My relationship with alcohol
Last year, friends and I stayed in Brooklyn for a February weekend.
That Saturday night, we grabbed dinner in Manhattan, went to a show at the Comedy Cellar, then got drinks afterward. I got absolutely trashed and ended up face-down in a toilet at the bar.
My concerned friends asked the staff to unlock the bathroom door. Two of them had to bring me back to life. I was the sloppy college kid who ruins the night and needs to be taken care of.
The problem was that I was 28 years old.
I’ve only been hungover once since that following Sunday. And that was from a wedding I went to later that fall.
There’s a natural direction I and many of the people around me seem to take. As we get older and further away from our early twenties, we step away from partying and late nights…while stepping toward more responsibility and focus.
I drink casually with my friends. Every now and then I enjoy getting drunk and partying with them.
But nights like the one I had in NYC have made me ponder over a few questions these last couple of years:
What do I want my relationship with alcohol to look like?
What do I not want when it comes to alcohol?
How can I harmonize my love for sobriety and clean living with my love for drinking with my friends?
I had my monthly phone call with a close friend yesterday evening. He’s been sober for years and he helped me shape my thoughts on all this.
Let’s start with where I’m at right now.
It’s May of 2023. I just moved into my aunt’s home for the summer. My goals are:
increase my coaching fees
grow the podcast
publish my book
spend lots of time with family
None of these goals require me to drink booze. In fact, each of them will be substantially easier to get done without alcohol in my bloodstream.
Aside from hangovers taking hours of brainpower away from us…alcohol demolishes sleep quality, makes it easier to eat poorly, and weakens decision-making.
Sobriety is the ultimate productivity hack. I do challenges like Sober October and Dry January where I don’t drink at all for a month. I feel like Captain America every time.
I don’t say these things to demonize myself or others who drink in moderation. But the fact of the matter is that alcohol is technically a poison we use to feel good.
So when we drink, we’re weighing the costs and benefits of doing so and making a decision. I’ve been more than willing to sacrifice a hungover Sunday for an exciting and reckless wedding, for example.
But to be honest, I feel like I’m in a season of my life where the costs of drinking aren’t worth it to me.
I’m in an environment where I’m perfectly positioned to get a ton of work done, take excellent care of my physical and mental health, and prepare to move to South America this September. (More on that in a future blog.)
I don’t have many friends down here. And I like that.
It means more time with my family. More time getting things done. More time taking nature walks alone and coming up with ideas. More time on the podcast. More time to write.
My decision isn’t 100% flushed out yet. But there’s a chance I don’t drink a drop of alcohol until I fly to Columbia after the summer is over.
That would ensure I get to keep my daily 6am mornings, gym routine, and clear mind.
I have weddings and bachelor parties to go to this summer. Events I’m ecstatic about.
There’s some anxiety though.
What’s fun for me at 29 is not what was fun for me at 23. And whenever I have sloppy nights, it’s because I drank like I did when I was in college.
I generally don’t enjoy going to bars or clubs. I have tinnitus and can’t hear well. So loud, crowded spaces make me uncomfortable unless I’m wasted.
My favorite place to drink with friends is at their house. During dinner, on their couch, having fruitful conversation or playing games.
Despite all that, I can have fun with close friends no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
The last place you’d find me is at a Miami nightclub. But next weekend I’ll be doing just that at a best friend’s bachelor party. And you can bet I’ll be having a damn good time.
I’m excited to see Miami Beach. I smile at the thought of the bride and groom having the time of their lives with their closest friends. I’m honored to be a part of it.
But what if I don’t want to drink? What if I get tired like I normally do around 10pm? I don’t want to be the buzzkill who gets a solo Uber home at midnight because he can’t stay up.
Which brings me to the second question I opened with: What do I not want when it comes to alcohol?
I don’t want obligation. From others, yes. But mostly from myself.
We live in a drinking culture. Wine with dinner. Drinks on a first date. A beer with the boys. Many cultures do this; the US isn’t special.
But the funny thing about alcohol is, it’s the only substance that if you tell people you don’t do it, they assume you have a problem.
Unless I’m repressing something super deep, I don’t think I have a problem. I just don’t want it in my life at this time. And beyond that, I don’t want to expect it to be in my life. I certainly don’t want my friends to be insulted if I choose not to partake.
So what do I want?
I want to live a clean and healthy life. I want to rely on my skills and personality to have fun and confidence, not on a chemical that makes me care less. I want to go to bed and wake up early practically every day.
I also want the freedom to drink a beer if I want one.
Last year, I was doing a month free of booze. I visited my dad and we were sitting on a dock eating dinner and watching the sunset. There was no pressure from him or guilt from me, but I just wanted to drink a beer with him.
So I did. And we had a lovely evening just chatting and laughing.
My aim is not to see alcohol as this evil, demonic entity. I can have a glass of wine with a friend without spiraling into chaos. It’s about autonomy for me.
Maybe I get into Miami and I do want to get drunk with my friends. But I want to freedom to not do that if I don’t want to.
I explained what was so frustrating to my friend on the phone yesterday.
I love systems. Algorithms to operate within.
“Oh, I’m faced with this situation. Well my rule is, I do this. But if that, then I do this.”
This is different. There’s no absolute consistency; it’s feelings-based. My relationship with alcohol is dependent on the setting, my mood, the people around me, what’s going on in my life, and a plethora of other factors that are impossible to predict ahead of time.
But I take solace in the fact that my close friends are kind, gracious, and understanding.
It’s funny that I have anxiety about this bachelor party because I know for certain that, aside from some light jabbing, they would be totally supportive if I told them I didn’t want to drink. Plus, alcohol or not, nothing will get in the way of me being present and excited during my time there.
There will come a day when I embrace sobriety and give up alcohol entirely. I don’t think that day is today. But there’s no reason I can’t start moving in that direction.
A few days ago, a buddy said to me, “Many beers to be had this summer.”
No, I don’t think there will be.