Looking forward to clinking glasses with the Easter Bunny this Sunday after a forty day dry spell? Here, the potential benefits of extending your self-imposed sobriety, speaking from personal experience.
About a year and forty days ago, prompted by health concerns and fueled by an ever-growing friendship, I decided to shun alcohol in the weeks leading up to Easter. Considering I'm only Christian in that I love my mother's Easter dinner and find great joy in trimming a Christmas tree, referring to the experience as a Dry Lent is a bit of a misnomer, especially since I've shunned alcohol (save for drinking occasions I can count on one hand) for well over a year.
If you're considering abstinence and thinking "but what about Christmas?" and "how do you manage New Year's eve?" or perhaps "but my anniversary is coming up," first, I survived a very large holiday gathering with my in-laws sans booze; raised a glass of champagne at a friend's house to ring in 2018, then passed it to my husband; celebrated five years of marriage and nine years together without a drop of alcohol.
Sobriety is much like exercise in that there's never an ideal time to start. The difference? The former can be much easier as it requires INACTION. You don't have to get up, go anywhere, make any special purchases to support your new habit, or change your lifestyle in any way except accepting yourself as a non-drinker. While it's not a cure-all, abstinence is the one healthy habit that won't cost you a dime.
But, will it actually save you anything? Well, that depends.
Let's take the New York metro area as an example, where drinks will set you back on average $10. Say you're out once during the week for happy hour (two drinks), and once for dinner (another couple of cocktails down the hatch). Hopefully you're tipping at least twenty percent, so let's call that fifty bucks for the week - a couple of hundred bucks saved per month. Potentially, significant!
Now let's consider this scenario: you went out, drank this weekend, and ate (fill in the blank with your questionable choice: whole pizza, diner food at 3am, half the chip aisle at CVS). If this pattern sounds even remotely familiar, chances are you'll save even more money and calories as a non-drinker. My friend who inspired my "Dry Lent" in the first place tracks her weight during her yearly dry-out, and there's a significant loss every year. She attributes it to - shock! - the caloric deficit provided by a lack of snacks surrounding usual alcohol consumption.
But are you really, REALLY going to cut calories? That's largely dependent on your personality, and may change over the course of a lifetime of sobriety. Maybe you go through a phase of ordering dessert instead of a drink with dinner (I mean, I hope you weren't ever skipping dessert, but I understand the train of thought), but you'll do so without clouded judgement. Perhaps you attempt to fill the void of a specialty cocktail with some sort of juicy mocktail here and there, negating any potential caloric loss. In the longer run, hopefully you'll find those instances fewer and farther between.
What else is there to gain aside from money, which you may or may not funnel directly into your spandex collection? Every time I quietly broadcast my choice not to drink on social media, an extremely fit person would come out of the woodwork, privately, to say that he or she too is abstinent. Coincidence? I think not. While it would be unfair to credit my drinking habits with feeling as though I was in the shape of my life this year, that bit isn't a minor detail, either. I haven't woken up on a Sunday in over a year feeling like I couldn't tackle my biggest training session of the week because I had a glass of wine too many the night before.
It would also be unfair not to address the social impact of sobriety. Depending on your lifestyle, it can feel like an insurmountable hurdle. Bear in mind that others' reactions to your drinking habits are about them, not you, and the relationships that matter most won't (or at least shouldn't be) affected. Once everyone sees you for the valuable designated driver you've become, it's a non-issue. I'm maybe half kidding. At professional functions, I'd argue being the only stone-cold sober person has it's advantages, and there's something to be said for possessing heightened self-awareness in a room full of people who are half in the bag. Try it sometime and see for yourself.
Would you like to strategize fewer drinking occasions as part of a balanced lifestyle? I'd love to help! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your life!