The first thing you notice when you're not drinking is how many times you would be drinking. In the month I decided to "go dry," I went on a girls' trip to wine country, spent a week in South Carolina, attended a gin tasting in the office, went to plays and concerts, and spent an evening at home solo. All of these are times I would normally drink. Not a lot, but a glass of wine or a cocktail to decompress, join in the fun, or simply have something to hold onto while walking through a party.
At first I didn't think I could make it through. I staved myself from inventive cocktails in Charleston and glasses of wine with friends by envisioning the finish line at the end of the month. Would I order a dirty martini? Head out for Saturday afternoon margaritas? A cool drink, any drink, sounded delicious. But then a funny thing happened: The end of my dry month came and went, without a drink. I just wasn't craving alcohol and, more importantly, learned I didn't need it to fully enjoy myself. In short, I felt empowered by the knowledge I could unwind and enjoy myself without a lubricant.
When I did finally drink, this past weekend, I poured myself a glass of wine at home then didn't finish it. At a cookout on Monday, I grabbed a beer then completely forgot about it, too. I enjoyed the first few sips, but simply lost my appetite for it. Knowing what I know now—that I feel healthier, sleep better, and save more money when I don't drink–I simply crave drinking less.
All in all, I'm planning on just being much more mindful when it comes to drinking, which for me means skipping more of those "why not?" moments. Yes, I'll occasionally order a martini when I'm craving one, but I won't be packing beers when I go camping this month. As a friend of mine puts it, "I'm dry-ish." Along the way, I learned some simple tips for drinking less. I'm sharing them here in case you're looking to do the same (and if not, cheers to that too!):
When I moved to New York for my first job, I'd grab a beer on my way home with friends or coworkers almost every night. It was just something people did, and I loved it. As soon as I moved to L.A., where driving prohibits spontaneous bar hops, I got into the habit of pouring myself a glass of wine or beer as soon as I got home. That habit has waned over the years—even before this experiment, I only drank about one work night a week—but I wanted to kick the habit completely, in the name of better sleep. What I found is: Pouring myself a drink after work was just as much about the habit as it was the beer itself. Now when I walk in the door, I pour myself some sparkling water with lemon. Surprisingly, the sparkling water fulfills exactly the same craving the beer did. Even without a buzz, it signals the end of a day and the transition into a relaxing evening at home.
A lot of plans revolve around "grabbing a drink," but they don't have to. Offer to meet friends for coffee before work, for a walk, to a movie, or over to make dinner. I used to meet friends every week for beers, but we shifted that routine to grabbing mint tea at a coffee shop. Yes, we're a little grandma-y, but it also makes our weekly meetings more affordable, which we all appreciate. (I initially kept track of how much money I was saving during my dry month, and stopped when I hit $100 mid-month, which probably says more about how expensive cocktails are in Los Angeles, than how much I was drinking...).
If you do meet at a bar, consider grabbing something that approximates a drink, and don't feel obligated to apologize or call attention to it (which I, oddly, did at first). I usually order sparkling water with a wedge of lime or a fun mocktail, if they have one.
I love Happy Hour, especially when traveling. It's a time to decompress at the end of a long day of exploring before dinner. I usually use it as an opportunity to write in my travel journal, or simply people-watch. In South Carolina, we created our own Happy Hours. When we couldn't find a bar with inventive mocktails, we'd head to a coffee shop and sit reading, which hit the spot (almost) as much as a Pimm's Cup would. As an added bonus, I found I had more energy through and after dinner!