For the past few years I have been partaking, in one form or another, in a "sober month" at the beginning of the year, usually January (January 1st is usually the easiest day to feel like I never want to drink again). I know it's nothing revolutionary. Many people spend their entire lives sober and for the love of god do those people get A LOT OF SHIT done. Like WHOA. Productivity, thy name is tea, not beer. But for me, someone in their late 20's that didn't really drink much in college, and discovered the joys of booze later in life, it's different, and it's difficult, and it's pretty cool.
Artists like booze.
It's a fact my friends. Some of the most creative minds in history have been tremendous drunkards. Toulouse-Lautrec was famous for his love of absinthe and he hit the bottle (hard) for the sake of creativity, and to cope with his physical disabilities. Van Gogh was also apparently a fan of the green fairy, amongst other things. The number of famous artists that enjoyed mind altering substances to the extreme is really too many to enumerate on, but, I'll name a few just off the top of my head. Jackson Pollock, Billie Holiday, Picasso, Thomas Kinkade, Edgar Allen Poe, Edgar Degas, and Ernest Hemingway all had a fondness for booze, and a penchant for creative innovation (or creative exploitation in the case of Kinkade?). Unfotunately, these folks all took their love of alcohol to extremes and a lot of them ended up broke, dead, or destitute in the end. You never really hear about the famous artists who were moderate drinkers do you? I guess it's not as sensational.
The association between boozing and creativity has also been proven using...you know...science! People who are a little saucy not only come up with more ideas, but better ideas. The reasoning has a lot of sciency jargon but the nutshell version is that your shorter attention span caused by the alcohol, in addition to your lowered inhibitions and "mental flexibility" (I love that term) make you less judgmental of your own ideas and quicker to move onto a new one. That produces a larger quantity of ideas, which in turn produces more quality ideas. So no wonder artists like booze. It's liquid inspiration!
Reasons why temporary sobriety is scary.
I generally enter into my sober month with a mix of abject terror and crazy unrealistic expectations about how many lectures I'll be attending at local museums. The latter is always shattered within days when I realize that, yeah, I'm still just as lazy when I'm sober.
1. Alcohol is a potent social lubricant and a lot of us (particularly those of us that know we tend towards introversion) enjoy it as a way to loosen up in social settings.
2. Alcohol is fun and it makes you feel good.
3. While I don't think I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, it makes a cameo in most of my evenings. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it's almost always present. Us Millennials enjoy our artisan beverages.
4. I have no hesitation about drinking alone, in fact I thoroughly enjoy it, especially when I am doing artwork at night, cleaning the house, or tending to other mundane household chores. I can't remember the last time I did a nice deep room clean without a bottle of wine and an awesome podcast, and the thought of having to deal with annoying chores without the softening caress of wine is...ugh.
Reasons why temporary sobriety is awesome.
1. Embracing that fear of stone cold sobriety (I won't be fun, I won't be social, I can't go out to dinner, etc.) makes you realize how much you underestimate your own capacity for joy and amusement. Tickle wars become super fun again. So does ice cream, hot chocolate, dumb movies, coffee with friends, art galleries, and walks.
2. Alcohol is the devil and it makes you feel like you want to rip out your own eyeballs and shotput them them across the room in order to teach the person that is yapping at you a very graphic lesson. No booze, no hangovers. Waking up in the morning is actually not the worst moment of your life thus far.
3. You can eat whatever you want and you will probably still lose a couple pounds. Alcohol contains a lot of calories and when you cut it out, the inevitable trim down follows. I don't go sober for weight loss, but it's a nice little January perk to see everyone else's resolute ass at the gym while I skip on by with a bear claw and a hot chocolate and still lose five pounds. Unfortunately that smugness evaporates come February.
Some surprising observations about this year's sober "month." (even though it was really only 22 days)
1. My desire to go out and socialize was low, but my anxiety about my introversion disappeared. I tend to beat myself up over not really wanting to hang out with loads of people (I'm really a one on one kinda gal), but I just didn't give a flying fuck this month and I stayed unapologetically in A LOT. When I did go out, it was because I really wanted to see the people I was seeing. I had a lot of great quality hangs over coffee and ice cream that ended early and saw me in bed by 11.
2. NA beer is actually not that bad, and sometimes it's just the ticket.
3. The quality of sleep I get when I am sober is in an entirely different league. I would almost consider staying sober for the blissful, deep, life affirming rest that it affords me.
Sober January ended early for me this year. At a certain point I felt like I had gotten what I needed out of it and that any further obligatory sobriety would just be finishing the race. Well, I'm not one for races. Whenever my boyfriend suggests we run a marathon I reply "why not just run 26 miles on our own?" However I have noticed my attitude towards alcohol shift slightly. Sober January made me acutely aware of how alcohol affects my Zzz's and I have such a deep seated love affair with sleep that I don't think I can look at a drink anymore without taking into account the degrading effect it will have on my night. I now weigh that into my decision to imbibe or not, and how much. Watering down drinks has been a useful way of slowing things down when I want to enjoy a long boozy evening with friends, without killing my sleep. I also regained confidence in my ability so socialize without booze, and realized that when I'm sober, and with people I care about, I'm pretty fucking witty and articulate, but that my aversion to large gatherings, sober or not, will probably never go away, and that's totally okay.