Do you, like Michael, find yourself saying – “I’m just tired of hiding my drinking”? Read to see how a Naked Life has allowed him to start living a life full of opportunities and renewed energy.
Growing up, my parents did not abuse alcohol, though I was adopted and later learned that my biological father had stated he had struggles with alcohol. I was a generally happy kid and was very active in sports and spending time with friends.
Sports eventually led to my introduction to drinking. When I was a high school junior playing on the varsity basketball team, we had a team sleepover at one of the senior’s parents’ house. At the party, there were a few 30-pack cases of beer, which at the time, seemed like a huge amount to me. The parents didn’t mind us all drinking, so we did. From my memory of the event, we had a fun time. It was a typical drinking/bonding experience, which I found value in as a younger guy trying to fit in with the older guys.
Through the rest of high school, I started drinking and smoking pot more often. It didn’t become an every weekend thing for me, but when I did have the opportunity to drink, I would overindulge myself. Excessive binge drinking led me to regrettable situations a few times.
Too Much Fun
The first bad situation caused by binge drinking resulted in me being suspended from school for a week and going to the hospital to have an IV. It was early October of my senior year and some friends and I decided to tailgate at one of our school’s soccer matches. We had a handle of Jack Daniels and a 6-pack of Red Bull. We would take a drink of Red Bull, hold it in our mouth and then chug the Jack Daniels with it. Looking back, it was a really poor choice of drinks to mix together, and around halftime of the soccer game, I noticeably stumbled down the bleachers on my way to the concession stand. The school athletic director pulled me aside, found out that I was drunk and called the police. The police only sent for an ambulance and I had no legal repercussions from this event.
At this time, I was in the college application process and had sent many out already. I was concerned that this would screw up my shot at getting into college. It could have, but I skated by and got accepted to my top 3 colleges within 3 consecutive days. My parents were not pleased with my behavior, but remained supportive and loving, and were thrilled at my accomplishment.
The next event that binge drinking made me regret was after prom. I’ll keep this one short. At the post-prom party, I drank too much and threw up in the host’s bathroom. It got on the walls and was very difficult to clean up. People were naturally angry with me and I was ashamed of what happened.
Fresh Start Failed
I selected a college in the state of Virginia, which was a good 8 hours away from where I grew up, so I could essentially leave the past me behind me and reinvent myself in a new environment.
The college I went to was known for being a party school with great academics, so in my mind, it was the perfect situation. I didn’t need to be hiding my drinking – everyone would be drinking with me!
I was arrested two times in college on misdemeanor drunk in public charges and had to do school-required courses, rehab and community service. Though, the second time I had injured my leg playing rugby and was limping from that, which caused the police to single me out and stop me (not that I was in the right).
Roughing It Up
I got into rugby during my sophomore year at college and, if you know the sport, it has a very intense drinking/party culture affiliated with it. After any match with another team, we’d all get together and drink at the “social”. It was the normal way of things. We all drank hard and had tons of parties and random drinking get-togethers on any given weekday night. I eventually became known as one of the hardest drinkers on the team, which I wore as a badge of honor. We would have “Beer Olympics” which were organized drinking game tournaments and I could be counted on to chug the fastest and tolerate the most. To cap college off, I was hungover at my own graduation. Onto the real world!
Hiding My Drinking Begins
That first summer after college, since I was 21 and legally able to buy alcohol, I would hide a bottle of liquor up in my bedroom (or in my suitcase under clothes if away on a trip). I’d drink and play video games or watch a movie, thinking that drinking enhanced those experiences. I had no problem drinking alone. In some ways, I actually preferred it. I may have listened to the George Thorogood song “I drink alone” a few times while self-indulging. I was never caught drinking during this phase.
Heart of The Party
Eventually, I got a job selling advertising down at a TV station in New Orleans. If you want to find a city where you can party and drink, New Orleans is arguably the top choice. Everyone’s heard of Mardi Gras, but not many people know that Mardi Gras is an entire season. It lasts for about an entire month leading up to Fat Tuesday, which is the bead-throwing day of debauchery that people think about. Large areas of the city don’t have open container laws and, unless you’re committing a heinous crime, the police aren’t going bother you.
I’ll fast forward through most of this…the gist is – I drank a lot. As an outside salesperson, sometimes I would have a beer or two with lunch or go home and make calls while drinking. I would get drunk both alone and with groups of friends and co-workers.
