If you have any inclination to reassess your relationship with alcohol, imagine yourself 90 days in the future. How would you feel? What would your life be like? In a year?
If you’re having trouble imagining it (understandably, if you’ve never quit alcohol cold turkey), then let me tell you my story.
I grew up on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, so I’ve never been far from a nip of whiskey. I remember getting drunk at 12, thinking “whiskey gets mixed with a dark-colored drink, so … port would do, right?” Half a liter of that and I was very ill indeed.
Only now do I realize how strong a grip alcohol held on my life. I have had some very low points and have often sought help from counselors. I was the party organizer, the center of attention, the bouncy one in the room. But my lows were just as long and as extreme as my highs.
I was never an alcoholic. I never went home and finished a bottle of whiskey on my own or drank on a daily basis. I chose when I wanted to drink. Or at least I thought I did.
My job requires me to be very sociable, and in the past I interpreted that to mean drinking. I would often be out late during the week with clients, and then on the weekend friends would want to catch up. I drank at lunch on Tuesday, a couple of beers after work on Wednesday, Thursday after dinner, and then Friday at lunch. I’d be home a bit bleary-eyed but on time. Saturdays were spent out with friends and my wife.
When (and why) I decided to make the change:
Not surprisingly, my marriage was strained. My wife didn’t enjoy me consistently coming home in the wee hours of a Tuesday or Wednesday, having locked myself out, and waking up both her and our baby.
Underneath all that was anger and sadness. It woke up with me every day. It lashed out at work and retaliated aggressively at home. After a particularly hairy argument at home over something as simple as the placement of a piece of furniture, I decided to seek help for my anger.
I was reacting swiftly and aggressively to situations that, in the past, I would have taken in stride. I found an online anger management course, which explained that alcohol and caffeine are two major catalysts for emotional volatility. So, I decided to try not drinking for 90 days. I had done 30-day stretches before, but this time I decided to give it all my effort.
During that time, I met up with my friend Andy. I told him about my plan to go 90 days sober, and he had been dry for six months. He’d just celebrated his 40th birthday in Ireland without any booze.
I was dumbfounded. He’d always been a big drinker. If he could survive his birthday booze-free, I could definitely make it through Christmas (which closely followed my 90-day stint).
The real test:
That Christmas, I had my whole Scottish family coming into town — including my party-animal older brother whom I’d always wanted to impress.
They all supported my choice 100 percent and we had an amazing holiday together. I could go on and on about the positive changes in my life — about how I’ve lost more than 20 pounds, how well my business is going, and about how much better my relationship with my wife is than it ever was before.
Since quitting alcohol, I wake up in the morning excited about my day. My work is better and I’ve started the OYNB (One Year No Beer) project, which I hope will grow into something larger, leaving behind a legacy of social change.
I’d always dreamed of achieving so much, and part of me suspected the booze was holding me back. Now I can say with absolute authority, “The booze washolding you back, mate.”
So why don’t you take the leap and find out what your 90-day self looks like? If it isn’t an improvement on today, then I’ll eat my hat.