Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Year of Living Drinklessly

I didn't have a drink yesterday but was offered a beer, a screwdriver, and a glass of red wine.

Living in beach paradise, as we do here in Baja California Sur, it's easy to get caught up in the It's-Another-Tequila-Sunrise Lifestyle. So many people in our little villa love to party. And who can blame them? They are on vacation or retired. Whoo hoo!

I have nothing against getting wasted away again in Margaritaville. God knows I've had a lot of fun over the years doing so. It's just that recently, booze has stopped being my friend. A few drinks at night is a surefire ticket to insomnia, migraines and malaise.

Maybe booze has always affected me like that. Perhaps it's just that in my 50s, feeling like crap bothers me more than it used to.

On my beach walk today, this idea came to me: How about an experiment? Not drinking for a year. The Year of Living Drinklessly (after one of my favorite films, The Year of Living Dangerously).

But wait a minute. Who will I be without drinking? When I'm offered a margarita, can I really say no? Isn't that rude? Won't I be a drag? Won't I be a buzz kill, a party pooper?

What will happen when I meet my sister's new boyfriend, who owns a winery, and I tell him I'm abstaining from the passion of his life? That doesn't seem very nice. (Then again, many people I know have never read my books.)

Most of my friends drink. I heard one--wine glass in hand--say: "I decided to stop drinking wine, but after a week I realized it made me really boring."

The non-drinkers in my circle tend to be pot smokers. Maybe by the end of my experiment, I'll be a stoner. Maybe I'll gain 100 munchie pounds.

I doubt it. I don't care for weed. Once I ate some pot candy and sat, a catatonic marble statue, for four hours on a friend's boat. I felt immobile and silent as a rock. I finally understood why they call it "stoned."

Booze has always had the opposite effect for me, making me bubbly and social and happy. Well, for a few hours. And then if I want to stay awake to keep dancing and chatting, I need coffee.

Maybe giving up booze is just the next level of shedding. In the past two years, I've shed my job, town, house and possessions. Oh, and a brain tumor the size of a walnut.

No, my husband and I are not ascetics. We love a fat steak and Tempurpedic mattress as much as the next guy. But we are experience junkies. We like to fling ourselves into life and try new things. Right now we have two more months in beachside paradise before we leave for more adventures in California, New Orleans and Chicago.

Oh my god. Am I really going to be boozelesss at JazzFest?

Well, that's hardly an epic act. People do it all the time. I'm just not usually in that group. In fact, the last time we were in New Orleans, I had a sore throat--so I drank ginger tea rather than beer, and I still had a great time.

This experiment could be an epic fail. Someone could put a Pliny the Elder in my hand tomorrow, and I could unthinkingly and happily suck it down.

But it helps if I frame the story like this: The Year of Living Drinklessly is an adventure. I'm not giving something up. I'm leaning into my curiosity about living a different way. I'm going to learn a lot. I can already think of a bajillion things I want to write about on this topic. So stay tuned.
(Originally published Feb. 16 on another blog, but I've decided to merge them. It's all ONE life after all!)

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