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Goodbye Booze, For Now

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Happy New Year everyone. So I’m starting 2017 by not drinking any alcohol for four months.

The decision wasn’t made in the throes of a January 1st hangover. I had committed to an extended teetotaling break a few weeks before, the morning after attending the staff Christmas party of my former employer.

It was a rather restrained night, as far as get-togethers at the pub go. But the next day I remembered a detail that made me realize I’ve been making a huge miscalculation the entire eighteen years I’ve been drinking.

There seem to be three basic relationships a person can have with drinking. There are drinkers, dabblers and teetotalers.

Teetotalers never touch the stuff. Dabblers may have a glass of wine or a beer now and then, or even regularly, but they only occasionally have enough that they’d have to call a cab. They see drunkenness as an accident, a morally salient line one should avoid crossing. Drinkers get drunk on purpose, and obviously believe it’s worthwhile.

I have always been in the drinker category. Throughout my adult life, I’ve regularly gone out with the intention of having six or more drinks, sometimes many more. This is socially acceptable where I come from, but only recently has that begun to seem strange to me. 

It seems like a mistake of history that our species has such a casual fondness for what is actually a very hard drug. It’s only drinking’s popularity that makes it seem like a sane thing to do—fairly normal doses are enough to make people sway and stumble, say rude things, throw up, writhe in bed the next day, and often much worse. It’s addictive, expensive, frequently life-ruining. Even the kindest person in the world, having had enough alcohol, becomes awful to be around.

I’ve mostly kept myself within the bounds of “socially acceptable” drinking, for what it’s worth. I don’t drink alone, I don’t drink and drive, and I’m only rarely the drunkest person in the room. But I’ve been drunk a lot. Over twenty years, it’s almost certainly more than five hundred times, maybe a thousand.

How is it possible for drunkenness to be such a worthwhile drug experience that I’d do a thousand times? Even if it was free, physiologically healthy and zero-calorie, the drug itself still represents a very questionable tradeoff in terms of mental faculties. For a few hours, you gain some relief from rumination and stress, and it’s easier to laugh and open up. But you lose a significant degree of what are probably the best human capacities: judgment, self-control, intelligence, basic awareness and kindness.

Maybe others are getting more out of it than I do, and giving up less. But for me it is very obviously a bad deal, and it’s getting worse as I get older.

An obsolete tool

It may have been a good deal at first. When I was in my teens and early twenties, drinking probably gave me a net benefit socially. Those first few years of drinking came with a real social freedom a shy person like me couldn’t get any other way. After a few drinks I could talk to people easily and I made friends quickly, and I had no other tools for doing that.

But I’m no longer an awkward teenager who’s afraid to talk to people. I have more chances to socialize than I can make use of. I seldom stress about work. I like my life. And I like myself, except when I’m remembering being drunk.

My drinking has tapered off from more than once a week to less than once a month. I drink so infrequently for a “drinker” that it didn’t seem worth quitting. So why is this suddenly troubling me twenty years into my drinking career?

That night out in December shattered two myths I’ve used to rationalize my drinking habit. To make the story short, I woke the next day feeling intense shame about a flippant comment I’d made to the bartender. It wasn’t mean, just snarky and abrupt. I doubt I offended him through his hardened bartender skin.

(*Because I know people will ask, I’ve included the entire story in an endnote.)

I know I’ve made many unhelpful remarks like that over the years, but there was a reason it got to me this time. That morning, I remembered exactly how I felt as I made the comment—and I know that I felt aware, restrained, almost sober.

This was alarming, because I believed my many years of drinking had left me with a somewhat reliable sense of how unreliable my faculties were at any given stage of impairment. Who knows on how many other occasions I believed I was sober enough to be witty and still polite, but had already become annoying and oblivious.

The mirage of responsible drinking

For a long time I’ve believed I could achieve a sort of “happy window”, about a drink past “tipsy”, where I could reap the upsides of the drug without reaching the point where the serious downsides kick in. Theoretically, I could enjoy the freewheeling spirit alcohol offered without getting obnoxious or overly familiar. Obviously I would overshoot that window sometimes, but I could dismiss that as an error in execution, not in the plan itself.

However, that morning I was mortified at my behavior, and I knew I hadn’t overshot my window. I had monitored myself as well as I knew how to.

That horrible morning, I spent two hours journaling on the topic of alcohol: why I drink, what it does for me, what it costs me, and why the idea of abstaining completely is so scary. The list of costs was long and alarming—the financial and caloric costs alone are enormous, and they’re nothing compared to my growing morning-after self loathing, interactions that are worse than I realize, and the disruption to my fitness and meditation regimens.

The list of upsides was pathetic. I don’t feel any social advantages anymore, so I was left with stuff like: People will bug me for not drinking. I might not get invited to things where most people are drinking. Beer tastes really good sometimes.

This journaling also led to the other major revelation: all those fun memorable nights out with friends weren’t great because I was drunk, they were great because I was with my friends. This was a basic attribution error: Parties are fun. I am drunk at parties. Being drunk is what makes parties fun.

It’s clear now that if there is a responsible, happy window for me, I can’t depend on knowing where it is if I’ve been drinking. And that means the kind of moderation I believed I was practicing either doesn’t exist, or I am still incapable of it after twenty years of drinking experience.

Canceling a bad deal

Even “restrained” drunkenness erodes almost every part of my personality that I like. Alcohol still makes me feel free, on a very superficial level, but only in exchange for turning me into a person that would annoy me if I was sober. Responsible drinking, for me, seems to mean not drinking, or at least not being drunk.

So I decided not to touch the stuff until May, when I take a trip to the UK. I reserve the right to visit a pub. After that I’ll have a lot more insight into what life is like both with and without this habit.

Still, I doubt I’ll never drink again. There is communion to be found in drinking with others, and I don’t think it’s all an illusion. While alcohol does break down a lot of inhibitions that keep us from doing stupid things, not all of our inhibitions are good—booze is known for making people feel free to tell their friends they love them, for one thing. Sometimes these confessions are sloppy and sentimental, but sometimes they’re genuine and long overdue. Clearly there are healthier ways to achieve that openness, but we are fearful beings and we don’t always find them.

This communion effect is a major reason I resisted taking a break, and at least part of the reason our species is so fond of this substance. The drug is not—maybe unfortunately—devoid of value. It just has so many costs, depending on the person, that it may not be worthwhile to use it often, or at all.

How is your relationship to alcohol? Are you comfortable with its place in your life?

Photo by Fabrizio Russo

***

*Six of us remained after the bulk of the Christmas party had cleared out of a local pub. I told the bartender, in what I thought was a joking tone, “You’re the worst bartender we’ve ever had!” To my surprise, he did not laugh and neither did anyone else in our party. I had meant it as lighthearted remark to break the tension after someone had called him out for ignoring our end of the bar. We had interpreted his obtuseness as poor service, but in hindsight it was clearly a passive-aggressive attempt to get us all to leave—one remaining former co-worker was in rough shape, having started drinking that afternoon. He needed to be escorted to a cab before he fell asleep on his stool, but nobody was taking the initiative to do that. We knew him but were not quite friends with him, and so nobody felt responsible for him. I suppose we believed that he had chosen to drink irresponsibly, unlike ourselves, and the bartenders had overserved him but now considered him our problem to solve. My comment was meant to tone down the confrontation level, but unbeknownst to me it was completely tone-deaf and out of place.

