I’m in control of my actions basically all of the time
January 3, 2016 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Two years ago today I last got shithoused. It was the closing night of the Lincoln Lodge, a fantastic comedy venue in Chicago in the back of a now-closed diner. They’ve since moved, but after that show, I thought I should take a breather from drinking... I’ve learned a lot in two years, so I thought I’d share that with you, in case you’d like to take a break from the booze cruise.
Andy Boyle writes about lessons learned from two years without alcohol.
posted by spinda (76 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's interesting, though not surprising, how most of his experiences are similar to mine with ditching junk food, and probably others with cigarettes, or drugs, or whatever anchor is holding us down.
posted by Beholder at 1:59 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Two years without drinking, except those times when he introduced some people to Malort and didn't say no to the shot of whiskey some dude bought him.
posted by emelenjr at 2:19 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Malort isn't an alcohol, it's a dare. Seriously, even drunks don't drink it to get drunk. At that point it just becomes a statement.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:34 AM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


LOL: The Before picture usually goes on the left, After on the right.
posted by hal9k at 2:57 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Two years without drinking, except those times when he introduced some people to Malort and didn't say no to the shot of whiskey some dude bought him.

So? It's not a contest.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:05 AM on January 3, 2016 [49 favorites]


I don't really see how dropping alcohol is supposed to have made him kinder and more compassionate.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


And that one time a dude threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t drink that shot of whiskey he bought me to congratulate me on “being so funny” after hearing me tell jokes about how I don’t drink anymore.

Christ, what an asshole. (Not Boyle, obvs.)
posted by chavenet at 3:17 AM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't really see how dropping alcohol is supposed to have made him kinder and more compassionate.


Weirdly, this is something that has happened to me as well. I had to stop drinking for medical reasons, and I'm just much less likely to get ratty with people. I basically dropped by to agree with this article, apart from the buying a house bit.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:27 AM on January 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't really see how dropping alcohol is supposed to have made him kinder and more compassionate.

I guess because heavy drinking was negatively affecting his mental health. He talks about experiencing much less panic, unhappiness and self hatred. Rage towards others is a common, weird and entirely ineffective tactic for dealing with feeling scared and out of control in our lives.

One of a number of things that has improved my mental health over the last five years is having given up drinking. I feel like I'm less of an arsehole for being less messed up and unhappy, and not drinking has been a part of that.
posted by howfar at 3:34 AM on January 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


There is nothing worse than a mean drunk, and I am not at all surprised that stopping drinking made this guy kinder and more compassionate. Long experience with various family alcoholics, if there is a mean streak underlying, the drink brings it out. Why do you think there are so many bar fights? Also imagine having a constant hangover before the next drink and what a pleasant person that makes you.

That is a great article, I am sending it to someone in the process of staying sober now after years of drinking and DUI convictions.

One of my sons had a similar experience to Andy, lost weight, works out every day, went back to school and got a great job, but very young, age 20, and has had over 20 years sober now and a fantastic life.
posted by mermayd at 3:43 AM on January 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


Fair enough.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:50 AM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


3. People will judge the shit out of you
Yeah. Hey drinkers -- WTF is up with that? You like to drink, fine, go ahead. Let other people do or not do what they like, OK?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:56 AM on January 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


Went from hating myself daily to relatively enjoying myself
Well that's just affirming the consequent. I haven't drunk in over a decade and I still hate myself daily.
posted by Talez at 3:58 AM on January 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


Hey drinkers -- WTF is up with that?

Simple. By not drinking, you are judging them for their drinking ... or so they see it. (Very possibly this is a subconscious reaction.)

My question is why he's getting the shit judged out of him here for a couple of times having a drink over a two-year span of basically having got his shit together. There's no evidence that either resulted in a binge or what we'd typically consider a fall off the wagon.
posted by oheso at 4:42 AM on January 3, 2016 [18 favorites]


probably 1/4th of my down payment came from just abstaining from booze.

How much did this guy actually drink?
posted by acb at 4:50 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Choose life.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:54 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


