I Gave Up Alcohol for 33 Days, Here’s What Happened

The first night I arrived at my new assignment, the pastor and I went out to a local establishment—an Irish Pub.  I loved the ambiance of the place and it was one mile from the house.  I figured I would become a regular patron.  And I was right.  It was a convenient place to go for a Friday Fish Fry or for Prime Rib on Saturday.  I could walk there and get some exercise too.  During my visits, I learned of their BAC (Beer Advocates Club) and how if you drank 50 beers, you would get your name engraved on a plaque and placed on the wall.  Challenge accepted.  Challenge met in 1 and ½ years.  Statistically, that averages a beer every week or two.  More recently though I experienced a loss in my life, and was grieving over it.  I experienced a range of emotions: anger and sadness.  I felt alone and abandoned.  As I processed everything, it became easy to stop by my favorite Irish Pub and get a drink or two.

I justified it in many ways. I no longer have cable, so I went to the Irish Pub to watch the World Series, election results, and football games. That was my excuse. The pub is conveniently located right off the exit to get to the house, and I drive right by their driveway.  Often, I would pull in and get a drink: “I just want a beer, and there is none in the fridge at home.”  My more frequent visits labeled me a regular and I was known on a first name basis. I began to consider this a ministry. They knew I was a priest. And we had some serious conversations. But it became another justification, allowing me to unhealthily cope with my emotions.

Dissatisfied with the direction everything in my life was going, I turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman to whom I have been devoted for years and who I study and write about professionally.  I knew January 1st was a little over a month away, and I decided I would renew my Marian consecration.  As I embarked on this task, I thought, maybe I should give up drinking for the 33 days as a sacrifice. Little did I know that on Day 3 of the consecration, I would be encouraged to give something up as I continued my preparation.  I took it as an affirmation from God.  In the initial days of the preparation, many references to the spirit of the world pertained to drunkenness.  Seeing those references affirmed my resolve to renounce alcohol for the duration of my consecration renewal.  This is what I learned during my inspired 33-days without alcohol:

I Spent my Evenings Differently

When do people go to the pub and get a drink?  Typically in the evening.  While one might want to go for just a short while, it often turned into a bigger time commitment.  If I went at 8:00, to watch Sunday Night or Monday Night Football, I wouldn’t get home until 10:00 or 10:30.  My evening was pretty much shot.  And while two drinks doesn’t inebriate a person, some mental capacities are diminished, so reading or writing wasn’t going to happen.  Not going to the pub freed up my evenings to do more productive things.  I went skiing, read books, and watched wholesome movies (like A Christmas Carol or The Bells of St. Mary).

My Prayer at Night was Better

After a few drinks and going to retire for the evening, I rushed my prayer, whether it was Compline or any other type of prayer.  Because I was at home, I prayed more devoutly from the heart before bed, rather than just fulfilling an obligation and paying lip service to God.  I did more spiritual reading especially surrounding the topic of Advent.  All of this allowed me truly to say that I had the best Advent ever.  As a bonus, because I was already at home and not out, after I prayed, I went to bed earlier, and got more shut eye each night, allowing me to get up earlier and pray more before the day began.

I Learned Temperance and Self-Denial

During my thirty-three days, I forced myself to deny drinking.  At Christmas parties, I refrained from any alcoholic beverages and had a white soda or water.  I did return to my favorite Irish Pub to have dinner with friends, and because I don’t have cable, to watch the Packer game one Sunday afternoon.  Each time, I ordered Sprite or water.  It wasn’t awkward, and it showed me that I could truly deny myself.

I Became Aware of What Happens to Others After Drinking

For the first time, I went to festivities and refrained from drinking.  It allowed me to experience events differently, but also to observe others after a few drinks.  I never could observe in this way before, since I usually had a beer or cocktail.  This helped me to realize drinking makes you a different person.  Even if you have one drink, I became convinced you act differently.  Seeing the actions and behaviors of others after drinking inspired me to hold firm to my resolve.

I Was More Generous

Imagine going to a place to have a beer and the cost associated with that.  $4.00 a pint (at least), maybe two drinks; you are at 8 bucks and then the tip.  And you can’t go to a pub and not order some food, only if it is an appetizer.  The bill then could range anywhere from $15-20.  Do that three or four times a week, and that’s a significant amount of change.  I noticed my bank account had a little extra money this month, which allowed me to be more generous in supporting people in need during the Holidays.  Not only did I save money by not drinking, but I noticed I did not eat out as much either.  I would go out to eat and have a drink to accompany my meal.  Take away the beer, and I opted to stay home for dinner.  Saving money on needless meals or drinks allowed me to help others who were in need.

I No Longer Desired It

By Day 21 of my 33-day alcohol abstinence, I realized I no longer desired alcohol.  The first few days, especially after a long night at the office, all I wanted to do was have a drink.  I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth it, and persevered.  At least for now, the very idea of having a drink doesn’t attract me.  I don’t desire it.  I’m happy with how things are right now.

In my previous Lenten observances, I tried to give up alcohol, but I always caved to the “Sunday is not really a Lenten day” and satisfied my thirst for a beer.  Usually by the third or fourth week I abandoned my alcohol fast in favor of an easier penance.  I never thought I would make it for 33 days.  But I did.  Maybe it was because I had the help of Mary who inspired my fast or I realized that I absolutely needed this now in my life.  I didn’t give up drinking because I thought I had a problem.  But I think if I didn’t take my 33-day hiatus, it quickly would have become a problem in 2017.

Now, as I’ve noticed the diminished desire for alcohol, my alcohol fast will continue because what I have found without the bottle was peace, happiness, and contentment.  I have the Blessed Mother to thank, because as a mother, she looked out for her son, and inspired me to live a better, healthier, and holier way.

