vodka cranberry… hold the vodka

Alcohol.

It’s very intriguing to see the role alcohol plays in peoples’ lives. It plays such a prevalent part in the development (sort of) of people’s personalities and it has always fascinated me. It became evident for me when I was 18. I never witnessed it firsthand in high school because I did not associate with the people who had access to alcohol at that age. So, when I went to university, the impact of alcohol was significant with my new peers. Free from the supervision of those much smarter than us; these young adults are able to engage in things like promiscuity, using illegal narcotics, and underage drinking. You see this trend of alcohol dependency continue into the late twenties for a lot of people that are deemed “millennials,” also known as my age group.

I was lucky to be a student who lived on campus when I attended university in 2010. My freshman year I lived in the dorm and had this brand new freedom because my family lived in another city. I was free from supervision and was able to do the things that Zach liked to do. Living on campus was an experience I would never trade but the façade of being a college student started to fade. I slowly started to witness these different vices come to light and watched my friends take part in them. Looking back, I’m glad I never succumbed to the peer pressures I felt from those I met, saying I should engage in the three activities mentioned above. I didn’t think that at the time but that really was God making sure I didn’t make any mistakes that could hinder my development. I made it through the year and now I reflectively refer to my freshman year as “designated driver training,” due to the fact I drove my friends to and from parties. I learned I’m pretty skilled in this area, maybe I should try Uber?

I did not return to that university the next year because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study and wasn’t comfortable spending exorbitant amounts of money on my tuition/dorm/books/etc with no direction. I stayed home, attended community college, and discovered what I wanted to study. Once I got my AAS, I transferred to the university I would later obtain my BS from. I graduated from Arizona State University in 2015. I was a different person than I was when I was 18 years and one of the reasons for this was alcohol.

One of my greatest accomplishments in my life is that I never drank alcohol until I was of age to legally consume it. The first time I drank alcohol was two months after I turned 21 and I was in Las Vegas with my best friend. I remember it very vividly, not because I drank, but because I got to go out of town and experience Las Vegas with one of my best friends. We were enjoying ourselves at Coyote Ugly in New York, New York. We were there because I’ve always been a fan of dancing my heart away and not to brag, but I’ve won several dance battles in various dance circles I’ve stumbled upon in my days (*Disclaimer* I also don’t mean the form of “dancing” known as grinding; A) that’s not dancing and B) I’m not a fan. Call me Billy Idol, because I’m always ‘Dancing with Myself.’). Anyways, after dancing had been done, it was time to try this alcohol that I’ve heard a few things about. I asked my bartender to make me a drink that was “sweet and not too strong” since I didn’t know what to expect. She presented me with a ‘Water Moccasin’ and $12 later (it being Vegas and all), I had my first drink of alcohol on March 12, 2013. Fast forward a few years, about 4 to be exact, and that brings you to today.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who had a problem with alcohol. I was in control, I could stop drinking and not drink if the occasion called for it. I only drank on weekends when I would go out and I didn’t go out every weekend. I was younger, so I enjoyed hitting the town and getting drunk with my friends as much as the next person in my age group. I have some great stories and great memories from times I went drinking with my friends. One example is right before my best friend moved to California in November of 2015. We went out and just had a great time before he left. However, there are also not so great stories that I don’t remember because I inhibited my ability to form new memories due to drinking too much alcohol. I’d tell you about them, but again, I don’t remember. It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about why I was drinking. I realized that, while I didn’t have an addiction that needed to be pleased chemically, I was socially dependent on alcohol. I used it as a way to disinhibit myself and to try and make myself “more fun” to be around.

I started asking myself deep questions (in traditional Zach Hines fashion). Why am I impeding my mental development by knowingly ingesting different liquids that turn my brain off? Why are my social skills and ability to have fun determined by a number of drinks I have had? Why was I spending my hard-earned money to drink and interact with people at bars? How am I going to strengthen my newfound relationship with God if I’m resetting my progress every Friday and Saturday night? I came up with these answers and that is why I stopped drinking. As you can see, I have a common trend of asking myself existential questions.

