5 Things I Learned From Giving Up Drinking For Lent

Flickr / Rennett Stowe
Flickr / Rennett Stowe

This year, after failing at my New Year’s Resolution to “be healthier,” (whatever that means) that I had made after overindulging at too many parties over the holiday season, I decided that I needed a kick in the right direction to get my lifestyle back in order. Enter the Lenten Season. You know, the 40 day period before Easter that Jesus spent wandering around the desert, fighting off all sorts of temptation? The season I usually spend stuffing my face with Peeps and celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day every weekend at parades all around the tristate area? Yup, that one. I had tried halfheartedly to give up things for Lent in years past. Most of the time, I would “give up” something I didn’t really eat anyway, like soda, or promise to be a “better person” (again, whatever that means). Once, I did give up bagels (while working at a bagel place), which to date remains one of my greatest accomplishments. So, this year, on my never-ending quest to get in shape, I decided to give up the one thing I had never considered before. The activity that for years had been the highlight of my week, every week; my “reward” for working five days straight. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I decided to do the unthinkable. Booze, cocktails, liquor, whatever you want to call it, I gave up alcohol. This is what I learned in the process:

1. You won’t lose weight. I gave up drinking to lose a few pounds. You hear it all the time. One beer or glass of wine has about 120 calories, put back about five of them (at least!), you’re consuming at least 500 extra calories that day. If you’re a mixed drink lover, it’s even worse. Eight ounces of cranberry juice has over 100 calories alone, mix it with vodka, and you’re at 200+ calories for one drink, and that’s a conservative estimate. Not to mention the drunchies. After going out, I turn ravenous. I return home and tear up the pantry. I devour cold slices of pizza. I make potato chip and hummus sandwiches. I slice off hunk after hunk of parmesan cheese. So, cutting out drinking would logically eliminate all of these activities, right? Not so fast. Without alcohol, I found my junk food intake skyrocketed. At family parties, where I would usually drink a few glasses of wine, I would think to myself, “Well, I can have another slice of ice cream cake because I can’t drink.” Cookies, cakes, candies, you name it, and I rationalized it. I simply replaced one habit with another. At the end of Lent, I realized I was lucky that I hadn’t gained weight! Moral of the story: if you’re looking to lose weight by giving up alcohol, be conscious of everything else you’re putting in your body. It’s likely that you might end up overcompensating with sweets, totally eliminating the purpose in the process.

2. People will think you’re crazy. I can’t count how many people looked at me with incredulous faces and exclaimed, “You gave up what? You’re insane!” when I explained my game plan for the next forty days. Granted, some amount of personal history might go into this. I’m 23 years old, and my friends aren’t the type to go bowling on the weekends. We hang out at bars because what else is a more fun way to blow off some steam than to knock a few back and talk, laugh, and dance until 2 am? Also, I’m never one to turn down a drink, regardless of the occasion. It can be a brunch, dinner with family, or first birthday party, and I’m there, wine glass in hand. So this might have factored into people’s shocked reactions when I refused their drink offers. But I still think it was more than this. I mean, how many social gatherings do people have where alcohol is not consumed? Especially at 23, there aren’t a ton. Drinking is so ingrained in our culture that not drinking is considered at the least, weird, and at the most, straight blasphemous. How is it that when I felt my sanest and most responsible, I was considered “crazy”?? What does this say about our society? If you decide not to drink, be prepared to see eye rolls, “cuckoo” signals, and basically to be treated like a leper.

3. Peer pressure actually is a bitch. Peer pressure. How many former D.A.R.E. kids remember learning about it every year in their health class unit about “gateway drugs”? We all know what it is. Kids are more likely to listen to their peers over anyone else, including their parents (does this actually shock anyone?). I always thought the peer pressure thing was a bunch of crap, or an excuse for kids to explain their not so perfect choices. “So and so pressured me, Mom. He made me smoke the cigarette!” I imagined kids whining. It was just another excuse; another way of not taking accountability for one’s actions. After all, ultimately, the only person responsible for you is you, right? At least, I had never experienced peer pressure the way the health teachers described it. I never felt compelled to do anything just because a group of people were. My whole life, nobody ever tried to force me to do anything I didn’t want to… until I decided to give up alcohol. During my Lent period, people would try to get me to drink all the time and the drunker they became, the more relentless they were! “Come on, just have one!” they would say. Or, “You’re really not going to have a drink! Don’t be a party pooper!” Or, “Just give up something else!” Whether it was my grandmother at Sunday dinner or my friends in a bar, not once over my forty days did anyone not try to get me to drink. Saying “no” was way harder than I thought it would be, and definitely more exhausting.

4. Drunk people are hilarious. Before Lent this year, I can’t remember a time when I was around a drunk person while being completely sober. Well, there was Christmas Eve at my house when I was in eighth grade when my one cousin decided to have as many glasses of wine as there were people on the table (25) and ended up passing out face first into his plate of linguini and clams. It took my dad and two uncles to carry him to the bathroom, with my mom trailing behind them crying hysterically, “He looks like Jesus on the cross!” But I digress. That was beyond drunk; it was borderline alcohol poisoning, and that shit is scary. What’s funny is the clumsiness, the slurring, the off-beat dancing. The overly empathic expressions, the repeated conversations, and the proclamations of love   What’s funny is when I see a normally perfectly mild-mannered girl run up to the bar, steal a pizza, yell at the bartender when he attempts to get the pizza back, and proceed to throw it against the wall and flip him off simultaneously.

5. But really fucking annoying. At the same time, there’s only so many times I can listen to my one friend bring up the feud she had with her ex-best friend back in high school. Or my other friend cry after she runs into her ex-guy she used to talk to or whatever you want to call it and he doesn’t acknowledge her, as usual. Or my boyfriend and his friends toast to the Yankees. Or pull into the Wendy’s drive-thru on the way home (because guess who’s driving!) and try to moderate four people screaming incoherent, impossible orders out the window (“junior bacon cheeseburger, but with no cheese and extra bacon!” “fries and honey mustard!”). And, as much as I appreciate it, only so many times I can listen to, “But, like, I love you!! You’re my best friend!” Being the sober one means you’re automatically responsible for everyone else’s antics, which is something I was NOT prepared for when I set out on my forty day experiment.

The past forty days have been a journey I never thought I would want to set out on, and one that I could never see myself embarking on again. You know how they say that you don’t know what it’s like to be someone until you walk a mile in his/ her shoes? Well, that’s way harder to do when sober! In all seriousness, not everyone likes to drink, and not everyone has to. I feel badly for those who don’t or can’t because of what they have to deal with! But for me… I’ll pour myself a nice glass of smooth Merlot. And another. And another. And another. I have forty days to make up for. TC mark

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