Work Harder, Play Harder
I have always worked hard from the time I started working during my junior year of high school. During my undergraduate years, I juggled two or three part time jobs, usually spending more hours working them than I did on the school work I was meant to be doing.
At magazine jobs, I started work days early and came home late, raising my hand for new projects and sometimes absorbing whole second job descriptions as people were laid off. Today, in my freelance life, I am working more than ever. Now that I’ve gifted my brain a life without alcohol I can do even more—and I can do it better, faster, and more happily than ever before.
When I was drinking, I never slacked at any job or project, but I did sometimes need to muscle through tasks sleep deprived, hungover, or in a less than positive state of mind. I was making work harder for myself than it needed to be.
I remember listening to some productivity guru on one of the dozens of podcasts I listen to ask: if you could remove one negative thing from your life and see a big boost in happiness and productivity what would it be?
I knew at once that for me that thing was alcohol, but in that moment, because of my frame of mind then, because I believed it was necessary to drink alcohol to have a full and happy life, I thought the advice was useless to me. It wasn’t until I had a major perspective makeover that I was able to grasp how valuable that question was.
Now, without alcohol in my life, I can happily plan early morning meetings. I have the stamina to work long days without suffering. I often will put in a few hours after dinner, something I rarely did before because I usually drank wine at dinner which left me too sleepy and sluggish for anything other than watching TV.
I have a sharper mind for making strategic decisions and clearer vision as to what I want. I feel more powerful and effective in all areas of my crazy-quilt work life.
On the other end of the spectrum, I find myself playing harder, too. There were times that I wondered what I would do for fun if I stopped drinking. But now I see that alcohol was a huge wet blanket on my fun potential. Not only do I now have more energy and attention to spend, I am much more likely to say YES to most invitations and opportunities.
Some recent examples:
- Friends invited me to join them for a four-course farm dinner at a restaurant on a Sunday night. An optional beer pairing was offered. Once upon a time, I would have declined because I figured I wouldn’t feel so great on Monday if I drank that beer pairing. When I was drinking, that kind of thing didn’t seem “optional.”
- Two friends planned parties for the same Saturday night. Instead of deciding which one I’d go to, get tipsy, and lose track of time at, I RSVPed YES to both knowing I could kick off the night for a couple hours with one group and spend another couple hours at the second friend’s party. I could count on myself to have the energy and wherewithal for both—and for whatever I want to do the next day.
- I’ve been hosting friends more regularly and entertaining at my house. I am sensitive and tend to worry about whether people would show up to a party I invited them to and whether they’d have a good time if they came. To mute those feelings in the past I’d start drinking before the party started and then drink more than usual through the event. It was a guaranteed hangover at a bare minimum. Losing the booze has left me much more up to inviting people over because I know I won’t wreck the next 24 hours.
- There’s this amazing organization called Creative Mornings. In cities around the world, creative spirits gather at 8:30 am to hear an inspirational talk about—you guessed it—creativity. I was not even aware of this when I was still drinking alcohol, but even if I had been, the 8:30 am start time would have been a nonstarter. Now I look forward to these kind of opportunities and I arrive bright eyed and ready to learn.
- I will do stuff in the evening that doesn’t feature drinking. Before it was hard for me to imagine an evening out without wine or cocktails. Now I’m finding myself signing up for evening classes, lectures, yoga sessions, spin classes, walks, and dessert dates with my husband. (He never wanted to go out drinks, but dessert? He’s always in.)
I hear this from other people who have stopped drinking for whatever reason. You are fully convinced your life won’t be fun anymore if you don’t drink, but everyone I've talked who has quit drinking reports that the opposite is true. Life is more fun without booze.