With equal parts of trepidation and holistic appreciation, I await March 1 of this year—Ash Wednesday is the kick-off day for Lent. The Lenten Season is generally observed by Christians, and while some friends shake their heads in dismay that I, an unabashed heathen, participate in this ritual of self-denial, I am not the only “ye of little faith” who joins in this practice. For me, it is a timeframe for my body to take a vacation from imbibing.
This will be my 27th year of assenting to my Lenten abstinence. It began on a dare. The challenge to put aside booze for six weeks was put forth by my boyfriend at the time, a fellow who most certainly was an alcoholic (something he willingly admitted to). When I realized that it had been years since I had gone more than a couple of days without my wine, I figured it was a good idea. And so began my annual temperance.
What was intended as a nod to better health was often somewhat negated with excessive caffeine or sugary beverages as libation substitutes, and greatly stymied by those stupid blowout, party-hearties on Mardi Gras and/or too much drinking on Easter Day. I learned quickly that all that foolishness was screwing up the good I was attempting. Trust me, your body doesn’t take kindly to bingeing.
Even if my liver was super human and my other good parts indestructible, there is still a need, in my opinion, to know that you can run roughshod over any addictive behavior—if only on occasion. Maybe I am just a bit too in touch with some puritan DNA in my ancestry, but I rather enjoy the discipline. Discipline in moderation, that is. Perhaps I am over-sharing my bad habits and my annual attempts to stand tall for a handful of weeks. But when I suggest that you give up libations for a healthy breather, I want you to know that I understand it ain’t always easy.
So, I throw down the gauntlet to Boyfriend and anyone reading this—take the challenge and give up drinking (or cigarettes, even social media) for Lent. But first let me be straight up with you: those 40 days of Lent they talk about—it’s more like 46 days. Imagine my surprise that first Lent as I eagerly marked the days off—then along came Day 40 and I was still six days away from the Easter Bunny serving me a celebratory cocktail. I railed as I walked past my usual haunts, inhaling the rich aroma of stale beer, cigarettes, and the lingering scent of Pine Sol, my right hand clutching at an imaginary glass of wine. So, be aware that Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends 46 days later. No cheating, no Sundays off. Allowing yourself those random moments to indulge makes for a slippery slope. Besides, if you think you can’t refrain for six weeks, then perhaps that is reason enough to take the challenge.
You might ask, “Why? If only for such a short time, what’s the point, the benefit?” For me, this period of abstaining is filled with introspection and enlightenment—I’ve learned that I really do look better when drinking (and so do those around me). I have found that I have a sparkling personality that becomes richer with each drink and that just about any subject—like cost comparisons of dish detergents—is vastly more interesting when discussed at a cocktail party. Well, perhaps these were not my best moments of clarity and mind expansion … However, I have learned a thing or two about life and coping with stress and tragedies while sober. I was able to get through my momma’s funeral, a relationship heartbreak, a new job, loss of a job, and even that time the cat chewed off three inches of my hair. I muddled through these and other difficulties stone sober.
Okay, so you don’t need the calming effects of libations; you have nothing to prove; you can take it or leave it. But should you decide to “leave it” for Lent (or any other time of the year), you will be doing your health and your pocketbook a solid. Studies show that cutting back on alcohol promotes a significant improvement for the liver and blood glucose levels, along with better sleep, more focus, weight loss, and improved skin tone. And if health is not a concern, then think: Money! I always set aside the money I would normally spend on drinking and never cease to be amazed by the tidy sum of savings I acquire in six weeks. Of course, the wine industry takes it in the shorts, but I am a loyal consumer the rest of the year.
So, join me … or not. I will be the one at Liuzza’s by the Track sneaking nips of green tea from my flask. Cheers.