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40 Days Without Booze (jdmoyer.com)
308 points by stock_toaster on Aug 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 274 comments

> booze enables workaholism, because of the fast unwind time

I think this is the key insight from the article. I went through a stressful period where I used alcohol to wind down quickly. But in reality it just made things worse because it numbed me up to the real reasons why I was stressed out. Sometimes though, we don't want to look at the deeper issues (emotional/psychological) for why we are unhappy, and booze provides some quick and effective relief.

I've recently gotten much healthier and it's amazing to experience that the old adage about "making a lifestyle change" really is the core of it. All the different parts of your life have to hang together for the positive switch to happen. If you think of exercise and diet as a way to "pay down the debt" you'll never get out from under whatever is holding you down.

I find that a hardcore workout works even better than alcohol. Not only do you get the same winding down effect in a short period of time (assuming you're really killing yourself and working to exhaustion in the gym), but you get a lot of additional benefits along with it: better focus, improved health, boosted confidence, and improved body composition. You wake up the next morning feeling a lot better about yourself. My experience with alcohol is often the opposite.

> working to exhaustion in the gym

I don't disagree, but when I've tried this I just find myself doubly exhausted: once (mentally) from the work, and again (physically) from the gym. Still agree that making time for the gym is really important though. But for me, it's not the answer to mental exhaustion but rather just part of a healthy lifestyle generally (personally, proper sleep hygiene is the only solution I've found to mental exhaustion and overwork).

>>I don't disagree, but when I've tried this I just find myself doubly exhausted: once (mentally) from the work, and again (physically) from the gym.

When you walk into the gym you need to stop thinking about work and start focusing on your workout. For me, this comes in the form of planning which exercises I'll be doing, how much weight I lifted the previous time for how many reps, and how much I can increment it. And then during the lifts, I focus on the mind-muscle connection to make sure my form is correct and I'm activating the right muscles.

Trust me, when you do it like this, it's incredibly relaxing from a mental perspective. I actually look at my gym sessions as meditation time.

I have pretty much the same mentality and I Have to agree that it just works. It doesn't matter what I have on my mind before going to the gym as it is soon replaced by "I have to squat 2.5kg more than the last time?!".

I certainly agree with your comment about sleep. For me, I generally lump sleep in with my exercise because I've been strict about getting a minimum of 7 hours of preferably uninterrupted sleep in order to maximize recovery from exertion. The sleep and exercise combined work wonders to clear out the stress of the day. And while I feel exhausted after a workout, it's more of a calm, peaceful, and cleansing exhaustion.

I would hazard that you are coming to this from a relatively sedentary point of view. Often overlooked is the huge hump to get over before exercise starts showing it's benefits. It can take months if you do not have the strength it takes to work out effectively, or are performing less than optimal exercise routine, such as one focused on cardio.

A less than optimal exercise routine is entirely possible. Do you have any tips? Bad technique or not enough variety is certainly a concern, especially when working out on your own. The trouble is, when I try to find alternatives, they usually seem to require a significant time and/or money investment which I can't do right now (e.g. getting a personal trainer, or adhering to strict regimes). If there any any simpler resources out there I'd be happy to hear about them.

I have gone for half a year or longer exercising on average 5 times a week, sometimes more. Excercise is often physically draining for me afterwards. My experience is opposite of it taking a "long time to [feel?] benefits": it just takes 10 pushups to a 7 minute circuit workout for me to feel great and invigorated. A longer workout often leaves me feeling drained in the hours after. My circulatory system might feel much better, but my body feels tired.

Not all exercise sessions are made equal. If you're just doing 10 pushups or 7 minute circuits for 6 months, you're still very much in the beginner phase.

It took me a few years of consistent intense training to really get into the groove of things. I've been at it for about 9 years now. This is the intensity that I aim for (mind you, this is not me in the video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAhNyvTF5Uw

After that level of intensity on a consistent basis for a few years, you adapt to it. While you may feel tired, you gain energy from it as well.

I did much more than 10 push-ups or 7 min circuit training each session for those six months (and those six months isn't the only time I've exercised, just one of the longer uninterrupted streaks of it). Don't patronize me.

Not trying to patronize you at all, and I apologize if it came off that way. I'd say that most people in the tech/hacker community aren't too well acquainted with consistent, dedicated exercise. It wouldn't be unreasonable for someone to have the belief that after 6 months of 7 minute circuits, their body should be well adapted to intense workouts. Since I don't know who you are or where you stand on the experience spectrum, I took an educated guess, and apparently was wrong.

Definitely - I've started practicing aikido 3 times a week, for at least an hour each time I go (I worked my way up to it). I usually go to the dojo for 2 1/2 hours, but not always. It's done more for my physical and mental well-being than any other type of exercise. Practicing Qi Gong in the mornings before leaving the house has also helped.

Generally speaking, I think practicing martial arts is a good thing for technical people to do. It gets you out of your head and into a feeling space. And, there are many interesting parallels between the learning process in martial arts and in programming.

That's exactly how I feel about powerlifting. Once you get to a certain level, the attention to detail, specificity, and focus you need to progress are great analogues to other areas such as programming or entrepreneurship. It's become my personal meditation time where I disconnect from everything else and focus intensely on optimization and improvement.

If anyone is interested, this book has given me a vastly different perspective on things like exercise (or in parent's case, martial arts): http://www.amazon.com/Mastery-Keys-Success-Long-Term-Fulfill... When put in that perspective, I think exercise would greatly appeal to most hackers.

I want to tack on cycling to this. I can't count the number of times I've wanted to solve all of the world's problems at the beginning of a bike ride. And the result is always the same. The primary problem that I end up solving is 'how the hell do I move myself over the next 60+ miles without blowing up and getting dropped by the pack.' And not falling - not falling is key. Dodging cars, cyclists, potholes, cracks, animals, gravel, basically anything that can ruin your ride, becomes a major focus. Then after you finish the ride, you are on a physical high from the exertion and a mental high from getting to take a break from your petty little problems.

Man I want to go ride now...

Having your first kid does too. Of course, you may feel like you REALLY need to unwind when there's a screaming baby taking up all your awake time, but, one thing about being a (responsible) parent is that you always have to be 'on' - meaning you gotta get up reliably when it's time for feeding, routines, and making sure the baby doesn't harm themselves when they're awake. No time for booze, mate!

I started working out daily last year and almost immediately noticed a marked reduction in my tolerance for alcohol. A couple of drinks and I'm done---any more and I start feeling hung over before I've even gone to bed. Has anyone else experienced this after taking up a regular exercise schedule?

I'm in pretty good shape and alcohol always makes me tired, no matter what time of day I drink it. So I avoid drinking it, which probably contributes to these symptoms in the first place. I'm not sure if they originate from the exercise but that's an interesting observation.

Yes, definitely - I could be wrong, but I've been told that when you're healthier, your body metabolizes things faster & more efficiently. So stuff like alcohol or caffeine will hit you harder and faster too (all the more reason, right?).

For myself, I've noticed that after getting healthier, just one cup of coffee a day keeps me plenty productive. I might have a cup of tea in the afternoon. But it's a far cry from my previous 3-cups-a-day habit.

> when you're healthier, your body metabolizes things faster & more efficiently. So stuff like alcohol or caffeine will hit you harder and faster

What you are saying does not make any sense. If it did boost your body metabolism, then your enzymes should be working faster at breaking down alcohol.

People that are fit tend to have a higher tolerance towards alcohol.

I was going to mention the same thing. Replace the after work drink with an intense workout and it does wonders.

I can second this. Working out at Gym, lifting heavy weights not only givens you that winding down effect but has a positive impact on productivity as well.

Using hardcore workouts as a stress coping tool is not much different from having a drink or two. You're not really addressing the source of stress.

Working out hard is additional stress. It boosts cortisol just like job stress. Stress depletes magnesium, and so does hard exercise. You will be hurting your health, not helping it, if you're stressed out and then do crossfit type stuff. That you can't train hard and endure other forms of stress is well known among athletes.

I exercise often and hard because I'm vain, but the health benefits of exercise are way oversold in my opinion. The pyramid of good health is 60% diet, 20% sleep quality and stress, 10% social and spiritual life, and then at most 10% exercise.

Interesting take. The missus often reminds me that the body does well to have a little time out from alcohol. At least a couple of days off between drinks. Which could allow for weekend and mid week drinking or some variant. It's easier said than done though.

For me I'm really crap at switching off from work, and I can easily torture myself at the thought that I should be working. However when I drink, I pretty much say to myself - that's enough. And likewise if I'm on my bike.

So when I'm not drinking or not exercising, I'm not relaxing, and that's just a recipe for disaster for me - the knock on effect is that my programming really suffers. I find it a very difficult cycle to break away from, despite there being a simple solution.

At least you might be giving your brain time to breathe when you are exercising.

For ages I was in the habit of having a glass of wine of beer each night after work. For me it all changed when I started cycling daily. Firstly I started to notice the difference it made to me when I didn't drink each evening when I got home, on a 14mile each way ride it would take me at least an extra 5 minutes each way after just one or two beers the night before.

