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

stop treating your exes like … well, your exes

Today’s topic is on bad mouthing an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend. I believe everyone is guilty of this. I sure as hell know that I am guilty of it with the exes that I have. We fantasize about the perfect relationship and become bitter when that same relationship has to come to a grinding halt. Bitter enough to talk down in reference to our former significant other. Why is this? Why are we so comfortable degrading people that we previously had been close to?  I have never really put much thought into the ‘why’ behind this until quite recently.

Let me start by laying the foundation of where exactly I was mentally when this scenario I am about to mention took place. A few months prior to the conversation I had, my girlfriend, Elizabeth, broke up with me and I was heartbroken. Poof! Now we are back to the story. I was at work one day having a conversation with my coworkers about where we used to be employed. One of the participants said they used to work at the place where Elizabeth was working. Instead of ignoring my thoughts and actively participating in the conversation by providing content that is actually relevant, I made a mistake. I regrettably started talking negatively about her and yes, I did use profanity. I called her names and talked about her in a way that made her seem cruel and vile. I walked away from that interaction and felt an uneasiness in my stomach. This wave of disgust washed over me as I debriefed with myself afterward. The information I relayed to my coworkers wasn’t true, this is a woman that I would still, to this day do almost anything for. I was crazy, stupid in love with her and yet, I threw caution to the wind and disrespected her in a way that warranted me to sit down and reevaluate how I operate. How could I refer to a woman of this magnitude in such a manner?

The answer is simple and I have two lines of thinking on this topic. One is my observation of the initial reaction when thinking about an ex (in my case, my ex-girlfriend). The second is the continuation of the first point and how it actually tarnishes you and makes you look, in my humble opinion, pathetic.

My initial observation is: we don’t bad mouth our exes because we dislike them, we bad mouth our exes because we are unhappy with the outcome of the relationship. Whether you are cheated on, broken up with for another person, or it just doesn’t play out how you wanted, you can’t tell me that you hated that person… I didn’t hate Elizabeth, I hated the fact that the relationship could not continue and she ended it.  Six months later, I see now that it may have been better for us to separate, but at the time, she is who I wanted to be with. Her exit out of my life was like taking a piece of my very being and just casting it away into the ocean (think Rose carelessly tossing a priceless gem necklace into the water, but with less grace). Overdramatization aside, as graceless her exit was, I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at the outcome. This is a woman that I saw immeasurable potential with and when that couldn’t continue, I became bitter and would speak in a negative manner when referencing her.

This is not a good sign. Again, I love her to this day and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’m thankful for her because I would not be the man I am today without her coming in and out of my life. Although the outcome was not what I wanted, I learned more about myself; developed new habits that are beneficial to my mental health (e.g., seeing a therapist); figured out what I want out of a relationship; and most importantly… I learned that regardless of the pain caused by the exit of a girlfriend out of my life, I never want to verbally degrade her (or the previous/future ones) ever again. Yay for life lessons!

The secondary observation: Talking badly about an ex reflects poorly on yourself more than it reflects poorly on the ex you are discussing. You know who looks like a really shitty person? The person who talks shit about others, especially exes. This is a big one for me because while I was debriefing, I stepped into the shoes of my coworkers. They were listening to me talk about someone I genuinely care about in such a negative context. They could have been listening and started thinking “if he talks this way about her, what does he say about me since we are not that close?”. I do not want anyone to have these connotations about me. It’s disingenuous and detrimental to your character and presence with others to talk negatively about anybody, let alone someone that significant in your life. I was so focused on the outcome and how it did not align with what I wanted, I was willing to stoop to a level that is beneath me and tarnish my character.

I should be focusing on the good (that I mentioned above) that came from the relationship. Also, all the great memories. I experienced so much in so little time with Elizabeth and I often get sad that we won’t get to experience more. Remember the good times over the bad and you can’t talk negatively about a person. A quote that really resonates with this discussion is this one that I have really been trying to implement into my life:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!” – Dr. Seuss

As crazy as this sounds, I challenge you to empower the exes in your life. They had their reasons for leaving but you cared/still care about them and shouldn’t talk poorly about their character or actions. In the end, the only person you are hurting is yourself. You (hopefully) had a lot of great times that should outweigh the bad times and you should highlight those over the toxicity. I know in regards to me that if I continue with the way that I was operating before, future potential paramours are going to be turned off by the idea of dating me because of the blatant disrespect that I spew towards other women that I care about. I should not let these lesser emotions reign in my day to day interactions.

Sweeping declaration: I will not talk badly about Elizabeth, any ex before that, or any ex I have moving forward (fingers crossed the next one is a keeper). Thinking negatively about any of them is not conducive to my mental development and it reveals character flaws in myself that I don’t want to become permanent.

To the three exes I didn’t mention, thank you so much for all of the great times that we had. To Elizabeth, thank you so much for being my first love. I never knew I could learn so much about myself and another person in such a short amount of time. I hope everything in your life is going phenomenally and that you are not sad about the outcome. The only thing I ever wanted was for you to be happy and I genuinely hope that you are!

I hope this has been as eye opening as it has been for me. Any questions? Chat me up my friends!

Best,

ZCH