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How I Quit Drinking, Changed My Habits, and Became More Productive

Updated on August 26, 2014

A considerably younger me, drinking, as per usual

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Stopping was easy, but sticking was the trick

So quitting at first was pretty easy, because I was driven by the character issue. I was horrified that drinking would cause me to behave in a certain manner that I didn't see as consistent with my normal daily behavior, and so I was extremely motivated to begin my new sober journey. However, it turns out that drinking makes just about everything a tiny bit more fun, or, more precisely, less boring. Something had to be done about this.

Over time, I experimented with a lot of different things to do with my spare time, and a new routine to settle into at night. I knew this was crucial to making the new habits stick (and banishing the old ones into the distant past, never to return again). After some experimentation, I fell into a routine whereby I'd watch a documentary on physics at the end of the day. This was an easy routine to fall into, because I already enjoyed learning about physics, and the marginal increase in mental sharpness I received because of my sobriety allowed me to better process information on a deeper level.

Old habits die hard

For about 12 years, I was a regular drinker. Each night, I'd either go out with friends, or I'd come home and start drinking. I would drink an average of 8-12 drinks a night, fall asleep or pass out (generally in my bed- I was really "functional"), and wake up the next morning like it was no big deal. This became a solid routine for me, and I was so accustomed to it that quitting didn't really occur to me at all, until one night when I "bottomed out", as alcoholics call it. In retrospect, I am grateful that my wake-up call wasn't far more severe, but acting out of character wasn't something I could abide again. So I quit.

How I quit drinking is pretty simple, really: I decided not to drink any more. Sure, I went to a few AA meetings (talk about a creepy cult, and no offense if that's what does it for you, but it certainly didn't for me), and I drank more coffee than previously, including some decaf at night, but stopping drinking was a sheer matter of willpower. However, it was absolutely necessary to build a routine, and that part wasn't so easy.

My "Salad Fingers" coffee mug

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Coffee, my new best friend

I already loved coffee, so when I quit drinking, it was only natural that my caffeine consumption would rise a fair amount. When I went over to a friend's house to watch the UFC, or went out to hang out somewhere in public, I'd just bring a large cup of coffee with me. Coffee, it turns out, can be a very social drink when you need it to be one. I don't always bring coffee with me nowadays when I go out, but at first, this was crucial, because it was almost as though my hands needed something to do while I was hanging out (as opposed to pouring beer down my throat).

Over time, my day began to settle into more and more of a routine, which looked something like this:

  • 10 AM: wake up. Brew coffee.
  • 10-12: answer emails and do web related work
  • 12-1 PM: Walk my dog, wash dishes, take trash out, or any other house-related chores
  • 1-3 PM: return to emails and web related work
  • 3 PM: head to Revolution BJJ to do a little pre-class work
  • 4-10 PM: train, teach, live, and breathe jiu jitsu
  • 10 PM: head home
  • 11 PM: watch physics documentary
  • 12-2 AM: wind down with reading, paper or online

This routine worked really well for a while, especially since it included more Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training than I was previously used to. When I was no longer drinking, I was able to train a fair amount more, going up from 6 or 7 classes per week on average to as many as 12 classes in a single week. When I was drinking, I never felt particularly too tired to train, because I was so accustomed to that lifestyle, but when I quit drinking (which happened to coincide roughly with the time when I got my BJJ black belt), I had more energy- and, possibly more importantly, more time to train.

The AGILE project board at Revolution BJJ

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Organization

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More energy for projects

I found that, in addition to all the extra physical energy I had to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (and teach, too!), I was also able to focus more energy on running both US Grappling and Revolution BJJ. To wit, I created operations manuals for both, with the help (and much pestering from me!) of our employees and my business partners. Now, all of the particular jobs in each respective business are quantified and well defined, so that if there's training needed for one of the positions (and there frequently is), we're able to plug in a new person to that particular role with relative ease, simply by looking at the procedure for the job and training them based on that.

Additionally, I was able to create an AGILE project board for the gym (pictured to the right). This meant that we assigned things based on their relative importance in improving the gym (not so much "BAU" stuff, or "Business As Usual", but projects designed to improve the way the gym ran or material on the inside). Each project would be categorized by the type of project it was (expansion/improvement, protocol/procedure, sales, etc), and each would begin in the "to do" category. Each week we would meet to discuss what we had gotten done with each individual project we were responsible for. In this manner, we were able to keep track of a ton of new projects, and (as you can see from the photo), quite a lot of projects ended up in the "done" column).

