Going Dry: Giving Up the Bottle

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I like my beer.  Specifically, I like it dark and strong.  When I moved to Portland, it was like moving to the beer-lover’s wonderland.  This place is wall to wall with absolutely stunning brews.

In San Francisco, I was more inclined to order a good glass of wine or a cocktail.  My days at the advertising agency helped me develop an almost scary tolerance.  I was a whiskey girl – favoring Jack Daniels and Maker’s Mark.  I drank it on the rocks, not mixed. 

I could also hold my martinis, and appreciated the fine art of a perfect float of ice.  Kettle One, extra olives. 

At home in our San Francisco loft, I spent hours studying old, vintage drink books that I’d purchased used.  I learned to make and love White Ladies, Rusty Nails, and Patron gimlets.

When I went out all night dancing with my girlfriend Maggie I favored vodka-redbulls or vodka-sodas.  They kept me dancing and helped me last from 2am until 6am, when the club wasn’t allowed to serve drinks.  After the bartender rang the big bell at 6:00am, we rushed the counter to order Super Strong Bloody Marys and shots of whiskey.  The buzz came back in a rush and I’d kill bloody mary after bloody mary as I continued dancing until 10:00 or 11:00am, when we’d leave to go have breakfast somewhere.

Then I’d sleep for the rest of the weekend.

I’ll admit that I miss the San Francisco nightlife.  There’s nothing like it in Portland.  You simply can’t party all night long here. Not like that, anyway.

But those days seem like another lifetime to me right now.

When I started P90X at the beginning of December, I gave up alcohol for the duration of the program (3 months).  All of it.  No red wine with dinner.  No post-ride Lompoc Strong Drafts at the Hedge House.  No nothing.

And you know what?  It’s been fucking fabulous.

People think I’m blowing smoke up their ass when I say that.  That I’m playing the part of Little Miss Fitness or whatever.  But, I gotta be honest with you – I haven’t missed it very much at all.

At the end of the day, alcohol is a depressant.  As much as I love a good glass of wine, or a perfectly shaken martini, taking a break from it all is super energizing and clarifying.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be on the wagon forever.  In fact, I’ve got a nice bottle of Stag’s Leap Fay on reserve for when I’m done with P90X, but the break has really helped me get a handle on how and when I want to have alcohol in my life, and what it means for me.

After everyone in my life adjusted to this decision (and it’s implications), things were fine.  People who are really my friends don’t pressure me or give me any kind of grief.  Mostly I have been met with encouragement and affirmation.

I have realized that all of the things that I thought "wouldn’t be the same" without alcohol, actually are.  The challenge is to confront my own associations and ideas about what alcohol is or isn’t.

Having a nice, refreshing beer after a ride IS really nice, but not having it doesn’t mean that my post-ride rituals are suddenly terrible.  They’re just different.  A recovery drink followed by nice, hot tea does the trick just fine.  And I feel a lot less like taking a nap after I’m done with them.

Wine with dinner?  Sure, if you’re out having some gastronomically amazing meal, a nice wine pairing is out-of-this-world, but the reality is that we’re usually swilling some mediocre bottle with some mediocre meal that we made at home. My head told me that the "wine makes it feel more special" but is this really true?

I’m realizing that this is just a script I’ve been reading for years.  In fact, spending a little extra time on dinner preparation goes a lot further to make it "feel special" than adding a bottle of just-decent wine.  Besides that, one glass just never seems to be enough.  I always end up with 2 or 3, which my head doesn’t like so much the next morning.

That fuzzy-headedness (whether or not I have a real hangover, things are always a little "duller" the day after going to sleep with a few glasses of wine) is another pain in the ass.  My morning-time productivity is hugely increased when I’m not drinking and, since that’s what I consider my "prime time" when I do my best work, it’s important that those are quality hours.

New Years was a breeze.  Steve and Sal shared some yummy Rummy drinks and then champagne, my sister and mother had wine, and I shot pictures for 2 hours in 18 degree weather.  Instead of a raging party, Sal and I set up an outdoor movie theater on my parents property, which happened to be buried in tons of snow.

It was one of the best New Years on record and I didn’t miss the chaos, or the booze, for a second.  As a bonus, I got some pretty fun images:


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  1. jersy_grl

    those pictures are awesome…happy new year!