Then in time I found the bike ride alone was all I needed to unwind. I still drink socially, but I'm planning on cutting even that back lately.

Absolutely this. I got back into competitive swimming (masters level, nothing too serious) and suddenly my training sessions were real workouts, not the laziness I do when I'm by myself. I actively try and avoid alcohol during the week as it just make training worse.

if 5 minutes is a signal, how wide is your normal variation interval?

It was a 14 mile journey that usually took between 50 and 55 mins, but only 55 when I was in bad traffic, after stopping weekday beers I got down to 45 on a far more regular basis, sometimes breaking that barrier. I have my data from the old Nokia Sports Tracker site somewhere I'm sure i could dig through. As I left at a set time and had to be at work at a set time I had to push myself to make the time up, it just became easier (or harder) based on my drinking the night before. Even single pint was and is noticeable.

These days I have a 10 mile commute that take 30 on a perfect cycle in, 35 on a slow day and 40 when I've not been eating enough carbs at the right times. But I'm much better at planning my meals now.

For me cycling is an amazing way to start and end the day, just thinking about the road and making my Strava segments as quickly and safely as I can. Find me as liamjford on Strava if you use that.

Beer absolutely kills me. I don't think it did when I was younger, but now two or three beers will get me slaughtered on the racquetball court the next day and leave me mentally slow. But it's just beer and all the various crap in it. Liquor is fine.

Alcohol does help you wind down quickly, but, at least for me, it doesn't help me stay wound down. Even if I have a couple of drinks and then go to sleep, I don't stay asleep very long - a couple of hours at most. And when I wake up, I'm more "wired" than I would be after a typical 2-hour nap. Having said all that, I still enjoy an occasional drink and the "slow" unwind that comes with that. But nothing beats the "lifestyle change".

Having never been a drinker (well, tried a bit as a kid but quickly realized it wasn't my thing) it wasn't until the last couple of years that I started to understand why people drink. Being in the early stages of a new company and wanting/needing to work insane hours is all fine and good but after a while of not being able to easily detach it's easy to find yourself being overly anxious and distant. Like, clinically so.

That being said, some people can use alcohol recreationally and some are more or less destined to use it as a crutch. I'm certainly in the latter category.

> some are more or less destined to use it as a crutch. I'm certainly in the latter category.

I don't think that has to be true - you just need to find something else that unwinds you. I think alcohol is easy because, hey, you drink it and it does its thing. With other practices (exercise/meditation/etc) you have to put in some up-front work to see the benefits. But I believe you can do anything in 4 to 6 weeks with consistent effort.

I'm sober like 9 years in a row. I was not able work so hard and so long hours (often about 80 a week) when i was drinking. Also it is a rip off paying for that Quick and effective relief form booze. stay sober a year and start drinking, you'll learn what I'm saying.

I wonder if maybe meditation could serve as a fast unwind, in the long term.

Meditation is also a practice of continuous "unwinding," or staying clear of being "wound up."

You could make a decent case for summarizing Buddhist philosophy in this way: regular life is stressful, the source of stress is being wound up, and it's possible to practice not being wound up, through specific techniques including meditation. (That's a somewhat customized translation of the so called "four noble truths.")

One of the techniques involved in Buddhist practice, incidentally, is abstaining from habitual use of alcohol and other intoxicants. People have been experimenting with these kinds of life hacks for a long time...

When studying I usually take a 15 minute break for each 45 minutes of studying, or 30 minute for every 90 minutes of studying. Instead of browsing websites and such I also sometimes try to do some stretches or pushups - mainly to get a break from the computer screen and engage my body, since a little activity picks me up a little bit. Lately I've considered trying to sometimes meditate in the breaks. With the pushups I try to get away from reading and thinking too much, and by meditating I hope to disengage my mind even more so that I can return to studying or working more refreshed.

This also ties in with using meditation as a quick way to relax, and unlike with booze I can get back to whatever I was doing quickly.

Sounds like a great habit. If you're interested in advice, here's mine, although it might not be so much advice as just general thoughts...

You should be clear about the fact that meditation, for most people, seems to be very difficult. But I purposely say "seems," because it's not difficult in the same sense that lifting a heavy weight is difficult. It's more like how it's difficult to quit smoking when there's a pack of cigarettes in front of you.

Meditation, to some first approximation at least, is about simplifying one's mental activity. Attenuating the internal monologue or at least having a less obsessive relation to it. And acquiring a critical distance from desire, anger, and other phenomena that we tend to get caught in.

When the loopy chaos of thought-proliferation subsides, you begin to see some very interesting aspects of the mind (or of consciousness, of the present moment, whatever you call it). Buddhist philosophy puts a lot of emphasis on the nature of desire and the ways in which the mind is disturbed.

But the difficulty is that when you're sitting there with your mind fully available, it's extremely tempting to wander into thoughts. And once you notice this, of course, you begin to think about not thinking. Think about how you shouldn't be thinking. And so on ad nauseum. This is all just so much chatter and you shouldn't take it seriously. Not taking it seriously -- not grasping onto it -- is crucial. That means not beating yourself up over it.

The catchphrase in contemporary meditation instruction is "just return to the practice." And it can sometimes sound like a stupefying dogma. "Just sit," and so on. But there's a crucial truth in it.

It's kind of like running. At first it's just painful, tedious, and you feel clumsy and unfit. It's supposed to make you feel good, and sometimes it does, but it's also a chore and something you often really don't feel like doing. But after a while you start to understand more about it, understand your own limits, understand how to do it in a way that's functional for you. And then it kind of "opens up."

Running and other physical exercise has more of an obvious external reference point. It's easier to "return to the practice" when you've got your running shoes on and you're actually taking step after step. In meditation, this is one reason why posture is emphasized. Maintaining a good posture -- in addition to its more obvious benefits -- is also a kind of physical reminder of the mental meditation. And the breath provides something like the steps in running.

So a widely recommended strategy is to begin with a simple breath-counting style of meditation, perhaps sitting in the seiza posture, or one of the lotus postures if you're up for it, or simply in a chair with your back straight. There's plenty of decent instructions available on the internet, although it helps in countless and immense ways to have face-to-face instruction and to sit together with others.

Best wishes!

I absolutely think meditation could serve as a way to unwind, in any term.

It DEFINITELY can, but like with exercise, it's all about training and practice. Experienced meditators can usually get to where they're trying to get in a matter of minutes.

I've used brainwave entrainment before, and one of the supposed benefits of that is that you're supposed to more easily enter a meditative state when using it. The long-term goal is to meditate with the aid of brainwave entrainment, and eventually be able to get into the same 'state of mind' independent of brainwave entrainment (but your training is supposed to have let you enter that state faster than if you would have practiced meditation without brainwave entrainment).

I've slipped into the habit of drinking almost every single night over the past few months and I'm currently trying to cut it out. It's harder than I thought it would be.

Like the author said, I've never noticed any physical withdrawal, but I have a strong urge to have a drink every night (sometimes even in the middle of the day). This is one of the most stressful times of my life and it's so hard not to just say "fuck it" and give up. And even when I don't really have that strong of an urge, I'm haunted by rationalizations and second guessing: "just have one," "moderate drinking isn't bad for you," etc. I'm trying to do more self tracking to prove to myself that the last one is BS.

What really sucks is I've noticed that a few beers will cause me problems with dehydration, weight gain, horrible sleep (I'm told I always freak out in the middle of the night after drinking) and yet I've developed such a tolerance that I don't even get buzzed unless I'm on an empty stomach.

Ugh, I used to drink every day to unwind, but then it got out of control. "Just have one" (that's no rationalization, it's how your brain gets you) always turned into two, three, four. Hell, I could say I was an alcoholic, except it didn't really affect my work.

Quitting was pretty hard, too, I could go a week or two without any alcohol, then I just needed to take some.

Somehow, I got the willpower to buy a bottle of wine or beer, then just empty it out slowly in the sink - that was a very strong motivator to let my body know "I don't need this". It took several of these events over the course of two months and I was free of alcohol cravings.

Nowadays, I do still drink occasionally, but never more than twice a month, just in case.

I managed a bar for three years when I was in my 20s. Obviously, I got to know a lot of serious alcoholics. If you're any good at your job as a bartender, you learn to manage them and keep them from getting completely out of control. Though they're still going to get sloshed.

Anyway, we had one guy that came in 4 or 5 nights a week and drank gin and tonics til he was quite drunk. He could not drink moderately, he was an alcoholic.

Until one night, he stopped. He'd almost been fired from his job because the drinking was still affecting him the next day. He saw where his life was going, and it wasn't where he wanted to go.

He enjoyed the social life of the bar, so he still came in 4 or 5 nights a week, but now he'd just drink tonic water. We never charged him, of course, and he got preferential service because we all admired the hell out him, sitting there sipping his tonic while everyone drank around him.

Still remember that guy well, I was so proud of him.

Interesting. I've used the same trick with food. Buy a box of little debbie snacks or whatever, and instead of eating half the box, eat one and smash the rest into the trash.

Next time don't even eat one--or just take a single bite and then smash the box. It feels strangely powerful.