I created both internal and external problems at this point. During college, I’d experience weeks where I felt especially down and out and depressed, and others where I felt particularly manic (I don’t think I have bipolar disorder, but I do take antidepressants now). While in New Orleans, my depression started to really get really bad. The feelings of hopelessness, despair and absence of will to do anything are hard to explain, but for those who’ve experienced it, you know that depression is absolutely debilitating. This hurt my productivity as a sales person. When you can’t motivate yourself to call on prospective clients, things aren’t going to be optimal.
After flying back home from Savannah, Georgia, where I had just successfully interviewed for my next job, I was arrested. My flight was delayed a good 7 hours and I drank way too much on the plane. In fact, the flight attendants were giving out free drinks to everyone. Regardless, once we landed, I got in my car and drove back towards my apartment. I was driving much too fast and changed lanes without signaling and was pulled over by a police officer. I failed the field sobriety test and they processed me and put me into a general holding cell.
While at jail, I blew a .01 over the legal limit by the time they tested me, a few hours after intake. My attorney was able to reduce the charge to reckless driving with alcohol, which I did community service for. I believe that this has been expunged now from my record, but to be honest, nothing is permanently gone. So, I left New Orleans with this albatross hanging over me and skated by again, with the ability to reinvent myself in a new place.
Different City, Same Problems
Savannah was more of the same. I got into a really unhealthy relationship, which sank me into my deepest depression yet. I drank just about every night and joined the local Savannah rugby team as well. So, I picked up with that culture again. The same bad habits persisted here and within about two years, I’d done well to wear out my welcome and after my company was acquired, I was looking for employment elsewhere.
I was desperate for a change in my life and I was offered a job back in CT, in the town where I grew up. That job was in sales training. I left Savannah and returned to my family. Unfortunately, shortly after I got home, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away three months after the initial diagnosis.
I was sober for three weeks in December 2015, because my mother had asked me to stop drinking. During that period, I was living at home with my parents. As a consequence of being sober, my energy levels increased and I started working out more often. I was looking and feeling good, and I met my future wife and initiated the exciting courting process with her. Once my mom passed away on New Year’s, I started picking up drinking again.
Free To Drink
My father-in-law and mother-in-law are both frequent drinkers, though my wife thankfully doesn’t drink like they do. I bring this up, because I would relish opportunities to visit my in-laws and drink beer and wine at their home, as I was still hiding my drinking from my father because I was ashamed.
Eventually, my now wife and I bought a home together. My drinking picked up much more once I had my own space, where I thought I could drink without repercussions or confrontations. It got to the point where I was drinking around the clock and would have cyclical benders and withdrawals. I would polish off a liter of vodka or more within a day or two. I still think back at all the nights of insomnia and of soaking our bedding with sweat during those withdrawal periods.
No Reason Not To
I should note that after one year of working at my new company, all the employees moved to a remote-working format. When I need to work with clients, I’ll either travel to them or converse over video chat, email or the phone. When we aren’t working directly with a client, my days are relatively unstructured. There had been many mornings where right after my wife leaves for work, I spike my coffee and start drinking for the day. Doing a little bit of work and then shifting into classic forms of distraction and procrastination.
Still Hiding My Drinking
I thought that I was doing well at hiding my drinking and would stash bottles around the house and out of sight, like an alcoholic Easter egg hunt. Bottles stashed in my kitchen, office, bedroom, bathroom, basement, attic and living room. I’m not sure if my wife ever saw any, because she never mentioned anything about seeing a bottle. Though, there were a few times where I left some shameful evidence out and had to stand in front of it or block it from view until the coast was clear and I could hide it better.
Another thing I used to do in an attempt to hide my drinking, was that I would slip away to my bedroom (where I hid bottles of vodka under clothing in a drawer) while she was downstairs and take a swig of vodka, flush the toilet next to our room and rinse my mouth out with mouthwash.
It got to the point where whenever we needed something that required running out, whether it be going to the grocery store, gym, Home Depot or picking up pizza or Chinese take-out, I would stop at the liquor store and get a pint of vodka on the way.
My depression persisted and got worse and I unfortunately had moments of fleeting suicidal thoughts. Even after I was prescribed anti-depressants, I still drank on them. These were few and far-between, but scary reminders of how terrible the poison I would put into my body was.
Failing at Hiding My Drinking
My wife eventually caught on based on the impact drinking had on my behavior and motor skills and she confronted me. For example, we like to cook together, and sometimes when I was drunk, I would just become sloppier and move around without balance. Once I cut my finger when dicing an onion, which I never do. Another time, I dropped a glass Pyrex storage container and shattered it—pretty obvious.