  2. Pretty cool pictures!!?? AMAZING. I want to buy all of them!


    I always realize the same during periods of no/low drinking (which I’ve been pretty much fully engaged in since I got sick). I just don’t miss it. I’ll savor a cup o’ tea with you any time, pal. xo

  3. So the things about making a meal special, at least in stephanopoulos land are:

    1. premium ingredients (super fresh! super natural! super happy!). Often means more expensive, but if you’re not spending $15 on a bottle of wine to accompany, then why not use that money that you’re willing to spend on the extra ingredients instead?

    2. (and this is where I get into the heart of my true steph-girl hokiness, so be warned) Cook with love! Send all of your best, most loving thoughts into each action of your cooking ritual and focus on the artistry of meal preparation. Seduce the senses that the food you are making needs to appeal (instead of letting the wine be the easy ticket to seduction).

    I love a good glass of wine, too. Sometimes I am on a track where I can open a bottle on Sunday and really have 1 glass of wine a night (I am too busy to have more than 1 glass, which is when I start to dull a bit). Other times, I am just too busy from the get-go to really open a bottle and be around to enjoy a glass a night, and then if I were to open, the vino would get wasted and dumped down the drain. Somewhere along the way–I think it was last spring, because that’s when I began to notice the difference in what I was drinking, how I was drinking, and how often (that’s also when I sort of made some really fucking huge commitments to myself and my wellbeing)–I decided that if I was not drinking as often that I could afford to buy good $20-30 bottles of wine for my regular. And that if I did not always need to buy myself wine with my dinner at a restaurant, the times I *did* buy I could get the more interesting-sounding glass of the ones I was veering towards (for me more interesting often winds up being the more expensive). It is, to me, an idea far better than settling for the best of the mediocre wines that are very easily affordable if I am constantly buying.

    When I was grading my students’ papers and preparing final grades in December and whatnot, I was on the glass a night kick. It was calming, and I am good enough at slowly drinking my glass that I knew one glass would last me a while. Now I am in a not-so-much with the wine kick. Not because I’ve been v. sick the last week or so, but because right now drinking the wine is not exactly in line with what my time, concentration, and focus call for.

    You’re right–it’s all about timing and about zoning out when and when not to. It’s like what you’re blogged about before with changing the percentages of time in which you’re a ‘foodie’ and when you’re focused on fitness. It’s not one or the other, it’s just how often the one and how often the other. :)

  4. hello from a longtime reader!

    1. great, great shots…what kind of fisheye are you using?

    2. kettle one?? for some reason, i was imagining exclusively gin martinis for you.

  5. Hello EB! Thanks so much for introducing yourself!
    1. Sigma 15mm/2.8 Fisheye on a Canon 5d body. All of the shots were taken with a bulb exposure ranging anywhere from a few seconds (near the fire) to 12 minutes (the shot with the mysterious glowing, flying object cutting across the frame – really wish I’d been standing by my camera in that moment to see what it was!)
    2. Ha! I only started to appreciate gin with the introduction of the White Lady. In martinis, it puts me on my ass in 2.4 seconds. I admit it… I can’t handle the gin!

  6. Happy New Year!

    I love that you’re chilling on the booze. I’ve had the same experience in ’07 and don’t miss it at all.

    Gear not Beer!

    My turning point came at the reading of some pop fitness article that pointed out that alcohol consumption beyond the first serving slows or stops muscle building.

    Give my all for 2 hours sweating, straining, tearing to build my body then negate the improvement with a few beers? Why bother?

    Now I’m seeing power gains quickly and I’m saving money to buy more gear. Here’s to getting fit together in 2008.

  7. i think it’s the asian gene but i just can’t stomach alcohol. and so it’s never been a pleasurable experience so i’m often sans alcohol. it literally takes me hours to say finish one margarita. but i do remember reading (over at xanga) the love of yours for all kinds of things beer related. so i’m impressed! and as always, i love the shot of the night sky.

  8. Steve: You’re actually a huge inspiration for me around all this. Watching you explode during cyclocross season was eye opening! You were always fast… but damn. Here’s to getting fit indeed.

    Kat – thank you! Beer Schmeer, that’s what I say now. :)

  9. I’ve been cutting way back on the alcohol recently, too, but went to a birthday party on the weekend and drank a lot. If there was any doubt in my mind about leaving it out of my life, it’s gone now. I wasn’t hungover the next morning, but I was absolutely destroyed, energy-wise.

    Love the pictures, especially the one where you can see the world spinning because of the stars. Beautiful!

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