You know how the doctor always asks how much alcohol you drink? Don’t ask me why, but I actually told the truth once. This is what happened next.

“Every night?” asked the doctor, eyebrows raised.

“Pretty much,” I said.

“That’s quite a bit,” he said.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said. “Why, should I be worried?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor. “When was the last time you quit for a while?”

I really had to think about that. “I’m not sure,” I lied, trying to buy time.

“What do you mean, ‘I’m not sure?'” he said pointedly.

“Well, I just can’t remember ever having quit.”

“Hmm,” he said, “Do you think you have a problem?”

“No, not really,” I said defensively. “I mean, I never drink during the day, so it never interferes with my work. Still, I don’t know, I guess the thought has crossed my mind once or twice.” Actually, it had crossed my mind way more than once or twice.

“There is a way to find out you know?” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I said, intrigued. “How?”

“Quit for a month,” he said. “If you can do that without much difficulty, you’re fine.”

“Huh,” I said, suddenly not so intrigued. “Well, I’m going to have to try that sometime.”

“Why not now?” said the doctor.

“Um, what do you mean, ‘now?’” I said, caught off guard.

“Now,” he said emphatically, “As in right now.”

“Um …“ I said, starting to panic.

“Look Steve,” he said, “You seem concerned. If you want to find out, quit for a month starting today. Then you’ll know, once and for all.” Then he just stared at me.

Feeling the pressure mounting, I suddenly heard myself say, “OK.” Deep inside I knew that if I didn’t meet the challenge I’d forever wonder if I had a problem. “OK,” I said again, this time with conviction. “I’ll do it.”

And I did. A month to the day, including my birthday. I discovered five things along the way: 1) There is such a thing as nonalcoholic wine; 2) it sucks; 3) it didn’t really bother me that my wife drank; 4) it didn’t affect me in any material way; and 5) I apparently do not have a drinking problem. Good to know.

So why do I drink so much? Guess I like it. I like the taste. I like the ritual. I like how it helps to create a nice separation between the work day and the night. And I like the buzz. It’s fun. I do wish that wine had less alcohol and still tasted the same, but that, I’m told, is impossible.

Incidentally, I believe the test works for any “addiction” you might be concerned about. You do have to be honest about it and commit to someone who will hold you accountable; that’s the only way to really know. You can do it annually, if you like. I have friends that do, but not me. Once was quite enough, thank you very much.

Image credit Hardleers via Flickr