How I survived a month without beer, from the swish-and-spit tactic to being a hermit

Photo courtesy of Work For Your Beer
Photo courtesy of Work For Your Beer

A version of this story originally appeared on the Work For Your Beer blogWork For Your Beer is the all-inclusive guide to beer fitness in Charlotte, NC. View their calendar for a complete directory of everywhere you can work out and drink beer in the Queen City.

When someone offers you a beer and you tell them you’re not drinking, there are a couple of responses you’ll receive.

“Why?” along with a puzzled look is the first and most common reaction. “Are you pregnant?” is another response (in my case, that one came from people who don’t know me very well). And then there’s “I won’t tell,” accompanied by a creepy wink, which is the worst response I received during this past month.

While I was at Penn State, there were a few times when I decided my body needed a break from the copious amounts of alcohol I was consuming. I would generally detox for a month or two, then hop back on that gin wagon. I called that “balance.” It wasn’t, of course, but my body still appreciated the break.

Earlier this year, I realized I was going a bit overboard with the drinking (I’m the co-founder of Work For Your Beer, and every Work For Your Beer meeting should take place over a beer, right?) and thought it might be time to take another brief break from booze.

I decided to do a 30-day no drinking challenge… which I realize is totally off-brand from everything Work For Your Beer stands for. But I figured I could at least give it a shot and share my results with the Work For Your Beer community.

Here’s how it went.

Week 1: Challenge Accepted

The first week of any challenge is always difficult, but this one was particularly rough: I started the challenge the same day as Charlotte Magazine’s BOB awards. We were celebrating Twerk For Your Beer’s big win by dressing up as flappers and mingling with other Charlotteans.

Normally, a little bit of liquid courage helps my networking game, so I was slightly anxious going into the evening. I only attempted to try my co-founder Alicia’s drink once — and not even because I was looking to cheat on this challenge, but because I had already forgotten I was not supposed to be drinking. Alicia snagged her drink away and laughed at me, and I thought, “This might be a long month.”

The next day, I ran the Warrior Dash, which was an absolute blast. I’m used to finishing any mud run off with an ice cold brew, so I was a little bummed that I couldn’t chug the Dogfishhead SeaQuench Ale that was calling my name at the finish line. Fortunately, that beer still went to a good home (I gave it to my WFYB teammate Danielle’s husband, Doug, who earned it after his Super Mario jump over the Warrior Roast obstacle).

The rest of the week, I basically just avoided social events… but nonetheless, by the end of the week, I was feeling pretty confident about the challenge. I had survived week one!

Week 2: Non-Alcoholic Beverages Galore

I realized pretty early on in this challenge that having alternate, non-alcoholic beverages readily available would be crucial to my survival. Sparkling water, coffee, and kombucha are already a part of my weekly beverage rotation, but I was able to try a whole new variety of different brands and flavors throughout the month.

Some of my favorites included:

– Simply Balanced Cucumber Mint sparkling water

– GT’s Gingerberry kombucha

– An ice cream infused coffee beverage crafted at Trade & Lore (okay, that one was a bit gluttonous of me…)

Every Tuesday, I have a date night with my husband, and in recent months we had gotten into a bad habit of staying in, drinking wine, and playing video games for the evening.

Not drinking actually allowed us to switch up that routine we’d fallen into, so we went disc golfing for the first time. (Fun fact: Charlotte is actually the world capital of disc golfing. There are a ton of courses nearby, if you want to check out this fun and frugal sport!)

Week two brought up only a few hurdles. First, while I was at the 7th Street Public Market, I saw someone drinking champagne and eating cheese at Orrman’s, which obviously triggered me to want to drink champagne and eat cheese at Orrman’s. I also completely botched cooking a meal (fennel bulbs, why are you so hard to cook?), and wanted to cleanse my fennel-filled palate with a glass of Pinot Noir.

But all in all, I made it halfway. Two more weeks to go!

Week 3: Swish & Spit

This week presented a whole new challenge: the Work For Your Beer team was going to Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp.

To be honest, even an adult day camp WITHOUT beer is something I’d get excited about — but being surrounded by beer throughout the day presented a whole new challenge. After nearly killing Alicia in a game of “Hungry Hungry Humans” and sober dancing at the silent disco, I was really craving a beer.

Toward the end of the day, Alicia told me that I HAD to try a limited edition blackberry saison that Sierra Nevada had brewed specifically for Beer Camp. She knew I wasn’t drinking, but she also knows what types of beers I adore (read: sours), so I knew this was serious.

“Why don’t you just swish some in your mouth like wine and then just spit it out?” she said.

This. Was. A. Game. Changer.

I hadn’t even THOUGHT about doing that the entire challenge. But I though, “Screw it,” swished the beer in my mouth (Alicia was right–I did love this beer), and then spit it out (tactfully) in a nearby trash can.

That’s not cheating, right? Right.

Week three down.

Week 4: How to Travel to New Cities *Without* Going to Breweries

During week four, I started a new role at my day job that requires travel to Denver, CO. For those of you who don’t know: Denver is a beer-lover’s dream. And here I was, visiting during the last week of my no drinking challenge.

This was going to be a test of self-control.

Whenever I travel for work, I try to hit up the local breweries. I love chatting with bartenders, learning about the new city from other folks at the bar, and sipping on a craft beer. Plus, it just makes things feel a bit less lonely when you’re in a new city on your own.

My first three days in Denver, I was a hermit. I ordered UberEats to my hotel and avoided contact with the outside world.

The last night, however, I forced myself out of my comfort zone and visited American Cultures, a kombucha taproom. And I ended up having such a unique and fun experience! The place was adorable, AND they host yoga on the weekend (work for your booch, anyone?).

If I’d been drinking, this place probably would not have been at the top of my “must-visit” list simply because of all of the breweries I want to check out in Denver — but I am so happy I went, and I will definitely be back.

And finally, my 30-day challenge came to an end.

The Results

After finishing my 30-day challenge, I thought I would have seen a pretty big impact on my health. I took before and after photos, but there was no visible difference between the two. I checked in on my skin for a “healthy glow,” but nothing notable there either. My sleep quality and energy levels didn’t change.

At the end of the day, I avoided some hangovers, and I was able to have some new experiences–so the challenge wasn’t a complete bust. But for me personally, at least, I can say confidently that finding a healthy balance between drinking and working out is the key to maintaining my sanity.

Now, someone buy me a beer.