Why I Decided to Stop Drinking for 9 Months, in Solidarity with My Now Pregnant Wife
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
There's that sparkling, lazy afternoon in a tiny port town, working through ice-cold carafes of retsina, Greece’s resinated white wine. And that surprisingly good pizza, washed down with lukewarm bottles of Toña, Nicaragua's answer to Budweiser. Even anxious memories fraught with fear, like braving an illegal back alley bar in Pakistan, are made more profound with booze.
Liquor has been part my life for so long, I finally understand why recovering addicts and alcoholics keep a careful count of their sober days.
In February, my wife and I stopped drinking. For some couples, this would be a minor sacrifice. But Neena and I met and courted at bars across downtown Manhattan. We fell in love toasting sunsets under thatched roofs throughout Central America. For us, dinner without wine isn't much of a meal, and a weekend without time spent in a dark bar isn’t much of a weekend.Sobriety didn’t arrive unannounced. We spoke at length and prepared for it, much as one readies for an imminent storm. Still, it was a shock to learn on a random Monday morning that Sunday night's wine had been our last. We should’ve splurged on better bottles.
At this point I should mention that my wife's not an alcoholic. Neither am I. She's pregnant, and I’m trying to be supportive.
When it comes to incendiary topics, partner sobriety during pregnancy runs a close second to expectant mothers drinking alcohol. Pity the woman who turns to mommy blogs and baby forums for advice on broaching the subject of alcohol use with her partner. Should the all-knowing crowd deem her husband or boyfriend’s drinking as excessive, she is urged to leave this good-for-nothing sperm donor. Even when they’re not labeled alcoholics, drinking partners are regularly condemned online as traitors for lifting a single beer.
Fortunately, the middle ground is more reasonable. Hidden among the hysteria, most expectant mothers ask just one thing of their partner: Don’t be an asshole. For some couples, this means dual sobriety. For most, though, partners continue to drink in moderation. Writing on the web, some women even take pride in being the “DD” (dedicated driver) for their “DH” (dear husband) or “SO” (significant other).
Months before Neena got pregnant, I offered to stop drinking when the time came. When the test came back positive on that Monday morning, my abstract idealism quickly became a grim reality: Holy shit, I’m going to be sober until October. And even thereafter, with a newborn and a new life, drinking would never be the same.
A few months into our new lifestyle, I’ve realized something: Sobering up isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever had. The last time I dried out was 2005, when I was running a weekly newspaper in New York City. Between the job stress and the newspaperman’s romantic urge to hit the bottle, my nightly drunkenness was entirely justified. But it was getting out of hand. There is a breaking point, a Rubicon that must not be crossed, and it was near.
Taking a cue from a friend who’d given up the bottle for an entire year for similar reasons, I vowed to dry out for however long it took to clear my head and get a handle on things. By then, I’d been drinking for more than 20 years, starting with a mickey of blackberry brandy passed around before a middle school dance. I’ve always been an enthusiastic, loyal drinker. In fact, after smoking weed in high school and sucking down the usual pollutants in college, I spent my 20s in an exclusive relationship with alcohol.