Thanks, Mom.

Fr. Edward Looney

By

Fr. Edward Looney was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin on June 6, 2015.  A member of the Mariological Society of America, Fr. Looney publishes regularly on Marian topics, including the approved 1859 Wisconsin apparition.  His latest devotional book is A Rosary Litany.  To learn more, visit arosarylitany.com.  You can also follow Fr. Edward on Twitter, Facebook,Instagram, or Soundcloud

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  • kirk

    Thank you Fr Looney…that was really good. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol, I never buy the stuff, but maybe once or twice a year at a friend’s house, I might have about 2 ounces of wine. But, I am addicted to chocolate. It would be interesting for me to declare a six month fast from chocolate and see what changes may be in store for my moods. Seriously though, not trying to trivialize the addiction to alcohol which is so much worse. I have a son who is, and it’s probably even more serious drinking than you describe and it’s so hard to watch him destroy himself. He’s 50 and looks 70…I pray for him every day and hope that one day soon, he will have the courage to stop drinking.

  • Carol Goodson

    A year ago, I started fasting every Friday in reparation for the sins of my past life (before I became a Catholic). It was a little hard at first, but now I actually look forward to my day devoted to the Lord. I hope it’s not self-serving to say that it does give me a good feeling to know that I do possess the self-discipline to do it, and besides the spiritual effects, there have been some great physical effects as well. Good for you, and thanks for sharing!

  • jim8107

    The key is moderation, not teetotaling. Let us not forget that the first public miracle of our Lord was to change water to wine. And as a Fr. John Ricardo has pointed out in one of his talks, “al lot of wine.” Not an approval for excess (see paragraph 2290 in the Catechism), but alcoholic beverages, properly enjoyed, are a blessing.

  • Jim, I do agree with you. Each person must make the decision on their own. By no means was my article to tell everyone to be dry. That’s left to each person to decide. I’ve noticed very positive effects in my life as a result of my decision to refrain. I think alcohol is something that can quickly get out of hand, so we have to keep it in check. For me, I knew I needed a break. There are many people in the world who have seen the problem with alcohol and have left it behind through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. To each their own.

  • Seamrog

    Good for you Father! What a nice article. Make me do a little thinking….

  • me, myself & I r all here

    Thanks for the 33 days to morning glory!…
    …. Loss can be life changing & can open the door to addictive behaviors & attitudes….
    my prayer for your losses…
    further… there are also places to go to… AA, NA, GA… for help in a variety of areas. Free coffee, fellowship & a life without the use of…..
    and u can go to the pub, diner, wherever with a great bunch of people…new found friends

  • me, myself & I r all here

    pray for your son, as will i, for the “gift of desperation.” By then, it will be his brokenness, not courage, that can bring him a new way of living instead of living among the walking dead.

  • Thomas Sharpe

    I’m a home brewer and usually have one glass of beer almost everyday, except during Lent. It’s not the alcohol I am sometimes concerned about, it’s the calories. Comsuming an extra 300 calories of craft beer a day can add up. To compensate I workout, which is then healthier overall.

    I love home brewing for the ability to make great beer and share with friends and family.
    Once I did give up an alcohol for about six months, there can be an element of pride with that -be careful.
    Padre Pio had a glass of beer almost everyday, so it can’t be that bad.
    Moderation is absolutely key, if anyone has a problem with moderation stop immediately. I think home brewing has actually helped me with moderation and my family. When my oldest son went off to college and to a party with beer, he has continued to moderate his intake as well. “Yeah, that’s beer, my Dad makes it” (And it’s a lot better than this.)

  • FreemenRtrue

    I started saying rosaries a few months before the election and then kept at it. Usually have a Vodka -Cranberry juice or two in the evening. One day it just stopped. I think it was the rosaries.

  • Florian

    Jan. 7, 2017: I’m very happy for this Priest that he was able to overcome his alcohol addiction but I am stunned that with such an enormous shortage of Priests, he has so much free time on his hands. How can this be?

  • Robert Andreas

    Before my first wife became very ill, I hardly said the Rosary at any time. We required to travel to another State for my daughter to care for my wife as she was diagnosed with cancer. I then began to say a daily Rosary for her. Although her cancer wasn’t cured, the day before she died, a priest came to give her conffession, which lasted for at least one hour. So I think I can safely assume that the priest had cleared all the problems, and gave her absolution. That’s our reward for my saying the Daily Rosary. I happened upon a booklet called Spiritual Rosary, which had a little meditation on each Hail Mary. I memorised these, so, with just a bit of care, distraction, wanderings dont creep in. AMEN!

  • Pius Subil

    I became better after attending AA. And I am strengthen by frequent attendance of daily Morning Mass, recitation of the Rosary and regular confession. Saint John Vianney said these in one of his sermons, ” Habitual drunkenness is not one of those sins which time and grace will correct. To cure this sin, not an ordinary grace but a MIRACLE of grace is required……Take a look at this poor drunkard, my dear brethren. He is full of wine and his purse is empty. He throws himself down on a bench or table. He is amazed in the morning to find himself still in the night club, when he thought that he was at home. He takes himself off after having spent all his money, and often, in order to able able to leave, he is forced to leave his hat or coat in pledge for the wine he has drunk. When he arrives home, his poor wife and their children,whom he has left without bread, and only their eyes to weep with, have to take flight from him unless they want to be ill treated, as if they were the cause of his spending all his money and getting his affairs into the bad state in which they are. Ah dear Lord, how deplorable is the state of the habitual drunkard…..It is greatly to be feared that those who are gripped by this vice never cure themselves of it!!!….Let us pray to the all-merciful God to preserve US from it….” wow….I can feel the arrows piercing my heart when a man of God speaks

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