Yesterday, 12/28/2019 was Dia's 3rd Annual 30th Birthday. If you feel so inclined, please send her some love. IG is probably the best way to reach her @dianaagco.
Yesterday was also the 5 Year Anniversary of my last alcoholic drink(!), which is the topic of today's email.
Click here if you'd like to read this week's post on SunShak.com. Otherwise, it's pasted below for your convenience.
I Don't Drink Alcohol: Here's Why
I had my last alcoholic drink on December 28th, 2014. I remember the date because that’s Dia’s birthday. That year, her birthday fell on the Sunday after Christmas. It also happened to be the day my entire extended family came together to celebrate the holiday at my parent's house.
After dinner, Dia and I gathered everyone in the kitchen. We announced our decision to have a destination wedding the following fall. Everyone was so excited.
After the congratulatory hugs, kisses, and handshakes, my dad motioned for us to follow him. He was saving a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label for a special occasion and this happened to be it.
I still remember looking down at that glass thinking, "This would make for an excellent last drink..."
The story doesn’t start or end there. I want to explain what lead me to the decision to stop drinking, how I adjusted to it, and the benefits I’ve enjoyed since.
How I Decided To Stop Drinking:
In October 2014, Dia and I opened a small restaurant. As any entrepreneur knows, a new business is like a newborn baby. It demands all of your time, attention, and resources.
I remember we went out for a friend’s birthday after we closed the restaurant one night. We had arranged for a staff member to come in early to open so we could sleep in after enjoying a night out.
I’m sure you can guess what happened. We went out and enjoyed ourselves a bit too much. The following morning, we woke up to a text message that read, “Hey, I’m so sorry, but my car broke down and I can’t make it in to open.” My clock read 15 minutes past opening time.
We had to jump out of bed, race over without getting ready and open the business ourselves. It wasn’t until after our first customer that we realized we were pretty hungover.
I’m sure the “broken down car” was a lie. It’s the equivalent of “my dog ate my homework” for school. With that said, I was still more mad at myself for drinking too much than at my employee for bailing on her shift. I decided right then and there it wouldn’t happen again.
The next time we found ourselves at a social event, I tried to moderate myself on the drinks. It worked, but it wasn’t fun. I never enjoyed the taste of beer or liquor. I drank to get drunk and enjoy myself without inhibitions. That’s the gist of how I thrived socially in college.
After that night, I decided giving up alcohol would be one of my new year’s resolutions for 2015. I planned on making it 90 days and reassessing.
Once I Stopped Drinking:
Not much changed. I didn’t have many opportunities to drink anyway. At this point we pretty much stopped going out to clubs, bars, etc.
About ten days into my resolution, I got Rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdo is a condition caused by excessive tearing of muscle tissue. #CrossFit.
During my hospital stay, my doctor said, “Good thing you don’t abuse alcohol. A less than perfect liver would just make this healing process longer and more difficult.” That stuck with me.
February rolled around and I was a groomsman in a friend’s wedding down in Tampa, Florida. I felt self conscious about hanging out with a handful of friends from college and telling them I’m not drinking.
To my surprise, they took it well. Of course they got in a few jabs at my expense, but I had a great time without alcohol. I even did the worm on the dance floor.
After I achieved the 90 day goal, I decided to stick with it for the rest of the year. The only other real challenge that year was my bachelor party in August. A long weekend in the Poconos in a house filled with my best buds from home, college, and family.
Everyone tried to get me to drink, but I held my stance. Since that weekend back in August 2015, anyone that ever had the ability to peer pressure me stopped.
The final test of the year was our wedding in October. Not drinking that entire weekend only enhanced the experience of the best time of my life. I was convinced. Alcohol was no longer necessary.
Reasons I Continue My Sobriety
It’s Not the Real Me.
In high school, I hung out with the “good kids”. I’m not even kidding, one of my friends got out of getting stopped by the police by saying, “Officer, we’re good kids.”
Anyway, none of us drank or did drugs in high school. Our vice of choice was gambling. I was against the drugs and alcohol scene for the longest time. It scared me.
I personally didn’t have my first drink until I was 18. My sisters threw a party at their apartment for my friends and me the summer before we all went to college. They basically helped us get ready for what the next 4 years would be like. It worked.
I continued the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle into my early 20s. After a while, the fun ran out. Partying lost its appeal and became counter productive to what I was trying to achieve.
I’m a big believer in spending lavishly on things that make me happy and completely cutting out things that are “meh”. Alcohol falls into the “meh” category.
I hardly ever drank at home. I mostly drank in bars, clubs, and restaurants. The cost for a drink in these environments could be up to 10x its’ retail value.
Without getting too into it, alcoholism has shown its ugly face in my family as well as Dia’s. There’s a 0% chance it will ever happen to me.
I am much more concerned with the concept of healthspan than lifespan. I don’t want to be 100 years old and bed-ridden. I want to be the brown Yoda. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Be able to go full kung-fu at a moments notice.
Going alcohol free could be the single most effective way to improve overall health. Now if I could just kick my nightly kid's cereal habit...
Give Up Stuff
I like the idea of giving up things just to see how I fare without it. In 2006, I gave up beef and pork. In 2013 I gave up a 10+ year friendship that wasn’t serving me well. In 2014, I gave up alcohol. In 2018, I started fasting on Thursdays.
I don’t want to be someone who says, “I can’t live without X”. I want to be the complete opposite. Besides a handful of people, I’m pretty sure I can be stripped of anything and still be OK.
I’m Not Great at Moderation
Saying “no” to one is much easier than saying “enough” after some. Have you ever seen me at the dessert table of a buffet? It’s not pretty.
Creature of Habit
If I’m not going to do something systematically, I question whether it’s worth doing at all. I like routine. I almost always prefer doing things with pre-determined frequency (daily / weekly / monthly).
What I lack in spontaneity I make up for with perfectly planned grand gestures.
A Few Benefits of Not Drinking.
I can save some money. I can always drive. I remember everything worth remembering. I feel great in the morning. I’m slightly less susceptible to the downward spiral of bad decisions that often start with a single drink.
That’s about it.
Not drinking is not a big deal. It’s just not that common. I don’t suggest you try it for the sake of giving up drinking.
2015 happened to be a perfect storm of events for not drinking to really pay off. If even one of those things didn’t happen (rhabdo, struggling business, wedding, etc.), "not drinking” would have ended up being another failed attempt at a New Year’s Resolution.
The first year of being sober was the hardest. It wasn’t even because I missed alcohol or the feeling it gave me. It was mostly having to explain why I gave it up over and over again. I really should have written this a long time ago. Eh. Better late than never.