45 Days of No Alcohol: A Futile Attempt At Self-Discipline

no-alcohol

As I sit here drinking the same iced tea I’ve drank since I was five years old (Crystal Light) and wearing a t-shirt that I’ve had for more than a decade, I realize that when it comes to my daily habits and routines, I’m not someone who tries new things often.

This is often a major point of conflict in my relationship with my fiancee because she’s become the queen of trying new things to live a healthier and more “adult-like” lifestyle.

An incomplete list includes:

  • Wanting to make a chore calendar for our 800 square foot apartment
  • Tracking our weight loss by moving marbles from one glass jar to another (one marble for each pound!)
  • Opening up joint checking and savings accounts (Is it really a joint account if I’m the only one putting money into it?)
  • Swapping out regular food for healthy alternatives (example: We don’t eat pasta, we eat something called spaghetti squash, which I’m pretty sure is just a vegetable organized into long thin strands so it looks sort of like pasta.)
  • Buying a food scale so that we make sure to never accidentally eat more than the recommended amount of any meat or vegetable

So you can imagine my guard is always up whenever she approaches me with a new idea, and the one she proposed in early October was the craziest yet.

The biggest piece of this challenge that she was throwing down on us was 45 days of sobriety. Her reasoning wasn’t horrible. We had been partying a little bit hard over the summer and into September due to a variety of reasons (the main one being we like alcohol a lot). Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to force ourselves to slow down for a bit.

My biggest hesitation was that I haven’t gone 10 days without a drink in the last 15 years, let alone trying to do this for seven weeks.

No, I’m not an alcoholic. It’s just that the opportunity never arose to go without alcohol for any period of time before this.

The 45 days wasn’t an arbitrary number. It was the amount of days between two events where we knew we were going to drink. In mid-October our friends in San Francisco threw us an engagement party, and on Thanksgiving Day we’re leaving for a quick trip to Cabo (eight months ago we booked an all-inclusive package at a resort so I can’t envision going 10 minutes on that trip without a drink).

One thing that I’ve observed about me and my fiancee is that we can never just agree to a reasonable challenge. We always have to make it 100 times harder. (Should we run a 5K sometime? Nah, let’s jump right into a Tough Mudder race.)

So by the time we were done laying out the ground rules of this 45-day challenge, here’s what we had:

  • No alcohol
  • No eating meat
  • No going out to dinner or ordering take-out (unless social circumstances call for it, like a friend really wants to go out to dinner and we’re too embarrassed to tell them we’ve grounded ourselves for 45 days)
  • No Diet Coke (for me)
  • No energy drinks (for her)

Wow did that escalate quickly.

Now the meat and the going out to dinner things had mostly to do with trying to save a little money. In this time of planning a wedding and finally starting to put deposits down on all the ridiculous vendors that come along with a wedding, we’re always looking to be a little more frugal. We decided we were eating out too often.

My fiancee was also convinced that if I’d allow us to cut meat out of our diets, we could save a lot of money on groceries. I decided to give her seven weeks to prove that. (Spoiler Alert: It could reduce our grocery bills by 100% and I wouldn’t ever give up meat longterm.)

As for the soda and energy drink restrictions, we were just piling on unnecessarily at that point.

You’ll notice I’m posting this article a few days before Thanksgiving. That either means these 45 days have been so exciting and rewarding that I felt there was already enough material to write about it, or…

WE FAILED THE CHALLENGE BEFORE THE 45 DAYS WERE UP.

Yup. It was the second option. We made it exactly 18 days before we had an alcoholic beverage (and followed it immediately with 10 more because of the shame and guilt).

Here are 18 thoughts on this challenge, one for each day we were actually able to keep it up:

  1. First of all, the Diet Coke and energy drinks ban lasted about six days. Just a stupid, stupid thing to try. When I die, I want to be buried with a fountain Diet Coke in my hand.
  2. We were doing great with the no alcohol thing right up until Halloween. You may remember it fell on a Friday night this year. Rather than either stay home and be the weird people not having any fun on Halloween or go out to a party and be the lame people not drinking or enjoying themselves, we decided to go to Six Flags’ Fright Night just north of Los Angeles. Yes, we’re adults and we like amusement parks & roller coasters. Unfortunately, before we were there even three hours, my fiancee—who grew up loving roller coasters so much that when you ask what her dream profession would be, she’ll immediately respond “roller coaster tester”—decided that she’s too old for roller coasters and her stomach can no longer handle them. It wasn’t even dark yet. The fright part of Fright Night hadn’t even started. But we left because the alternative was that I’d go on rides all night by myself and she’d stand there and watch me.
  3. The result of all this was that we were back in our apartment by 8pm on Haloween night with absolutely nothing to do. As you might guess, one thing led to another and rum was enjoyed by both of us.
  4. So 100% I can blame losing the alcohol challenge on my soon-to-be wife.
  5. I can blame her queasy stomach for us cheating so quickly, but we wouldn’t have made it the full 45 days anyway. There was a friend’s birthday always hanging over this challenge. It was last Saturday and there was just no way we weren’t going to drink that night. What kind of asshole shows up for a night of drinking on his friend’s birthday and says, “Sorry, I’m gonna be pretty lame tonight. I’m voluntarily doing six weeks sober.” It’s understandable if you just have a friend who doesn’t drink or is a recovering alcoholic, but just for the fun of it, you’ve decided to time a pointless alcohol cleanse with my birthday? Rude.
  6. After this past month, I still wonder what adults with no children do on the weekends if they’re not drinking and going out to dinner?
  7. We tried things like going bowling, taking our dog on long nighttime walks, staying in & playing cards and going to see movies in the theater.
  8. But it turns out all those things are better when you do them while drinking!
  9. I’ll admit that 10 years ago the pain from giving up alcohol would have been directly due to not being able to party with friends and get inebriated. That part wasn’t as painful this time. The pain came from the fact that beer just tastes good and I was depriving myself of that. If this experiment taught me anything, it’s that I LOVE the taste of beer.
  10. My biggest fear from all this? My fiancee and I getting pregnant someday. I hope to god I’m not expected to be one of those husbands who doesn’t drink for nine months to show his commitment and appreciation to his wife. It won’t happen.
  11. By the way, I always thought I’d appreciate women for the physical agony they go through while being pregnant and giving birth, but I think I’ll end up appreciating them more for going nine months sober. Just impossible stuff right there.
  12. I guess if you’re ranking my needs based on this challenge, you’d have no choice but to conclude that Diet Coke is the most important thing in my life, with alcohol second, and meat a distant third (still haven’t touched meat and we’re on day 43). Who knew?
  13. You want to talk benefits? Well, I was told by several people that going sober for a period of time would lead to feeling healthier, looking healthier and waking up every morning with a clearer head.
  14. Certainly there were some weekend mornings of waking up feeling a bit better than I would have otherwise, but let’s not go crazy here. The benefits of not drinking in no way trump the benefits of drinking.
  15. And if I’ve learned something else from all this, it’s that sometimes quitting is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. And that’s why I’m stopping on #15 and quitting this blog post early…making commitments and then falling short of those commitments is just how I operate.
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