I've once again challenged my dearest mother to a blog-a-day thing, just in time for the site rewrite. Maybe that was the point.
Since I've been in California and become a high-functioning alcoholic by nature of being employed in Silicon Valley, I've made attempts to try and go booze free for an entire month. I successfully pulled this off in 2013 and 2014, skipped 2015 because booze was required to make it through Voyager, and promptly forgot about the whole thing by 2016. I almost pulled it off again in 2017 when I had a wisdom tooth removed, but it turned out that the doctor's ban wasn't as extreme as I'd initially been lead to believe, so the month turned out to be more like a week.
Fast forward to today wherein I've just completed another full month of sobriety. At a time where I'm going through therapy and putting myself and my actions through more scrutiny than usual, it's been interesting to "watch" how I've coped with the lack of ethanol coursing through my body.
Recognizing that I was having more nights per week tipsy than not, I decided to give the Month of Sober test another whirl. I really had two reasons:
- A little bit of research suggests that the liver can repair itself from alcohol abuse within two to four weeks. So, I was giving my good buddy a chance to catch his breath.
- Prove to myself that I can resist the urge and am not beholden to the substance.
Knowing that most of my alcohol consumption is social in nature, I let my friends know what I was about to embark on and - perhaps a little too harshly - requested that the peer pressuring and good natured ribbing be kept to a minimum. I wasn't entirely sure where my resolve was going to fall this time around, so I tried to stack the deck both in and against my favor.
I finished my last drink at ~12:30am on February 1st, the remains of a drink I'd already been working on. As I trudged through those first few days, I had some legitimate cravings for beer (only ever beer), basically always when I was in some social situation where I'd generally be drinking (off-site lunches with co-workers). Additionally, I noticed myself being a little crankier than usual, but also having more drive than usual. Turns out when you're not working off a mild hangover in the evening from lunch drinking, you feel like you can do a whole lot in the evening. Not a single day went by during that first week where I didn't think about booze, but I made it through. Interestingly enough, when I was at home (so long as I wasn't playing video games with friends/family), I had absolutely no cravings for alcohol at all.
The second week had the first quasi-intentionally planned hurdle: a long weekend with friends up in Tahoe. Normally, while everybody else is skiing, I'm doing my own thing in the cabin and nursing a beer, the idea being to keep some sort of buzz going all day. When friends are around, things ramp up a bit. So, given that my MO for being on a snowy mountain is to drink and relax, this was particularly challenging. There were several times where my mind would subconciously be "you can have a sip", but I caught myself before I ruined a good streak. In the end, I settled for a few "chocolate" covered coffee beans to help me mellow out a little. I still had a good time and managed to not touch the boozes.
By the time I got into week 3, the sadness of not being able to drink with friends had subsided a bit. I had two more challenges lined up for this week: a nice game of golf (another excuse to drink and just have fun) and going to see the Book of Mormon. Being that I don't golf too seriously, not being tipsy took a lot of the fun I associated with the sport away, but driving the golf cart and watching my friend drink for me was still enjoyable. The only real "issue" with Book of Mormon was when we went and pre-gamed before the show. I wasn't really sure what to drink, so I asked for a virgin gin and tonic. The waitress gave me a funny look and said "...how about a virgin mojito instead?". Turns out her suggestion was a sound one, though it was basically soda and I really don't do soda anymore. By this time, my evening work has definitely seen an uptick, with me using that energy to rewrite this website, get some work done, make a video, whatever. I did enjoy that aspect.
Week four saw me settled into this role of non-drinking. The psychological cravings were still there, but not as bad as before, and I was beginning to get excited for entering back into that realm, but I had a worry: how do I approach my re-entry into the world of drinking? By this point, I'd basically proven to myself that I could actually quit any time I wanted to, but I didn't want to. Drinking is a fun activity to accompany doing things with friends and family and it definitely helps me loosen up and get over inhibitions (social lubrication is a very apt name). By the same token, I was enjoying some aspects of not drinking. Moderation is the word that comes to mind, but me being me, I need a plan for it. I still don't have a plan...
So, today, having successfully passed my personal test, my friends and I had a little lunch celebration and I imbibed again. It was a little weird at first, as I held the beer in my hand, but it was very rewarding to sip on that Lagunitas Fudge and Sickle Stout. In the toast, I did thank my friends for being mostly supportive, because that definitely does help.
What Did I Learn?
There are a few key take aways from this little journey:
- I am not completely controlled by alcohol, at least not in the "fifth of whiskey and beat my wife" kind of way.
- My desire to drink is almost 100% tied to me being in social situations. By myself, it really never entered my mind.
- Midday drinking has been responsible (in part) for some of my lack of energy in the evening.
- Things are way cheaper when you don't buy booze.
I still haven't quite decided how I want to balance all of this. During my abstinence, I had a lot of really interesting discussions with my friends. As I alluded to above, my internal mindset was counting days without drinking within a week, but one person suggested looking at in terms of number of drinks in a given time period. I think that'd be a good way for me to implement some kind of control in a manner my brain can wrap its mind around. Say... seven drinks per week. That could be one beer a day or seven GnTs in one sitting, but nothing the remainder of the week. That might be a good place to start.
I'm really glad that I did this again and am proud that I made it through. There was much to be learned about myself along the way, and I hope it's another stepping stone to a healthier mindset.
But, Jesus. If this is how I analyze one month of sobriety, the aftermath of losing my virginity is going to melt my poor brain...