So my fast ended more than a week ago, giving me plenty of time to reflect. And, as I have been able to ease back into my norm of being able to have a beer with dinner or on a sunny weekend afternoon, I have also been able to observe the very real contrast in my life with beer and without it.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. I lost about 5 pounds. While this is a nice benefit, in fact it is not as much weight as I thought I might drop. Why? Well, this leads into some of the psychological observations. Because unfortunately for me, I sublimated my cravings for beer into cravings for food, smoking my pipe and, on the plus side, into exercise. Obviously the fact that I found myself constantly snacking is what got in the way of my more ambitious weight loss goals. I also started smoking my pipe much more often. Before my fast I would smoke perhaps only once a week. During Lent this increased four or five fold.
On the healthy side, I also added to my exercise routine, adding daily sets of pushups and sit ups. In the case of food and smoking I was trying to fill a void that I would often try to fill with a drink. In the case of the exercise, at least I found a positive way of finding a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
I discovered something else when it came to power of association. Often on Friday nights I would have a gin and tonic. During Lent I found that a simple tonic and lime would often bring the same sense of relaxation and enjoyment. Indeed, I found that many things in my life that I thought might have been affected by alcohol were in fact, not. For example, I tend to fall asleep in my living room chair between 9:30 and 9:45. I had assumed that having a beer or two was the culprit behind my dozing off. But as I found out during my fast, apparently, I am just getting old since I still would doze off when dead sober.
Perhaps most interesting to me was the fact that by the last week I actually was not missing it at all. Whereas in the first couple of weeks every time I walked by my beer fridge or liquor cabinet I would find my eyes and mind drawn into thinking about a drink, by the end, I barely missed it or thought about it at all. I was even in the habit of getting a glass of wine for my wife without having the slightest desire to have some myself.
Now that life is back to normal, I find that my fast is still having a beneficial effect. I no longer have the same impulse to go and get a beer as my first action at the end of the work day. Moreover, I find that I am satisfied with few beers and am better able to listen to my body when it comes time to stop.
So was it fun? Hardly. There were times, especially on weekends or at times of stress when I really struggled. But was it worth it? Most definitely. If you are ever wondering if you are drinking too much or are coming to rely on alcohol to meet other emotional or spiritual needs, then I highly recommend an extended period of fasting. It may well help you get some clarity when it comes to your favorite beverage.