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


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…


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.

Five Little Christmas Stories: Women’s Troubles, Family Problems, Yankee Flop, Jaywalking and Diet Coke

While I patiently wait for my Mac to get fixed (estimated by the Apple repair people to take “best case a couple days, could be up to a week, worst case a lot longer than that”…coulda just said “two days to infinity”), let’s empty out the notebook with some short stories that are vaguely relevant to my trip back to Boston and Fitchburg over Christmas. There actually is no notebook to empty because all my brilliant blog ideas get stored on a file on my computer, which you might have heard is in the shop. So these are all based on my fuzzy memory.

1). The Moment I Decided It’s OK to Stereotype Women

Poor Julie deals with a lot of shit from me, never more so than when I’m bugging her about how she’s making us late for something. I hate to throw her under the bus in such a public forum, but there’s some kind of built-in trigger inside her that will never allow her to be on time for anything. Sometimes it’s because of the 123 wardrobe changes moments before it’s time to leave. More often it’s not being able to find a crucial item as we’re about to walk out the door (wallet, ID, phone, sunglasses…by the way, you know how you avoid this problem? You simply put your belongings in the same place every time. I guarantee most men have their wallets, cell phone and keys either in the pocket of the pants they’re currently wearing or on their bureau…most likely on the same damn spot of the bureau every time). Anyway, where was I? Oh right. So I’ve been trying to give women the benefit of the doubt, because why should Julie ruin it for everyone else. But then there was the day I was leaving Fitchburg to go back into Boston last week. My sister (sorry, but the internet doesn’t have the capacity needed for me to describe how I have a sister, you’ll just have to trust me)…my sister decided to get a ride into Boston with me, and I told her we needed to leave the house at 1:30. After all, I had a set time to meet Julie and her Dad, and like me he’s a man who enjoys being punctual. It was 11am when I told her our departure time. Her response? “No problem, I can be ready in 30 seconds.” Really? Because I know you still have two loads of laundry to do and the casualness with which you’re sitting on the couch watching TV right now is making me very nervous. Fast forward to 1pm and she’s yelling down the stairs to me, “Ross, you said we’re leaving around two, right?” Long story short, if it wasn’t for her mother literally packing her suitcase for her, we’d still be in Fitchburg right now. So she gets her shit together by 1:30, oozing with pride at being on time. We jump in the car and she tells me, “OK I just need to stop by the bank and then get an iced coffee and we can get the hell outta here.”

Which brings me to my next point: You’re not allowed to say you’re ready and then spring last-second to-do’s on me as if they don’t count towards us being late. Another great example: Just last night Julie and I were getting ready to go see a movie. We both decided we should leave by 7:10. At that exact time, she says she’s ready. But then she craves a hot tea to bring to the movie so we just have to brew that bad boy up real quick. And do I happen to know where she can find our straws for the tea? No problem, we can just search the kitchen for a few minutes.

Here’s my final point on this topic. I get so stressed out from trying to plan to be on time for things that I’m worried it’s going to lead to my eventual death. So my one resolution for New Year’s is to not stress or make a fuss when we’re inevitably late for everything. I’ll just hope that the women in my life eventually figure out that being on time can be beneficial. Until then, I just want you all to know that it’s not my fault I was late to your wedding, our double date, your funeral. I was ready in plenty of time.

And now for some much shorter stories…

2). Where I Sound Like An Inconsiderate Prick But I’m Really Not

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my family’s friends. But when my Dad said he was having some people over last Sunday to see my new nephew and lay gifts at his feet, I couldn’t help but be worried (I don’t think my Dad technically called it a “viewing of the Messiah” on the invite, but I imagine the three kings’ visit to Jesus’ manger was a lot like what went down at this party, only this time there were about 75 more people and 40 more empty bottles of liquor). I was worried because you may have heard that Sunday is when a lot of awesome football is on TV. And when friends and family you haven’t seen in years are around, it looks really douchey to stare right through them at the TV while they’re trying to tell you how awesome their grandkids are. Of course chances are you won’t miss anything that amazing by taking your eyes off the TV and then just check in every now and then on the score. But my brothers and I thought that on December 20, 2003, when another family gathering was happening on a football Sunday. And you know what we missed because we couldn’t stare at the TV or hear the sound of it? We missed the Joe Namath “I wanna kiss you” moment. To this day I resent my family just a little bit for making me miss that. So I’ll reiterate that I love my family and friends, and I’m so happy they all wanna get together when I’m home. But can we please schedule these things on a Saturday next time? I don’t wanna have to pretend to have explosive diarrhea just so I can take my computer into the bathroom and pull up the Red Zone Channel while I sit on the toilet not actually diarrheaing.

