On teetotalism

By | September 14, 2018

Indian weddings are a merry affair. At least in my family. Everyone flies in from everywhere and we create a giant reunion with food and activity and laughter that lasts for more than a few days. They’re pretty fun.

In August 2018, I went to the wedding of a close cousin. On the final day of the festivities, I stayed out until 3:30 in the morning, when the bar that held the after-party kicked us out. We danced and talked and sang karaoke and took ridiculous pictures with the wedding mascot, this red pepper.

Completely sober

This wedding was a stark contrast to my sister’s wedding, when I ended the night in my petticoat and blouse — the underwear of the sari outfit — on the floor of the hallway between the ballroom and the bathroom. Yes, more covered than a bikini or even a summer evening, but still mortifying and not who I want to be.

I’m not a good drunk. I’m obnoxious and I’m loud and I think I’m hilarious. I will repeat something over and over again until you want to hit me. I flirt and tell the world how much I appreciate and love everything and you’ll feel guilty about wanting to hit me earlier.

And then I’ll pass out and my night will be over. I’m a lightweight and can’t handle my liquor. After two drinks, I’m three sheets.

And the next morning is generally unpleasant for my body. My mouth is dry. My throat is dry. I’m dehydrated. I have a headache. My stomach hurts. My liver is annoyed. Yes, we will tolerate this abuse because we love you, but it makes us sad, my body insinuated.

The goal of my Year of the Body experiment (consulting my body for every decision), was to get a six-pack of abdominal muscles to cross off a Life Bucket List Item.

My year is nearly over and I don’t have a visible six-pack.

I do, however, have a love and appreciation for me that I didn’t when I started. I talk to my body. She talks back. I feel good. We feel great.

Wedding mascot, day 1 with a drone

Over the last year, through mindful working out, experimenting with diet, paying attention to what my body feels, how my body looks, and listening to what she’s saying to me, my body and I became friends.

You are not your body, but you are your body. You are not your bicep muscle, but when you pay attention to your bicep muscle while you are using your bicep muscle, you kind of are your bicep muscle. At that moment.

I want to continue being friends with my body, so, even though the Year of the Body is just about over, I plan to continue working out regularly, eating well, and not drinking alcohol.

Eating well and working out were two habits I fully expected to embrace, but it took a long time to prefer the no-alcohol resolution.

Eleven months into the Year of the Body, I still wasn’t sure if I would drink something the very first day I “could” and there were perhaps a dozen times I truly lamented not drinking. I kept a list. Here’s an excerpt:

Times I really wanted to drink this past year, but did not actually drink

  1. A wedding of a law school classmate. Weddings = drinking. Especially law school friends.
  2. Hanging out with my cousins, swapping stories.
  3. A few first dates.
  4. One second date.
  5. Playing Beersby, a drinking game involving a frisbee, with flight attendant friends. Drinking games = drinking. Flight attendant friends = drinking.
  6. A friend’s party in Denver where they made up an elaborate drinking game with dreidels and a sweet sixteen bracket.

We’re all desperate to belong to tribes. The drinking tribe is an easy one to join. You just have to drink and that’s your signal that you belong. Let’s grab a glass of wine and giggle with impunity, loosen up and shed some inhibitions, share some brewskies and swap close conversation, shortcut a friendship.

We live in a drinking culture. It’s how one passes the time, how one bonds with one’s peers, how one lets off steam, how one dates.

It’s easier to be social with the crutch of alcohol. For me anyway.

The problem is that I’m a rather small person, so even splashes of alcohol can drench me. I don’t like realizing I’m drunk when I just wanted to feel a buzz. That line is so fuzzy and easy to trip over.

Wedding mascot, day 2 playing bocce ball.

I’ve never been a women of moderation. Abstaining is easier than temperance. Let me obsess or let me not think about it at all. I’m retired and have no reason to get up early tomorrow, so I can always find a reason to drink if I’m out doing fun things.

I’m always out doing fun things.

It’s better to reserve the brain cells and not negotiate, to automatically say no to alcohol. The more I went without drinking, the easier socializing became. I belong to my friends’ tribes because I’m fun, not because I’m a drinker.

