Sometimes, it’s a very fine line between having a bad habit and having a problem. Especially when it comes to drinking.
I’m a single woman who lives in a city. Much of my socialization revolves around alcohol: happy hour with friends, drinks with dinner, getting a drink as a date, brunch, seeing a band– and it’s magnified when you also happen to write about food and beverages.
It’s very easy for me to grab my favorite rose– already chilled because the folks at 1215 are nice that way– and polish off a good portion of it, by myself, while catching up on Orange is the New Black or reading a book before I go to bed.
When I travel, I usually sit and read at my hotel’s bar, with a glass of wine, to decompress after a day of travel, which I take to bed with me. Or, I go out for big dinners with customers, which comes after happy hour and before a nightcap.
Am I an alcoholic? No. Do I drink too much? Yes.
I’m a big believer in the idea that I can do anything for 30 days. After a long weekend in Nashville where I essentially ate and drank my weight in grits and whiskey, I figured that starting on July 5 and ending on August 5 would be ideal.
I wasn’t entirely sure how this would go. I learned quite a few things:
There are immediate health benefits to not drinking.
If you’ve kept up with me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ve noticed I’m on a bit of a health kick. In the past year or so, I’ve lost about 30 pounds, and have had a keen focus on my diet and exercise. I should have had “focus on reducing alcohol consumption” on my list a lot earlier. A month of no drinking had a few quick, noticeable benefits:
- Sleep: I slept like a baby. I slept for 8 hours. I went to bed early. I got up early. My dreams were eerily lucid. I’m not sure if I liked that part or not.
- Heart rate: My resting heart rate plummeted. It was pretty good before, but within a couple of days I was wondering if I had somehow, overnight, become a marathon runner (spoiler alert: no.).
- Focus: No brain fog. My memory seems sharper, and I don’t feel like I’m fuzzy, ever.
There is not a damn thing to do in my neighborhood that doesn’t involve drinking.
Okay, that’s not entirely true, but during the weekend summer evenings, the options are few and far between. Most retail closes at 8. Galleries do not appear to be open on Saturdays. Theatre is on hiatus over the summer. Music shows at places like MOTR and The Woodburn are pretty alcohol-centric. I ended up going to a couple of movies both at the theatre and at Washington Park, took a lot of walks, and read.
I CAN hang out in a bar without drinking, and no one in Cincinnati cares.
One Thursday night, I just had to get out of the house. Longfellow was great for this: I got some club soda and snacked on some of their charcuterie. In fact, no one looked at me oddly when I sat at the bar and ordered club soda (usually with food); no one in Cincinnati really cares.
Chicago is a different matter.
I had two nights in Chicago for work in July, and those were the hardest: I love to drink a glass of wine, eat dinner, read and people watch in the city. In Chicago, the bartenders definitely care if you drink or not: I went to my favorite restaurant and ordered my favorite dish and a diet Coke. As soon as the bartender noticed I was taking my last bites, the check appeared in front of me. I was going to order another course, but not if I wasn’t welcome.
Life is way cheaper.
My average dinner bill is about $20 if I’m not drinking; often less. I spent a grand total of $10 on soda (for two people!) at a recent concert at Bogart’s.
Me, checking my spending:
I didn’t really miss it.
I was surprised at how little I actually missed drinking. I can think of one Saturday where I missed it: I was walking up Vine, popped into the Booksellers on Fountain Square to pick up that last issue of Lucky Peach (RIP). I noticed the terrace at Via Vite and thought “Man, I’d really like a glass of rose and to people watch up there,” but instead I walked back home with my magazine.
Since then, I’ve gone back to drinking, but it’s a lot less: less during the week, less during travel, less even on the weekends. I think I’ll do more months off in the future: it’s a good way to remember that you don’t necessarily have to drink to have fun (and a good way to save a heck of a lot of money!).