking a little back and forth, turning his head to the right, then to the left, and I have the impression that he stomps his feet under the table, which the camera does not catch. He chooses words and emphasizes the significant ones. He bares himself with each subsequent sentence. A good interlocutor, dreamer, eccentric. It`s good to listen to.

What to ask Jakub Zając, author of the debut novel HALT. Notes from the house of sobering, since all the questions have already been asked? I decided not to ask about the book, although it is more and more widely commented on and not as ordinary as the other books, usually about nothing.

Especially for Fourth Son Project JAKUB ZAJĄC - Polish philologist, literary scholar, internet personality.

The author of the HALT debut. Notes from the house of sobering, Warsaw 2022.

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FS: How did it happen that you were flooded, or how Kuba "promoted" to alcoholic?

JZ:Interesting, I never thought of it as an ennoblement. And the road was trivial. Teenage parties with buddies are the first steps. Drinking until you fall somewhere in gates, parks, less often in civilized conditions. As if I always knew that public space should not be smeared with the sight of myself drunk, and then - after my studies and coming back from abroad - in 2008 I started to fall asleep with alcohol. I drank methodically, every day, always after dark. It soothed me, soothes my nerves, and allowed me to sleep. Unfortunately, I lost control over the alcohol. There were detoxes, a mental hospital, and finally rehab. Yes, in a nutshell. I have been drinking for as long as I can remember, there was always too much alcohol around me.

Photo credit: Piotr Młynarczyk

FS:Advertisements for stimulants tempt with freedom, lightness of existence and a successful social life. This modern alcoholism, these 2 beers after work, half a wine with dinner, a few drinks with a friend, is a completely different picture from the last century. You know, this one, for example, depicting a slightly sweaty neighbor, who at Jana's had a beer with the guys after work.

For example, this morning I found out that with the fruit Smirnoff the party will be refreshing and full of adventures, and I am happy and such a turbo-holiday girl.. Without it, it`s like less. The colors were crackling in my eyes and I somehow naturally associated drinking with joy, luxury and prosperity. Consumers` brains programmed with advertisements approve of the image of the ubiquitous alcohol and I do not even know when consumption became the norm, a lifestyle of modern man. And, you know, we`re giving a silent permission to drink. And then we shout that this is not what we meant. We got really lost somewhere within the limits of correctness of consent, don`t you think?

JZ:I do not know what to say. I don`t look at it that way. For me, alcoholism is an individual problem, secondly it is social and deadly. Drinking led me to the brink of madness, I wanted to take my own life, so I can`t associate it with anything positive. Maybe at the very beginning, but not entirely. I also don`t like joking about alcoholics, making up their types and kinds. Every addict - not only to alcohol - is very similar to another addict. Its external (appearance, behavior, poses) is a combination of shameful self-creation and the result of conditions in which the same disease developed.

All advertisements are just like that - they are over-colored, they "tweak" the product and make the world around it more attractive than it really is. I am not a fan of advertising for beer and other alcoholic beverages. I know that for addicts - especially at the beginning of the sobering-up journey - it is a huge trigger of alcohol craving. I believe that alcohol should not be advertised, just as cigarettes should not be advertised anymore, which, as I remember, happened from my childhood. We drink in Poland at the statistical level of social degradation, it is a pandemic, terror at home, and then distorted adulthood.


FS: A lost sots- that`s what the addicts in my environment were called. This image loomed in my own head for a long time. Especially when, burnt out of shame, I was picking up a drunk relative from the doormat. We sit and ask him why he is drinking. He replied that life wasn`t so fucking gray then. It was the moment when I realized that the banal "get a grip" is not enough. Here you need a shaman, exorcist, therapist, doctor of souls! You`re an alcoholic, you`ve walked through this dark valley. Maybe you keep going. What is it like when emotions are sick and in your opinion, should an addict be treated like a sick person or not, because it is another gateway to drinking consent?

JZ:  Alcoholism is a disease. A disease of the mind, body and - whatever you call it - spirit. In order to help the addicted person (not only from alcohol), one should act in each of these three areas. If the alcoholic considers calling his condition an illness a license to drink, he is not ready to be treated. It is as if someone`s leg was severed and he still wanted to take off in a hundred-meter race. When someone realizes that he is addicted and does not want to drink anymore, but has destroyed his body, he needs treatment for the body and pharmacological support. If someone drinks because he does not agree with his emotions, he cannot tame them and they take control of him, he needs a strong support group, he must surround himself with people who understand this problem, he needs a therapist or solidarity in illness, e.g. in the AA group.

