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

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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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The Great Cohabitation Experiment: What Life is Like Two Years Later

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[Editor’s Note: This blog is officially ending its hiatus. Over the past six months I’ve been working full-time in software sales while being incredibly lazy with my writing. It’s time to flip that around. Moving forward I’ll try to be extremely productive with the writing and incredibly lazy with the software sales. What better way to kick off the rebirth of the writing than by posting something that will most definitely get me eight to 10 weeks of sleeping on the couch. Enjoy.]

Just over 25 months ago I made the decision to start living with my girlfriend. It was over a beautiful dinner in San Francisco when we had the relationship-changing conversation. I told her I was moving to LA to become a writer. She asked if I intended to keep our relationship alive by asking her to move down there with me. I responded with the perfect answer: “Yes, darling, I think you should totally follow me to LA and get your own place. We can even make sure we live within a couple miles of each other so we can spend a lot of time together.”

After a few weeks of serious thought (by which I definitely don’t mean “sitting on my couch crushing beers while ignoring the gigantic elephant in the relationship”), I started to see things her way: We should move to a new city together and get an apartment together.

And two years later I can honestly say it was the best decision that I’ve ever been a part of. But that doesn’t mean this cohabitation has been without its learning experiences and confused head shaking (she’s probably experienced plenty of those moments herself, but unfortunately for her, she doesn’t write for a world-renowned blog).

For any man who wants to know how life may change if he chooses to follow my path and shack up with his loved one, here you go. Twenty-five observations, changes and adjustments that come with saying those fateful words: “I do…want to move in with you.”

Oh, you wanted to see my credentials before you commit to reading this? Read it and weep….for me:

“You’re a pretty big “Sex And The City Fan”, and you have a great memory. You remember most of the poignant moments, and you’ve seen your favourite episodes countless times. What are you waiting for? Dig out those old box sets and start over!”

Sigh. That was the category I fell into when I correctly got 11 of 18 answers right on some ridiculous online “Sex and the City” quiz that I accidentally took a few months back. I’ve never once consciously watched that TV show. That knowledge is 100% through unwelcome osmosis. I do indeed live with a woman.

And now for the list:

1. Let’s start from the beginning…decorating the apartment. If you’re not much of a decorator, do yourself a HUGE favor and just say yes to every idea she has. It’s better to pay for 50% of the picture frames and Pinterest projects and not have a say in things than to be involved with every decision and actually have this stuff consume even one minute of your life.IMG_4098

2. Speaking of Pinterest, that’ll somehow become a word you use very frequently…as a noun, verb and adjective.

3. Remember those styrofoam containers & cardboard boxes laying around your apartment from night after night of takeout when you were living alone or with other guys? (You know, the ones that the mice made semi-permanent homes in?) No more. Those will turn into plastic baggies that were used to portion out every single meal and snack you’re allowed to eat during the week.

4. Want to save some money each day? No problem. From now on you’ll be bringing grilled chicken to work to make a sandwich out of. That’s fine, but keep in mind that it won’t be a full chicken breast, it’ll be exactly three ounces (you’ll hear that portion control is the key to weight loss quite a few times).

5. Your kitchen will be organized, reorganized and then organized one more time. (A close relative of “let me just put this new spatula away and then I’ll be ready to go to the beach” turning into “well, the spatula didn’t fit so then I realized all the utensils can go into a smaller drawer, our tupperware can be put on that shelf and here I am three hours later just about done reorganizing the kitchen!”)

6. Speaking of being organized…Everything will have a cute little place in your apartment. Keys will go on a homemade key holder, towels & toiletries will go in wicker baskets inside a book shelf in the bathroom, shoes will go in one of those hangs-on-the-door shoe holders. It’ll all be clean & tidy…until your girlfriend is getting ready each & every weekend night, at which point CNN will show up to cover the story of an atom bomb apparently going off inside your bedroom.

7. You will have lost the battle about putting the toilet seat down, even though it’s absolutely insane that a woman would think this is a necessary thing a man should do.