Yeah, I assume you are in your late twenties. I've talked privately with lots of people in the Toronto tech scene about daily drinking. I was doing it when I was 27 during a stressful period when the acquisition of a company I started began to fall apart (I only ended up making 9 months of the 4 year vesting).

I was told that it either lasts until you have kids, turn thirty, or turn into a full blown alcoholic. I took the easier way out and just quit my position.

Wow. I turned 27 last week. It wasn't always about drinking because of stress (I happen to really like trying different craft brews), but lately it has been. My wife is going through some serious medical issues and depression, which invariably puts a strain on finances also.

If there is anything I can do, I'd be happy to help not just you, but anyone in your situation that is reading this.

Medical issues are horrible, especially when then happen to a SO because it puts an unsolvable problem between two people that know they love each other but slowly slide into a distance that only exacerbates the problem.

Not that I could ever properly understand what you are going through, but I've found that being patient, and actively choosing to be patient, even when you don't want to be, and being kind, even when you don't want to be, really, really help a relationship because the other person usually senses that you are choosing to do something for them.

Sometimes it is just this concious choice that gives them validation that they are cared for and the other person can pull themselves up a notch. Sometimes not, but even in those times, the funk they are in is slighly less funky.

I don't know if it is linked but a recent study found that 29 years old get hte worst hangover : http://metro.co.uk/2013/07/31/hangovers-hit-the-hardest-at-t...

> 49 per cent of Britons saying they are still sozzled on a Monday morning

I don't know WTF sozzled means but I'm guessing it means hungover. Can that possibly be correct? 49% of Brits are hungover on any given Monday morning???

Drunk. They're still drunk by Monday morning? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sozzled

Indeed. Sunday night is quite a popular night to have "a few" over here.

Never understood it myself - Monday mornings are hard enough!

I had a kid when I was 29 and my drinking went from 2 or 3 a night to 1 or 2 a week. A year later I turned 30 and it went to 1 or 2 a year.

Have you tried breaking up any of your usual patterns? It may be hard to do with schedules and workload, but just exercising 2 or 3 times a week can make a huge difference. I've found that 90 minutes of exercise per session is its own drug.

Yea, I exercise. Probably less than I should. In 2011 I was running about 30 miles a month but that dried up around the same time my diet went to crap and I started drinking more.

I'm trying to get back into it anyway.

Yup. I found that drinking was holding back my fitness progress. It was much easier to say no to the nightly few beers when I knew that it would affect my performance.

I even got to the point where I'm exercising 5 days a week and so I go out binge drinking on the weekends much, much less.

There was some interesting research about moderate drinking (2-4 per day for a man). http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/AlcoholAndHealth.html

>a few beers will cause me problems with dehydration

Aside from lots of water, add add a electrolyte powder. The kind from the pharmacy intended for dehydration, not the "electrolyte" marketing crap energy drink companies use.

But they have what a body craves.

Here's how I handle the siren song of the customary evening glass of wine, or single malt.

I don't drink at all while at home during the work week. I'm not anal retentive about it, I drink socially when I'm out with friends and chose not to be out with friends on an every evening basis in order to circumvent that "limitation".

I was surprised how much energy is actually drained of you from drinking and how much more productive you can be during those evening hours.

As an added bonus I sleep - and awake much better.

I don't tend to compensate by drinking more on weekends. If there's a difference at all I probably drink less.

For me such a schematic approach works quite well. It may not be for everybody.

I don't want to "enable" you to drink even more or to drink more, comfortably, but regarding the dehydration. . .interspersing water with the alcohol helps with that. . .at least for me, for social drinking.

Good luck, jere! Try reversing it by replacing the habit with exercise. Not only do you cut the alcohol, but you stay hydrated, lose weight, and sleep better!

When you click on a link here you never know if booze will mean alcohol or some node.js/go framework you've never heard of.

Missing the word "beautiful" to describe every aspect of the visual design, but very funny!

The "download now" files are fantastic!

Awesome :-)

That made my day.

I am so gratified that someone made this.

I thought it was going to be about a Dwarf Fortress disaster. I ended up in a downward spiral in one game because I didn't have enough plant matter to feed the dwarves and brew at the same time, and dwarves go in slowdown mode when they don't have booze, so you can guess how this turned out. Its a noob error to not keep an eye on the food supply...

Honestly, this the best comment on this thread.

Great writeup. As someone who never drinks, and never has, it continues to sound like a drug to me and I want no part of it. That said, I still get questioned about my decision like I have 2 heads.

I never had a single drink for my first 40 years on the planet, and, yes, people absolutely look at you like you've got two heads.

I started drinking (about once a week) two years ago.

It's moderately nice from time to time, but I also think the decision to avoid it for twenty years of adulthood was a good one - I established who I am and what my coping mechanisms are for stress, and now it's a nice little social adjunct.

My advice: if you're even the least bit undecided about drinking, don't do it. You can always give it a shot later. Or perhaps you'll never drink; that's great too.

THIS. I quit drinking a few years ago and it was the hardest time of my life. Not because, I was having booze withdrawl, but because I didn't know how to be a person.

Most of my interactions with other people involved getting obliterated so I was never able to really by myself around other people.

First become a real person and develop a healthy coping mechanism for stress. THEN, maybe, think about getting your drink on.

If you drink too early in life and too often you might become a complete social retard like I did.

I agree with you in many respects, but it also made me think about the flip side, which is not getting drunk because you want to talk to other people, but getting drunk because you want to talk to yourself.

There is a bit of writing in the wonderfully titled "Modern Drunkard" magazine that puts it well, "The Zen of Drinking Alone" - http://www.drunkard.com/issues/03_03/03-03_zen_drinking_alon...

I would say that drinking early does not on the whole make someone a social retard, given the patterns of alcohol consumption among the communities generally deemed to be sociable, but two of the most useful things I ever learned was how to have a good night in a pub while sober and how to have a good night on my own while drunk.

Yep, I've never had a drink in my 40 years as well. I just never got around to it. I'm not that interested in the culture, either. That said, it does kind of suck to be the sober guy at 3am in Vegas. Always.

At least people always have us as the DD :)

What culture?

Bars or clubs.

Well it is a drug, there is no debate there. Like any drug, such as caffeine or aspirin, one must decide for themselves 1) whether the associated positives outweigh the associated negatives and 2) whether you're able to control your consumption so as not to tip scale from net positive to net negative. Legality and ease-of-acquisition are a part of this decision.

I like drinking, and brewing, and would never give it up; that said, it's crazy to me that others find it so far outlandish that someone would want to abstain. It's kind of like having kids: there are great reasons to want them, and great reasons to not want them. It shouldn't be hard to appreciate both perspectives.

The positives are almost always cultural. Then you just have to ask yourself if you want society to dictate how you live your life.

Bullcrap, booze is delicious and fantastic on its own. It's just like any other vice though, when it begins to interfere with your life you have to dial it back or stop or else the consequences can be severe and profound.

If you're the personality type where that's hard, then please stop drinking immediately. You'll just have to accept that. I've had too many friends in their 30s having to rebuild their lives after alcohol problems.

By fantastic on its own, do you mean pure ethanol? hehe.

Sorry, but this is not true.

Just a few days ago I was muttering to myself about why I couldn't just stop caring about the opinion of an essentially meaningless person, and enjoy the excellent things around me. The moment I had a beer, I stopped worrying about them, and got on with it. The understanding that I had previously been an idiot outlasted the mild inebriation.

I will be exploring why one drink was so remarkably helpful here. In the meantime, it was helpful, and I would have been in a healthier mindset if I had drunk it sooner.

Many things -- alcohol, caffeine, food, exercise, work, video games, reading -- affect how we think and feel. We can use those effects for good and bad. The trick is to understand those effects, get the good, and avoid the bad.

Life is cultural. We're embedded in a culture. Cultural positives are not any less "true" positives.

Heterosexual marriage was (and still is) the cultural norm. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself, does the cultural norm make sense anymore (to adhere to it religiously)?

But we're also capable of thinking and acting outside of any given cultural norms, as evidenced by this very conversation!

On the other hand, you wouldn't get very far if you decided that no part of your life could be dictated by society. You'd die before you'd worked it all out from first principles. Unless you were some sort of magical wizard, what has magic and stuff. Then you might be ok. Though I bet you wouldn't, cos it would all have to be new magic and you would have to think of it really fast, like in three days cos you can't accept just anyone's say so about the whole water/thirst thingy and stuff. That water might be poison. So you'd have to be a really powerful wizard to make all new stuff that works without the imposition of society so that you can be truly free before you die of thirst. Though I guess if you were a really powerful wizard you might not get thirsty anyway, so it might not matter.

You're posting drunk, aren't you?

It seemed somehow appropriate.

Then you just have to ask yourself if you want society to dictate how you live your life.

Well, no, I don't. But its an unavoidable force that has and will continue to dictate almost every waking moment of my life.

Switching from one broadly socially acceptable state (drinking socially) to another broadly socially acceptable state (never drinking) does not change the level to which society dictates how you live your life. The only thing that changes is that your sobriety may be a curiosity for people that engage in drinking.

