30 Day Not Drinking Challenge

On April 30th, I went through a fairly solid bender: home by 2 a.m., a fairly disjointed cab-ride, smelling of street meat, etc.

The next day, Tom and I resolved to do a 30-Day Challenge of not drinking until our 31st Birthday. I learned a bit about myself, the folks around me, and drinking in general.

As a background, I drink regularly, mostly casual, with co-workers, peers, and loved ones. I would say I drink at least 4-5 times a week. Generally, I stick to 2 beers, but have gone higher ( usually when a younger co-worker suggest shots or shotguns.) I'm not much of a drinker though, and thought I could make 30 days.

Here's what I noticed:

  • Energy: I was a lot more energetic, especially at night
  • Coding: I coded nearly every night: 85 commits in the month of May compared to 29 commits in April
  • Anxiety: I was edgier in the first few days. Drinking seemed to forcibly calm me down, and without that dampener, I was more outspoken about issue
  • Socially: I got a few strange reactions, from clients, friends, and co-workers. Most people were curious, and there were a few jokes about it. I thought the most difficult reaction would be from my Father-in-Law. He's an older Italian man who drinks wine nearly every night. When we went to visit, he was surprised at first, and then became quickly casual about it.
  • Mentally: My memory is sharper. I usually have a strong recall on long-term storage details, but, especially when drinking, not so much on the tail end of the short term night. However, my the short term retrieval of memories, parallel thoughts I'm thinking, or snippets of discussion feels much higher.

Personally, it started off as a casual joke. "Oh, I'm not drinking, 30 day challenge, haha, it's only been a day and I'm already sweating". Then it became sobering: I threw out any beer // wine we had in our home. Friends tried to get me to drink, or have a shot at a bar and relax. Co-workers became encouraging about it.

I became friends with non-Alcoholic beers, and grew to look forward to them. While lighter, thinner, and with less flavor, they were a powerful placebo when out with a client or friends. (here's a great list:). My favorite was Bucklers at Trinity bar, although O'Doul's and Beck's were solid contenders. Clausthaler is a beer we keep at work for one of our co-workers whose aiming to be dry for an entire year (cheers man!) but something about the taste doesn't work for me. And I learned how non-alcoholic beer was made: boiling the beer after it ferments causes alcohol to evaporate (alcohol has a lower boiling point than water). That or high quality filters to strain alcohol from the beer.

Waiters and Waitresses in New York were a mixed bag of prepared: some had a defacto house Non-Alcoholic Beer (usually just one). Some had no idea how to react and were unsure what to say. A few offered fruit-juices. A friend gave a great tip about using soda + bitters with a twist of lemon or lime as a refreshing drink with less alcohol than non-alcoholic beer.

Health: I feel leaner, but in weighing myself, I remained the same weight. My taste for sweet things (especially dessert) increased, and I felt more focused during meal times (when I'd normally have a pint or two). I'm surprised about the no-weight-loss, but I'm sure something was sublimated in drinking's place.

Lastly, I found myself talking about not drinking ad nauseum, and expressing my wish to get back to it. I'm glad to have been able to restrain myself for 30 days, and hopped through the social, physical, and mental hurdles that only 30 days comes with. What I really I miss is the connection of relaxing with a few friends after work, all that seems to require a drink in the hand. But it feels silly to miss drinking itself; alcohol is basically a poison that taxes our liver, numbs us, and is addictive. It alters our moods, loosens our inhibitions, and makes one beautiful, confident, and the smartest person in the room. Some drink for the taste of it, though I don't necessarily have the taste buds to enjoy the higher order flavors that master brewers would find.

We, as a species, have mastered something nearly no other species on earth has: the mastering of our body's biological cocktail (except for Bees and Bears, who discovered alcohol in fermented + exposed bee hives). It's been good to have restrained myself, even for a short time. I think I'll drink less than I used to, knowing the benefits described above aren't at the bottom of a glass, but beyond it.

This article is my 39th oldest. It is 797 words long