Life of the party. That’s how some of my closest friends might describe me. Well, at least after I’ve had a few drinks. But I wasn’t always like this.
For most of my adult life I kept to myself at parties. I was like a ghost. You wouldn’t even know I was there. I didn’t venture far beyond my close friends. I didn’t try to meet new people. In fact, I didn’t do much at all…except drink.
In college every frat party was the same for me. I walked in and went straight to the keg. Without a beer in my hand I felt out of place. I felt naked. It was like this meme except worst because I didn’t have anything interesting to say about myself:
“They don’t know…”
No. I didn’t even know.
I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I wanted to become. I didn’t really know how to talk to people either.
But what I did know (or at least thought I knew) was that alcohol was the solution to my social problems. It was my security blanket. It was my dose of courage in an unfamiliar world. This was especially true at larger social events.
Consider the night of my freshman formal in college. While my dormmates were partying and getting ready for the event, I was in my room hiding away from the world and studying. The truth was that I didn’t have a date nor a dress shirt for the event, so I had no plans on attending.
But as everyone was heading out, one of my friends stopped by my room and asked me why I wasn’t going. I told him the unfortunate truth and he graciously offered me one of his dress shirts so that I could join.
I hastily agreed, but immediately recognized the gravity of my mistake. Everyone else had been pre-gaming for hours, but I was dead sober. Since this was a freshman formal, I knew there would be no alcohol served at the event. This was terrifying for me and I knew I had to fix it fast. So I poured five shots of vodka, took them all back to back, and ran out the door.
By the time I arrived at the formal all 120 pounds of me was black out. I don’t remember much from that night except walking around aimlessly in this huge, crowded dance hall unable to find my friends. I don’t think I spoke to a single person. It was embarrassing to say the least.
While things like this happened occasionally in college, after I graduated I became much better at speaking with people. I learned how to listen, how to talk to strangers, and how to network. And while my social anxiety had been defeated, my drinking continued nonetheless.
Despite being more comfortable in my own skin, I still relied heavily on my old security blanket. It got so bad that I had to quit alcohol in early 2019 shortly after moving to NYC.
And honestly…it worked. I didn’t have a single drink for five months. More importantly, when I did start drinking again, I did so responsibly. I limited my consumption. I stopped bingeing. I stopped getting hangovers. Life was good.
COVID hit and my drinking decreased even more. Remember, I only drink socially, so no social life means no drinking. But as things started to re-open in NYC, I wanted to see people again. So I started attending networking events. I started going on more dates. I started seeing my friends more often. And, once again, I was drinking, drinking, drinking. The life of the party was back.
It was fun at first, don’t get me wrong. But then my old habits started to return. One night I blacked out and had a 15 minute phone conversation with my best friend from college. I don’t remember a single word either of us said. Another time I had four beers (yes just four) at a networking event and woke up with a terrible hangover the next day.
The same mistakes from my past were beginning to haunt me yet again. The same mistakes that I was making in college over a decade ago and the same mistakes that I was making in NYC three years ago.
But I didn’t need the alcohol anymore to be social. I just thought I did. So I decided to make a change—I gave up drinking alcohol from Sunday to Thursday every week. No exceptions.
Why not give up drinking altogether? Because I still enjoy it. I just don’t want to go overboard. That has always been my goal. Thankfully, the results of my decision have been great so far. Since I stopped drinking from Sunday-Thursday, I’m getting better sleep, I don’t miss workouts as often, and I’m waking up with fewer hangovers.
Of course this won’t guarantee that I never have another issue with alcohol, but it’s a start. And sometimes all you need is a start. Sometimes all you need to do is recognize that you might have a problem.
Because, if you are doing well, admitting that you have a problem isn’t easy. I’m the perfect example of this. I have a great career, my first book is coming out in five weeks, and Morgan Housel just gave me a huge shoutout on Tim Ferris’ podcast. On paper things are going well.
But in reality I’m still human. I still have my own struggles. This isn’t Instagram. This is my blog. I’m not here to show you how “great” my life is. I’m here to help you improve yours. Maybe that means making better decisions with your money. Or maybe it means admitting that you binge drink to cope with social anxiety. I don’t know.
It’s never easy to write about this stuff. It’s never easy to publicly admit that you used to feel like a loser. But this is how I deal with it. This is how I fix myself. Some men would rather write 300,000 words on the internet than go to therapy. But that’s just some men. Until next time, thank you for reading.
If you are struggling with alcohol dependence in social settings, feel free to DM me on Twitter. Happy to help or just listen.
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This is post 284. Any code I have related to this post can be found here with the same numbering: https://github.com/nmaggiulli/of-dollars-and-data