Equinox symmetry and the balance is right.
Smoking and drinking on a Tuesday night.
I’ve always been disciplined about thinking ahead. In my Chicago days, the routine was to hit the 4am bars about an hour before the 2am bars closed to avoid the rush.
There was Underground Wonder Bar off Michigan Avenue with live jazz every night, and so intimate you had to walk through the playing band to get to the bathroom. There was Smart Bar in Wrigleyville, a club vibe in a bar setting with the hottest DJs anywhere. And of course there was my beloved Estelle’s just steps from my place in Bucktown, with an absurdly great jukebox and fun trouble always brewing.
Once my friends and I were standing just inside the entrance so we could blow our weed smoke out the door. The pre-2am rush started as a crew stepped to the blocked door, and the first guy showed me his ID lemminglike. I checked it cool as ice, handed it back, and said “$5 bucks.” Within two minutes, this happened with 6-7 more guys, then they happily filed toward the bar. I waved my friends out before the other crew realized there’s no cover, and we blew the cash on drinks down the street to celebrate our villainous heroics.
Like anyone who enjoys partying, I have countless stories like this dating back to high school. My whole adult life I’ve used partying to reclaim my sanity from the daily grind.
Then suddenly, a year ago today, I quit. Went from booze and weed to kombucha and kale for three months.
To me, one month off would’ve just been a rally rather than a habit evaluation. So the plan was to be clean three months. Long enough to experience enough triggers in weekly routines to make the test real. But timed to jump back into the holiday party fun.
What was I testing?
It started by simply wanting a more consistent weekend schedule to enjoy my family and write more.
That first three months had big nights out with our friends, a wedding, my favorite holiday (Halloween), four conferences, and countless work dinners.
I took a huge amount of sh*t from all my people. They all know my favorite thing to do is leave my tab open till closing and rain drinks on them, so everyone including me was bummed, and mostly I just fielded “WTF?” questions in those early months. Supportive questions I should note, just “WTF?” because they were surprised by my abrupt change.
The holidays came and my desire for more weekend family and writing/working time had evolved into actual routines. Plus I was in good shape, and work was going better than it had in a few years, so I decided to go full circle.
When I dug in for a full year, it set off a pronounced trend of people—so many people—sharing how they have or wonder if they have issues.
This was less about “issues” for me—it was mostly about time. I’ve never been the drink-with-my-meal type who was slowly descending into many drinks with every meal. I’m strictly about partying. If I’m in, I’m going there and I’m taking everyone down with me. We all have a great time. Then everyone loses valuable time the next day.
That’s been the basic weekend routine for decades, then something clicked where I just wanted more time.
I must say I’m fascinated by how many people have confided in me. They grill me about my reasons, how it’s going, and what I’m going to do next. Clearly, vice is something we all struggle with and it’s a silent struggle for most.
I’ve chosen to be exceedingly open about my habits to prove I’m not some born again who’s now preaching. I’m sharing my journey because I’ve learned a lot of people want or need perspective on this matter.
Now that I’m at a full year, it feels just like it did on December 15 after those first three months. Only better because now I know for sure that I’ve been through every social trigger numerous times. And I have zero pangs about diving back in.
Plus it’s been a huge priority for me to keep my social schedule because I still love goofing off. I’m still in the mix, and still happy to charge cover to unsuspecting nightlife amateurs just to make my crew laugh.
So about that discipline on thinking ahead…
While I can’t say I’ll never drink another Red Breast or smoke another joint, I can say I’m going another year. Because I’m happy, I have the family and social life I want, and waking early seven days a week is my new way of reclaiming sanity from the daily grind. There’s simply no reason to change any of that that right now.
As for anyone else thinking about a similar journey, two pieces of advice:
(1) Start by committing to a defined chunk of time.
(2) Talk openly about your journey with people to destimgatize it and not bear all the mental weight yourself. You’ll be shocked at how supportive people are.
If not for my vices, and my bugged-out desires.
My year would be good just like Goodyear’s tires.
(same song as above)