Well, it’s finally over. On Feb. 13 seconds before the stroke of midnight, I had a glass of Spanish red wine in one hand, and a Negroni in the other. (And then I drank them). Aggressive, I know. But it was a long month without alcohol. I’ve previously posted about some things I learned during this teetotaling month, but I think one lesson stands out in particular: Fun times are fun times with or without alcohol. Sometimes all booze adds is extra calories. The flip side, however, is that stressful, boring, or just plain bad times do indeed benefit (sometimes a great deal) from a boozy infusion.
I gave up drinking for a month because I wanted to sleep more soundly, be more energetic, mentally focused, and lose a few pounds and thought “Hey why not see whether eliminating alcohol does all those things?” (I’d say I wanted to save money too, but in Spain, wine is so cheap, you’re practically losing money by not drinking).
In the 31 days of abstention, I was sick for 12 days, first with a cold then with the flu a few weeks later. This was no good for my gym routine. Actually, it was one of the least healthy months of my life. I did end up losing three or four pounds, and perhaps that was from not drinking. It could also have been from me being unable to taste my food for a week, and then hardly being able to swallow for a few days. I still had nights where I slept poorly, resulting in a next-day sluggery that felt awfully close to a hangover. I was not more focused. I was not more productive. Turns out it wasn’t the wine making me lazy.
The one good thing I’ll say about the dry month: I think it was a somewhat helpful exercise to give up something I consume often, it only to make me aware of how I’m consuming it. I think I’ll be more mindful of the alcoholic drinks I have in the future. If a big beer or a glass of wine isn’t really calling my name at the moment, I’ll pass. (Whereas previously, I’d just say “why not?”)
I also want to add that I’ve felt a vague guilt all month whining about how hard it is not to drink while knowing full well there are many people who have made the (healthy) choice to never have a drink ever again. That is hard. And extremely admirable
During my little experiment, I kept an iPhone diary, a DRYIARY, if you will. Here it is:
Dryiary of a Month Without Alcohol
Day 1: Flew out of Paris with a runny nose and a cough. It’s easy to resist crummy airplane wine when sick.
Day 2: Nyquil sure is nice. (Hope this isn’t cheating).
Day 3: Sipped a mint tea at a happy hour in an organic wine bar. While tea can in no way compete with wine, it wasn’t bad.
Day 4: Hipster food truck fair in Madrid. Beer truck. Wine truck. Vermouth truck. Argh! Isn’t vermouth medicinal?
Day 5: Wanted wine so badly that I made a vow to donate to loathsome charity if I can’t stick with this dry month.
Day 6: Tea really isn’t half bad.
Day 7: Tea is nothing more than leaf-flavored water.
Day 8: Hosted book club without drinking any wine. Took a perverse pleasure in refilling others’ glasses.
Day 9: A night of bad sleep left me feeling hungover. Have my many previous hangovers just been plain old tiredness as well?
Day 10: Trivia night. Even with booze, I wouldn’t have known how many pounds are in a pood, but I would have had more fun trying to guess.
Day 11: So if I have to donate to this deplorable charity, I’ll mail cash in an unmarked envelope so there’s no record of my donation. Or, I’ll send a check and in the notes section I’ll write “Because I really needed a drink.”
Day 12: Hiking up a mountain in the sunshine: One of the few experiences that would in no way benefit from alcohol.
Day 13: Without cocktail hour, I just don’t know what to do with all this time before these late Spanish dinners.
Day 14: Writing club without my usual two glasses of red wine. My fizzy water didn’t exactly get my creative juices going, but I wasn’t pulling my hair out either.
Day 15 and 16: Getting easier each day.
Day 17: At dinner, waiter offered everyone a free round of gin and tonics. I declined this stunning act of kindness.
Day 18: Left a bar early and told the birthday girl “It’s just hard to stay awake when I’m not drinking.” I’m a terrible person.
Day 19: Hosted a long, leisurely, boozy brunch. Minus the boozy. All of the fun, none of the hangover.
Day 20: Woke up sick anyway. Spent entire day in bed with fever.
Day 21 and 22: A hot toddy would be everything.
Day 23: Normally I’m very influenced by drinking on TV shows. I can’t even watch Mad Men without a whiskey. But that warm vodka that KGB guy just drank on The Americans? Blaagh. Progress? Or Patriotism?
Day 24 and 25: Submit packet of writing for grad school. I want to reward myself with wine. Instead, I got drunk on Lorelei and Rory’s banter during a serious Gilmore Girls binge.
Day 26, 27, 28: I want wine. Wine. Wine. Whine.
Day 29: I was thinking I’d have to wait until Saturday morning for a drink, but Mr. Dame in Spain pointed out that Friday at midnight will technically be Feb. 14. Knowing I can have wine in a few days is making the home stretch bearable.
Day 30: One more day!
Day 31: Hosted a little dinner party and made all the guest watch as I drank my first
sip gulp of wine at midnight. Just as good as I remembered.
To the end of dry months,
The Dame in Spain
I like your Dryiary. Now I know never to pursue such a mission. Although it seems even sans booze and a bout of sickness you have a happy, full life over there, which with brunches and book clubs and birthday parties and hikes and dinners out, not to mention Paris. Sounds like you’re enjoying it all!