Greg Dennis: Going a month without drinking

By one definition of the word, we are all addicted to something or other. Food. Sex. Exercise followed by Advil. Recreational drugs. 
When it comes to booze, I’ve never been much of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of guy. I’ve pretty much always taken it.
In moderation. But regularly.
So when C. and her friend Frances announced this past March that they were going to refrain from drinking in April, I was intrigued by the idea. 
Could I go an entire month without alcohol?
The drinking age was 18 when I grew up. And if you knew the bartender in my hometown bars, at Chippie’s or the Little Barrel or Matty’s Shiplantern Lanes, they were happy to look the other way once you turned 17.
At home, too, my parents had (wisely) normalized social drinking once my brother and I had reached our mid-teens, by letting us have an occasional glass of wine over dinner.
But like many people who came of age in the ’70s, marijuana was the drug of choice in my 20s. 
After spending a year of forced abstinence from marijuana in Australia as I neared 30 — the drug just wasn’t readily available — I came back home with a taste for Foster’s beer and good red Aussie wine.
Pot became an occasional indulgence that too often left me feeling self conscious and anxious. So one or two drinks a night became my habit. I enjoyed the taste, it was a convivial note to share with friends. And it was a source of relaxed reflection on an evening alone.
I’ve never come close to have a drinking problem. (I checked the AA questionnaire just to be sure). But I knew it was a habit. A gentle one, but a habit.
So I decided to join C. and her friend in a month of abstinence. To see if I could do it. Maybe to prove to myself that I could do it.
I knew I’d have good company. C. enjoys a drink at the end of the day as much as I do. “Let’s sit down and catch up,” she would say, cracking a Green State and offering me one. 
My kind of woman. But for April, we aimed to keep each other company over glasses of water.
I quickly discovered that if you’re looking to change a routine during a month where not much is going on, April is a lousy choice. Especially if it’s been famously described by T.S. Eliot as the cruelest month.
My journal reflects a month that began with a foot of new snow on April Fools Day. That was followed by ugly rain, sunny spring skiing, muddy walks, a wildly varying work schedule, a first weeding of the garden, and a final April weekend in Washington, D.C., with 200,000 others at the People’s Climate March, where we encircled the White House as our angry president sat inside.
Here’s some of what I discovered in April:
• Abstinence is no impediment to having a good time. We joined friends at the Skinny Pancake for a rousingly good concert by Mike & Ruthy and the Mammals, whom I’d come to love when they appeared some years ago at our Festival on-the-Green. I stuck with tonic water and had a terrific time.
• If the music sucks, it sure would be nice to have beer or two. James McMurtry has been a longtime musical hero of mine. But when he appeared one rainy April evening at the Signal Kitchen in Burlington, even McMurtry couldn’t overcome the dank basement and lousy acoustics. I thought about grabbing a drink approximately every 90 seconds.
• As the slopes turned to corn snow, I really missed having a cold one on the deck after a day of spring skiing.
• The day I fell into the New Haven Riven while fly fishing and filled my waders with 45-degree water — that was another time it would have been nice to console myself with a beer.
• Alcohol has a lot of sugar in it. I found myself craving more sweets when I was on the wagon.
• I’d like to say that when I wasn’t drinking for a month, my jump shot and squash game got better. Except that they didn’t. I was the same old slow guy, out there just to have fun and not get hurt.
• Friends don’t really care whether you’re drinking or not. So it’s a bad idea to worry that others will think you’re weird if the stiffest liquid you’re imbibing that night is a club soda.
• It’s cheaper not to drink.
• There were many times in April when I wanted to lower my blood pressure over the Trump presidency with a glass of wine. I refrained, and the president pulled our nation further into a quagmire.
• I came to sympathize more deeply with problem drinkers and those who are in recovery. My thirst for and impulse toward alcohol proved to be consistent — but mild and avoidable. The temptation for people who are more strongly drawn to alcohol, yet who know they need not to drink, must be painfully strong. I gained new admiration for the courage and determination of recovering alcoholics.
The biggest lesson I learned? I saw that willpower is a powerful thing, and that I could in fact go a month without a drink. No big deal, but a nice thing to know.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengregdennis.
p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; text-indent: 9.0px; line-height: 11.0px; font: 10.0px ‘Times New Roman’; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}
span.Apple-tab-span {white-space:pre}

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: