So about seven years ago I decided to quit drinking. Period. No, not even because it’s your birthday. Right, yeah, not even a beer. Yeah, period.
I didn’t have a huge problem or anything, but it did get to the point where pretty much every night I was off work was spent on a bar stool with a Bud in hand and consequently every morning thereafter was spent loafing around dealing with a hangover and regretting the late night pizza.
I made a handful of live-improving choices within that previous year which made me feel like I was splitting off from the dead-end “let’s go get fucked up every night” mentality of a lot of people I was around and I increasingly became jaded with the idea of drinking or spending all night at a bar. Although it sounds kind of strange to me now, I think I was also influenced by some of the straight edge people I was around at the time. Not to say that they were people worth putting up on a pedestal (with all due respect), but I appreciated how they stood apart from the indulgence and tomfuckery of damn near everyone else that hung around the subculture world.
Anyways, a few months later I had my last beer. Sitting in a cafe in Paris. A Stella Artois, after a nice meal of duck confit, pommes frites and tiramisu. I wasn’t exactly sure at the time it was my last and to be honest even though it was memorable, I always wished it was a good ol’ Budweiser and not some faggy European beer.
I wouldn’t say that I *lost* friends in the sense that people didn’t want to talk to me after quitting drinking, but it did make friendships difficult sometimes. Being sober in bars gets old. Listening to drunks feel guilty about being all fucked up around me and constantly telling me that they were “cutting back” got old (“cutting back” almost always means they were too broke to go out one night last week or something, btw). Getting asked silly questions about if I was going to drink because of this or that occasion got old. Although I had other bonds with my friends, drinking was definitely a big one that was hard to overcome.
For about five years I was married to/dated a girl that didn’t drink either. Although after a short period of time I lost the temptation to drink, I’ll admit that made the time easier. After we separated, I didn’t even think about taking up drinking again, although drinking does make being single a lot easier. I did go to bars with friends during that period and generally enjoyed myself but at the same time I always felt a little out of place by NOT having a drink in my hand….and it sure as fuck would’ve been weird to go sit on a bar stool on my night off and pound water and I’m sure most women would send up an internal red flag if there was a dude hanging out by himself not drinking at a bar.
Anyways, on to my decision TO drink…
As everyone knows, a big set of interests of mine are things like unusual edibles, growing things, DIY stuff, food preservation, etc. I would read about currant wine or making wine from kiwis, dandelion wine and so-on. Although I never was interested in craft brews, the thought of them actually became interesting. I would hear about this or that and think “Hmm, that sounds good” or “it would be cool to try to make this or that”.
The real enabler came this summer when Mary and I decided to pick up a six pack of O’Doul’s dark lager, almost as a joke (because she isn’t much of a drinker). I actually enjoyed it and it wasn’t my last six pack of it either… I liked the ritual of having something like that on my night off once everything is done and I’m maybe winding down, doing some work on my computer or whatever.
Although I don’t regret the decision to not drink, I do regret not drinking on SOME occasions. I should’ve had champagne with my hockey team when we won our league’s championship last year – what an amazing event that was for us. I’ve traveled to quite a few places since not drinking and should’ve done it just to partake in the local culture – why not ” ‘ave a pint” in a pub in London? Get hammered on Brains (beer) in Wales and listen to the locals tell me about our culture. Should’ve had some nice Argentinean wine or Quilmes and loosened up with the natives in Buenos Aires. Should’ve downed some Tecates and screamed “VAYA!!! VAYA!!! VAYA!!!!” with the rowdy crowd watching the luchadores in Guadalajara. Fuck, should’ve had a glass of wine with my mother on Christmas or a toast with Mary on some of our most important days.
Ok, so my first drink after all that time… Mary is able to get decent wines at damn near wholesale prices through her job. She had a bottle of a riesling that was apparently good but relatively cheap. I forgot what it was, but I had about two glasses of it one night and it was a complete non-event. I thought I’d get tipsy, but it didn’t happen. Two nights later was my hockey team’s Christmas party and I had two glasses of a moscato (which was really, really good), one glass of some red wine that was ok and two New Glarus beers (which are a hot commodity outside of Wisconsin, btw). I figured that would be enough to put me under, but I just felt “bubbly” but still in control. I think one more drink would’ve put me over though.
I’ve had a few drinks here and there…the grocery store has a “make your own six pack” for $9.99 of craft beer and I’ve purchased two of those (and drank about six) so far to try some things out. I figured I’d probably go nuts for the next few weeks and then watch it taper off from there. Right now I’m having a “Pumpkin Ale” which isn’t that bad, but I can’t see myself wanting to drink more than one of these. I guess that’s kind of a good thing though…
All things considered, I don’t feel like I’ve caved or given in. I think I’m at a point in my life where adding the occasional alcoholic beverage will only allow me to experience more things. If a few months from now I’m downing 10 cans of Miller Lite a day, then we need to reevaluate this decision. For now I like the idea that I can enjoy something of a special beverage in my home as I wind down for the evening or maybe after an afternoon of working outside or fully take part in some socialization rituals….and the fact that there are now so many more products that come locally and/or from small-scale agriculture that I can now partake in.