When you’re done being known as a drinker
A few weeks ago, I told the Betera team I wanted to write this. I’ve been thinking about it for months. But articulating it has been difficult. Then, I listened to a podcast interview, and it fell into place.
Hugh Thomas, the founder of beverage company Ugly, has been someone I’ve admired since working on the Betera project. We’ve interacted a bit on twitter, but don’t know each other. A few days ago, he tweeted out a podcast episode that he had done. He talked about his relationship with alcohol and how it changed when he realized it no longer served him. It’s a fantastic listen about self-growth, identifying burnout, and recognizing when it’s time to walk away from something that no longer serves you.
I started drinking when I got to college, and didn’t really stop for 24 years. Drinking served me for a lot of those years. It served me in undergrad, where I found the greatest group of friends I could have ever wanted. Nick Benz, the Founder of Betera, is one of them. Drinking served me as I moved to new cities. Drinking served me when I started new jobs, careers even. It served me as relationships were beginning and then again when they ended. Drinking opened some of my favorite doors in the city where I’ve been the longest, San Francisco.
I have extended family members who battle alcoholism. So, I’ve always had a healthy fear of my relationship with alcohol.
I remember knowing that I drank every night of my first 40 nights while studying abroad. Some months later while still abroad, I gave up drinking for lent. In part because I was running out of savings, but also because I was getting worried. Those few weeks while sober in Europe are the ones I remember and cherish the most. I saw Eric Clapton play a show and it still rates as the best concert I’ve ever seen (current politics aside). I spent my last month in Italy in a lovely relationship, present and taking in Florence in a whole new way.
I started doing Dry January a few years ago, trying to still keep my drinking in check. When I started working on the Betera project in May 2019, a few months before the pandemic began, I didn’t figure my drinking habits would change much.
Then I started having conversations with people who were taking a break from drinking, many of whom I met after posting this on LinkedIn.
I reached out to a few people who commented on the post. They were open and honest about giving up drinking. They were happy with it. Everyone’s life got better, all in different ways.
I started hearing more and more stories from people who alcohol no longer serves.
You know that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots” thing? My girlfriend at the time told me her mother had that to say about me. I can’t remember why this came up, maybe some crap about me not listening to her. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention. (Dumb and Dumber, 1994)
The idea of personal growth being impossible is ludicrous. Everyone who’s trained for their first 10k, put their head down and got shit done at work, learned how to cook, left a lousy relationship, or tried to make today better than yesterday, knows that we’re capable of progress. We’re all changing our stripes daily.
There’s a little stigma in how non-alcoholic drinks are marketed. There’s this third rail and it’s where you’ll find alcoholism and the program and the hushed tones this stuff’s always been burdened with. I’m still feeling my way around this as we figure out how to talk about Betera. But it’s always struck me as weird that brands ignore it. (I actually know why - our data says people don’t like it when you show stats about the many downsides of alcohol consumption)
But what I do know is that the people doing the work, whether it’s in secret or in the open with their #RecoveryPosse, well the people doing the work have all of my admiration in the world.
In 2021, I drank probably 60 nights in the year. Most of them were at the end, after we had our baby. Which makes no sense whatsoever. Having a newborn is the worst time to be having drinks. It’s already impossible to sleep.
Which means, if I’m honest, that alcohol doesn’t serve me most of the time now like it once did. Sure, it will again when I see my best friends, celebrate life with my family, or finish a work project. But right now, as a parent who’s working too much, who isn’t working out as much as I should be, alcohol doesn’t serve me. And I’m at peace with it.