The Curse of the Regular Drinker

Drunk Santa

Photo by Funky64. http://www.flickr.com/photos/funky64/

I used to love running. I was addicted to running. If I didn’t run one day, I didn’t feel right. There was no better high than running to exhaustion. Then I met the woman of my dreams and it all went to shit.

In all seriousness, my physical life began to deteriorate the minute I felt comfortable in my relationship.

It’s not a new story:

1. You meet someone.

2. You try really hard to be the funniest, fittest, most relaxed and cool dude the world has ever seen.

3. The special someone seems to like you for “who you are”.

4. You start “trying” less and less.

5. You’re happy/content.

6. You’re fat.

So, five years later, I’m up 80 lbs. I wake up many mornings and think, “Shit! I can’t believe this! I’m fat AGAIN.” Oh yeah, slight variation on my story, I was fat for most of my life until I went to college and lost 70 lbs.

How did I lose 70 lbs?

Easy.

1. My dorm at UMass was at the top of a steep hill.

2. I didn’t eat very much because

3. I was now surrounded by girls all the time.

4. I became addicted to playing sports and running.

So, you can go back to college and be single, and you’ll likely lose 70 lbs…

Or?

Give up drinking and fall in love with exercise. That’s the revelation inspired by the last 10 days of complete sobriety.

See, I vowed to give up drinking for the month of January because I realized it was the one thing I could point to and say, “you are really fucking this whole thing up.”

If you are like me (and you probably are, on some fundamental biological level, as I assume you are a human being), then alcohol brings you up, psychologically, for a short period of time, which is great.

The problem is that alcohol seems to put me back down a little less happy than I was without alcohol in the first place. Maybe I can make a really shitty chart to demonstrate this process…

Regular Drinker's Happiness Timeline

Perhaps my greatest work of art.

So, we got this fella, Regular Drinker.  He’s pretty good in the sack and really good at FIFA/analyzing the Patriots.

But he’s not too happy when he hasn’t had a drink in a few days, then he goes out and throws down a few and he’s pretty happy.  ‘The world doesn’t seem so awful after all’, he thinks to himself. 48 hours later, ol’ Reg is back to misanthrope territory. He then manages to swear off the drink for a week or so and voila, his happiness returns to near normal levels.

A little background on Regular Drinker: He’s not an alcoholic although he’s become dependent on alcohol for the bulk of his relaxation and happiness. He hasn’t gone more than a few days without drinking in years. He can abstain from drinking on occasion, but isn’t crazy about the idea.

Sound like anyone you know?  Sounds like most people I know.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t drink because that’s preposterous.

I’m really trying to figure this whole thing out myself.  Perhaps this month of sobriety will give me some answers.

I do recall when I first started drinking regularly, in my sophomore year of college (circa 1999), that I was consistently happy despite drinking regularly.

Those were different days, so I’m not sure the comparison is worth much now. The increased level of physical activity, socializing, and intellectual stimulation surely played a part in my happiness.

Long story shorter, I am happier now 9 days dry than I was when sober for only a day or two. Everything feels a little lighter and brighter. Perhaps this is just the result of increased energy, but I think it’s more than that.

What’s the takeaway?

Even drinking in moderation a few times a week can make you less happy. Until this recent resolution, I went over five years without abstaining for more than five days.  So, I recommend that every once in a while you take a week or two off from drinking altogether.

You’ll find you are happier and more energetic.  Bonus: You’ll get buzzed that much quicker when you start hitting the bottle again.

Here’s a couple great resources on happiness:

Happy – A phenomenal documentary on what makes people happy. Available on Netflix streaming.

Happiness HypothesisA scientific, historical, somewhat smarty pants look at what makes people happy. I’m reading this right now and it’s very good.  Comment on this article if you’d like me to send you my copy once I’m done reading it.

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Comments, reactions, counterpoints, criticism? Email or call us at drink@drunkensportsmen.com or 617-752-2779