Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol
Where I am: Chicago, IL backstage at Allstate Arena
What I’m listening to: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band — Atlantic City Live
On December 1st, 2012, one of my best friends, Big Sean, headlined a concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. You probably read that sentence and thought to yourself, “So what? He’s Big Sean, he plays concerts.” But this concert was special. For those of you that don’t know, I first became friends with Sean in 2006 as we were graduating high school. We began making music in my parents’ house. Fast forward six years, and he was headlining the biggest arena you can play in Michigan, so needless to say, it was an emotional moment for me, Sean, and the rest of Finally Famous. My parents were seated in the front row next to Sean’s mother. During the poignant lyrics of the song Memories, Sean broke down into tears, and if you were to look to the side of the stage, you would have seen a moved Mike Posner wiping tears from his eyes as well.
No one has proved to me that dreams can come true more than Big Sean. He showed me that it was possible to not only make a living off of music, but to get a record deal, have a hit song on the radio, and do basically whatever the hell I wanted to in life. If I can dream it, I can do it… And because one of my close friends was doing it, I’ve always thought, why the hell not me? Seeing Sean in between pyrotechnics with tens of thousands of people chanting his name at the Palace was the culmination of many dreams and much hard work, so it was hard not to be emotional.
And then there were the special guests. The following artists made guest appearances and performed songs at Sean’s show that night:
- Mike Posner (you’ve probably never heard of him, he’s super overrated)
- J. Cole
- Pusha T
- Teyana Taylor
- Kanye West (yes, friggin Kanye West came)
Keep in mind that this concert was not in LA or NYC; it was in Detroit. These artists didn’t just happen to be in town and swing by. Every person on that list boarded their ass on a plane and flew to Detroit for that night, for Detroit City, and most of all, for Sean. When Sean introduced me to the stage that night, the hometown crowd erupted lovingly and I felt that burning excitement that always goes with playing sold out shows (my job doesn’t suck). Here’s a fan video of that moment; it happens at 3 minutes 10 seconds:
Even though Sean’s name was on the ticket that night, I think all of our friends would say there was a collective feeling of “WE DID IT” in the air after the show. Kanye West even told me,“Congratulations…for your city.” He said that to me. What!? So when the show ended, I did what I’ve always done in moments of celebration: I started pouring Hennessy and Jack Daniels down my throat at an alarming rate.
At this point in my life, I typically drank two to four times per month, never on show nights. But when I did drink…I really drank. There was nothing casual about it; I was trying to get wasted. That’s how I had learned at Duke University, so that’s how I continued to do it. This night was no exception. Backstage dressing rooms are typically dressed with an array of bottles and that night I remember drinking Hennessy with J. Cole and rambling like an idiot in a conversation that I still regret, telling him, “You’re like Common, but …like…the new Common.” (< — can’t take the one back :/ haha) as he pretended to care about the garbled words I was shooting at his face.
Anyways, I spent the night at my parents house. Yes, the same house where Sean and I worked on the original Cooler Than Me, and I went to the airport the next morning terribly hung over. As I was walking to my gate at DTW, I ran into another friend of mine who was connecting in Detroit to go back to LA: Tank. Tank and I boarded the plane and took our seats in first class (I know I’m bourgeoisie, I usually ride coach now…separate issue)…and sitting in first class I found Big Sean and Common.
Now I get to do a lot of cool shit in my life, but this was sort of ridiculous. I switched seats with a nice woman so I got to sit next to one of my best friends, in first class, after just playing the Palace in Detroit, with mutter-fuggin COMMON (one of my heroes since I was a teenager)!!! Still, at the time, I was really hung over so the moment was draped in a sort of grey malaise that anyone who drinks is familiar with. Sean and I talked a little and he got up to go to the bathroom. When he was walking down the aisle, Common said to him, “you gotta hear this verse I just wrote,” and proceeds to start RAPPING ON THE PLANE, IN FIRST CLASS, AFTER JUST PLAYING THE PALACE (I feel it’s necessary to remind you of all these facts in ALL CAPS in case you forgot how ridiculous this was).
So at this point, I realize that I am in the middle of one of my childhood dreams. There was just one problem: I couldn’t enjoy this surreal moment because I was hung over. I stared stupidly at Sean as one of our childhood heroes rapped for him, in first class, after just playing the Palace…. and all I could feel was the grey malaise. :/.
I decided right then and there that nothing was more important than my happiness. And I thought to myself, no one should be in control of my happiness but me. Four hours of fun the previous night resulting in an entire day of misery the next day is just bad math. I decided I couldn’t let alcohol rob me of enjoying my life’s special moments. That was December 2nd, 2012, and I just stopped. I just stopped.
I don’t think that alcohol is inherently a bad thing. Put whatever the hell you want to in your body. I don’t care. But for me, alcohol makes me happy for a little while, and sad for a longer while. As I’ve figured out more ways to be happier through exercise and meditation, states of grey malaise seem more and more unacceptable to me.
- This email is aimed at casual drinkers. If you have a drinking problem, I am not pretending to be an expert in this territory . I have friend who have had great success with AA. Sidenote, AA seems like a rad organization and I want to go to a meeting to see what it’s like.
- If you feel inspired to do so, try not drinking for 14 days as an experiment and see if you feel better. No big deal.
- If you find yourself in a night club, bar, or pre-game use the words “I don’t drink.” People generally respect this sentence and will not shove drinks in your face the rest of the night. If you say, “I’m not drinking tonight,” expect a an absurd amount of peer pressure mied with insults to be thrown your direction.
- When you don’t drink, people often assume that were an alcoholic before. Get used to this. They’ll say, “how long has it been? etc.”
Fans of my earlier music that I wrote in college tend to think of me as the Smoke & Drive guy or the Drug Dealer Girl guy and I realize they may find this heartbreaking…. Sorry. Humans have only one job: to grow. I was 21 then. I’m 27 now. A lot has changed. I’m convinced that’s a good thing.