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Drunk on Life testimonial

Glen's story: In many ways, Dry January left me feeling more authentically glamorous

Depriving myself of alcohol for a month could recreate that thrilling emotion of uncertainty! I imagined the nights I would lie awake, dying for a Negroni or a glass of rosé and testing my willpower to abstain. Oh, how daring! This could be precisely the dangerously exciting experiment I needed to rescue me from melancholy.

When I landed in Beijing as an expatriate, my social life exploded like fireworks! Every night was a party--even boring Mondays. I received constant invitations--restaurant tastings to try new foods, big functions at the embassies with important officials, happy hours with my coworkers that stretched into the early morning, emotional goodbyes with champagne when friends left, and Sunday “bottomless” brunches. It was impossible to decline so many delicious festivities!

I confess that I loved this intoxicating lifestyle, despite my torturous hangovers every morning. But oh friends, what is a simple headache when your social calendar is full of glamorous people and places? I consider those years in Beijing, with its hazy nights of partying and connections, as some of the most memorable of my life.

When I returned to my golden cage in the United States after my deliriously free years abroad, I called all my friends who had also gone back home. I needed their wise advice to survive post-expat life. My fabulous friend Kim warned me, “Alcohol doesn’t flow the same here in the United States. When I first got back, I was partying like my Shanghai days, but it doesn’t compare.”

As I recovered from my Long Island Iced Tea hangover, I reflected that it wasn’t so much the longing for those infamous China nights with their free-flowing baijiu, but rather the glamorous expatriate lifestyle itself. You see, outside we had a delicious freedom without the responsibilities back home, which allowed us to reinvent ourselves with new personalities and thrilling opportunities. We were simply invited to so many fun events, and as expatriates, we had to take advantage of every soirée, dinner, or adventure, knowing our magical dream life abroad had an expiration date when reality back home would call us back.

And many of us overseas were a bit adrift, without our families or childhood friends anchoring us. So what other choice did we have in our displaced lives but drink and dance on top of tables? Now back in the United States, I found myself wandering aimlessly through the marble floors of Nordstrom, realizing one can never really go back home. The little lights of expatriate life forever leave their sparkle in our hearts and livers…

When I returned to Scottsdale in May 2020, the COVID pandemic was raging. Of course, there was nothing to do while trapped at home except mix cocktails and drink wine on the terrace. Occasionally, when I felt adventurous, I would go out and notice everyone else doing exactly the same thing at the bars that remained open.

So I adopted the new normality of passing out on the chaise lounge at noon. I know it sounds simply awful, but with no soirées or brunches on the horizon, this boozy isolation was a way to numb the monotony.

I had heard murmurs about this peculiar concept of “Dry January” before, but never paid it much attention. However, when my divine friend Lise started her wildly popular initiative “Drunk on Life," she certainly captured my fascination. After all, we had both lived that intoxicating expatriate life together one summer, soaked in champagne.

I devoured every post about her journey towards sobriety. In China, the constant challenge of navigating a foreign culture kept life thrillingly unpredictable, which I loved. But back in languid Scottsdale, I sorely missed that spark. As I lay on my back on a lounger staring at the cacti, I realized 

Lise’s radical Dry January challenge could be just what I needed to shake me out of this gloomy state. I wasn’t motivated by weight loss or glowing skin, no no – I simply yearned for that dynamic expatriate feeling again! And depriving myself of alcohol for a month could recreate that thrilling emotion of uncertainty! I imagined the nights I would lie awake, dying for a Negroni or a glass of rosé and testing my willpower to abstain. Oh, how daring! This could be precisely the dangerously exciting experiment I needed to rescue me from melancholy.

Attempting my first Dry January was positively beastly. After drinking like a parched camel for over fifteen years, denying myself alcohol hit me harder than a poorly mixed martini. The first four days were the worst torture! Odd headaches plagued me, I had the energy of a sloth, and I swear even my facial features drooped without their usual rosy glow.

I almost relapsed and self-medicated with a crystal glass of Sauvignon Blanc just to regain balance. And falling into bed sober each night was startling! No wonder I used to need a whole bottle of wine to knock me out. But waking up on the morning of the fifth day of sobriety felt divine. Everything looked crystalline, my mood was bubbly, and I realized I hadn’t awakened without a persistent headache in literally years.

I can’t boast about any real weight loss due to my dry month, possibly because I favored red wines over sugary cocktails. But discovering that magnificent clarity and feeling of conquest each dawn was infinitely more valuable than dropping a few pounds. For the first time in a long while, I felt capable of triumphing over any challenge that life dared throw my way. Who needs chardonnay when one wakes up feeling like the King of the World?

Naturally, I devoured every last tip on Lise’s “Drunk on Life” site when I embarked on my sobriety quest. But the most critical suggestion was having a dazzling variety of alternative drinks on hand. Although I didn’t plan on drinking acidic sodas, my palate still craved excitement beyond plain tap water to replace my elixirs of champagne, martinis, and red wines.

So I filled my fridge with the most thrillingly delicious virgin options - spicy vegetable and tomato juices, soothing coconut waters, ginger-tinged kombuchas, and a plethora of exotically flavored non-alcoholic concoctions. Aren’t Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods such darlings when one is searching for temperance treats? One can discover a whole naughty world beyond basic sodas - cold brew coffees, cream sodas with real vanilla, even bubbly teas in bold flavors like mango and hibiscus!

More than tantalizing my taste buds, I loved knowing many of these drinks offered healthy virtues - antioxidants, electrolytes, probiotics - instead of the usual post-hangover recovery required from my Chateau Margaux. Sipping a refreshing golden elixir with peach from my Arizona terrace at dusk, I realized one needn’t sacrifice an ounce of glamour or excitement by living sober.

When my virtuously sober January ended, I confess I did slowly start raising glasses again - but with much more mindful moderation than in my party days in Beijing! You’ll be glad to know I no longer felt any craving to rush through happy hours, guzzling cheap liquor before last call.

Instead, every champagne toast or wine spritzer I indulged in, I savored fully, almost ceremonially, rather than thoughtlessly throwing it back. I discovered after abstaining that I actually required much less alcohol to feel happily satisfied. Why have six drinks alone when two in good company fill the soul just as nicely? I had completely reset my relationship with alcohol.

In many ways, Dry January left me feeling more authentically glamorous - I no longer depended on external intoxicants to feel exuberant joie de vivre! And the clear euphoria I discovered in a month without drinks became my new normality, rather than a temporary phase. So while a glass of Malbec may still adorn my evenings occasionally, it no longer flows quite so freely.

Of course, I’m not one to demonize alcohol altogether–I know it affects each person differently. Oh, some poor things clearly should never touch a drop, becoming intolerable beasts after just one glass! I’ve never understood angry, melancholic drunks - if drinking only worsens your mood, why bother?

Others simply shine with joviality and wit after a few cocktails. And who can blame toasting with bubbly to celebrate life’s milestones? The decision to partake is completely personal. But at my age, one has to face certain harsh realities–recent research unequivocally shows that even moderate alcohol intake damages health over time.

And frankly, maintaining an eternal air of fabulous youthfulness now motivates me more than keeping a perpetual bubbly high! I’ll still toast special occasions with a glass or two among friends–but prudently pacing myself rather than reverting to careless overindulgence. Moderation is key in all refined pursuits. Because true glamour radiates from within, no vines required!

Take that, champagne! I’m drunk on life!

Picture: Courtesy of Glen Loveland

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