3). The Worst Yankee Swap Of All Time

So my brother sent out an email on December 8th to the side of the family we were opening gifts with on Christmas morning to see if everyone wanted to do a Yankee Swap. All six of us immediately replied yes, and we set a $20 suggested limit on the gifts. Everyone involved is an adult with the ability to go to a store and make a purchase or go online and order an item. But when the dust settled on the worst Yankee Swap Ever, here’s what we had:

  • An electronic key finder that the buyer admitted was meant for only one specific person in the swap—always a good idea to buy a gift specific to a person when the game is literally a random drawing.
  • The first season of Homeland on DVD. Not actually a bad gift at all in theory, but we quickly discovered that almost all the potential recipients had either already seen it or had just gotten the DVD as a gift from someone else.
  • Two $10 scratch tickets that were purchased at about 5pm on December 24th when the buyer realized he had forgotten about the Swap entirely.
  • Two more $10 scratch tickets that were purchsed 30 minutes before the Swap was set to go down, not because this buyer forgot about it, but because he was literally holding out hope til the last minute that we’d change our minds about doing it (rumor has it he went into the gas station, bought the tickets, got back into his car, decided one of the tickets he was holding was lucky and didn’t want someone else to win a bunch of money, so he scratched it, won nothing and had to run back into the store to buy the 2nd half of the “gift” again).
  • A bottle of special hot sauce that at first seemed like a thoughtful gift, but later we discovered that this person found a random case of abandoned hot sauce so she decided to give a bottle as gifts to the whole family.
  • And then two actual useful gifts.

I dare you to find a less successful Yankee Swap.

4). The Strangest Monologue I Heard All Week

While waiting to cross the street in downtown Boston last Saturday, I heard a guy behind me say, “That’s the only thing I liked about California when I visited. They actually give tickets for jaywalking. Seriously, I got a ticket for that when I was out there. And I was happy about it…It’s the only thing about California that made any sense to me.”

5). Finally Taking Credit For Starting The Coolest Trend in Soda History

I’m beaming with pride as I write this: I was the first person who ever drank Diet Coke purely for the taste. Many people drank it before me because they were on a diet, or because they were diabetic, or maybe even because their mom was on a diet and it’s the only soda she’d allow in the house. But no one before me ever tasted Diet Coke and thought “Mmm, even if given a choice between regular and diet, I’d go with the diet.” I estimate I started this trend in the summer of 1989. After doing some research, I learned that Diet Coke came out in August of 1982. That’s a seven-year gap where someone could have presumably beat me to the punch. But no way. Because you know people probably resisted it over the first few years. People were used to that super-sweet taste of regular Coke and when they took a sip of this new diet concoction, they all probably said, “Ew gross, why couldn’t they make this taste more like the regular stuff?” But not me. A little six-year-old boy was running around his country club in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1989 saying, “This Diet Coke stuff is the shit…I wanna drink at least one a day.” Now you can’t go anywhere in public without someone gushing about how much they crave Diet Coke. A little credit would be nice. You know what else I could take credit for? Being the first person to decide fountain soda wasn’t just marginally better than canned or bottled soda, but infinitely better. Give me a good fountain Diet Coke and then shoot me in the face. I’ll go happily.

Final note on this: If you’re a Diet Coke connoseuir like myself, you definitely have a hierarchy of which fast food places have the best fountain soda. Burger King for sure has the worst. McDonald’s is OK, and Wendy’s is pretty good. But give me a choice and I’m going with the fountain D.C. from Five Guys or In-n-Out.

Oh and the best part about all this is that I actually got someone to admit last Friday night that I did start the “Diet Coke for pure taste” trend. Slowly but surely this thing is gonna pick up steam.

