Fat, Drunk, & Stupid is No Way to Go Through Life

This Post was originally published on February 28th, 2014

I made it. For those of you who doubted me I will accept forgiveness payments in cash, check, or beer. In fact screw the cash or check payments, I just want beer. As of 4:30am (my weird rule about when the new day starts) I will be able to once again imbibe the delicious nectar of the gods known simply as booze.

I think that taking the Sobruary break was really beneficial in several ways.  Most importantly it helped me to evaluate my relationship with one of the central things in my life. As with every one of these lifestyle experiments that I try I have to look back and see how it can affect my future. Going in I had three main areas where taking a break would be very beneficial and I think that I was able to make progress in all three areas.

First I looked at this from a health perspective, to kill my tolerance and start trying to live healthier. I have to assume that a bite has been taken out of my tolerance, I guess I will have to test that out during Saint Patrick’s Week. If I die of sun poisoning after passing out early then I guess you can blame sobriety. I have found myself drinking more water both at home and at work I feel like I am well hydrated and generally feel better. Oh yeah, by not drinking my calories and being more active I was able to make some big strides and I am down more than 10 pounds over the past month.

Secondly I looked at the economic benefits.  Every dollar that I saved by not drinking this month was more than offset by the $1,000 I had to shell out in taxes. I did save a lot of cash on beer alone, but I also found myself adjusting how I did other portions of my shopping. The market where I do most of my shopping has a great beer selection by not slowing down to peruse the cooler I found myself powering past the chips and sodas that are located in the same aisle. I suppose that this could be folded in under healthy living, but in reality I identify it more with economics since my weekly grocery spending has dropped by a decent amount. Also my electric bill was lower because I unplugged my beer fridge, gotta go for the little wins.

Lastly I was intrigued by the social aspect and the challenge of being sober in a world where I am so identified by beer. I went to Boston for a few days for a birthday celebration and was able to stay sober in one of the drunkest cities in the western hemisphere.  But I was worried about how my friends, many of whom I haven’t seen since college, would react to me standing there drinking water. Lo and behold except for a bit of good natured ribbing they not only accepted it, but were very supportive about me giving this a shot. I won’t lie to you and say that not drinking for an entire month was easy, there were a few days where I wanted to put on some bluegrass and sing my sorrows into a bottle of Jack, but overall I think that I was able to get it done with few regrets.

Now for the other shoe to drop. This break wasn’t all positive. For instance two of my best friends came up to Vermont for a beer event and didn’t call me because they were worried that I would be tempted and fall off the wagon. I was kind of hurt by this, but to be fair, for Heady Topper I might have fallen off the wagon. This is the best example of a social problem, but not the only one. I shied away from going out for dinner or to hang out with friends because I was following the out of sight out of mind tactic, plus I worked 24 of the days in February so I was pretty damn tired. One of my friends came over a few times for dinner during February and I could tell that he felt kind of uncomfortable to be drinking alone in front of me, but I think that we were able to make it work.

So where do I go from here? Honestly I am not sure but I feel like there are a few things that I can do to to keep the benefits going forward. I know that this weekend I am going to work beer back into my system gradually. Attending the drunkfest that is Magic Hat Mardi Gras is probably not the best idea for gradual inebriation, but I am driving so that should keep everything in check. I was thinking about installing a weekly quota system or a taking X number of days off would probably fail. With a stringent system like any diet it is just too easy to have one slip up and throw the whole thing out the window.  I would also spend most of my time trying to work around the systems that I put in place instead of just going with the flow.  Instead I am thinking about doing a weekday quota of 24 ounces of beer, or a limit of 1 beer if I am drinking by myself. This will allow me to have dinner or go out and grab a beer after work with friends, while keeping me from downing a 6 pack in my recliner. Since I spend so much time traveling or going to events on weekends I am going to use them as cheat days without limits, but I hope that drinking less over the week will keep me from drinking a ton on my cheat days.

One of the motivating factors that got me interested in taking this break was how I was using (or abusing) the Untappd app. I am going to start using it again but instead of approaching it with the Pokemon gotta catch em all mentality I am going to use it simply as a way to remember what I have had and what I though about it. If I get badges that’s cool, but I am not going to chase after them, as we all know we don’t need no stinkin badges.  I will also embrace it as more of a social tool that helps keep me in touch with my friends who I don’t talk to enough.

It has definitely been an eye opening 28 days. I think that I have grown personally while shrinking a bit physically. I managed to spend more time sober than I have during any period in the past 10 years, which I think was a pretty good accomplishment. Tomorrow will be the resumption of the rest of my life, but I can always look back and say that I pulled off sobriety for an entire month, short as it may be, who knows maybe I will make this an annual thing. I hope that I made some of you proud, thanks for the support. For the rest of you don’t worry your beer swilling idol is back.

 

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Untappd

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.