Before I go into my reasons, I realize that I posted last week about my declaration of faith and now I’m talking about my journey to sobriety. I imagine right about now I could be coming across as a “holier than thou” type and that is not what I wish to convey. I’m gradually changing for the better and thoroughly enjoy writing for you. This is my perspective and how I apply this perspective to what I have learned and observed in my life. So, if you are still on board with me, let us keep this train a movin’.

I have been sober since January 22nd, 2017 (I also realize I’m hitting the ‘new year, new me’ stereotype on the head pretty hard but… uh. Yeah, anyways). There are so many reasons that I could list as playing a crucial role in my decision to quit drinking but they ultimately branch back to two main reasons and one small (but seriously overlooked) one.

Main reason #1: Drinking alcohol was hindering my ability to develop.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way

Daniel 1:8

Drinking alcohol turns off your brain. As someone who loves to learn and develop my knowledge, I could not comprehend why I allowed myself to do this. Waking up the next day not remembering anything is actually a pretty scary thing when you sit down and think about it. Your brain checks out and you’re left to the devices of ‘drunk you’. You’re judgment and decision making goes down the drain and you could really make some big mistakes. You could drink and drive, say things you don’t mean to say, or make decisions you would never make sober. Like to stress the seriousness, you could ruin your life while you are drunk… Being cognizant of everything happening in my life is something that I thoroughly enjoy and it just seems healthier to be able to control your mind. Not drinking alcohol for the past month has really cleared up my train of thought.  I haven’t been this productive in a very long time. I have been reading/learning more, devoting myself to the study of the Bible/my faith, I’m more observant of things in my day to day, and best of all, I’m able to just hone in and focus on the people and activities in my life that really matter to me. These are people and activities that are infinitely more important than a night I won’t remember at a bar I didn’t really like.

A crucial benefit to not drinking is that I can focus on the development of my social skills. I love talking to and meeting new people, regardless of where I am. Everyone experiences life differently; hearing their perspectives and experiences simply fascinates me. I would go out to drink, thinking I would be more confident when I talk to people because of alcohol. Say that out loud. Say “I want to develop my social skills while I’m… turning… off… my… brain.” That does not make a semblance of sense. Charlie Houpert of Charisma on Command says it best when he states that “social skills are exactly that… a skill. You wouldn’t go and get sloshed before a basketball game, would you?” This was eye-opening for me. Why was I going out trying to improve my conversational skills and then immediately drinking to the point where I couldn’t remember the outcomes of these conversations I was trying to improve? I was trying to improve by turning off my ability to improve. It’s so redundant. I feel idiotic that I ever bought into the “liquid courage” movement.

Main reason #2: Drinking alcohol does not make me cool.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Dr. Seuss

This one is pivotal because for a long time I thought that I needed to drink alcohol to be considered cool and fit in. What the heck is wrong with my thinking? I would go out with people who had the similar mindset, we’d all get drunk, have a fun time, call it a night, and then repeat the next weekend. For those who know, I like to be the life of the party. That’s the “Protagonist” ENFJ-T in me, striving to always make people laugh, have a fantastic time, and leave a memorable impression. At work, I’m able to make people laugh and I don’t mind making a fool of myself, in my personal life, the same applies. What changes when I go out with my friends to bars? Nothing, I should be able to do the same things but the setting started to mess with me, maybe it was the flashing lights? I tried to be the life of the party and thought consuming alcohol would enhance that ability. I’m here to tell you that if you’re going to spend time with me, I’d rather get to know you over a cup of coffee than a drink at the bar and drinking alcohol does not make you cooler.

I stopped drinking because I don’t ever want to be remembered as the guy who gets drunk and is funny. I can do that sober and if you don’t believe me, well you probably haven’t talked to me in person. I don’t want people saying “Zach drank 8 shots, he’s awesome” or “Zach bought us a round of drinks, he’s great.” These are a terrible way to be remembered and it does not reflect the impression I want to leave on people. I want to interactions with others to be memorable because I am in control of my brain. If someone has a problem with that and deems that or me uncool… well, then that’s not someone I really want to associate with anyway and we can part ways amicably.

Small reason #3: Drinking alcohol is an expensive hobby.

“Yo, Ma… money over everything.”

