Have you ever done something so embarrassing while you were drunk that you wanted to crawl in a hole the next day? Annie welcomes Mike to the podcast, who shares his ‘David Hasselhoff’ drinking moment and how this was a turning point for quitting. From blackout nights and weekend warrior binge drinking, Mike has traded his ‘badge of honor’ for a sober life – a life free from embarrassing blackout moments.
The First Drink
I don’t specifically remember my first drink, but I think it was around 8th or 9th grade. It was the type of thing where I made a bunch of friends, snuck some terrible liquor out of my parents liquor cabinet like some Bushmill’s or some Schnapps or something. I started drinking at an early age. I grew up an Irish Catholic, a big Irish Catholic family outside of Boston, so it was a big drinking family.
Beginning The Blackout Nights
In high school my friends and I, would drink a lot. When I look back on it now I’d, kind of, set the blueprint for myself in terms of what my life would be like for the next 20 years. From like 16 to 36, I would try to be this responsible, quieter type of person during the week. I’d get my work my done, study, get pretty good grades, keep people off my back, play sports, and then on the weekend I would transform into this party animal. I set this blueprint of binge drinking, kind of every weekend.
It was a big part of my life in high school. My friends and I started smoking weed, and experimenting with other drugs at that time. I kept things together, and even back then was able to maintain a, sort of, balance between partying and school. That really continued all the way through college. I went to a small liberal arts school in the Northeast, and no shortage of partying there. A big drinking school, and that really continued through college.
Badge of Honor
Then right after college, moved to New York City, got a job here. I’ve lived here for 15 years now. A lot of friends that I went to college with moved here right after college too and we just kept the party going for a lot of years. I’d live this weekend warrior lifestyle as a badge of honor. Now looking back, it really wasn’t so much. When I was younger I could handle it. As I started to get into my 30s, the hangovers started getting worse. My tolerance would get a lot higher and I’d drink so much more over the weekends as I got into my 30s.
2017 is really when a few things happened that started changing in my life with my drinking ramping up. That also started me on the path that I’ve been on now to sobriety. The first was really a practical reason, and that was that my company offered us the opportunity to work from home one day a week. I choose Monday’s. Not to kick off my week with a nice productive workday from home, but really so that I could keep drinking on Sunday’s and not have to go into the office on Monday mornings so hungover.
So, every weekend then I added Sunday on to drinking, and every weekend became like a three day bender. I’d get out of work on Friday, sometimes even leaving work to meet a friend at the bar, and then you’d start drinking at Happy Hour at the bar. Sometimes you’d get dinner, sometimes you wouldn’t. I’d keep drinking all night. Often we would do cocaine to keep drinking, which in retrospect was completely unnecessary. Then you’d get up on Saturday, you’d feel real crappy, hungover, and you’d hit a brunch with friends and start drinking Bloody Mary’s. Maybe you’d go out to a bar in the afternoon and start drinking. Plenty of people do that in this city, but for me, this was like, every single weekend. This was, kind of, the blueprint.
On Sunday’s I would keep drinking too. Now that I didn’t have to go into the office I’d drink more beers on Sunday. You’d go and meet friends at a bar for quote, “Sunday funday”, and keep drinking throughout Sundays. I’d wake up every Monday morning like totally incapacitated from the weekends drinking, feeling horrible. Sweating out alcohol I’d force myself to get up and, kind of, do the bare minimum of work to get by. But every Monday I was like, miserable for at least a year, probably even longer.
At the same time, two other personal things were happening in my life that were more serious, personal issues. The first was that my dad had been battling life threatening illness. He was diagnosed with a rare disease called Amyloidosis, which affects the protein. An abnormal protein build up in your tissues and organs, and so he had to undergo a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy. He had his last rites read several times. He had to have a kidney transplant. In 2017, he’d been battling for a lot of years, but he was spending months in and out of the hospital. Things had really taken a turn for the worse. So I think I drank a lot more as a way to cope with that and, kind of, numb the pain I was dealing with from that.
The second thing that was happening was that my wife and I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby for about a year. We had gotten married, and had been trying, and we had just started this journey of meeting with the fertility doctor and going into the whole infertility world. In the fall of 2017 we were getting ready to go into our first cycle of IVF, and I was still partying like every weekend was like a bachelor party or something. So definitely not a good look for me at the time.
All of this was really ramping up until one weekend in September of 2017, that I call my fateful weekend where my life really changed. I want to walk through the weekend in a little bit of detail. I think it really encapsulates some of the microcosm of some of the reasons I drank, and why it had become such a problem-
One of the things that happened, and I’ve read your book now, is you talk about the moderation trap. I would go into some certain weekends, like planning not to drink very much and have a chill weekend. Then I was the type of drinker that once I started it was, kind of, off to the races. But this weekend was a bit of an example of that. My wife had to go away for work for a week on Sunday morning. Our plan going in was to just have a chill weekend, hang out together and spend time together before she flew to Seattle for a week for work.
