Marolt: Taking a shot at giving up drinking
What is a drinking problem? I don’t know because I don’t have one. Isn’t that the conclusion all of us, drinkers and not, come to? Even still, there is a body of evidence on the matter in front of me that is completely inconclusive, and that’s always the cue for more research. The question dogs me because I’d had a drink just about every single night for the past 25 years.
I decided to make Lent the laboratory of an experiment, and not because I believe alcohol is an evil that needs to be eradicated during a holy time of reflection and penitence, but because I believe the biggest problem our valley faces is substance abuse and its byproducts, depression and suicide, and abstinence would help me ponder the issue on a spiritual level. It was a convenient excuse to somewhat radically get out of my daily routine by turning cocktail hour into a solid reminder to think about this issue for at least the time it takes to overcome the craving for a drink each and every evening.
My doctor always asks about my drinking habits during routine health checkups. When I admit the daily drink, she tells me this is OK and possibly even somewhat beneficial, but whenever the subject is broached, I think both she and I wonder silently whether what I just said is the truth or only what I wish was the truth and have thusly convinced myself that it is. OK already, so on the weekends I sometimes have a couple or three beers and after stressful days I choose wine over beer because it affords the opportunity to pour my one drink a little taller.
I also realize that I have never really approached the issue of drinking and driving the right way. Part of the process of giving up drinking for Lent led me to do research on driving under the influence. It’s a topic that comes up frequently when you Google the health detriments of consuming alcohol.
It turns out the old rule of thumb is fairly accurate — most people can have a drink every hour and stay under the legal limit for being intoxicated. This jibes with apps you can download and supply input into that will tell you if you are OK to drive. Great! My claim that I do not get behind the wheel when I am legally drunk turns out to be probably true.
Yet I know if I have two drinks over the course of a dinner out, I do not feel the same as if I’d had nothing to drink. Isn’t that why we drink? And so what? I’m legally sober. But, through this exercise of sobriety, I reflected on hypothetically getting into an accident after a couple of drinks even if I was technically legally unimpaired. Depending on the severity of the accident, I think I could maybe find myself justifying my legal sobriety as means of proving myself innocent in my mind for the rest of my life, regardless.
Not that you haven’t guessed, but I admit there is a vanity element to this pursuit, too. Since I stared drinking many years ago, I’ve gotten flabbier, more wrinkly, my hair is thinner and everything hurts in the morning. Is it all attributed to time passing or are there other factors? What about booze? After all, alcohol is flammable and takes the finish off wood furniture.
The long and short of it is that I’ve lost about 5 pounds in five weeks and am sleeping like a teenager for the first time since I was a teenager. This alone makes me feel better. I’m not any stronger or fitter, as far as I can tell, but I get out of bed without as many aches greeting me. My thinking might be a hair clearer, especially in the mornings. I did have an unusually awful cold during this period. Your guess is as good as mine as to how that figures into the results.
So, at the last call, do I think I have a drinking problem? No, I still don’t. And I’m still not confident this self-evaluation clears me. Giving up drinking was not hard for me. By comparison, giving up caffeine proved impossible in a similar experiment years ago. I do think I feel better without alcohol. That indicates a problem. I just can’t decide how big it is.
Although it has proved over the years to be the worst habit for his bodily health, Roger Marolt has no intention of giving up skiing. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.