Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why I Quit Drinking

I am the sort of person who enjoys drinking a nice cold beer now and again. Maybe I'm sitting outside, taking in a ballgame... the sun is beating down. Nothing tastes better than an ice cold beer in that situation. I believe that. There are other times when I really want a margarita, or a nice glass of wine with dinner. I could be out with friends and find myself interested in sampling a specialty cocktail on the restaurant's menu. Or maybe it's time to sample a friend's new home brew that he bottled a while back.

I like those situations. I like drinking. In general, I feel that I'm also pretty smart about it most of the time. As someone without a car, its pretty easy to find yourself in a situation where you don't have to worry about driving home. And since I've arrived in my 30s, I've noticed that it's just not as important anymore to drink as much as possible on any given occasion. I just don't see the point anymore.

Something else happened, though. I noticed something, right around the end of December last year. Every night after I had had a drink (any drink, doesn't matter what it was), I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with nasty heartburn sent straight from the fires of hell. Any heartburn that's strong enough to wake you up in the middle of the night is pretty bad, but this was easily the worst. And I take (generic) Zantac on a daily basis to prevent heartburn. I've been taking it for years, as recommended by my doctor.

Once I made the connection that drinking = heartburn, I knew I had to test the theory. So I resolved that starting on January 1 of 2013, I would quit drinking. Cold turkey.

It feels kind of cliche, making it a new year's thing. But I had to start some time, and it seemed as good as any. Besides, I also wanted to start saving money, and booze is expensive.

I was also a bit curious of how difficult it would be. I didn't believe that I was addicted to alcohol, but that was the thing - a lot of people who have an addiction aren't even aware of it. And I know there is a history of addiction in my family. I wanted to see if I could do it.

Today is July 28, 2013. I haven't had any alcohol since December.

It was around February when I realized that this whole thing wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. I had really slowed down my consumption in the last few years, and it wasn't hard to cut it out entirely. Social situations were the most difficult, when everyone around me was drinking and I was stuck with a Diet Coke. But I was succeeding. That's when I decided to put an end date on my personal prohibition. I would just say no for the rest of 2013.

One year. No alcohol. Piece of cake, right?

Yeah, not really. Sitting at a Twins game at Target Field, sun shining, and the only vendors who seem to be walking up and down the aisles are the guys with Grain Belt Nordeast. That was my favorite ballpark beer. But I'm not spending $8 for a beer that is barely worth $2, so that's something. I'm saving money.

There are other tough situations, too. It was a little depressing to realize that I wouldn't be able to continue some rituals that I observe every year. A margarita on my birthday. A "beergarita" at the State Fair. Wine on Thanksgiving, cocktails made by my dad on Christmas Eve. I'll miss those. But I can live without them. It's just for one year, after all.

I'm thinking that after this year is done, I'll be so used to not drinking that I'll just choose to go without more often than not in the future. I'd like to continue saving money.

Oh, you were wondering about the heartburn? I still get it every once in a while, but it's usually explained in some way. After drinking a lot of lemonade, for example, or after eating a lot of spicy Mexican food. I think it's safe to conclude that it was caused mainly by the drinking.