How I Decided to Give Up Alcohol
July 10, 2016. That was the last day I consumed alcohol. I had some mimosas in the afternoon, a few cocktails to follow, and then one last 24 oz. beer at a Phish concert at the Lakeview Amphitheatre in Syracuse, New York. I think it was a Labatt Blue. I can’t say for sure but it’s probably a good thing that my last beer was a shitty beer. 700 days later I can still taste how gross that stuff is.
I want to tell you about why I decided to stop drinking alcohol, despite the fact that I actually really love beer and a good old fashioned (with rye and a splash of club soda.)
I did the college thing. I got drunk with my roommates, went to parties, had massive hangovers, made bad decisions, and ate disgusting food at 2 in the morning. I also had a lot of hysterical moments of laughter and have some great memories from that time in my life. I’ve been trying to think of a proper way to lay this out because I know that a lot of those laughs were fueled by alcohol and a lot of those memories are from parties and concerts where everyone was consuming. It wasn’t until I quit that it finally solidified with me that the alcohol was just a component; an unnecessary one at that. One night while I was out with friends in Manhattan, I suppose I had a little too much because I don't remember it at all. It wasn't until the next morning when I woke up and saw this text message that I realized how bad I was:
For some reason my high school lacrosse coach always scheduled games for us the morning after the Junior Prom and Senior Ball. Morning games. Back then we all saw it as a big inconvenience. We wanted to have fun, go out after prom, get drunk, and stay up late. I mean, we still did that, but we had to set an alarm for 7:30 am. My junior year I stayed up all damn night and got hammered drunk. I woke up the next morning with a blinding headache after about 3 hours of sleep and had to walk back to my parents` house, with my tuxedo shirt and pants on, in 90-degree heat, to get ready for our game. It’s a good thing I didn’t get that much playing time because I would have been useless. At the time, it was an inconvenience. It took me 11 years to appreciate the lesson Coach Rock was trying to give us. It wasn’t getting up that to go play a game we loved that was the inconvenience at all. The headache was the inconvenience. The hangover was.
Before I really get into this let me just say that I am not some kind of narc. As I’ve grown I have learned that people are going to do what they are going to do and you’ve just go to live and let live. One of the main tenants of libertarianism is recognizing that we all have individual rights and ownership over our selves. That means that your body is your temple. You and you alone can decide what you put into it. Everything in moderation is the key. I like beer, I like the taste of it, I like drinking a couple before playing a gig to calm my nerves and loosen up. I like party games like beer pong and card games because they provide for some great entertainment. What I don’t like is the slurred words, falling over in the street, puking in the toilet, laying in bed all day and being dehydrated but not able to keep water down. Watching people in their hyper-drunken state is quite frankly, embarrassing. There’s all the texts that you wish didn’t send, the stupid arguments that you have to try and work out in the morning, that guy or girl you wish you hadn’t hooked up with, and that entire Mills Market submarine sandwhich you devoured at 3:30 am before you passed out (looking at you Oneonta folks).
I dated a girl who, though I can’t say for sure she had an alcohol problem, loved to drink. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing to do in Syracuse besides eating and drinking but that’s all we would do. Every night it seemed like we were indulging. We’d go out with co-workers and I’d find myself taking shots I didn’t even want to take because if I didn’t, she would, and then I’d have to find a way to get both our drunk asses home. Both of us are totally guilty of getting behind the wheel when we absolutely should not have. The most difficult thing about it was the alcohol-induced arguments. I won’t get into all that but just know they were really bad. I can’t even count on both hands how many times I got bitched out and screamed at, in public, at a bar or restaurant, after a night of drinking, for no apparent or justifiable reason at all. It was so embarrassing.
Soon after we broke up I found out that she had quit drinking and that really pissed me off. I had tried to confront the issue so many times and got nowhere. I finally gave it up when the response I got was “You know what Tom how about when you get older and your girlfriend tries to tell you how to live your life you can tell her to eat shit.” She wasn’t even drunk that time. So that was an initial minor-motivator. Maybe it was out of some quasi-revenge type thing, I don’t know. What it really was that got me to quit entirely was much more serious.
