Quitting Alcohol Until Marriage

In the recent past, I’ve been consumed by ambivalent feelings about alcohol and my relationship with this potent, psychoactive beast. These feelings have seized me with almost the same fervour as the spirit of this drug, when inside of me, holds me captive. After a fair bit of back and forth within the theatre of my never-resting mind, I believe that it is in my overall best interest to bring my alcohol consumption to a firm standstill until I get married. The rest of this essay takes a deep dive into my very personal reasoning behind this decision.

At the outset, let me make it amply clear that the fact that my religion of Jainism forbids alcohol consumption does not make up even an iota of the pool of factors that has contributed to this decision. There are various legal and illegal items that I consume and legal acts that I indulge or attempt to indulge in that my religion bars me from consuming and indulging in respectively. The argument from authority (religion) cuts no ice with me as I’ve severely weakened ties with religion over the last few years. This is also one of the reasons why I chose not to take a religious vow to hold myself accountable; if I did, it’d be a very hollow vow.

With the preface now out of the way, let’s get to meat of the matter:

My hyper-perfectionist nature manifests itself in an all-or-nothing mentality. To put it simply, I can never do just a drink or two. I either stay completely sober or let it rain, let it rain, open the floodgates of heaven hell. Another reason, apart from my black-and-white thinking, that keeps the floodgates wide open is the kick I derive out of having conversations with people when under the influence. Let me elucidate. I’m generally a very gregarious drunk and take immense pleasure in conversation with fellow drunks, especially when I am coasting along at the optimal level of drunk, which maximizes the kick or the pleasure derived. This is also the primary reason why I despise nightclubs, which are obnoxiously loud, and instead prefer bars, which are typically conducive for conversation. The insecurity or fear that I might be sobering up and coming out of that “zone” or “sweet spot” means that at no stage, until last call, am I holding onto an empty glass for too long.

A typical weekend night circa 2015

You might suggest that a better solution here would be to tame my hyper-perfectionism and extreme way of thinking as opposed to taking this somewhat radical step of quitting until marriage. While there are some aspects in my life where I have become less of a perfectionist and more of an “optimalist”, drinking surely isn’t one of them. Given the deep-seated nature of my all-or-nothing mentality, calling it quits until marriage seems like a cakewalk compared to the alternative, which might even require therapy.

Moreover, I regard myself as a good conversationalist and it is not as if alcohol is a prerequisite to entering that “zone” or “sweet spot” that I alluded to above. Alcohol simply catalyzes the process of turning on the extroverted switch and I do not want to use it as a crutch to abet entering that “zone” faster. In certain social settings where a handsome majority of those present are drinking, you might feel a tad out of place when not drinking; however, with a few repetitions under your belt, I believe that you can inoculate yourself against the feeling of being one of the odd ones out.

I rank very high on neuroticism, which is how prone one is to anxiety and negative emotions, especially when I am not following my life’s blueprint. I’m as bubbly and jovial as one can be when making appropriate life decisions but can be equally neurotic when succumbing to temptations that provide short-term gain but long-term pain. I thrive on momentum and alcohol hinders or altogether breaks the positive momentum that I have going for myself whenever I act in accordance with the blueprint that I’ve set out for myself. Allow me to elaborate.

While drinking, I end up going overboard more often than not, which I’ve described above as to why. My death-like hangover the following morning makes me regret some of my drinking decisions. Guilt sets in as it would for most, if not all of us, at least to some extent. While some are able to shake it off fairly quickly, I brood over it owing to my neurotic nature, which serves as an open invitation for these negative emotions to engulf me.

The satisfaction that I was experiencing from riding the wave of positive momentum that I had built up by virtue of following my life’s blueprint on a daily basis prior to the drinking episode now comes to a crashing halt. It’s a steep and hard fall and one that doesn’t get me back up on my feet for a while. Momentum for me is like a double-edged sword. Just like a purple patch feels addictive and one that I would ideally like to prolong to the greatest extent possible, my neurotic nature makes it difficult for me to eject myself out of a vicious cycle instantaneously, upon having entered one.

I have friends who wake up feeling bubbly the morning after a Friday night bender, ready for yet another extravaganza on Saturday night. I sometimes wish that I had this spirit and ability in me; however, my unique set of quirks and traits means that I take a good 2-3 days to get my morale back up from the emotional and productivity lows that ensue in the aftermath of a bender.

In a nutshell, while the highs are very high when drinking, I have collected enough drinking data points over the years to arrive at the statistically significant result that the lows that follow are lower than the highs were high.

As with my hyper-perfectionism, my neurotic nature feels harder to try to tame than just quitting alcohol.

Everything that I’ve described above might make it seem as if I’m kissing the borders of alcoholism but that couldn’t be further away from the truth. The fact is that I seldom drink these days; it’s only when I do that all hell breaks loose. Apart from when I am actually drinking, I do not crave alcohol. Thus, giving it up would not feel like a big sacrifice or like self-imposed prohibition. Even though my drinking episodes are few and far between, given their overwhelmingly negative repercussions, why not avoid these few episodes as well. The only sacrifice that I’ll be making in doing so is that when I die and they lay me to rest, I won’t be going on the piss with Georgie Best.

A recent development that has compelled me to think twice about this decision has been my joining a Sales / business development role, which is a role that typically involves its fair share of wining and dining. Does a moderate intake of alcohol in social settings add to my charm and charisma? Perhaps. Am I charming and charismatic enough in social settings sans alcohol? Yes, so that’s that.

What also adds insult to injury is that I often succumb to the temptation of smoking cigarettes, which serves to elevate that “feel good factor” that one experiences as a result of alcohol’s vasodilatory properties. Double whammy? It’s not over as yet. Add to this the fact that alcohol puts the brakes on my physical fitness goals not just by directly being a detriment to good health, but also by producing the urge to binge-eat ‘comfort’ foods the night of and the day after. Triple whammy indeed.

Before After Final
Reducing my alcohol consumption since graduating college has been a substantial contributor to my enhanced physical shape. 

Why such a seemingly odd checkpoint as marriage? A few different reasons at play here: 1) It doesn’t seem too herculean a goal to accomplish i.e. I do not envision the run-up to marriage as being excruciatingly long. The relatively short time horizon means that there is enough predictability and visibility between Point A (now) and Point B (marriage) for me to be confident about sticking to my guns. A lifelong commitment would entail too much randomness and fog, which might leave me biting off more than I can chew. 2) I would like to be able to enjoy a drink or two or three with my wife assuming that she’d like to as well with me. 3) They say marriage and kids culture and civilize you and make you wiser. I hope that the same applies to me as well and that my drinking style undergoes a metamorphosis from one that is black-and-white to one that is characterized by shades of grey. So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older.

What’s the objective behind making this public? As I mentioned above, a religious vow to quit wouldn’t really mean much to me. Nor would any promise to myself given my track record of often having put these private promises on hold in the face of a drinking opportunity. Thus, I concluded that a public post would work best to hold me accountable.

I’d like to conclude by saying that this is a very informed decision that I have thought about for a while as being best for me given my unique set of circumstances and quirks i.e. I am not blindly emulating someone else. Moreover, I did conduct a mini-version of this experiment in early 2017 when I went sober for a 6 month stretch. Cutting out alcohol was certainly one of the contributing factors towards my enhanced happiness and well-being during that spell in 2017 when I was quite literally what Virat Kohli would call a “monk in a civil society”.

In the unlikely event that I end up regretting this decision, I’ll just strive to marry sooner much to my mother’s delight. If all goes smoothly, I’ll consider extending my prohibition contract at the time of marriage.

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