Hannibal Buress

This one is small because it is simple. Alcohol costs a lot of monies. The stores are pricey, bars are worse, and if you want to drink where the most people are, at the hottest bar/club, prices are inflated and you can spend anywhere from $20-$150 in a night. Easy. You could do so many more memorable things with $150. You could drive to San Diego and spend a weekend staying with your best friend, I know this because I actually did that. The amount of money I have saved over the past month by not going out and drinking is crazy stupid and I’m able to put all the money towards my student loans from freshman year of college (see why I moved home?). Ballin’ on a budget is a lot easier when you aren’t spending all of your money supporting local watering holes. Just save your money and apply it to something more productive.

In conclusion.

These are my reasons and my reasons alone. I decided I wanted to quit drinking and I felt inclined to share my experiences and reasonings. Everyone has their reasons for it or against it. If you disagree with me, fantastic. You do you. I won’t argue that you can’t have a good time with alcohol because I’ve had my fair share of fun. However, I now truly believe that you can have more fun without it. If you agree with me, fantastic. You do you as well. Also, if you’d like to talk more about it with me, please do not hesitate to contact me. As I said earlier, I love talking to people and would love to hear your opinions. For all my friends who enjoy going out and feel inclined to invite me despite this soliloquy, you now have a permanent designated driver (looks like my training in college really paid off). I’m cheaper than an Uber because all I ask for payment is that you respect my decision.

If you know me personally and you’re out drinking and don’t have a way to get home. Don’t drink and drive. Call me and I’ll come drive you home. That’s a Zachary Hines guarantee.

Best,

ZCH

Advertisements

the reworking of a 25-year-old worldview

“If you’re an Atheist, why do you not sleep around with every girl you meet?” She asked as she continued to explain that we could not continue to date because our beliefs were so different. I was sad, another potential relationship squandered, but that wasn’t even half of the issue. There was an even deeper, underlying problem… I needed to answer the question she asked me.

December 7th, 2016: This was the day that this question was laid before me. For the life of me, no matter how hard I tried, I could not muster an adequate response. Immediately following this was a crisis of identity, almost 25 years of living my life a certain way and I honestly felt so dejected and unfulfilled. I spent my life refining and defining myself through my actions and personal beliefs and one question made me question everything. This was a huge deal for me because, for those of you who know me personally, I struggle with admitting I am wrong sometimes (way more than sometimes). What exactly did I believe prior to this question? Well, now that is a fantastic question. Here is how the old me operated.

Right off the bat. I claimed to be an Atheist, but I never had a compelling argument as to why. You could ask and I would say something along the lines of “oh, the universe is too big for there to be an all-powerful being watching over us here on Earth.” Little did I know that the size and complexity of the universe is actually a compelling argument for a divine designer. However, that is a topic for another time. For now, I digress. As a child, I was forced to attend Catholic church and being forced to go take part in something I didn’t understand left a sour taste in my mouth. When I was in high school, my brother and mother started attending the church we still attend today and converted to Christianity. Going to church was a waste of time in my opinion (at the time), but I went when my family did for the holidays to make my mom happy. I actually started playing drums for the worship band but I was interested in playing drums more than I was in exalting God because at the time I did not believe He was real. I was raised with Catholic/Christian values and always knew the basic principles of The Word. On top of that, I had a warped sense of purpose. I have always had a sense of purpose that I was destined for something great and that that purpose would be fulfilled through my actions. I was kind to others but I believed in working hard to obtain a particular job or make a certain amount of money, hanging around like-minded people who all want that success as well, or defining who I am by the things that I own (e.g., my clothes, a nice house, a nice car, etc.). Essentially, my success and fulfillment is determinant on my job title, my friends, and my possessions. In hindsight (Hines-sight for those of you who read my vision), I was just flat out stupid. That is the break down of who I was before my revelation.

This question was posed and I could not pinpoint the source of my morality and I was uncomfortable with that feeling. I started dwelling on the initial inquiry and a couple questions began to flow from it like a cracked vase: “if I cannot explain where my morals originate from, what else can I not explain?” “why am I here on Earth, in this place, in this moment?” “If I cannot find the explanation, where can I find it?” This was a classic case of the ‘crisis of identity’ story arc many main characters take in books and movies.