Jakub Zając`s debut book deserves recognition, but certainly not because of its graceful plot. This is not a story with a happy ending. It`s still an endless story.
Alcoholism is considered to be one of the most serious diseases of civilization today. We can meet addicts at any place and time. Halt. Zapiski z domu trzeźwienia is an autobiographical story of Jakub Zając who shares his memories with an addiction treatment center.
Halt is real life transferred to the pages of a novel. Jakub Zając in his debut deals with the heavy, ungrateful and difficult topic of alcoholism, as well as striving to quit the addiction. By means of virtuoso comparisons, the author introduces us to the world of the erudite-alcoholic, allows us to participate in his confession and public reckoning with addiction.
A realistic story in a dark atmosphere is not another autobiography of an exalcoholic that will tell you exactly which glass of wine, drink or glass is an addiction. It is still an endless story about fighting with yourself for recovery and stability. The Hare does not sell a miracle cure for breaking the addiction, but scrupulously tells the story of falling into and out of alcoholism, which continues after the end of treatment.
Halt. Zapiski z domu trzeźwienia is a strong guide, a serious autobiography, good literature or everyone`s story, because everyone has their own "little" addictions.

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FS:Relax, drink, you deserve it. So I take a glass of wine, a drink or two with my friend, whiskey on Saturday. I run, live, act, you know, the modern standard of functioning. But when I listen to that my body can only cope with one lamp, not two, and that addiction flows smoothly into our oceans of days, and to be honest, fear is pouring out. Because, damn, I can be an alcoholic now! Me, a sympathetic reader, who he is reading those words right now, and thousands of standard functioning people! Do you recognize it? Did you recognize this moment?

JZ: If you neglect other areas of your life because alcohol becomes more important than them, then a problem begins.




FS:There was an episode in my life that I became addicted to drugs. White dust and go junkies, go. It`s a long time behind me and I don`t even remember what it`s like to be high or to have a comedown. But I remember the feeling of emptiness before and the sudden filling of this emptiness with some crazy color, a seductive color, deviation of the senses and a decadent whisper. Then I felt like I was hiding inside myself and giving life to a different version of myself. And this has nothing to do with the more courageous, talkative, as they say: "Zenek will only pull someone when he's drunk, when he's sober, he's a looser"  kind of version. Rather, it`s a powerful sense of being that I couldn`t feel without the drug. In the world before the drug, I was living a little hyperventilating or apnea. Mostly in fracture. They say that only weak people drink.. Someone out there looks at the guy who drinks on the weekend or another day in a row and snorts with disgust that he should put his shit together Became serious. That childhood scratches, missed opportunities or whatever, breaking up with a girl are just pretexts to drink, That they don`t drink, and after all they went through it too, hell yeah! They`ve been through hell. Exactly. I remember my relative, an alcoholic, always saying, 'What do they know ?! They don`t know shit! They may have gone through Hell, but I, I have the whole Apocalypse!'

I know you`ve gotten into the nature of alcoholism - the nature of addictions, because in the end addictions are governed by the same specter - in many ways. How is it with this world prone to addiction that theirs is 3.9 meters from the rest, tilted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

JZ:  I can talk about myself, I have literature to discuss other people`s internal states (usually fictional). In the depths of the addict there is a beast, a monster that is constantly hungry and only lurks for the weakness of the organism in which he parasites. The beast waits for hunger, for impatience, for difficulties, for falls, and rushes up first to shake hands. But he doesn`t do it to help, he wants to tear out the hand away and then take all of you, forever, and all for himself.

