Until recently, I hadn’t gone an entire week without drinking that didn’t involve some horrific contagious infection or, well, that’s it. By “drinking,” I certainly don’t mean getting wasted every night or even leaving the house to go to dinner or a bar, but, yeah, strep throat and juice cleanses aside, it's been a really, really long time since I've gone a week without a drink. Like, over a decade.
In fact, here’s a good story if you totally want to judge me. When I was 24ish, I went to the doctor and she gave me a routine tuberculosis test -- you know, that prick on your arm that, if you haven’t been exposed to TB, will do absolutely nothing. A few days after the test, I went back to the doctor. “I’m sure I’m overreacting and that it’s no big deal and--”
“Just show me your arm.”
I pulled back my sleeve to reveal a bump the size of a gobstopper. “I’m totally being a hypochondriac, I know.”
“You’ve been exposed to tuberculosis. You’re not overreacting at all.”
And just like that I was sent off to a hospital for chest X-rays (negative) and put on Isoniazid (INH), a medicine used to prevent active TB infections in people who’ve tested positive for it.
“No big deal,” my doctor told me. “Everyone in New York has it now.”
I nodded, cursing the filthy F Train in the back of my mind.
“You just need to take one pill every day for nine months.”
“Yeah. Oh. And no drinking. Drinking on this drug can totally screw up your liver and give you hepatitis.”
I lasted four days.
Luckily for me and my stupid 24-year-old self, my liver function was and remains fine.
But that’s not the point. The point is: I suck at not drinking. And not in an alcoholic way, but more like in a fun lush kind of way. And who DOESN’T want a glass of wine (or two) after a hard day of work or when she wakes up in the morning? Amirite?
Anyway, my therapist caught on to this whole “drinking” habit of mine and started hinting that perhaps that was one of the reason I haven’t been myself lately. Here’s how my therapist hints:
“MAYBE THE DRINKING IS WHY YOU’RE NOT FEELING WELL LATELY.”
I know. I love him too.
I was like “maybe,” and then launched into this whole thing about how EVERYONE drinks and, well, trust me, you don’t want to hear it because it was boring and basically, yes, I would jump off the bridge if you went first.
So then he was like, “Well, why don’t you take some time off of drinking and just see what happens?”
And I was like “I fucking hate you. LIKE HOW LONG ARE WE TALKING?”
And I think he said something like “a month” but I was too busy laughing in his face to hear.
“One weekend.” I said.
“A week,” he countered.
“No.” I replied.
But somehow I walked out of his office that day promising not to drink for an entire week AND apologizing for saying I hated him. God, he is good at what he does.
What follows next is a diary of how that week went. Place your bets now on how long I lasted. (That's what she said!) (Sorry.)
Day 1 (Thursday):
I get home from therapy and realize that I opened a nice bottle of wine the day before and only had half a glass. I am immediately livid that I am going to be wasting wine. I pout while drinking water.
I also give myself this terrifying manicure. Pro Tip: Don't EVER buy this cheap brand of nailpolish at Walgreens. Like, ever.
Day 2 (Friday):
I head up to Tahoe around noon. Somewhere during the 200-mile drive, I smile to myself and think, “When I get there, I’m going to go to the Bridgetender and have a beer. Or two.” And then I remember that I CAN’T have a beer. I question how it is people reward themselves for a job well done. And yes, driving 200 miles counts as a job well done.
Since I can’t go to the bar at 3 p.m., I head to a coffee shop instead where I proceed to drink 17 cups of tea. I know, CRAZY! Seriously though, I’ve never really hung out in a coffee shop before and I’m not sure what the etiquette is on how long you can stay there without being rude, so I just keep buying more and more tea until I am basically shaking -- from the caffeine, Judgey, not withdrawals.
The coffee shop is fine and I actually get a bunch of work done. The only problem? No one talks to me. People at bars are much friendlier, I realize and that can only be because of one thing: ALCOHOL.
Later that night, a few friends and I go out to dinner. I offer to drive because I might as well get some Designated Drive cred if I'm going to be total sober. I don't want to make a big deal out of the not drinking thing in case I fail, so I quietly ordered a cranberry and soda and hop no one notices I skipped the crucial ingredient: vodka.
The best part? My bill. $20. WITH TIP INCLUDED. That's about $40 less than usual, for those counting. This not drinking thing could really add up!
