Last summer, on an oppressively hot and humid day, I helped some dear friends move into a new house. Their ten-year old daughter came outside mid-morning to take drink orders from everyone on the moving crew. “Travis, what do you like to drink—besides beer and gin?”
I laughed to hide my embarrassment and said I’d love an ice-cold Gatorade, thank you very much. Then the honest and unintentionally hilarious girl added, “When Mom and I went to the store, we didn’t know what to buy for you because we’ve never seen you drink anything besides beer and martinis.”
The truth is they were very likely right. I’ve always known that I drink too much and too often. Back when Bethany was pregnant with Alex, I recognized that I was making some bad decisions, so I quit drinking and stayed sober for over two years. Then one day I decided that I had matured and that I could probably handle drinking like a responsible adult. “Quality over quantity” became my new mantra.
It wasn’t long before my mantra changed to “quality AND quantity.” I became a beer connoisseur who made it his life’s mission to try every single beer in the world—many times. When my jeans started fitting tighter around the waist, I switched to martinis, telling myself that switching to hard liquor was like going on a diet. It’s practically a health drink!
I was accustomed to having three beers in a typical evening at home, so naturally I stuck with the habit of downing three drinks—even though I had started drinking the hard stuff. And of course three drinks often led to four, four led to five, and so on. About two years ago I recognized that I had a problem, and I started thinking about quitting for good. But life just kept getting in the way.
I told myself I’d change my ways soon, but not before my best friend’s birthday party. I would also have to wait until after baseball season because I bought tickets to the all-inclusive (all-you-can-drink) suites at Busch Stadium. Then I couldn’t quit drinking until after football season because tailgate parties made watching the Tigers lose week after week more bearable. And nobody gives up alcohol before Christmas because, let’s face it, booze is the only way to survive the holidays. And you positively have to drink on New Year’s Eve; it’s like a law or something.
The excuses went on and on with no end in sight. Concerned about my health and how my choices might affect my children, my wife, and my personal goals, I finally decided to quit drinking once and for all. Last month, I chose New Year’s Day to be the first day of the rest of my life. I kept my decision a secret, even from my wife, in order to avoid uncomfortable conversations with friends and loved ones until after the holidays were over.
On Christmas day, with exactly one week of drinking left in my alcohol-consuming career, I unwrapped two thoughtful gifts from my loving wife. The first was a membership in the Beer of the Month Club. The irony caused me to wince, and then to smile awkwardly, which Bethany mistook for disapproval of her gift. I told her no, I appreciated the gesture very much. Then I opened the second gift; a voucher for a private VIP tour and tasting at a local craft brewery. Again, I was touched by the thoughtfulness of the gift, knowing that my wife was giving me something she knew I would really enjoy. And again, my odd smile made Bethany feel like her gifts were not up to snuff. I did my best to assure her that they were both great, but I knew she suspected there was a problem.
Finally, on New Year’s Eve, just before our party guests arrived, I admitted the truth to my wife. “That’s why I had that weird look on my face at Christmas,” I said. We shared a laugh at the irony of her gifts and then we shared a warm embrace. She’s always supported me one hundred percent, and I know I can do anything with her by my side—including sobriety. I’ve said it before; I am the luckiest man alive. I think I’ll appreciate that fact even more with a clear mind.
Happy New Year, and happy new me.