Why I Quit Drinking, And What I’ve Learned…
I love drinking. It has defined me as a person. It has, to some extent, also defined me professionally. I even wrote a bestselling book about it.
I totaled a brand new Maserati. I got kicked out of The Four Seasons, where I had been living for six months at the time. I’ve been kicked off an airplane, more than once. I’ve woken up in the hospital, in the the wrong apartment, and even in the wrong country. I threw a fruit plate at a prominent hedge fund manager. I got in a fight with Wayne Rooney. And I’ve been detained in Singapore with a bag of cocaine in my pocket. Still, I’ve mostly skated through life — resilient and unapologetic.
I learned how to drink at boarding school
I came to Choate from a small Texas town, as an undersized, insecure, and immature kid. Drinking became an identity crutch. Getting a hungover B on a Calculus exam felt better than any earned A, and also gave me (sadly) a social status or notoriety that I couldn’t earn on an athletic field.
When the punishment for drinking was suspension or worse, learning and mastering binge-drinking and day-drinking was a prerequisite for not getting caught. Who got drunk at 9am on a Tuesday? I did. Friday night drinking was for suckers, and dumb kids who got expelled.
Binge-drinking got me promoted on Wall Street
After college, I went to Wall Street — specifically the Salomon Brothers bond desk of Liar’s Poker fame, then part of Citigroup. My knack for and propensity to drink helped my early career immensely — earning me a reputation for being fun, keeping secrets, and playing hurt; I once showed up to work at seven o’clock in the morning wearing the previous evening’s tuxedo.
Relationships with senior colleges and clients were forged over drinking sessions and debaucherous late nights. Deal teams were formed and résumés were grown at night or on roadshows; as such, disparate opportunities came my way. It was still a meritocracy of sorts, but squares and female colleagues didn’t stand a chance, without of course risking embarrassment or stigmatization.
I retired early to write a book and drink
I left the world of finance, having worked in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore, to move to a leafy suburb in Texas, raise a family, play golf, tinker with entrepreneurial projects, and write a book a book about my experiences.
I spent most days with my family, and wrote my book (which peaked at #7 on the NYT bestseller’s list) between the hours of 11pm and 4am, with the help of one or two bottles of wine.
Did/Do I have a problem?
Obviously, I possess the objectivity to process the consequences of my actions and the decades of feedback from friends, colleagues, and loved ones. But did I, or do I, have a drinking problem? Of course not. Right? It’s not a problem if it’s a hobby. It’s not a problem if it’s a choice to go out and drink to the point of losing control and blacking out. Right?
That’s always been my position. But, who cares? I think too many people get hung up on this issue of acknowledgment, acceptance, or denial.
Three months ago, I simply, without judgment of myself or others, decided that I wanted to quit drinking. Why? I suppose the primary reason is that I’m turning 40 this year. My kids are old enough to be forming life-shaping memories. And… I’ve gotten bored of my favorite hobby, and want to see and experience life from a different perspective.
3 months in, here’s what I’ve learned…
- I’m more productive. I write a “to do” list for every day and week ahead. As my agent at CAA said, I’m an “idea factory” — fashion, charity, books, TV pilots, podcasts, entrepreneurial initiatives, etc. When I was drinking, most of these ideas progressed at a snail’s pace or not at all. I’ve made more progress in the last three months than I made in the previous two years.
- I’m a better version of myself. My kids let me sleep in until 6am if I am lucky. Now, instead of handing them an iPad and begging for another hour of sleep, we’re making a gourmet breakfast and riding scooters to the park. And when I get there, instead of sitting on a bench scrolling through Twitter with a coffee in my hand, I’m getting free cardio playing Freeze Tag.
- I’m reading more. I’ve popularly said that “reading allows you to borrow someone else’s brain.” Yet, last year, I only read 3 books. Now, I’m reading a book a week.
- I’m happier and feeling better mentally. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I know depression or anxiety because I don’t, but I certainly know what it’s like to spend an afternoon drinking two bottles of wine, re-watching The Sopranos, instead of living life and experiencing new things.
- I’m substantially healthier. I do an hour of cardio and weights in the morning. I eat healthier, and drink 100 ounces of water or matcha tea daily. Now, I’ve lost twenty pounds and can run eight miles with ease.
- I sleep better than I ever have. I’ve just discovered that I only need about four hours of sleep to function optimally, which is like regaining 1/8th of my life back from the abyss.
- I don’t procrastinate via social media. Tweet me. Post on Facebook. I no longer care about “winning” some thread that serves no purpose other than telling people that I’d rather be online than with my family.
- I feel sharper and more articulate. Arithmetic, vocabulary words, anecdotes, punchlines, and writing all come easier to me.
- I’m saving so much fucking money. Thousands of dollars a month.
- I’m a better friend, father, and partner. I’m more empathetic, kind, forgiving, and patient. And my friends and family have noticed.
Drink. Don’t drink. I don’t care. I don’t judge. I still go out. I still get into trouble. I still say what I think. I’m just actually present for all of it, and better at it.
This was my experience, and I wanted to share it. Am I an alcoholic? Are you? It doesn’t matter.