> Switching from one broadly socially acceptable state (drinking socially) to another broadly socially acceptable state (never drinking) does not change the level to which society dictates how you live your life.

It depends. Did you switch because society told you to? You can drink if you want, or not. I'm just saying, if you drink are you doing it because everyone else is doing it or because you want to for good reason?

I made a choice to not drink, and it was based on practical concerns. I decided the negatives outweighed the positives in my case. Simple as that.

It is not "like a drug", it is a drug just like any other substances commonly called drugs. We just integrated it into our culture, and learned to live with it and accept the consequences of its use (on the societal level, personally it is still as capable of destroying lives as any other drug if abused). But it doesn't change neither chemistry nor biology nor physiology of what is happening.

So if someone talks to you about dangers of such things as marijuana while sipping wine or beer - you're talking to either dangerously ignorant or dangerously dull person.

> if someone talks to you about dangers of such things as marijuana while sipping wine or beer - you're talking to either dangerously ignorant or dangerously dull person.

Or maybe you're talking to someone smart enough to realize that just because a bunch of things are in the same category, that doesn't make them equivalent.

That's true- alcohol has a greater risk for dependency and causes greater physical harm than marijuana, LSD, psilocybin and friends.

Yes but a far lower risk of casual use ending up with you charged with something. It would be hard to argue that people smoke marijuana because it is less likely to have a negative effect on their lives. This doesn't mean we disagree on whether it should be legal but until it is I'm going to keep my use down to infrequent trips to Amsterdam.

It only gets you charged with something if you use it illegally.

In many US states, including the ones most frequented by HN's target demographic (CA, WA, OR, CO, etc.), being a legal user is much less of a pain than being an illegal user (and you get much better choice in goods too!)

that's a problem with the law, not the substance.

You're totally right, I would hope that many people would be as smart as that person and understand how much more dangerous alcohol can be than marijuana or many other drugs.

Outside of intensely physically addictive substances such as opiates and methamphetimines, there's nothing more dangerous than alcohol simply because of the availability and cultural acceptance. You can be a hardcore alcoholic as long as you're functional and almost no one will say jack about it.

> how much more dangerous alcohol can be than marijuana or many other drugs.

That may be true but is irrelevant. The original claim was that someone talking about the dangers of marijuana while drinking is an idiot.

My claim is that talking about one says nothing about their knowledge of the other since they are different things. I can talk about the dangers of bear attacks while driving a car. I can talk about the dangers of flying while using a ladder.

That doesn't make me a hypocrite, it just means I'm not spending every waking moment sorting my activities and discussion points by aggregate danger level.

It doesn't make you a hypocrite, but using your example, it would make you an idiot armchair pundit, unaware of your surroundings, or the comedic irony in which your statements are now grounded. Which is more in-line with the original point, I think.

Not that I'm saying you're any of those things, mind you, but your analogy was fairly flawed. :)

I think his point was that alcohol is far more harmful and dangerous than marijuana by virtually every sane metric.

No, it does not - alcohol as a drug is greatly more dangerous than marijuana. Our culture and politics is just messed up to conjure a moral panic against marijuana but to give a pass to much more dangerous alcohol. Both of course may be used recreationally in a responsible manner, and both can be abused.

As a frequent drinker and one who talks about the dangers of marijuana and other illicit substances (as well as legal drugs such as SSRIs) I am neither ignorant nor (do I believe) I am dull. I understand the risks and dangers of my substance of choice and am merely discussing those of another substance.

Everything has dangers. One could fall in the shower and break one's neck. Still, we don't have people going around telling how dangerous showers are. Drinking alcohol and talking about dangers of marijuana without comparing it to dangers of alcohol is like talking about dangers of showers while racing bikes naked with eyes closed on the wrong side of the highway. There should be a context and an assessment of the importance of potential risks.

Please, pontificate further on your beliefs about the dangers of marijuana use, while simultaneously avoiding sounding ignorant or dull.

Further your point that ti has been integrated into our culture, I've read interesting pieces (probably linked by HackerNews) where it was integral to the founding of culture at all. We're a pretty edgy species, and alcohol has historic significance in helping us come down from the anxiety of and reach political/social agreement.

Back to the topic, though I'd love to spider on the drugs-in-society vein, I'm glad OP documented the experience. Have a feeling it will make me much more conscience of the assisted wind-down when I grab a beer after work.

If you take in consideration the social effects, alcohol becomes the most harmful drug: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/nov/01/alcohol-more-...

Drug is a political term.

It is, but not only. For example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug A drug is a substance which may have medicinal, intoxicating, performance enhancing or other effects when taken or put into a human body or the body of another animal and is not considered a food or exclusively a food.

Even in a political sense alcohol is considered a drug. Hell, in the past many countries have even banned it like other drugs. A select few continue to do so.

Usually because that decision is in within the context of some kind of moral superiority or religious belief (which is in and of itself irritating). In the rare case when it isn't there's also the issue that alcohol is a large part of socialization, someone who's never drank may not have this perspective. I feel I have some credibility on this since I didn't drink for similar ('practical') reasons longer than most people and I think that decision was ultimately a mistake.

I don't drink (and not because I'm morally superior :P) and trust me, it's hard to miss the socialization aspect of it. That's the kind of perspective you couldn't ignore if you wanted to, as people essentially club you about the head with it.

It's weird, you could be hanging with a group of people who are the most socially liberal, equality-seeking types on the planet and they find out you don't drink alcohol and it's OH. MY. GOD. and suddenly they're almost as intolerant as those they oppose.

My decision not to drink is not at all religious or related to moral superiority. It would be silly for me to think I'm morally superior to such a large percentage of the adult population. Regarding socializing, it's definitely there, but not required. I'm often at bars with friends not drinking alcohol.

It's really not that difficult to use it responsibly in moderation. I wouldn't question your personal abstinence, but I would question anyone who broadly demonized alcohol.

While I'm not going to demonize alcohol, I also wouldn't downplay the harm. Alcohol is probably one of the nastier psychoactive substances known to man. Alcohol abuse is pretty common (an estimated number of 15 million Americans); it can create a physical dependence; there is a strong link between alcohol and violence (alcohol is normally classified as a depressant, but a significant minority of alcoholics become violent); alcohol is involved in the majority of car accidents. Plus, of course, the health problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause.

That does not mean that people should be teetotalers (in the end, only a minority of drinkers is thus affected, though a scarily sizable one); but it is important to understand that alcohol abuse is both frequent and dangerous regardless.

> ...alcohol is involved in the majority of car accidents.

This didn't sound right to me, so I did some digging and found:

"In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States."


I couldn't find any data on non-fatal car accidents, but my intuition says that it would be a smaller proportion (i.e. alcohol-related accidents are more likely to be fatal).

Can you share your sources?

Which makes me think - if we could develop a culture that is largely accommodates use of such powerful and nasty stuff, and despite its harmful consequences there are an overwhelming majority of people who can and do enjoy it responsibly without harming themselves, and our society is nowhere near being destroyed by it despite all the problems that exist - we certainly could deal with less nasty stuff too, without putting everybody who touches it in prison for 20 years. I mean, if we wanted to...

> alcohol is normally classified as a depressant, but a significant minority of alcoholics become violent

It's a nervous system depressant. This does not mean it makes you emotionally depressed.

It is extrememly unlikely alcohol is involved in the majority of car accidents. Please post a source.

> It's a nervous system depressant. This does not mean it makes you emotionally depressed.

Depressants usually have calming effects (hence the colloquialism "downers"); relaxation and removal of inhibitions are common effects (see also the OP about using drinks to wind down from stress). I don't see how that is at odds with what I wrote.

> It is extrememly unlikely alcohol is involved in the majority of car accidents. Please post a source.

You're correct, I misremembered that. The study (a) looked at drivers killed in accidents, and (b) it was alcohol or drugs. Alcohol was involved in only 40.2% of these fatalities.

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012....

I agree with all the things you said, but they are all compatible with my claim that it's relatively simple to use alcohol responsibly.

For some people it is "difficult to use it responsibly in moderation". They are the people with problems. People who "broadly demonize" alcohol? They have problems too.

Same here. I have a rather addictive personality and I'd hate to find out there is a drug stronger than my willpower to get rid of it so I have decided to forego the experience completely.

If my dad was any example to go by then I think this is the right decision for me.

Respectfully, why not? Putting aside state regulation, what's your objection to recreational drug use?

edit -- I'm pretty sure your second sentence appeared after I commented. In any event, I don't mean to put you out. Just curious.

I don't drink because I don't feel the need to. Simple as that. It has forced me to develop that "social lubricant" internally which people use as the most common reason for drinking. And for dealing with stress, I think sweeping it under the rug (even a little bit, or temporarily) is not the right way to handle things. I have heard so many reasons over the years, none of them have convinced me. As you can see in my other replies in this thread, this doesn't have anything to do with personal experiences with family alcoholism.

I'm also OK with recreational drug use for the most part. You're free to do whatever you please on your own time, as long as it doesn't affect me. I don't feel any better than someone because I don't drink and they do, that would be silly. That's just about everyone.

