BHB2: My Relationship with Alcohol – Why I gave up booze for 95 Days
BHB2: My Relationship with Alcohol – Why I gave up booze for 95 Days
Ok, so this awkward conversation we’re about to have. Why? Because other than for religious, cultural or ethical reasons, society’s view of someone not drinking is, you’re an alcoholic. I’ve toyed around with idea before, but when it came down to the actual not drinking part, I couldn’t do it. This is where our conversation begins. On week 2 of my life coaching sessions I brought up the idea of not drinking for 30 days. Why? So many “high performers” don’t drink; there has to be something to it, right? The response from my coach, “it’s time to discuss your relationship with alcohol”.
Yes, I said relationship. Dig deep, because you know you have one too (good, bad or otherwise). For me, alcohol had been by my side for all of life’s major events; graduation, university life, friends, vacation, weddings, funerals, you name it. Sound like an odd way to look at booze?
After reflecting on “our” relationship, I found myself feeling rather uncomfortable. Do I have a drinking problem? Do I rely on it? Will I miss it? Sounds like the questions you asked yourself when you’re breaking up with someone. Well, a relationship is a relationship, and in my case, I needed to re-establish some boundaries. It all started with being asked to write a letter about my relationship with alcohol. I’ll spare you the details, but it quickly turned into a rant about needing a break and how I wasn’t sure where it would go from here. Very strange to write, and equally as odd to read.
What came out of that activity, was a feeling that “we” had a great time, and I would never change that, but that I’ve come to a new phase in my life, and there was limited space for you. I am committed to having energy now. Energy to work out 6 days a week, energy to be a great husband and father, energy to execute new business ideas etc… That’s what it was about for me. Let’s face it, four 8% IPA’s on a Friday night does not translate to an energetic Saturday morning. My kids don’t give a shit if I’m sluggish. They expect the best version of Dad every day.
Giving it up was also about trust. Can I trust myself enough to do it? That was a powerful question for me. What I learned was most people who enjoy a drink or two fall on a continuum, sliding back and forth between, drinking a bit too much, and drinking a little bit. Or at least that’s the explanation that resonated with me after listening to The Rich Roll Podcast with guest Andy Ramage – One Year No Beer & Beyond. For me, well that summed up my partnership with it. I have absolutely had times where I would say I was drinking too much and other times that it wasn’t an issue.
Making the decision to give up alcohol was actually the easy part, explaining to everyone why was the hard part. Just refer back to the first two lines of this blog. I told the majority of people I was doing a “cleans”. I was working out a lot and generally trying to improve my overall health, so it was an easy “sell”. But I was still anxious about how it would be viewed. In the end I was committed to 30 days!
30 days in, mid-summer, on vacation and I had stuck to my promise. Guess what, I can trust myself. So what do I do now? Well life has a funny way of happening when you need answers. Just prior to my 30 Days, I ran across a few more resources that promoted the benefits of extending a “cleans” to 90 Days. So a 30 day promise turned into a 90 day challenge. 90 days to begin to write another story. You see, I loved microbreweries, beer glasses, a cold drink on hot summer day, and trying new craft beers with good friends. I loved going to sporting events and having a beer, a bite and a beer at cool pubs and boys weekend. I was so scared that I would have to give up all of these “good times”, because that was the story I created around them. I felt like I would need to cut people and events out of my life in order to keep my promise. A few years ago I went as far as not wanting to go on a Caribbean vacation with my wife because I was in a good health & fitness routine, and didn’t want to be tempted to over indulge.
90 Days allowed me to re-frame the relationship, change my story and most of all, learn to trust my word to myself. Ed Mylett said it best – Confidence is simply a result of keeping the promises you make to yourself. When we make plans to see friends, go out for dinner, or go away on vacation, I don’t sweat it anymore. Why? Because drinking too much is in conflict with my life’s mission statement. Yes, I have started to develop a mission statement for Steve. A set of values and beliefs that everything I do will be filtered through. If something isn’t consistent with that statement, then it doesn’t get any airtime.
So how different did I feel after 90 Days? I certainly had more energy, didn’t miss workouts and generally felt healthier. But let’s face it, Ang and I have 3 young boys and parenting is possibly the most tiring job out there. So I still had times of pure parental exhaustion. That being said I can honestly say that there were more times where I had the energy to have an extra catch, shoot some hoops or just head out for a hike. So yes, not drinking helped in that department. It also cut down my level of anxiety and stress. Alcohol is like throwing gasoline on a fire for stress and anxiety; not exactly the calming affect many are looking for. That one might hit home for a few people, me included.
There were also some other valuable lessons. The first was simply, I did drink too much. I would never say I had a problem, but I was too casual with alcohol IMO. This is not meant to be a comparison to your drinking habits, but it I do hope to spark some meaningful discussions about society’s views of drinking. Many people simply said “good for you”, and we continued on chatting about what we would normally discuss at a dinner party. In a few instances, it sparked some great conversations about Life Coaching and what I was trying to accomplish. The fact is, it didn’t change the funny stories, the conversations, or the friends I enjoy spending time with. I just wasn’t drinking, that’s all that was different. Some people clearly felt uncomfortable or just didn’t get it and that’s OK too. This is my ride not their’s.
Day 95 Ang and I had one glass of a really nice red wine. But it was different. 95 Days allowed me to create a new story and re-establish a healthy relationship with alcohol. I enjoy a nice red wine and hoppy IPA’s are still my favorite craft beer, but no longer will they have a seat at the decision making table. God knows many of us have made some rather dumb ones under the influence.
So maybe you’re just sober-curious or perhaps you do have a problem. Regardless there are huge benefits to self-discovery and in my case, alcohol was getting in my way. I know I’ll enjoy a drink from time to time, but if I don’t, it’s no big deal.
Bottoms Up or Down,
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