6). One Final Bonus Story Just Because I’m Feeling Guilty

I broke someone’s Yo-Yo at my Dad’s house on Christmas night. I have no idea whose it was or what kind of sentimental value it might have had. And I didn’t tell anyone. I just watched it break and then put it down on the coffee table like it was a working Yo-Yo that I was done playing with. So to whoever’s toy that was, I’m not sorry…it was a cheap Yo-Yo. But I guess I owe you like a buck twenty-six or something. Let me know who to make the check out to.

The Hectic Schedule of an Unemployed Writer

“So, Ross, you’ve been wearing that outfit all week…”

-Julie, on a Thursday

It’s safe to say Julie’s ready for me to be gainfully employed once again. Not because she’s sick of me spending her income on frozen waffles and legos, but because a job would give me a reason to take a daily shower, put on deodorant most mornings and change out of my basketball shorts & cut-off t-shirt combination.

It got me thinking that my handful of loyal readers probably wonder what the hell I do with my time every day. Obviously you all know I’m running a world renowned blog, and that’s some serious shit. But I’ll admit I have plenty of free time on my hands. So here’s a glimpse at my daily schedule:

7:15am: While half asleep, try to think of ways to delicately ask Julie if she can get ready for work in a quieter way. Or if maybe she can get ready in the living room instead of the bedroom.

7:15 – 8:15am: Get my 10th hour of sleep, obviously.

8:15am: Finally ready to start my day. After putting on the standard gray basketball shorts and cut-off t-shirt, I have a race against the clock: Can I get my dog outside before she pees all over the carpet? I currently have a 75% success rate with this task.

8:30am: Fire up the computer to see if I’ve received any emails from people offering me writing jobs. Quickly remember I haven’t sent out any resumes or writing samples so it would be really strange if someone did email me to offer a job.

8:35 – 9:45am: Get distracted by the internet—Twitter, espn.com, Bank of America (daily habit to check my bank statement to see if my old job accidentally direct deposited two weeks worth of salary into my account)

9:45 – 10:15am: Light breakfast to energize myself for the day….4 eggs, half pound of bacon, hash browns, 3 slices of bread, 6-8 pancakes (small ones). Leftovers go to the dog.

10:15 – 10:45am: Exercise time. Most days I go for a jog, and to stay motivated I reward myself by jogging to a fast food place that has awesome milkshakes. I like to think jogging to the milkshake place and back offsets the calories in the milkshake. This is the route I take to the restaurant.

10:45 – 11:30am: You’d think a shower would be in order after such a long run, but you’d be surprised how many days a week I get home from exercising, sit in front of my computer and completely forget about my hygiene. So this time is usually spent looking at emails again.

11:30 – 12:30pm: Finally, it’s time to be productive. This is the first writing session of my day. What that means is I stare at a blank screen for five minutes, get frustrated that I can’t think of anything to write, then toggle over to twitter or a sports website and read through a few articles. This goes on for the full hour usually. By the end of this first session, I just like to convince myself that I have a good idea and when I sit down for session two later in the afternoon, I’ll finally start to write it.

12:30 – 1:30pm: Lunch. Even though I don’t have a real job, I like to stay in the rhythm of how a real job works. This means a one-hour lunch break. That’s the law. I don’t make the rules.

1:30 – 2:30pm: This is when I do some studying for my eventual career as a TV writer. Over this one hour, I can watch three episodes of whatever sitcom I choose. Recently it’s been Workaholics and The League.

2:30 – 2:45pm: Sit on the couch and send Julie text messages about things I think she should pick up on her way home from work. Usually it’s simple requests like a fountain Diet Coke, 50 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or a fire extinguisher. You can imagine that this is Julie’s favorite part of the day.

2:45 – 2:50pm: Gotta go check the mail. If a major film studio hasn’t emailed me a job offer, maybe they’re old-fashioned and sent me the offer via regular mail.

2:50 – 4:00pm: Time to come up with new story ideas for future TV scripts. Rather than sit at my computer and try to use my imagination for this task, I like to  generate story ideas by sitting on my balcony and trying to create backstories for other residents in our complex who I can see through their windows. For instance, why does the lady across the courtyard from us have to shake out her rugs twice a day? What’s going on in her apartment that’s making things so dirty? My theory is that she’s running a cocaine packaging and distribution center out of her apartment and she’s constantly getting residue on her rugs. Someday soon I’ll test this by running underneath her balcony and opening my mouth up like I do during a snowstorm while she shakes out the rug.

