“We’ll begin with our 135th Anniversary Celebratory Chardonnay.” The sommelier walked around the long, wooden table to each of the ten seats and began pouring. The aroma of the wine filtered through the cave and hit on all five senses. I feel my toes curl. Man, that smells good.
I’m at a birthday party in an exclusive wine cave that should be on Chef’s Table. Did I mention that I can count the number of people I know on one hand? Yeah, that wine sounds like it would hit the spot right now.
My girlfriend looks at me, “You may need to drink that.” I was thinking the same thing.
Just as the sommelier came toward me, I decided not to give in. “Just water for me today, thanks.” Oh shit, everyone’s staring at me now, aren’t they?
It’s not a complete lifestyle change. It’s just a month of complete and unwavering sobriety: Sober January.
As I went to see my family over the holidays, a conversation naturally stirred with my sister and cousin about the year ahead. We wanted to plan something for the year that would challenge our wills. Here’s the thing: I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I’m a far bigger fan of creating massive goals and developing habits to build help reach them. That’s usually more of an individual endeavor and wouldn’t strike much family comradery.
As I laid on my mom’s couch, watching Eddie Murphy’s SNL special with a stomach filled with about 6-too-many cookies, I realized what we could do: monthly challenges infused with discipline. Not just discipline in the way of waking up early (which I do) or keeping most “bad” things to moderation; but complete, unwavering discipline.
Together, we developed a plan: each month in 2020, we will do a monthly challenge. We will spend the entire month either refraining from or doing something daily. This can include abstaining from certain types of foods (sugar) or negative actions (too much social media) or creating a daily discipline of something positive (meditation). In short, we’re either creating or breaking a habit each month.
Cool challenge? Yup. Helping with my content? Definitely. Let’s do it.
The plan for January: total sobriety from alcohol.
Now, I’m not someone that’s a huge drinker anymore. A glass of wine on a Friday night or an IPA after a hike on a sunny afternoon, sure. But I’m not at the point where I can barely open my eyes because of how hungover I am on Sundays (though, if you asked my 22-year-old self, the answer may differ).
Despite this, it’s been a challenge. I mean a real challenge. When you are eliminating something from your diet, it’s almost like you have a target on your back. You’re more likely to notice all of the drinks around you. People are almost giddy to see you struggle, as if the climax of their 2020 would be to see you falter into that first sip of a glass of Tito’s. Even as I write this early on a Friday morning, I wonder if anyone will notice if I put Bailey’s in my dark roast coffee this morning? Better not.
It’s funny when you go against the grain, there are a lot of different reactions, varying from supportive (that’s great!) to inquisitive (why would you do that?) to downright rude (that’s fucking stupid). And I heard all three.
The best thing one can do is to let all of this brush off your shoulders. As Jean-Luc Godard said, “He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.”
So, you may be thinking, what the hell have you done all month? Well – pretty much the same stuff as before – but without booze. I still went to the New Year’s Day party with everyone else enjoying their bloody mary’s. I still hung out with the dozens of my colleagues at our global company kick-off as they drank enough Bud Lights to send Anheuser-Busch stock through the roof. I even, as mentioned, went to a birthday party at a winery with people I’ve never met before.
There have been times where I’ve felt uncomfortable saying no, where I’ve felt the peer pressure. But mostly, it’s felt good. It feels good to say no. It feels good to do what I want to do. It feels good to go against the grain.
I was listening to an interview between comedian Theo Von and psychologist Jordan Peterson, in which Von describes going sober. Initially, he’s worried about the side effects of not drinking: he won’t be funny, he won’t know what to do at parties, will girls still like him? But once he started going sober, he noticed the opposite: people were drawn to him, as if sobriety made him the most interesting man in the room.
It seems as though when we go against the norm – when we’re our most authentic selves – that’s when we have the easiest time with life.
I’ve long been wary of drinking and have considered, but never attempted, doing longer-term sobriety. I can’t say I’ll continue complete abstinence past this month, but I can say I’m glad that we took on the challenge.
I strongly recommend anyone to stick their foot in the ground – whether it’s turning down a drink at a party when you just don’t feel like it, or going for a longer duration as we did in January.
And if you’re not into it, that’s cool too. Cheers. I’ll tap your glass in a few days.
Next up: whatever the hell our challenge is for February.