March 24, 2019

729 words 4 mins read

90 Days

I stopped drinking for 90 days

Many of you know I enjoy the occasional (hurrumph) adult beverage. You might be curious about my experiences during long periods of abstinence.

I’m doing Exodus 90. My exodus began January 21 and ends Easter Sunday, April 21.

Exodus 90 is Catholic thing. It challenges men to escape from the slavery of this world through prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. The asceticism includes abstaining from drinking. And I like my drink.

So, what’s it like for me to say “no” to alcohol? Some of the answers might surprise you.

Expectations of No Alcohol

I read many articles about the wonders of not drinking. Bloggers claim they experienced every possible benefit from better skin and hair to financial windfalls because they didn’t drink for a month.

Some of their claims might have been cognitive biases like expectation bias and confirmation bias. Others might have been mere click bait. But everyone knows alcohol is a toxin, so not consuming that toxin is bound to have some benefits, right?

Here were my expectations:

  • Less itching from dry skin, even in winter
  • Better sleep, especially not waking up at 2:30 a.m.
  • More energy
  • Better moods
  • Better relationships with my family
  • Getting more accomplished
  • Better focus at work
  • Easier weight loss
  • More money in my pocket
  • More time for side projects and writing
  • Surprise benefits

How does reality measure up?

Results are Mixed

Let’s start with the good news: apparently, my drinking wasn’t as detrimental as some people might have thought. If it were, my actual results should have been far more dramatic. Instead, this is pretty boring.

There have been no brilliant moments of clarity. I don’t abound with energy and focus. I am not significantly happier (or sadder) than I was before. My weight lifting hasn’t gotten easier, nor has weight loss. Food doesn’t taste better, colors don’t look sharper, and my dogs don’t like me more than they did.

Even more good news: I don’t really think about drinking that much. Sure, when I go out after work with friends or attend a birthday party, I find myself ordering club soda as the main course instead of as the topper on my bourbon. But I don’t feel awkward doing this. Or like I’m missing something. The scariest thing about this lack of urge to drink is that I might forget to start drinking when my 90-day challenge is over.

As far as the itemized expectations go, let’s look at each one briefly.

  • Less itching from dry skin, even in winter: Nothing. I itch as much as ever in the winter. Even though I take cold showers and don’t use soap (except for my hands), I still itch in the winter. Giving up soap and warm showers helped, but I did that years ago. Not drinking doesn’t do anything for my skin. (Your mileage may vary.)
  • Better sleep, especially not waking up at 2:30 a.m.: Totally. If I have two glasses of wine, I’m up at 2:30 and awake until 5:00. Then I fall into a deep sleep for 30 minutes and wake up miserable. Without drinking, even if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m back asleep in minutes.
  • More energy: Nope. No less energy, but no more, either.
  • Better moods: Nope. Not worse, either, but not better. Emotions might right a narrower range of highs and lows, but not by much.
  • Better relationships with my family: The opposite. Worse. I think not drinking means I’m not really me. Drinking is sort of part of who I am, and not drinking means I’m morphing. This challenges people’s narrative about who I am, including my own. That causes everyone who knows me to question their relationships to me.
  • Getting more accomplished: The only thing I’m accomplishing more of is prayer. Exodus 90 requires a 1-hour holy hour every day. Plus, I say the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily Rosar. Any timesaving from not drinking, therefore, goes straight into prayer.
  • Better focus at work: Not really.
  • Easier weight loss: Nope.
  • More money in my pocket: Maybe, but I can’t really tell. Unexpected expenses have more than eaten up whatever I’ve saved by not drinking. (This is particularly disappointing.)
  • More time for side projects and writing: Nope. (See “Getting more accomplished” for more)
  • Surprise benefits: None yet. Except, maybe, having something to blog about.