Even though I was nowhere near our colleague’s level of intoxication, I was still completely oblivious to what was actually happening, including how my comment landed, until the morning after. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was in a position to help several people who needed help. All I did was make a ham-handed comment that I never would have made if I had been even close to the person I am when I’m sober. Yet I remember in that moment feeling like I was only “responsibly tipsy”—still sharp and witty, and miles from being crass. Realizing all of this the following morning was mortifying and I don’t ever want to be that unaware again. 

***

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Linda Myers January 8, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Your story sounds a LOT like mine. My last drink was on December 10, 1990. I’m what is called a “high bottom drunk.” Didn’t lose a car, or a job, or my kids, never got a DUI. But I knew. That shame you talk about, the rationalizing.

Twenty-six years later, my life is more than I would ever have imagined. I a have a wide community of friends, sober and “normies.”

Wishing you well!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:17 am

That makes it hard to say enough — when nothing is being destroyed, just eroded. I’ve heard so many stories of people’s lives being torn apart by alcohol, but it was just quietly limiting me so it never seemed obvious to quit.

Belladonna Took January 8, 2017 at 11:46 pm

I guess I’m what you’d call a dabbler. I thoroughly enjoy a couple glasses of wine with a fancy dinner, and kicking back at the tail end of a hot day I love a glass of ice cold beer. But I rarely drink alone or when there’s not some kind of “occasion” – not a big social affair; I don’t generally do those anyway, but a conscious “Ahh … this is good … let’s open a bottle of something delicious and let its flavor permeate the moment”. I simply do not understand what drives people who intentionally go out and get drunk. I’ve been drunk a few times – as a university student – and figured out that I hated it, and I don’t find it fun.

Yeah, I’m probably sounding self-righteous, but bear with me – that’s not where I’m coming from. I too fully share the aftertaste of shame that comes when you lose self-control, only in my case it doesn’t happen with booze – it happens with food. There are few things more disgusting than the sight of a fat person stuffing food into their face! But food is comforting – it gives me something to talk about, or a reason to smile and not say anything (because my mouth is full) – and a hostess should be complimented when you go back for a third helping, right? And it’s as big as the first helping because everything is so delicious that you don’t want to leave any of it off your plate … And then you realize everyone is sitting around the table waiting for you to finish so they can move on to dessert, or coffee.

I am uncomfortable in many social situations, especially around strangers. Being fat makes me feel more uncomfortable. So I eat compulsively, because it calms me down. I’ve left situations like that drunk with food and barely able to walk, loudly joking about my greedy appetite, and sick with shame. I wish I could just give up eating, because it is SO HARD to be a dabbler where that is concerned!

Cara January 9, 2017 at 8:23 am

Hi Belladonna ~ I relate SO deeply with you. More than you know. You’re exactly right that dealing with compulsive overeating is different than putting a cork in the bottle for a drinker. And that’s exactly why the founder of Overeaters Anonymous adapted the 12-Step Program of AA (well, Gamblers Anonymous, really) to abstaining from food and eating behaviors. I’ve just passed through my 21st Holiday Season abstinently, and despite the changes and chances of life over the years, the one thing I’ve consistently been free of is the self loathing you express so honestly. If you feel so inclined, have a gander at the http://www.oa.org website, and see if you relate to what’s there. And, please, if I can answer questions for you, that’s what I’m here for!

Debbi January 9, 2017 at 8:26 am

I think that you are really brave to talk about this in a culture where overeating is often treated as a sign of weakness, not a complicated set of issues. As a person who tends to do better when I can simply stop doing something rather than try to exercise moderation, I can see where compulsive eating would be a particularly thorny issue since, as you point out, you cannot simply stop eating. Have you called your local hospitals to see if they have or recommend any groups to help you with this? If insurance and finances permit, have you considered seeing a professional? My heart breaks for you since so much of our social lives revolve around food and this is a place where you are struggling. With all the food baggage that pretty much every American female over the age of 10 carries around with them, this may be something that you cannot manage alone.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:21 am

I think it has a lot to do with what your first experiences are like. For me it was like discovering this world of freedom, learning I could talk to people and dance and actually be how I wanted to be in a certain sense.

Arthur Guerrero January 8, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Good post David, I wish you luck!

I’ve been flirting with this idea as well for a few months now. I already got myself accustomed to going out to bars and being able to stay social and fun throughout the night with 2 beers.

Of course, I still get occasionally drunk at home or when I have a designated driver. There’s a lot less drunk nights for me but I’ve still been thinking if it’s time to take a long break to see what happens…

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:25 am

Thanks Arthur. I think there is a meaningful barrier between 2 and 3 drinks (at least for someone of my bodyweight). That third drink makes it a different kind of night. I’m not going to touch the stuff for this four months but then after that I think that boundary will become a useful one for me.

Michael Crosby January 9, 2017 at 2:01 am

Drank all my life. Teetotalling sounds radical, but if you’re successful for four months, try a year.

Here’s what you’ll discover:
Most people don’t drink. It only appears so, because what you do is mirrored by those around you.
You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.
Life is much more enjoyable when you’re fully in control.
You’ll be much much more happier.

Even if you think you’re not an alcoholic, for shits and giggles go to a few AA meetings and take it seriously.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:28 am

I suspect you’re right on all these points and I’m looking forward to finding out what it’s like first hand.

Aliana January 9, 2017 at 2:19 am

I’m with you on this one David!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:28 am

High five!

Vilx- January 9, 2017 at 2:20 am

Guess I’m a teetotaller then. I’ve tasted alcohol maybe, like, 5 times in my entire life (I’m almost 32 at this point), and I’ve no idea what being drunk/hangover feels like. I’ve no desire to find out either. But I’ve never felt any sort of lack because of it. Even social pressure to drink has been rare. Normally when you tell people that you “don’t drink at all” they simply leave you alone and don’t mention it again. But then again, maybe I’ve just gotten lucky. Anyways, I hope you have as good of an experience of not-drinking as I’ve had. Cheers! :)

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

Good to know. I think as a drinker I overestimate the peer pressure as a sneaky way to dismiss the idea of quitting.

Elisabeth January 9, 2017 at 2:22 am

Proud of you for making this decision. Praying you can do it, and it changes your life immensely,

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:30 am

Hey thanks Elisabeth :)

Nick Hilden January 9, 2017 at 2:23 am

I had the same realization recently. I wrote a piece on my own relationship with alcohol and giving it up (http://lifedonewrite.com/2016/02/06/the-party-was-great-but-its-winding-down-why-booze-and-drugs-are-losing-their-appeal-for-me-at-least/) but it took several months to actually grind things to a halt. I ended up moving down to a small town in the middle of nowhere in Mexico for two months just so I would be away from easy socialization. The locals kept asking “who comes to Mexico to quit drinking?” It worked. Got a lot of writing done. Cheers

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:37 am

Thanks for this Nick. I agree with you that drugs aren’t intrinsically bad. But I was using this one, as you say, like a hammer (even using the phrase “getting hammered” sometimes).

Nick Hilden January 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Beyond health and so forth, the money it saves is incredible. I quit smoking at the same time I quit drinking, and I started using this app that takes out the amount I was spending on booze and cigarettes on a daily basis and shifts it to a savings account. It adds up quick. That’s a lot of money for travel.

