My Year Without Beer

Dear Alcohol,

I need a break.

Hey, don’t cry. It’s not you. It’s me.

Well, actually, I take that back. It is you. I don’t like the way I feel after spending too much time with you, and I need to take a step back and look at the big picture. We’ve had so many great times together over the last 20-plus years, and I think of most of them very fondly. You have helped give me confidence at certain times, and you have made me look less-than-repulsive in the eyes of the ladies at certain times. I am grateful for all of the experiences and relationships you have enhanced during my adult life, but it’s time to experience adulthood without the crutch you have so readily provided. 

2018 is going to be alcohol-free for this 41-year old dude. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and it’s time that I reevaluate my relationship with alcohol. In order to come to some true conclusions, I feel it’s best to completely refrain from consuming alcohol for the entire year. I have a friend that reached a point with alcohol where he said, “I’m full,” and he doesn’t drink much at all anymore. That’s kind of how I feel: Full. So I’m stepping away from the proverbial table and walking out into the world on my own.

As I embark on this journey, I feel excited and also self-conscious. I am excited because I think my productivity and energy levels will increase. I think there’s another level to which I can get, and I’m curious if alcohol-induced laziness has prohibited me from reaching that level. I’m self-conscious because I have a feeling that people will perceive me to be acting as if I’m “better” than the rest of society by choosing not to partake in such a socially acceptable pastime. I know that my friends and family will be supportive, and I know that my good friends will completely bust my balls about not drinking, in as supportive a way as possible, as good friends do.

How this came about

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. It’s usually after a 4-5 drink night, when I wake up feeling crappy, that I ask myself, “Why do I do this? Why do I drink?” Over the last 20-plus years, I’ve had my share of mornings waking up feeling like that, and as I get older, it feels more and more silly to put myself in that position. I mentioned to my wife on Christmas that I was thinking about going alcohol-free in 2018, and she replied, “Why wait until 2018?” That’s my girl! Why wait, indeed. So after having some wine with my father-in-law on Christmas day, I officially hopped on the wagon, and I will stay seated on said wagon until at least January 1st, 2019.

What’s gonna’ happen? 

I’ve got a lot of hypotheses as to how this is going to play out. I am extremely curious as to how giving up alcohol will affect me physically, financially, and socially. I’m not even two weeks into this little experiment, and I’ve already had some very interesting observations, which might make their way into a book about this whole lifestyle change at the end of the year. Here are a few of the hypotheses I’ve pondered so far:

  • No alcohol is going to be great for the wallet: I spend a lot of money on alcohol. Let’s say I have averaged about a drink per day over the course of a year. If I buy beer from the store, it comes out to about $1.50 per beer (I’m an ale and IPA guy, so a six-pack usually runs between $8-$10). That comes out to about $620 per year on beer that I buy at the store. Things start to get out of hand though when it comes to factoring in beer purchases at restaurants. It’s next to impossible to find a good beer at a California food establishment or bar for less than $5. Not only does the beer itself cost a lot of money when it’s consumed at a restaurant, but I find myself choosing restaurants that have good beer selections, which usually have higher food prices. In fact, I hypothesize that I will eat out less as an alcohol-free dude because what’s the point in going to a good brew house if you’re not going to partake in the brew? I think I heard my wallet whisper to me earlier today, “What took you so long?”
  • My body is going to love me at a whole new level: Giving up alcohol has got to lead to better sleep, right? And better sleep has got to lead to more energy, right? If so, then I will have better workouts every morning, which will make my body work harder to repair/build-up new muscle, which will require and lead to better sleep. Now that’s a cycle I can get excited about! Can I trade in the six-pack of beer for a six-pack of abs? We’ll see! I’m not gonna lie, it would be pretty cool to rock a six-pack at 41 years old, and time isn’t going to be on my side in the body department from this point forward unless I get really serious about maxing out physically. And what could be more serious than giving up alcohol for a whole year?!
  • I’m going to be more productive: It’s easy to beat ourselves up about having items left on our to-do lists when our heads hit the pillow at night. Alcohol or not, it’s just about impossible to get everything done. But refraining from the evening adult beverage might allow me to keep just enough will power and stamina to get one more thing done, or take one more step forward. Over the course of the year, each of those one things and/or one steps will add up to a noticeable amount of ground covered. In some ways, for me at least, having a beer in the evening is essentially my way of tapping out for the day. It’s therapeutic, it’s well-deserved, it’s calming, and it’s also a motivation-sapper. At the end of the day, when my will power has waned from a full day of roles and responsibilities, I don’t need to deplete my levels even further by consuming a barley pop.
  • I’m going to be a better dad and husband: Patience. Being a dad takes patience. Alcohol and patience do not usually go well together, so I think that my patience-levels might increase if I remove alcohol from the equation. Patience is all about awareness. I can’t display patience if I’m unaware of feeling impatient, and alcohol makes me less aware, even if by just a tiny amount. Being a husband also takes patience. Sure, my wife is perfect in every single way and I would never need to display patience toward her actions (I love you, honey), but if I were to need to tap into my patience reservoir at any time, I’d be better able to do so without a nice, cold IPA running through my blood stream.
  • My friendships might change a bit: I’ve got amazing friends. I am truly blessed beyond words to have so many amazing friends in my life. I know that my friends are going to be supportive of anything I do, short of murder. But for the last 20-plus years, getting together with my friends has meant enjoying a tasty cold one, or two, or…. What’s really crazy (and maybe sad and alarming?) is that just about every fun interaction with my friends outside of work hours has involved at least a little bit of alcohol. Baseball games? Yep. Barbecues? Yep. Birthday parties? Yep. Dinners? Yep. Pancake breakfasts? Why not! I’m confident (although not 100% sure) that I can have just as much fun without alcohol. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out though. Aside from the ball-busting that will be unleashed upon me with unyielding fury, will there be a little resentment? Will there be a little questioning as to whether I think I’m “too good” to drink alcohol? I hope not, because me deciding to do this does not mean that I think any less of someone who drinks.
  • Some great conversations will come out of this: I have had many conversations over the years with friends and family about society’s relationship with alcohol. Most of us have questioned at one time or another whether we drink too much, or whether we should be drinking around our kids, or whether we should be drinking during the work week, or why we even drink at all. I’m not giving up alcohol in 2018 to raise awareness, or to question society’s relationship with alcohol. I’m doing this to question my relationship with alcohol. But in doing so, I would imagine that people might be curious as to why I’m doing it, and I would imagine that some really interesting and honest conversations will come of that.

So there you have it. I’m on the wagon for the rest of 2018 and I’m extremely curious as to what I learn about my relationship with alcohol. Will I have a drink on January 1st, 2019? Will I even make it through 2018 without a drink? What will I learn about myself? What will I learn about my world? I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. If you have a similar plan, or if you’ve tried something similar in the past, I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email to christophermcarlock@gmail.com. Thanks!