By Katie East
Lent is here and you’re probably settling on what to give up. If you considered cutting booze, but didn’t think you could make it 40 days, I’m here to tell you that you can. I renounced alcohol this holiday season and I’ve got some tips for the social drinker.
I survived Christmas, New Years and Mardi Gras without a drink. OK, so I had one glass of champagne at New Years: a BIG glass. But still, a pretty impressive feat. In fact, I even enjoyed these holidays more without alcohol. How can this be?
By the time you read this I’ll have attended at least three parades this Mardi Gras: all of them sober. This is surprisingly way easier than I expected. Personally, I love to dance and wear a costume: I don’t need booze to convince me that’s OK. Not drinking just means less waiting in pee lines and a more pristine tutu. If large crowds and babysitting drunk people scares you then maybe you should skip a sober Carnival.
Quitting drinking can be hard for problem drinkers, but even harder for social drinkers any time of the year. When people think they don’t have a problem drinking they forget how necessary taking a break can be for your body; it’s important for your character too.
Let’s be honest, drinking makes things easier. In somewhat moderation, alcohol can be the perfect social lubricant. It can seal business deals and make expressing emotions more natural. When you’re drinking to fix your problems, that’s an issue. But, if you’re drinking a little at a social event to “take the edge off,” it’s often for the greater good.
Even if you don’t have a problem, taking a month or two off from drinking will teach you a lot about yourself and your drinking habits; it’s something everyone should practice.
So, if you’ve never challenged yourself to a month or more of sobriety (since you were a kid), I’ll give you a timeline of how it usually goes.
For the first week of sobriety you usually stay in, and get some projects done you had been putting off. It feels great! You envision a time where you don’t have a procrastinated to-do list because you’re always on top of your tasks. You’re pretty proud of yourself, but not enough to brag. Secretly though, you assume your medal will be coming in the mail at any moment.
If you’re like me, and have a busy social life, not drinking won’t keep you home for long. Somewhere after day seven you go out with friends and immediately regret your decision to abstain.
You think, “Why am I doing this again? Oh yeah, because I said so.”
Somewhere before week two you force yourself out again, and write off socializing completely. Being sober is fine and good until you go to a bar and have to explain yourself. Your friends’ incessant offers of free drinks start to take its toll.
By the end of week two you sigh in relief: you’re half-way through. Then you have an intense, glass of water half-empty moment: “I’m only half-way through? How could that be?”
Usually around that time you start to notice how far your paycheck has gotten you without booze. That extra income motivates you and pushes you forward. “I guess it’s not that bad,” you think. “I can do it.”
At week three you start to settle in your own skin. Going out isn’t that difficult for you anymore. You realize you don’t need a drink to have fun.
Around the same time you realize your extra cash has vanished. You over-estimated your savings, and found another hobby or trinket to spend it on and your to-do list is as back-logged as ever. Plus, you finally come to terms with the fact that no medal is coming; no one is patting you on the back except yourself.
About day 28 the physical and social cravings are completely gone. Not drinking isn’t hard anymore and in fact it’s even enjoyable. You remember you’re still your same fun self without any social lubricant: you embrace your weirdness.
Then, before you know it, day 30. You feel ready to do another 30 days; 10 more will be a cake walk.
If I can forgo booze throughout the holidays you can definitely do it for Lent. So, the Wearin’ of the Green parade won’t be as fun as usual this year. Trust me, in the end, it’s worth it.