I love beer.  I brew it.  I write about it.  And on occasion I have been known to enjoy a pint or two.

So why stop doing something I love?  I know what you’re thinking: because I have a drinking problem.

Well, I suppose if I’m being honest, there were a few times in the past where I admit I did have a drinking problem, but I can truthfully say that I’ve become more responsible since then, and today I always make sure that I have enough beer around so that I’ll never have a problem drinking again.

And just in case you were wondering, no, I’m not Catholic, so I’m not giving beer up for lint (I’ve already got plenty of that in my dryer).

I’m not quitting beer because I got fat (I’m cursed with the metabolism of a hummingbird), I didn’t just have a kid and suddenly get the urge to be Capt. Role Model, nor did I just recently drink too much only to swear off booze until the next time.  So why quit?

I guess for me, it’s a self-control thing because proper beer contains alcohol and alcohol can be addictive (allegedly), so testing the old willpower now and again by abstaining from beer and alcohol in general could be a good thing.  Or maybe it’s a terrible idea.

Only one way to find out!

Also, I’m only quitting for a month.  (I’m stupid, not crazy.)

Predictions

Aside from the obvious reduction in fun, here are a few predictions I’ll make about my month with no beer:

1. Unforgiveable financial damage to local breweries from me not buying their beer which in turn will hurt their families, babies, and their cute little puppies and kitties.
2. Less beer cans and bottles being recycled which will increase global warming and melt the ice caps, thus forcing polar bears to join ISIS.
3. Fewer hangovers.

The Plan

I sometimes get the feeling that my brain likes to think of drinking beer as a reward, so I’ll keep the drinking part, but just swap out the beer with another beverage I also enjoy, in this case tea, and hope my brain doesn’t catch on.

That’s right, the old Pavlovian Switcheroo.

Let’s just hope that my brain is stupid enough to fall for my sneaky little ruse because if it gets wise, there’s no telling what it might do…

A Month Without Beer

Day 1: “No drinks for the month starts today!  Cheers!” was the text I just sent my buddy who said he’d also attempt to go dry with me for the month.  I’m not sure if it’s important to mention this, but the first time my buddy and I met years ago, he told me that he had just quit drinking.

To his credit, I will say he is pretty experienced at quitting as he’s quit drinking about a dozen or more times since then.  Who better to have on my team than this seasoned pro, right?

The truth is, it does make it a little easier going cold turkey when you have somebody in your corner who’s going to tough it out with you too.

Just got a text back: my buddy is headed out to the pub for a pint.

I’ve gotta hand it to him, he quit quitting drinking on the same day.  That is some next-level quitting.  I told you he was a pro.

I, on the other hand, am not a quitter.  Well, except for quitting beer for the month.  And then quitting this whole dumb personal experiment at the end of the month.

Day 2: The day before yesterday was my “Fat Tuesday”, the day you’re supposed to indulge in a bit of gluttony that will hopefully sustain you for the next 40 days of trying to be good before you can start being bad again.

That’s the day I enjoyed the last beer I’d have for a month.  It was a tasty German Hefeweizen I brewed that was just coming into its prime.  I also had a Miller Low-Life with a slice of lime, a bottle that was left over from a party from the month before.  (See, I’m not a beer snob because I discovered that almost any otherwise undrinkable beer can be choked down with a squeeze or three of lime!)

Yeah, so two measly beers.  Fat Tuesday… more like Dangerously Emaciated Tuesday.

Day 3: Two thoughts come to mind: (1) This ex-beer-iment is masochistic and dumb, and (2) I really miss that German Hefeweizen.

Time for a pint of beer tea.

Day 4. Here’s the problem with having beer as your only hobby: you have a lot of free time on your hands when you quit.  The question is what to do with all the free time.  I guess I didn’t think this whole thing through.

Day 5: “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

~ Homer Simpson

Day 6: It just dawned on me that I’m doing a sort of reverse AA (Alcoholics Anonymous): I’m counting down the number of days until I’ll get to have another beer instead of the days I don’t.  I also just realized that the reverse of “AA” is still “AA”.  It also just dawned on me that the increasing application of facial recognition software courtesy of Facebook, Apple and Amazon, might just be helping to take the “anonymous” out of Alcoholics Anonymous (and everything else, for that matter).