I think decision of avoiding certain or all drugs makes total sense, if the person has no interest in their effects and is not ready to suffer inevitable side effects of doing things that our body is not meant to do normally. Hacking one's body often has its costs.

"doing things that our body is not meant to do normally."

The reason it doesn't outright kill you is an enormous amount of evolution to occasionally consume "somewhat overripe fruit". That doesn't mean you're evolved to chug grain alcohol like water, or get drunk every night like the goof in the article, it just means your body is quite very well used to handling a bit of fermented grapes once in awhile.

Hacking one's body, is like eating non-human food like grains or potatoes or beans or artificial sweeteners / colors / flavors.

> get drunk every night like the goof in the article

The author didn't say he gets drunk every night, he said he drinks every night.

I have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner most nights. I get drunk (i.e. have more than one drink, feel drunk, feel worse the next morning) with a much lower frequency.

Then I missed the point of the author's amazing experiment. If he's not "feeling it" buzzed or whatever, what is the point of all that expensive drinking he's doing and why all the health changes once he stopped drinking? Author is having a lot more than a glass or two, to get that kind of long term habit and those effects, I think.

I also have a glass of wine that goes with some meals, but I don't cook "chicken in wine" every single day. Wine doesn't go well with everything. When I'm eating something unhealthy like pizza, well, you gotta have beer with pizza, but I don't eat bad food every day, so... Or even stuff in between good and bad, I had saki and sushi last weekend, close enough to natural human food to not bother me occasionally, but not eating/drinking that every day.

There's a pretty wide spectrum between completely sober and "drunk".

Human body is a very resilient thing, so it can withstand some abuse for a prolonged time (and some bodies are extremely resilient, read this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Malloy). But it all takes its toll at the end...

Well in fairness the article wasn't joking about there being studies that indicate there may be health benefits to drinking in moderation (as opposed to complete alcohol abstinence). So if you're teetotaling only to be "healthy" then you may not be making the right choice.

Everyone, that is a must read!!! Amazing.

Of course, it's Wikipedia, so who knows if it's true ... but amazing nonetheless.

What a veiled FUD. If you doubt the text, check the references.

I suspect a history of family related substance abuse. That usually does it.

Though I suspect I'm not as strict as the parent comment this is why I avoid alcohol. Father's side extremely alcoholic including several deaths (both liver failure/pancreatic, and alcohol related deaths).

I've never had more than 1 drink in a day and usually only drink once per month out to eat when someone else is driving.

Alcoholism is scary for most of us that have seen it up close.

Both my mother and father have always been pretty dry. My father has maybe 2-3 beers a month, and my mother one mixed drink every 2 months. I've not had any bad experiences at a close personal level with alcoholism.

Then I suspect it's just being raised in a very healthy environment ;)

He lost a little weight, but had an increase in asthma symptoms. He had a harder time winding down, but slept a little better.

I'm not sure what you got out of this article that confirms your aversion to this drug. Care to elaborate?

That he felt it was a loss to not drink alcohol, and that he was consuming sufficient amounts to be worried about withdrawal.

I've also never drank before. People just can't seem to understand why I have never chosen to. I've also never met anyone else who has never drank.

Then you should ping me on twitter / email :) Being non-drinkers is a great excuse to connect

I don't drink either! all my friends think it's weird :-)

There are many drugs which are socially acceptable - including alcohol.

People would look like you have 2 heads if you said you take stimulant drugs daily and have withdrawal without it, but coffee is incredibly popular.

Sometimes what you don't do is incredibly important.

Alcohol is a drug. Whoever told you otherwise was wrong.

I know that feeling. It seems everybody sees it as a challenge to get me to drink.

That and the endless questions. I feel like I have it rehearsed so well now :)

Nice to read others like me exist! My dad drinks, but is pretty picky; only high end IPAs for the most part. That's what he brews too, and I love helping, mostly because I appreciate the science.

I don't look down on anyone who drinks, as long as they're not getting blasted just for the sake of it. Okay...maybe I judge you if you drink cheap beer...but only in good fun!

I'm 22, and I tried wine on my own terms at a wine tasting solo the other day; I felt like I wanted to vomit. Holy crap!

I have my hobbies, and my friends, I just don't drink. Usually 'no thanks' is enough, I've found that even around new people I don't have to say 'I don't drink/smoke' mostly because I don't want to seem pretentious or judgemental. My hobbies include heavy lifting, green tea, and generally eating really healthy; barring something catastrophic, I think it'll pay off.

Nice! I'm 22 as well. I have a feeling it will definitely pay off

That said, I still get questioned about my decision like I have 2 heads.

Well, of course. You're bucking a social norm that is generally enjoyable in and of itself, has a handful of well known reasons for abstaining, and also carries a low amount of baggage that would prevent open discussion of your reasoning. What do you expect?


>Drinking to much does have negative effects, you just need a little self control.

I'm guessing you never been close to an alcoholic. It's a disease. Specifically it's an addictive illness. Saying it's just a little self control trivializes that it's an addiction.


I too, think alcohol is a drug with a poor value proposition. At least for me. The 'high' is rubbish, and the come down is painful.

I am also part of a minority in this respect in my culture.

Seeing as everybody seems to want you to drink, I would like to say that I commend your ability to stay away from substances of abuse. I, for one, cannot.

I've managed to pull off not drinking like the parent commenter (both because I don't like the taste and I just don't want to)... but unfortunately I love soda/sugar-drinks... which brings other problems lol.

I've also pulled away from soda and I've never been into energy drinks. If you're looking to get rid of them, I'm rooting for you :)

I was a heavy drinker, at some points a 6 pack a night, for well over 10 years and I quit cold turkey and have been sober for going on 5 years now. There was definitely a point where getting to bed was a task but I'm such a changed person emotionally and mentally than I was when drinking. Somethings are just not for everyone. The worst part was definitely seeing who my real friends were and who were just the people who I drank with.

Same here, about 10 years. Started off with the Wife and I splitting a bottle of wine every night, or a six pack. It was fine for awhile, then I'd often do a bottle myself. We'd drink 5-6 nights a week, then it was every night. Less than two years ago my son was born and drinking spiked, I cut waaay back, and when I recently changed jobs, I started again (and subsequently quit working out).

I'm not doing it cold turkey though. No AC in the summer here mixed with a lifelong struggle with insomnia has given me more than a few nights of very little if no sleep. At least until Summer is over and the heat doesn't keep me awake, I'll have some wine handy to drink a bit before bed (no earlier than 7pm and I'm in bed by 8:30 or 9:00 - I get up at 4:30 am).

Before the last couple weeks when I decided enough was enough, I'd often, at least the weekend, start drinking at 4pm and take down an entire bottle of wine/saki AND a six pack of IPA.

The irony is, I eat relatively healthy and low calorie, but I've gained 45lbs in the last few years, and I'm thinking most of that is beer and wine - I rarely drink hard liquor or mixed drinks.

Other than trouble getting to sleep, I've not had any other physical symptoms, but I'm worried. 10 years of constant drinking just cant be good.

"The irony is, I eat relatively healthy and low calorie, but I've gained 45lbs in the last few years"

125ml red wine = 85 cal, or 510 per bottle. English style bitter is a bit better at 180 cal per pint, so on your consumption mentioned in 3rd para, that is just under 1600 calories extra per day.

Nice! Definitely a range of people who are only interested in you if you are interested in keeping the party/illusion going.

I quit drinking six years ago cold turkey. Working for myself it was always easy to find a time/reason to have a drink and I realized it wasn't heading down a good path. My wife and I were also looking to have kids and I decided I didn't want to drink around them. For awhile people either didn't understand it or were amazed that I just quit (I love to party, still do!).

My best friend kept nagging me about having a few beers with him when I visited. Since we both smoked for a short time in high school I suggested that we, instead, buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke a few while we're hanging out. "But I don't smoke anymore." Lightbulb moment.

The biggest thing i realized is that drinking is something to do. You hang out with the same people at the same bars talking about the same crap. Initially it's pretty boring when you quit but I really don't even think about it anymore. I will say that in the time since I quit drinking I had two kids, my business has seen year over year success and I've completed an Ironman triathlon.

My wife and I were also looking to have kids and I decided I didn't want to drink around them

I've actually made it a deliberate point to drink around my children to role model responsible alcohol use: Never in excessive volume, never an excessive frequency, never in response to stress or to drown unhappiness, never alone, never something that's not enjoyable as a beverage, never ever ever before driving (or motorcycling, bicycling, whatever).

I'm hoping it helps. I'll report back in in 20 years to see if my kids are better off with positive role modeling than I was with terrible role modeling.

Nice job!

My wife is pregnant and as a show of solidarity I’m not drinking around her (which cuts out the majority of my drinking). Which is not quite this experiment, but has shown me one thing where his and my experiences differ: Socializing.

As it turns out I socialize a lot in bars - and I don’t like bars at all when not drinking. Mocktails° help - but not enough, and basically no bars serve those in Seattle, only fancy restaurants. Which has meant more socializing at fancy restaurant bars…

In general it’s been a mildly interesting change in behavior and a pretty good experience.

° Fake beer is just bad. And I don’t like sodas. And soda water seems like ostentatious abstinence.