Impetus

Quitting drinking was only the impetus to get me going on all this productivity, although admittedly I do have more energy now, and I'm considerably healthier for it. Once the ball started rolling, I was able to get a great deal more done with my week, and I was able to discover even more ways to be more productive, because I was able to allot time to learning about productivity itself. This vicious cycle of the best sort really started that proverbial flywheel spinning, and it hasn't stopped since 2009. I look forward to my next six years of sobriety... and productivity.

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    • rainsanmartin profile image

      Rain San Martin 2 years ago from Fort Wayne

      Andrew,

      I believe your story will help get the truth out about the pitfalls of alcohol. A buzz or drunkenness is the opposite of empowerment. I like to have control over my actions, which makes coffee my top beverage choice in a social setting. I usually have two healthful and aromatic cups of coffee per day. I might have three for a special occasion. Staying clear of parties with alcohol and being in a more healthful environment is a safeguard from temptation. But when necessary bringing your own coffee or non-alcoholic beverage to a social event, as you have done, is an extremely wise habit.

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, rainsanmartin! I wanted to emphasize both the benefits of not drinking, and the routine you need to fall into a bit. I will likely write more on this subject over time.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 2 years ago from USA

      Very proud of you for making this decision. You have a great life set before you and the best is yet to come. Set a goal and stay focused.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Good for you. Sharing your experience, might be the information that helps someone get over the hump. I know several people who have quit, and they all wish they had done it sooner.

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Pawpawwrites and favored! I am fortunate, but I was also determined and I worked hard to get here.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      This is a helpful article for those who struggle with substance abuse. This is so brave that you share your story to help others goatfury! Keep up the rewarding work! Very good statement! 'So quitting at first was pretty easy, because I was driven by the character issue.' Voted up!

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, swilliams. That is precisely what I was going for. I appreciate the support!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good article...great to raise awareness...I'm an alcoholic, sober now for eight years. I can definitely say my productivity is light years beyond where it once was.

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Billy, and good for you, too!

    • profile image

      Larry Clevenger 2 years ago

      Alright Coach.

      I have been looking for an inspiration to up my game. So looks like this is it. I can already cook healthy and finally have a job where I can afford healthier ingredients. So cutting alcohol and refining my schedule it is!

      Let's see if I can be thinner and a blue belt by summer!

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Really glad to hear that, Larry! I'm definitely rooting for you. You can do it!

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      I had my gall bladder out last year and because one of things that had aggravated the problem (inflammation etc) was alcohol, I quite drinking. This continued for eight months until Christmas when I had one drink. The following month I had another one and since then I’ve consumed one – two bottles of wine per month. To be honest, I do feel better and I’m not sure that I enjoy drinking anyway now – at least not the way I used to. I think, as you say, it’s all about routine – what you get used to etc. Great Hub, voted up.

    • goatfury profile image
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      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, FBT. I haven't had any drinks since six and a half years ago. It's not that I totally don't miss it - I think I might enjoy, say, a nice glass of bourbon or a great beer - but it's not something I'm interested in doing at this time in my life. I enjoy being in control of my actions more than anything else. Glad to hear you were able to take control as well.

    • claptona profile image

      John D Wilson 23 months ago from Earth

      Having been sober for 25 yrs +, an interesting story.

      Each must find his/her own way.

      Best of luck to you.

      Cheers

    • prasadjain profile image

      Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD 23 months ago from Tumkur

      Yes, it is will power that is needed to become what you wanted to be. Now I suggest you dear young man, explain your experience to other young drinkers and tel them how happy you are after leaving it. Try to bring them out of that weakness.

    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 23 months ago from Brookings, SD

      Several good points here. For many people, focusing on changing habits is crucial to curb problem drinking. Even when addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues of full-blown alcoholism, the "habit" factor still carries a lot of weight. For me, it was pivotal to understand that I couldn't just "stop drinking" - if I subtracted that behavior from my life, I had to add new behaviors to replace it. Seems simple enough now, but back when my life revolved around the pursuit and consumption of mind-altering substances, it was a daunting prospect to fill all of that time with "other things." :)

    • goatfury profile image
      Author

      Andrew Smith 16 months ago from Richmond, VA

      7 years!

    • profile image

      meowmeow 5 months ago

      Also 7 years!

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