Zoe January 9, 2017 at 2:25 am

I’m definitely a dabbler… I enjoy some drinking during social occasions, but rarely have enough to make me feel more than slightly tipsy. I’ve never been drunk to the point of being sick, either… when I was a student, even if I drank lots, I would inevitably reach a point where my body simply refused to drink anything else and so I’d stop…

But I have been ashamed of my behaviour before, so I’d rather not go beyond a couple of glasses. “Happy drunk” is okay, but “depressed drunk” is not fun. I also don’t see the appeal of sitting down for a gourmet meal and ordering the restaurant’s recommended wine accompaniments for every single dish. One glass of wine will get me through the meal just fine (although I may have an aperitif and/or a dessert wine as well, very occasionally). Having a different glass with each course ends up with me feeling dizzy and having to try very hard not to wobble when going to the loo. It’s just embarrassing and harder to enjoy the lovely food (which is expensive enough as it is, in those places). So no thanks. ;-)

Good luck with your four months teetotal. I’m interested to see what you’ll discover and how you might feel when you do have a drink in that pub. Which part of the UK are you going to?

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

Thanks Zoe. Wine in restaurants is such a ripoff! I’ll be glad to be done with that racket.

The UK trip is still wide open. I’m planning to spend a fair bit of time there, but the only set-in-stone visits are London and a meditation retreat in Devon. I’ll be making many more stops but it’s not planned yet.

Zoe January 9, 2017 at 10:09 am

Ooh, where in Devon? My husband comes from there and we often visit. It’s a lovely place. I’m sure it will be perfect for a meditation retreat.

Any chance of you coming to mainland Europe at all?

Russell January 9, 2017 at 2:31 am

Hey David

All the best for a good New Year, as I see in prior comments on this post that there is a considered opinion that not drinking alcohol is a very forward step.
I will join the chorus of teetotallers and encourage you to recognise the profitability of staying with a non-drinking lifestyle.

There is a definite energetics attached to alcohol that I don’t believe is one that you want to have in your lifestyle.

I think you will find you will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that actually acknowledge and recognise that nondrinking of alcohol is a good thing.

As the mindfulness practitioner that I know you are I am sure your questioning leads you to a point that you know yourself alcohol is not advantageous to any form of spiritual growth of personal satisfaction.

Now in my 10th year of no alcohol I have no intention start again and indeed would actually be disappointed if I found I had excuse to use alcohol as some form of medication, entertainment, social connectedness.

Regards Russell

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:49 am

I didn’t have room to go into it in the post but I know that the catalyst for this change was the meditation retreat I went on in June. Since then I’ve been meditating more than twice as much and it is a much bigger part of my life. The morning-after shame was always there but it started to become unbearable only since then. Alcohol clearly is at odds with how much I value awareness and a clear mind, and so it’s gotta go.

Don January 9, 2017 at 2:36 am

An easy way to to get yourself to quit drinking is to have someone video tape you when you are drunk. When you watch you will be surprised at the ridiculousness of your behavior and what a fool you look like. It will make you not want to look like that ever again.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:50 am

I’m sure you’re right about this, and I don’t ever want to see that.

Erwin Cuellar January 9, 2017 at 2:37 am

Where are you from David? You said this is socially acceptable where you come from. I’m from Austin and it is exactly the same here.

My relationship with alcohol started when I was in my teens but this past year I’ve been very focused on achieving goals I never would have thought possible. My goals motivate me so much that I don’t want to risk losing any of the speed at which my mind operates now. When I drank more, I could always feel my mind struggle to think hard, even a day or 2 after drinking. I couldn’t imagine the longer-term consequences and always felt like it was putting low-quality fuel into a race car.

It wasn’t until last year that I made friends in the medical field that I realized my mind was having to operate at 100% capacity just to keep up with their conversation, while sober. They didn’t drink either so this set a good example for me.

I haven’t banned drinking, but I’ve consumed way less this past year. This has partly been motivated by my newer, more ambitious and more intelligent social circle, and my higher goals. I also want to be remembered for when I am at my best, not at my worst. At my best, I am knocking out goals, working out, smiling, moving, and contributing to the world. I just want to keep spending more time at my best.

As a blogger, I’ll be curious to see how this plays out for you. Will this lead to a higher writing output in 2017? More quality blog posts? Good luck!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:52 am

It will probably lead to more and better work. Drinking just takes so much time. Days after I drink, I don’t write, I don’t meditate and I don’t exercise. It will certainly benefit my output.

Carsten Otto January 9, 2017 at 2:40 am

Hey, thank you for the article. Could you add a word or two to connect this to your older experiment #3?

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:54 am

This article was already too long so I cut out the part about that experiment. I have a TON of thoughts on this subject and it was hard to keep it trim.

I remember how I felt when I had my first beer after taking a month off. I *loved* the taste of it, the coldness, the act of drinking it. But really disliked how even one drink made me feel. It make me feel a little mean, a little careless. I went to bed feeling like crap. I should have learned more from that experience.

sally January 9, 2017 at 2:43 am

I am a dabbler. I have very rarely had more than two drinks on one occasion (three max) and I don’t drink often. I struggle more with food.

I think this is a very worthwhile experiment and I wish you well.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 9:55 am

Food is a tough one because teetotaling is not an option. I have different problems with it, and the thing that has been most helpful is the mindful eating I mentioned two articles ago. That book changed my relationship with food.

Anita January 9, 2017 at 3:08 am

Good on you the realize this and try to do something about it. Still: I don’t know what the fuss is about, sorry.
You are basically doing a no-alc time appr. 1/4 of the time a normal woman does, when she gets pregnant and then breastfeeds (I’m going here with the average of 16 months (9+7) without alcohol). Staying off alcohol for just 4 months is no problem at all unless you are addicted. This might be a worthwhile experiment for you – not sure if it warrants a long post about this – but maybe for you it does, it’s also ok. You might want to stake your goals a bit higher though and cut yourself a slack for the UK. I don’t want to sound harsh but those were my thoughts ….
Beware though when you go to the UK: your system will have recovered a bit and you will get drunk on a much lower amount than you are used to now. When I was in university I could drink a bottle of vodka without being very drunk (and I was just a social drinker). Now, however, I can feel just one glass of wine going to my head after 2 pregnancies ….
And I mostly just drink with meals if at all. I can’t see the benefits of getting drunk – and that’s me saying who has never had a hangover (my body just doesn’t do this no matter how much I drink). I still don’t see the point.
And the feeling of being free …. try to find something else, because if you just feel it intoxicated you clearly missing out huge parts of life. I could recommend various types of extreme sport or just a sport which will get you into an automatic movement – your body will respond similar as if drunk. I experienced this with mountaineering – some others swear by running ….

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:05 am

This is a weirdly condescending post. Are you aware that other people have had different lives than yours?

Anita January 9, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I realize, that I seem to be the only person here not to clap your shoulders as you wish to …. I did not mean to be condescending – and I am intensly aware of other people as well. It sounds like you feel offended because you think I don’t seem to fully appreciate the effort you feel you are putting in? Sorry, that was not my intend. Good on you to give this a try …
However, you gave the impression (also in other posts) that you’d rather appreciate honesty …. I just thought it was a weird post and a weird – not very high-stake – goal to post such a long entry about. That’s it. In other blogposts you have set yourself goals which were far more challenging. This doesn’t sound like it is … 4 months is not very long. Or let me rephrase this: for half the population in the “western world” 16+ months without any alcohol are normal. Is the 4 month period just because you are going to the UK or would you have chosen a different time span if you would not go there?

