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Two Years Without A Hangover

Hiking on sand and rocks on the Lost Coast Trail

August 2020. Deep pandemic. After a long year of canceled plans, we got a killer crew together to backpack the Lost Coast Trail… and I was drinking a lot.

Tents in the fog on the Lost Coast trail

What’s missing from this picture? My 2 person tent.

The first morning of the trip, I was so hungover that I forgot to pack the tent… and I realized this while on the shuttle to the trailhead (while trying not to puke), with no ability to turn around.

Needless to say, this was less than ideal for a 3 night backpacking trip.

Partying on the Lost Coast Trail

Nightlife on the Lost Coast

After the trip, I woke up at home with yet another brutal hangover and crushing anxiety. Not unfamiliar territory for me, but I decided it was time to take a 30 day break, which was what I’d do whenever I felt like booze was becoming too prominent in my life. You know, just to “prove that I could stop”. Everyone knows that if you can go cold turkey for a full month, you don’t have a problem… right?

Hiking on sand and rocks on the Lost Coast Trail

I didn’t intend to “quit” drinking, but 30 days quickly turned into 60, and I kept having these moments where I realized how much better I felt without booze. Noticeable improvements to baseline well-being (feeling sharper, more energy throughout the day, less anxiety) outweighed any booze-related FOMO.

At some point I had a lightbulb moment where it occurred to me that the juice was no longer worth the squeeze. All of the countless time, energy and money I was spending tracking down and crushing heady brews (and recovering) was reallocated into more fulfilling activities and meaningful time with friends and family, where I suddenly found myself connecting on a much deeper level.

Mindfulness was becoming easier, and I was enjoying the small things in life. Just sitting with my dog for a few minutes in the morning was joyful. Slowing down a little bit, breathing, and “noticing things” felt really good. I was feeling more confident and comfortable in my own skin.

Memphis

Finding joy & beauty in everyday life

The pandemic provided a great opportunity to re-orient without booze. Social events were few and far between, and small gatherings provided me with a sort of “training wheels” to build confidence in navigating fun without a booze buzz.

As things went back to “normal”, I started to reclaim the activities that I used to enjoy beer with: camping, concerts/music festivals, trail running, travel (in particular, Vegas was a big one without booze), dining out, weddings… These are all now enjoyed with incredible clarity and recall, which is a trip in and of itself.

I’ve learned that addiction comes in all shapes and sizes. “Rock bottom” doesn’t need to be Hollywood dramatic. I wasn’t getting arrested or driving around drunk. I felt very successful in my career. But booze was dictating my weekend plans without enhancing them, and my craft beer “hobby” wasn’t sustainable. It was just slowing me down and making me feel bad. That simple realization was incredibly powerful for me.

That trip was 2 years ago. Certainly I’ve taken thousands of beer selfies (especially for Untappd), but I took my last one in August 2020. There’s nothing special about this beer selfie, but it felt appropriate to include it here. I haven’t woken up feeling sick or anxious since then, and I am infinitely more prepared to tackle any challenges that life throws my way today.

I wanted to take a moment to capture my gratitude for all of this: a rich life full of amazing friends and incredible experiences, and my ability to orient away from booze without making other drastic lifestyle changes. I’m very lucky that I was able to do this without AA/etc. If you’re sober-curious, please reach out to me, as I’d love to chat with you about it. Or just read the book “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace.

Incidentally, I haven’t posted on Instagram since that Lost Coast trip. My post about the trip from 2 years ago was my last activity there. I took a step back from social media after that trip, as my feed was mostly brewery releases/beer events anyway. I haven’t completely cut ties with social media, but much like booze, I’ve found that extended breaks are good for my brain. Watch out caffeine, you might be next!

Alright, one last beautiful shot of the Lost Coast:

Beautiful beach on the Lost Coast Trail

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