8. While you will be expected to follow her rules with the toilet seat, she is apparently allowed to ignore your rule about the right way to put the toilet paper roll on the holder.

9. You know bobby pins, right? Be prepared to feel several under your feet every single time you take a step in your apartment. They’re not painful or anything, it’s just that there are now bobby pins EVERYWHERE. And every time you pick up a bunch of bobby pins (because apparently her eyesight can read the scathing blog you’re writing about her from 25 feet away, but they can’t see a bunch of bobby pins on the floor five feet below her), you’ll think you’ve got them all, and there will be at least 15 more in that very room you just cleaned up. Out of all the things that could cause a man to jump off his apartment balcony, I never thought a tiny little thing like a bobby pin could be what puts us over the edge.

10. Saying you don’t want to go to the grocery store with her is offensive. Saying you don’t want to go to a coed baby shower with her is next level offensive.

11. You’ll be asked about buying a papasan chair (and when I say “asked” I mean “asked a loaded question where the only right answer is yes”).

12. You’ll need to learn what the fuck a papasan chair is.

13. It’ll sound expensive and unnecessary.

14. One month later a papasan chair will be sitting in your living room and will never once be used.

15. You’ll be paying for 50% of an 800 square foot apartment but only be allowed to use 50 of those square feet.

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16. You know how I mentioned there’s a place for everything, a compartment of some sort? There will be a wrapping paper container in your house. It’s specifically designed for the height of most wrapping paper rolls. It’s an extreme specialty item. You’ll wonder out loud how your life got to the point of needing a $30 container to store $2 rolls of wrapping paper.

17a. The first time she asks you to start mixing in your laundry together you’ll say no. The second time she asks you’ll say no. Eventually she will purchase a hamper large enough to fit her clothes and yours and she’ll tell you she’s throwing out both of your individual hampers because this will save room (room that will be used to fit yet another unnecessary item in the apartment). At this point, the fight is over. You’re now doing laundry together.

17b. She will gladly fold your clothes because it’s easy and you really don’t care how wrinkled/rolled into a ball they are. She will get mad that you never fold her clothes in return, but you’ll try to explain that her clothes are weird shapes and made of strange materials and they don’t fold as easily as yours. She’ll make you feel stupid for saying this. You’ll soon be folding her clothes.

17c. Every now and then, while folding her clothes, you’ll think about how the 13-year-old version of you would have killed to be able to see the tag on a girl’s bra to know exactly what cup size she is…it’ll be far less exciting as a 31-year-old.

18. Your dog is part of the family. And apparently every member of the family sleeps in the same bed every night (learn from me and maybe don’t adopt a Mastiff).

19. If she happens to be a health conscious cook, then very slowly—but very surely—cheeseburgers will turn into turkey burgers, spaghetti made of normal pasta will turn into spaghetti made of spaghetti squash, and pizza with normal dough will become pizza made of cauliflower dough.

20. The cashier at your local McDonald’s will no longer know you by your first name, but the cashiers at Target will.

21. You weren’t interested in ever eating an entire entree at a restaurant without sharing it again, were you?

22. There’s plenty of room on DVRs these days, so space isn’t a problem. It’s just that you’ll have to scroll through 135 “Bravo” and “E!” shows to get to that 30 for 30 or Drunk History episode you were looking for.

23. Suddenly you’ll have to explain to someone why 16 hours of football a week is necessary (but don’t ever expect an explanation on why 116 hours of Real Housewives a week is necessary).

24. You know how you used to power on the TV and could be reasonably certain that a sports channel would already be on? Now the “Hallmark Channel” is what’s always “last on” when the TV was turned off…the worst part about this is the fact that a “Hallmark Channel” even exists won’t faze you a bit.

25. But two years later you’ll be healthier, happier and will even be able to pass your life off as adultish if someone walks into your home. It’s not all bad, I promise.

And if during the those first 25 months she suggests getting a new couch for the apartment, do yourself a favor and say yes. If you’re like me, you’ll be spending some nights on it.