Growing up, the only day I looked forward to more than Christmas was my birthday. All the attention, presents, and densely packed sugar was hard not to love. I always thought my February birthday was perfect – there were no nearby major holidays and it was placed almost like a stepping stone between Christmas and Spring Break. From there you were weeks away from summer, then the family vacation, and suddenly it’s Halloween and the process is starting all over again.

My eldest brother did his best to pull a Jesus, but hung around in the womb just a few hours too long. I always felt he got gypped on the whole birthday experience. After weeks, if not months, of festivities leading up to Christmas, nobody was ever in their most chipper of moods come December 26. Plus the Present Department was always lacking for him. I can’t tell you how many times he got a Christmas/Birthday gift! How such an activity isn’t next to mutiny and treason in the law books has always baffled me.

However, 2009 brought with it a special event. His 21st birthday.

To say that there were many “flask opportunities” would be an understatement. I still question whether the photos from that evening weren’t doctored. I don’t have any recollection of the man resembling myself in them and I sure as hell don’t make it a habit of wearing as little as he was in the photos timestamped after 3am.

The first thing I noticed when I sobered up days later was a path of destruction rivaling anything Mother Nature could conjure. Cell phones smashed, clothes shredded, and a stack of receipts totaling Burundi’s GDP. I quickly surmised that a self-imposed punishment was in order.

From December 28 to February 6 I drank not a single drop of alcohol. I’ve never been a heavy drinker but at the same time I’ve always had a beer here, a whiskey there. Answering user e-mails from HIF is always easier with a scotch in one hand and who can attend an elementary school play without at least a few swigs from the flask?

At first, the experience was harder than I’d ever imagined. For the first two weeks, Happy Hour would roll around and I’d instinctively reach for a brew. There weren’t any physical pains, it wasn’t as if I went through withdrawal. But the simple act of consciously and repeatedly checking myself tested a part of my willpower that hasn’t had to work in a long time.

By the end of January, the urge to drink had evaporated entirely. I finally cracked a beer on my birthday as never drinking again hadn’t been the goal at all. However, I now drink barely half as much as previously and the experience left me curious as to what else I could give up for a month.

The list has grown to both things to give up and activities to do. So far I have:

Give Up

  • meat
  • talking
  • vehicles

Do

  • saying yes to everything
  • try a new thing a day
  • talk a one stranger per day
  • get in touch with one person per day
  • meditate

I know, not that inspiring so far. Of course, I’m open to suggestions *hint hint*. Mind you, I plan to blog the hell out of these activities, so help me come up with some events that are somewhat worthwhile, challenging, and interesting. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to partake in a bit of imbibing.