Dry January, a horrible, awful recap.

Posted: February 5, 2014 in Beer & Food, Life As I Know It, Uncategorized Rambling
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hi Internets. I haven’t seen you in a while. That’s actually a lie. I just haven’t written to you in a while. Okay that’s a lie too. I’ve written to you a lot on the Facebooks and the Twitterness, but I haven’t written in long-form in a space that only my family and best friends read because who cares to read about my boring life. I mean, hi! Thanks for reading! I’m blogging again! Boobs!

So I did this thing called Dry January. I think that’s what it’s called. I had some friends at an old running club who had a thing called Dry January, so that’s just what I assume it’s called. I’ve heard Drynuary too, but I’m too simple to pronounce that so I stay away. Too many syllables and consonant vowel intersections. I’m the French-Irish version of white; my tongue doesn’t work that way.

That’s what he said? No, probably not.

So I didn’t drink for the month of January. I’m a giant craft beer fan. I love the boozes. I have a passion for hand-made brew, and I get aroused over a good bourbon & whiskey. And yet, I decided that January was a month that I should not drink. Oh the Patriots games, and the Bruins games, and the floor hockey season, and the random bar nights. And I said no. From 10p on New Years Eve until 2p on February First, no drop of alcohol made its way into my system. Yes, I’m a crazy person.

I did this for two reasons. One, to prove to myself I could. Two, to learn how not to drink.

You see, drinking is a tough one for me. I come from an alcoholic home. I cannot take a sip of alcohol, pretty much ever, without wondering if this might kill me. My mother was an alcoholic. One time I found a dozen empty vodka bottles in her room, after having cleaned it out only 3 months before.  It killed her. And so I have this thing where I drink it and I try to connect with her through it. Only I engage in this perspective where I enjoy it, I find fulfillment in it, and I appreciate it the way a carpenter would see a well-made chair from across the room and understand the struggle and the achievement. I drink. More than I should. And I understand the struggle and the achievement. I’m in love with the agent of my mother’s death.

I wanted to teach myself how not to drink. It’s second nature, really, the act of saying “yes” when the question is “do you want another drink?” But the ability to say no, and then manage the occupation of your time for the next two hours while everyone around you tries another IPA or found that rum & diet too weak, is as hard-fought as it is infrequent. It’s really all time management, I guess. Instead of sipping on a beer you play a game on your phone or wonder where Tom Petty is from or pretend winning a billion dollars or pretend the blonde in the corner would totally give you her number when you approach her — it’s focus.

In the month I didn’t drink I started really unhappy. Partially because I really wanted a drink sometimes, but mostly because I couldn’t help but come face to face with the ridiculously common instances where I would normally drink. It was kind of depressing, noting all the times I would have said yes. The first two weeks were mostly about me realizing when I would’ve had a drink, and then figuring out how I could say no. But the trick wasn’t just in saying no, it was in saying no honestly. The trick was figuring out why I didn’t, and shouldn’t, want to drink.

And then I started to find better reasons to say no. I enjoyed hangover free Saturday mornings when I’d actually get up at 7:30 and go for a run and then (despite the 11lbs of bacon for breakfast) feel productive and good about myself. I was told I was happier. I was told my skin was better. I felt significantly more in touch with people who cared about me. Alcohol was a mediation for my interactions that I trusted and was used to. It was like a soft padding around so many of the things I did.

All in all this isn’t some methodology or evidence gathering expedition for reasons not to drink. It was, at its core, an experiment. To see if I could do it, and to see what I would learn. It’s really not all as doom and gloom as it sounds, even if the potential long term (and even short term) effects are, well, disastrous. I think there are implications that are much more serious than the day-to-day difficulties would indicate, but the day to day difficulties in restraint (and in the pleasure of drinking) don’t necessarily have direct linkage to long term consequences. Even in someone in my shoes can drink regularly without issue, but again it’s a matter of focus. Sometimes literally; I have turned into a craft beer/wine/whiskey snob as a way to ensure there’s actual appreciation and not just substance abuse.

But, back to the recap, yeah? I was surprised how often I found myself identifying a time when I would’ve normally had a drink. That generally was every night. It’s not always 6 beers, most times it’s a single drink with dinner, but it was still enough to give me pause upon reflection. As time wore on I got better and better at replacing the desire to drink with something else. If the urge was there, then instead of feeding it with booze, I’d feed it with something else. Sometimes it was exercise, most of the time it was tea. Or powdered Arnold Palmer mix because that shit is delicious.

I even became adept at going to the bar without drinking. Much to the horror surprise of the bartenders & servers that know me (and holy shit that was semi-ridiculous to realize, a LOT of bartenders and servers know me by name) I would hang out for hours at a time with friends/family sipping on water, or a diet Coke if I felt the need to splurge. Sprite sometimes too, I guess. But never something as plebeian as Dr. Pepper, fear not.

I got used to replacing drinking with other things, I got used to managing the urge, I got used to hanging out in bars without drinking, I got used to going to dinner and sporting events without drinking. In the end it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be, merely just a pain in the butt. Once I understood exactly WHAT I had to manage on a daily basis it was pretty simple. But I think the hardest part was the consistent realization of how much I normally drink.

All told, in the end I learned a lot, and was very excited about getting back to drinking. Or at least, getting back to the opportunity to imbibe. My first drink(s) were samples of bourbon, vodka, and bitters at the Breckenridge Distillery. Honestly they didn’t taste that great to me, I was nervous. I bought a bottle of bourbon, though, and had some on the rocks back at the hotel despite my fear that I had maybe somehow lost my taste for the boozes. It was glorious. I loved the taste of it, loved the scent, and even found that my palate was more sensitive than I remembered it being. After that I had wine. Also glorious. Then the next day I had Coors Light, because I enjoy terrible things.

So it was a weird journey. I did a lot of facing potential demons. Maybe less facing them, and more looking at maps of causality to try to determine where the demons would reside, and plotting a course around them. I did a lot of learning about myself. Honestly I probably just did a tremendous amount of overthinking (as I am wont to do) about it all, but hey I stayed sober and didn’t die. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

I think Dry January will become a regular occurrence. It was a good exercise, it was the catalyst for too much a good amount of introspection, and it was a fulfilling learning experience. If anything, I’m inclined to drink less now just because I really loved not waking up with hangovers. I think I gave significantly more weight to a lot of the potential negatives than necessary, but hey, those things are in my head. I may as well deal with them, even if I sound like a heavy-handed Bon Iver song, sans falsetto.

I’m happy I did it, but I’m happier to feel like I have a better handle on keeping drinking in my life with a more moderate approach. Moderation in everything was something I preached, but never practiced. Here’s to getting back on the horse, eh? Or is it the wagon? I’m never sure…

This blog was long. Sorry.


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