As part of the launch of The New Sobriety program this week, I thought it would be fun to take an inventory of what has changed in my life since giving up The Drinks.
Let me be clear that life isn’t always roses just because you quit booze. Life on earth is still pretty complex and difficult at times. My goal is to show you that if I can do it, quite literally anybody can.
But more important than whether to drink or not, is what could potentially be waiting for us on the other side of habitual choices, open bars, and endless reasons to consume. What blew me away as I went through this process, was how shifting gears away from drinking opened up much larger doors of possibility.
Here are a dozen pretty shocking upgrades since I quit drinking in April, 2012.
Sure, I could have done many of these things while still drinking in moderation. But I can’t say I would’ve enjoyed them as deeply, or have been able to juggle them as well.
1. My work and career
While I was with my last company, I stopped putting off the difficult conversations needed to renegotiate my career path. As a result, I was able to create a new role and shift from managing a small team of salespeople, to driving education and development for the full team of 100+.
Four years later, I’m still processing this massive shift: It gave me invaluable direct experience in curriculum design, organizational development, culture architecture, and total motivation theory. It also led to numerous speaking opportunities at conferences, and leading retreats.
In my experience, practicing yoga and/or meditation scientifically strengthened my spiritual desires. The deeper you go, the more you want to practice. In much the same way, alcohol strengthened my material desires, unhealthy attachments to bad relationships, and egoic fantasies about “what I deserved” whether in money or opportunity. Without it, I’m more likely to operate in positive expectation vs. scarcity and uncertainty.
3. Confidence to conquer other addictions
In Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, he gives a lot of ink to creating keystone habits. Drinking has proven to be a Keystone Bad Habit. Once I pulled the plug permanently, other depleting habits seemed to vaporize. $5 lattes, mindless TV binge-viewing, and the avoidance of “deep work” are just a few.
As I travel the non-drinking path, I’m becoming more aware of other addictions that stand in the way of my refinement. Like anger, pettiness, greed, and a #1 Fave of Parents Everywhere: impatience. And I should mention RAGE. And cell phone addiction. All of these are on permanent watch.
4. My marriage and family life
Gayle’s anxiety while I travel for work has decreased. It’s not that she didn’t trust me, but she didn’t personally know many (if any) of the people I worked and traveled with.
I’m better able to be transparent with my wife and children. It’s still something I work on, being a Virgo II (“enigma”). There’s just a lot less hustling in general, less to hide, and more to share. I always felt like I needed to steal family time to chase my dreams.
My family turned out to be my biggest achievement, and the only dream worth chasing. The Work is trying to stay awake in this crazy ass dream.
5. Our home
I kept up with the upkeep of our last home the best I could. It would often require many tense, pissed-off weekends hammering through yard work while I would’ve rather been doing anything else. I’d often start drinking in the mid-late afternoon, especially during the warmer months. In the Fall it was Octoberfest beers, and in the Winter I’d steal a buzz before heading out to shovel, or take the kids sledding.
These days I stay pretty steeped in gratitude while blowing off the roof, cleaning skylights, and vacuuming the pool for the 1000th consecutive time. I devour audiobooks and podcasts, and juice a bunch of vegetables and fruit to drink. It’s the continual, nourishing reward for the endless duties of householder life. I could’ve never imagined feeling anything other than depleted and frustrated after full days of yard work.
Even if I’m exhausted before I begin, I tend to be pretty amped when I’m done. And when I look over the expanse of our new yard (or the pool packed with our extended family), I’m just so stinkin’ grateful.
6. Songwriting & perfectionism
I once spent 4 years over-producing and over-crafting an album where I played just about all the instruments. What the hell was THAT all about? There was A LOT of beer consumed, and the process was tedious. Although I haven’t gotten back to recording, my songwriting has improved considerably since quitting booze. I’m much more likely to find a comfortable flow where I’m less likely to question (or judge) The Muse. The tribute song I wrote for my friend Scott Dinsmore
was written over the span of a few hours, versus songs on my album that literally took years.
It’s probably obvious which of the songs turned out better. Our art flows almost effortlessly into being once our fear and perfectionism is out of the way.
I should probably mention that my drinking self would’ve never had the nuts to publish a 12,000 word manifesto
on inspired living, or any of the programs I’ve launched.
