Going Sober: Part II
This is the second part in a series about my choice to reduce my alcohol consumption, and the first can be found here. It’s not a holier than thou attempt to convince others to do the same, but hey, the kid’s got to write about something.
It’s been four months. A little over a hundred days and I’m already writing my update post on my few months of significantly reduced drinking. First, the numbers: I’ve had three drinks since my decision to virtually eliminate alcohol from my lifestyle. Two were for work related events, and the third was poured by a waiter at my birthday. This likely constitutes a forty-fold reduction in the number of drinks I would have otherwise had in the last few months: Christmas, New Years, and Lunar New Years events for work and friends, as well as a casual beer here and there. Though conventional definitions of sobriety are generally zero-tolerance, consider that a success. If we recall that my original plan was an eight-to-ten drink reduction per drinking event, I think I have outdone myself.
For the new year, I have allocated myself fifty drinks for the whole year. A good quota that allows for some room to work with, but not a minimum number of drinks to attain. I’ve had one of the fifty, and I don’t expect to have the other anytime soon. I’m not actually sure why I chose to allocate myself fifty drinks, or what the purpose would be if I have chose to drink only when absolutely necessary, but in a way, I’m glad I did. I have a big college graduation anniversary this year, and if I attend homecoming, I expect to spend over half that allocation over a weekend. Maybe my tolerance will have diminished enough by then that I won’t need to have so many. At any rate, I’m glad that I not only have that buffer to work with, but the knowledge that I’ll need the majority of that buffer towards the end of the year. We’ll see.
Interestingly, my decision just preceded the Canadian government’s new guidelines which reduced the recommended number of weekly drinks from fifteen and ten for men and women to a measly two for both, citing higher risks for cancers and mortality. It goes so far as to advise that no amount of alcohol is safe to consume. There is significant backlash against the new policy, no doubt in part funded by the alcohol lobby and otherwise fueled by the mild alcoholics. As one viral interviewee states: two drinks just isn’t feasible, what’s that going to get you, so why drink at all? And this is exactly where I am. Why drink at all?
As mentioned previously, I don’t think I had any physiological dependency on alcohol: just a social reliance and an inability to turn down friends. On that front, my friends have been mostly respectful: few of my friends insist that I drink, and even those who do can be eventually dissuaded. Telling them that I’m not drinking at all ended up being much easier than telling them I didn’t want that tenth shot of tequila. Over the last few months, I managed to successfully decline invitations to large-scale binge-drinking events, and attend others sober, even when there was alcohol was present. I danced at parties sober. I grit my teeth through work events without a drink. And I toasted with water many times.
My friends often ask me if I noticed any changes after going sober. I have not. There has been no meaningful impact on my weight, demeanour, or fitness, though the hangover-free mornings are much appreciated. I’m sure the risk of various cancers has gone down, as has brain cell death, but I can’t feel any difference. Nor do I feel a desire to have a glass of alcohol; staving off alcohol has not increased my desire for it, and there are often few things I want less than a drink. My single biggest observation after going sober is that I was usually one of the most drunk guests at any given social gathering. In my past drunken haze, it seemed as though everyone was taking shots and acting out of line. Now that I am bearing witness to things sober, I’ve become aware that most people don’t seem to go past six or seven drinks on a night out, and retain their wits, as well as their dignity. Though no one is surprised by this except for me, this is an embarrassing and significant realization that makes it even easier to maintain my sobriety.
The inherent social pressure to drink still continues. It’s a bit strange being the single person at the dinner table who refuses to have a drink, or to sit at a bar with friends and nurse nothing but a virgin cocktail. Although it’s annoying to spend twenty dollars for glorified sugar water at a bar, it’s still better than spending the same amount on literal poison, logically speaking. Spending less time with friends who enjoy drinking is also a lot easier said than done, especially if all of your friends seem to be distant relatives of Bacchus himself. The desire for inhibition-free socialization continues to hang over me: though I can survive a networking event sober, alcohol certainly enables me to breeze through it.
Despite all of the reasons to get off the wagon, I remain committed to stay on it until I can either withstand social pressure to not turn every drinking occasion into a binging mess, or my friends stop having events that center so much on alcohol. Furthermore, I remain committed to telling everyone that I’m sober, as annoying as it may be. It’s only with the support of those who encourage me, or to spite those who want to see me fail, that I am able to be kept accountable, and not take another drink. The habit is still forming, and as much as total sobriety is unnecessary, it’s probably best to keep the guardrails on during its nascency.
So we’ll see how this holds. If I’m running short on content, I might discuss my relationship with alcohol once again before the year is up, but I hope not to write about it at all anymore. Perhaps when I finally break the seal, and decide to drink again. Hopefully not because I go over my fifty-drink allocation and decide that alcohol is good for me. Cheers.