A thank you note for ‘Happy’ Andy Boyle,

Andy doesn’t know me and has never heard of me. Until January 1, 2016, I didn’t know who he was, and had never heard of him.

On that day, though, ‘Happy’ Andy Boyle showed up in my life and turned it 180 degrees…and I truly believe he saved it.

For everyone out there who has known me for any period of time, you know that I was Dean “the guy at the bar that everyone knows” Plunkett. If you weren’t sure where I was you could usually walk into any of a handful of bars in Raleigh and I’d be there “holding court”. It was who I was, what I did, expected by everyone (myself included), and what I thought I was supposed to do. It was validation. It was fun. I always felt like the center of attention.

I was also well known for the amount I could consume in any given day. I say ‘day’ because most of my ‘days’ started around 11:00. “The bars open at 11:00. There must be a reason for that.” I used the same excuse in my head for staying there until 2:00. I would go through multiple ‘shifts’ of friends throughout any given evening…those doing lunch…those doing a drive-by on the way home…those stopping by before dinner plans…those just finished dinner…those starting their night out…those that are out to party. I’d hang with all of them, and somehow get up and do it again the next day.

All of this seemed to be going fine until job, paycheck, personal, financial, life started unraveling one day at a time. Then a week at a time. Then a month. All of a sudden the ‘Fun Dean’ became the angry, bitter and destructive Dean, hurting my family, hurting my friends, and on the way to seriously hurting myself. Then December 31, 2015 happened.

To be honest, I can’t remember very much at all after 5:00 pm that day. I can’t say it was the whole end of the year thing, life in the toilet thing, angry at the world thing, or just being in a bar all day thing. It was probably the combination of all of that.

All I vaguely remember is yelling at my best friends for no reason, sending extremely inappropriate and over-the-top texts to other friends, acting like a complete douchebag, driving when I had no business doing it, and passing out after throwing everything I had in my hands all over my apartment…I only recall that last part because I found keys, glasses, cell phone, etc. all over the place the next day.

That long introduction brings me to the next morning. I won’t bore you with the details, but I felt the way I usually felt every morning…groggy, nauseated, angry, tired, embarrassed, confused. I was seriously at the point where I was just going to disappear. I didn’t want to face the day, the world, my friends, my family…anything or anyone. I had reached the end, with no other direction to go. That’s when ‘Happy’ Andy Boyle showed up.

He didn’t ACTUALLY show up, of course. He lives in Chicago, for God’s sake.

He showed up in my life through a tweet from a good friend who shared Andy’s story. It wasn’t targeted to me, and I’m pretty sure this good friend never though it would be me that this tweet affected, but it did. Andy recounts what he learned from not drinking for two years. His story instantly got my attention, and I sincerely believe it saved my life.

I haven’t had a drop to drink in 31 days. I know that’s not the same as Andy’s two years, but for anyone that remembers the old “Fun Dean” it should really come as a surprise.

I will give you the short version of what he writes, and I will tell you, at least in my case, he is right on everything says. His story is here:

Andy’s Lessons:

“You don’t have to drink to have fun.”

I always operated under the assumption that if I wanted to have fun in a bar with friends I had to be getting drunk. I have found that is REALLY not true, and have had more fun with my friends in bars over the last month than I can ever remember. (Insert ‘drunk Dean’ joke here.)

“You have way less regrets.”

Wow, is this one ever true. If you don’t act like a douchebag, insult people, drive when you shouldn’t or spend money you can’t afford, you really do wake up feeling much better and energized in the morning. I hadn’t felt that way in well over a decade. I gotta tell you, it feels PHENOMINAL.

“People will judge the shit out of you for not drinking.”

Fortunately in my experience this hasn’t happened. My friends and family wanted this for me as much as I needed it for me, so they have been nothing but supportive. I’m sure the ridicule and judgement happens to others going through this, and I feel for them. I’ve been very lucky.

“You sleep much better.”

Oh my god yes! Naps are awesome! Six or seven hours sleep without the drunken dreams every night. Falling asleep without the feeling of the bed spinning, reliving the night’s stupidity, anticipating the morning’s regrets and saying goodnight to that flying squirrel in the room, is GREAT!!

“You get less sad.”

As Andy says, I’m not sure whether it was depression, anxiety or just sadness, but I used to dread the day and what it might hold. All I wanted to do was get to the bar and forget. For the last 31 days there hasn’t been any sadness or being bummed out. My life is still in the toilet on so many levels, but I have a positive attitude every day and want to get up and see what it holds for me. Good or Bad.

“You develop more empathy for others.”

Oh, I used to be an asshole. No empathy for anyone. They don’t care about me, why the hell should I care about them. That attitude has changed 180 degrees. I now see that I was almost at the end of my rope and someone grabbed it and pulled me out. I want to do that for someone else.

“You save so much money.”

I don’t have very much of it right now, so this is a very good thing. I also don’t even want to think how much I wasted on “Fun Dean” over the years. When your usual day involves sitting in a bar most of the day, and going to the store to restock the fridge (I mean everyday) it adds up.

“You get tired early.”

It’s not that I get tired early, it’s that I don’t stay up late to keep partying. “Fun Dean” would just keep going and going…like a Bud Light-powered energizer bunny. Now its quiet evenings that start about 7:00, listening to the radio and writing.

“You become amazingly productive.”

When you spend, on average, half of your waking hours sitting in a bar you really can’t get a lot accomplished. It’s amazing what you can do with that time. I have started a whole new chapter in my life by starting to write. It’s nothing of consequence right now, and definitely won’t pay the bills anytime soon, but it is what I spend my time on now, and I’ve never been happier…in my life.

Andy ends his story the same way I’ll end mine. I am not that person to say “I quit, and you should to.” In fact, I made sure all of my friends I hang out with (I still love bars) know that they don’t need to change themselves because I changed me. They don’t have the same problems I did. I changed because I needed to before the last stone fell on my head.

I have also had a pretty easy transition to sobriety. I just haven’t had a drink in 31 days. I haven’t had an urge for a drink in 31 days. It may not stay that way forever, but up until now it’s been pretty easy to stop. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but it has been for me, and I’m grateful for that.

In closing I just want to thank my good friend who tweeted out Andy’s story on January 1st. And I want to send my deepest thanks and appreciation to “Happy” Andy Boyle for sharing his story with the world, and being there at the right time to save my life. I will always love him for that even if I never actually meet him.

Cheers to all, and I hope great things for everyone.

Dean “Fun Bobby” Plunkett