Facebook: “The Cloud just tagged you in a photo walking into an AA meeting!”

You: Nervously awaiting likes & comments from friends, family and co-workers.  (Stole that idea from an episode of Black Mirror, Season 6: Booze Clues.)

Day 7: “Like a camel, I can go without a drink for seven days— and have on several horrible occasions.”

~ Herb Caen

Day 8: I think this spot is about deep enough in the article where I’ll have lost most readers so I can actually be honest about something.  I sort of stole this idea.  Well, not the idea of quitting something I like doing for some pre-determined amount of time.  That’s basically a form of fasting, and fasting’s been around for thousands of years (re: most major religions).

What I’m doing is a purely personal and secular form of self-denial.

The part that I stole was from an article I read a while ago… maybe years ago… that essentially did what I’m doing now: give up alcohol for a month and write about it.  (Did I forget to mention that was one of my other intentions?  To have a little semi-provocative writing fodder for when the idea mill hit a lull?)

But I like to give credit where credit’s due, so let me just provide a link to the article that sort of inspired me.  It should be easy to find… it’ll probably be the only article that pops up when I google “a month without drinking”.

Huh.  So it turns out that there was more than one article about quitting booze for a month.  Google returned more than 400 million search results.  Did not see that coming.

Apparently there’s even a recently invented “official month” for not drinking called “Dry January” that seems to have originated in the U.K. around 2013.  (Note to self: Visit the U.K. in January– the drink specials must be insane.)

Meanwhile, four pages deep into the search results and I gave up trying to find that one article that inspired me.  Thanks, Obama.

Day 9: With over 100 different beer styles and easily over a quarter million commercial examples of those styles, a major allure to beer is exploring all its variety and versatility.

Similarly, there’s a vast landscape of tea to discover.  With over 3,000 different varieties in the world, tea, in all of its various incarnations, should keep even the most ferocious curiosity busy for at least a month.

Here are just a few I recommend:

Detox Teas:

# 1: Dandy Live Detox: Unlike roasted dandelion root tea which has a watery coffee and Cracker Jack character, this dandelion tea is very approachable yet flavorful, slightly fruity, and well balanced. 5/5 stars. (Contains milk thistle seed, lemongrass leaf and a blend of other tasty stuff).

By the way, not all dandelion teas are the same and most contain additional ingredients other than just dandelion.  For example, EveryDay Detox Dandelion from Traditional Medicinals has a dominant black licorice anise character to it, which might be a good substitute for those trying to go a month without ouzo.

# 2: Detox Herbal Supplement with Green Tea: Although this tea from Lipton contains dandelion and nettle, it also contains grapefruit, which is by far the star of the show.  If you like grapefruit, this is the detox tea for you.  Not only that, but just one bag is powerful enough to make a pint of tea.

Other Highly Recommended Teas:

Tulsi Sweet Rose Tea: If you’ve ever seen a cat devour a rose bud, you’ll know why after you try this gentle sweet rose tea from Tulsi.

Yogi Mango Ginger and Lemon Ginger: Both of these fruity-ginger teas pack big flavor and nail the balance between the fruit and the ginger.  As a bonus, only one bag of either of these blends is strong enough to make a respectable pint of tea.  (Chai tea is another example of where you can easily get away with one bag per pint.)


Day 10:
  I started to notice that I’m not feeling as full from a pint of tea as I do from a pint of beer.  Hmmm… I need to google something. Be right back.  Okay, so I’m not sure if this has anything to do with it, but it turns out that google says a pint of beer has 208 calories, while a pint of tea has approximately 0-6 (and roughly 20 with a teaspoon of honey).

Analysis: Need to double quadruple-down on the tea.  Might also pick up some Whey Protein for some shakes while I’m at it.

