When I started my alcohol fast, I was not sure that I’d make it a day or even a week – let alone 30 days. Those first few days were not easy. I struggled. The 5 o’clock routine of grabbing a drink was ingrained, and felt like it was etched in stone, but it wasn’t. With a great deal of self coaching, I got through it each day. Before I knew it, a week had gone by.
Over the past month, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and learning about alcohol as a drug, and alcoholism as a disease. The term alcoholism carries a great deal of stigma and it really shouldn’t – it is a disease that is caused by physiological and neurological responses to alcohol in a subset of the human population. There are a number of factors that are believed to contribute to alcoholism which include insufficient enzymes in the liver and brain chemistry, decreased numbers of dopamine receptors in the brain, and genetics. And yet, there is no single test that can determine whether a person is or is not an alcoholic.
When I began the exercise of a 30 day break from alcohol, I was concerned that I may be an alcoholic. I never declared that I was an alcoholic and I have not been to an AA meeting or to see any counselors on this topic – though I have discussed it in the past within the context of counseling. The truth is I really don’t know if my drinking was the result of habit or disease. I tend to think that it was habitual stemming from something other than physiological addiction. I base this on the fact that I did not have significant withdraw symptoms when I stopped drinking on June 24th.
I learned a lot about myself and my drinking:
- I learned that I didn’t have to be a slave to booze.
- I learned that I could find other things to do to relax and that not drinking gave me a feeling of liberty.
- I learned that I have a lot more patience for my 5-year-old son when I don’t have booze in my system.
- I learned that I sleep a shit-ton better without booze in my system.
- I learned that I communicate better when I’m not drinking.
- I learned that I can and do have a good time socializing with people (who may or may not be drinking) without drinking myself.
- I learned that I generally feel better without drinking.
So, here I am after 30 days (31 actually) and I’m thinking that soon I’ll be ready to test the waters. I never said I was planning to abstain forever – though the thought has crossed my mind on several occasions. I would like to be a social drinker – someone who can have a few drinks with friends over dinner and not end up as a total mess a the end of the night. I would like to limit my intake to be with the recommended number of drinks per day for a man (2–3), but I do not want to be a daily drinker.
Time will tell how this plays out. It may play out well, or it may become a problem again. If it becomes a problem again, it may be an instant problem or it may become a problem over time. I don’t know how my body will react to the drink at this point.
What I do know is that if it becomes a problem, abstinence will decidedly be on the table for consideration – and that wouldn’t be nearly as horrible as I once thought.