Experiments in Happiness: No Alcohol, One Month

Recap: My New Year’s resolution is to stop externalizing my happiness. This year, I’m focusing on my own behaviors and thought processes and experimenting with altering them—one per month—in order to become a more self-aware, self-assured person. You can also access my Huffington Post archive here for past installments.

January: No alcohol, one month.

When we woke up last Tuesday morning, my boyfriend confidently declared: “The tide is turning! The tide. Is. Turning.”

This has turned out to be mostly true since then, but even the weekend before that brought fresh joys indignities. (For a full summary of our week of indignities, which includes losing jobs, gaining medical bills, and getting bed bugs and food poisoning, read my last post.) During snow-diva Jonas, there was some kind of pipe issue in upper Manhattan that left a lot of Washington Heights (and us) with brown tap water all weekend. After I reported it, 311 told me it was “safe to drink,” which I declined to verify, because screw you, I’ve already been felled by foodborne illness this week and I know how irony works.

The final little blow came last Friday night when the boyf and I found ourselves on the floor—literally—after our air mattress deflated. The cause? What appeared to be (read: definitely were) claw-holes from our highly agitated cats who had chased down and dismembered a roach earlier, scrambling all over the furniture and, presumably, the mattress. We found half the roach under the deflated mattress, and we CSI’d our way to that sophisticated conclusion. Even on their best days, our cats are not so much like normal housecats but more like temperate weasels, so really, the fact that it took them a whole eight days to puncture our air mattress is somewhat of a miracle. That night, we slept in a nest of blankets and sadness on the floor, and the next day we abandoned our apartment to its hostile menagerie and stayed with friends for the next three days until Tuesday, when the exterminator finally came. This means that we’re officially sleeping in our bed again after nearly two weeks, but the ordeal is far from over.

Can I tell you guys a few things about having bed bugs? Everything that you own and everything around it has to be vacuumed every day. Everything that isn’t technically furniture has to be washed and dried on high heat, and everything that can only be washed or dried has to at least be one or the other and then sealed in a garbage bag. For everything that can’t go in a washer/dryer, you have to wipe it down, put it in a garbage bag that you then seal, and then put that bag on a rocket and shoot it into orbit while solving a riddle from a really pissy troll. And then you have to live exactly like that—with a mountain of anonymous, sealed black trash bags staring at you, judging your life—for three weeks while your apartment gets weekly chemical treatments.

For as common as bed bugs are in New York City, I found very few answers in online forums to the pressing questions I had about the process. Questions like: “How do I not be twenty-four-sev naked while all my clothes are in trash prison?” or “How do I rationally explain to below-average cats that they have to be packed up and taken to the basement three weeks in a row?” and “What kinds of creative genetic disorders will my children have after I roll around in pesticides for 21 days?”

Really, it’s all the fun of packing to move across the country and unpacking once you get there but with 100% more futility and bugs that eat your blood.

But all of that is completely beside the point, because I am happy to report that I have not had a single drop to drink! Seriously. I watched significant chunks of my life catch fire and burn around me, and I did not kick back and enjoy the flames with a glass of wine. And I feel like I should be proud of myself for saying that I wasn’t going to do something that I a) like doing and b) is highly integrated into my social life, and then actually managing not to do it. I should be proud of that. But mostly I’m just irritated that sometimes there was really tasty-looking beer around and I didn’t try it. Life’s short, and I love porters.

Honestly, this month’s experiment was contaminated by the rest of my life being decidedly not business-as-usual. So to assess how not drinking did or did not make me feel according to the metrics I laid out previously feels a little pointless; I couldn’t control the variables. I felt terrible for most of the month, and basically none of that had anything to do with my relationship to alcohol. So no, I did not cry about my problems over a beer with friends—I just cried. And it kinda would have been nice to have a beer.

So I’m scrapping the metrics for this post—my petri dish got mold in it. In lieu of the full rundown, here’s a quick portrait of my state of being:

I ate a bunch of consolation cookies the past two weeks and I haven’t been to the gym because my sports bras are MIA in the trash bag city and also I super duper majorly didn’t feel like it. I’m worried about a whole slew of things that have to do with careers and money and health, and I’m honestly scared of celebrating anything for my birthday next month because I’m convinced that something will go wrong.

But on Tuesday night, we got to sleep in our bed again. The tide is turning. The tide. Is. Turning.

So cheers, January. You sucked.

February’s experiment: Meditation.

See you soon.

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