You will even encounter people who will seriously tell you that they do not trust someone who won't drink with them, the idea being that the only reason people could have to not drink is, they have a deep secret that they fear they will tell out loud after they are drunk. That's insane. I don't know, maybe that can't be serious and that's one of those "LISTEN TO WHAT KIND OF MAN I AM, I GET VERY DRUNK FREQUENTLY LIKE REAL MEN DO" things that some people like to share.
posted by thelonius at 5:03 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I suspect giving up drinking and maintaining an active social life would be harder in the UK, which is a much more pub-centric culture; where in the US, the idea of the bar has a slightly edgy or seedy vibe about it, the pub in the UK is much more integrated into everyday life. (Witness the almost universal custom of after-work drinks in a nearby pub in the UK.) It's pretty much taken as a given that, at a social occasion, people will drink alcohol unless (a) they have health problems preventing them from doing so, (b) they're recovering alcoholics who dare not touch a drop (see a), or (c) they don't drink for religious reasons (which, in itself, can mark them out as weird and hard to relate to).
posted by acb at 5:05 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I talked online with an alcoholic who had recently travelled in Russia. He had a lot of problems getting people there to recognize the concept. What do you mean you don't drink? You aren't in the hospital, or dead, or at work with the boss staring at you.
posted by thelonius at 5:07 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suspect giving up drinking and maintaining an active social life would be harder in the UK, which is a much more pub-centric culture; where in the US, the idea of the bar has a slightly edgy or seedy vibe about it, the pub in the UK is much more integrated into everyday life.

I'm in America. I stopped drinking for many years, and my entire social life changed dramatically, because that's how much drinking is a part of socializing here - or at least in my circles. People love seedy dive bars. People love going to Happy Hour (drink specials from 5-7 PM) after work. Want to make plans to meet someone in the city somewhere? Your plans will almost certainly involve getting drinks.

It's actually been a big problem in my life. I even started drinking beer again just to stop being so left out, but I never want to be drunk again for the rest of my life, so it's this great game of drinking as slowly as possible so as not to get tipsy.

That whole thing of "you're not going to meetings, you can totally get a beer" is so, so 100% true that I've even gotten it from people who do go to meetings. Like, you're not an alcoholic like I am, you can totally drink without having to worry about anything. Gah. It's maddening. I never realized how much people drink until I made an effort to stop.
posted by teponaztli at 5:12 AM on January 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


Didn't we do this thread the other day, or is my short-term memory as fucked as I'm afraid it is?
posted by Grangousier at 5:16 AM on January 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


Thelonius - I think they are mistrustful because they are afraid you will try to manipulate them if they are drunk and you are sober.
posted by tommyD at 5:29 AM on January 3, 2016




I suspect giving up drinking and maintaining an active social life would be harder in the UK, which is a much more pub-centric culture; where in the US, the idea of the bar has a slightly edgy or seedy vibe about it,


In Wisconsin, drinking is so much a part of the culture that most people my age, that I know, have stories of hanging around in bars with their parents when they were children.
posted by drezdn at 5:38 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


maybe that's what they mean, like you are going to cheat them at pool in a bar or something like that
posted by thelonius at 5:39 AM on January 3, 2016


probably 1/4th of my down payment came from just abstaining from booze.

How much did this guy actually drink?


A lot of downpayments aren't all that large, and you don't have to drink all that much for it to add up to real money. A relatively low key evening of let's say three beers and a burger, or two beers and more food, at a place with good beer and good food might cost $30 plus tip (adjust cheaper or more expensive depending on where you live and how fancy a place you choose); twice a week puts you around $80 with tips and a bit extra for parking or whatever, making it $320/month or $4000 for the year, which gets you a long way towards a downpayment. I see a lot of bar tabs much higher than that -- a long evening of fancy cocktails, taxis, and nice food will be over $100 and easily double that.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:50 AM on January 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


probably 1/4th of my down payment came from just abstaining from booze.
How much did this guy actually drink?


Well, drinking 1 craft beer a day will set you back about 2K in a year. That's hardly problem drinking and it's at home pricing. Drinking in a bar will set you back at least 3K and probably more if you are a generous tipper. Let's say problem drinking is about 4 or 5 beers a day that takes you up to 12 to 15K. Over 2 years that's 30K.

Of course you could drink cheaper beer and save some money but not actually that much really. Maybe half (in a bar - more at home since cheap beer is a loss leader in lots of stores).

Accumulating daily expenses are very deceptive in terms of how much they can cost you in a year. Smokers look at similar amounts as well.
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 AM on January 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


Two years without drinking, except those times when he introduced some people to Malort and didn't say no to the shot of whiskey some dude bought him.

He's not not trying to claim a 2-year chip. He gets to define what healthy abstinence (or "a breather") looks like to him, and it sounds to me like he nailed it.

Good job, dude. Enjoy hanging up your Large clothing in the closets of your badass loft condo, you earned it.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:06 AM on January 3, 2016 [34 favorites]


Alas, my experience a bit odd. I drank a lot. Gave it up. All my friends said I was no longer as funny or nice as I had been when drinking a lot...seems that most drunks get aggressive and mean but I got the opposite...I am living with my new self for many years and at least find that my driving is better if not funnier.
posted by Postroad at 6:24 AM on January 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


In Wisconsin, drinking is so much a part of the culture that most people my age, that I know, have stories of hanging around in bars with their parents when they were children.

