Wanna make a bet?: Going sober for what’s left of October

The other day, while training to work at the bar at Shady Brook Farm, I heard Tom, the regular weeknight bartender, say he was planning to give up drinking because he was tired of feeling tired, and a bunch of complicated memories came flooding back.

I stood there in ill-fitting jeans, which had been loose on me about six months earlier, and now were only a wardrobe option because I HAVE to wear jeans to work and don’t own anything larger, and I had a major gut-check moment. 

(Actually, it’s more like a thigh-check moment, because historically that’s where all my excess weight tends to go.)

For one whole month in each of the past two fall seasons, I’ve sworn off drinking, as an exercise in self control. I called my venture – very cleverly, as if it never dawned on anyone that “sober” rhymes with “October”…well, you get what I’ve been calling it.

I tried to resurrect Sober October in 2018, because I remember all the weight (inflammation, mostly) I lost and the energy and self-esteem I gained during the 2016 and 2017 editions, but I failed.

I mean, there’s really no excuse for not doing something except that you just didn’t make the choice to freaking do it, and that’s certainly the case here. But you have to understand that, unlike in past years, my life this fall is a completely amorphous blob, and if my regular nightmares since I left my job are any indication, I am extremely, subconsciously, stressed.

My former job gave me some semblance of structure and predictability, and for whatever reason, I felt comfortable enough with external stimuli to focus consistently on taming my internal issues.

My life now is completely unpredictable. My health has taken a back seat to dealing with – in some cases dulling, or numbing – the daily unease I feel about my overall situation. I have been drinking and eating more. A lot more. I haven’t been working out as regularly, or with the same intensity. I’ve been staying up late, drinking high-calorie hard cider at the Shady Brook bar after my shift, then failing to get up in time to exercise the next morning. Little by little, this behavior pattern has resulted in a complete physical and mental transformation.

I gained a lot of weight. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I don’t fit in my clothes. I look exhausted and feel lethargic all the time. And although I keep saying I need to get my shit together, I’ve become one of those people who pushes off change until tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, while rationalizing and justifying all the negative choices I make today.

I did not ever think I would be one of those people.

I very much would like to stop.

So I made a bet with Tom the bartender. It’s kind of in the vein of The Contest on “Seinfeld,” except it centers around a different “vice.” Basically, we are pledging to go sans alcohol, starting Monday, Oct. 22, until Thurs., Nov. 22, and the wager is (monetary value still pending), who loses the most weight. Really, it’s who folds first, because he’s a guy, so it’s almost guaranteed he will lose more weight. That’s, like, the most basic biological truth and the universe’s original “f*ck you” to women.

I don’t even care if Tom loses more weight. I just want to make it to Thanksgiving without having to yell “I’m out!” I needed this challenge, and as a lifelong competitive athlete, the worthier an opponent he turns out to be, the more success I will achieve.

For all the reasons I laid out earlier, and because I now occasionally work in a bar, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE ROSE BANK WINERY HARD CIDER we sell at The Stone’s Throw, this Sober October/November challenge is going to be a lot harder than in the past.

My habitual reliance upon alcohol to calm my racing thoughts and growing fears about my unemployed future is a subject for a whole other blog…but it can’t be discounted. This is truly going to be a challenge.

I’ve done the sober month before, and looking at me today, it’s clear that one month does not a total life change make. I’ve always gone back to my old habits, and the effects of those habits have grown increasingly severe as I’ve gotten older. It would be great to have a long-term plan right now, with regard to this seemingly short-term gimmick – I can bet we will make this bet fun; there will be trash talk and attempts at sabotage – but at this moment, all I want to do is take one step.

I want to live one day feeling better.

I do know how that one day can snowball into another day of feeling better, then another, and another. But right now, the focus will necessarily be: One day at a time. My amorphous blob of a life, circa Sober October 2018, requires that sort of thinking.

Game On, Tom.





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