Edit: Thanks for the suggestions! I should clearly have asked the internet before doing this, I could have been doing it much much better :)

> and basically no bars serve those in Seattle, only fancy restaurants.

I suppose this depends on what you mean by "bar". I've got some friends who are mostly abstainers, and they've had some delicious mocktails at Vito's, Tavern Law, and Rumba. I treat all of those as more bar than restaurant (I don't know that Seattle has turned me into more of a booze hound, but it's certainly made my booze habit more expensive), but they've all got full food menu's and kitchens. Where are you finding that's less mocktail-friendly?

I treat Vito’s as a restaurant (a very, very lounge-y one) - this is pretty much a personal choice, as I like their kitchen (and their mocktails). I should check Rumba’s mocktail selection.

And I don’t find other cities more mocktail friendly - Seattle’s pretty impressively good at it - in the restaurant scene. And perhaps I should just be spending more time talking with the bartenders at the bars :)

I applaud you for not drinking around her - but you should have seen how long you could go without a drink. She knows she cannot and ultimately has forced will power behind her decision, but you should have seen if you could have done the same. It's so easy after a stressful day to have 1 beer or to wind down with something stronger - but I do believe it shows a lot of character for someone who's willing to 'suffer' with their significant other to show support.

I don't drink but find myself in bars a lot. I also don't like soda and won't drink fake beer. A lot of the time I will get a cup of coffee. Depending on the bar they will have something decent brewing. Nicer bars its actually enjoyable, quality stuff. Rough dive bars its usually some instant garbage that's been on the hot plate all night that serves no purpose other than to wake up the drunks before they drive home.

I went 'dry' for a month when I was a bit concerned about my drinking, but still went to my regular pub. Drinking pints of postmix coke and socialising... doesn't really cut it. You get tired of postmix fast, and I generally love soft drinks.

When I had my first beer after that month, it was just a beer. I wasn't especially eager for it. That was heartening.

As someone who no longer drinks, but spends a lot of time in bars (where I live its the only way to really socialize publicly), a soda water in a drink glass is nice, because it avoids awkwardness and seeming odd man out - ppl just assume its vodka or such.

Of course not liking bars is a different thing entirely :-)

Went from drinking way too much (Think black out) to zero recently. It was actually surprisingly easy - weirdly effortless.

What freaks me out though is how difficult it is to hit the sweet spot. i.e. To drink, but low-moderate amounts and only irregularly. That would be ideal in my view - I don't seem to have sufficient willpower for that yet, so its zero drinks for now.

This is one thing that Alcoholics Anonymous gets right... when you're dependent enough on alcohol to get to the "alcoholic" label, drinking just one or two is really not gonna happen.

I feel that the understated effect is, that doing x or stopping with y for a month gives you the idea (illusion) that you are in full control of your life.

Fair point. I'd say as far as strategies goes its one of the better ones.

30+ days is enough to get at least a semi-objective indication of physical dependence, which is a good start.

I've heard 40 days is enough to develop a habit (or break one), so to me this is a good period of time to try to work out the kinks of getting into (or out of) something.

Man that's jaded and cynical. There's a world of difference between assuming total control and tweaking your routine in hopes of living better.

>> ...alcoholism is often linked to highly driven, ambitious, over-achieving personality types...

I have come across this point multiple times in the past -- reading or conversing -- but never has a concrete source or study been cited. Not to say I don't agree with it -- anecdotal evidence is not always false.

It is really true though? I consider myself very driven and ambitious and also have a drinking habit, but know a few others who don't.

This statement probably also applies:

...alcoholism is often linked to non-driven, unambitious, under-achieving personality types...

People who drink alcohol in moderation statistically make 10-15% more money.


People who drive Porsches statistically have higher salaries. Lets all go buy Porsches and our salaries will go up. I'm in, what about you?

I'd say people that are capable of making responsible decisions and regulate their passions should be making statistically more money, so no wonder.

Maybe because the majority of abstainers do it for the wrong reasons.

than people who don't drink.

(finished that for you).

Note that this was not a scientific study, it was a telephone poll.

_Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-11, 2010, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling._

Sure, but that money goes into booze.

I know a lot of people who are similarly dependent upon (if not outright addicted to) exercise. Typically running although I've seen it with cycling and swimming as well. For these people if they don't get their exercise on schedule, they go absolutely nuts. There are many benefits to exercise but for many there are also big big risks, e.g. joint problems, soft tissue injuries, etc.

I used to be a pack-a-day smoker now I'm a runner/cyclist and you're exactly right if I've been sitting all day and I don't get exercise by the time it gets dark I start going nuts. That being said I'm pretty confident my body was designed to run and not to inhale burning plant matter or drink excessive amounts of fermented grain. So far I feel much better and I don't have any of those problems.

>That being said I'm pretty confident my body was designed to run and not to inhale burning plant matter or drink excessive amounts of fermented grain. So far I feel much better and I don't have any of those problems.

Intriguing. Designed by what?

Millions of years of evolution chasing food to eat or running from being eaten :-)

If you think about it, we're all dependent on exercise: if we don't do it, we'll become weak, and become prone to all sorts of maladies. I don't suggest cutting it out, completely.

We're also all dependent on eating. Too much is a bad thing for a lot of different activities (sex, basket weaving, etc), be them addictive substances or not.

"Everything in moderation", is a good starting point.

...,including moderation. -- Oscar Wilde

That can also be a symptom of depression. You need the endorphin/dopamine/serotonin/etc rush to help bring you out of that state for a few hours. At least that's how it works for me.

Eh, it's a better habit to be in than drinking coffee, smoking, or drinking.

(I am reading this after two glasses of wine).

Am I alone in thinking that he sounds like an addict? I mean, sure he didn't have a big issue sticking to his decision, but at the same time the list of changes is pretty significant.

No more than anyone else would if they stopped grains or meat after eating them daily and writhing about the differences. That different inputs have different effects on a complex system is not the definition of addiction. Nor is the fact that changing the intake of things that alter brain chemistry changes the brains reaction to things.

Are action is more about not being able to control yourself with your consumption, without serious psychological and physical consequences anyway.

Was thinking that too. For all the verbiage, there was only a vague "I had only been averaging a couple drinks a day" way down the article as an indication of what the abstained-from baseline was. Averaging two? The "couple" numeric implies room for large values of 2, and "averaging" easily includes two days of nothing followed by 6 in short order.

This brings back the crux of those who argue such subjects: some people are the "a glass with dinner" type and experience almost no effect, some people are the "six-pack at a time" type and experience significant effect, and very few in either category seem able to acknowledge the other category exists at all. Their average may be comparable, but frequency * intensity produce wildly differing results.

2 glasses of wine could be 2 glasses, at 250 ml per glass, of a 14.5% ABV wine. This is a considerable, probably dangerous, amount of alcohol.

(In the UK this is described at 3.6 units per glass, or about 7 units per day. Safe limits for men are not more than 3 to 4 units per day, not every day.)

Or it could be 2 glasses, at 150 ml per glass, of a 10% ABV wine. That would be 1.5 units per glass, or 3 units per day.

That just accentuates his curious vagueness about the baseline he varied from.

A "serving" of alcohol is considered 0.6 fl oz, or 14 grams, of ethanol. People tend to overestimate what constitutes a "serving" of any food/drink, with consequences in line with the withdraw effects he experienced.

> A "serving" of alcohol is considered 0.6 fl oz, or 14 grams

Not in the UK!

> Their average may be comparable, but frequency * intensity produce wildly differing results.

I think this is largely an academic discussion. Some people drink a glass a wine every day, some people binge drink once/two times a week. If you consider alcoholism to be the point at which you can't withdraw without death resulting then both groups will pass. If you consider regular alcohol consumption as a potential psychiatric problem then both groups are suspect. But both groups still have:

A) People who just drink socially/for fun.

B) People who are alcohol dependant (in terms of a psychological crutch).

I didn't think he sounded like an addict at all just a person that is more like a light switch than a dimmer... as in he is either in-or-out and when he is out he is able to clearly spot the environment around him... like a fish that can finally see that they live in water. I really related to this piece.

I didn't think he sounded like much of an addict at all. Certainly less of an addict than someone who's already had 2 glasses of wine by 1:30pm PST. But i'm guessing you are in a different timezone :-)

It may be the case that he does have (/had) a physical addiction to alcohol, but it looks like his drinking behavior isn't (/wasn't) harmful.

Not in a judgmental manner, but if you I'd to take an exceptional effort to not do something (excluding obvious physiological necessities like food, sleep, etc.) for 40 days and it is a personal achievement that is worth writing about - I'd be at least thinking in that direction. Habit that owns you is rarely a good thing. And looks like the author is realizing it.

P.S. Yes, I thought about if internet addiction is a real thing ;)


Either we need a new word, or we have to start reserving the label "addict" for very serious cases.

He experienced no withdrawal symptoms and was perfectly capable of taking a break from alcohol for 40 days.

It is extremely misleading to compare this with, say, a heroin addiction. Look up the documentary Cold Turkey on YouTube to see what true addiction is like.