Jean January 9, 2017 at 3:08 am

I drank like a fish when I was younger, and though never an ‘angry drunk’ I was still annoying, slurring, falling down drunk. People would tell me of the horrible embarrassing things I had said and done; and then suddenly I just stopped drinking, for ages, over a year or more. When I did next take a drink to toast a marriage, I found I just didn’t enjoy the taste of alcohol anymore. I learnt that socializing while sober was far more fun and also I didn’t have the horrid nearly recollections of things done in error under the influence. The scary thing for me was realizing how many of the friends I always thought of as great party people where incapable of interacting unless they were drunk. That was a wake-up call for me!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:14 am

That’s similar to the experience I had when I took 30 days off as an experiment back in 2009. But it wasn’t long enough to really get used to all aspects of life as a non-drinker.

I feel lucky that I don’t have any “drinking only” friends anymore. My friends are awesome people and we have great interactions even when I’m not drinking.

DiscoveredJoys January 9, 2017 at 3:46 am

Me? I’m a light dabbler, although I was a ‘regular’ drinker in University (but two spectacular hangovers stopped me from growing the habit into a lifestyle). Now Mrs DiscoveredJoys is an even lighter dabbler, perhaps having a ‘spritzer’ with a meal shared with friends….

All of which makes me think that most people drink as a part of their social connections with others (getting tipsy with tipsy friends, drunk with drunken friends), unless they internalise this activity as essential to their identity and start drinking to excess when alone.

My prediction is that you will find it difficult to remain a teetotaller amongst drinking friends unless you volunteer to be the designated driver, claim some ‘metabolic disease’ prevents you drinking, or (in the extreme) change your friends.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:18 am

Luckily my friends who drink are long-time friends that I have always had a lot of non-drinking interactions with. I don’t have to pretend I’m “allergic” or anything like that. When I took 30 days off back in 2009 I still attended the same parties and functions, I just left earlier, clearheaded with a lot more money in my wallet.

Dave Hughes January 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

David, your comment addressed the point I was going to make (after reading through the previous comments to make sure I wouldn’t duplicate a previous remark). I’m glad you have good friends, who will be your friends whether you are drinking or not. I’ve known some people for whom I am their friend as long as I’m drinking with them, but as soon as I stop drinking with them, they seem to have no further use for me. It’s like I make it possible for them to not have to drink alone.

Scot January 9, 2017 at 4:31 am

I’ve stopped drinking with the people I work with. I think it’s the worst situation to go drinking – anything work related really isn’t “social” and for the most part colleagues really aren’t friends.

Fortunately it’s seems to be easier to avoid work related drinking than it used to be (when I was young, it was pretty much daily drinking). Judicious holiday planning avoids the Christmas party and then it’s mostly avoiding leaving do’s.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:21 am

I was always judicious about my drinking at Christmas parties when I was still an employee. It was quite different being an ex-employee. But yeah, it’s a bad place to be trashed.

Mije January 9, 2017 at 4:41 am

You are right, social drinking can be a form of communion and a way to become close to others. For that reason, I feel that it can be a highly effective social tool.

Nevertheless, I stopped drinking five years ago and I don’t think I will ever go back. Although I miss the communion aspect of drinking alcohol, there is almost nothing better than having a clear head and a feeling of well-being that being teetotal can help facilitate.

Truthfully, a fresh glass of water hands down beats any flavoured or alcoholic drink. Sure it seems comparatively boring to some, but it comes with a wholesomeness that is undeniably beneficial to your health.

I simply cannot stand the idiocy that comes with drinking culture. Even if you are disciplined and successfully restrict yourself to one or two drinks, the truth is that you are more likely than not to drink in an environment festered with intoxicated morons. I save myself the hassle.

Best wishes for your non-drinking adventure

Mike

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:23 am

One particularly insidious property of alcohol is that it is allows you to be around drunk people without being appalled. Drunkenness is really ugly, and we’ve all seen it, but the alcohol buzz helps us overlook what it does to the people around us.

So I suspect I’ll be going home earlier from a lot of parties and get-togethers.

sandy January 9, 2017 at 4:42 am

I was a drinker for many many years……I enjoyed drinking, until I didn’t. I quit drinking on 11/9/2009. Best decision of my life. Since that time there have been many stressful times in my life, including having a son who is an alcoholic and the trials of him finding his way to recovery albeit the hard way(jail, homelessness, job loss, hospitalization). I attend many events that still include alcohol….weddings, vacation etc. Being around drinking while sipping my seltzer does not bother me….I am an extroverted personality , so drinking was never a solution to bringing me out of my shell. I am a better person without alcohol. My health, attitude and just the mere knowledge that I can face anything head on in a sober state and get thru it (good or bad) is in itself something that has allowed me to grow and flourish. I commend you for looking closely at your drinking habits and being conscious of what you want from this habit. Good Luck! and Cheers

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:26 am

I appreciate this Sandy. I know I’m at my most capable and social when I’m clear-minded. This wasn’t always true for me but it definitely is now.

Dollar Flipper January 9, 2017 at 4:44 am

Definitely a tough one. I have two kids and I won’t drink if I’m driving them anywhere. Otherwise, they also make it much more rough if you do drunk. The total hangover day just isn’t an option. Shots are a no, beer and wine are OK. But of course there’s the idea that they are watching me all the time. Definitely something that you don’t want to be completely routine “I am doing x so therefore I drink.” I think that taking a break is good. It’s funny, if I have booze in the house and in sight, it’s much more likely to get drunk than if I have nothing or its down in the garage.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:29 am

Shots, ugh! I’ve taken many shots in my life, but it was never my idea :(

Joe January 9, 2017 at 4:46 am

Excellent piece! As for myself I was a weekly binge drinker for FORTY YEARS before I called it quits the morning of 18 May 2015 (in fact, reading your article that hungover Monday morning “The First-World Fear That Makes Life Harder” was very key in lighting the fuse…thank you big time for that!). The thing was, the cost of drinking had -for longer than I care to admit- had by far outweighed any benefits for quite some time. So….long story short: I now focus and pattern my life on “systems, not goals” by my almost daily running, eating a healthy plant based diet, a daily mindfulness meditation practice, and -most of all- NOT DRINKING. to paraphrase the old saying it hasn’t been easy but it has been so definitely worth it.

…and the results have been PROFOUND. At 56 years of age it is as if I have finally opened my eyes to so many things I was completely unaware of. Why did I wait so long to confront this insanity??? I wonder. Quiting drinking has been simply the single most and best life improvement trick I have ever done hands down.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:30 am

Well done Joe. It’s amazing how long something can go on out of sheer momentum, even when it’s clearly costing us a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing what life is like without the sauce :)

Dean, Victoria BC January 9, 2017 at 5:21 am

My need to drink impacted every aspect of my life for a very long time. Christmas Eve, 2008, alone in a hotel room I came to realize/accept how it had taken control. Alcohol is an insidious taskmaster. Leaving it behind, finding likeminded friends who understood changed everything. This year my partner, two likeminded friends (you can find their phone number at the beginning of the phone book) took a meeting to the local addictions detox clinic on Christmas Eve.
To give lost souls the gift of my experience, to this point in my life, may have had no effect on any of the dozen people in the room that night, likely I will never know. If somewhere down the road it plays a small part in making a difference in one persons existence…I’m sure you understand.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:37 am

As soon as I decided to step away, I started noticing how many other people have done the same thing. There is a lot of support out there and I’m grateful for that.

