As some of you know, I gave up my old friend booze for Lent last year. I had been having trouble sleeping, and while a few drinks may cause you to drop into a dreamless stupor, it dramatically decreases the quality of your sleep. You sleep very lightly, and don't fall into the replenishing Stage 4 sleep as often. It was a Catch-22, I couldn't sleep until I had a couple drinks, but the little sleep I got was almost totally useless.
So, using Jesus' suffering as an excuse, I gave up alcohol for 40 days and 40 nights. Most of us are familiar with next-day hangovers, but I was surprised by the more long-term effects of my sobriety. Predictably, my sleep was fantastic. Deep and refreshing, every night. In addition, my metabolism rose dramatically, I had a lot more energy and was clearheaded all the time. This may sound obvious, but the degree to which I experienced these benefits was startling. I hadn't expected that the weekend Happy "Hours," or a cocktail here and there throughout the week, would affect me so wholly. I felt like a real adult.
Of course you may ask, What the chilis? If it was so great, why are you meeting me on the UWS after work for beer and wings tomorrow? The sad truth? My social life almost totally disappeared. I didn't mind going to hang out with people, but it made everyone else uncomfortable. Who wants to throw a few back and get loose when the tee-totaler in the corner is judging you? (For the record, I wasn't, but still....)
"Someone declaring they're not drinking prompts an imbalance, says North Carolina-based psychologist Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, whose clients include athletes. It "changes the rules of social interaction, and there's an implicit tension there." The person who is drinking "begins to question, 'Is what I'm doing right? Do I need to change?' "
I was lucky because all of my friends knew what I was doing, so I wasn't faced with the constant questions, "why don't you just have one drink?" My situation would have much more difficult socially if I hadn't had a "purpose" or an end-point in sight. And the end was a relief. Because as good as I felt physically, I missed the social warmth that a few drinks with your best friends can bring.
In a city like New York, when everyone you know is in their mid-twenties, not drinking is akin to both being Amish and insulting your friends. And perhaps we are a skewed sample, but it makes little difference. In some respects, if judgement is necessary, I would rather be judged alongside my friends, than standing alone on my morally upright pedestal. Lesson learned: you should not drink to excess. You should also do as I say, not as I do.
Oh yeah, moderation is key and blah blah blah.
Full disclosure: The title links to an article I found through Gawker.