Lessons from an alcohol enthusiast’s self-induced break.
Listen, for as long as I can remember it’s been an all-out assault on my liver. Since the first time I got really drunk at age 15 and slept on top of my friends kitchen island; to the bathroom-crying in bars phase of my twenties- because life is just too vast to understand and why didn’t that sonofabitch call me back; to the “responsibly drunk at house parties” of my 30’s- where I say what I want, when I want, and hopefully your feelings don’t get in the way of my bulldozer of truth… It’s no secret that I love a good drink. I love a good party. I love a good glass of vodka or a fine box of wine…
So, in an attempt to wrangle in that aforementioned emotional bulldozer (and the waistline), I decided to go 30 days without booze. How hard could it be? … The week preceding I was in New York City, savoring every drink like it were my last, that, coupled with a 7 hour binge in an airport terminal- I was ready. I was optimistic. I was downright looking forward to it! To top it off my husband said he was going to participate. I also had my friends Mollie and Michael on the bandwagon. It was going to be a concerted effort, and by god, we were going to do it!
The Goals: Lose weight, clear up skin, assuage the ‘January blues’, lift the burdens of existential doom that might be caused by the onslaught of depressants (or the recent election, either one…probably both)
Week One: Family Dinner*, Ice storms and Toddlers.
*I should clarify- “Family Dinner” generally translates to 2.5 hours of ‘cocktail hour’ then all the wine and at some point, food was had.
The first few days were easy, my body and mind basking in the detoxifying glow of the post-holiday dry out. I noticed after a few days that I felt better, my liver was finally able to play “catch up” and I wasn’t hungover… a new experience. I started feeling like I was thinking more clearly and had better energy levels. But then the weather report came on the TV and all I could see was the marquee of pertinent information scrolling across the bottom of the page: This is a category 2* boxes of wine* storm, at least… stock up now.
Compound the ice-mageddon and the fact that I had signed up for a 26 hour whirlwind Auntgodmomming* gig for my god children (age 2 going on 17 and 5 going on total emotional meltdown), I was doomed.
*Auntgodmomming- VERB. See also: babysitting. To keep your god children alive while their parents are away. No baths are required and no questions are asked. “Are my children alive? Yes? Gee Bess, you’re so good at auntgodmomming!”
Needless to say, everyone survived, me included.
Drinks Had: ZERO
Drinks Wanted: 54
Week Two: The Women’s March, Book Club and Closing the Gap
The weekdays were easy, I’d cook a healthyAF meal, sit back and watch TV and eventually treat myself to some SkinnyPop popcorn and decaf Green Tea. My Husband was still on the bandwagon with me, so there wasn’t much temptation. We discovered the terrible new game show “The Wall” and spent too much time strategizing about how we would tackle it.
On Saturday of that week was the St. Louis Sister March for the DC Women’s March. A few girl friends and I made signs and hit the streets. The whole time I kept thinking: This would be so much more fun if I had the buzz of one too many mimosas and the liquid confidence to make these white bitches chant louder… Alas, I chanted “FUCK TRUMP” at a nearly inaudible level and thought about bloody mary’s. That same night was Book Club*
*Book Club: The most ADULT excuse ever created to get together with your friends and drink your face off.
I was hosting. Armed with 300 club sodas, 5 different kinds of cheeses and my laurels, we dove in. We basked in the glory of the power of women and the march we had all participated in, we discussed the very pertinent book I had chosen The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich (about the women of Newsweek suing for Sexual Discrimination in the work place)… And then it got to be midnight. I was out of wine, since I didn’t have my usual reserve of boxed wine and the only booze we had laying around was some Jameson left over from my Irish holiday party. The gals poured a glass and we stayed up till 2am. It was a good time, but I’m not sure if I have ever been awake at 2am while SOBER. All I am saying is- I wouldn’t recommend it.
That same week I had asked for a raise at work. In all my “clear thinking” I had decided I would muster up the guts and approach my boss about the fact that I was seriously underpaid. (Sensing a theme?) The results of this conversation are still underway, but you know the saying: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Jameson or raises…
Drinks Had: ZERO
Shots Missed: 16
Week Three: La Croix and “Sober Bess!”