In the UK drinking is so much part of the culture that most people would assume you had gone to the pub with your parents as a child and would not even think to mention it.
posted by biffa at 6:25 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's a good example, three year's ago the UK Prime Minister left one of his kids at the pub after Sunday lunch. Taking the child to the pub was utterly normal, it was the forgetting that was the issue.
posted by biffa at 6:29 AM on January 3, 2016


Taking the child to the pub was utterly normal, it was the forgetting that was the issue.

I'm going to beg to differ on this one... it's now common for middle class families to take their children to a pub for lunch, but that's a recent thing. In the 80s some pioneering middle class parents also took their kids to pubs while they just had a drink, almost always ones that had gardens (and they would bemoan at the time that in France you could take kids to bars everywhere) - but even this was still not legal in the vast majority of pubs at the time. Certainly the working class pub experience was strictly no children at all, ever, in the UK until recently when the law changed several times and the big brewers also realised that serving food to families made good money.

The UK comes quite far down the list of boozing nations in fact, below Germany, France, Australia, Ireland... quite fed up of reading how we're all pissheads. Try Russia or Poland.
posted by colie at 6:39 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


>>probably 1/4th of my down payment came from just abstaining from booze.

How much did this guy actually drink?


The amount of drinking this guy is describing is not on the order of one or two beers after work a few times a week. You don't get the results he describes from his drinking days from that amount of drinking. More to the point, drinking in bars can get very expensive very quickly. But if he had a decent job, no crushing debt, no wife and kids, and no real motivation to accumulate savings, it was probably still reasonably affordable for him. Just doing some quick calculation, I could see him easily averaging around $10,000 a year on booze and related expenditures. That's fifty bucks an outing, four nights a week, fifty weeks a year. In Chicago, it would be easy to spend that much.
posted by slkinsey at 6:41 AM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


When Shepherd and I quit drinking last year from June to mid-November, it was pretty eye-opening and clear about how much money we spent on alcohol, regardless of whether or not you went to a bar or bought it for home. Calculate about three to four drinks apiece, plus tipping and food if we were out, and it adds up really damn quick.

I think one of the things that distinguishes North American drinking and drinking everywhere else is that we still have a bit of a Puritan mindset. You're either all in or all out; you don't get to choose to be somewhere in between. Again, this guy had a drink or two in between the decidedly not-drinking, but again we want to be him completely clean or a regular drinker. It's a very peculiar thing.
posted by Kitteh at 6:53 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can also say for myself that as someone who suffers from anxiety/panic disorder and depression, the difference between my moodswings and mental health when I was not drinking was insanely different. I still got depressed and anxious when sober, but it was markedly darker and more painful when drinking. I was a pretty heavy drinker when I was single in my 20s in Atlanta and under the impression that drinking made it easier to deal with my mental health. It took some serious soul-searching and an extended period of sobriety in my late 30s to learn that that was not the case.
posted by Kitteh at 7:01 AM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I did the math in 1998 dollars for the last few years I drank after I quit & it came out to $6-8000.00 a year, roughly.

A pint at the brew pub at lunch, maybe 2.
A pint at the "150 brands on tap" bar after work at happy hour, maybe 2.
A six-pack of something good on the way home most days.
Friday night - longer bar session at the place with 150 taps - 3 or 4 pints.
Saturday & Sunday, usually a six-pack, or more, during the course of the day.
When I was gigging, 3 or 4 pints during the course of the night.
Weekends I had off, spent drinking single malt scotch or manhattans or Bombay martinis at upscale bars...

I was a "connoisseur" so I only bought "the best" which drove the price up a bit.

It really adds up after a while.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:15 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


[In the UK] It's pretty much taken as a given that, at a social occasion, people will drink alcohol unless (a) they have health problems preventing them from doing so, (b) they're recovering alcoholics who dare not touch a drop (see a), or (c) they don't drink for religious reasons (which, in itself, can mark them out as weird and hard to relate to).

Actually there's a (d), except that would really come first in that list: the UK has been pretty successful in attaching real social stigma to drink-driving, on top of the mandatory one-year ban. Yes, there's a lot of social expectation of drinking in the UK, but "thanks, but I'm driving", or even "thanks, but I'm driving tomorrow morning" is a response that will shut down pressure to drink from all but the most obnoxious or idiotic.
posted by Major Clanger at 7:16 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


The amount of drinking this guy is describing is not on the order of one or two beers after work a few times a week. You don't get the results he describes from his drinking days from that amount of drinking.

I agree -- I just used the lower amount to show that even a very casual social drinker can spend a deceptively large amount of money. I probably spend about that much, and I go back and forth about whether or not the expense is worth it (just like I do with other expenses when I look over my annual spending).

