On the way to (at least) 100 days alcohol-free
I’ve enjoyed alcohol for years – the conviviality, the variety of tastes, colors and flavors, and the relaxation it would bring. But over the past few months, it started giving me a headache – pounding into my head after only three or four sips of alcohol. The headaches would not let up even though I only had one drink and would consume plenty of water before, during, and after. The headaches stayed with me overnight and into the morning – not the hammering of a rugged, late-night katzenjammer, but a steady, dull, tink-tink-tink, like the elves in Santa’s workshop making toys. It simply would not go away with sleep and water. A maddening distraction to start the next day, until I took an Advil or Tylenol, which I should try not to take given my congenital heart defect and its effects on my body over 48 years.
I can’t take many over-the-counter cold, flu, sinus or allergy medicines. With my heart defect, my body operates with steady-state, above-normal levels of inflammation. For these reasons, I do take a fair amount of Advil and Tylenol – they’re about all I can take for pain or cold symptoms. Far too often, I have added to my intake of them by consuming alcohol, suffering the accompanying headaches and seeking the relief they provide.
All avoidable. All unnecessary. All chosen by me, with full awareness that one poor decision would almost certainly be followed by another less-than-ideal decision.
In April, I felt fed up. I drank a last glass of sake on a Friday. Then put myself in an iron-clad, alcohol-free commitment-container for 100 days, minimum. No alcohol, period, whatever life threw at me.
I’ve written in the past (here are here) about seeking to reduce my alcohol consumption, even though overall I don’t drink much. But even that was too much. In those past instances, I couldn’t make the change stick. I gave myself excuses:
“Oh, it’s so hot outside, a margarita would simply taste sublime.”
“I’ll have one Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day.”
“I’ll stop completely after my birthday.”
For whatever reason, this time feels truly different. Today is Day 27. I haven’t craved or sought alcohol once — not at a Derby party, not on my birthday, not on Cinco de Mayo.
What’s changed this time? Two thoughts come to mind. First, the iron container provides an inflexibility. My commitment feels unyielding. It feels like “beyond trying.” It feels like…well, war… except it’s almost the opposite of war. I feel a commitment similar to battle: the drudgery, the fierceness of seeking victory. Yet it does not feel in the slightest like I am fighting myself. It feels like all of my being has committed to a definite good, and all my being is locked-in toward that aim. It feels free, like water simply draining into a rivulet and slowly, unconsciously, and indomitably, grooving a clean, pure river.
Second, I discussed my decision with my friend Rob Hardy. Almost as an afterthought, toward the end of the first few days, I texted him, “Day 1 complete,” “Day 2 complete,” and so on. On Day 5, I texted him and added the assurance that I would not be bothering him for 100 straight days. He wrote back:
“lol i definitely don't mind you sending them every day! especially if it feels like a good ritual”
It did feel like a good ritual, a useful one, so I have kept it up. While I’m sending a daily text to someone else, my act of writing the text and sending it feels like a fun high-five to myself:
“Yep, I did what I wanted again today. I acted according to my goodness, my law, today.”
I’ll keep you updated on my progress. So far, 27 days don’t feel like anything to celebrate, as much as a new chosen way of being.
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