Marc, like Annie, found himself in a drinking job but desperate for freedom from the alcohol. He found it with This Naked Mind.
My first experience with alcohol was probably like most people – when I was in high school. I was offered some high-quality malt liquor (Zima) when I was about 15 years old. I remember drinking it and then that night having the room spin, throwing it all up, and saying that I would never drink again in my life. Of course that didn’t last. A couple years later when I had my own money, we would buy drinks before heading to the Friday night football game or sneak some of our friends’ parents’ gin. I would say most of this was “harmless” or just experimenting. My heavy drinking didn’t start until I was 21 and a junior in college.
I had a group of friends that I’d head down to 6th street with on Thur-Sun. Pretty much getting wasted every single night. Now, I had a full time job that I had to be at each morning. I didn’t have an 8 am class, so I learned quickly how to rebound from these heavy nights of drinking. I had some very bad scares that first year of heavy drinking, where I probably should not be alive today. We were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day/March Madness in 2002, having way too many drinks and I still chose to get behind the wheel to drive. Putting the car in drive to exit a Toys R Us parking lot (remember them?), but inadvertently put the car in reverse and slammed into a light pole.
The impact of that caused me to switch the car to drive and jump the ditch that separated the parking lot from a 4-lane divided road. My front bumper fell off as I pulled into a parking lot on the other side of the street.
I was dazed and really had no idea what had happened. No idea how we even got there until talking with my friends that were in another car. They explained the airborne, Dukes of Hazzard-style jump across the ditch, in which miraculously, nobody was hurt. My friend drove my car home with the bumper in the trunk. That is a moment that I am not proud of. If I’d been cited for a DUI, my life could have taken a much different path, but I was not caught. I remember the shame of having to tell my mother what I had done as well as my girlfriend (now my wife of 15 years). I vowed to never drink and drive again, something I can say I did not follow 100%, as buzzed driving is still drunk driving.
Even after that, I didn’t swear off alcohol – I instead rationalized how I got to that point. I didn’t eat enough that day. Maybe I hadn’t drank enough water while I was pounding shots. I probably shouldn’t have had that last shot – it was that one put me over the top, etc.
After graduating, I got a great job in high tech software sales. Similar to your job, it required a lot of entertaining and nights out. I vividly remember someone telling me that “you have to drink to be in this profession”. Events centered around booze – from the afternoon kegs to happy hours to club trips. Booze was simply a part of the job. As long as you showed up, did your job, and didn’t appear drunk at work, nobody thought much of it.
Luckily during this time, I never had another incident like the one I had in college, but my drinking continued to go up. One of our sales kick-off’s was held in Vegas. We would go to the local drug store and load up on electrolyte drinks (the kind you give babies) so that we could drink more. Ironically on my return trip to Vegas, that same store got clever and moved the electrolyte drinks next to the alcohol. I proudly took a picture feeling like we helped to start that trend of pre-gaming with it so you could hold your liquor better.
Due to my drinking job, I started hanging out with people that drank a lot more than I did. That, of course, led me to drink more. All the while saying I had it under control because “I don’t drink as much as them”. Of course this was my subconscious rationalizing my habits and not reality.
During our guys trips we’d easily knock back a couple cases of beer, which led to puking my guts out and sometimes in the ER with dehydration. One trip in particular, we were out on a boat. I was tossed overboard when my buddy made a sharp turn and I wasn’t holding on to the canopy. Hurting my neck, I downed a few pain killers along with the 18 or so beers. I remember feeling like I was going to die after spending the next day sleeping on the bathroom floor. Pills were not my thing. Luckily, I took that as a warning sign to never take pain killers like that again.
My family has a history of addiction starting with my father. I attribute this to my brother getting addicted to drugs, ultimately costing him his life. As much of a warning sign as this should have been, I continued to claim that I didn’t have “that personality”. I was in complete control. All the while I was not happy with myself. Like you, I would wake up every morning between 3-4 a.m. depressed because I had slipped up and drank the night before. I would swear to not do it that day. It never stuck . As 4 pm rolled around I’d start to get that tickle in the back of my mind that booze was just around the corner.
Taking A Break From My Drinking Job
This year I would say the thought of how my life would be without alcohol was constantly on my mind. I accomplished Dry January-ish. Making it only 3 weeks but then deciding to prime my liver for our long weekend in Belize for my birthday. I couldn’t get there and lose the tolerance I had built up, so I rationalized drinking the week before we left. The whole ordeal actually made my drinking much worse. I had starved my body of alcohol so I doubled down when the 3 weeks were over.
Things at work got much more stressful around May and I started turning to booze even more. I would literally daydream about that first sip of alcohol when the day was over. It felt like I deserved it for putting up with what was going on at work. One vodka soda or old fashioned would quickly turn into 3 or 4. My runs to the liquor store became much more frequent, but I kept ignoring it, as I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had an addiction to alcohol. It was my drinking job that was the reason. Weekends turned into excuses for drinking instead of enjoying time with my wife and kids. I would plan events around drinking so that I always had an excuse to drink.
Again, looking back I see now that this did not make the event more fun or enjoyable. Instead leaving me depressed and guilty for not being fully present for my family.
My wife turned 40 in October. Four days in the Cayman’s mostly spent boozing. We’d wake up to drinks, day drink at the pool, pre-game for dinner, drink at dinner then drink before going to bed. I actually rode a bike with a backpack to pickup booze because the prices at the hotel were very high. I can laugh now as I recollect myself riding down the side of the street on a bike with a bunch of booze strapped to my back. Wow.
Quitting The Drinking Job
I can’t pinpoint exactly what made me finally say enough is enough last month. My upcoming 40th birthday and realizing that my health would not last if I continued to drink played a big role. I purchased a stationary bike (the one with the community and live coaches). Quickly becoming hooked on it, I loved the rush of energy I got from it! The mornings waking up with a hangover made it hard to ride and give it my all. Given how much I was working to get healthier, the thought of pouring more alcohol down my throat started to lose it’s appeal. I’m thankful that I found your book, along with Sober Curious. They both helped me understand why I was struggling and that I could absolutely get out of this without a 12-step program.
Is it time to leave your drinking job? This Naked Mind can help you!
I literally read your book in about a day. I know you said to space it out, but I’m a rule breaker and couldn’t put it down. So I truly thank you for taking the time to share your addiction and how you overcame. All the evidence on how harmful alcohol is to your body was so helpful. I look forward to many more sober firsts as we head into the end of the year. Now I look forward to turning 40 without the booze-infested, hangover-causing weekend that I would have planned.
Share Your Story
My days over the past two weeks have had so much more fun. I enjoyed my kids way more, woke up feeling refreshed, and with a much better outlook on the future. Please share your story and inspire others!