March 3, 2022
Why I Stopped Drinking
WRITTEN BY Jesse O'Brien

I have always identified as a competitive individual. If I did something, I wanted to do it well and be the best. I believed that if something was worth doing, you might as well get the full experience.

This learned mindset served me well in various aspects of my life. I was well-liked among my peers, I was constantly having fun, and I participated in a wide array of sports. In regard to games and athletics, I was a risk-taker. I would go for an ace on match point in tennis, attempt to drive to the green in two strokes on a par five in golf, or play the most games of beer pong in college.

If someone was going to be the life of the party, I was that person. What started as a fun and exciting experience turned into an inner conflict because I have always placed a high priority on my health, fitness, and physique. I remember being captivated by my buff next-door neighbor Sean McMurry, who was two years older and would do endless sit-ups and push-ups in his room when I stopped by.

After I graduated from business school at Texas Christain University, I left with a hunger to be as fit as possible, but still wanted to party like I was in college. I ran two marathons, one ultra-marathon, and competed in a 262-mile canoe race called the Texas Water Safari; yet I was never satisfied.

I was left with a feeling of inadequacy. I felt like I could be healthier—I was on long-term antibiotics, Nexium, and struggled from a botched foot surgery. I believed I could be stronger—I had yet to back-squat over 350 pounds and I still felt like my physique didn’t showcase my work ethic.

During this time in my life, I was training consistently six days per week, eating a very strict Paleo diet, and being very mindful of my habits. Yet in the back of my mind, I knew my relationship with socializing and alcohol was counterproductive to my highest values.

Flashback to my life at eight years old, when I befriended my five closest friends. It was my “core group” through high school and beyond, and those guys are largely who I credit for my sense of humor, self-confidence, and ability to be a dynamic and resourceful friend. My mindset after college was that if I stopped drinking, I would not be inclined to hang out with my friends. I saw giving up drinking as severing my long-term relationship with my friends and giving up certain fun. I battled this for several years, but it wasn’t until I met my future wife, Amanda, that I was able to move into a state of balance between my high value of social integration and health.

My wife has taught me many things, but the primary lesson was that I had created a mutually exclusive scenario that posed a win-lose scenario. Either I hang out with my friends and drink and sabotage my health and fitness aspirations, or I stay at home and live a monk-like existence and forgo my deep sense of connection. I learned that I created this limiting belief and I did not have to frame the situation in this manner.

The new paradigm was to find activities through which I did not have to sabotage my deepest values to connect with others: swimming at Barton Springs, grilling at my house, or going to Twin Falls with our dogs. I had to understand that if my friends were true friends, then they would not force me into environments that I truly did not want to be a part of and would continue to accept me as their friend.

Fast forward to today. I am the most fulfilled, healthy, and fit version of myself to date. I live a deeply purposeful life, without taking any medications, and maintain 8% body fat year-round. I am not intentionally sober, yet I will find myself not drinking for over six months at a time. I consider myself an “intentional drinker.” If the occasion presents itself in which I find that the benefits of drinking outweigh the downsides, then I go for it. A wedding I have been anticipating for a long time. Meeting up with a buddy I haven’t seen in a few years. Enjoying nostalgic margaritas at El Meson off South Lamar. When the juice is worth the squeeze, I go for it without cognitive dissonance.

Yet I typically find myself deciding that drinking just isn’t worth it. The next day I feel hot, emotionally volatile, and generally unwell. I lack motivation and drive and it makes caring for my kids nearly intolerable. My wife has demonstrated that life can be a beautiful thing, without having to ride the dopaminergic rollercoaster of a polarized state of being. The subtleties of life like relaxing together after a tiring week of work and family obligations. The peace of walking your dog around the neighborhood you have grown to love. The joy of putting your bare feet on the ground and having an outdoor picnic with your family. Everyone can find peace and enjoyment from these experiences.

When I was stuck in my polarized, partying existence, I always felt like I was fighting a backslide in my health, fitness, and physique. One night of escapades left me looking like a retired football player with heartburn. Nowadays, it is seamless and relatively easy to live in a state of balance. I train four days per week, eat a more flexible diet, and train with less intensity.

As I have fully stepped into my role as a coach, this is one theme I see consistently. For whatever reason, someone has a relationship with booze that does not serve their highest values. They want to improve their body composition but feel an immense sense of dissatisfaction and loathing. They seem “stuck” in shifting their belief system in their behaviors around alcohol.

This dilemma is one of the hardest things for clients to shift because it often comes with psychological resistance. The clients are often aware that if they gave up drinking, this change would encompass the greatest physiological change, in the least amount of time, yet there is ambivalence.

As a coach, it is my job to educate, empower and inspire the client to make the changes that will be most productive in their lives. My role is to create awareness of conflicting priorities along with the detrimental effect of alcohol. Once the client is left with this awareness, each situation becomes a choice to accept the status quo or to take massive action.

Coaching behavior change takes patience and a gentle influence. One question that I ask people to reflect on is whether that choice “enlarges you or diminishes you?” If you are ready to work with a coach who educates, supports, and challenges you to reach your highest potential, click the link below to schedule a free strategy session to learn more!

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