It's totally normal to have a glass of wine each night with dinner, right? And everyone has a local wine shop owner that always keeps a couple bottles of your favorite vintage on hand, right?
I thought so, too. But I embarked on a "Sober February" challenge with two girlfriends anyway after we all were forced to admit that a detox was in order, especially following a particularly social past few months. I certainly love a glass of wine now and then, but I figured it would be a breeze. February is a short month, after all. (There was no way we were going for 31 entire days of Dry January, thank you very much. Although why we thought this would be easy during the most depressing time of the year, when spring and sunshine and general optimism seem hopelessly far away, I don't know.)
Wow, was I wrong.
Week One: Not a strong start. In fact, I hit a snag only a couple days in. A colleague was visiting town that I don't get to see often, so we naturally made plans to have dinner together. As we got comfortable at our table in a favorite downtown restaurant, she perused the overpriced wine list and asked my opinion on which bottle we should order. I mumbled something about how I wasn't drinking this month, but I knew as the words came out of my mouth that they lacked complete conviction. It didn't take much -- perhaps just a questioning arch of her eyebrow -- before I heard myself switching direction. "Well, okay, maybe one glass." I headed home later that night (three glasses later) with a flush of shame on my cheeks, more than a little surprised at just how easily and quickly I had abandoned my resolution.
Week Two: An exercise in utter frustration. I obviously couldn't control myself when I was out in public, so the only solution was to remove myself from social situations altogether. My fellow friends in detox were quickly realizing the same thing, and we all decided that in order to get through this month we'd all have to suffer through self-imposed isolation. What a miserable, boring week. After finishing up at the office, I just went home. I read three books, organized my closet, took extra yoga classes, cleaned my apartment, and starting going to bed early. Like, really early. I debated writing letters to Netflix pleading for the third season of House of Cards to start immediately. At this point, the end of February seemed like a long way away.
Week Three: No hangovers, no problems. I've started waking up on my own, before the alarm would go off, feeling completely and utterly awake. "I feel amazing!" I joyously exclaimed one morning as I was getting ready for work, adding almost as an afterthought, "I wonder if it's because I haven't been drinking?"
My husband, Lawrence, looked somewhere between amused and skeptical. "You go out a lot," he finally said. "It adds up."
He's right -- over the past couple weeks, it had occurred to me how strange it was for my weeks not to get filled up with dinners, work functions, last minute catch-up drinks with friends. Normally I would argue that I balance things pretty well, but in the bright harsh light of three weeks sober, it suddenly didn't seem that way.
My friends and I celebrated the start of Week Four with a much-needed (dry, of course) dinner. Now that we're down to these last few days, however, we're all approaching March with a bit of wariness. On one hand, we're looking forward to rejoining the human race and getting back into the swing of things. But on the other hand, we're coming out of this realizing that we all drink more than we thought we did, and there are some old habits we'd rather not return to. I'd bet money that we're not the only ones, too.
At the end of the day, I've decided to think of myself as a Parisian at heart: a glass of good wine is to be savored and enjoyed, preferably accompanied with a delicious meal and fabulous company. But maybe, starting in March, it can be every other night with dinner.