I have never in my life been a heavy drinker. However, I’ve always enjoyed a good glass of (dark) beer, red wine with a meal has been a frequent occurrence, and in recent years I’ve developed a taste for single malt Scotch. All this, I think, is entirely innocent. I’m not an alcoholic, my health (and my finances) are not at risk from this, and it’s all part of God’s good creation anyway.
However, at the moment I’m taking a break. I decided to give it up for Lent (except for communion wine), and after Lent ended, I decided not to go back to it.
I think the reason has to do with something else that is a problem for me: my weight. I have struggled with this issue for over thirty years now. My weight has gone up and down, but overall, more up than down. This time last year I was sitting at 226 pounds, and then doctors gave me a talking-to (in the context of what appeared at the time to be a heart issue, but eventually turned out not to be), and I started eating more sensibly and exercising more conscientiously. By about the end of October I was down to 202 pounds. Then the snow got deep and the weather got cold, and now I’m up to about 207 pounds again.
Self-control is hard for me. I’m not in a job where I’m constantly being supervised, I have a huge amount of control over how I use my time, and there are times when I don’t use this freedom wisely. The same is true with eating and exercising. I find it very, very hard to say ‘no’ to eating too much, and far too easy to skip the daily walk. My self-control muscles can use all the exercise they can get.
I think that’s what this current fast from alcohol is all about. Of course, it’s about calories too; alcohol is rich in them, and it doesn’t do a lot for you that grape juice wouldn’t do just as well. Skipping a glass of beer is basically the caloric equivalent of skipping a ham sandwich – thick slice of ham, two slices of bread and butter. But it’s also about practising saying ‘no’ to myself. I have to admit, I miss the bottle or two of wine a month we were in the habit of drinking. I miss the little glass of Scotch I sometimes indulged in at the end of the day (the bottle is still up in the cupboard), or the occasional glass of beer with a friend.
But my self-control muscles need exercise, and this particular form of exercise, it seems, is one I can keep up with daily. So for now, I’m going to stick with this discipline. I probably won’t be a teetotaller forever, but for now, it feels right for me. I have the freedom to go back to it if I want, and the freedom to stay away from it. For now, I’m choosing to stay away from it, and I’m enjoying being able to do that.