It has been one month to the day since I last had a drink of alcohol. This has been the longest stretch I’ve gone without a drink since… well, truthfully I don’t know when: at least since I turned 21, and probably even well before that.
I made this choice for two reasons: to improve my body’s health and to assure myself that my mind still had the capacity to exert itself.
The physical benefits have been inarguable: I sleep better, my joints are less creaky and I definitely have more energy throughout the day. The downside is that socially I’ve been far less engaged: it’s simply not that fun sipping soda water while everyone else has booze.
One of the upsides of cold-slab sobriety is that I’ve had a lot more time to think clearly, and with that improved mental astringency recently I’ve taken to thinking about where my attitudes towards drinking were formed, and that, of course, means I’ve been thinking about my family.
My family’s relationship with alcohol is a study in polarities: there is a small but vocal minority of teetotalers for whom alcohol is morally repugnant, and then there is the majority who are alcoholics and for whom drink is a moral necessity. In this way I suppose we’re fairly representative of this country as a whole.
Between these two camps float a few outliers who seem to think that moderate consumption of an adult beverage is a pleasant way to add enjoyment to life. They’re few in number and viewed with a wary skepticism by both the wets and the drys, as if their attempts at reasonableness were beyond the pale of comprehension for either position.
From the drunks in my family I imagine news of my sobriety would receive the same eye-rolling, What-the-hell’s-wrong-with-you?! challenge that my decision not to drink has provoked from the great majority of my friends.
In the past month I’ve been ridiculed mercilessly by my buddies for this decision: Don’t be a wuss! What are you some kind of sissy?! They act as if this were Jr. High School and I had been exposed for some major social flaw like still wearing tighty-whitey’s or owning an off-brand windbreaker.
I haven’t been overly bothered by these mocking: I can see that behind my friends’ castigations is simply the desire that I participate with them socially. When you’re having a few drinks and start bullshitting together ideas begin to flutter down from the heavens like snowflakes, unique and sparkling and entrancing, and it’s just not cool to have some buzz-killer whose very presence reminds you that what you’re experiencing are only globs of water fused to dust particles.
The teetotalers in my family would of course have no sympathy for the efforts involved in not-drinking, if for no simpler reason than that not-drinking requires no effort from them.
Most of them would view the very fact that I drink at all as a travesty. Given that these people are usually inclined to quote Scripture at things that they find offensive, which is a broad category that can generally be defined as most of the world outside the doors of their churches, I’m certain that I’d hear about the sinfulness of my consumption from them.
For them the Bible functions like the speech balloons in a Batman comic: BAM! POW! ZOK! They hurtle its words with a acidic zeal that is inversely related to a constructive understanding of texts. Suffice it to say, these members of my family and I struggle to find common ground.
Those in the middle—the family members who advocate and exemplify moderation—well, like I said, we’re all pretty skeptical of them. I’m sure they’d have something reasonable and inoffensive to say etc., but really, it’s not that interesting to think about.
I still haven’t decided if I’ll have a drink later tonight to celebrate my accomplishment. As great as a nice Manhattan sounds, and believe me it sounds delicious, it’s also hard to argue with the upsides of abstinence: my body feels great, my mind is sharp and my bank account is noticeably fuller.
At this point it doesn’t really matter: I’ve proved myself to myself. Not only have I not had a drink in a month, for god’s sake I made it through the holidays without a drop of alcohol. That’s the stuff of record-books right there, and from here it’s a win either way I decide to go.