When you abstain from alcohol for longer than a few days, it causes anxiety — for other people. I’m of course mostly joking, but there’s a kernel of truth to it. Since announcing that I’m doing the Nola.Com #AlcoholFreeFor40 challenge, put forth by local dietitian Molly Kimball, my friends and family have expressed surprise, admiration and the aforementioned anxiety, but the latter is more over the idea of doing it themselves rather than over me doing it. There also has been a lot of good-natured teasing about whether or not I can actually do it and suggestions to quit quitting. Mostly, people are curious about whether or not I miss it; if it has been difficult; and if I’m craving any of my favorite beverages. The answers are no; no; and yes, sort of. 

This weekend was the first alcohol-free one of the challenge, so if by craving they mean the thought that it would be nice to enjoy a French 75 Saturday afternoon with my husband Mark; or I’d enjoy a beer with the crawfish boil we had Sunday for lunch; and the idea that a glass of wine would go well with our Valentine’s Day steak dinner, then yes, I’ve sort of craved my favorite drinks. 

With that in mind, during our Wednesday night grocery-shopping trip, I rounded up the ingredients for mocktails, as well as a six-pack of Guiness Kaliber non-alcoholic beer, and a bottle of Fre, alcohol free red blend wine. (Note: Some bitters and non-alcoholic wine and beer have trace amounts of alcohol. It’s so negligible however, you could for example drink the entire six-pack of .5 percent alcohol per bottle Kaliber and not get even the slightest bit tipsy.) 

Living in Ab-stentia: Week OneSaturday afternoon, Mark whipped up a non-alcoholic French 75 (the juice of half a lemon, simple syrup to taste, three shakes of Peychaud’s Bitters — to mimic the botanicals in gin — and a top off of club soda in place of champagne). I sipped that while Mark had a martini and we listened to music in the living room. It didn’t taste exactly like a French 75 (it was brighter and a little closer to fizzy lemonade with depth), but I didn’t miss the alcohol. We had a lovely cocktail hour, the same as any, albeit slightly shorter. The non-alcoholic Guiness I had with the crawfish tasted really good and I plan to make it a staple for those times when I want a beer, but perhaps have a presentation or an otherwise busy week at work. The Fre wine left a little to be desired — it’s a tad overly grape-y by itself. But paired with the steak, it seemed a bit more mellow. This week, I plan to try Ariel alcohol removed cabernet sauvignon, about which I’ve heard good things, as well track down an alcohol-removed sparkling wine. My hope is that the later enhances the French 75 mocktail. 

For the most part, drinking seems to be more about the social aspect for me, but so far, it hasn’t been a big deal. I haven’t really noticed a difference in my skin or weight (weight was 156 last week and this week). Since I’m still coming off of laryngitis, congestion and a cough, my energy hasn’t noticeably changed, but I have noticed my productivity is a little higher. Confession: The clothing pile that emerges on the trunk at the end of the bed has ceased to exist. It seems alcohol causes that pile and not having it causes you to put away your clothes at the end of the night instead of dropping them on the nearest available surface. Sunday morning, I made Mark a homemade Valentine’s Day gift and baked vanilla cupcakes for him and our neighbors, all before 11 a.m. I’m always up by 6:30 or 7 a.m., even on weekends, but usually spend the morning relaxing and reading. 

Living in Ab-stentia: Week OneAll in all, it has been a positive experience. I’m trying different teas and beverages, such as the blood orange Italian soda I had at Pizza Dominica the other day and essentially getting out of my rote habit of ordering a glass of wine. This weekend, a friend who also took on the challenge is having me over for coloring and to try this fancy tea someone gifted to her and I have a tentative date to go see an art show with my neighbor, who also is doing the challenge. 

I think any larger changes will likely happen in the coming weeks, but we’ll see. Cheers to a fine first week and onward! 


P.S. It’s not too late to join the challenge! Follow me on Twitter(@melaniespencer) and Instagram, as well as here for updates and if you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions, you can email Kimball at eatingright@nola.com or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.