Hangover-free for 5 months. Because hangovers suck.

I’ve been rattled by the gut-check realization that living a BDC lifestyle is what I’ve needed for a looong time. Trust me that I’m not just saying this to look good for the company that now cuts my paychecks. I’ve been blessed with the invitation to sit in this chair, help lead this company, and share my story — as real as it may get sometimes.

My relationship with alcohol has always been on again/off again. We’ve dated, broken up, gotten back together. We haven’t fought in a while, and it feels really good, but that doesn’t mean I can get complacent just because things are going well.

I have not had a hangover since I met Cam last September. After walking away from our first meal together, I felt empowered by BDC’s simple, yet compelling message to just drink better. I was overcome with a renewed sense of responsibility for myself, what I consumed, and how I consumed. Also, I hated everything associated with having a hangover.

If I’m being honest, there have definitely been sessions when I’ve consumed either enough in quantity or strength that have gotten me drunk. But. The subtle difference has been that I’ve stopped at either enough or just before “enough.” And, when I say “drunk,” that does not correlate to belligerent, embarrassing, or unsafe. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I embrace my limit, and am not drinking past it — the problem I’ve historically struggled with. A fine line.

When I’ve bantered with friends or colleagues about BDC, to frame one easily understandable concept of what we do, I challenge them: “When you wake up in the morning after a night of drinking, no one EVER says, ‘You know what would’ve made last night more awesome?! More drinks!’” In all my days and nights negatively affected by alcohol, I’ve NEVER heard anyone regret NOT drinking more the night before.

So, over the last few weekends, I’ve had a few beers. Three weeks ago, I went to a casual house party with some freelance writer friends. We all write about beer. We all brought beer. We all drank said beer. The first batch of photos below is a snapshot of what I drank at the party. I never drank more than a few ounces per beer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t add up over time. I drank water between each one, finished the last hour-and-a-half with water exclusively, and when I got home (Thanks for the ride, wife!). If I wouldn’t have monitored myself, that Sunday morning could’ve very well been tainted with my first hangover in five months.

Two weeks ago, I took a four-day weekend. I rode the train from Grand Rapids to Chicago on Thursday for a concert, and to catch up with one of my best friends from high school who’s now a Windy City local. Over both days, I visited Half Acre Beer Company, Hopleaf, Revolution Brewing, and Local Option.

Between all four places, I ordered small pours (approximately 4–6 oz. ea.) of everything I drank so I could sample as many beers that I don’t regularly have access to in MI. And, I always had a refillable glass of water in front of me. Listen, I was away from the safety net of home, galavanting around on my own dime, not on anyone else’s watch, far away from anyone who would’ve recognized me if I did anything stupid, and was decently lubed up on amazing beer. Things could’ve gone sideways really quick, and yet — I rocked that BDC vibe the whole time. I woke up both mornings without sacrificing a minute of my days, and continued enjoying the rest of my weekend the way it feels best: without a hangover.

After rolling back in to Grand Rapids Friday night, I knew I was going to be back at it Saturday morning for Sourgarten, a sour beer celebration for the grand opening of the biergarten at The Søvengård. It was a double-date day with my wife, and two of our best friends. Three of us first split nine 4-oz. pours of different sours when we arrived at 3:15p. As they were generally lower ABV beers, I could’ve easily consumed all 36 oz. by myself, but it would’ve set the precedent for a snowball of unnecessary consumption for the rest of the day. I ended up having two more beers before we left about 6:30p, and continued to pace myself with one drink over the course of almost two hours at Steel Cat while waiting for a table at Butcher’s Union for dinner.

Photos courtesy of Ray Ashley II and Steph Harding

Katherine and I finally got home about 10:30p, after a pretty solid day. We had to be up early Sunday morning to drive two hours back to the east side of the state for a family birthday thing. Instead of whacking the snooze button to avoid dealing with a morning that could’ve been compounded with a gnarly headache, I was up on the first buzz to capture the morning before hitting the road. And, when I woke up, I was ready to tackle the day, and did it feeling like a million bucks.

Most recently, this past weekend was going to be a test. I attended the Michigan Brewers Guild’s 12th annual Winter Beer Fest, both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. If you’ve never been, approximately 100 Michigan breweries set up in the parking lot of Fifth Third Ballpark to serve a combined 1,000 beers. And then, 6,000 enthusiasts converge to consume outside. In Michigan. In February.

Mother Nature was not cooperative either day. Friday was drenched in nonstop rain. Saturday was frozen over with numbingly cold temperatures and sideways blowing snow. It made for a very challenging experience. I planned to dedicate Friday to networking for BDC, but had to cut it short due to everything I brought getting soaked, including my phone. Thankfully, my sweet wife helped me Saturday make up for lost time on Friday — snapping photos with me and our Certified Partners, and keeping my hand slapped with stacks of BDC stickers to pass out.

I haven’t done an official count, but I tracked probably close to 40–50 beers sampled. On the high end, that’s about 5% of the total beers available. But, thanks to my lifehack for beer fests now in asking for half-pours (and pitching those I’m not a fan of), neither day turned into the Sh!t Show they used to. I get to try more new beers, and I get to actually remember trying them all, too. Win-win, right.

Photos courtesy of Katherine Ley, Ray Ashley II, and Steph Harding

For me, it’s a far stretch from when I attended my first and second beer fests — the first of which I puked in a porta john, and rallied, and the second when I cracked my elbow from “horsing around.”

Getting acclimated to BDC has been a natural transition. Professionally, it challenges many intellectual, social, and creative goals I have. Personally, feeling the tangible benefits of living better, while still enjoying the craft that now surrounds my life, has been priceless.