When I was a young pup, I could drink large quantities of alcohol and maintain the illusion of being a functioning adult the following day. I experienced hangovers from time to time, but the hangovers were fairly mild and wore off quickly.
As we age, hangovers typically get worse, and mine certainly have. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. But recently, I seem to experience hangovers no matter how much (or little) I drink. Even a few beers lead to a rough morning. In the past month, I’ve been violently hungover twice. The first time, I puked my guts out all day. Couldn’t even get out of bed until three o’clock in the afternoon. The second time, I only had three drinks. Three drinks and I couldn’t get out of bed until after noon! I managed to avoid another morning kneeling by the porcelain throne, but I was miserable—headache, stomachache, soul-ache. It was rough.
It was a wake up call. Let me be clear that I’m not a heavy drinker. I’ve only been drunk a handful of times in the past decade. I’ll normally have two or three drinks in a social setting. I almost never drink alone. But I do drink. And while a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine is a nice way to unwind, spend time with friends, and take the edge off, I’m noticing more and more that alcohol is having a negative effect on my health and well-being.
I get tired when I drink. I feel lethargic when I drink. I sleep poorly when I drink. I get sick when I drink. My brain hurts when I drink.
When I don’t drink, the opposite of all those things happens. I’m more awake and alert. I sleep better. I don’t puke my guts out. My head feels great. Life is better.
So why in the name of all that’s holy do I drink?
I don’t drink every night. I rarely drink to excess. And I’ll go long stretches (like three days … that’s “long,” right?) without drinking. But I want to experiment with an alcohol-free life. So, I’m putting down the bottle for 30 days and paying attention to the changes I experience. I technically started Wednesday, August 20 (since I spent half that day miserable in bed), so I’m currently on day 6. I’ve already had to avoid alcohol at a happy hour work meeting Friday and a friend’s huge pool party on Saturday. And there’s a long way to go. The Bengals begin their season September 7. A friend is coming in town to celebrate his engagement next Saturday. The first Cincinnati Bearcats football game is September 12. I’ll be swimming in alcohol, but won’t be able to take a sip.
After the 30 days is up, I’ll reflect on the month. Perhaps I’ll be a better, healthier person. Or maybe I’ll just need a stiff drink.
Wish me luck!
Photo (Flickr CC) by Sonny Abesamis