Day 11: I forgot to mention that I was being a little strategic about when I decided to go dry.  No birthdays or any big beer events I could think are going on this month.  Well, aside from packaging a bunch of beer, writing about beer every day, and living in a house that’s swimming in what even the most liberal alcoholic would call “triggers”.

But here’s the point: if you want to give this awful month-long experiment a try yourself, you don’t have to be a trend-bot and get in line with all the Dry Januaryists.  Do whatever month or 30ish day period that works best for you and have “fun”.

Day 12: Today I realized that despite my bragging about being strategic with regards to when I chose to abstain from the drink, if I were more strategic, I would have chosen February to go dry (fewer days).

Day 13: “Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

Day 14: It’s been two weeks with no beer or alcohol in general.  I lost 10 pounds, went down a belt notch, and got thinner in the face.  Yep, you’ve probably heard that alcohol can puffy up your mug like a milder version of pregnant-face.  According to a British dermatologist, this happens because alcohol causes peripheral blood vessels to expand and widen (puff-face), which allows more blood to flow through our skin, also making the skin appear redder. 

Science aside, my working hypothesis is that if you lose 10 pounds through dieting, some of that weight is probably going to come off the face.

Day 15: Speaking of oft mentioned benefits of quitting booze, I was really looking forward to the mountains of money I’d be saving after going cold turkey.

In my case, it just so happens that I probably already spent the same if not more on alcohol this month in anticipation of next month when I’ll be celebrating my accomplishment of the month that I didn’t drink any alcohol.

Day 16: Alcohol gives you infinite patience for stupidity.”

~ Sammy Davis, Jr.

Day 17: “5 women reveal the pros and cons of not drinking alcohol for 30 days” is the tagline of the currently top-ranked article on google when I search “not drinking for a month”.

Here are some word-bites from that piece and some reactions:

“I spent more time with my daughter connecting, not battling.”

I don’t have a daughter, but if I did, I would like to think that whether I was drinking or not, I would still have the courage to face her on the field of battle.

“I saved money and lost weight—but friends pushed me to sip.”

I didn’t save money, but I lost weight.  My friends didn’t push me to sip because my friends weren’t birthed out of the devil’s butthole.

“[Not drinking] helped my anxiety and depression, and I couldn’t stand being around drunk friends.”

Two things: (1) paradoxically, it sounds like alcohol is having the exact opposite effect on this person than it does for mostly everyone else (anxiety and depression-wise), and (2) this person might want to think about picking up some new friends at the friend store.

Day 18: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Day 19: Instead of being known as the person who created “Dry January” that encourages people not to drink alcohol for a month, I’d rather be known as the one who invented “Job-Free July”, the month where employers give their staff a paid month off in July.  Employees could use that month to enjoy some drinks while really reflecting on the negative effects of working.  Bloggers could then write 400 million similar sounding articles about what it was like to give up working for a month.

Day 20: “You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.”

~ Dean Martin

Day 21: Lurk around any of the alcohol-related subs (chat forums) on the popular website reddit, and eventually the topic of “do I drink too much” comes up.  Folks chime in with their own personal yardsticks for diagnosing alcoholism from a certain minimum number of drinks consumed in a week/month, to throwing up blood.

From a medical prospective, alcoholism (which is considered both a physical and mental illness) is said to exist when at least two of the following are true:

1)      a person drinks large amounts over a long time period,
2)      has difficulty cutting down,
3)      acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time,
4)      alcohol is strongly desired,
5)      usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities,|
6)      usage results in social problems,
7)      usage results in health problems,
8)      usage results in risky situations (drinking and drive, unsafe sex, etc.),
9)      withdrawal occurs when stopping,
10)   and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use.

It’s probably just a strange coincidence, but those ten lines were all part of my fraternity oath.  Go Kappa Epsilon Gamma (K.E.G.)!!!

Day 22: “An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.”

~ Dylan Thomas

Day 23: In case I needed more proof that I’m living in my own private Truman Show, a large study came out today indicating that “the safest level of drinking is none,” suggesting that any level of alcohol consumption increases a range of certain health risks including cancer.  Perfect timing yet again, The Matrix.