Kim January 9, 2017 at 6:10 am

I can relate to your article and I am happy that you are taking a break from drinking. Check out “Tired of Thinking about Drinking” blog by Belle Roberson. The 100 Day Challenge changed my life. Best decision I have made.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

This looks great, thanks Kim.

Shari January 9, 2017 at 6:22 am

I’ve been visiting your site almost daily for two weeks, just waiting for something. And this was it. You seem to be in a similar headspace as me. One of my resolutions this year is to stop using alcohol as a social tool. I’ll reflect on the idea of stopping entirely for a while, just to see how it feels.

Thank you.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:42 am

Good to hear Shari. This post was more self-focused than usual but I knew it would resonate with a lot of people. Let me know how it goes!

AGM January 9, 2017 at 7:15 am

Thoughtful post, thanks. Will send it to my son. I haven’t had a drink for more than 20 years, after overindulging in my youth. My life is definitely better for it. I also thought “Beer tastes really good sometimes”, but for me I know it’s because there is alcohol in it too. I would not drink alcohol-free beer for the taste!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:47 am

I do like beer itself, and I don’t imagine the alcohol is the part that tastes good. But they don’t make non-alcoholic craft beers. I’d rather have water than non-alc beer any day :)

Sebastiano Piscicelli Taeggi January 9, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Non-alcoholic beer is cool!
Who would have thought? I don’t have to give up the joy of a cold beer in the heat (I live in the Caribbean)!
I drink one for lunch, one for dinner and my body doesn’t crave more as it did when I drank the alcoholic one.
Some brands make an excellent “non-alcoholic version” of their beer.

Rebecca January 9, 2017 at 7:19 am

Although I rarely ever drank enough to get stinkin’ drunk (except for a few disgusting episodes in college, and a few embarrassing drunk dialing occasions in my 30s), my body developed an allergy to alcohol, which has made it extremely uncomfortable to have even a single drink. I sometimes miss the taste of a good red wine or a frosty margarita, but it’s just not worth the physical pain. I think we really forget the fact that alcohol is a drug, and it’s kind of amazing that it’s so socially acceptable to use it. I also understand that it works in our bodies the same way as sugar does, and makes us crave more of the same. I imagine that you will be quite happy with your decision. Looking forward to hearing how you feel after the 4 months are up!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:49 am

It is quite amazing that is so socially acceptable. I suppose it says something about human beings, and our relationship to how we normally feel. We have a strong desire to alter our consciousness, and when something works so reliably for that I guess it makes sense that it’s popular. But its downsides are so huge I’m surprised it’s quite as popular as it is.

Beth January 9, 2017 at 7:27 am

I’ve been a daily drinker for years- sometimes to get past social anxiety, but mostly to avoid feelings I don’t want to feel. I decided recently to give up the heavy drinking in exchange for an occasional glass or two of wine with dinner. Your post confirms my decision :) . I began a mindfulness practice that is helping me with the feelings, and I feel physically and emotionally better than I have in a long time. Thank you for your words!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:51 am

I wish you the best with your new lifestyle, and if I can help at all with your mindfulness practice, drop me a line any time!

David January 9, 2017 at 7:30 am

Hi David,

Interesting post that resonated with me. I’m a 54-year-old male brought up in the pub culture of the UK. In my late teens, 20s and 30s I used to drink socially for similar reasons and with similar experiences as you describe. As I grew into my 40s I found my capacity to process alcohol diminished, leading to longer hangovers and more wasted days than I cared for, especially with a young family around. I cut down my intake and as other posters have noted, that led to a reduction in tolerance, so I actually found myself getting drunk quicker on less. Then, about 10 years ago, after one particular evening of social drinking where I was very ill the next day, I decided the perceived benefits no longer outweighed the costs and I stopped altogether. I haven’t drunk alcohol since. The most difficult thing to manage at first was the peer pressure that comes with the social norms of drinking – “come on, just one won’t hurt” was what my work colleagues used to say, but I stuck to my pints of orange juice and lemonade, and found I was able to still socialise and have a good time, as it was being with friends that mattered. Some judged me for not drinking, but the way I look at it, that’s their right and their issue to make a big deal about it, so I’m fine with that. I don’t judge anyone for drinking or not drinking alcohol, or for criticising me for not drinking, it’s simply an individual choice. As time went on I found I tended to gravitate away from people whose sole aim on a night out was to get bladdered. Maybe that’s more an age thing.

Anyway, these days the thought of putting alcohol – a toxin as far as I look at it – into me, for my system then to have to work hard to remove it, seems nonsensical to me. That thought, whether scientifically valid or not, simply keeps my mind clear that alcohol just isn’t for me.

And these days, with a bit of a revolution in British pubs now serving coffee and tea, I still spend time in pubs with friends, socialising, watching football, doing pub quizzes, and I drink my pints of soda with a dash of lime or a cup of tea (not pints of soda with a cup of tea in it, that would be insane) and I’m as happy as Larry, a little less poor and a little less heavy than I used to be.

David, if you fancy a pint of tea in a London pub when you’re over here, just send me an email.

Cheers!

David.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:55 am

Thanks for your story David. I know that my best interactions happen when I am completely stone-cold sober and that has been true for years now. It just took a while for something to shake me out of my habit.

I’m glad to hear about this pub revolution! I’d love to have tea in London. Drop me an email and we can sort it out.

Mel January 9, 2017 at 8:08 am

I used to get drunk a lot in my teens. In my twenties it got less and now with 32 I very rarely touch alcohol. However I get a lot of social pressure to drink alcohol from people who were drunk with me before or heard stories of my drunkenness from others. My own mother once begged me to drink a bottle of wine with her because “you’re a lot funnier when you drink!”. I don’t do incredible embarrassing things when I’m drunk, so that’s not the reason. Maybe they all just enjoy the decline of the tense smartass overperformer to the giggling girl that suddenly finds everything funny. I mean I like that girl as well, but even only glass of wine in the evening ruins my next day. So there gotta be other ways to connect to that side of me…

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 10:59 am

Hi Mel. I have also been told, maybe only half-jokingly, that I’m at my “best” when I’m drunk. I kind of understand what they mean… the character I become is amusing I guess, and I have a passing fondness for him. But he’s not very aware or very sensitive to others and I don’t want to be him.

John Khalil January 9, 2017 at 8:24 am

“It’s only drinking’s popularity that makes it seem like a sane thing to do.”

YOOOOO, I was saying the same thing. It’s popular because it’s popular, but when we really look at it, why?

Thanks for this. My two favorite bits from this piece.

http://johnxbreezy.tumblr.com/post/155625408328/it-seems-like-a-mistake-of-history-that-our

http://johnxbreezy.tumblr.com/post/155625459053/how-is-it-possible-for-drunkenness-to-be-such-a

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

Thanks for sharing John.

