I Drank Alcohol For 30 Years, But Today, It's Been A Year Since I've Had A Drink

By A Friend • July 14, 2020

This started out as a temporary health kick. I got home from the 2019 Oregon Country Fair, where I volunteer every year and where I’d had my last drink, and my best friend and I mutually decided to abstain from drinking for six weeks, as part of our preparation for Burning Man. In addition to being an incredible adventure companion, she has helped inspire many new things in my life, but I don’t think that either of us thought this would result in me quitting for good. That was not the plan.

At this point, let us record for posterity, I was drinking various kinds of alcohol, every day, three to six drinks a day, except more at parties! It had been a long time since I had gone more than a few days without drinking. What began as just a six-week pause (just a three-hour tour!) quickly became surprisingly compelling and meaningful to me.

Let me underline the surprise part. I did not mean to quit drinking for good! But after only a week or so, I felt that my thoughts had gone in a sufficiently new direction — just from experimenting with not drinking for a little while — to start talking privately with my friends who had previously quit drinking. They were amazing, and the interesting thing was that none of them tried to sell me on any particular way of thinking about myself or my relationship with alcohol — they all just encouraged me to sit with my feelings and explore them, and continue noticing what I experienced as I continued my short-term experiment.

You might think of Burning Man as a big party where alcohol is nearly ubiquitously available, and you’d be totally right. But Burning Man is also a great place to live experimentally. It was my seventh burn in eight years, and I found it easy and fun to burn without drinking. At Burning Man, after those initial six weeks were up, rather than start drinking again, I extended my goal to 90 days. At 90 days, I extended it to a year. I have now fully adapted to make it a permanent way of life. And I feel better, and miss drinking less, than I could possibly have imagined.

I’m stubbornly independent and did not do this as part of any organized program of recovery. That doesn’t mean those programs are bad or useless. To the contrary, they help a number of people, and as a criminal defense lawyer I work professionally as well as personally to connect folks with the resources they need. But not everything works equally well for, or is necessary in exactly the same way for, everybody. What I needed — what I always need in life — was simply to live in integrity with my close and loving community of friends. That has delivered and then some.

I did not crash and burn. I just caught myself drinking a whole bunch more, steadily, over time. So I’m not recovering from hitting any particular bottom. It’s been more a matter of being consistently pleasantly surprised by the ongoing, sometimes pronounced, sometimes subtle effects of living without alcohol.

Many changes to my body that I thought were the product of aging turned out to be quite reversible by simply not drinking. (Some were kind of weird, like I swear my hearing has gotten a little better.) To be fair, I have also been working out a ton, but at 46, I am in better shape than I have been since I was 22. There’s no way that would be possible if I were drinking.

I am incredibly lucky not to have harmed myself or anyone else in any irreparable ways with alcohol. I did do and say a bunch of stupid things under the influence of alcohol, but mostly I dozed off or slowed down to the side of events. I’m back to being my naturally boisterous self again now.

Anyway, I really did have a good run with drinking overall, and I mostly enjoyed it. But drinking from age 15 to age 45 was enough. And I realized it was enough. I sure am glad that I got out while I still could. The benefits of doing so are numerous and their number is continuing to grow.

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