And going out costs the same no matter what your income is -- I know a lot of people with low salaries who are out at nice places almost every night. That's fine as long as you are enjoying it enough, but there's no getting around the huge budget impact that is going to have, compared to the financier sitting at the next table.

The financial and health parts of his article are the most universal; the other things he talks about, like empathy, are going to vary a lot for different people.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:21 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think one of the things that distinguishes North American drinking and drinking everywhere else is that we still have a bit of a Puritan mindset. You're either all in or all out; you don't get to choose to be somewhere in between.

For me, in my circles, this isn't true. I am definitely not a non-drinker. But I have, maybe, one drink every other week? I think there are lots of people who aren't "drinkers" in the sense the article means but also aren't non-drinkers. If these numbers in Slate are right, about half of people who drink alcohol have less than a drink a week. I think you can save a lot of money and improve your sleep and mental health by quitting drinking, if you already drink a fair amount. But that's who this article is aimed at -- the 20% of people in deciles 8-9 of the Slate chart.

Also, I live in Wisconsin and have definitely brought my kids to the bar -- best place to watch the Badgers! -- but lots of bars here sell food, and nobody gives you the fisheye if you get a burger and drink water. (At least if you're with your kids.)
posted by escabeche at 7:24 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


pretty much taken as a given that, at a social occasion, people will drink alcohol

As somebody in the UK who has not had a drink since February, I thought I would come across this attitude a lot more than I have. In fact I seem to have come across it mostly from my friends who say they would quite like to stop drinking but would find it difficult precisely because of that pressure to drink.

Perhaps in my 20s or 30s, not drinking would have been more difficult due to a greater sensitivity to the criticisms people have mentioned but as somebody in my mid-40s, if being with me is a problem for you because I'm not drinking then I'll happily solve that same problem for you by making sure I'm never in a social situation with you ever again.
posted by jontyjago at 7:28 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Didn't we do this thread the other day, or is my short-term memory as fucked as I'm afraid it is?

There was this recent post that was more specifically framed around someone navigating the reactions to "I'm not drinking", vs. what feels like a different/broader take on drinking here, so your memory's fine but it's not clearcut doublish. But folks curious specifically about mefite discussion of that navigating, and of the intersection of drinking culture and social life over time, might be interested in giving that thread a read, eyah.
posted by cortex at 7:29 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't say I've experience many of the positives he's mentioned. Since I stopped drinking two years ago, my 22 year marriage fell apart in one of the more guilt-ridden and heartbreaking ways I could have imagined. That said, if I'd kept drinking, I'd likely still be living with my head in the sand.

I had a beer on the night of the recent Canadian election. I was planning to have one whichever way it had gone. I've had a couple nights of beers with friends since but don't feel the desire to make it a regular thing. The big fear is getting shit faced again, and abstinence is about the only way to guarantee that it doesn't happen.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:29 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


My question is why he's getting the shit judged out of him here for a couple of times having a drink over a two-year span of basically having got his shit together.

Unless there were some comments deleted, there is precisely one comment in this thread that pointed out and maybe had an implied negative judgement, that his abstention was not absolute.

That qualifies as "getting the shit judged out of him here"?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:32 AM on January 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Taking the child to the pub was utterly normal, it was the forgetting that was the issue.

Really? Because I have been in pubs where the old-timers still bemoaned even letting women into all the rooms.
posted by srboisvert at 7:34 AM on January 3, 2016


I'm drying out for the second time as a result of Allen Carr's books, which I recommended in the other thread in case anyone is looking for help on the subject. Hopefully I'll last longer this time. His thing is to try and get you to reposition booze in your mind so that you stop looking at it as something that is supportive or enjoyable.

The part that got me reading it was: "There's a point where the drinker senses they're hooked, panics, and tries to control their drinking. But that just makes alcohol seem all the more precious in the drinker's mind. They are now in the truly agonising position of wanting to drink more and less at the same time."
posted by colie at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


Back in the 1970s, it was common for even quite tatty British pubs to have a "children's room" where kids were deposited with a bag of crisps and a Coke while one or both parents spent a few hours drinking at the bar. These rooms were generally pretty bare (as was the rest of the pub), with just a few wooden tables and chairs as furniture. Sitting there must have been very, very boring - particularly if you were the only kid present that night.

The parents would check on their kids once an hour or so and maybe replenish the crisps and Coke supply, but otherwise it was just a convenient way of dumping the kids out of the way so the adults could have a drink in peace.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:50 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I'm in America. I stopped drinking for many years, and my entire social life changed dramatically, because that's how much drinking is a part of socializing here - or at least in my circles. People love seedy dive bars. People love going to Happy Hour (drink specials from 5-7 PM) after work. Want to make plans to meet someone in the city somewhere? Your plans will almost certainly involve getting drinks."