Despite that report, my best thinking/total guessing tells me that if by the time I get cancer from alcohol, there should be a cure.  Then again, if billionaire Steve Jobs couldn’t beat cancer… (Huh, I would’ve thought he had an app for that.  Oh well, at least we got the Apple Watch.)

Day 24:  “The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober.”

~ William Butler Yeats

Day 25: There’s plenty of advice out there on how to prep for a month with no drinking including how to reduce or navigate social situations where others might be drinking and even having a few “white lies” at the ready like being on antibiotics or finishing up a project at work.

F that. I really wanted to test my steel, so not only did I not try to avoid situations where people would encourage me to drink, I went head-first into them.  I happily served drinks, packaged lots of beer, and gladly gave beer money to urban outdoors men/stationary non-workers.

Long story short, it wasn’t hard to deal with the supposed social pressure.  “I’ll have a tea” was the only phrase necessary.  (Alright, I didn’t go dry during my birth month, so I guess I wasn’t that hardcore.)

Day 26: You’ve probably heard of that age old secrete to losing weight: diet and exercise.  But there’s an important part that’s missing, namely that diet is more critical than exercise when it comes to weight loss, with some folks putting it at 75% diet and 25% exercise. 

In my case though, I lost 10 pounds in 14 days from not drinking beer, but the ratio was more like 110% diet and -10% exercise seeing as how I was probably lazier this month exercise-wise than usual.  Nevertheless, weight loss is typical for people who give up booze for a month, as was shown in this study where people lost on average 3 pounds.

Day 27: Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.”

~ Ambrose Bierce

Day 28: 28 days.  It’s not only the arbitrarily chosen number of days of sobriety used to break alcoholics of their dependency, it’s also the amount of time it takes for England to be totally overrun by a zombie apocalypse.

Day 29: “In vino veritas” is Latin for “In wine, truth”, and suggests that a person under the influence is more likely to speak their unfiltered thoughts.  Sure does make you suspicious of all the things sober people really think about you but refrain from saying. 

Day 30: “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

~ Martin Luther

Day 31: So here we are.  The final day of “Dry August.”  I suppose there are some people who quit drinking for a month and had some sort of eye-opening, transformative, life-altering, grand revelation about the woes of alcohol.  That’s not me.

And with that, here’s the sugar-free truth of what a month of not drinking looks like:

Cons:

1. Did the same mundane domestic chores I typically do in a month, but with the added benefit of being able to focus more intensely on the boringness of those tasks.
2. Experienced reduced buy-in from people when attempting to blame stupid things I say while sober on alcohol.
3. Found humans more insufferable than usual.
4. Additional time gained from not going out as much only to be reallocated to staying in and watching mediocre content on Netflix.
5. Unlike some anecdotal accounts suggest, I didn’t really notice much of an improvement in the “quality” of my sleep. In fact, I was sleepier and found it more difficult to get out of bed.
6. I might have developed a tea addiction.

Pros:

1. I have to admit that swapping beer for tea really caused me to lose weight and fast. (Note to self: Need to copyright this idea and cash in quick.) In the past, I was under the impression that the reputed “beer belly” was a bit of a myth actually caused by the additional food people typically consume along with the beer. But I concede, beer seems to contribute pounds to the body.
2. Not that I had any doubt, but I proved to myself that I had the will power to go without beer or any alcohol for a month (and possibly indefinitely), but I see no compelling reason to punish myself any further.
3. No hangovers reported.
4. I enjoyed all the tea, and I’ll probably swap out tea for beer more often.
5. No breweries in my city filed for bankruptcy.
6. No polar bears joined ISIS (yet).
7. And sorry, not sorry, but a month without beer really made me appreciate beer more than almost any time in my life.

Last Words

Tomorrow shall be a glorious beer-filled day—a day that will shake the very foundations of the great beer hall of Valhalla.

Skål! (Viking for cheers.)


Hi, I’m D.J. Pander.  I like beer.  I also blog. Follow me on Myspace.

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