Keep in mind, this whole crisis of identity took place over the span of about 15 minutes. That is how quickly my mind was racing; searching my memory and mind for an answer that again, I could not answer. So, I decided to reach out to my younger brother. He dropped everything that he was doing and came to my aid after I called him in tears. My brother is a devout Christian who didn’t always claim that moniker, so I probed for the explanation of his salvation. I was straight forward and asked him how he became a Christian. We walked around and he explained his upbringing and where he stood with God. My brother cleared up many things I had misconstrued about Christianity. He began to lay the groundwork for a transformation that changed my entire life. I told him to reach out to one of his mentors so I could get more in-depth information because I was hungry for more information and knowledge, an expert’s opinion if you will.

December 8th, 2016: The very next day, my brother arranged a meeting between me, himself, and the Director for Apologetics for the church my family attends. For those who are unaware of what apologetics is, it is the argument that is meant to justify a belief. Basically, I met with an expert in making the argument for Christianity. I picked up my brother, who gave me the gift of my first Bible and drove to meet with the pastor. We met at a coffee shop and I listened to him talk for the fastest passing of two hours I have ever experienced in my life. He was aware of how logical I was and laid out Christianity with facts and in-depth, scientific and reasonable explanations. I sat across from him, hanging on every word as he laid out the details from the Old Testament to today. He ended the conversation saying “I’m not here to convert you, I’m here to give you the information. This is something you have to discover on your own.” It was the first time that I didn’t feel forced to pursue religion, the first time I was told I have a choice. He just happened to provide me with enough information to move forward and take the first step. He also recommended I read the book ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist.” I can tell you now, today… I do not have enough faith to be an atheist any longer.

December 11th, 2016: The week progressed and Sunday came. I had read, started studying, and formulated questions about this new worldview I was walking into. I woke up early and I willingly went to church for the first time in my life. I sat with the congregation and took in the message throughout the service. Feverishly scrawling notes on the program that was provided. I wanted to go back in and read the verses the pastor mentioned and take them in during my own research. During worship, the band played ‘Good, Good Father’ by Chris Tomlin and it struck a chord in my heart. The reason this song cut deep is that I grew up without a consistent fatherly figure in my life. My biological father left before I was born, my adopted father was manipulative and our relationship failed just as his relationship with my mother failed, and my stepfather was an alcoholic, choosing the bottle over his family. As you can see, not ideal role models. Yet, I heard this song and it was just a providential moment for me. I spent my whole life feeling empty for not having a father when I could have had one, I was just looking in the wrong places. I searched for the physical embodiment of the perfect role model when I just had to realize the perfect Father is within me and all around, always present and never failing. A good, good father. After the service, I was still curious, yearning for more information. However, I was still being held back by 25 years of habits and thinking.

January 1st, 2017: I went to church with my mom and this was the day I knew, the day I knew wholeheartedly I believed in a God that is kind, forgiving, and all-loving. The culmination of my studies and conversations with believers helped in this process, I prayed many nights and finally had my answer. What a fantastic day to come to this realization as well (new year, new me… anyone? okay) After the service, I approached the woman who was standing near the prayer table. This was an area where people who have just accepted the Lord and we would just share a moment. I spoke to a woman who asked if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Without hesitation and with confident resolve, I simply responded “yes, I have,” and then we prayed.

January 28th, 2017: I met with the worship leader of the church that I attend. We sat down and he talked about his upcoming mission trip to Japan and we dived into my ongoing walk with The Lord. I have known him for several years and as I have mentioned above, I played in the worship band with him, albeit for the wrong reasons. We discussed coming back to play for the worship band and this time I felt excited because I didn’t want to play music for myself anymore. Near the end of our meeting, he said to me “you were a really nice guy before, but ever since you have come to Christ, you are a completely new man.” It meant a lot to me because it was the first time that my works were reflecting my newfound faith. I knew that I had made the right decision and my conviction grew deeper.