Day 3 (Saturday):
I know this day is going to be the toughest because not only am I going snowboarding, we're playing Snow Golf, AND I have a friend visiting for the weekend who seems unimpressed that I'm not drinking, despite my reassurances that if I feel like it I'll have a drink. Oh, and I'm snowboarding in a Banana Costume, which, I dunno: who wears a banana costume sober?
People were like, "Why'd you dress up like a banana?" and I was like "Um because my friend was dressing up like a gorilla?"
In reality, the toughest part of not drinking this day is dealing with my friends. No one seems to mind that I pass on the PBR while “golfing,” but in the bar afterwards, while everyone is throwing 'em back pretty quickly, it becomes clear that my soda water is not going to fly.
“What are you drinking?” people ask me. Again. And again. And again.
And it's not like I'm not talking or laughing or having fun. It’s that people just really, really, really don’t like to drink “alone.” (And by “alone,” I mean “not at all alone” because I am the only person out of 10 not drinking.) When people start buying me shots (which I don’t do even when I am drinking), I decide the best approach is just to start lying. So I say there's vodka in my drink and everyone calms down.
Oddly, the more people pressure me to drink, the less I feel like it. In fact, the only time I want a drink all day is when one of my best friends is a jerk to a bunch of us and leaves Tahoe suddenly and without much explanation. He's so rude that after he stormed out of the house, I turn to the group, who are all happily guzzling down champagne and beer, and announce, “OK, NOW I want a drink.”
I have a hot tea instead.
Before we go out for dinner, my friend expresses concern that if I'm not drinking I won't want to stay up late and hang out. We stuff our faces with filet mignon and everything else on the menu (total: $50) and she passes out on the couch within minutes of our arrival back home.
Day 4 (Sunday):
After a huge breakfast and a trip to the store to stock up on junk food, my friend and I play SkipBo all afternoon. Have you ever played SkipBo? It's no Cards Against Humanity, but it's definitely one of my new faves.
I'm cool with not drinking during our marathon session, but notice that instead of filling up on mimosas, I'm filling up on Cheetos instead.
But who cares because after six straight hours of SkipBo? I WIN!
Day 5 (Monday):
By now, I'm on cruise control. I postpone a potential drinks date with a guy my friend's trying to set me up with because I feel like it would be awkward to go for “drinks” and not actually drink, but turns out that was for the best since I later find out he had a girlfriend the entire time. Yay my non-existent dating life!
Day 6 (Tuesday):
I have to take a Sleep Study in test #456,294 to figure out what’s wrong with me, so not drinking is a piece of cake since I didn’t want anything to interfere with the results. (Spoiler Alert: I do not have sleep apnea. We still don’t know why I’m tired all of the time.)
Day 7 (Wednesday):
TV and Diet Gingerale. What else does a girl need?
Day 8 (Thursday):
I walked into therapy, shake my iced tea in his face, and yell, “THIS IS ALL VODKA!”
He doesn't laugh.
But it's not. And actually, I'm so OK with not drinking that I do it for one more night. I do realize that without wine, there's not a whole lot of reason to stay up late, so I text my friend who's coming to Tahoe with me the next day to tell her I'm a loser who's going to bed at 9:30 p.m.
I'm not going to say that we drink so much on Friday that neither of us feels like snowboarding on Saturday and that we start drinking on Saturday at like 2 p.m., but, OK, fine. That's what I'm saying. Who cares though? I went EIGHT DAYS without booze!
Eight days without drinking and my first drink is a Bud Light? Sometimes I think I'm doing it wrong.
So what did I learn from this little experiment?
A couple of things:
- Peer pressure is actually a thing. People feel better when they’re doing something with a group. However, if they want to do it badly enough, they’ll get over you not joining in pretty quickly.
- I’m not easily peer pressured. I drink because I like to drink, not because my friends like me to drink. One I said “no” once, it was easy to keep saying it. In fact, the more I was pressured, the less I wanted to participate. I’m stubborn like that.
- I consume a ton of calories from alcohol. But if I’m not drinking, I’ll easily make up for it in food. Kind of a bummer since I always tell myself that if I really want to lose weight, all I need to do is cut out the booze.
- I still slept like shit, was tired all of the time, and had zero energy. But, as my therapist said, seven days isn’t actually long enough to tell what the real affect of drinking is on my body.
- I like to drink. It’s social. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. But I don’t need to drink to unwind or enjoy myself. Just don’t tell anyone I admitted that.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without your favorite vice? Tell me in the comments. I’ll read them while sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.