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AGING IS A CHOICE Part 12- Giving Up Alcohol, and Gaining Something New

By Robert Manni

Let’s face it. Our culture is fueled by alcohol. Whether it’s a celebration, business dinner, meeting friends to watch a game, or even a quiet night at home, alcohol is too often part of the routine—and that can be a problem as we age. The cumulative effects of drinking are not good for you. Studies consistently show that long term use of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive issues. Yet, the wheels of our culture continue to be lubricated by alcohol-friendly activities. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion, but as we age, if we are not careful, our relationship with alcohol can become the seeds of our demise. Allow me to tell you a story…

I worked in the wine and spirits business at Madison Avenue’s top advertising agencies and over the years I attended countless business dinners and industry-related events. Believe me, I learned how to handle my booze and never thought my consumption was an issue. It was part of the business I was in, and I enjoyed many social events where alcohol was part of the package.

However, a few years ago, at home I suffered a severe case of appendicitis. The attack hit my abdomen after dinner. It felt like a gas bubble that needed to be released. But it never passed, and the pain only grew worse. It became so severe that at one point I felt my life force draining out of my body. I needed to do something, or it was goodbye forever. Drenched with sweat, I willed my life force back. As I did, a voice in my mind clearly said, “Don’t drink alcohol”.

After the appendectomy, I thought about the voice I’d heard and decided to take the message seriously.

I stopped drinking

At first, this was a real challenge. Alcohol seemed to be everywhere. But I was resolute. Throughout the whole summer with the cafes filled with folks enjoying cocktails, I stuck with it. Somehow, I made it through the holidays, and an entire year. I felt a sense of accomplishment, clearer mind, slimmer waistline, and more energy. My health and outlook had vastly improved during the year, so I decided to keep going.

After three years of complete sobriety, I realize that abstaining from alcohol was one of the best decisions of my life. Yet, there were some things I missed about drinking. Watching people drinking in bars and restaurants, I had an epiphany. Although for some, alcohol can lead to addiction, this may not be the sole reason people have a hard time quitting alcohol. It dawned on me that it was the “ritual” of drinking that bound so many to it. The drinking “rituals” often become intoxicating. Whether it’s pulling the cork from a bottle of wine or popping open a frosty beer, pouring your beverage for that first sip, all of it is a familiar behavior that makes us feel good. What if I could maintain the ritual while eliminating the alcohol?

Alcohol-removed beverages

Through trial and error, I discovered alcohol-removed beers, wine and spirits that satisfied my rituals. There was an initial trade off in the tastes, but no alcohol-related issues like hangovers, sloppy talk, heightened aggression, DUI’s, or feeling left out. I became a boomer dabbling in the mocktail movement that’s been embraced by millennials and Gen Z and Y. It was another choice keeping me young. Now, I’m having my cake and eating it, too, just without the alcohol.

So, if you are over fifty and want to stop or cut down on your alcohol consumption, consider switching to alcohol-removed beverages. You can still partake in the behaviors you’re accustomed to without the physical and mental toll, or addiction that can accompany a drinking lifestyle. 

Whether you drink alcohol or not, is entirely up to you. Just remember though, how we age is always a choice.