I took my last drink on December 28th, 2014. I’ll never forget the date for a few reasons:
1) That’s my wife’s birthday.
2) It was the day of our annual family Christmas Party.
3) It was the day I announced Dia and I would be getting married in Mexico later that year to my entire family. The moment had a profound impact on me. As the words left my mouth I felt a sudden rush of responsibility.
As a family, we had a celebratory toast. Then the men congregated at the bar in the basement to crack open a bottle of blue-label, as-is tradition in my family when big news is shared. As I sipped that smokey glass of whiskey (that I didn’t really like anyway), I realized this was a good way to go out. Then I said it out loud, “I’m not drinking anymore.”
A few people heard me and I couldn’t take it back. The inquisition still hasn’t ended. That’s why I’m writing this. The next person who asks me why I don’t drink anymore will be texted a link to this artcile. An 11 reason, 1,500+ word explanation that I’m not interested in repeating more than once.
Top Performers That Don’t Drink
- Business: Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, and Donald Trump (yes I just used him as an example in the midst of his amazingly controversial campaign for POTUS)
- Celebrities: Bradley Cooper, Roberty Downey Jr (Previous addicts) have seen massive success since going sober.
- Athletes: Brett Favre, Cristiano Ronaldo, Floyd Mayweather.
My Week Long Bout with Rhabdomyolysis
Back in January 2014, I suffered from a condition called Rhabdomyolysis, due to extreme physical exertion in the gym. It took 4 days of pain to finally admit myself to the hospital. My doctor made sure I knew that any excessive alcohol consumption during this brief 4-day period could have permanently damaged my kidneys or liver. To read more about my Rhabdo story, click here.
Consumed enough alcohol between ages of 18-25.
I had my first sip of alcohol the summer before college. Which was late, compared to 99.9% of the kids at my high school. Up until that point, I was actively against alcohol. My sisters and cousins took it upon themselves to get me ready for my first year at college. I liked it. A lot.
I attended Penn State @ University Park from 2006-2010. For each of those 4 years, Penn State consistently ranked among the Top 10 Party Schools across the nation. Drinking was a part of the culture. With 40,000 undergraduate students focused on having fun, opportunities to drink were endless. I took full advantage.
After college, most of my friends got jobs in or around NYC. I stayed at University Park to run my first business. It’s about a 3 hour ride from PSU to NYC. That didn’t stop me, however, from coming back almost every weekend to enjoy the finest clubs NYC / Philly / Atlantic City had to offer. In total, it was about 5.5 years of drinking & partying 3-4 nights a week.
Drinking is an expensive habit
My cousin, who also graduated from PSU a few years before me, gave me one piece of advice the day I graduated. He said, “Be the designated driver whenever necessary. You are literally pissing away your money when you drink. NYC bars don’t charge the same as PSU bars. Needless to say, I didn’t follow his advice. I was often the least viable candidate to drive home after a night out. 5 years and thousands of dollars later, I finally see what he was talking about.
No Half Measures
I’m not one for moderation. I either do something, or I don’t. Black or white, never gray. My personality has left many people confused. I’m not sure how I became this way, but I’m happy with it. I think moderation = mediocre. I think substantial success / impact is made at the extremes. I could never do “just one drink”, just like I can’t do “just one donut”. I’m not wired that way.
I am a part of something bigger
I am a firm believer that your actions are bigger than yourself. You represent organizations you belong to, companies you work for, and most importantly, friend circles and family you are apart of. Every decision you make, whether you like it or not, is seen as a byproduct of your environment. When a person does something unorthodox, it never ends with just them. Typically, where they’re from, their families, or their work place gets dragged into the mix as a potential reason they behaved this way. For example, a child acting out at school is often thought to be a part of a broken home. I mention this point because I’ve made questionable decisions under the influence. Now that I’m a husband, and hopefully soon a father, I want to eliminate that altogether by at least being coherent when I make bad decisions. Blaming it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol doesn’t fly past a certain age.
I work every day. I run operations of two small businesses (three if you count this blog). When I’m not working in the business, I’m working on the business or I’m on call to field any questions our team has. Alcohol is not conducive to peak performance. The negative effects from a night of drinking (hangover) can last a full day. Screening phone calls from the team is not an option. The inability to cover a shift is not an option. Ignoring power outages, broken equipment, disgruntled customers, or any other trip up I’ve seen in the past 3 months is not an option.
#1 Health / Performance Hack
Get ready for a preachy word vomit. Alcohol impairs muscle growth & recovery. Alcohol dehydrates your body. Alcohol is basically empty calories that can’t be used as fuel, therefore it is typically stored as fat. Alcohol, which is nutrient empty, actually prevents your body from absorbing nutrients when you do decide to consume them. Alcohol can dramatically decrease testosterone levels. Alcohol ruins sleep quality (which is counter-intuitive to people who drink to sleep more quickly). See study by UC SD.
Morning and Nightly Routine are too important to me
Ideally, I begin and end every day the same way. Click here to read about more about my morning routine.
My routine helps me wind down for a good night sleep and helps me jump out of bed every morning. Getting 8 hours is essential and non-negotiable. It didn’t take long to realize that alcohol threw a wrench in my routine. Specifically the ability to pop out of bed, write with purpose, and read before falling asleep. These days I find myself buying books as if I was buying drinks at a bar (they’re about the same price, but books pay dividends). I buy 2 or 3 books per week even though I can’t read that fast. I follow Ramit Sethi’s rule on buying books.
I don’t need it to have fun
At the time of my decision, the biggest roadblock I saw was avoiding alcohol at big events, which 2015 was full of. 4 weddings (2 of which were destination, 1 of which was my own), 3 bachelor parties (again, 1 of which was my own), and a few weekend get-aways. Leading up to my own bachelor party and eventually my wedding, my friends and family were ready to see me break. They persistently asked me to join them for a drink. To my surprise, I was steadfast (or stubborn in their eyes) in my decision. I was not concerned with peer pressure (because IDGAF what people think) as much as I was concerned with my ability to enjoy myself fully without alcohol. Many of the best stories of my life up until that point were likely a byproduct of excessive alcohol consumption. Fear of missing out was settling in. The first opportunity I had to drink heavily that year was a wedding in Tampa, FL, in which I participated as a Groomsman for an old college buddy. As a Groomsman, it’s my job to make sure people are dancing and drinks are full. I danced longer that most, enjoyed as much as anyone, and most importantly, remembered everything the next day. Brunch the next day was story-time, narrated by me.
Willpower on will-call is a lie
(The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan)
Willpower is like a battery. Everyday you only have a certain amount to use. That’s why people on diets end up eating a sugary dessert late at night after a full day of will powering their way through egg whites, salads, and protein shakes. An empty will-power battery is also why saying “OK, just one drink.” turns into “what the hell happened last night?” Instead of relying on will-power to drink less or drink whenever I have nothing important going on the next day, I changed my default settings: I don’t drink. Ever.
Before I end this post, I’d like to say one more thing. Abstaining from alcohol is a choice I made on my own and it’s a choice I live with alone. Alcohol is still very present in my life, and I’m more than OK with it. My wife has a glass of wine with her dinner often. Family dinner tables have more bottles than plates on them. I even gift alcohol when going over to a friends place. I don’t suggest the dry-life to anyone. It just works great for me.