Ever since I ran my first marathon in 2011, I wanted to run consecutive sub-8 minute miles. The first time that happened was a few months after quitting drinking. 4 miles in 30 minutes, at 7:30 per mile. My body is now much quicker to loosen up, and my mind is much less likely to resist the notion of running altogether. My mind’s first response to the idea of running any morning after a night of drinking was “Oh, hayelll naww!”
8. More joy / Less shame
Can’t even quantify how valuable this has been. Joy is the gateway to abundance and manifestation in our lives. For most of us, shame is tied to all our shortcomings at first. Eventually, we even become ashamed of our gifts! Total insanity.
We admire those who operate from unapologetic #JOY. They create and express simply for the love of being a vessel. A much larger percentage of my work day to day is stuff I truly enjoy doing. Stuff I would happily do for free (don’t tell my clients). But what makes my output so much more valuable these days is that it’s infused with palpable, authentic joy. It’s possible to have a blast while working your ass off. Except I rarely work my ass off anymore. I play my ass off.
9. Overall energy level
My 24, or 35-yr old self couldn’t keep up with my current pace. Much of this has to do with my guru’s work. Paramahansa Yogananda discovered 38 energization exercises around 100 years ago. Whenever I’m practicing these deeply and consistently, I can feel the prana (life force energy) circulating through my body. It feels like a calm, even hum of electrical current.
Because I’m never hungover from drinking, or even slow to roll in the mornings, I get up and meditate. Then I’m more likely to run and grab some fresh-pressed juice. At night I’m tired from playing hard getting up early to meditate, so I’m more likely to sleep well.
I wouldn’t be able to stay on the upward spiral of what the guru calls “Right Activity” if I were still drinking. They aren’t permanent, but we can milk and maximize any spiral heading in either direction.
Money is so relative. Research has shown that we’re not much, if at all happier once we make more than $70K annually. And yet, there are much happier people than most of us who make far less.
When I switched careers from being a Sales Director to an Education & Development Strategist, all I cared about was the enjoyment of my work. Less than two years later I was organizing our tax materials for our accountant. I was shocked to see I had earned more doing the work I love to do, versus grinding my ass off in sales. I attribute this to being more inspired and having higher energy. When your vibe is consistently higher, you are much more creative and resourceful. All dollars flow from there.
Now that I’m in business for myself, there’s a natural ebb and flow to my finances since I’m no longer receiving the consistent company paycheck. However, revenue is beginning to pace ahead of where those paychecks once were.
At first, early entrepreneurship brought with it many sleepless nights. I’m sure there are many more ahead. But taking 100% ownership of my family’s financial well-being has been a major milestone in my path toward sobriety.
If I were still drinking, I’d definitely be drinking more this year from stress. I would also be in full denial of our finances all together.
11. Meditation practice
This should be #1, because it’s the most high-leverage personal development tool there is. Everything above flowed from my meditation practice. Having the courage to show up every day for ourselves first forces us to create discernment. I’m much better able to decipher the chaos of life as it comes at me. Note: If you haven’t created the habit, my free program will do it for you. 🙂
Do I still create face-palming Fail Craters? Hahah. Oh, yes…
But there are also bottomless wells of self-compassion and inspiration if we’re willing to uncover them. There’s simply no more important work we can do than to methodically polish the skylights between our inner and outer experience. I was a drinker way back when I started, but the meditation exposed the drinking for the veil that it is. Meditation became a much more intoxicating buzz to chase.
As a result, spiritual experiences, unbelievable coincidences, and miracles large and small have increased in frequency. I couldn’t sit for much more than 30 minutes while I still drank.
Last December I sat 8 hrs for a Christmas meditation, and my ideal daily session length is 60-75 minutes.
12. Not taking myself so damn seriously
Sure, I still had a pretty crazy sense of humor. But I would often seethe beneath the surface. I’d often hide my pain and discomfort beneath some bullshit perma-grin mask. “There are no weeds in my garden!”
Not drinking has forced me to use my humor in much healthier, authentic ways. It has also allowed me to be much more vulnerable when I’m in pain. There’s just so fewer places to hide. This is obviously painful at first.
But once we’re comfortable with our new minimal landscape, we can operate as we’re meant to: Pared down. Sharp-eyed. Awake.
