Why not quit drinking?
The following is a transcript from the February 18th episode of The Sunday Scaries Podcast titled, “Why not quit drinking?” Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
I’m not sure what my first drink was. I remember stealing sips of champagne at my parents’ dinner parties and tasting my uncle’s beer at a family reunion, but those don’t really count.
I didn’t spend my high school days stealing alcohol from my parents’ liquor cabinet or hanging around the local grocery store hoping to find someone of age that could buy me beer.
And these days, I’ve much scaled back how often I go out. I have a couple rules — I only allow myself to go out on night a week, and never ever *ever* two consecutive nights in a row. The hangover and general tiredness from doing so is just too much for me. It spikes my anxiety. It makes me feel disgusting.
Someone recently asked me, “Why don’t you just stop drinking altogether?”
When I asked for clarification, he responded, “Well, because it gives you anxiety.”
It made my wheels turn. I couldn’t get the question out of my head. Not because it was something I was actually entertaining doing, but because it just seems like such a logical solution for so many people despite my hesitation to apply it to myself.
On the surface, yes, drinking does cause myself — and others — some anxiety. The social anxiety that goes along with forcing yourself into a crowded bar. The lack of judgment you use after you’ve run up a tab. The overwhelming of waking up the next morning and wondering what the hell you did the night before that allowed things to get so out of control.
What I’m referring to, really, is binge drinking. The drinking we all do when we’re somewhere between the ages of 16 and 27 — when you have life’s responsibilities in front of you, but they’re not all that important yet. Or, at least, you haven’t grasped how important they are yet.
I’m well-aware that not everyone’s gone through this stage either, but I know that a majority of my listeners and audience have. And that’s okay.
I’ve always been a subscriber to the idea of getting things out of your system. That if you don’t do something when you’re inclined to do it, you’ll just end up penting things up and doing it later.
When it comes to drinking to excess, there’s normally no need to feel guilt about what you’re doing unless you’re making decisions that harm the lives of others. But if you’re having fun with the friends around you? Go ahead. Get it out of your system.
A couple years ago, I had one of those weekends. The consecutive-nights-in-a-row-going-out weekends. I woke up Sunday feeling absolutely crushed by my hangover. No amount of Gatorade or pho could have possibly taken me out of it.
And I wondered to myself — was it worth it? Was I willing to spend the next couple days of my life feeling like death just because I didn’t want to miss out on what happened just before last call?
I didn’t feel OUT of control, but I didn’t feel IN control. Here’s a story from John Mayer about a night — and subsequent morning — where he felt something similar to me.
That potential he talks about. It strikes a chord with me. Not because I think my past self did anything wrong, but because my current and future self just has different priorities.
Would I rather stay at a bar all night and sleep in all morning, or would I rather wake up early and enjoy a walk in the park with my dog?
Is my money best spent on bottles of wine I know nothing about at restaurants I can’t afford, or am I better off saving it in hopes of finally being able to afford things I never thought possible?
These aren’t groundbreaking realizations, but simply small choices that lead me to drastically reducing my want to go out.
I couldn’t help but get flooded with all these thoughts when I received that DM — the one that asked “Why don’t you stop drinking?”
When I first responded to him, I always almost… offended. Me? Stop drinking? Are you insinuating that I have a… problem? I don’t have a problem. Maybe you need to stop drinking, but *I* don’t need to stop drinking.
I gathered myself though. I racked my brain for the things that cause me more anxiety than drinking — money, my career, my personal relationships, the list goes on and on.
Obviously, drinking adds to all these things in one way or another, yes. But at the heart of it all, drinking isn’t something that I want to eliminate from my life. Nor is it something I need to eliminate from my life.
When I think about the times these days when I want a drink, it’s more situational than ever. A few years ago, it was situational, but on a smaller scale. It’s Friday? Okay, we’re drinking. But it’s not like that anymore.
I enjoy a glass of wine when I’m eating a nice dinner. I crave a cold beer when I’m on a porch and the suns in my eyes. I like a nip of whiskey when it’s so cold outside that my jacket simply won’t do the trick.
But the biggest change I’ve seen in my self — the change that I knew would eventually come even in my hardest days of partying — is that I no longer yearn to go out to the crowded bars I grew to hate. Gone are the days when the hangovers were worth it because the fun I was having outweighed how terrible my Sundays became.
Is this all just part of growing up? Yes, of course. Am I a little late to the party? Sure, but better late than never.
I just turned 32. I think most people start having these realizations in their late twenties rather than early 30s, but that’s fine by me. Not only have I always felt as though I’m a few years behind when it comes to maturing, but I’ve also learned to stop putting pressure on myself when it comes to doing things I do that I may or may not enjoy. Deep down, I’m just happy that I’m content *now*.
Are there people who should probably never pick up a drink for the rest of their lives? Yes, absolutely. Are there those who can go out every night of the week and not feel the least bit of anxiety about it? Again, yes. I’m not here to judge because everyone’s relationship with alcohol is a personal one — positive or negative.
I remember reading that when George W. Bush quit drinking, he noted that it was partially because he didn’t like spending time drinking whiskey in his den when he could have been spending time with his wife in bed.
Reading that flipped a switch in my head because I thought the reasoning was spot on. “Maybe I’ll quit one day for a similar reason,” I thought to myself. But even when I thought that, I knew I was years and years off from even *thinking* about it.
And now that those years have gone by, I still understand that reasoning. Maybe more than ever. While I don’t plan on quitting any time soon, I’m just glad I’ve finally aged out of my party days in favor of settling down.
Have I gone soft? Maybe. Is all of this some sort of overblown, long-winded reconciliation with myself for becoming the boring old man I never thought I’d want to be? Probably.
But that’s fine — I’m going to have those nights when a bottle of wine accidentally gets finished or I wake up with a headache from that last IPA an old friend and I ordered before cashing out. And some of those nights will be nights I cherished.
Making them a regular occurrence, though? Nah. I’ve got some dog-walking to do.