This was touched on a bit in the thread a couple days ago, but I've had the opposite experience. The group's plans may involve getting drinks, but that's never stopped me from going along and drinking Pepsi. Even before I "officially" quit drinking like six years ago, I didn't drink much. I got a reputation for ordering cherry Coke at the bar after company softball games. I play bar trivia regularly still, and go to happy hours with my co-workers whenever we can schedule them. (In fact, I'm often the one who pulls everyone together.) I watch football games at bars all the time. I understand that for some ex-drinkers, the bar is a triggering environment that's difficult to be around. But I was never a problem drinker, and so I haven't had to give up going to bars. I just order something different than everyone else.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:52 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


kevinbelt yeah, YMMV (I didn't even mean to sound like I was trying to refute the UK/US comparison as much as offer a different data point). That said, for whatever reason, my social life was structured around drinking, and it's really hard to relearn that. I know lots of people who are sober, but they have large communities of sober people to socialize with. There's really no clear instructions on how to have a social life unless you're at one of two ends of a spectrum. I've talked to lots of people like you who said they have no problem going to a bar and getting a soda, but for me, at least, it can be really isolating when you're the one person drinking soda water while everyone else is getting drunk. I really couldn't relate to what Andy Boyle was saying about getting fun and goofy along with everyone else. I just feel really alienated by everyone's behavior.

I didn't see the post a few days ago because of family stuff keeping me away from the internet (lousy family!). I'm reading through it now, and I guess neither article really sounds exactly like my experience. I guess that makes sense, given how personal these sorts of stories are. But yeah, I just don't know how to navigate my social life because literally everyone around me has built it around something I can't really relate to anymore.
posted by teponaztli at 8:09 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I probably spend about that much, and I go back and forth about whether or not the expense is worth it (just like I do with other expenses when I look over my annual spending).

This made me curious, so I just checked and we spent about $4,000 in 2014 and $1600 in 2015 that was categorized as "alcohol and bars." That is for two people and includes a lot of meals along with some alcohol bought as gifts, while also missing any alcohol bought at the grocery store and drinks at places that got counted under restaurants rather than bars.*

I knew we were going out less this last year, but I didn't know it was less than half of the previous year, which is a good example of how seemingly small shifts in behavior can have big budget impacts.

* The categorization between bars and restaurants is fluid and I slot things in based on how a place feels rather than anything more precise, but it makes it hard to get a better breakout than this.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 AM on January 3, 2016


Perhaps in my 20s or 30s, not drinking would have been more difficult due to a greater sensitivity to the criticisms people have mentioned but as somebody in my mid-40s, if being with me is a problem for you because I'm not drinking then I'll happily solve that same problem for you by making sure I'm never in a social situation with you ever again.

I think that younger people who stop drinking definitely run into more pushback and problems in general. By middle age, most people have either had some experience seeing alcohol abusers who do and who do not continue, or they have just learned to not be jerks about this, I don't know.
posted by thelonius at 8:36 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't really see how dropping alcohol is supposed to have made him kinder and more compassionate.

Meditation will do that to a person, maybe he took up the practice?
posted by squeak at 8:36 AM on January 3, 2016


Chiming in to say that I've found both of these recent threads supportive in their own ways. Thanks.
posted by tummy_rub at 8:44 AM on January 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


By not drinking, you are judging them for their drinking ... or so they see it. (Very possibly this is a subconscious reaction.)


From my experience, this is true and it sucks and I wish it wasn't a thing.
posted by dogwalker at 8:59 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sincere congratulations to everyone in this thread who has kicked the booze. I salute you.

It's true that some drinkers (here in the USA) will give you the stinkeye for not drinking, which is unfortunate. I had a little trick for this, back in my non-drinking days - a big round button pinned to my shirt that said "DESIGNATED DRIVER". Probably 98% of the frowners changed their tune to grudging admiration, for reasons I can't quite fathom. (Bartenders would often give you free soft drinks too.)
posted by sidereal at 9:09 AM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, he kind of gives people a pass on that in the article:

Because when you’re around someone who doesn’t do something you like doing, you can be taken aback by it.

Nah. I like to play board games, but I'm not taken aback when somebody doesn't. Same for dozens of other things. What takes people back is breaking a presumption of universality. Alcohol has never been a universal thing, but if you're in the right social circles it seems like it is. The imagined judging is a problem on top of that, but people don't generally get the same way about it if you don't smoke pot and they do, for example. You need it to be normalized as "everyone (or at least everyone who's *normal*) does it" first.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:14 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Didn't we do this thread the other day, or is my short-term memory as fucked as I'm afraid it is?