I like being in control of my faculties. My faculties are all I have to offer. I can’t help you lift that rock.

I like myself better when I’m not drinking and that’s enough of a reason to not drink. But if I need more, because of course I have a list of reasons to not drink, here it is.

Pros: Teetotaling

  1. I like myself better sober.
  2. My body dislikes alcohol to an astonishing degree.
  3. I feel safer not drinking.
  4. The word teetotaler delights me.
  5. Alcohol is expensive.
  6. I can hang out with you longer.

And because I always try to present both sides. My cons list.

Cons: Teetotaling

  1. It’s easier to make friends over alcohol.
  2. It’s easier to date with alcohol.
  3. I miss the taste of some beverages.
  4. I can still use the word teetotaler even if I’m not one. That’s not really a con, just a reminder to balance out number four on the pro list.

22 thoughts on “On teetotalism

  1. Accidental FIRE

    Kudos to you! After I read the book “Why We Sleep” recently and the way that alcohol interferes with good sleep I’ve cut way down. I used to have a drink almost every night, but now I’m just doing it on special occasions with friends or when I go out. I have noticed that my sleep has improved.

  2. J.D.

    Love this. I struggle with alcohol too. I’ve spent the year trying to be more mindful of my consumption, more moderate with it. But also like you, I don’t do moderation well. I’m an all or nothing guy. May be time to go with nothing with regards to alcohol…

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I think that should be a personality classification. Abstainer or Moderator. Know yourself and make it easy for your personality type.

  3. Stuart_F

    Yay teetotaling! I drank mostly out of peer pressure – it was the easiest way to make friends and fit in during college, shared bonding and all that. My body also did not appreciate it. I was, like most people, obnoxious when intoxicated and not making great choices. But I started dating a wonderful teetotaler after college, and now almost 10 years without alcohol, I am really happy about that choice. And it looks increasingly like the science is backing up teetotaling as the healthiest choice: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/08/there-is-a-safe-level-of-alcohol/568531/

  4. steve poling

    There’s some principal that “none” is easier than “just a little” in not just drinking, but eating as well. I find fasting easier than saying no to tasty snacks. If I abide by my diet perfectly all day, I have to keep sweets out of the house at night. But if the day is a fast day, you can ply me with all my kryptonite foods and I won’t taste any.

  5. misterhorsey

    I’ve been cutting down my drinking / verging on teetotalling for a few weeks now. Partly because I hate drinking culture, but also most recently because I just don’t enjoy the taste as much as I used to, or the side affects.

    Anyway, I had finished a day of freelance work (at the old job I retired from last year!), was walking to the pub to meet with some colleagues, debating whether I would have a pot of beer or a lemon lime and soda, when I checked my email and an alert to your post came up. I read it on the way to the pub and it made my decision easy. Had the soda, and had a nice time with colleagues. No big deal but much easier having read your post!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I love everything about this comment.

      Except the idea of reading my blog while walking. Why interrupt the joy that is walking? 🙂

  6. Renee Quistorf

    My number one reason to avoid alcohol? I get a false courage to do things I wouldn’t normally do if I weren’t drinking. I become more flirtatious when drinking. I stay out later. I take more risks when I drink. I become bolder and more daring with a buzz. Most times I regret these things the next day (year(s)). So I’m better off either (usually) not drinking, or limiting it to one and calling it a night. Thanks for this post! More power to you!

  7. fiabroad

    Have you read the book: “This Naked Mind”
    It made me quit drinking and I feel a million times better now.

  8. Vig

    Nursing a hangover this morning so I can feel why giving up alcohol is good. But its hard when all of your social activities involve drinking. Over the years ive found that i can have 2-4 Guinness and be fine for the event and the next morning. If I cave and drink any other types of alcohol or beers I pretty much know the consequences so I weigh the event and decide if the misery the next day is worth the added social enjoyment. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isnt all depends. Maybe you just need some practice drinking so you can find your sweet spot.

