Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Nearly five months ago, I woke up with a hangover. It was the day after my boyfriend's 30th birthday, and we had gone out the night before. We had gone out hard: drinks at home, followed by several different bars, and a final cap-off at a grimy local diner. By the time we staggered back home, it was nearly five in the morning. Most of my buzz had worn off—some drunk drama students at the diner had decided to engage with our table in a way that had involved much shouting and threats—and when I woke up at nine the next morning, I was still exhausted.

That's the last hangover I've had.

Giving up alcohol for six months was a personal experiment. I spent a long time wrestling with the problem of binge drinking, but by the time I was ready to become a teetotaler, I felt more on top of my relationship with alcohol. I still drank, but rarely during the week. I still drank, but only occasionally to excess. I still drank, but I could go to social events and not get schnockered. I had made progress.

So I figured since going from "drinking like an asshole" to "drinking like a normal person" was on lock, I was ready to try "drinking like an Mormon." Also known as not drinking at all. I made exceptions, but only a few: a shot at a friend's going-away party, a glass of wine at my boyfriend's mom's milestone birthday, and a couple more up North (vacation and 20th anniversary of buying the cottage, respectively). But birthdays, housewarmings, goodbye dinners, Friday nights, anniversaries, and what-have-you: I abstained.

Well. For the amount of bewilderment this decision was met with, you would have thought I had proposed we start all socializing in Richmond Hill. I kept going to social events (without my other signature drink, Coke Zero, because this is a time of great personal challenge), but instead of vodka or wine, I drank tea, water, Fresca, kombucha, club soda or ginger beer. After about a month of adjustment, I was able to stay out until last call. (I learned to bring a snack: club soda has no calories where alcohol has lots, so I would be famished by midnight while everyone around me was fine.) I danced sober, I did karaoke sober, and I hung out with lots and lots of drunk people. Sober.

It wasn't always easy. I didn't drink on my sister's birthday, and she's still mad. I often found that, as the night went on and the folks around me got more buzzed, I felt lonely: I was solo off the coast of Margaritaville, unable to radio in. One of my most vivid memories of the past few months was going to a friend's party. When I declined her offer of a beer, she snorted and said, "When are you going to be fun again?" I have been guilty of secretly (and, in some cases, loudly and publicly) opining that my sober friends would be more fun if they got into the tequila; getting that thrown back in my face felt kind of shitty.

But there have also been massive upsides to this experiment. My relationship is softer and kinder because we don't have to negotiate the stupid things we said when we were both drunk. My body is slamming right now, because even a few beers a week can add up to a lot of calories—and time spent on the couch recovering from the night before is time not doing things like yoga or running. I've never been more productive: I write more, I work out more, I see more friends and I feel happier.

My birthday is next weekend, and the experiment will come to an end. As a bonus, it's my champagne birthday, so the bubbly will be flowing. I'm kind of dreading it: I feel like many, many people will try to pressure me into having a drink with them, and I'll get blotto as a result. I don't want that. I don't need thirty shots for thirty years. I want to wake up the next morning feeling fantastic. If I'm sore, I want it to be from dancing too hard, not from throwing up. I want a fun night with maybe a couple drinks.

And I think that's all I want from here on out. I want to keep this body, this lifestyle. I want all my drinks to be special occasion drinks. And if anyone feels like that's not good enough—well, I can't throw my vodka/cran in their face just yet, but I think that water will get them just as drenched.