She asked me to stop drinking or she would have to leave me. That was a really low point. I was usually able to get and stay sober for a week or two at a time. I would think I had my drinking problem beat and I would rationalize to myself and my now-wife that I could moderate and have a glass of wine. Truth be told, part of her wanted me to be able to moderate, so I could go out to a brewery and have a beer (or 5) with friends or we could share a bottle of wine when out to dinner. Moderation always threw me back into the fire and my drinking habits would pick up without missing a beat.
Regardless of my drinking, I thankfully did enough things right for my wife to marry me last September. I got drunk at the wedding reception but didn’t make a fool of myself thankfully, as a majority of other people were drunk as well. However, I don’t like looking at my wedding videos after the reception and dancing is well under way. I hate seeing myself drunk – it’s like viewing my personal Mr. Hyde.
We went on our honeymoon to Hawaii and it was a really nice time, but I drank quite a bit there. I would usually pregame the day by having a pint of Cruzan rum hidden under my clothes in my suitcase, drinking it before hitting the beach. Ultimately, I probably added around $500 to the total cost of the trip in alcohol purchases. It’s not the highest monetary loss imaginable, but it’d be nice to have that money back and in my retirement fund instead.
When we got home, I came across your book, This Naked Mind, through a Reddit group called stop drinking. I bought it and read it along with another book called Atomic Habits. Your book helped me change my mindset and thinking around alcohol, and the other helped me create a daily routine to make sobriety a habit. I could stay sober for a week or two, but I always lost out to my craving. It wasn’t until I took a step back and questioned and challenged my cravings, that I was able to resist effectively.
Ready to stop hiding my drinking and start living my life instead? You can preview the book and learn how! Start reading This Naked Mind today!
My last drink was on Halloween last year. I’ve realized through reading This Naked Mind, that alcohol is just a poison that I don’t want in my life. The part that really strikes me, is that when someone drinks, they’re doing so to attain a brief high, but is quickly followed by a longer-lasting depression. When sober, I’m already feeling good. There’s no high I need to chase, or flaw I need to compensate for. I also don’t have to deal with any of the negative depressive symptoms that follow.
Now, there hasn’t been any consequences to my current employment resulting from hiding my drinking. My company’s CEO is looking to retire and we’re closing up shop. This means that I’m actively looking for a new position. The traction I have with few potential employers currently wouldn’t exist if I was still hiding my drinking.
My cognition and memory are so much better, which is one of the most important benefits of being sober for me. Blacking out all the time, forgetting weekday nights, plans that were set, and entire conversations is all in the past. It was normal for me to say, “you know me and my memory” and play it off as a normal problem of mine. I remember everything now, and it’s a such a blessing.
No More Hiding My Drinking
My mindset has totally shifted, and I just don’t desire alcohol anymore. I’ve gone to other weddings, holiday parties, dinner’s out, craft breweries etc., and have maintained sobriety though it all. I like to think that I’ve woken up from the Matrix and see life more clearly and fully than ever before. Alcohol had caused essentially all of the problems in my life and yielded no benefits, only momentary faux pleasure.
As of my writing this, today is my 100th day of sobriety. I’m very proud of myself for hitting double-digits. During this sober journey, my primary care physician said that I’m the healthiest he’s ever seen me. In fact, I’m working towards going off anti-depressants next month. My physical fitness is the best it’s ever been. Alcohol ruined any potential progress that I was gaining through weight-lifting, and by just cutting it out, the results have been amazing.
Another thing I’d like to note that helped me, is that I’ve kept a journal from the very last day I drank to today. Every morning I write in it. Jotting down a couple things I’m grateful for (even if it feels forced). I also write about my general feelings regarding the events surrounding the moment. I list my long-term goals (sobriety being one) and write out my daily goals as well (staying sober is always one as well).
My mental state has also vastly changed now that I’m no longer hiding my drinking. Everyone around me sees a major improvement. I’ve downloaded an app called I Am Sober, which tracks how much time and money one saves, and I’ve saved myself an estimated $1,800 and 1,000 hours.
I’d love to help other people overcome their addiction to alcohol, like I’ve overcome mine. My mother-in-law is an alcoholic and drinks champagne to the point of passing out frequently when we’re over. I know my wife’s siblings are concerned about their mother’s drinking problem. I want to help them before she ends up getting sick or dying as a result, though it’s a sensitive subject the broach.
Share Your Story
What is your story of how you stopped hiding your drinking? How has your life improved since? Please share your story and help others!