4:00 – 5:00pm: Shit, Julie’s gonna be home soon and I’ve literally done nothing productive today. Time to break out the notebook and index cards to make it seem like I’m deep into the middle of outlining a TV or movie script. A nice trick I’ve learned: the messier I make the kitchen table with all of my writing materials, the harder it looks like I’ve been working.

5:00 – 5:15pm: Julie gets home and sees me “hard at work.” She asks if I’m gonna be done soon so we can take the dog for a walk and chat about our day. I pretend to struggle to decide whether I should keep working or call it a night. I tell her, “I guess five straight hours of this is enough for today. Sure let’s go for that walk.”

5:15 – 6:00pm: Ross, Julie and dog go for a family walk while Ross thinks, “Tomorrow, I’m gonna write all day long. No excuses.”

The End.

Monopoly Month at McDonald’s Coincides with my Annual Attempt to Morph into a Defensive Lineman

I don’t even know where the closest McDonald’s is to my apartment. But you can bet your ass I’ll be google mapping the five closest MickeyD’s to my place now that Monopoly has returned. It seems like this Monopoly game at McDonald’s has been going on for 20 years, and as an adult, it’s the one thing that causes me to buy fast food over a one-month span every year.

So from now until October 22nd when the game ends, I’ll be doing my best to transform into this guy:

My favorite part of Monopoly Month is how on certain days I try to pretend like I’m not going to eat a Big Mac, Fries, a Diet Coke and two Apple Pies. But while planning to eat a healthy lunch, I just delay eating for hours to the point where it’s so late in the day, I can justifiably say to myself, “Ugh, I’m starving. I just need to eat something right now, anything will do…oh look, there’s a McDonald’s…”

FYI, there are TWO Boardwalk pieces this year…the first time they’ve done that (usually there’s only one). So double the chances of winning the $1 million prize. So excited I could eat three DQPWC’s right now! (that’s the acronym for a double quarter-pounder with cheese that us fast food gluttons use)

Good luck, fellow Fatsos!

P.S. If I get stuck with like 47 Kentucky Avenue game pieces like I always do, I’m going to flip out on a McDonald’s employee, or maybe even Ronald himself.

Choosing Your Meals for Your Last Day Alive

Traveling back to San Francisco from D.C. on Monday, I probably could have predicted that I wouldn’t be eating healthy at any point during the day.  Breakfast was going to be happening in the airport, and then I’d probably be too tired and lazy to go to the grocery store for lunch or dinner.  The day screamed “greasy takeout food,” but I definitely couldn’t have predicted just how amazingly gross my food intake would be.

Breakfast was a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from Five Guys…with a burger patty added to it.  Amazingly there were about 25 other people at this restaurant in Dulles Airport ordering the same thing at 6AM.  That was washed down with a Diet Coke.  By the way, if you’re reading this and have never been to a Five Guys, stop reading right now and get to one.  It is definitely the best “fast food” burger you’ll ever eat.

Lunch was a Super Burrito at Pancho Villa in San Francisco.  Super meaning it had the works on it…cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, bacon fat, chocolate sauce and more.

And then finally for dinner, it was cheesesteak time at Phat Philly.  This wasn’t a normal cheesesteak situation though.  My friend had a groupon-like deal at this restaurant where our meal included a 12-inch cheesesteak each, an order of waffle fries topped with bacon and cheese wiz to split, one beer each and of course a dessert for each of us.

I joked shortly after that if I found out I only had one day to live, my meal choices for that final day wouldn’t be much different than what I consumed on Monday.  And it got me thinking…if you really did have only one day left to live, what would you choose to eat on that last day?

For me it would be the three meals I ate on Monday, but I’d add a fourth meal that would be a porterhouse steak with mac-and-cheese as the side.  And I would end my life with dessert in the form of as much ice cream as I could possibly eat.

Rather than put up a poll asking readers to vote on what their final day of meals would consist of, I’d like to see if we can get people adding comments to this post with their opinion.  I’ll be honest, the comment levels on this blog are pretty weak…maybe with the proper guidance you will all finally add some value to my already valuable blog posts.

I’ll be checking on the incoming comments while relieving my body of all that food from yesterday…just hope my iPad is charged up enough for me to spend all those hours in the bathroom.