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I gave up alcohol for Lent this year. Good year for it.
This may not sound like a big deal to many Ricochetti. I’m sure some of you don’t drink. Some of you might scarf down a beer on a Saturday afternoon, after mowing the lawn or cleaning out the gutters. Some probably will occasionally (or nightly) have a glass of vino with dinner.
I don’t drink like that. I drink alcohol in amounts that would, to most normal people, seem egregious. It’s not that I have a drinking problem (said every guy with a drinking problem, ever). It’s just that I have a much higher baseline than the average fellow. By genetics, upbringing, and culture, I’m predisposed to enjoy quaffing rivers of intoxicating beverages.
I heard a comment on a podcast years ago that illuminated the situation perfectly. The comment was made by Dr. Drew Pinsky, licensed physician and addiction medicine specialist. Any behavior is a problem if it leads to negative outcomes, whether said behavior is related to booze, contraband drugs, legal drugs, gambling, sex, or pornography. So, I’m good.
I’ve only ever had one hangover. Granted, that involved a blackout and ensuing police report, which is indeed a negative outcome. Further analysis and meditation determined that the problem was not so much the drinking, as it was going through an eight-month dry spell (deployment for the first Gulf War) and then on my first weekend back at home-station drinking what I would consider a “normal” amount of alcohol without working up to it. Oops.
No hangovers. No arrests for alcohol-related incidents (except that one time when I didn’t do the appropriate pre-mission train-up). No alcohol, at all, if I have to drive somewhere. No alcohol, at all, if I even might have to drive somewhere (this rule was for the Mongettes, instituted for such occasions as prom, house parties, dates, etc.). No alcohol on deployment–heck, I don’t even drink when the job takes me on a short-term overseas trip (mostly; certain caveats apply). No one can say that they’ve ever seen me “drunk.” I think stumbling around, slurring speech, and speaking gobbledegook is undignified, and if that should ever happen, drinking would get truncated immediately.
When it comes to drinking, self-defense expert Rory Miller nailed it: “Well, what the heck else are you going to do while waiting for the next fight to come along?” I may have to reexamine that statement, since getting into fights is no longer in my job description. Sadly.
The only theoretical negative of my drinking is the reaction of the Lovely and Talented Mrs. Mongo. When I’m not drinking, she’ll say,”You’re being such a bastard, would you please have a drink?” When I am drinking, she’ll say, “You’re being such a bastard, would you please stop drinking?”
Don’t think she’s dug down to the true common denominator, there.
Lent this year was 46 days long per the Catholic calendar. On holy days of obligation (to include Sundays’ Mass), one is relieved of one’s observance. I blew that relief off. First, if you can go 40 days, 46 shouldn’t be that great an imposition. Second, I didn’t want to make it a short-term, “just hold on ’til Sunday” proposition. Do the 46, Mongo, and don’t snivel about it. Well, okay, 45 days. I gave (up front, from the outset) myself a carve-out for St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, that was a day of family obligation. Were I to blow off St. Patty’s day, the ghosts of thousands of blue-painted Picts, dark surly Celts, and probably more than a couple of axe-swinging Saxons would rise up to express their umbrage at my blowing off their day of remembrance.
I noted, over the course of Lent, some of the by-products, side effects, and tangential phenomena that came with voluntarily drying out. Some conformed to what I had been told about teetotalin’; some were 180 degrees out.
What I was told: Quality of sleep will go way up. You’ll find your sleep far more replenishing than before, and you’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to attack the day!
What I experienced: Meh. Sleep was okay. I didn’t notice any real difference. My mornings were not appreciably better. Of course, that may well have to do with Conrad, the cannonball Pit, and Leia, the ADHD German Shepherd being the arbiters of how much sleep I get and exactly what time around the crack of dawn I was going to get up. Mutts.
I did find myself going to bed earlier, though. Mostly out of sheer, unrelenting boredom.
What I was told: Your metabolism will normalize, and if you stick to your regular diet (i.e., don’t compensate for the lack of alcohol by scarfing down a non-stop stream of Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s) you’ll find your ideal weight.
What I experienced: I dropped about 20 pounds in the first week. Which, in my opinion, is about 30 pounds under my ideal weight. I could not put the weight back on–and after a significant weight loss about four years ago, I had been assiduously and purposefully shellacking back on the mass. Nope. Gone. I must’ve pounded about a case and a half of Muscle Milk a week, on top of my normal diet. To no avail. [Pro tip: If you’re going to supplement protein by slugging down liquid proteins like Muscle Milk, Ensure, or some kind of whey, sip it down over 20-30 minutes. Shotgunning it down, screaming “Yarghh!! Protein, baby!” can lead to some pretty severe cramping and, uh, intestinal disruption.]
What I was told: You’ll find you’re sharper, longer and task performance will be enhanced.
What I experienced: No increases in mental acuity noted.
What I was told: You’ll have a better attitude, be friendlier and, darn it, you’ll just be a nicer person.
What I experienced: See note above about being a bastard.
-I did bust out and drink on a couple of Sundays. 22 and 29 March. COVID made me do it.
-My workouts were pretty good. Not world-changing, Holy Schnikes I’ll never drink again good. But good.
-The only thing this whole COVID evolution was good for was the non-drinking meditations on non-drinking. I could’ve probably busted out of the sobriety deal and no one would blame me but me. (And I know all y’all know this, but this is for posterity.) First, I couldn’t go anywhere “social” (not a big deal, for bastard me), then I couldn’t go to work. Then I couldn’t go to work and we were all on an informal ration schedule (BTW, students of counterinsurgency should note how closely our “social isolation” mirrored “population control measures.” Not a fan). And I’m stuck with sober. Awesome.
-The more the world pushed on me with reasons to quit, the more there was no way I was going to quit. That made me think on “am I doing this for Him? Or for me?” Then I thought, well, if I’m just hanging in for me, then maybe He should’ve made me with an ounce of quit in me. Then I thought, well, that’s pretty awful. Then I thought, either way I go, it can be ascribed to egotism, so stick with the plan, knucklehead.
-Whenever I do shuffle off this mortal coil and stand to be judged, this better count. When St. Peter starts rolling through the list of all the things I did wrong, all the things I did poorly, and all the things that I should’ve done but didn’t, I’ma just point to Lent 2020. It should help. A little. I hope.Published in