Addiction doesn't have to be physiological. Many addictions aren't.

yes, this sounds like much more than a single serving at 6 pm and maybe one later on. Honestly it's hard to estimate how much one is having sometimes. That said, well done on quitting.

I don't think so. Depends how you define addict.

If I started drinking milk every day, I would experience a variety of (mostly negative) physical symptoms. Doesn't mean I would be addicted to it.

If you start having negative physical symptoms but keep drinking then you'd start to fall into that category. I don't know if addict is the right word but I'd say he has a higher intake than the mean.

As a milk drinker I am interested in these negative physical symptoms. Can you provide more details or link to the relevant things that you are thinking of?

Not 100% certain. I have IBS-like symptoms. Even whey protein (which has no lactose) makes my stomach rumble. Sometimes get flashes of heat from consuming dairy.

The tricky thing is, I used to eat that and other foods for years without any symptoms so severe that I should obviously eliminate them.

But, after eliminating dairy and a few other foods, my day to day digestion and energy levels are consistently higher. I've tested reintroducing them.

Relating this back to alcohol, the idea is that something could have significant effects, yet they're not high enough to be an acute problem. So you can persist in a behavior that harms you, without being addicted. You just haven't realized you might benefit from stopping.

I'm guessing it's a reference to lactose intolerance.

When he mentioned not waking up early anymore I started thinking the same.. If he is having that happen, he's having more than just a glass of wine to end the day.

Alcohol affects people differently. We are all not the same.

Possibly. Healthwise, a drink or two every day is actually beneficial. The fact that he says he used it as a crutch, possibly. At least he recognizes it in the end.

> Healthwise, a drink or two every day is actually beneficial.

Please don't say this - it isn't supported by science.

A small amount of alcohol per week might be beneficial for some conditions, but might make others worse.

When you consider what many people see as "one drink" compared to the actual measure of alcohol we see that many people drink much more than a small amount of alcohol per week.

In the UK we use "units" as a simple public health measure. One unit of alcohol is given by serving size (in ml) * Alcohol by volume / 1000.

125 ml of wine at 8% ABV is one unit. It's hard to find wine at 8% ABV now. And if someone poured you a 125 ml serving you'd laugh and call them back.

People are much more likely to drink "a glass of wine", say 225 ml at 13.5% ABV. That's about 3 units.

UK recommendations for men are no more than 3 to 4 units per day, and not every day. For women the recommendations are no more than 2 to 3 units a day, and not every day. People should leave 48 hours clear if they have had a heavy drinking session.



Yeah there is definitely some kind of disconnect there. Those early morning awakenings...thats not 2 or 3 drinks.

I don't think an addict could so easily give up drinking for 40 days just for fun...

I think the whole premise that it should be hard to go 40 days without alcohol is ridiculous. If not drinking for 40 days is an experiment you're already in a minority with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Seriously? Do you eat meat? Try going for 40 days without eating it. Or wheat.

Changing your habits is hard and requires thought. I've recently given up meat and am suprised at the changes I've felt and at how difficult it is to socialize (restaurants, buffets, etc.) Does that mean I had an unhealthy relationship with chicken?

The point of the article seems to be that it is an admirable experiment to be able to give up alcohol for 40 days. If that is indeed an achievement for the author, that seems to suggest that he is physically or socially addicted to alcohol to _some degree_, which can be described as unhealthy. For me giving up meat or wheat would be much worse, because they are a part of my diet. I also enjoy drinking, but alcohol is not part of my diet, and I would be surprised and worried if I had any difficulties staying away from alcohol for 40 days.

Not really. One could try an experiment to go 40 days without pants, and the fact that it's an experiment doesn't mean that one has an unhealthy relationship with pants.

Being addicted to pants (or chicken) is not generally considered a problem.

I can definitely relate to the workaholism issue.

After getting the kid to bed, I often work late and need to wind down fast so I can hurry up, go to bed myself, hurry up and sleep, and then hurry up and get up in the morning.

I need to work on that.

Yeah, it feels like a narrow line to walk, but the effectivness of alcohol as a wind down quick elixr can not be denied. I found myself mixing whiskey into a glass of water last night at 2:30 just so I could slow my mind down enough to get to sleep. As I was watering down the alcohol so I could quickly consume it I paused for a second to wonder if this was destructive behavior, but... It feels like I'm in control of it. The alcohol is a tool.

A drink before bed to me is like the inverse of waking up and drinking coffee.

> A drink before bed to me is like the inverse of waking up and drinking coffee.

I find that weird. My sleep is completely wrecked if I have something to drink beforehand - I'll go to sleep fine, but the sleep is always fitful and I don't feel rested in the morning.

Are you me?

>I did find it more difficult to remain polite in the presence of people who were actively annoying me, but I managed to hold my tongue in most cases.

Recently, I did a 42-day voluntary abstention from drinking. And, unlike everyone else I know who has tried this, I didn't cheat. It was inspired by a 21-day abstention a few months prior, which was due to a backpacking trip on which we decided not to bring any booze.

At the end of these periods I felt great, physically and mentally. After starting up again, my alcohol consumption was less than it used to be. Sleep was better than ever, and I wake up feeling refreshed - the better sleep is far and above the most noticeable effect. Generally I just feel healthier.

The social thing is a challenge, but not impossible. I actually forced myself not to go out any less, I still kept every plan with friends to visit bars, clubs, etc. Just drank a club soda. I quoted the above because I had a similar experience: when you are sober, you quickly realize that there are a few or several of your friends who you cannot stand to be around sober. You realize how annoying they are.

It was fun pushing myself for three and then six weeks. It inspired me to follow up with a three-day water fast (that was particularly painful, again I did not cheat). I am interested if any HN readers have suggestions of other self-denial tasks to try out.

I do 40 days of no drinking every year starting Jan 1. The only year I didn't was this year because I decided to quit smoking completely instead (haven't had a single cig since, fuck yeah) (also, checkout /r/stopsmoking it is really fun to quit with other people and have people upvote you for bragging about quitting).

Another self-denial one I've done is to not eat anything that came from a possibly harmed-before-butchered animal. Free run eggs/wild fish/well raised beef only. This is much harder than you think, since it basically means vegetarian at most restaurants unless you call ahead.

The ultimate in self-denial: no computer usage outside of works hours for a week!

The most I've been able to go recently (probably discoverable from my HN post history... cringe) is about 3 days. It felt great but I can't really keep it up. Also, elevated levels of booze was involved.

Does a smartphone count?

For anything other than taking phone calls or checking email, yes.

How checking email is not computer usage?


I quit computers for two years only to resume a year ago. Very enlightening experience. I recommend it.

I, like many here, would find it difficult to pay the mortgage if I did that!

Thoughts on the water fast?

I was told it would "clear my mind" and detoxify etc (that's not why I did it though). It didn't. My mind was cloudier on the fast and my coworkers would frequently call me out for rambling about food. My energy level dropped to about 80% during the day, and I slept about 2hrs longer each night.

But it did teach me that my body is much stronger than I thought previously. I am better able to differentiate between "I'm bored, let's eat" or "your stomach wants food" vs. actual, your-whole-body-needs-food hunger pangs. And it hardened my resolve that there are some things I can do if you put your mind to it, which 90% of other people have no desire or will to do, but that's not a reason not to do it.

As a result of the fast, I am further distanced spiritually from the others I encounter who make promises to themselves about one thing or another (e.g. one guy wanted to try the fast with me), but then during execution, they cheat or make excuses - Something I am still guilty of, but getting better at.

I personally enjoy a tasty beverage on occasion. But if I were to go 40 days without drinking I'm not sure that I would even notice. The OP doesn't sound like he was a particularly heavy drinker, but it always has a slight problematic ring to me when somebody tells me they haven't drank for X number of days. Especially when X is a fairly small number. I always figure that since they're tracking the time so specifically that they must be dying for a drink.

I have learned distrust. I distrust anything that makes me feel good without having achieved something that merits that sensation.

Alcohol is like being wrapped in a comforter. You are warm, the world is soft, and like a child, you trust in everything turning out alright.

This has no relationship to the real world.

While I have enjoyed alcohol many times, and both drunk to excess and been a social drinker, I find that it distracts me. It distracts from what I should be paying attention to, while I'm busy feeling good and safe.

> you trust in everything turning out alright. This has no relationship to the real world.

I have tried the opposite: 100% serious balls to the wall control freak & pessimism and mistrust of "everything turning out alright". I'm sad to report that that approach is no good.

I'm starting to think a decent dose of naive "it'll turn out alright" is useful.

My Dad used to fix radar on large ships. The company motto was "It'll be all right when you get to sea, Captain". Oddly enough, it always was. Even if the radar failed, they had radio, loren, pilot guides &c.

Another option is a middle path:

It will turn out, how it turns out.

Sounds tautological, but it preserves the idea that multiple real world forces determine the outcome, not wishing or feeling. That might save us from paranoia.

