NYR 1903: “Drink Less.” Part 1: 2018 In Review.

I’m not really sure how to write about this, or if I should even be writing about it at all. Well, here it goes.

When I first started outlining the blog, I shared a few of my early ideas with friends and family. Feedback was generally positive: everyone seemed to like the idea of tackling common goals in a public forum, and when it came to things like “Work Out” and “Get Organized,” I was usually met with enthusiastic questions and suggestions. But when I mentioned that my March series would be “Drink Less,” the responses I received were… mixed.

Many were excited: “Nice! I’ve been meaning to cut back myself.”

Some were concerned: “So… how are things going at home?”

And a few seemed almost angry: “Why would you want to drink less? That sounds terrible.”

I’ve already written (and discarded) several drafts for this introduction. In every case, I was trying to keep all of my readers happy; I wanted to write in a way that resonated with Reader A without offending Reader B, a way that Reader C wouldn’t think was too preachy, and that wouldn’t make Reader D feel like they were being targeted. This timid approach to writing resulted in plain vanilla commentary at best, and at worst a blank page accompanied by the temptation to just skip this subject entirely and move on to something easier.

Why is it so hard to write about this? Perhaps a better question: why is it so hard to talk about this?

Over the past two months, I’ve written articles on Working Out and Getting Organized, and I’ve tried to distill these somewhat abstract concepts into more specific, measurable approaches. However, when it comes to drinking I can only think of three broad ways to approach the issue, and each can result in a lot of backlash:

I’m just going to quit drinking. “Wait seriously? You’ve got a good job, family, social life… at least I thought you did. I’m sorry did something happen that I don’t know about? Haven’t you heard of the 2010 study proving that people who drink in moderation actually live longer?  What’s your problem with alcohol, anyway? It’s literally been a part of the human condition for 10,000 years. And take a look at the the countries that don’t allow alcohol – they’re not exactly utopias.”

Fine. I’m going to drink, and simply not concern myself with the consequences. “Well that’s a terrible idea. Did you actually read the fine print on that 2010 study? The study compared moderate drinkers to ‘abstainers’ who ‘were significantly more likely to have had prior drinking problems, to be obese and to smoke cigarettes than were moderate drinkers.’ So at best, the jury is still out on the ‘health benefits’ of moderate drinking. Don’t make me give you the run-down of the scientifically proven harmful effects of alcohol. You already know that it hurts your brain, your heart, your liver and your immune system. Did you know it was also a carcinogen?”

FINE! I’m going to drink, but in moderation. “People try, and fail, to do this all the time. You’re just going to fall back into the same old habits, because ‘moderate drinking’ is not actually a thing. The whole idea that having two drinks a day is ‘responsible’ is bullshit. Alcohol is an addictive substance, plain and simple, and any attempts at moderation are just delaying the inevitable.”

Perfect. So, here’s my New Year’s Resolution I guess:

In 2019, I am going to drink, not talk about it, and try not to think about it too much. I will occasionally feel some guilt and self-loathing, but I will simply cross my fingers and hope to never suffer any real long-term consequences.

Joking aside, that’s kinda been my approach to this topic for quite some time – until last year.

In 2018, I reduced my alcohol intake significantly (20-30%) compared to the prior year. I know this, because in 2018 I recorded every single drink I consumed, using an app called DrinkControl. Here were the results:

My goal was to drink fewer than 700 drinks, and as you can see I drank 692.6. You can also do some back-of-the-napkin math and realize that, in 2017, my daily average must have been pretty high… just below the Liver Warning Threshold on a Tylenol bottle. Yikes.

Let me hit the pause button, because I realize that some people might feel like this 700 number is still far too high. And in my case in particular, I agree. Which is why in 2019 I’m going to set a goal to drink even less.

But I say “in my case in particular” because I’m not going to try and have a “how much is too much” debate here. Each one of us has a different relationship with alcohol, and the purpose of this blog is to figure out how to set goals and accomplish them, not tell people how to live their lives.

That being said, I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and many seem to want the same thing. They don’t want to quit drinking altogether, but they do want to cut back. They don’t want to feel like they need to drink, but would like to have the option if they want to. They want to be able to “take it or leave it,” while at the same time never feeling like they’re missing out.

That is quite a wish-list, and I don’t have all the answers. But over the next few weeks, I’ll try to explain the strategies and tactics I used to cut my alcohol consumption significantly, and with very little drama.

I know this is a touchy subject, and I want to give it the respect it deserves, but we’re also going to try and keep it light here. So I’d like to end with a quote that I came across recently by author Charles H. Baker Jr. from 1939:

We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims.”

See you next week!

5 thoughts on “NYR 1903: “Drink Less.” Part 1: 2018 In Review.

  1. Well reasoned and important contribution to the conversation on the subject of a highly addictive yet legal drug. I am proud of your candor and transparency! Dad


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