I realize I’ve talked about Lent a lot, and so as not to beleaguer the point, this will be my last post on the matter … at least for this year anyway.
If drinking is part of your culture, you may have a better appreciation for how difficult it was for me to abstain from all alcohol for Lent. I didn’t meet my specific goal of all 46 days without alcohol, but I did go 40 days without alcohol, just not consecutively. More on that in a few.
Before Lent, I was eager to take on this challenge because I wanted to see what benefits not drinking would provide me. How much weight would I lose? How much more energy would I have? Would my concentration improve?
I was rather shocked, a little disappointed and simultaneously relieved to discover what happened when I quit drinking for Lent:
Quitting Drinking Did Not Make Me Lose Weight
I was sure that by cutting out all the extra calories I consume from wine, beer and/or the occasional mixed drink, the pounds would fall off me. That’s anywhere from 500 to 1,000 fewer calories per week; what an easy way to diet!
Sadly, at Lent’s end, I had only lost two pounds. Two pounds is insignificant; it could have been water weight. I was expecting to have lost anywhere from five to 10 pounds.
The lesson I took away: My body likes calories from alcohol. No need to test that again.
Quitting Drinking Did Not Improve My Energy or Concentration
Again, I was positive that I would have a surplus of energy every day when I stopped drinking.
Again, I was wrong.
Getting out of bed every morning was just as painful as it is any other morning. I did not have an extra spring in my step nor did I experience increased concentration abilities at work.
The lesson I took away: Alcohol doesn’t destroy my brain as much as I thought.
Speaking in Absolutes Dooms You to Failure
I found it interesting that once I declared I would abstain from all alcohol, the forces of the universe created two extremely rare events to ensure I would drink.
The first was my friend Wendy’s visit. She flew around the world from Australia to surprise me. Yes, of course, I could have continued not to drink, but it wouldn’t have allowed me to properly celebrate with Wendy.
The second event was the unexpected death of my brother who died of a heart attack at age 49. (This post is in his memory.) When I was back home, I did not drink for most of the week, but after the funeral and wake when I was back at my dad’s house with Mr. Man, he told us the story about why martinis became his signature drink.
My dad — affectionately referred to by me as THB because of his enthusiasm for monogramming his initials on just about anything and everything — was so excited about telling the story that evolved into the history of the drink itself, that when he offered to make us an “original intent martini,” I couldn’t resist.
We stayed up until the middle of the night drinking martinis and sharing stories. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had with THB.
After that night, I acquiesced to the drinking culture of my family. I toasted to the memory of my brother, and I eased into afternoon happy hours.
Bonding over drinks is what we do, and I’m glad I was there to do it.
The lesson I took away: Sometimes being with friends and/or family and living in the moment is more important than an exercise in self-denial.
Morals and ethics are all about choices and the ability to explain and support why you made the decisions you did. That’s why in my book, I still count this year’s Lent as a success.