We can also belly-laugh at our complete stupidity, or at the folly of others. Cuz seriously, this giant Clown Car is so entertaining.
What have you noticed about drinking versus not drinking? I’d love to compare notes below.
AWESOME. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been wanting to have a chat with you and Cynthia on the non-drinking thing for a while now, and this pretty much covered it. You are an inspiration on so many levels. Rock on, KC.
Hey Torey! So glad you stopped by today then. 🙂 I was thinking today that I can’t name one person who ever told me that quitting drinking made their life harder, or less happy. #fact
Love this. So much of today’s social activity revolves around drinking, and it’s extremely difficult to take a step back and say no. The constant temptation of Dollar Nights and Thirsty Thursdays make it nearly impossible to realize that even after one or two pops, you’re simply numb to a lot of the magic in everyday life.
Facing natural anxiety and tiresome afternoon stresses of getting everything done without alcohol is an empowering essential step to waking up and letting go. And as you’ve shown, from there many good things flow!
Love it Chris, very well said. It’s just another vicious cycle we must become determined to break free of.
Talk about singular impact. You have a particular set of qualities that have prepared you for this, yep. Think of the people you’ll help by putting this out there. That goes deep, you. I mean, really. This is *deep.* I was mentioning this to Gary from camp who just celebrated 30+ years of sobriety: While at the Hazelden family program when my ex went through rehab, I basically sobbed openly for 4 days straight. But I learned how to be a better human. For me this meant loosening my grip on control and starting to forgive myself and the world for all the f-ing flaws. Oh, man, I know that outward smiling, inward seething thing! It’s a lifelong practice, but practices get stronger the more you do them. Way to go!
Your sweet comments hit me hard just now Suzi. Thanks. Faced a lot of bizarre, hurtful energy last night from a close relative. Hoping it was booze related, because that level of suffering (the kind that wants to consume everyone in its path) can only be attributed to illness.
We’re meant to move beyond these small, entertaining, or distracting habits. We’re meant to align our lives to something bigger than us. I just can’t think of anyone I’ve met who quit, who said that life is now worse. Hasn’t happened. And yet, The Drinks slowly carve holes in hearts, souls, and families. ENOUGH, I say.
There are clearly better ways to party. Much love Suzi.
Sounds like you’re facing some stuff today. As my mom would say, “What’s one thing you can do to take care of YOU today?”
I. LOVE. THIS. !!!
I have created a similar list that I refer to when I want to go “dark side”, which still happens, for sure.
One major difference is that I know that feeling when it’s coming. While it’s difficult to stop that train from arriving at the station, I can now greet it with compassion, empathy, and (sometimes) reason by pulling myself into gratitude and recognizing that in this moment, I have choices. One thing drinking did for me was minimize my choices. So, each day that I consciously choose anything is a great day for me.
Love it LB. The Darkside always seems to be there, right? Just on the other side of The Light.
I’ve never been a drinker, but my mom was, and in true “child of a drunk” fashion I’ve married one full blown addict, and one with huge addictive issues. The thing that all of this stole from me was the deeper connections, both to my family and to both husbands when we were married. It also delayed my learning how to make those connections, and nurture them. And let’s just say I have an advanced degree in co-dependency from it all. The Drinks don’t just affect the drinker – the ripples are profound. What went on between my mom and me affected how I parented my son – and not always in a good way. I’m happy to be sober – I like feeling all my feels, even the crappy ones – and my joyous feels are so damn lovely. My life is so much the richer for facing it head on, and clearly. And man, do I ever enjoy hanging out with people who are not drinking. Thanks for your words on noticing the other addictions that need to be on the “watch out” list, too. I have a few to keep an eye on and I appreciate the reminder. Hugs.
Love you sharing this Sam. It’s hard on families for sure. Have been spinning emotionally today from some craziness. All we can do is stay in permanent recovery, forever and ever.
Sending gentle love at you as you ride the waves. And a “you got this” 🙂
Last week I started a 365(ish) day sobriety. It’s already day 9 and this article couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s not that fact that I’m struggling. It’s just shows me that I made the right decision to make this happen because I want all of these things to come true. All I have read are positive outcomes from people giving up the sauce and it’s comforting to see so many out there who are making it happen. Fuckin A.