I don’t really drink that much anymore… (said the guy who went and had a pilsner yesterday afternoon in Uptown after a long walk).
Seriously, though, while I was never much of a drinker compared to others (especially in highly-alcoholic Chicago, where discarded beer cans are the City Flower)… I have since become a rare drinker. I say that rather than “quit drinking” out of respect to friends who have for their reasons seriously cut all alcohol and take pride in it.
I might have a beer or two, maybe a well drink, once or twice a month at most. Yesterday was the first time I went out of my way to have a drink in months: All the other ABV beverages I’ve had were either as part of events or with family.
I’m still open to having alcohol, but I rarely go out of my way to have any. I may have drinks more often during Loyola basketball season when I’m in reach of Ireland’s Pub 10 before and after games. But otherwise I could go weeks between a drink without thinking much of it.
This could be due to separation from people who habitually drink every weekend (and whenever possible on the weekdays). But being in Wrigleyville, there’s no shortage of opportunity. In fact, I have an unopened bottle of North Shore Aquavit that has sat in my fridge unopened for over two years. If I wanted alcohol it’s basically right there, all the time. But I hardly want it.
Sure, being a runner who trains daily might be a factor. But plenty of runners enjoy a beer on the regular, and other than monthly pint night events or races I still don’t really drink. And of course, because I’m burning thousands of extra calories a week it’s not like I couldn’t get away with a drink every few days, or even every day if I wanted.
So what steers me away from drinking? There are actually more fundamental factors, and none of them have to do with pious morality.
My family’s had a history of snoring problems, and I’m no exception. Laying in some positions, it can become a problem. Well, when you drink your muscles relax, and that includes the tissues in your throat. This gives your ENT airways more flappy tissue to make snoring noise with, so you snore more. Snoring indicates your airway is obstructed, and this can interfere with sleep… not to mention the noise can interfere with other people’s sleep. So, since I want to avoid snoring, I want to avoid things that cause snoring… like alcohol.
Alcohol disrupts my sleep.
Even if you’re tired enough to quickly drift off to sleep after a night of drinks, alcohol interferes enough with your circadian rhythms to prevent you from logging substantial periods of deep and REM sleep, the key portions of sleep to rejuvenating your body. Often, you’ll wake up during the night or otherwise prematurely. I usually don’t sleep well after having even one drink most of the time, no matter how good I felt from the moment I drank it until the end of the day. It has a ripple effect on the entire next day, like any day where I don’t get enough sleep. So, since I usually don’t want my sleep disrupted, I avoid drinking.
I have a lot of stuff I want to do the next morning.
I have a life, and I’m a big time morning person. I like to get up early and go have coffee, work on writing, walk through the hood and other things in the morning. Waking up feeling like garbage from drinking or from not sleeping well due to the drinking interferes with that. Most who drink want to sleep in and not bother with the morning. But I like getting up the next morning and doing stuff more than I like drinking.
Alcohol hurts my mood the next day.
Never mind that alcohol is a known depressant (a key reason I never under any circumstances drink if I’m in a foul mood or am dealing with trouble). I’ve found without fail that, regardless of how I physically feel the next day, my mood and outlook by the following afternoon has subtlely, mysteriously slid. I feel a bit sad for no clear reason and as most people do my mind starts fumbling for reasons why. But in all likelihood it’s the after-effects of the alcohol filtering through my body, and in turn my brain. I have the sense now to remind myself of that and notice when it’s happening so I can not take any negative emotions to heart. But generally I find it better to avoid the situation, and drinking in general, entirely.
It’s only enjoyable if you’re in a good mood and with people you like.
A key reason I drink mostly at runner pint nights or before Loyola basketball games is because I’m around good people and in a situation I enjoy. I’m not into drinking for the sake of drinking, for the sake of drowning sorrows or salving a tough day or week (whether or not I joke about needing a drink during a difficult day). It’s harder than we think to find those situations, and most of the time I’m not in good company or in high spirits. Drinking isn’t going to add a ton of value then, so why do it?
It costs money.
Oh, and of course, alcohol is not free (even drinking from alcohol in your home is drinking alcohol you paid for, and accelerates the need to buy more alcohol later). Go to a bar and buying a single drink is going to cost $5-10. That’s money I can definitely put to better use in just about every way, and I’m not in the economic bracket where throwing that much money down a hole is negligible in the long run. There’s got to be a good reason for me to spend that kind of money.
Again, all this runs the risk of seeming like I have some sort of moral piety against drinking. I like drinking when I do it, but the situations where I like doing it are fewer and farther between than for most.
If anything, I probably take issue with people building their lifestyle and sense of culture around doing it frequently, as a habit and for its own sake. This is of course very prevalent in Chicago. While it would be great if people made better use of their money and time, everyone should get to live their own life as long as they’re not hurting anyone or otherwise unduly impeding anyone else’s ability to live their life.
If for some reason I had to never take a drink again, I don’t think I’d be that upset about it. That said, I like drinking. I just don’t like it doing it all that often.