John January 9, 2017 at 8:38 am

I just turned 47. I often wish I WAS a drinker. This goes all the way back to Junior High and High School, where a line was drawn and the distinction between being a drinker or not was made. I have felt like an outsider since then. I’ve been divorced 3 years, and I can tell you that being a non-drinker has made it incredibly hard to meet people given that almost everything circles back to drinking. Nobody says let’s go mountain biking (without grabbing beers after). Nobody says let’s have a weekend getaway (without mentioning wine tasting). Anyway, I wish you luck.

aletheia33 January 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

john,

please do not give up. i’m sure many people on this thread can tell you they do the same activities with people who do not grab for a beer after or mention wine tasting. there are great people out there whose social life does not revolve around drinking. people who are into mindfulness and meditation very often do not drink. this includes women who you might find more appealing than women who do drink. why not try attending a local meditation center and getting to know a couple of people there. that would be enough to get you started in different social networks in your area. if your area truly has no such center, and the culture in your area truly totally revolves around alcohol, you might even consider moving. before that, you might look into AA or Alanon: those are places where you can learn how to replace your social network of drinkers with a nondrinking one. be persistent and good luck!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 11:02 am

Great responses from aletheia33. Alcohol is really pervasive in some societies but because of that I can almost guarantee you there are many communities where people generally don’t drink. And why not take them up on the mountain biking but don’t bother with the beers?

Anna January 9, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I don’t drink and haven’t found it to be a problem. Sure, people are drinking at most events, but that doesn’t mean I can’t join them and just not drink. Go for the mountain biking, go out for the drinks afterward too, just don’t get a beer and drink something else instead! I have found no one cares if I’m drinking or not. In fact people love me not drinking when we go out because I can be the DD. And every establishment offers non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver. Often for free.

Ruth January 9, 2017 at 8:53 am

You are right on the money, David. Not only the shame, but the wasted time, especially how one can’t get much done the next day.
Thinking about it.
Thank you.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

Thanks Ruth.

Angie unduplicated January 9, 2017 at 8:59 am

Sounds great. I quit 25 years ago. It’s embarrassing to think of the insane amounts of money I spent on something that is poured into a toilet the day after. I can handle the occasional depressions or existential angst far better than the affronts to ecology and personal economy.

If social anxieties, large or small, bring the urge back then think of the group as an opportunity to observe humans in the wild. Looking at them through the lenses of the anthropology, psychology, or literary mystery enthusiast turns stressful occasions into a game.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 11:04 am

I’m really glad that most of my social anxiety is behind me. I don’t have any problem socializing any more so I’m glad alcohol doesn’t do anything for me on that level anymore.

Leslie January 9, 2017 at 9:02 am

Good for you, David. I’m a dabbler, but I do drink wine alone (after work, when I’m writing or cooking), and my husband and I drink pretty much every day. And of course, alcohol creeps: one glass of vino becomes two becomes three. Three years ago we started doing Dry January (aka Dryuary, aka The Month Most Bitter). The first year, the month never lasted so long, and we didn’t dare socialize; it was hard enough not to drink in our own house, around each other. Last year was easier: we went to one party and were actually able to remember our conversations the next day, which was surprisingly enjoyable. This year we’ve been surprised with the ease of it. We looked forward to it starting, and we’ve already been out with friends a couple times with no cravings, awkwardness or social anxiety (which is a big reason I drink with others in the first place). Usually at parties there’s a very fine line between my drinking enough to feel comfortable with people I don’t know and feeling like my thinking and speech are annoyingly sloppy with alcohol, even though I rarely get drunk-drunk. That line gets crossed really quickly, and then it’s no fun, and I feel sweaty and strident and, like you say, say stuff I regret. Last Saturday we were at a birthday party and someone brought up how good a job they thought Donald Trump is going to do. I thought, thank you, Dryuary, for making me sober for this! In reflecting about that party, I feel like my whole relationship with booze is undergoing a transition. I like this clarity. I like this ability to be responsible and connected to my intention. Entertaining the thought of not drinking during the week come February. There’s just no urge. So it’s interesting how it evolves.

Looking forward to hearing how the journey unfolds for you over the next few months.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:11 pm

A big part of this new campaign of mine is learning to do all the same social stuff without the alcohol. When I took a 30-day break a few years ago, I really liked the feeling of being completely clear-headed later in the evening when everyone else was starting to show their consumption. So it’s important to me to make sure I still go to parties, etc. Best of luck with february!

carla January 9, 2017 at 9:33 am

Good luck and, in my humble opinion, a good choice. As a dabbler who had a marriage destroyed by alcohol I too kindly suggest you do some research at a couple AA meetings…because their program is a good way to live life even for those who aren’t struggling with addiction. It is a good way to gain knowledge and meet new friends too! I learned how to start becoming more human and how to begin to stand up for myself years ago in Alanon which uses the same 12 steps. You can check it out then take it or leave it, but you will have more info which is always a good thing! Wishing you all the best!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I thought about checking out an AA meeting but I really feel like it’s not appropriate for me to go. I don’t need help quitting and I think I’d feel like a kind of “tourist” among people whose lives have been dominated by the stuff. I appreciate the suggestion but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

John Martin January 9, 2017 at 9:42 am

Great article, as always. I definitely support you in your experiment, and I hope it goes well. HOWEVER I wish you stayed with your own experience, and hadn’t felt the need to make up three categories and then assert that all people belong in one of them. As with most stereotyping, it’s comes across to me as more-than-a-little judgmental, and incorrect. I drink regularly — practically daily — as do many of my friends, and only a few of us fall into any of your categories. A small percentage of us drink to get drunk (by your definition “drinkers”), a few are even “problem drinkers”, but for most of us anything resembling drunkenness is a (relatively rare) miscalculation. In small quantities (less than 3 oz of spirits per day for men), it’s generally accepted that alcohol is not harmful, may offer protection against cardiovascular disease for those who are genetically predisposed, and is an effective social lubricant with little or no downside. As with any drug, there are users and there are abusers, and alcohol abuse is indeed at least as dangerous as abuse of other drugs. Some people are unlucky and the only way to avoid being an alcohol abuser is to become a non-user. But there are vast individual differences in tolerance and moderation above-the-level-of-dabbling is a real thing. Regular use does not necessarily constitute abuse.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I think you are making too much of the “three categories” I mentioned. I used the phrase “there seems to be”. It’s just a convenient way to think about it and you may not relate.

I also didn’t say that the “drinker” category is tantamount to abuse. Just that many of us drink with a clear intention to get drunk. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with drinking, at least in my opinion. But many of us who do get drunk on purpose find that there are downsides that make it worth quitting. You don’t need to defend your drinking behaviors to me.

Chris January 9, 2017 at 9:47 am

One note about your statement “Even the kindest person in the world, having had enough alcohol, becomes awful to be around”. A co-worker once shared an observation that alcohol does not change who you are, it only lowers inhibitions. So people who are truly kind, may slur their speech or stumble around, but they generally remain kind (i.e. happy drunks). When people act like jerks when they drink, part of them is genuinely a jerk (but they are better able to mask/suppress that fact when sober). Indeed, alcohol allows them to freely be (all of) who they are. If someone doesn’t like “who they become” when they drink, it isn’t the alcohol and it may suggest the need to do some work on themselves. As you have found, time may allow many to graduate out of these behaviors; lessening the desire for alcohol (i.e. they can be who they are without alcohol).

