I’ve just gone a month without drinking. My reasons were simple – April is alcoholism awareness month, and I realized I hadn’t given a single thought to alcoholism despite my love of alcohol consumption. As a matter of fact, not many people in the booze-blogging community seem to mention it with any sort of regularity, despite its specter looming behind every pint glass. So I went dry for a month, and it was one of the more difficult tests of willpower I’ve ever had.

I know that sounds dramatic, especially to those who only occasionally indulge. But even though I’m not an alcoholic, I learned a few things about just how ingrained alcohol is in my life. My previous update talked about how many social situations require booze to seem normal, and how alcohol’s ubiquity makes it a singular drug for an addict. Even if they clean up it will be unavoidable for the rest of their lives, unlike its more insidious kin like heroin and meth.

If a recovering heroin addict really wanted to, they could probably spend the rest of their lives without ever seeing the drug again. Good luck attempting that with alcohol. Every party, every dinner, every family reunion an alcoholic is going to have to face their demons.

Then there’s the pressure. Maybe an alcoholic doesn’t want to get into depth about why they’re sipping Perrier instead of a cocktail. But when employers, clients or friends continually insist on you partaking, it can grow increasingly tricky to dance around the question. For me, I just didn’t want to have to explain in depth my reasons for not drinking. For an alcoholic, it might mean their reputation is permanently altered in the eyes of their coworkers.

(Alcohol-free April 2016: Update #1)

Another problem I encountered for no-alcohol April is just how much I missed drinking. Not to get drunk, or party, or be social – although all of that tempted me at some point. But the actual taste and feeling of some of my favourite drinks. Every new beer release, or wine recommendation had to be jotted down for later. It was maddening at times to see my favourite breweries put out a limited offer and have to watch it go by without a chance to try it.

Here’s the thing, and I cannot stress this enough – it was damn hard for me, and if it was hard for me I can’t even fathom what it’s like to go through your days as a recovering alcoholic. I shudder to think of the herculean willpower it must take to resist drinking when you’re overcoming an addiction in addition to all of the temptations I faced.

Now for the good news. Sure it was hard, but the positives were readily apparent. I dropped a significant amount of weight, without any radical lifestyle change. Without beer, it just seems to fall off. Second, my weekend mornings were never more productive. You know that hangover you’re constantly dreading? It’s not inevitable – without booze it simply doesn’t exist. And the best part of all was my budget. I was hit with a couple of unexpected expenses this April, and they really couldn’t have picked a better month. Without booze to soak up my money, I felt like my discretionary spending limit was effectively doubled. Turns out, I was spending A LOT on booze.

One thing I’m proud to report, is going dry gets easier. I’m not an alcoholic, and I have no right giving advice to one. But if you’re looking to cut back a bit, and worried it’s going to suck, just know that it really does become easier. You become accustomed to reaching for a tea mug instead of a tumbler at night. You re-introduce yourself to a lot of friends you haven’t met sober in a long time. Your health and fitness take a notable jump. And you stop missing it so much.

Midnight, May 1st, I ended my dry month with a cold pint of beer. I followed it up with a shot of bourbon, and was intending to go in for more – but I fell asleep. My tolerance has completely eroded in my month off, and I’m going to be forced to take it easy in the coming weeks. And you know what? I’m happy about it. I’d like to preserve some of the benefits I realized in April, and ease up on my consumption a bit. Turns out I didn’t need as much alcohol as I thought.

At the end of it all I’ll say this – enjoy your drinks. If there comes a point where the pleasure wanes but the urge persists, maybe pause and consider why. For the rest of you, I raise a toast to your good booze, and your moderate consumption. Cheers, and remember to sip it slow.

If you’re looking to help combat alcoholism or other addiction, feel free to donate to CAMH who are on the front lines of helping people regain control of their lives.