I was really busy during the summer of 2016. I was working 60-hour weeks in the sun. I didn’t have the mental or physical energy to go out and do anything not to mention I had almost no time for myself. In June of that summer my best friend was pulled over and ticketed for a DWI. That’s when it all really started to take shape for me. Between then and the Phish concert I don’t really remember drinking at all except for the occasional beer and chicken wings at Shifty’s. (If you’re ever in Syracuse, go to Shifty’s and get some chicken wings. You’re welcome) In August he was pulled over again and got another DWI. By then I had already had my last beer but was able to make a conscious decision on the matter; “It’s just not worth it. Let’s just quit and see what happens.” Initially I wanted to try and lead by example. I have seen the adverse affects of alcohol through close and distant friends alike that were too strong to justify. The people that I lived with were consuming regularly and displaying behavior reminiscent of those college days. My former band-mates were completely energized by drinking and would make me feel bad for not wanting to stay up all damn night and get drunk with them, constantly. They were the complete opposite of encouraging. I wouldn’t be surprised if those guys started putting beer in their cereal for breakfast.
I started to question how it could be that alcohol, for all the damage it has done to individuals, families, friends, and even vehicles or buildings, is promoted so openly and even encouraged. There are entire systems and small-scale economies based on the consumption of it. There are endless commercials and advertisements, sporting events, concerts, gatherings, and house parties that are, if not completely centered on, stitched together with it. It wasn’t until I stood back on the other side of the tap that I was able to see it like this. It's a little odd I must say, to be the black sheep, even though I see myself as the one making the obviously healthy choice. Whenever I go out, participating is the norm and not drinking is seen as out of the ordinary.
I want to make this point entirely clear to everyone: I am NOT trying to convince anyone to quit drinking alcohol. I am not here to say that is what you should do or even that it is the right thing to do. I don't know the answer to that. For some people, maybe it is. I am merely trying to show a different perspective and how it’s changed my life, for the better, so that maybe you can think about it with respect. I guess I have been lucky in that I have never really had an addictive personality and so giving up alcohol was rather easy for me. I've never had an "alcohol problem" but I have definitely abused it many, many, many times. I've had a lot of conversations with people about why I decided to give up drinking and most of the time they'll start with "So were you drinking too much? Did you get in an accident? Were you partying too hard? Do you have health problems?" I think a lot of them are taken aback when the answer is "Nah, I just kinda wanted to." And that's the truth. I wanted to.
Every day that I don’t drink I feel like I’m winning something. I feel like I’m in some kind of un-official contest with myself and I’m always winning and every day I get a prize. Each day I add to the count is another prize. The prize of day 741 is adding 1 from 740. Every time I think about having a drink while I’m out with friends or I feel like I am missing out on something I remember how far I have come and how long it’s been. If I were to have a drink I feel like I would be cheating on myself. It’s been 746 days since I’ve had any alcohol and I feel great about it so what would be the point?
In the first few weeks after quitting I dropped 10 pounds. My face started to take shape and my skin tone started to change. Every time I saw someone I haven’t seen in a while they would say “Tom what have you been doing? Why do you look so different?” It became more and more encouraging with each passing day. I started to see how much money I had been spending on the weekends and how many other things I could afford to do. I haven’t had a hangover in 2 years and 16 days. Do you have any idea how amazing that is? It would not be a stretch to say that quitting drinking was one of the biggest reasons I have been able to finance this road trip.
My good friend that I had mentioned previously quit drinking alcohol for a full year after his DWI’s. I saw the same things in him that I experienced in myself. He looked healthier, he stopped wasting money, and his focus and drive were no longer clouded by a preoccupation of when or where we’d be going to have a beer. After the year had passed he finally said to me “Thank you for not drinking. It’s helped me in ways you might never know.”
I love not drinking, I really do. It has been by far one of the best decisions I ever made for myself but hearing my friend say those things made it all worth it, more than anything else.
Be safe out there good people. Be responsible. Call an Uber. Know your limits.