Yes, but since the author of that piece was a woman, that thread had a whole lot more "she's just doing it for the attention" threadshitting before the inevitable mod cleanup happened.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:40 AM on January 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


A few years ago, a friend mentioned that while there is tons of information about coming off "problem drinking", he didn't see as many stories about the general effects of alcohol on otherwise healthy / functional people.

"I don't fit the criteria of an alcoholic, functioning alcoholic, or problem drinker, but I know drinking affects me." We started bookmarking people's stories of quitting booze that we read...

Seven reformed drinkers on why quitting booze changed their lives for the better (news.com.au)

The people who are the most vocal or seem to take the greatest offence to non-drinkers are probably the very same ones who need to examine their own unhealthy relationship and dependence on alcohol.

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Quitting Drinking (cracked.com)

Most of my friends were in fact just drinking partners. When I told them I was quitting, they'd sort of nervously laugh, waiting for the punch line. Then, they'd respond with a genuinely surprised, "Really? Why?" Then they'd reassure me that I didn't have a drinking problem (because if I had a drinking problem, it meant they had a drinking problem).

That's when I'd find out that drinking was all we had in common. Then they'd start slyly trying to get me to drink, and I'd have visions of punching all of the skin off of their faces. So, for the first couple of weeks I wound up just avoiding people when at all possible.


Why I Quit Alcohol Five Years Ago (jamesswanwick.com)

I was never a big drinker. I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week. Most weekends I’d go a little harder and get a good “buzz”. On a handful of occasions over many years, I would say I got “drunk”. It was all good fun. There was no drinking to excess. I never had a drinking problem.

A Year Without Booze: Why I Quit Alcohol Forever (leanlunchbox.com)

I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic and most people in their 20’s who drink a lot don’t. Why would I? Alcoholics are 50 year old tramps begging for money in the street with missing teeth and filthy genitals. I worked in ‘the media’ babes; I would go on lunches with clients and drink gallons of booze but this was networking, relationship building, closing a deal.

7 Ways My Life Improved After I Quit Drinking. (elephantjournal.com)

When I was in my peak drinking days, I’d meet up with people at some bar to get some brews and wings and catch whatever game was on TV. I’d look around and there’d be middle-aged men with large, bulging bellies doing the same thing. They probably all suffered from typical middle-age health issues. I was probably heading down that same path.

I didn't need to hit rock bottom to quit drinking (heyeleanor.com)

Here’s the thing, before I quit drinking, I considered myself a light drinker. I would have a couple drinks each week. Maybe five drinks at the most in a week. I realize the “light drinker” status I had given myself was only relative to the years prior when I could take down a bottle of wine and feel fine.

I gave up coffee and alcohol for 15 months, and it changed the way I think about well-being (qz.com)

“Let’s go for a drink” is so engraved in our lives, because who says “Hey, let’s just meet up as sober people and talk about stuff.” Why would you do that? “Let’s get a drink” needs no explanation. It’s a thing, everyone knows what happens next.

Being teetotal is intoxicating: giving up alcohol gave me back my life (guardian.co.uk)

The drinking didn’t always end in disaster. There was dancing on tables, lots of loud singing, meandering conversations that wound on late into the night, and much laughter. But there were also the darker repercussions of drinking so much that you lose your mind temporarily, and gradually, over the years, my self-esteem became badly damaged...

7 Things I Learned During My Year Without Alcohol (huffingtonpost.com)

It started out as a fun, social thing for me years ago, but last year, I realized that it wasn't fun anymore.

No One Would've Called Me an Alcoholic, But Giving Up Drinking Changed My Life (greatist.com)

These days the best moments are when I stop and realize how different my life looks without alcohol. I now make choices that will help take me closer to who I really am, helping me let go of how I’m “supposed” to feel and who I’m “supposed” to be.
posted by nickrussell at 9:46 AM on January 3, 2016 [34 favorites]


I have never indulged in booze (other than the very occasional beer or finger of scotch) and I haven't accomplished as much as this guy has. Maybe I should take it up, then quit.
posted by miyabo at 10:02 AM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Alcohol wrecks my body. It is my absolute least favorite drug. I mean it's fun sometimes — once in a blue moon I'll enjoy getting super drunk and being sloppily outgoing... and then hate my life for two full days after, because that's how long my hangovers last.

However, in most fields drinking is a key way to keep up your network; if you don't drink, you don't hear about job opportunities, you don't get in with the right crowd, and you're gradually edged out of power structures. The damage that not drinking causes to a professional career is a smaller version of the damage that working remotely causes. Moreover, poor people are statistically more likely than rich people to be teetotalers, so the sheer fact of claiming not to drink marks you as deeply suspect.