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Hmm.. I’ve heard a lot of people say this and I just don’t think it’s true. Booze affects each of us differently, but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that someone who tends to gets rude/mean when they’re drunk is a fundamentally rude or mean person. Alcohol lowers inhibitions yes, but it can change motivations, making some goals more salient than usual and others less — it isn’t just an isolated suppressing of inhibitions. For example, some people get more lovey-dovey than usual after a few drinks, but it’s not as though they were simply restraining those feelings while they were sober — they may not have been there at all. We are all capable of the whole range of human behaviors, and alcohol has a complex effect on us.

Naomi Alexander January 9, 2017 at 9:48 am

Hi David, Where are you coming to in the UK? (I’m in Southsea – Henry VIII’s castle, the Mary-Rose, D-Day museum ‘n’ all that stuff) I hope you enjoy your trip here. If you haven’t been to Blighty before – and when you are in the pubs – be a bit careful to check the alcohol level of some of the real ales – they can be quite strong! And (as another commenter said) if you’ve been off the sauce for a while (I did 8 months once) you REALLY get drunk quickly when you start again!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Ideally I will have a whole month there and will loop from London to the southwest, up to the north and then scotland, and back. My itinerary is pretty open at the moment.

There is a beer movement in North America right now so it’s not uncommon to find beers up to 10% or more. I tend not to like the higher-alcohol ones. When I try beer again I will definitely take it easy.

Kim January 9, 2017 at 9:50 am

Alcohol has had a profoundly negatively impacted the entire 45 years of my life. Both of my parents have drinking problems, and I do, too. I did the Sinclair Method which worked very well for me. It flipped the switch back in my brain so that I do not crave it anymore, but there is more to addiction than just the craving brain. I now seldom drink. Last night at a dinner party I had a small glass of wine and couldn’t finish it. It just wasn’t appealing. It’s really great having my wits about me all evening, not worrying about acting foolish or saying things I might regret the next day. And it’s also great to leave a party with zero worry about driving drunk.

I really think it’s great that you have the self-awareness to try out an extended period of sobriety, and I hope this inspires others to do so as well. It’s shocking to the degree that a highly addictive substance which is easily poisonous to the human body is so casually consumed and even encouraged in almost every social situation.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Thanks Kim. I have had a lot of people emailing me today to say they are joining me, which makes me feel great. It is quite shocking that alcohol is so prominent in our culture, given the downsides. It says a lot that we’d pay nine dollars for a glass of wine but if a soda was that much we’d scoff.

Jez January 9, 2017 at 9:59 am

Hey David. I followed a similar path a few years back and to be free to meditate every day throughout the day released me from so much suffering. Alcohol free beer solves all my issues now. In London there is becks blue a lovely drink. I’m in the canaries now and the spainish have totally nailed alcohol free beer. The sun and beer delight lives on without the pain! I would not drink now if you paid me. Binge drinking is totally a young man’s game. Thanks for your writing xx

Sebastiano Piscicelli Taeggi January 9, 2017 at 1:50 pm

That’s cool about the Spanish! Like you, I live on an island in the sun and I love a cold beer! I drink alcohol free and I don’t miss the alcohol in it. The quality of alcohol free beer has greatly improved in the last few years.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm

You know I’ve never really tried alcohol free beer. I didn’t realize they’d been working on it. If I get a chance I’ll see what they’re doing these with it.

Tara January 9, 2017 at 10:19 am

I’m a very light dabbler – a few sips of wine and a couple of glasses of champagne per year. I have social anxiety issues and would probably drink more but fortunately I have a weak stomach that can’t handle much alcohol, so I will never be a drinker. Enjoy your challenge! I am sure you will feel better for it.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Thanks Tara.

Allan January 9, 2017 at 10:33 am

In your description I would classify myself as a mini-dabbler, I rarely had more than one drink and would average around 20 beers a year. I rarely see any of my friends at times when drinking is occurring, but during those rare occasions where drinking was occurring, I would usually wish my inebriated friend(s) would transform back into my sober, wonderful, loving, generous friend. After learning meditation from Camp Calm and getting more and more interested and involved in Buddhism, My girlfriend and I took the 5 Mindfulness trainings at Deer Park Monastery on September 18, 2016 and I have not had a drink since that date.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Hi Allan! Meditation was undoubtedly a huge part of this. As I said I’d been drinking for years, but since my retreat in June, (and the subsequent doubling of my meditation regimen), it became too obvious how alcohol directly undermined my efforts to become a more aware human being. The only days I don’t meditate are days after drinking.

Jen January 9, 2017 at 10:37 am

I went from drinker to very-very-occasional dabbler a couple of years ago. Here are my most helpful findings:

1) You will _love_ how much better you sleep
2) No you do not actually like the taste.
3) Your brain can re-create the good parts of any high you ever had, so you’re not missing anything.

I’ve always liked N/A beer, but not as a beer substitute, as its own animal. Give it a chance without expectations.

And it’s nice to have a go-to mocktail. Mine is club soda, lime juice, stevia and a dash of bitters. If you have a regular bar, get the bartender to come up with one for you. Yeah or maybe _that_ bartender. Tip like you paid for alcohol :-)

Also, though I never had booze cravings, I do have sugar cravings. L-Glutamine (amino acid) can make a craving go from a level 9 “calling to me!” to a level 1 “hmm I could have that if I wanted. Maybe later…” almost instantly. It’s weird, and useful.

Not gonna say good luck. You don’t need luck. Have fun!

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for the tips Jen. I am interested in learning about mocktails. A friend of mine is also taking a break and we are going to meet up tomorrow and try our first mocktail.

Gulben January 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

Hi David,
Inspired by your “Experiment No. 3”, two years ago, I took on my first “100-days No Alcohol No Cigarettes” challenge. And recently completed my second one. I have always been a social smoker (successfully kept it at that) and a social drinker (more into the drinker categorie), but there have been times that I was more social than others so much that I felt I needed to do something about it. The reactions I get when I tell people about my challenge varies from “I would never” to “I could never”. Some are impressed, some find it even unnecessary. Regardless, I am proud and happy having completed my challenges and I will continue doing them.

This is what I wrote on my Facebook when I completed the first challenge, and I could simply put my stamp under it again after the second time:


When I calculated the days, I knew certain dates would fall in on which I could not or would not avoid drinking. So I gave myself 3 wildcards, only one of which I used at a close friend’s wedding. One I saved for the day I would get a job offer, but never used although I got the offer.

Here is what I can say now after 100 days:

– It was not as difficult as you might think.
– I never missed smoking, no cravings. In fact I tried at the wedding (Day#41) and I couldn’t.
– It is possible to have fun without alcohol :) I have to admit I quite liked going home sober after a night out with friends and not having the hangover the day after.
– There were times and circumstances when I craved a certain alcoholic beverage. Like the time my friend Charlotte visited, it was a torture not to share that red wine.
– Not drinking is very economical.
– I am probably healthier compared to 100 days ago.
– Setting a predefined number of days as target definitely made things easier.
– Will I smoke again? Don’t know, but probably not for a long time.
– Will I drink again? Hell yeah!

