Ordering Tea in Bars: My Month of Boozelessness

It’s the last day of January. Tomorrow evening I’m planning on going to a pub trivia night, and I might order a beer. It will be the first alcohol that I’ve imbibed since New Year’s Eve.

Like almost everyone else in the Western world, I woke up groggy and hungover on January first, wondering why the hell I’d decided to punish my internal organs with so much damn booze. There were also a few times in December when, after going to some holiday party or another, woke up hungover. I’m now thirty-one years old and thought, virtually every time that this happened, “I’m too old for this shit.”

So, in kind of a moment of pique on New Year’s Day, I announced to Facebook that I would give up booze for a month. I thought it would be an interesting experiment, and, looking back on the experience, I’m glad I did it. It was sort of weird to do- I like to think of myself as something of an experience collector, and generally look down on vegans, nondrinkers, and other abstainers. However, after giving up alcohol for a month, I kind of get it. A few things I’ve learned:

-Unless you’re physically addicted to alcohol, giving it up is very, very easy. I don’t drink soda, so beer is often just the thing I’m sipping on when I’m in a restaurant or social situation, and in Portland, there’s always an interesting or novel new beer to try. However, sipping and such is more about the social ritual, and tea or mocktails (yes, I actually ordered a mocktail at one point, and was mildly embarrassed to do so) also accomplish the same task. The drink in your hand can be anything. Beer has just been what I default to.

-The hardest thing about giving up booze isn’t missing booze, it’s refusing people’s generosity. Last night a friend offered me a shot of saffron vodka that I refused. Earlier this month I was at someone’s home, got offered a beer, and said no. Declining people’s attempts to be generous and nice is more difficult than not drinking.

-Giving up booze is a great way to lose weight. I put on a few pounds in December, but those are pretty much gone now. Cutting beer out of my diet entirely nixed a substantial amount of caloric intake.

-It’s also an excellent way to save money, but that’s pretty obvious. The biggest thing I learned from this little exercise in self-denial, though was:

-Abstinence is easy. Moderation is hard. I think I can now understand the mindset of people who ascribe to ideologies like religion or the Atkins Diet where given things are entirely proscribed. If you simply walk around with the mindset “such-and-such is forbidden,” then you don’t have to do any difficult thinking or exercise any judgement. You simply don’t indulge, and that’s that. Moderation (which I try to strive for in pretty much all things) is much more difficult, in that you actually have to assess ever situation and then do a bunch of possibly difficult thinking and deciding. Abstinence, though, relieves you of responsibility. The abstinent person does not have to think or decide or judge. They simply have to follow. Making myself simply obey was very simple, and made me kind of appreciate (in a perverse way) why people choose to bind themselves to a specific dogma.

But, anyway, it was a nice experiment, and I’m guessing that tomorrow evening I’ll probably try a nice non-threatening stout or porter. Beer, after all, is too wonderful and delicious to give up entirely. However, it was nice to take a bit of a break.

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