Why I Decided to Stop Drinking for 9 Months, in Solidarity with My Now Pregnant Wife
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My 2005 dry spell lasted about four months, and ended when my father died. I wouldn’t say my head was entirely clear, but I had certainly stepped back from the brink. All things considered, it was a success.
Truth be told, I’m happy to abstain during the week. I’m in my mid-40s, an age when most men bulk up if they don’t exercise regularly. Thanks to the empty calories of alcohol, I've carried an extra 10 or 20 pounds for longer than I’d like. A few months ago, when every dinner included wine and we drank beer by the caseload, working out meant breaking even, at best. You’d think, then, I’d be shedding weight. But the body wants what it's had, and mine craves sugar. My sweet tooth is out of control, and non-dairy Cuties frozen treats don’t actually qualify as healthy snacks.
It’s the weekends that hurt. Since it’s too early to build a nursery and shop for baby things, we fill our days with activities. We hike in the nearby hills above Santa Monica. We play paddle tennis at Venice Beach. We do everything we can to run down our engines, wearing ourselves out like small children so we’ll fall asleep early. Still, the urge to drink is always there, tapping at the window like a vampire anxious for an invitation.
For the newly sober, the toughest challenge is often one of lifestyle. After Neena and I moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 2011, we had trouble finding our rhythm. Two years later, we finally have a favorite dive bar for summer Fridays when she leaves the office early. We found the right jukebox and pool table for idle Saturday afternoons. We even found a dog-friendly patio where our mutt can join us for Sunday pints, as she had in our old neighborhood.
Those hard-won locals are now a thing of the past, destined to fade into fond memories. Some non-drinkers can still visit their favorite haunts, ordering club soda and O’Doul’s, concentrating on the company not the cocktails. Not us. We’re even avoiding favorite restaurants whose meals are lessened without good wine pairings. Dry meals are easier on the budget, sure, but I'd gladly blow $200 tonight if it meant a hearty red with my steak and a perfect port to end the meal.
At least our non-drinking has been good for Netflix. We finally caught up with Arrested Development,Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. We may finally succumb to peer pressure and binge on Mad Men. We'd better cram it in now, before the baby arrives and there’s no time for real television. Or real drinking, for that matter.
I’m actually grateful for these next few months of clarity and hangover-free mornings. I’m particularly glad it’s a voluntary dry-out, not lifelong abstinence. If all goes well, sometime in October I’ll be popping a bottle of champagne in a Santa Monica hospital room. In no time, Neena will be sneaking glasses of white between feedings. No doubt, we’ll be that annoying couple with the baby at the bar. We’re not entirely out of the game.
Will I miss those lazy Saturdays that start with mimosas, continue with pints and end with nightcaps on the couch? Those carefree Sundays when the most important decision is, which bar? Of course. But as Old John told Joseph Mitchell, as quoted in Up in the Old Hotel, I’ve had my share. More important matters are at hand.