Tuesday, February 10, 2015

WHY I QUIT DRINKING


When I tell people I quit drinking, the first question rebounding towards my
face is usually, "Why, did you have a problem?"

No, I don't have a problem with alcohol. Never did. Oh, sure, there was a two-day
period seven years ago when I emptied nearly everything in the liquor cabinet,
including the limes, as one of life's knockout punches landed me flat on my back. But
I got up, dusted myself off, and turned the page without any more alcohol.

On February 10, 2013 I wanted to give something up for Lent, a six-week period
of self-denial that most Catholics partake in. I wanted to go all in. I planned
to give up booze, bread, butter, pizza, candy, and ice cream. I would've given up
soda too, but I swore it off nearly a decade ago. That stuff is real poison to your body.


It was simply a personal challenge for me to give up all the things I considered
unhealthy for a month and-a-half. I wanted to clean my system out and see how
I'd feel.

I felt so good after the six week Lenten season was over that I decided to keep on
truckin' with my game plan. I started to run like Forest Gump and didn't stop running
until I didn't feel like running no more or unless I saw someone who looked like
Jen-aaaaaay come at me the other way. I ran seven half-marathons and capped
the running season by competing in the New York City marathon, which was a
ridiculously good experience.

I was on a true runners high and felt extremely good after going without booze, bread,
and all the other poisons I listed above. I made it 10 months before caving to a little
bread, a few slices of pizza, more than a few cookies, and the half-a-bag of Halloween
candy my niece had lying out the kitchen table. Damn, Tootsie Rolls are awesome.

But I didn't crack on the alcohol. I stretched my goal from six-weeks to six months
and finally, to a year. It was nothing more than a personal challenge and a battle to
test my discipline and will. If I went out, I'd order the same thing: cranberry and soda.


Some people thought I was "a friend of Bob", or just had some weird urinary problem.
I didn't care about that and I didn't care about a woman I met who said she couldn't
date a guy who didn't drink.

I said, "Ma'am, it's not about the content of what's in the glass, but rather the contents
of character." I'm pretty sure that went right over her head and that was my cue to put
down my cranberry and soda and leave.

The Ironman I signed up for was scheduled for July 28, 2014 and that gave me a
good excuse to keep abstaining from alcohol. "Do you want a drink, Paul?" my friends
would ask, "Nope," I said. "I'm training for the Ironman." It was that simple.

If I was going to complete the 140.6 mile event, there would be no alcohol and no
excuses.

The more I trained the better I felt. I didn't see any reason to pollute the body
with an ounce of alcohol. It just wasn't worth it. I didn't crave or miss it. I was starting
to wonder why the hell I ever drank it in the first place. There is not one redeeming
quality or value that goes with it. None

My high, my adrenaline rush, my need to wind down came all through exercise. It
was addictive.

A milestone birthday hit on July 9. 50 effin' years old. You're only 50 once and most
people party, and party hard to celebrate the occasion. I didn't. I was more focused
on the Ironman which was just 19 days away.


I completed the Ironman in Lake Placid in 12 hours and 12 seconds. But it was never
about the time, but rather the preparation, determination, and will that could drive
a 50-year old to complete the mother of all endurance tests. And it was worth all
the pain, sweat, and tears. And yes, there were plenty of tears. Dealing with plantar
fasciitis near the end of my training was one of the worst injuries I've ever dealt with.

Brutal.

My goal was to make it through a second year without drinking alcohol. February 10
was etched into my consciousness. When I put my mind to something, I can accomplish
it. "Impossible is nothing", or so the Addidas commercial says. Besides, it was just
alcohol.

The months of November, December, and January are the most difficult months to
get through without alcohol. That is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. But
I felt that if I could make it through my 50th birthday without popping the bubbly,
I could make it through the party-all-the-time season. And I did.

Alcohol means nothing to me. Nothing. It's just poison. I feel better without it, but
I don't think I'm any better than those who drink. It's a choice, that's all it is. I don't
judge and don't feel like I should be judged because I no longer drink.

I completed my goal of not drinking for two straight years, today, February 10.
There is no ribbon for it or a ride down the Canyon of Heroes. I'm writing about it
because I want others to know that all it takes is for them to make up their
minds to do it, stay disciplined, and focused.

I have so much admiration for those who had a problem with alcohol and then
overcame their demons. It's certainly not easy. I have a good friend who has gone
without alcohol for 11 years and that dude used to drink it through his nose.

My abstinence from alcohol is just a personal choice. I'm done with what I consider
to be poison to the body and mind. That's it. No problem, no demons, no urge to
drink anymore.

Two years and counting.....

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