Learn more about the moderation trap. Start reading This Naked Mind for free today!
Beginning of the End
That Friday night I got off of work and stopped at a bodega on the way home to pick up a whole bunch of beer for the weekend. Then I walked down, left for the apartment, dropped it off at the apartment and walked down the street to go pick up some wine for my wife. I remember I was walking down the street and on the corner of my street there was a group of people gathered outside of a building. I was wondering what they were doing.
Looking over, they were chatting with each other, and there was a sign that said AA. An arrow pointing down the stairs to the basement. I remember thinking to myself, “I should just walk in there right now.”
But, I didn’t, and I was terrified to do that, you know, enter that whole world. I had, kind of, built up this thing in my mind that I didn’t need that. That I could handle it, and so I kept walking. It was a very straight contrast, kept walking right to the liquor store to buy a bottle of wine for my wife.
Just In Case
Then while I was there though, it was classic drinker thinking, I remember I said, “Oh, let me pick up a bottle of vodka just in case too.” So I grabbed a bottle of vodka as well, brought it back home. I started having beers before my wife got home, we went out to dinner, and then I had a couple cocktails at dinner. We were trying to have a chill night, but was already drinking a lot. Then when we got home my wife went to bed and I stayed up drinking more by myself, which was something I would tend to do a lot.
I stayed up drinking more, drinking more beers by myself, listening to music and for no reason really, just, kind of, kept the party going. So on Saturday afternoon we had a party to go to, which was a friend of my wife’s from work. So, you know, I didn’t know anyone at this party.
This is an example of social anxiety, I think it played in a lot to the reason I drank, and so I can be shy or introverted when I’m in a new situation like that. Like I’m sure a lot of people are.
I bought a 12 pack of beer to bring to the party, and we were there for a couple hours and I just remember feeling so uncomfortable if I didn’t have a beer in my hand. I probably drank, like eight beers in a couple hours while we were at this party. You know, my wife and I are at dinner after, I kept drinking more there. I remember her looking at me, and being like, “Why are you drinking so much? It’s just us hanging out.” I know now I was addicted and just this type of drinker where I couldn’t stop once I started. She was right.
Fast forward to Sunday morning, my wife flew off to Seattle, and I’m from Boston so I’m a big Patriots fan and I have a lot of friends that I grew up with that actually live here in Brooklyn. So it was our Sunday ritual that we’d all get together, watch football, and since I was able to work from home, a lot of times it would get out of hand. So this day was no exception. I had friends come over at about noon. I remember specifically saying to one friend, something like, “Too early to crack one?” Of course, he said, “No”, and we started drinking at noon.
By like, 4:00, 4:30, the Patriots game was over, all the beer had run out, and I said, “Well I have this bottle of vodka that I just bought, just in case.” So we cracked that open, and we’re all hanging out, making vodka sodas. This is when things get really blurry and I started to black out. I think eventually we finished the bottle of vodka and me and a couple other friends decided it would be great idea to go down the street to the bar, down the street. So we hit the bar. At this point I was totally blacked out, and I guess just really embarrassed myself at the bar. I was like, falling off the bar stool, trying to order shots. The bartender, you know, essentially shut me off and asked me to leave. I, kind of, stumbled home.
Hall of Shame
If that had been the end of it, you know, I probably would have woken up on Monday and just carried on. “Oh, another rough weekend.” But what was different this time is I got home and decided to keep the party going by myself, like I had done Friday night and many nights before. But this time I decided to post a couple Instagram videos of myself, drunkenly blasting music in my living room, and really embarrassing. Like, apparently … I couldn’t bring myself to watch them after, but apparently I was like, lying on the floor in one. Now I can, kind of, laugh about it now, but in the moment, at the time, it was so painful.
Passing out in my bed and totally blacking out. Not remembering any of this. Waking up the next morning and feeling like a truck of alcohol had run over body. I just had a piercing headache, but also had this crippling sense of shame and just something felt different. Like, “Oh man, I did something really stupid last night, didn’t I?”
Can’t Go Back
I looked over at my phone and my phone was blowing up. You know, angry text messages from my wife, and a lot worse things were said, but the gist of it was like, you know, “Never post on Instagram when you’re drunk. I have coworkers and family that follow you.” I was getting text messages from friends that I was with the day before, like, “Are you alive?” People I hadn’t even seen in a long time were like, “Are you okay?” You know, it started coming to the real … I deleted the videos and immediately shut down my Instagram account and deleted the evidence, but the damage was there.
You know, I had this moment where I realized, this is different this time and I really need to do something about this. I need to stop drinking.
Listen to the complete podcast for more on how Mike went from blackout nights to a Naked Life!
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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