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Mar 22, 201610:24 PM
Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer

Living in Ab-stentia: Week Six – The Final Countdown

Four Bloody Marys and a Virgin

photos by melanie warner spencer

If you count today, there are four days remaining until I get to enjoy the delicious taste of Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne. The NOLA.Com #AlcoholFreeFor40 Challenge ends Easter Sunday. My blissfully long weekend however, begins Thursday afternoon and runs through Monday. Then of course the Louisiana Derby in its festive glory is Saturday. I can see the finish line and hope to sail across it without a hitch.

The past two weeks have been the most challenging. There were so many moments when I wanted to cut it short and have a glass of wine or a beer. The pork poor boy and Parmesan fries I had for lunch one afternoon at Boucherie would have paired well with a glass of bubbly (Open your mind, it would have!). The Virgin Mary I sipped when we had family over for Bloodys after church was lovely, but an adult version would have hit the spot. To wash down crawfish at Bayou Beer Garden during its Saturday crawfish boil is a treat and knocking back a few during our string of visits to Fat Harry’s to watch the University of Kentucky Wildcats take their turn in the NCAA Championship would have eased the pain of their loss to Indiana.

But, I stuck to it and fought through the cravings. I’m patiently awaiting my trophy and congratulatory emails. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time. 

As I approach the end of the 46 days (I did not take a break on Sundays), I must admit I haven’t experienced many revelations. Despite this being the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since — gasp — high school (my parents didn’t have a problem with my brother and I having a glass of wine, beer or nip of bourbon around the house and assumed we were probably going to drink, so they tried to teach us responsible habits). Unless you count the conclusion that I must not drink enough for it to deeply impact my hair, skin (it’s a little softer, but that’s about it), sleep, energy, weight or productivity. I did see an energy surge the third week, but it likely had a lot more to do with the medicine I started taking to treat bronchitis than the absence of alcohol from my life. For a week or so, I was getting up earlier, but that has subsided. It’s good to learn my drinking habits are indeed moderate.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that I don’t feel the desire to stay at happy hours and parties as long and that my old control freak tendencies have reared up a bit. When I was in my teens and 20s, I was inflexible, often to the point of obstinance. Over the years, I’ve loosened up by eons and for whatever reason, during this period of abstention, I’ve felt that old pull to dictate plans and am less keen on the idea of being flexible once plans are underway. The obvious conclusion is that even one drink (or two or three) lowers my inhibitions enough to silence Drill Sargent Melanie for at least a few hours.

Perhaps this more mellow version of myself can be coaxed to the surface by jogging or more meditation than my usual 10 to 20 minutes a day, but — and I’m just going to come right out and say it — drinking is fun and dammit, I enjoy it.

So yes, I can relax and have fun without alcohol. But, I don’t want to. Beer is social and delicious. Wine goes so well with cheese and charcuterie and is delicious. Champagne is festive and delicious. A glass of bourbon on my porch in the evening is my birthright as a Kentuckian and its delicious.

It was eye-opening to live life without alcohol for six weeks. As mentioned in prior posts, it was a great reminder to always have something tasty and non-alcoholic to offer friends and family when they visit or when we have a party. I have a new respect for those who have had to give up alcohol for health reasons. Especially those who live in New Orleans, where alcohol is everywhere and so much a part of the culture. My own tendency to automatically order an alcoholic beverage when we go out to eat has been interrupted and I plan to bring more mindfulness to those situations. Along those lines, I can see myself slowing down and savoring my beverage of choice a little more than prior to this experiment — starting with a chilled, effervescent glass of champagne on Sunday. I did it and I can’t wait to celebrate!


Thanks to everyone for following along the past six weeks. As always please share your own stories, revelations and challenges in the comments or email me at Melanie@MyNewOrleans.Com.





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Bon Vivant

Design, entertaining and good living with New Orleans Bride and Homes & Lifestyles editor Melanie Warner Spencer


Melanie Warner Spencer is a native Kentuckian, but says she got to New Orleans as fast as she could. For more than 16 years, Melanie has covered lifestyle, design and entertainment at various publications, serving as the design columnist at The Austin American-Statesman, a senior staff reporter at the Houston Chronicle and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Houston Brides magazine. Her work also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post and Reuters in the United States and across the globe. In her spare time, Melanie is an award-winning fine art photographer and has been honored by the Texas Press Association for her editorial photography. She also has been honored by the Press Club of New Orleans for its Excellence in Journalism Awards and is currently serving as a media member of the board of directors. Cooking and eating fabulous food and taking road trips with her spouse of 16 years, fellow writer and filmmaker Mark Patrick Spencer however, is at the top of her list of favorite pastimes. Click here to like Spencer's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @MelanieSpencer. 


You can reach her at melanie@myneworleans.com.




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