  9. Herman Hudson

    Never have I had a creative, quality thought while under the influence of alcohol. There is a limited purpose though; a single glass of Pinot Noir adds dressing to an evening meal.

  10. Travelin'Dad

    Thank you for another great article! I’ve recently realized that my body’s astonishingly intense reaction to 2 or 3 alcoholic drinks (first euphoria, then disorientation, soon followed by unconsciousness) may be connected to hypoglycemia – a problem in processing sugars & carbs, resulting in chronically low blood sugar, often self-medicated with a steady diet of sugars & carbs, which makes it get worse. Mixed drinks (with sodas or juices) are even worse. I’m now a teetotaler, drinking only at weddings, and then only one drink consumed immediately after a meal and nursed slowly. Hypoglycemia may be something research, for anyone who’s ever had to ask “Where am I?” and “How did I get here?” (or in your case, “How did the rest of my sari get into the hotel water fountain?!”) after a fun night that only involved a few drinks.

  11. Britton

    I didn’t realize (didn’t notice on your blog…) that you had also given up alcohol this year. Me too- starting Jan 1st. I wasn’t too sure at the beginning of the year if I’d keep it up, since in January it was at least partially just a detox/new year resolution thingy. But now, I’m actually looking forward to not drinking ever again. Your comment about Abstaining or Moderating being a personality facet is dead on, in my opinion. I make choices to make things easier for me, and it’s easier for me to abstain than obsess over my rules on moderation (which I’ve done for way to long). One of the driving factors was also the sleep thing for me. I think anyone really trying to give up alcohol needs to commit for a year, too- it gives you time to find out how to go through social events while teetotaling, and you get better at it as the year progresses (and you feel soooo much better the next day!). It also gives you a chance to start changing your social groups to healthier ones. It’s easy to join drinking tribes, but in my opinion, since the bar is so low to begin with there’s no actual gain- no real friendships, no real value added to your life when you belong to those tribes.

    And I’m also an obnoxious drunk. Turns out that when I’m sober I cannot stand to be around drunk people- they’re soooo stupid, rude, ridiculous, and full of themselves. I’m surprised I never was punched in the face, but boy do I want to punch others now… (so I don’t hang out with those people anymore).

    Thanks for your sharing of this!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’m doing some thinking on the drinking culture and the drinking tribe. So far, I’m still enjoying the company of my friends that drink, but maybe because my friends are fun drunks and not terribly obnoxious. Or they are able to moderate. I know some people can.

      1. Britton

        Having a fun drunk tribe is lucky- looking back at my comment and your comment I realize my baggage is in part that my “tribe” wasn’t a good one for me. Not that all drinking tribes are potentially detrimental to all involved, just that I didn’t have a good one. Whatever choice you make, I’m sure it’s the right one!

  12. Simon Kenton

    Been about 25 -27 years since I quit. I was unemployed at the time, and thought, “It’s stupid to put a chemical depressant onto a depressing situation.” I had small kids at the time, and each got a story, a song, and a prayer before bed. My usual consumption while cooking for us was a couple of beers, and it was making me sleepy and stupid before I finished the 3rd child’s bedtime routine. You get no do-overs for those years. I didn’t want the memories of their childhood to be lost in my stupors.

    When I quit I noticed some friends who were at pains to provide my favorite drinks and beers under especially temping situations. It was not easy to see friendship in this, which made me look at which relations had a base in something other and deeper than alcohol. It also brought on a clear-headedness under which alcohol-conversations suffered. Drunks aren’t funny, witty, incisive, profound, attractive or even sexy. My niece, a genuine beauty, mortified her father but got no takers when she asked a large group if any of us would like to grab her pussy. At best, drunks try to recycle one-liners from television shows they found uproarious; at worst their conduct cannot be contemplated.

    Without alcohol you are granted savings, clarity, time, and concomitantly, impatience. You will find less tolerance for people who debase themselves to beasts, and almost no tolerance for people who actually want to be exonerated for the faults they commit while voluntarily reducing themselves below the common level of humanity – because the alcohol did it, not Nancy.


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