February 3rd-6th, 2017: I drove to San Diego to visit my best friend and talk to him about my sanctification. He is one of the wisest, kindest, and is the most purposeful person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have been friends for about ten years now and I’m so blessed that he remained patient with me while I lived a lifestyle not consistent with his. It was such a meaningful trip for me because it was filled with conversations that were not surface level. We had deep, meaningful talks about our goals and faith and I learned more about my best friend in this one weekend than I did the entire year previously. I’ve devoted myself to staying in contact with him and sharing my journey with him, while hearing of his journey as well. If you are reading this, thank you so much for your prayers and for being someone I can always rely on. However, the weekend came to a close and too short it was. I eventually had to come back to the real world but I obtained some experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life on Earth.

February 13th, 2017: This was a day that I was invited to attend a small group with some of the members of the church that I attend. I woke up that morning incredibly anxious. I did not know what that gathering would entail. I started driving to work and I made the decision not to go. I felt peace and got to about lunchtime when I started thinking deeply about my reasoning for not going. An inner argument occurred and it ended with me telling myself I was going to go. I would try it and if I didn’t feel that ‘click’ with the people there, I wouldn’t go back. I am so very glad The Lord gave me the strength to go to this small group that day.

I got there thinking it would be awkward trying to connect with these people who are so much further along in their walks with Christ than me. Yet, the connection was instant and ‘earlier that morning’ Zach felt like a big dummy. I started talking with all of these interesting and incredibly gifted people. I met an engineer who I’m going to have coffee with here in the near future, a kindergarten teacher with a passion in her heart to educate the young, a physical therapy doctoral student who had moved to our city just a month earlier and plugged in immediately, a seminary student who was so funny and knowledgeable about The Word, a future nurse who was born in another country and is just so astute and purposeful, she lives and breathes The Lord and she intrigues me immensely.

The best part of meeting everyone is that we come from all different walks of life and united with one common goal: to grow among fellow believers and examine/better understand The Word. I am beyond excited to continue going to this small group and developing bonds and fostering relationships not only with the people who attend but with The Lord as well. This community is so incredible and I felt at home in their presence.

February 19th, 2017: I went to church with my family with the rough draft of this post swirling in my mind. It was boiling in the pot and I just needed a few more ingredients. One crucial ingredient came in the form of the sermon that our pastor preached not 10 hours ago. He spoke of how to live a life led by Jesus. Going back to my sense of purpose that I was looking for, I immediately connected with the message. He went one to say that we, and even the best Christians, try to walk in perfect alignment with The Lord and are searching for a dot on a blank whiteboard (this was the analogy he used today with a giant whiteboard on the stage). The message was that your goal should not be the dot, it should be a box (drawn on the whiteboard) which are the defined parameters of being led by Jesus. These parameters included working with your strengths, providing for your family, doing work that is good for your soul and others, and allows you to reach your true potential. To show your works within these parameters is how you accomplish a joyous and rewarding life. A simple concept with powerful meaning. The services I attend never cease to amaze me. It’s a blessing to see what God is doing in our lives.

Right now: I realize that I’m so early but I just wanted to share the incredible journey I have gone through in the past two months. This journey is its infancy but I am hungry to grow and show my newfound faith through my works and strengthen my relationship with God. I have been given the facts and now I believe.

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” John 1:50

I have been reborn and I cannot wait to see greater things.

Best,
ZCH

a dreamer in limbo

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do? or What is your dream job? These are loaded questions that people get asked almost daily and I am not immune to these inquiries. It’s strange to me because of the people I have met through my short stint as a person on Earth, most individuals answer with something that they love and/or are passionate about. Then you look at their lives and the melancholy sinks in because what they do and what they love are not one in the same. We all have dreams and aspirations, but few dare to chase them. Not being a member of the minority in this instance; I have yet to chase my passions.

I have to point out that what I do for a living is such a phenomenal opportunity and I do genuinely love my job. I have worked here for over 3 months and every day is a new surprise. Essentially, what I do is guide people through the online car buying process without knowing a single thing about cars (other than how to drive them). Building rapport is a staple of my position and using the words ‘crushing it’ to describe my ability to communicate effectively and bond would be an understatement. The next incredible thing is that I meet and work alongside people who are excited to learn, collaborate, and grow. These folks are from all walks of life, having skills and knowledge that vary from person to person. The opportunity to learn new things from each individual is there, provided I take the time to engage and listen. This rag-tag group of guys and gals are awe-inspiring, charismatic, and refreshing. These are men and women who could become more than just people I work with. Engaging and relating could lead to the development of bonds that can extend beyond the workplace. These could be people I can count on in a time of need; to be shoulder to lean on or an ear to talk off (for those who know me, I am quite the talker). Not only are the people fantastic, the company is a completely different beast in itself. No idea is too small and the company’s executives actually encourage challenging the status quo. All of these things are unheard of in the workplace. Trust me, I asked my mom.

