I know a guy that quit drinking for a year. He was super social, arranging meetups , traveling and writing. But as he embarked on a lifestyle without alcohol he started to disappear more and more. We continued our meetups and weekly gatherings without him, mentioning him occasionally and even saying that he had gone awol. When I moved to Kansas City I had the chance to meet him for tea and I was dying to ask, why did he quit drinking? And what did he think of his life now? He couldn’t give me a straight answer but kind of rambled about how it started as one or two nights a week and then turned into almost every night, socializing, hosting, drinking. And he said, “All I know is that my life got infinitely better when I stopped drinking.”
It is a topic that interests me greatly. As a health and fitness coach I’m always learning about nutrition and tweaking my meal plan, but as a single adult I enjoy socializing, meeting new people, and sharing a few beers over happy hour. Needless to say, it can be tricky to balance both. When I have drinks too often I hold extra weight, my skin starts to dry, I feel ragged, and I start to miss workouts and eat poorly. Then I have to focus on non drinking activities or “take time off.” So when I meet people that are extremely fit and yet seem to have drinks whenever they please, I start asking questions.
One time I asked an author that I admired, Ryan Holiday, after I discovered he didn’t drink alcohol. I had discovered his book through my favorite podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. He had been interviewed on the show by Ferriss and the episode was valuable and informative. While listening I learned he doesn’t drink and thought….I’m going to email him and ask him why. So I wrote him a nice message about how much his book had affected me and thanked him, and then asked, “I really would like to know, why do you choose not to drink alcohol?” A week later, I got a one liner response: “It’s simple. I don’t like it..”
That was different. So I mentioned the conversation to friends and my pal Kendra said, “There are people out there that don’t enjoy drinking. We just don’t know them.” I laughed and knew she was right. So my informal investigation has continued on as I embarked on big life changes. I quit a job that I disliked after 5 years, I left a long term relationship, and I traveled around the United States, before settling into Kansas City in an effort to expand my network and meet interesting people. It has all been a success and I have allowed myself to drink alcohol most of the year.
And I believe I have finally come to my own personal conclusion. After a particularly strong socializing and drinking phase here in Kansas City, I realized I was relying on alcohol to help “make things happen.” Whether it be meeting people, relaxing in a new social environment, having better conversations, making a date seem more passionate, making life seem more fun, I was hoping that alcohol would get me closer to my goals. And I’m not going to lie, I DO enjoy a couple drinks, a little buzz, and the lowering of inhibitions. It can be really, really, laughingly, life enhancing fun at times.
Then this morning my friend Eric sent me an article about the lifestyle of athletes. [Article here]. The article talked about the mindset of an athlete and how they live on a daily basis. Not what they do necessarily, but how they think. It even mentioned that they have children and that reminded me, full time professional athletes are adults. They have careers and families. They aren’t all young single college aged youth. There are athletes of all types and ages which makes me feel better about my recent birthday. And then I thought about my favorite athletes, the Royals. They don’t go for happy hour after every practice and every game. But they DO break out the champagne after a championship game. They celebrate and have fun when it’s called for.
I won’t be making any declarations about not drinking for 365 days or claim that I don’t enjoy having a few drinks. Neither of those are me, I am much more average. But I do know that I will focus on meaningful conversation, improving my ability to communicate, and having authentic relationships without expecting alcohol to help me connect to other humans. I will learn to do that part on my own. And I intend to regain some physical stamina and get back to the mindset of an athlete. I’ll run a 5K, swim a 500, bike long distance, hike mountains and trails, finish my Bodybeast weightlifting program and complete a full round of Insanity Max.
So I feel like my questions are answered. I enjoy drinking. Some people don’t. I cannot expect alcohol to change my life. I can be very fit and healthy and have an occasional night out with friends sharing beers. I want to improve my communication skills and put my health first. And my friends will join me in hiking, biking, swimming, jogging, working out, game nights, art night, movies, whatever awesome things we discover in this life. And as I always say about food, do not let it be the highlight of your day, and do not let a drink be the highlight of your day either.