Tips on abstaining:

* Don't keep any alcohol in your house

* Don't go anywhere that drinking is the primary focus, or even secondary focus

* Pick up a regular hobby that makes you happy and do it at least three times a week

* Talk to people you enjoy and join them in activities that don't involve drinking

* Put the amount of money you'd normally have spent on booze into a piggy bank and watch it grow

* Make a list of things that make you happy, and revisit it when you're feeling down (instead of revisiting booze)

* Get a buddy to abstain with you from drinking or smoking for mutual moral support

* Put an 'X' on a calendar for every day you don't drink

* If you find it difficult, give yourself an arbitrary goal date. Once you reach it, try to extend it further

* Make it easier for you to drink healthy things by getting things you need (tea infusers, pitchers, juice concentrate, water bottles, etc)

(I recently did two months, which was much harder for me than I anticipated, but I finally got over the hump and have had very little to drink for weeks. Feels nice to have more productive things to do than burn money and feel run down in the morning, and i'm looking better too!)

> Pick up a regular hobby that makes you happy and do it at least three times a week

It would be awesome if I could do just that. And I don't even drink. Other points seem much easier though.

You just need to try things until you find something you keep going back to. Examples of hobbies:

Exercise (running, crossfit, weight lifting, parkour, tabita, yoga, hiking, biking)

Sports (rock climbing/bouldering, soccer, baseball, basketball, autocross/road racing, roller derby, surfing, archery, sailing)

Martial arts (aikido, thai boxing, brazilian jiu-jitsu, tai chi, capoeira, kendo, eskrima/arnis, krav maga, fencing)

Dancing (salsa, merengue, swing, tango, blues, ballroom, hip hop, jazz)

Music (learn an instrument, live local shows, discover new genres, download and listen to new music)

Literature (join a book club, cheap books from thrift stores or yard sales, try fiction/nonfiction, reflect on what you read, blog it)

Blogging (research and then write about a subject you care about)

Volunteerism (soup kitchens, community gardens, local government, special needs, peace core, hackerspaces, free education community organizations, conventions, public awareness, public services, community programs)

Weird stuff (slacklining, acro-yoga, aerial silks, unicycling, juggling, rope bondage, home brewing, crafting, building models, puzzles, trivia, ham radio, blacksmithing, astronomy, woodworking, car tuning, karaoke, magic, gravestone rubbing, gardening, canning, locksport, leatherwork)

My old boss told me that her brother spends one month a year not drinking, to prove to himself that he doesn't need the booze... but he always did in in February, because it was the shortest month.

That kind of rationalization probably indicates a pretty big problem.

... or a healthy sense of humour. we didn't hear how much he drinks other months.

These sorts of stories hit me hard - not that I have my own, "I quit for x number of days", but rather, I don't think there was 40 days total in the last year that I had a drink. It would take a few years to get that number.

I guess I just never developed the taste. Hard to understand the other side of the ritual.

I rarely drink maybe one beer a month at my wildest but I live in a province of sport drinkers where weekdays but especially the weekend people drink until the pass out. Most events are attended by people who drank before arriving which is common but I mean they started drinking at 7am and the event is at 10pm.

Currently I a non-drinker have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which sucks because it's insulting for me to have of all things what is considered a disease of heavy drinkers. It hurts, I mean my liver actually hurts and it's frightening to have a problem like this a damaged organ in my body. I'm not even fat my friends all ask how I keep so thin, I mean I'm 5'8" short for a guy and at my peak I was 180 pounds but you'd never know it by looking at me, but all my life up to a few years ago I was a consistent 150 pounds. I'm down to 165 pounds but still my doctor telling my my risk of heart attack and stroke is double due to a fatty liver, and this from a family of people who all die from a stroke or heart attack.

Your liver is precious! I don't think people realize how important it is they hear jokes about their liver when drinking to the point it's a joke or just noise more than advice. Then Tylenol the next day to fix their hangover which damages the liver even more.

You liver is the only organ which can regenerate but I would guess not from systemic damage only physical damage to specific defined areas.

Long live our livers!

I can relate. About three months ago i went from drunk daily to absolutely no alcohol. I too felt like it took a lot longer for me to unwind, but now i use my after-work-momentum to get things done at home which i neglected when i was drunk, like cleaning, doing the dishes and general hygiene. My day is generally better balanced; i run a little slower at work, and a little faster in my personal life. Thanks for sharing.

In the same vein, I highly recommend people try cutting out grains for 40 days. If you're like me, you may very quickly feel so drastically better that going back to grain-eating would be out of the question.

Don't get me wrong: many people do just fine on grains. But some non-negligible percent of people live with a low-level general malaise without even knowing that it's not normal. I know I did for years.

No problem for me: one beer either puts me to sleep or gives me sinus headache. Don't understand what people like about alcohol.

It's a pretty primitive drug too. Such a simple and small molecule, might just as well sniff glue, it seems to me.

Tobacco is so much fun in comparison. Quit that cold turkey many years ago. Still like it though.

I stopped for a few months several years ago (to study for the GMAT, of all things). Granted, this coincided with me actively practicing puzzles and trick questions (essentially this is what the high end questions are) but I felt noticeably sharper. Like I'd gained 10-20 IQ points. Prior to this I drank quite often over several years (college plus a few post college years). This break (and my awareness of its effects) caused me to really curb my drinking. Now I drink sparsely and mostly to appreciate a nice wine or beer or well made cocktail. I think there's a balance to strike. Enjoyment in life might be worth a marginal IQ point here and there. I dropped out of bschool but learned this lesson getting myself admitted. Thanks bschool! :D

Hey, I did just that few months ago! It worked well for me. It took some time for my friends to accept that I 'm not drinking. I don't think this experience will affect my life, but it was really satisfying to prove myself.

I think I'll repeat 40 days without drinking next year.

Just a heads up, if you're thinking about what it's like to give the booze a rest for a while there is a community of people who take on a 3 month or 12 month sobriety challenge and blog about their experiences. It makes for super interesting reading, and the passion in the community really reflects how big the drinking issue is in people's lives.


Full disclosure: My team built the tech. But you'll want to get involved for the community.

There's some people who drink because they need too. You know who you are. You might be drinking because of generalized anxiety, or panic attacks? I know how you feel. Try to keep the drinking to a minimum though. As you age, the need for alcohol might decrease; it did with me. I never thought I could give up drinking, but I think age played a part? Now, I need to get off prescription drugs? A doctor once told me, every patient is different--that might be the only useful advise he ever gave me.

I quit drinking for three 30 days stints last year (not back to back though). I can relate to most of what he says - I did feel a lot better, I didnt lose that much weight though (oh well). In the end, I think this experiment is really great but one also needs to consider where you live - I live in lower manhattan where I cant walk 5 feet without passing a cool looking bar / happy hour. I am glad I quit drinking for three months last year but am I having more fun drinking now - definitely.

I gave up drinking for a year and a half. My conscious really expanded in that time, and my stools were like iron bars!

I started drinking after I moved away from that town, and into a new city knowing nobody. Alcohol helps me socialise faster. Anyway I didn't feel like stopping again after gaining friends, as I had already learnt all I needed to know about being sober endlessly. Now I am much older and I don't really drink that much naturally - due to massive hangovers. The circle of life

I went the whole of 2011 without drinking.

The only difference was my wallet was fuller and I probably had a slightly better immune system.

The hard part was being at social events where for the most part I was the only one sober. I found I would analysis everything allot more and found that personality types I didnt like got much worse when they had been drinking. I also realized that some of my friends were really obnoxious and hated seeing them like that. When your also drunk you dont notice these things...

I did the same thing last year, falling asleep was a lot harder. Its like a circus up there in the brain.

There are techniques to handle that. I haven't have too much experience in it but from what I heard in limited encounters with them, unless you have some physiological problem, you can learn to relax and get the circus under control pretty efficiently. Takes some work, of course, as any good thing does :) Drugs are an easier shortcut, that is true.

Yeah, alcohol interacts with sleep in complex ways. Insomnia is one of the more common and long-lasting, but less recognized, symptoms of moderate alcohol withdrawal, versus something like delirium tremens, which is more recognizable (and more dangerous), but rarer and tends to happen only when withdrawing from very high alcohol consumption.

Yoga is how I broke my workaholism. It took a long time though - but it gave me 90 minutes each time I did it where I "couldn't" leave and/or do work; It started to break the cycle, and that's all I needed to start happening initially.

My GF and I quit drinking for four months once and it totally changed our lives. All the haziness disappeared, and so did our desire to get senselessly smashed. Everything, literally, improved in our lives --work, school, focus, our relationship: everything.

I wish more people would stop drinking for the social benefits as well as the health benefits. In my opinion, alcohol makes people less interesting and articulate even though it makes them feel more sociable.


> carry on raising pints

I don't think that means you've learned much. The point is personal reflection.

" alcoholism is often linked to highly driven, ambitious, over-achieving personality types." gives me a reason to worry.

It's interesting to do "no X for Y days", vs "no X ever". Seems a lot more attainable.

To quote Jack Sparrow: "But where has all the rum gone?"

I have 34 years w/o drinking buzz, the best way to combat an addiction is to never start it.

Welcome Captain Obvious. Please tell us how to achieve world peace. Oh! Don't have wars. We were hoping for some evidence of, you know, intelligence or insight.

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