Yesterday, Halloween, marked a full year since I last had a beer or alcohol of any kind. If you’ve known me for a while you probably know this is a pretty big deal for me.
I had written about previous attempts and their failures back in 2016 and have tried many times going back even before that but, for a number of reasons, it never really stuck. Honestly, I’m not sure how long it will last in the future either but, at least so far, I seem to be on a very good path and I’m far more optimistic that I had been in the past.
Why did it work this time?
So what did I do differently? In all honesty I didn’t do a whole lot. It’s what the world did that changed, namely the lockdowns related to COVID.
The thing is I’ve never really cared all that much for the beer itself. Going back to 2010-2011, however, we began to drink more simply as going to local bars got us out of the house and gave us something to do.
For 10 years I’ve calculated that I averaged somewhere around 2 beers a day, every day. That might not be horrible but I never did drink daily, usually only once or twice a week. Stuffing that much into a couple of days was a whole different issue and one I wanted to change.
When we lived in Austin it was hard to avoid alcohol. As a software developer it is part of everything, even many of the offices I worked in. Every night out, every event, every class had beer as a mostly expected part of it and I didn’t mind participating.
Fast forward to our move to Florida and the only thing that changed was the location. Without knowing anyone here, and as we live next to a bar district, our favorite bar became our living room and our only real source of socializing. For 5 years we went out once or twice a week and drank, usually 4 to 6 beers in my case, simply because we never had anything better to do.
Every time I tried to change this pattern one simple problem got in the way: we never had anything to replace the local bar with. We would stop for a couple of weeks or even a month but then we would go right back to it simply because the bar was our only social scene and, frankly, our only hobby.
Fast forward to the COVID lockdowns last year and things changed quickly. Our local bar was closed until June with and then closed permanently in July. We tried the occasional beer at home last year but, as I really never did drink just to drink, it didn’t stick with me. I haven’t had a desire to “just drink” in a very long time and being at home didn’t change that so I simply stopped.
If I’ve changed anything myself in that time it is in my desire to simply feel more comfortable at home and avoid going out. That I’ve done very well at, but keeping beer out of that was never something I consciously worked towards.
Is it permanent?
Now, as the world starts to open up again, I find myself wondering if this change will be permanent or if we’ll slip back into old habits.
Unlike previous attempts we have a few things going against us going back to the bars. First, our favorite bar is permanently closed so that “living room” isn’t even an option. Second is that fact that all the remaining bars within walking distance allow smoking. Part of how our favorite because our favorite is it was the exception to the smoking issue, without that I don’t have much interest in even walking into many of the other options. Finally, we’re simply much more comfortable at home for food and everything else. Without the need to leave the house all the time it’s much easier to not stop for 1 beer (that would often become 5) on the way home.
What worries me is that we still haven’t actually replaced going to the bar as a hobby with anything else. I write more, that’s a good thing, but neither of us really have much in the way of hobbies. Once we get comfortable with leaving the house again this will make it much easier to slip right back into our comfortable old habit if we’re not careful.
I don’t know where the world will take us in the coming months and years but breaking our bar habit is one change I’ve been grateful for. I’m so grateful for it that, as the world opens up, the old habit is one part of “back to normal” I really do hope I can avoid.
For the rest of 2021 it’s become a personal thing for me to avoid beer at all. Beyond that I’m open to drinking again if we can do it in a more healthy manor such as with a meal or on a special occasion. I don’t know when of if that opportunity will present itself but we’ll see what happens should it come to that.
Today I’m just happy that not drinking at all has been one of the few positives of these last two years that has left me healthier and happier.