How I was able to take the next step for my future by putting drinking in my past.
“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.” — Maya Angelou
I always thought of myself as a pretty mature individual as I grew up.
Because my mom was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic at the age of 24, and my two older siblings were not exactly on the path to success early in their lives, at 14 years old, I felt like it was my responsibility to take care of my mother and my family as best as possible.
From the age of 14 to 19, I was pretty serious about most things that I did in life.
I was pretty devoted to school and getting grades as high as possible.
I had a religious awakening at 16 that had me equally dedicated to the church and religion.
Lastly, I was dedicated to running track for all four years of high school, and this had me up at 5 am each morning to run 5 miles to start my day.
All of this turned into a lot of responsibility that didn’t allow me to just hang out with friends like most teenagers and didn’t really make for much of a “fun” adolescent experience.
Fast forward to the end of my freshman year in college, and I was rethinking all the choices that I had made the previous five.
Was I really living life or just going from responsibility to responsibility and not truly enjoying all that it had to offer?
Therefore, when I discovered alcohol at the age of 19 and began to let my hair down a bit as it relates to school and responsibility, this completely changed my life.
From that point forward, alcohol became my harbinger of fun and excitement.
It didn’t allow me to be too uptight or be so concerned with tomorrow. I thought, “let’s just enjoy the night and allow that to take care of itself.”
While this was fun for the 19 years that I allowed it to lead my life, I didn’t realize until I finally stopped drinking over two years ago that this was one of the things that had consistently held me back from truly growing up and becoming the quality of individual I needed to become to see the success that I desired.
There were several reasons that I have finally been able to grasp why this was the case.
Drinking stopped me from considering true long-term consequences
While allowing alcohol to be my weekend and sometimes weekday compass, it was like I was often making decisions from a position of extreme weakness.
Making the correct decision in various situations to do what makes the most sense long term for you and your life can already be hard enough, but when you consistently put yourself in a situation in which you are trying to make this decision when your thinking and judgment have been impaired, the chances of you making the right decision are not very good.
It’s like going to the grocery store and shopping when you’re hungry all the time. Everything is always going to look so much tastier when your stomach is growling, and you’re typically going to spend so much more money than you would if you were not hungry.
As shared in the very first article of AINYF, the reason I stopped drinking was that I wanted to ensure myself that I did everything possible to succeed at my business before it went under.
And while I didn’t ultimately succeed, what I did do was finally allow myself the ability to make decisions consistently that were more focused on what was best long-term as opposed to just how I was feeling at that moment.
This allowed me to see a measure of success in a number of areas inside and outside of the business that I know I wouldn’t have had I been drinking, and this has continued to this day.
One of the biggest differentiators between who would be considered adults versus non-adults is the ability to truly consider long-term decision-making.
Everyone is different, but most teenagers actually don’t physiologically have the ability to think more long-term in their decision-making (think study for a test to get in a good college) versus focusing on the here and now (think going out with a group of friends to party instead).
While drinking, my mind was somewhat similar to this adolescent stage in life, and I wasn’t as focused on how those extra two shots were probably not going to allow me to wake up at 5 am as promised and work on that project that I wanted to finish.
This led to me being a lot more concerned with having a good time than what I was doing to ensure to build a future of stability and success for myself— something that should come with adulthood.
Drinking made me too reliant on taking the easy way out
While I have always believed that I had somewhat of an understanding of what it meant to be successful in life, I must admit that during my drinking years, I had a tendency to lean toward doing what was easiest at the moment instead of putting in the hard work to be successful.
For example, when I attended networking events, instead of focusing on developing my conversation and personal skills, I would instead lean on drinking to “loosen up.”
When out with my friends at a bar, if I wanted to talk to a female, instead of working through the awkwardness of learning how to hold a conversation that was engaging, I would just drink until I got brave enough to say something.
This translated into me not really developing these skills at the clip with which I could truly improve consistently. I did get better at both of these things over time, but as shared in this AINYF article, your ability to learn and truly grow is very much handicapped when you attempt to do it while drinking.
What this translated into was me consistently using alcohol to take shortcuts in life, as opposed to doing the hard work to truly get better at something.
While this often happened while I was drinking, over time, this would also occur when I was somewhat sober because there was a good chance I was in some state of recovery (i.e., hungover) and was doing everything I could to alleviate my headache at the time.
Often, this would result in me deciding to not study for that test, skipping the gym that day, or just putting in enough work to get credit on a project as opposed to going the extra mile to ensure it was the best product possible that I could produce.
This decision kept me in the same place for much of my life, as the quality of my effort was not allowing me to produce work that would be recognized as exceptional enough to propel me to the level of success I desired.
Now, I could finally recognize the compounded effects of my positive decisions
If you take away these two inhibitors, you have what it means to grow from the moment-to-moment decision-making of someone focused on the here and now to the long-term thinking needed to truly live a life of success and achievement.
While I was drinking, I would feel that I was always working hard and pushing to improve my mental and physical capacity to be the best that it could possibly be.
What I didn’t realize was how much drinking alcohol was holding me back from achieving either because of the ceiling that was placed on me by it.
It was only when I stopped drinking and gave my body enough time to remove all of the harmful toxins that I had been ingesting for so many years that I finally began to see the growth that was possible mentally and physically.
Before this, I didn’t have quite the motivation to continue to push myself to work harder because I didn’t think that I had the capacity to achieve more.
Now, having removed the governing effects of alcohol, I became much more inspired to continue to work hard each day because I could see the change and growth taking place.
I saw myself thinking on an entirely different plane and achieving things physically that I would’ve been proud to have been able to do 15 years earlier.
This realization has been one of the many things that has kept me focused on maintaining my alcohol-consciousness and committed to pushing myself to create the best version of myself possible.
Being a kid was fun while it lasted, but now it’s time to put my big boy pants on and do my part to not only build a better me but also, hopefully, help build a better world.