And so like most people I've gotten very good at sipping on wine and occasionally pouring a little into the bushes when no one is looking. I haven't yet gotten to the point where I have to tell a bartender "I'll pay you for a gin and soda, but hold the gin" or anything like that, but that's the trajectory I'm on.

On the subject of non-drinkers being non-trustworthy, I know one person who launched his career as a professional poker player back in the day by going to scuzzy little bars, playing poker, and not drinking. So maybe the bros who are like "I can't trust a man who can't drink!" are sometimes right.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:09 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Right" because nondrinkers choose to not handicap themselves? That makes them untrustworthy? That's a pretty warped view of things.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most of my friends were in fact just drinking partners. When I told them I was quitting, they'd sort of nervously laugh, waiting for the punch line. Then, they'd respond with a genuinely surprised, "Really? Why?" Then they'd reassure me that I didn't have a drinking problem (because if I had a drinking problem, it meant they had a drinking problem).

It's not necessary to turn against all your old friends when you dry out - that's just something AA tacitly encourages.
posted by colie at 10:27 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't drink and never have, but in general I haven't found it to be a problem socially because I'm generally not socially awkward about it, which is to say, get me in a bar with a lot of tipsy people and it's not immediately apparent that I'm not tipsy as well. Which is another way of saying I don't make other people feel socially awkward about it, I suppose. Plus at this point all my friends are aware I'm more than happy to drive their inebriated asses home if necessary, so my not drinking is a feature, not a bug. It's nice to have a permanent designated driver.
posted by jscalzi at 11:35 AM on January 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I'd be considered to drink "a lot" even if you only polled people who drink regularly in the first place.

I don't get blackout drunk (haven't in over a decade, and in the times that I did I was actually drinking a lot less overall). I'm not in great shape, but not terrible either — I exercise once or twice a week and enjoy occasional hiking, swimming, etc.

My personality isn't really different when I'm drunk. I'm not meaner, as I understand it. I'm not nicer, either. I'm not funnier, my humor just relies a little less on clever wordplay. I almost never recall or find out about things I did that seem irrational in retrospect, or that I greatly regret.

In fact, I don't even usually feel drunk, even on occasions where I've had 5+ drinks on a fairly empty stomach (though I wouldn't do anything idiotic like drive under those conditions, no matter how I felt).

I definitely spend a lot on alcohol, but I'm fortunate enough to have relatively few other vices and an income that makes that spending sustainable. I can't say what else I'd do with the money.¹

So where I am is that I want to want to drink less... but I don't have a really compelling reason as to why I want that. I wasn't in better immediate physical condition when I drank less. I wasn't better off financially, either. Basically, my overall life didn't seem better or worse, so drinking less just felt like it imposed a limit with no obvious payoff.

And I enjoy drinking. I find it relaxing, tasty, helps reduce my anxiety and inhibitions, and (yes) it avoids awkward conversations and assumptions about why I don't drink.

I never go so far as to ask someone why they don't drink unless they bring the topic up (for reasons other than declining a drink I've offered them), and even then I hedge it with assurances that it's purely out of curiosity. I absolutely believe folks should be able to cut back or abstain, for whatever reason, without judgement or guilt.

But I have to admit that I sympathize with the people who do ask those questions or make those judgements.

The general scientific consensus is that choosing to drink is Bad For You.² By drinking, you are inherently (1) choosing to do something you know is bad for you, or (2) can't control it and should be going to scary pseudo-religious meetings.

When I discover someone who doesn't drink (for reasons other than religious ones), it does remind me of that, and both of those options make me feel bad about myself. And as I mentioned above, I don't know why they make me feel bad about myself, so it also feels unfair.

While it's usually not that person's fault that they've inspired that feeling, we all have primitive monkey-brain responses that will turn correlation into perceived causation and so I do get why some people would react with hostility, denial, etc.

I wish it wasn't so, and I especially wish people would recognize when they're applying destructive pressure to someone who might already be struggling with their constructive choices. But they're not unsympathetic monsters, not necessarily alcoholics themselves, not intentionally part of a cult of drinking.

¹ I could give it to charity, obviously, but if that's the route I'm taking it's not the only or even greatest thing I "should" give up. I wish I could say I was more selfless, but I probably wouldn't be (and in fact a decent chunk of my charitable giving has been "impulse" donations while I was drunk, now that I think about it).

² Unless you're specifically targeting the medically-beneficial amount of red wine or whatever, which I doubt is a significant group of people.

posted by Riki tiki at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I really really wish we'd focus on rounding out otherwise shaky diets. Like, making sure there's plenty of fiber, probiotics, and the full spectrum of vitamins and other nutrients.

