Last year I made a lot of big decisions. I quit my job of six years at an internet startup. I decided to become a yoga teacher. I formally took refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the Sangha. I decided to go on an extended trip through Asia. And I also made the decision to get and stay sober. Of all of these changes that last one was arguably the biggest.
Alcohol has a powerful place in our culture. Alcohol is a means to relax, socialize, celebrate, experiment, expand your palate and just have a great time, man. To abstain from it is to risk being marginalized or stigmatized as…psst..*looks around*…an alcoholic. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. In fact, for every one person who thinks I’m weird for not drinking I get two people who take the time to shake my hand and tell me they respect me for my choice and one who wishes they could do the same.
I quit drinking for a lot of reasons. Practically, it was a big distraction during a time in my life I couldn’t afford any. I was working four, ten hour days at my big kid job and spending 15 hours a week in yoga school. Add on top of that my regular yoga practice, reading, homework and classes at the local monastery and between them you easily have 70 hours a week. I couldn’t afford to wake up late, foggy and not at my best. The things I was doing meant too much to me.
I also recognized how much of my life was spent on a barstool. And honestly, it disturbed me. I have friends who own a great brewery and pub, working at which helped to finance my trip, and many others who own or work at bars and restaurants. To see them required a drink or two or five hours later being at your sixth bar and talking about who is closing where and whether you can get there in time for post last-call shenanigans. While I love those friends and value them greatly I was tired of feeling like I was wasting my life in dark rooms with loud music having great conversations about nothing of consequence. Drinking also represented a drain financially at a time where I had set a non-negotiable departure date for my trip, if only in my head, and thus really needed to be conservative with my money.
But most of all I felt I was compromising my personal integrity. While reserved and mild mannered, I am an all out kind of person. I don’t do moderation well. Case and point, I wanted to be a businessman so I became a traveling sales executive at 22. I was not the type of person, despite the endless list of instances where I insisted it was the case, to only have one beer. Or smoke one bowl. Or share one kiss. Or, well you get the idea. Therefore for me to honestly pursue my most pure self boundaries and discipline are something that must be part of the equation. When I chose to become a yoga teacher it was not because I was enamored by the practice, although I am, it was because I felt called to serve. To educate. To help other’s live a happy, fulfilled, empowered life the way my teachers had helped me. How could I honestly stand in front of a class and talk about discipline, morality, patience, surrender, change, courage, humility and the pursuit of self actualization if I was not myself exhibiting those traits? How could I ever hope to achieve mastery of my mind if I had to poison myself to subdue it? For me drinking represented holding myself back. Compromising the person I knew I could be for a few laughs and a delicious buzz. In order to teach and share peace, self love and respect I had to first possess it for myself. In short, to be who I really was I had to quit.
In the year since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve experienced the most enjoyable period of my life. I’ve done things and visited places I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve met innumerable people who have had a profound impact on my life. I’ve learned the value and incredible reward of experiencing all my life, its hardships, its emotions and its triumphs purely with no adulteration. I’m not here to convince you to stop drinking. Nor am I hear to demonize it. As a bartender at a craft-beer only alehouse in Seattle I greatly enjoyed getting paid to taste the many delicious styles of brews, spirits and cocktails. What I am saying is it was the right decision for me. Abstaining has changed my life only for the better. It didn’t make me weird. It didn’t make a social misfit. In fact I’ve laughed and had more fun than I ever did when I drank. And if you’re like me and have felt for a while that quitting for good might be the best thing for you I encourage you to be brave and strong enough to go for it. If you remain open and unapologetic the universe will provide you with a support system of like-minded people almost immediately. It happened to me. Your life will only change for the better. If I can help in any way please don’t hesitate to send me a message.