I can say the second challenge went much smoother thanks to growing non-alcoholic beer industry. It was enough to hold a (non-alcoholic) beer bottle in my hand at a party to trick my brain into not feeling like I was missing out. It might be a good trick for anyone who wants to have their own challenge.

Good luck with the 4 months, remember, it is easier than we think :)

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Heh, you really upped the ante with 100 days compared to my piddly 30. Well done. It was totally worthwhile but I could have benefited from the extra time, because that way I’d have to be a non-drinker in every conceivable situation where it would be relevant. By the end of it I’m sure I’ll have my own list of things I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to that.

Anna January 9, 2017 at 11:33 am

I never understood the allure of being drunk. I tried it a couple of times and it felt only alarming, not fun and enjoyable, so now I don’t drink. I got hassled about this a bit in university and high school but in the adult world I’ve found it’s not been a problem at all.

I suspect the one advantage would be that if you’re at a party where everyone is drunk, being drunk yourself would help you to find them interesting and entertaining rather than stupid and obnoxious. My strategy on this is just to go to parties earlier in the evening when people are still sober and leave when they’re getting irritating.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Being drunk does allow you to tolerate drunk people, which is an advantage in a superficial sense. But it’s also the reason it took me so long to really question it, because it allowed me to tolerate my own obnoxiousness.

I’m looking forward to leaving parties earlier. More sleep! Better sleep!

Mel B January 9, 2017 at 11:39 am

I’m somewhat shocked at your statement that “There seem to be three basic relationships a person can have with drinking. There are drinkers, dabblers and teetotalers.”

And then there are the actual alcoholics. My mom used to schedule my childhood birthday parties for 10am, so my dad and maternal grandpa wouldn’t be “half in the bag,” as she said they regularly were by 4pm.

Growing up, the strongest refrain from my mom was “I hope you kids never drink.”

I went to college petrified of drinking, because I had no concept of what normal or social drinking was like. My experience was a dad who literally went through a case of beer every two days. At parties, as young bragging college kids like to do, people would say, “I bet you can’t even tell how much I’ve had to drink.” I don’t know – is it a lot? What even is a lot? My benchmark for comparison was out of whack.

Eventually i started slowly trying things, and I am grateful that I do not love the taste of beer, even a little, and that wine only makes me grimace and think of church. I like hard cider, I enjoy other alcoholic things for their flavor, but am grateful that I can stop at one or two, and savor them along the way.

My grandpa died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 7 years old. My dad died of – complicated things, including smoking and drinking – when I was a junior in college.

Addiction is a rotten way to live, and I think Kelly Coffey’s essay on growing up as the child of addiction really nails it. http://www.strongcoffey.com/raised-by-addiction/

Good luck to you in your four month journey.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:34 pm

My arbitrary category of “drinker” means nothing except “gets drunk on purpose”, which includes all sorts of behaviors and intensities. It has nothing to do with types of people, only whether or not a person is using alcohol as a drug, a beverage or not at all. Thank you for the well-wishes.

Erin January 9, 2017 at 11:47 am

I gave up drinking for exactly these reasons. “…you lose judgment, self-control, intelligence, basic awareness and kindness …and it’s getting worse as I get older.”

Before I gave it up, a “drinker” for about 15 years. It was three years ago I read about your third experiment which inspired me to have my first Dry January – which turned into Dry January and February the following year.

As of today, I am 120 days without booze. I’ve officially committed to one full year without it, and then I’ll reevaluate to decide whether it’s worthwhile to allow it in my life again.

Thank you so much for this post! Since I was also what they call a “high bottom” drinker, I don’t identify with a lot of sobriety stories out there. I don’t want to sober to be my identity, I just don’t want to drink anymore. The more personal accounts like this that I read, the easier life without booze is to imagine. I suppose for that reason I should find an outlet and share my story sometime too.

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Well done Erin. I also don’t relate to most of the sobriety stories I’ve read. It wasn’t dominating my life, I just realized it costs me too much and I don’t want to do it anymore, at least for now. But I am glad to find how many people have come to the same conclusion about whether it’s worth continuing.

Duska Woods January 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Dear David, I admire your resolve, you are right on all points. While I am not a drinker other on a glass of wine on Holidays or dinner parties I do understand how for shy people alcohol can melt inhibition until it becomes a habit.
I have always been the most uninhibited person, not afraid to show my vulnerabilities, maybe that is why people open up to me easily, but I have seen few friends who drink precisely for the reason you stated.
Giving the fact that we humans have the affinity for all kinds of addiction it is admirable to try to improve one’s life by confronting the habits that do us no favors.
Good luck, I am rooting for you

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Thanks Duska. My natural inhibitions have lowered so much over my adult life, and it really doesn’t help me in that regard anymore. I’m really grateful for that, because it means I’m not losing the biggest advantage drinking had for me.

Bea January 9, 2017 at 12:20 pm

My husband and I made the same decision one year ago on Dec. 18th (2015) after one too many drunken Christmas party. We are still entirely committed to teetotalling (I do hate that term). Neither of us really had a drinking problem – at least not beyond what you describe for yourself (social drinking). But we were both in our late 40’s and decided that we were done with the morning after hangovers, the stupid tipsy/drunken behaviour and the occasional binge drinking – usually entirely unplanned. Personally, I just don’t have time in my life anymore to lose half a day to a hangover or to a bad sleep after a couple of glasses of wine.

We have decided to not got the route of being “occasional drinkers” because it was SO hard to give up the taste of that good glass of wine or beer. I’d rather just not go back there – even though I am sure I could do it. And frankly, the whole cult/coolness around alcohol really gets to me. There is so much damage that this supposedly safe drug does to families and individuals. Instead, we indulge in the non-alcoholic beer and wine (the latter not so great) that is increasingly available. And by the way, the people who will hassle you the most about how boring you are by not drinking are those who have the most problem with alcohol themselves. Most of your friends will not care and will support you – I also just tend not to make a big deal about it to get out of having to explain my reasons for the Nth time.

As a long-time meditator and reader of Buddhist philosophy, I also finally really get why Buddha recommended not drinking (or other drugs) so as to keep the mind clear. After a year of not drinking at all, I do feel a much greater clarity of mind and I feel much healthier (and happily too, the wasteline is easier to control during the holidays).

Finally, with respect to partying with others who are drinking… it is just being with friends that matters and I find that their increasing silliness as the night goes on allows me to get sillier too. It is a bit contagious and I have actually felt “tipsy” while completely sober with friends who have been drinking. Maybe it’s the fumes… :-)

Anyway, I could go on and on… the financial payoff has been great and my allergies (hayfever) have vastly improved.

All to say – it really is worth it even if alcohol is not a REAL problem for you. I love waking up refreshed EVERY morning.

Bonne chance with the experiment and best wishes for 2017

David Cain January 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for this comment Bea.

There is definitely a reason that there is a Buddhist precept for refraining from drinking. As one teacher said, “This one is there because without it the rest of them are out the window.”

But meditation was a huge part of this. My post-drinking shame has become more intense as my practice has become more intensive, and it’s no coincidence. I really value awareness and drinking undermines it directly.

I like the thought of “fumes” — I think you are right that being around people having fun is kind of contagious, even if they’re drinking and your not. I have limited experience with being in that situation but I do remember that happening.

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