However, while I love my job for the learning and development opportunities and the potential for genuine friends… this isn’t my dream.

This is the part where you ask “Zach, what is your dream, I’m dying to know?”

I’ll feed you baby birds. I dream of me, standing on a stage in front of an audience, alone. I’m armed simply with the chaotic thoughts coursing through my mind and a microphone (similar to posting here without the physical aspects… perhaps this is a stepping stone? More on this later, we go back now to the spotlight). I have the audience’s attention directed exclusively at me and for however long I am on stage, making them forget about the trials and tribulations of everyday life is second nature. Whether this method of forgetfulness is through comedy or deep thought, I am unabashedly confident in my ability to improve people’s lives with what I have to say. In recent memory, storytelling has been something that intrigues my every fiber; so why do I sit idly by? Aging, day after day, not pursuing my dream? Why can’t I take the first step?

Fear of failure is the main reason I don’t progress. I have written material to test, I have thoughts that would benefit and/or wrangle up a whole mess of laughter, and I would be able to persevere the stress of isolation in the spotlight; yet, I’m still stagnant. I want to overcome this fear and start pursuing my dream. That journey starts now. Here are some of the steps that I have started to take to make this lofty goal a reality.

1) I began focusing on my mental well-being. Mainly directing my attention towards why I am scared of this failure. I’m working on my charisma, my vernacular, and my overall demeanor towards others. If you are interested, the YouTube Channel Charisma on Command is an incredible resource that has afforded me so many tools to help develop in many ways. The marked improvement it has had on my life has been noticed by not only myself but others as well. One example, I used to love going out and drinking with my friends. He has three videos that have convinced me to no longer drink in any social setting. That’s some powerful stuff.

2) I submitted (prior to being hired where I work now) a passion that I wanted to talk about in front of an audience. Ignite Phoenix is an event where 18 people each get 5 minutes to talk about anything or everything that intrigues/interests them. They are very strict on that 5 minutes too. My topic would be about music and my emotions. I adore music so much and short tenure on stage would be about the impact it has had on the development of my personality. From my early rock n’ roll discoveries to the lyrically meaningful song kick I am on right now, I would cover how it has sculpted the man whose words you read right now.

3) I started a blog to practice getting my ideas out before my peers 🙂 thanks for reading.

These are just three of the ways that I have begun my adventure towards my dream. No longer wishing to remain stagnant, taking action feels fantastic and I am very glad that you are along for the ride. I know wholeheartedly that I am meant to change the world with my words and this is the way that I would accomplish that change. These steps are small but they are definitely steps in the right direction. The stroking of the fire that is my passion can begin. The ultimate goal lies in being an exemplary orator and this is my sweeping declaration: I will accomplish my dream.

I’d love to talk to you about your passions and dream(s). Feel free to comment and we could open the forum. Let’s communicate on a deeper level and get to know each other. If not, please have a phenomenal week.

Best,

ZCH

down the rabbit hole

Hello everyone,

It’s been an idea of my mine that I have put off for awhile until now… so without further ado and with a prompt drumroll (imagine some drumrolls for me)… Allow me to welcome you to the lexical translation of my thoughts from the eclectic mess that is my brain to a seemingly safe, internet medium!

I plan on posting once a week, as this seems realistic for me with my current work and development schedule…. Err… I don’t really know what else to say from here because introductions are always just a tad bit awkward, so I guess I’ll just share a quote with you.

“You’re a work of art. Not everyone will understand you, but the ones who do, will never forget you.” -Unknown

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes and I like a lot of quotes. I’m as far from being an admirer of art as can be, but it is this lack of education in art that helps me grasp the essence in the meaning. Plus, this quote is similar to what I want to discuss in my next post. In the meantime, welcome again and thanks for reading.

In the meantime, welcome again and thanks for reading.

Best,

ZCH