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I Stopped Drinking for 30 Days and Here’s Why

When you’re drinking too much, but not so much that anyone notices.

Last weekend, I ended thirty days without drinking. It was originally supposed to be a Dry January, like I did last year, but a number of things, including the stress of the quarantine and the election, made me push it back a week.

So, naturally, I started the day the insurrectionists stormed the Capitol Building.

Here’s why.

Like a lot of people recently, I’m fortunate enough to work from home. But that has put me in close proximity to the liquor cabinet. And without the limitations of spending a big chunk of my day in the office, or even needing to commute to work, alcohol has been within easy reach.

Too easy.

Sure back in the good old days, I’d sometimes stop after work to have a few drinks. But as everyone knows, drinking in a bar adds up, so financial prudence alone limited how much of that I did.

But at home, I can easily afford to drink well into the night every day of the week. And gradually, my mostly weekend drinking habit became a near-daily thing. I should have known I was in trouble when I figured out how many shots are in a bottle of Jim Beam by drinking the whole bottle. No need for you to do the same, the answer is about 16 shots.

In the past, I’d never kept much liquor at home. I knew from experience that I couldn’t really put together a real home bar because I would buy a few bottles and then drink them all to the dregs, though there would usually be long droughts in between before I would replenish them, during which I’d barely drink at home, at all. Such breaks would often last for months.

But last year, those breaks were only lasting a couple of weeks.

And those home shots were damn near free compared to a bar. Hell, in a bar, I would tip more than the bottle cost. So money was barely a barrier.

But I was certainly drinking more than normal. A lot more. So I took stock. I hadn’t been drinking and driving or having alcohol-fueled fights with my wife. My work hadn’t suffered. No history of alcoholism in the family.

Still.

More and more occasions seemed to call for a drink. In the good times, all red-blooded Americans celebrate with a beer or a stiff drink, right? And there had been a few of those.

But not many.

Instead, I found the entire damn year, on the whole, to be bad. And I could see myself numbing that badness with drink. I’d felt increasingly physically trapped by this new world we are living in, with no end in sight. And I was building a pattern. Quarantine. Drink. Democracy at risk. Drink. Work trouble. Drink. Writer’s block. Drink. Too dark outside. Drink. Too cold outside. Drink. Couldn’t go anywhere even when it wasn’t too cold and dark outside and my god when will this all be over? Will it ever be over? Drink.

So I took a break.

I’d be lying if I said it was hard. I didn’t struggle. What I did do was become very aware of how I had been regularly soothing uncomfortable feelings with alcohol. And I worked on either sitting with those feelings or finding other ways to cope with them.

Some of those ways were positive. I read more for pleasure or took long baths or talked to my wife about my feelings. But I also ate more than I should. Like the bar, the fridge has been in easy reach, too.

And there were benefits, too. I slept better. I was more engaged with my family. And, it turns out that a clearer head can do wonders for writer’s block.

Now the question is how to go forward in temperance and moderation. But I think this reset is a good start.

I write about masculinity, fatherhood, family, and relationships.

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