I should say that, at this point, I had been surviving on La Croix (pronounced: LAH -QUAH) lime flavored sparkling water. One day I came home with another 12 pack and my husband says: “Babe, we already have a box in the mudroom you haven’t even opened…” ‘… Your point?’ My survival depended on the stuff. He had fallen off the bandwagon the same Saturday as book club… drunkenly proclaiming “Hey! I DIDN’T SIGN ANYTHING!”… And I certainly didn’t hold it against him. At this point I was still only participating because Mollie had talked me off the ledge 17 times and I am too competitive with Michael. (Who has the resolve of a white male US senator voting on abortion rights.) *He’s incredibly liberal and will be so mad I compared him to that…but that is about how committed he was to win * Another reason I hadn’t relented was because my mother had simultaneously given up sugar and it helped each of us to know that we had each other’s back in the solidarity of suffering.
On Thursday was girls’ night (another adult excuse to have a house party on a week night.) My friends were champs, cheering me on and congratulating me on my convictions. I sensed that this would be a hard night to get through, but it was actually one of the easier sober ventures. So hat’s off to my supportive gal pals!
This week I decided that I would weigh myself. I hadn’t since day 1 and I thought, most assuredly, that I had to have lost a few pounds. I’d been eating well, working out three times a week and on top of that running 3+ miles twice a week, all the while sleeping like a new born babe. I got on the scale, having made sure my hair was fully dry and I’d emptied all tanks. The moment of truth had come, my hard work was about to pay off… aaannnnddd: No change.
...This was the hardest pill to swallow. Three straight weeks of diligence and commitment and I hadn’t lost even an ounce, not an OUNCE. I’m sure of this because I moved the scale to about 17 different locations on the floor... juuuust to make absolutely certain.
Later that week we had family dinner #2, this time my husband participated in the libations while I sat at our favorite local watering hole drinking club soda out of a snifter trying to TRICK myself into believing it was alcohol. When my uncle got home that night, he announced to his roommate (my friend) “Well! I just got home from dinner with SOBER BESS!”… sober Bess.. Like some sideshow act at the local fair.
Drinks Had: ZERO
Pounds Lost: 0.0
Sense of Self Lost: 26%
Week Four: You just gotta TRICK IT.
The last week, it had finally arrived! I’d made it through ice storms, poopy diapers, book club, dinners out, asking for a raise, some shitty days at work, watching my family and friends guzzle wine, I’d sat at bars and drank water, essential invested in a stock options for La Croix and I’d not lost a single pound doing it...BUT, I’d made it thus far despite myself. This last weekend will be easy, I thought, why would I want to break the streak now? How wrong, how very WRONG I was.
“Hell on earth” is how I would describe it. I know I have a flare for the dramatic side, but I’m quite serious in saying that weekend #4 without booze is a world not worth living in. The only reason I made it was my deep need to not let Michael win. My competitive edge. (And also the fact that I had planned a huge celebration happy hour and started telling people all about it and how I was providing everyone with a grand excuse to drink at 5 on a Wednesday… I couldn’t let my public down)
I spent the last weekend drinking as much club soda as is the legal limit out of the fanciest glass any bartender would give me. TRICK IT. You just gotta TRICK IT.
Drinks Had: ZERO
Drinks Desperately Needed: 1,562
Giving up booze was not the miracle drug for weight loss. It was not the miracle cure for my rosacea. It didn’t alleviate any seasonal depression and my existential crisis raged on. (In large part due to the current state of affairs in America)… But I did learn a few important things.
- I don’t NEED alcohol to have a good time, fun is an attitude people!
- I slept better and woke up more rested
- My friends still like me even if I’m not cracking our 3rd bottle of wine or tossing back shots of whiskey
- I still like my friends when I’m sober- that could have gone either way… ;)
-Morning workouts are actually quite pleasant when you didn’t drink a bottle of wine the night before
Most importantly, I learned that I don’t have a drinking problem- but that I have an arsenal of all kinds of drinking solutions. And, since I didn’t lose any weight- I can officially rule out, in the name of science, that the booze isn’t the problem! So CHEERS! to responsibly drinking, to drinking to celebrate and to commiserate. Cheers to spending time with the people we love. Cheers to Michael and Mollie and all of our support systems. Cheers to making this thing we call life just a little more enjoyable.
Cheers…to drinking until we FEEL Skinny.