A Toast to False Friendship

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Ever think to yourself that you’d like to try something new and set your mind to do it for a whole year? Usually this happens around December 30th or 31st when annual resolutions are made with the best intentions to alter one’s course of conduct in order to bring fresh meaning and purpose to daily living. While I like (and participate in) the yearly exercise of making resolutions, I often forget what I resolved to do by the time my late January birthday rolls around.

Sometimes the first of a month can motivate people to do something different. Sometimes it’s the start of a week.

Every once in a while though, a big change can happen nowhere near the start of a month or at the kickoff to a week: Toward the end of last May and on a weekday, I made a significant change.

I stopping drinking alcohol.

(Truth be told, I stopped drinking Barr Hill Gin. I’d gone from beer to wine to mixed drinks over the course of time. A year ago, I was routinely enjoying this particular gin straight over ice. No tonic water. No lime. No cucumbers. Just iced gin. My drink was, and I imagine still would be, wonderfully delicious.)

We were good friends that gin and I.

Then last year, I came to a place where I realized that this private little friendship of mine was getting in the way of some other matters, you know, like fully attending to my marriage, my children, my writing, and my general health.

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I would regularly passed out, unable to cook dinner or help with homework. It never quite got to that. However feel free to picture me just as happy at 5:00 (some days closer to 4:00) with a gin on ice in my right hand as I was to see my family when they came in the door at the end of the day. I looked forward to “relaxing in the evenings.” Admittedly, and depending on the day, my daily relaxing was very much about enjoying the company of one more than the other, i.e., gin vs. family. 

Well, last week marked a year, and I’m surprised to say, a pretty easy year of abstention. Not once did I have a beer, a half a glass of wine, a champagne toast, or even one it-won’t-hurt-a-thing gin on ice. My total aversion was not out of fear that I’d go right back to drinking and end up like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. I did not think that the taste of alcohol would set me spiraling into a drunken abyss. Instead, I didn’t drink even one drop of alcohol because I tend to operate better when I assign myself tasks in their absolute form.

I’m not so much a “gray in the middle” type. “Gray” seems to me to be only a lot of half-assed waffling.

Moderation, the poster child for not going to extremes, and I tend not to have such a great track record. I’m not good at “moderation,” be it either something life-affirming or something soul-destroying. With me, life is a lot of all or nothing.

Looking back at this past year, “nothing” was simply easier than muddling through the moderate middle ground. In fact, there were times–prior to last year–when I did try to “moderate” my consumption of alcohol. All that rule making and guideline setting left me frustrated both by trying to remember what the “new rules” were and finding them infinitely modifiable when I failed.

So now looking back, I can’t help but to ask myself what effect did bidding a (bittersweet) farewell to the gin have on me.

As you can probably guess many of the positive results on your own, I’m not going to bore you with listing these off. Yes, all of those happened for me.

However what you might not immediately think of is this: My world has become much more colorful to me over the last year. I mean this literally.

In the past twelve months, my senses have become resharpened after a far too long a period of a dull numbing. My sine/cosine wave has gone back to it’s pre-alcohol shape and maybe even has gotten more pronounced in the height of its peaks and depth of its valleys.

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It took me a long time to come the conclusion that the gin allowed me to flatline. Every time. I was able to detach from stress and drama with ease. In the wake of the numbing, nothing seemed all that important or even worth getting worked up about.

That disconnect caused a quiet and isolated period of my life. So I decided my life had gotten far too quiet.

Over the last 360-some-odd days, the volume has been turned right back up. It’s loud and, at times, cacophonous. There are days that I wonder how much gin it would take to get the decibel level to tolerable or the bandleader to get the instrumentalists to play in tune.

And it’s on those days that I am grateful for my life-long stubbornness. For without that–paired with my absolutest approach to life–I might be sitting writing this with an iced gin to my right leaving a sweaty puddle on my writing desk.

Sometimes I miss my old friend. But like other friends of mine who have–out of raw necessity–become memories, I was giving more to gin than it was giving to me. And that’s not what a real friendship is supposed to be about.

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