Nothing particularly complicated or nerdy tonight. More of a personal thing.
For Lent this year, I gave up beer. To play it safe, I gave up all alcohol.
On the face of it, this is not a terribly difficult thing. I am a disciplined person and do what I set my mind to doing. Most of the time.
However, I’ve found that consciously not allowing myself to drink alcohol for forty days is proving kind of difficult. This is surprising, and a little disturbing to me.
While I binge drank a lot in college and was a fairly self-destructive person, there was never a time where I felt I “needed” a drink. It was something that was approached as a means to an end. Then, over time, I would continue drinking at social functions because hey, it was included in the conference or I was hanging out with friends and sometimes your conversations really are ridiculously funnier when you’re drinking.
I can personally relate that I thought Demolition Man was awful until I saw it drunk. Then I thought it was a modern satirical classic and I watch it with that same fondness every time. Also, any movie where the main character is named John and is a hero is always a fun watch.
But I’m very grateful for giving up alcohol this year specifically because of the amount of stress I’m under. In the long run, I’ve got a fantastic life–but I’ve had a great opportunity to step back and see what a crutch alcohol could become as I’ve “wanted” to have a drink to “take the edge off” some days and in light of that, I’m glad that I won’t allow myself. At least for a little while.
It’s good to re-train yourself in how to handle stress without leaning on those little crutches, whether it’s drinking or eating or whatever. A benefit is that it’s made me rely more on running as a way to relieve stress and that’s a good thing. Instead of sitting down and watching Archer re-runs while having a couple of beers, I’m going for a run, then sitting down and watching Archer re-runs until I fall into the peaceful slumber of the angels.
But still, it remains a little disturbing. In the past I was practically in love with burning tobacco (oh, if only I didn’t care about potentially getting cancer) and ate my pain growing up (#BanBigGuy). So if I’ve got a hankering for alcohol as a crutch, that means I’m going to be much more mindful of when and how I consume it.
So as difficult as it may be to stick to this resolution, it’s accomplishing what any Lenten forbearance should. It’s reminding me that something I’ve come to rely on is, in fact, something I don’t need. Perhaps I should give up more things, on a more frequent rotation, to remind me of how unimportant these earthly things really are. And yes, that brings me closer to God, which is the whole point of a Lenten forbearance. Dress it up however else you want, I do have a faith in God and this is part of what I do to clear away the things that get between me and Him.
But even if someone lacks faith, shouldn’t they also practice forbearance? To give themselves clarity to see what may be cluttering their life regularly that could otherwise be removed and open them to greater awareness?
Food for thought, to be sure.