FS: People were ashamed of alcoholism. That`s how I remember it when growing up. The relatives of these addicts also, flooded with shame like pickles with vinegar, created smoke curtains, powdered and frosted them. They pretended in front of the world, in front of their neighbors, until they all suffocated in the vinegar. And here, Jakub comes out with a book, with a nationwide, non-cake event, he comes out and says "My name is Jakub and I am an alcoholic." And you`re writing a book on rehab. You show a nice guy in his prime, intelligent, articulate, with a hobby, a loving family and a career plan outlined. Kuba, it`s like coming out of the shadow of LGBT communities. Do you understand that you are showing people an image completely different from the one they would like to cultivate in their programmed heads?
MO: Now I seem like a nice, goal-oriented person. It wasn`t like that before. I have touched many deniers, I have experienced my debasement. Only my stay in a drug rehabilitation center, the knowledge and support of therapists and people who treated with me there made me realize that in how I feel and experience emotions, I am not alone. I was able to see myself in others, also in the lies within them, which I finally recognized as my own. I became interested in the mechanisms of addiction, disease development and recovery. I have decided that my personal story is one of many, that there are a lot of people around me who feel very much like me and have experienced exactly the same states.

In the book, I do not only write about Jakub Zając, a Polish teacher from Krakow. In it I am looking for what an addicted individual has to do with an addicted community, a common denominator. It seems to me that it is emotions, the inability to control them, not controlling them and reacting inadequately both to difficulties and favorable situations. Addiction is an emotional disease. This is because we don`t deal with them. One of the many effects. It is an escape from loneliness, from fear of the future, from an "I" that is difficult to accept. It is much more important to talk about it than any of my shame. I`m not ashamed of myself.

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FS: I had a friend, let`s call him Mr. Broken. Every time Mr. Broken wanted to stand on his sober feet, someone reminded him that he had screwed up Zośka`s life, that he had lost one job because of drinking. He sits with me one day and says he won`t change. That everyone had put a cross on him anyway. Nobody believes him anymore, everyone reproaches him. They doubt. Lots of addicts give up in the first round. They have neither the strength nor the courage to leap over these extra levels of social condemnation. What do you think can be done to disenchant the image of Mr. Broken and raise public awareness? What to do to make people realize that Mr. Broken is first and foremost a broken soul that cannot cope with emotions and destroys himself in the first place? Is there any space for this type of understanding, or will we comfortably stick to the familiar "he is guilty himself, let him take care of himself"?

JZ:  I think the perception of alcoholism and alcoholics is changing a lot. It may not be happening at a dizzying pace, but the emerging publications, growing knowledge of the psychology of the individual, increasing knowledge of addictions, and generally increasing public awareness of healthy lifestyle issues, even the fashion for health, are conducive to positive changes. We choose therapy more often, we react more tolerantly, we are more attentive to problems related to mental health.


I think the awareness that alcoholism is a disease has always been in people. However, it was troubled by shame and fear of the opinion of society. Now this fear is less because society seems more tolerant. Despite everything. I think that the role of the media, including social media, which is already used by practically everyone, is important in this. If in this space there are content that brings the problem closer and explains it, it will be easier for all of us to break free from myths and stereotypes related to alcoholism and other socially important issues.

Photo credit: Marcin Choiński

FS: You said one sentence in one of the interviews, in the context of therapy and staying in an addiction center: “Looking for yourself is shaking off the world. It`s throwing dust off one arms, words, stimuli, all this hustle and bustle. Searching for yourself is not pushing forward. This is removing rubble from the world that hit us, attacked us." I heard similar words from a friend, completely free from addictions, who went to a place of retreat for a few weeks. From a friend who decided to meditate for two weeks in a tiny room without windows. From other people who practice self-hypnosis, silence, journaling, shadow work, and countdown. It sounds like a hippie-coo-coo-crazy-thing, but it`s becoming a Generation Z trend. And it works wonders! Heals the soul, emotions, head and heart. Addictions too. The adopted canon calls these hippie-coo-co-crazy-thing practices Therapy. Tell me, yes from experience, what awaits the average Broken Lord in therapy and how to persevere to go out into the world with a shield, not a shield?
JZ:  In therapy, there is a person waiting for you who does not judge you, does everything to understand, has tools that are helpful and wants to give them to you. And one more thing, he does not love or hate you, so he looks at you objectively and honestly assesses your condition. If you are asking yourself if you need therapy, it means you need it. If you are concerned that you are drinking too much, you are drinking too much.

FS: You said that in the last three years of sobriety, you did more than you did in your entire life. You have written a book, you participate in public, you promote a healthy lifestyle, you train, you develop new habits. You`re still in the process, but it`s already a healing process. What does an addiction do to a person, what does it steal, what does it destroy?