Moderate drinker on work nights. Weekends variable, with results correlating. Alcohol, in the big picture, seems to be an easy target to shoot compared with daily diets, which have some serious cultural hangups standing in its way. For example, during the weekdays I'm working I have a salad and a sandwich with a pretty decent blend of healthy stuff. Weekends at the parents, however, its bacon and eggs, or even pancakes after I had Oatmeal for breakfast, if I had it at all.

I'd also prefer to focus on improving the sobreity with respect to collective understanding of the state of the world, and the dire need to make living arrangements more sustainable for all. Right now it ain't looking good, whether or not I've started drinking for the evening.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:22 PM on January 3, 2016


sounds like someone could use a drink!
posted by ominous_paws at 2:00 PM on January 3, 2016



I really really wish we'd focus on rounding out otherwise shaky diets. Like, making sure there's plenty of fiber, probiotics, and the full spectrum of vitamins and other nutrients.


I don't really understand what this has to do with sobriety or the article?
posted by sweetkid at 2:03 PM on January 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


Simple. By not drinking, you are judging them for their drinking ... or so they see it. (Very possibly this is a subconscious reaction.)

I've met quite a few really self righteous people who don't drink, and think everyone who does is a stupid sheep dumbass awful person. And invariably launch into or write long rants about how much ~clearer~ and better they are now with really passive aggressive implicit statements that their old friends who still drink are soooo dumb.

I think this is a lot like the whole militant vegan meme. It's not as common as the people who talk about it a lot seem to represent it as, but they absolutely are out there. And i've encountered a fair number of them over the years.

It's really, definitely, absolutely for sure a thing. There's even a few people on my facebook i never got around to deleting who get on about this every full moon or so.

And to be clear i don't mean to imply they're even half as bad as the "wait you're not drinking? you need to be drinking omg it's a partyyyyy" assholes. Not in any way.
posted by emptythought at 11:16 PM on January 3, 2016


And invariably launch into or write long rants about how much ~clearer~ and better they are now with really passive aggressive implicit statements that their old friends who still drink are soooo dumb.

Those people should not launch into those rants, no. That doesn't mean that they are wrong about their friends, depending on how much said friends drink. Based on almost 70 years of observation and much personal experiment, I can confidently say that drinking makes people less intelligent. Not necessarily worse people (although the number of those who do become worse is large), but dumber people. I think most people know this, and it's at the root of the resentment towards nondrinkers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:33 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay - can someone explain to me why this one particular article is getting a lot of backlash right now? Reductress has gone off on it, and there's a post here devoted to another parody. Can someone explain why "let's all point and mock this guy for his earnestness" is becoming the accepted response?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2016


Greg's just being hilarious. There have been an awful lot of these articles in the last year or two -- I think he's parodying the whole self-enlightenment through temperance genre. & I mean, I'm a raging alcoholic who goes to Assholes Anonymous all the damn time. In lesser hands, it could be insulting, but it's really a singular thing of beauty if you ask me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:44 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay - can someone explain to me why this one particular article is getting a lot of backlash right now? Reductress has gone off on it, and there's a post here devoted to another parody.

I don't think the Greg Nog chicken thing was making fun of this specifically but just all the "I quit X and this is what I learned" articles - those things are usually drinking, using your smartphone, and living in NYC.
posted by sweetkid at 12:06 PM on January 4, 2016


Huh - the "I quit drinking for 2 years" article is the only one of its type I've seen. When have there been others?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:11 PM on January 4, 2016


There seem to be plenty out there.
posted by colie at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2016


There was this one just a couple days earlier.

Also, see nickrussell's comment above.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2016


Huh. Fair enough.

Then I guess the new question is, why is this one guy's post being circulated all over.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on January 4, 2016


I haven't seen it all over.
posted by sweetkid at 1:58 PM on January 4, 2016


and there's a post here devoted to another parody.

I think Greg Nog’s post is brilliant because it’s a gentle ribbing of those kinds of articles and at the same time is a reinforcement, there really is a comparison between eating raw chicken all the time and problem drinking, and I kind of took it more that way. "Why do you keep doing this thing that is obviously making you sick and killing you?"

I've met quite a few really self righteous people who don't drink, and think everyone who does is a stupid sheep dumbass awful person. And invariably launch into or write long rants about how much ~clearer~ and better they are now with really passive aggressive implicit statements that their old friends who still drink are soooo dumb.

Take out the word drink and replace it with any other activity or interest of your choosing. Has to do with those people’s personality not the drink or lack of. I’m positive that those same people will tell you that people who ski, or organize protests, or go to expensive restaurants are also idiots.

Unless there were some comments deleted, there is precisely one comment in this thread that pointed out and maybe had an implied negative judgement, that his abstention was not absolute.

That qualifies as "getting the shit judged out of him here"?


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