Today’s my 100th day without a drink. I got off the sauce because I wanted to see how much it was affecting my reading. Feel free to laugh at that notion.
I wasn’t drinking heavily — just 2 to 2.5 oz. of gin in a 6-oz. G&T — but I was drinking often: four or five nights a week (always at home, with my wife). At the time, I was doing most of my reading in bed before turning in, and wondered if I was short-changing my books and myself by dulling my brain beforehand.
Like an alcoholic, I started out with a “one day at a time” perspective, seeing if I could go a week without having a drink, then two weeks, then a month. Unlike an alcoholic, I had no history of blackouts, no increasing tolerance to booze, no craving for same, no desire to drink alone, no embarrassing behavior at parties, no boozehounds in my family history, and no pints hidden in the toilet cistern. I’ve never once thought, “Tough day at the office, time to have a drink.”
I should note that this isn’t the first stretch I’ve been on the wagon. In college I didn’t drink until my senior year. In the past, I ascribed that to my “being a drama queen,” but I recently came across a much better term for it in Michael Dirda’s memoir, An Open Book: moral vanity.
I didn’t drink back then so I could consider myself “pure” or unsullied or somesuch idiocy. It wasn’t enough not to drink; I had to be a martyr to the rest of the clear-thinkingly besotted population. I was not a joy to be around, as you can imagine.
I realize now that I’d have had a lot more fun during those years if I’d gotten tanked with my pals every so often. I might have managed to get some of my worst behavior out of my system if I’d bothered to drink and party like everybody else in college. Instead, I held onto some ugly traits for years after.
There’s very little vanity to my sobriety this time around. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by my dry status. I’ve avoided talking about it unless someone offers me a drink. For years, I’ve (truthfully) told people — a la Ron Swanson — that the only things I drink are water, black coffee and gin. Cutting that down to water and black coffee loses some of its charm.
I’m sure I’ll get crap about this from work-related pals when we’re at trade shows. I haven’t really had to go on the trade show circuit since I got off the sauce, but I have three big shows in September and October. I’m interested to see how I’ll deal with that. Most of those people know me in the context of a casual drink after (and/or during) a trade show. Of course, they also know me as the weird thinky guy who writes editorials about the Talmud, so they likely won’t find my motivation that unfathomable.
But I’m sure you’re wondering, “How’s it treating you, old boy?”
Booze-free for a hundred days, I find that my reading has grown subtler and more intricate. I also find that I’m making much more time to read, since I’m no longer having a G&T and watching TV. I’ve finished 13 books of wildly varying lengths since I made that choice. I seem to remember them all pretty well, too. Overall, I’m sleeping better, but there are some non-booze factors that play into that, too.
Also, I’m healthier. Early this year, my urologist told me that I could reduce my susceptibility to flare-ups of prostatitis by quitting alcohol, caffeine and spicy food. I said, “That’s crazy talk! This isn’t the time for rash measures!” But I haven’t had any degree of prostatitis — which dear Lord is no fun — since going on the wagon. So let’s go eat Mexican and wash it down with coffee!
Besides getting more and better reading in and not feeling like I’ve been walloped in the nuts, the best part of this whole process is reassuring myself that I don’t have a drinking problem. After all, I was able to stop drinking cold turkey and never found myself regretting that choice. It seems that having 4-5 drinks a week was more about my tendency to build up habits and routines than it was about a drinking habit.
The worst part of this experience has been the realization that most people are even more boring than I thought.