JZ:  Alcohol gave me shelter. It was a sanctuary where I could hide from problems. I drank alone, I hid from the world, and I needed no one or anything for my life. However, alcohol is appropriating, very demanding and cunning. From a friend, it quickly turns into a torturer, a parasite that sucks your interest in the world from you, disgusts it and twists it. Writing about how a person in the last, chronic phase of alcoholism feels was the most difficult for me, because in this phase you lose control over your emotions and over your mind. Imagine that you have been lying on the floor for several days and get up only to drink vodka or to vomit it, that it is impossible to stand on your feet without the enormous motivational effort that you know you will not be able to do for a long time. Everything around you is disgusting, terrible, and causes physical pain that squeezes tears, causes muscle tremors and a feeling of immeasurable emptiness that triggers a panic attack. You want to die or drink.


Sobriety didn`t make my problems go away, but I realized that I can deal with most of the problems, and if I can`t, then they are too big for me. Well, I accept that I am not omnipotent. In the past, I couldn`t understand that the fear that attacked me along with the craving for alcoholism can be overcome without alcohol. Now I know that you can, because I sometimes fight him and for almost four years I have been still winning, but only because I never put myself in the role of a favorite. I had developed a habit of facing, before that I had a habit of running away.

FS:You know, sometimes it seems to me that going through alcoholism, drug addiction, and other kinds of addiction and pathological obsessions is like going through a deadly disease. When a man crawls through the fall, shame, rejection, despair, depression, aggression and self-destruction, he becomes naked in front of himself and the world and is no longer ashamed of anything, not afraid of anything. That sometimes falling is the only way to regain and appreciate your own life. That sometimes an addiction is a way to find yourself. Do you agree with that?

JZ: Salvation is achieved through the depths of degradation. Dostoyevsky.

I don`t know if I agree. I think addiction cannot be overcome. You can stop it, but you are still addicted. The alcoholic does not "heal". If something prompted me to drink alcohol, I would have returned to the state from four years ago in a few weeks. I would drink apocalyptically right away.

I exchanged alcohol for other things. Instead of being "crazy" about drinking, I`m "crazy" about writing and working. I cannot (perhaps recover for a short time) believe that you can stop being addicted, completely get rid of this way of functioning. I treat him as a feature of my personality. As I sober up, I realize that I am not ONLY an alcoholic. I am also a son, brother, friend, partner, teacher, author. I am Jakub who still has many challenges and tasks to be performed.

FS:  If you could say a few words to little Kuba who doesn`t yet know that he has a hole in his soul, drinking and HALT, what would you say? What advice would you give him?

JZ: Do what you really enjoy.

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Photo credit: Marcin Choiński

FS:  Does Jakub Zając - writer, influencer, teacher, alcoholic - look in the mirror in 2022 and say "I love you, Kuba"?

JZ:  I am completely satisfied with the "love" heard from my mother, father and sister.

I could tell this in the mirror every morning that I love him, but I don`t want to piss him off. I know what he thinks about the automatic use of the word.

FS:  Your daily ritual to stay sober?

JZ: Phone call to my sister.


FS:  In conclusion: are there any meetings with you planned for FS readers in the near future?

JZ:  On August 25, 2022, I have an author`s meeting at Plac Wszystkich Świętych in Krakow (Nienasycenie cafe). In September, I plan meetings in Łańcut, Konin, Biała Podlaska, and then perhaps more in Warsaw, Łódź and Słupsk.

I announce each of these meetings on social media two weeks in advance, so it is enough to check my Instagram or FB from time to time.

I cordially invite you.

author`s website





HALT is a book that is not only worth reading, but it should find its way into the hands of doctors, therapists, teachers and parents, and above all, to adolescents. If I were still an active teacher, I would have been striving for compulsory admission to schools. Jakub, congratulations and please - keep writing.



We are not ready for the truth about ourselves, so HALT had to be powdered with metaphors and poetic comparisons. Without it, he would be indigestible. It would show the evil that is eating a hole in us. He is digging a tunnel to go out into the world.


And it turns out that from the so-called addiction therapy, we soar to the level of existence which, thanks to literature, reveals to us the hero whom Witkacy most fully and accurately characterized. The hare - like Genezyp Kapen - does not really understand anything, but his guts tear forever.


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Photo credit: Piotr Młynarczyk

Graphic compilation: KoKoKontent