Am I an alcoholic?
Nothing moved me to get a handle on my drinking -- until money did.
The question is one I asked myself about two years ago.
Am I an alcoholic?
My first instinct was to tell myself no. But then I began cycling through hypothetical scenarios, spontaneously challenging myself with cold-hearted gotchas. I wondered how many days I could go without a drink. I thought about what would get me to string together a few consecutive dry weeks.
A few days passed. Still, nothing came to mind that would get me to commit to abstaining from alcohol for just 30 days. I knew I had no shot of going cold turkey.
At that moment, for the first time in my life, I felt like an alcoholic. It was a scary feeling because it was a fact. The realization didn’t inspire change. Not even it was enough to entice me to give drinking a rest. I had normalized it that much.
A couple of beers each night was standard procedure. I went through a red wine phase too. I saved most of the corks. They’re collecting dust on my TV stand as so-called decoration. Mixed drinks were my go-to for a minute. Brown liquor or white, it didn’t matter. Then I started taking sips “straight.” But my favorite was the old-fashioned.
My tolerance grew higher and higher.
Trips to the grocery store typically included alcohol grabs. Return trips were made when booze somehow got skipped. Weekends, particularly during football season, were the worst. Saturdays and Sundays just had to start with mimosas. I’d later chug a few beers while watching Michigan or the Vikings play football during the afternoon before dutifully taking my nightcap, “neat,” a few hours later.
I didn’t even love drinking. It’s just what I did.
My lack of discipline and direction led me to a place I didn’t desire and couldn’t easily escape. Every occasion became an excuse to pour it up.
Until I became an investor.
Once I began using money on assets, I became disgusted by liabilities. Liquor was chief among them. My habit clearly had grown out of control. But only after examining my expenses did I begin learning just how much.
At Binny’s Beverage Depot, an Illinois big box liquor store chain, I spent $429.40 in 2022. That might not sound like much, especially when compared to my weed bill for just one month. But last year was a good year. I made purchases at Binny’s stores in only six months out of the year, without any visits in the final three months after I smartened up.
It also doesn’t take into account my alcohol purchases at other liquor stores and grocery stores, bars and restaurants, hotel lobbies and gas station pitstops. My tally, had I been organized enough to track it, would easily stretch into four figures in each of the previous few years.
I don’t need drinks that much. As I’ve learned over the past nine months, I don’t need them at all.
In the first four months of this year, I’ve purchased alcohol only twice. Once was in Las Vegas in February. The other occasion was two beers while on a date.
I’m not a teetotaler yet. But I’m close enough. There’s a line I love in the book “The Millionaire Next Door” that quotes a frugal millionaire saying, “I drink scotch and two kinds of beer: free and Budweiser.” Replace the Budweiser with a hoppy IPA and that best describes my new operating principle.
My old drinking habit cost me significantly more than the number shown on my credit card statement. I’ve spent substantial time sitting around drinking, effectively wasting time I could have put toward side hustles or starting a company. Each dollar I spent could have been directed to investments. Instead, I chose to routinely harm my health.
Then there was the psychological toll. Finishing one beer made me want to crack a second. Polishing off a six-pack made me want to immediately go buy a case. I never wanted to be without, and I made sure I wasn’t. I was a prisoner to an uncontrollable and expensive pattern. And I was making other families, rather than my own, rich.
Since cutting back, I’ve lost weight, gained money to invest and launched this company. The way I see it, refusing to scale back on a non-essential indulgence is only robbing me and Parker of a brighter future. And that is not who I am, nor is it who I want to be.
So this Cinco de Mayo, I won’t be having margaritas. Sure, it would be fun. But I no longer need it. I have better direction.
Finally, I’ve found a greater purpose.
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