This post was originally published on February 3rd, 2014


Hi, My name is Owen and according to the DSM-V I am an alcoholic.

Wait, that’s a loaded statement and it makes it sound much worse than it actually is. I do in fact meet 2 of the criteria for alcoholism under the DSM-V.

“Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol”

“A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking”

I feel that these also need to be taken with a grain of salt. I have a high tolerance for alcohol, duh I am a giant man, I have a high tolerance to everything. As for the great deal of time spent its not like I’m selling blood to buy a bottle of Wild Irish Rose, but I will drive nearly 5 hours round trip and stand in line for another hour to get a bottle from Hill Farmstead since its basically the best brewery in the world. Who am I kidding I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just someone who likes beer and whiskey, and has crafted a life around it. But a few things have gotten me motivated to take a break, to walk away, to step back and appreciate what it means to me.  Its time for Sobruary.

Booze is in my blood. My great grandfather was an undertaker who would transport caskets full of the poison across the Canadian border during prohibition, complete with ladies he would hire to rub onions into their eyes to appear as if they were in mourning. He even got so deep into bootlegging that he needed a legitimate front to sell out of, what better front than a pharmacy. Once they lifted the ban he held on to the pharmacy and eventually had my grandmother go to ACP, where she met my grandfather and then took over running Willsboro Pharmacy, and the rest is history. Growing up my parents weren’t big drinkers but they liked to cut loose at camp or whenever we would travel. I remember vividly sitting in the bar at the Vermont Pub and Brewery when I must have been 8 or 9 and being amazed at how bright and shiny the big wooden bar was, and how much care the bartender took in pouring beers. I also remember how cool the Magic Hat Brewery seemed, with all the wacky designs and bright colors and the half gallon growlers that my parents would bring home (note this was back when Magic Hat was quirky and independent, not the overblown corporate blowhards that they are now). Surprisingly I didn’t drink in high school. I did sneak a few beers and drank them warm and skunky once or twice, and I did drink a bit during my two trips to Europe, but before graduation I barely touched the stuff. College was a different story, I drank a lot in college. A lot.

I have always used beer tourism as part of the adventure. Wherever I go I like to explore and check out cool pubs or breweries, or even just order a local microbrew with dinner. This type of exploration is rarely planned, and I love seeing reviews for these cool little out of the way places that I have visited on beer websites or seeing ads in Beer Advocate. One spring break I was able to visit 18 of the breweries in VT with a bunch of friends which really got me thinking about moving up her. Mostly I have been drinking locally, all Vermont brews, many that are bought directly from the brewer. Its a real localvore, farm to table, type of scene, plus it doesn’t hurt that Vermont has some of the best craft breweries in the world.

So we have covered that I am not an alcoholic, and we have covered how beer is a big part of my family history, and a big part of my personal story, so why am I giving it up for a month?

1.  I joined the App Untappd which helps track the beers that you drink and allows you rate them and share with friends. My friends have been on it for years, but I joined on December 13th. And promptly proceeded to drink 177 distinct beers (245 total) in the span of 49 days. Not all of these were full pours, a lot of them were taster samples at a brewery or bottles shared among a few friends, but seriously thats a LOT of beers. I probably drink a big portion of them just sitting in my living room after work, it just seems like a waste. Seeing the cold hard numbers kind of put a shock into me and gave me motivation to step back and look at my relationship with alcohol.

2.  People are starting to only identify me with beer. I hate feeling one dimensional, and after all the GVPCWB nonsense and having people come up and say “don’t you do anything but drink?” I feel that I need to branch out. Looking back most of the things that I post on facebook revolve around food/drink, music, work, which is ok since those are some things that matter to me a lot, but maybe this time off will help me to diversify.

3.  I generally spend $100-$300 per month on beer. Like every month. That includes what I share and give away, but I do consume the lions share of that. I have been trying to focus on a few goals, specifically getting my finances back on track after taking a big pay cut leaving retail and trying to get into better shape. Buying and consuming several hundred dollars worth of booze each month runs counter to both of these goals. Maybe taking one month off will help to jumpstart me so I can start seeing more progress.

4.  I have always liked challenges, that is why as a very lapsed catholic I still participate in lent each year. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and spending a set amount of time without something that you like a lot tends to make you appreciate it more when you go back to it. Heady Topper is an amazing beer, beer geeks will sell their souls to get their hands on it and then savor it like liquid gold. I on the other hand drink 6-8 per week sitting in my recliner watching Netflix.

5.  Why not? It’s only a month, its not like I’m walking away from it forever. Who knows maybe it will even be fun. At Graney’s on Saturday one of my friends was buying drinks for the table and had to go up and order a pitcher… and a club soda with lime. I am going to Boston this weekend, and I love the image of me, grizzled veteran drinker, walking into a bar in one of the drunkest cities in the western hemisphere and ordering a Shirley Temple.  Hell its the shortest month of the year anyway.

Only 25 more days.


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