A delicious and refreshing beers were passed into my hands as we watched the Final Four at a bar packed with Michigan fans. I was thirsty, everyone around me was drinking and the beer kept spilling all over my hands. I wanted nothing more than to get these two temptations out of my hands but the bar was so packed that it was impossible.
One of my friends had swum through a sea of blue and yellow clad Michigan fans to reach the bar. Being the nice guy he is, he bought a beer for everyone. Of course, he was unaware that I wasn’t drinking.
So here I am, watching one of my favorite sporting events, thirsty, with a beer spilling all over my hand and all my friends telling me to “just drink ‘em”. I stood there, beer in hand, for 20 minutes before I could give it away.
That was easily the hardest part of this 30-day no drinking challenge.
Throughout the 30 days, I had many people ask me why I was doing this alcohol-free experiment. I had many reasons, however, one question was the driving force behind this experiment,
“Is alcohol limiting my life and career?”
I wondered if it was actually limiting my productivity and if it had become a “crutch” I was relying on. Was I using alcohol to forget my troubles, relax and boost my confidence? Did I miss something that Lewis Howes, a millionaire entrepreneur that doesn’t drink, had discovered? Was I possibly holding myself back from greatness?
I wondered when the last time I went 30 days without drinking was. I figured it had to be in high school…
I never drank in high school because I was so focused on being an athlete. I was determined to maintain my peak performance and sacrificed much of a social life to do so. I was one of the few people I knew in the school that didn’t drink and often felt awkward because of it. I remember avoiding parties and constantly battling peer-pressure, having to explain to others why I wasn’t drinking.
Therefore, I wasn’t one of the “cool” kids, and had to put up with the usual high school bullying. Sometimes it wasn’t fun… but I just kept telling myself that I was stronger than the other kids.
Eventually, I became curious and changed my ways.
In college, I had decided to give up my dream of becoming a professional athlete and instead focused on school and building a social life. I was tired of being a social outcast and I figured it was a little close-minded of me to just rule out alcohol without trying it. So I did, and I liked it and I liked the new social connections I was making. I liked it so much that I shifted my focus to becoming the “life” of the party. And per usual, when I focus, I succeed.
Throughout college, my social skills blossomed and I was enjoying the newfound freedom that came with alcohol. I made a lot of great friends and some bad decisions. (or what I like to call “learning experiences”) Despite a few missteps, I was successful and graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree and landed my dream job.
Fast forward to the present, where the “thrill” of underage drinking most high school students get and the binge attitude that many college students experience were both gone. Yet, I noticed that drinking was still an integral part of my life. It was now the “adult” thing to do.
A nice red wine with dinner, a cold brew watching sports with the guys, champagne at birthday parties… all kinds of occasions. It had even become commonplace to drink at many activities that are fun without alcohol; cookouts, golf, brunch, trivia, skiing, etc. Perhaps the most common activity for me was attending business networking events.
It’s not uncommon for these networking events to give out free drinks as “social lubrication” to make guests feel more comfortable. I would even say it’s common to see almost every single person with a drink in his or her hands.
So why do most people drink at networking events?
I think most people drink to fit in, forget troubles, and become more outgoing and personable. Most use alcohol as a band-aid for confidence issues that they are not willing to face. A truly confident person can speak to anyone at anytime without alcohol and build a good relationship.
Why else do people drink? Many reasons, but these are some things I noticed about myself during this challenge. You may find you do some of these things yourself.
10 personal realizations I gained from completing the challenge
Sometimes I rely on alcohol to help me relax. When I am stressed out from work or other things, I usually drink a glass of red wine to help me relax. It’s an easy fix instead of actually solving the problem.
Sometimes I use alcohol to give me confidence. I was relying on alcohol at some networking events to make myself more outgoing and feel like talking to random people. Sometimes I just needed
I enjoy alcohol’s disinhibiting effects. I’m a natural risk taker and enjoy some of the random situations I get into while drinking.
I’m more active but not immediately more productive. While I am much more active athletically and able to do more events, my productivity did not increase dramatically. Oftentimes after networking events I would not want to or be able to work. I could easily go to a networking event
My mood has improved. Alcohol is a depressant so it only makes sense. I’ve definitely noticed an improvement.
People don’t respect me for drinking. The only people that actually care what is in your cup are ones that have drinking problems.
I’m more calm and more quiet. Alcohol causes most people to be louder and more active.
I spent too much money on alcohol. I have saved a lot of money not drinking. I can use that money to do other things I enjoy like basketball, concerts and travel.
My energy didn’t increase as dramatically as I hoped. Narcolepsy is something I deal with every day and it sucks. I was hoping limiting my alcohol intake, a recommendation by my sleep doctor, would help but it didn’t make a giant difference. I still enjoy sleeping in and have to work hard to wake up early.
Conversations are better. When you’re sober, you have great discussions with friends and it’s easy to remember them.
Do I feel that drinking alcohol is a bad thing?
No. As long as it’s done in control and for the right reasons. But how do you know if you’re drinking for the “right” reasons and if you should try the 30-day challenge? (or even a 100-day challenge)
Here are some questions to ask yourself
Can I go to a networking or social event, be the only person that isn’t drinking, and still feel comfortable? (Aka, am I drinking to fit in?)
Am I drinking because I’m nervous or scared in social situations? (For entrepreneurs, maybe it’s pitching your idea to potential investors or CEO’s. For young professionals, maybe it’s building up that confidence to talk to an attractive person of the opposite sex.)
Am I doing things I enjoy during the weekend or am I just hung over?
Am I happy with my career and how it’s progressing? (Am I wasting my own extremely valuable time drinking instead of learning and pursuing my dreams?)
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you should try the challenge.
So what am I doing now that the challenge is over?
Honestly, the question on my mind is, “Do I want to give up drinking indefinitely?”
This is an extremely difficult decision for me.
I love having a nice glass of wine or a cold beer, the comradely I share with friends, and the occasional distraction from reality. But what about all the negatives?
I know there are some super successful people like Lewis, who believe abstaining from alcohol is key to their success. There are others like Tim Ferriss, who inspired me to become an entrepreneur, who believes life should be enjoyed and if alcohol is something you enjoy, you should be able to indulge.
So which school of thought is correct?
As I decide I find myself asking “what if” questions.
“What my friends never accept this change and we become distant?”
“What if I’m negatively effecting my own psyche by not allowing myself to partake in something I enjoy?”
“What if I regret my decision?”
If you’ve read my other posts you know that these “what if” questions are caused by fear. Fear is something that I refuse to give in to.
So for right now, I’m going to face my fears and give up drinking for another month.
This means I need to find new ways to relax, escape reality and build my confidence. It’s yet another uphill battle I’m facing… but if I don’t try I’ll never know the results.
So will abstaining from alcohol make you successful? Will it make you a business leader?
I think it depends on the individual so I’d love for you to leave your own thoughts or personal stories in the comments box below.