I woke up on the first day of 2014 the same way I imagine a lot of people did: with a pounding headache and the desire, if I could work out the pertinent details quickly enough, to never move again for the rest of my life.
I decided several times in 2013 to stop drinking. The first time, I made it around 40 days. The second time, a week or so. With the last streak, which started toward the end of September, I lasted exactly 100 days. I discovered near the end of the month that I would hit the century mark on the last day of 2013. The coincidence seemed like an auspicious start to the new year, so I decided I would break my streak at the end of that evening. At midnight, I had my first drink in more than three months: a glass of wine.
Then I had another. And another. And another.
It always starts with one drink, of course, but that’s never the one that gets me in trouble. It’s the second, the third, the fourth …
Thing is, I have a really tough time saying no to those subsequent drinks, even when it’s just me asking the question. Once I start feeling a little tipsy, I can’t resist alcohol’s promise to at least make me feel that I’m interacting like a normal, un-awkward human person. Despite learning the hard way that booze has a compounding effect when consumed in a condensed period — over and over and over again throughout the past decade — the lesson never quite seems to stick.
So, instead of starting the new year off right by enjoying a cup of coffee and going on a nice long run on a sunny winter morning, I wasted it trying to block out the light while watching How I Met Your Mother reruns on Netflix for the umpteenth time and relying on cheese fries for sustenance. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Cheese fries are .4 percent sustenance, 99.6 percent ooey-gooey deliciousness.)
I’m still glad I decided to imbibe while ringing in the new year, because now I’ve officially confirmed a realization I’d suspected but chose to deny for years: For me, it’s easier to abstain from drinking all together than to try to drink in moderation.
I wish I could simply enjoy one drink and call it good. I envy those who can. But the inner angel-versus-devil monologue launched by one measly drink is exhausting, and the devil currently sports what must be a 98-to-2 record. Sometimes, I handle the aftermath of the devil’s victory well. Other times, it turns me into a genuine psychopath who bursts into tears at the slightest provocation and spontaneously stomps and kicks. It’s not pretty.
It’s a hard realization, especially in your 20s, when a lot of social outings still revolve around getting together at bars and breweries. And I genuinely enjoy a good Montana craft beer for the taste, not just its inebriating effect. It seems almost sacrilegious to live in a state with the second-most microbreweries per capita and not enjoy a brew from one, not even once in a while.
But, my 100-day streak has inspired confidence that I can, in fact, do this. And do it without completely retreating into a hermit cave.
I’m sure my willingness to give up this oft-enjoyed pastime would come as a shock to many people, especially those who knew me in college and could tell you how hilarious it is that I think I can dance after a few beers. Trust me, you don’t earn the nickname “Little Kicks” if you have amazing rhythm and killer moves. (Don’t worry, friends. I’m sure I’ll work up the confidence to dance without that liquid courage sooner or later.)
Am I never going to drink another drop of alcohol again? I don’t know. Forever seems like a long time to give up anything. But I’m at the point where I know those drops must come sparingly. I’ll just have to take it one day at a time.