On the First of January, I quit drinking.
This is probably going to be the worst article for a Booze Blog I could ever write, considering that there will be absolutely no drinking in this article. However, bear with me. I promise it gets better.
January 1, 2017 I woke up with a horrible, no good, very bad hangover. The type of hangover that sits around and waits for you to feel slightly less like shit and then, POW, hits you again with all new symptoms of awfulness and regret. We’ve all been there, we’ve all done that, we’ll all, probably, do it again. But this hangover was something special. After the dumpster fire of 2016, I didn’t want my start into this fresh, beautiful, sparkling new year to be already soiled and degraded by yet another hangover, yet another swearing to God that I would Never, ever do this again, just please make the world stop spinning.
So I swore off alcohol for January. Many of my imbibing friends take “Sober January” to ease back from the wild excesses of the holidays. It’s a time to examine the banking app and laundry bills, throw away (or eat) all the leftover children’s candy, and make a sturdy attempt at reducing the waistline from the holiday glut.
For the first three days, at around 3-4pm, I found myself wondering where my drink was. With the holidays and general stress of the end of the year, I had taken to happy hour like a fish takes to water. I was thirsty. But now I had cut myself off, and my subconscious was all too aware what time it was and it was asking serious questions about why it didn’t hear any hissing bubbles or clinking glass. I mixed up a tasty club soda and bitters (The go-to non-alcoholic cocktail for soothing the stomach and subconscious mutterings) and told myself to get a grip. (I have always been a firm believer that I like booze far too much to ever become an alcoholic. I don’t ever want to have to give it up, but if I can’t keep control of myself and of my own boozing, then the booze has got to go. And no one wants to kill off a good habit if they don’t have to.)
After my subconscious and I had our chat, the rest of the month went smoothly. I wasn’t looking for drinks, wasn’t pining for drinks, and thankfully, didn’t lust after drinks when I got off work. Yay, me.
However, I did notice some other changes about me during my break from booze. I was sleeping a lot more. Booze has a lot of sugar in it and I hadn’t noticed the increase in insomnia that goes along with drinking. Not only was I sleeping more, but I was sleeping better. My dreams, when I had them, were much more vivid and interesting. My face lost some of the doughy, puffiness that comes with drink, and I developed a new lust for dark, dark greens. I’ve been experimenting with a garlic Swiss chard recipe to satisfy the cravings.
During the month, I went to a wine and cheese party at a friend’s house and, while staying true to my vow, I found that just smelling the aroma of the wine was a heady experience. I’ve been getting up earlier in the morning, just to take in the occasional dawn, or smell the fresh(ish) dew on the city streets. It's an amazing feeling, walking through a city that is just waking up. You feel special, like you're in on a secret that very few people get to share. Talking with my friends who were also Sober January-ing, we all had relatively similar experiences. As one of my scientist friends likes to say “Chemicals. All we are is chemicals. And you can fuck yourself up or straighten yourself out with chemicals!” It should be noted that he is a professional chemist and may have a slightly skewed idea of how humans experience the world.
And now here we are, a full 31 days off of the sauce, and I have a new appreciation of the world around me, how thin a line it can be between indulgence and dependence, and how important it is to re-examine your relationship with your vices from time to time.
And, now that my month long sabbatical has ended, the shackles have been released, and I'm free to dust off the old vices, I'm not really all that bothered about when I'll actually break my dry spell. Perhaps I'll find my way to a finger of single malt tonight or perhaps I'll find a Mai Tai in an old tiki bar over the weekend. Perhaps this spell will last a while longer until the next party. Or perhaps something awful will appear on the news and I'll find myself in a dive bar with strangers, drowning our sorrows in a pitcher or six.
When I do take my next drink, it'll be a different and new experience and one I hope that I'm thoroughly present and in the moment for. There is too much deliciousness to be found in a glass to simply guzzle, quaff, and forget.
Happy 2017, friends, and may your next drink be a delicious one and an intentional one.
Jeff has been a professional writer, bartender, and clown, sometimes all at once. He grew up along California's central coast before disappearing into the wilds of San Francisco. He appeared sporadically in those foggy mists as a featured artist for the Ramshackle Farm art gallery, a founding writer for Mockery Press, and an actor and clown on the Embarcadero and in a number of local theater companies. He tended bar in a range of dive bars before heading East to travel Europe and drink in those sights, and he does mean "drink". After his bank account and his liver required a break, he dropped back into the City and was astonished at how much rents had gone up.
Jeff currently resides in San Francisco and is the proud protector of two apartment-sized animals and a rent controlled apartment lease.