My Easy Way To Stop Drinking: Relationships — The Good and the Bad — 2 Months In

— I seem to be undergoing a transition of sorts from where initially, alcohol cessation was all about the ways and means of getting it done—arriving at that point of no return—to now, increasingly, towards a more observant and deliberative consideration.

Preface

Kind of like: the chicken or the egg; what comes first? Do you get plastered because life sucks and it’s an effective acute-pain reliever for that; or, is it that you typically drink for a multitude of reasons (or excuses), it eventually gets out of hand, and then proceeds to ‘suck’ up your life to the point that alcohol becomes a veritable coping requirement?

“Oh, boy…I could really use a drink.”

…Or is it both, since the real answer to the question about chickens and eggs is that there’s not the one, without the other. They’re inexorably integrated, inseparable.

But still…I can wax philosophically or psychologically all I want, but it all has to meet a single criterion for me:

Does this nugget or tidbit or realization or actualization or idea or aha moment…bring someone to the Easy Place? Because let’s face it: you’re probably not going to brute force this thing to success. If it sucks, then it’s likely going to get suckier and the suckier it gets, the more likely you are to fail.

…But fear ye not!

…That failure can be “magically transformed” into success, see? All you have to do on the back-end of failure is float the notion that it was just a test to show that you actually can abstain and now the test is over.

See? “I can quit anytime I want!”

…Though I’ve surprisingly not faced this [what would be] understandable criticism anywhere, it nonetheless nags at me a little. What am I doing, essentially creating what purports to be an authoritative gospel for kicking the bottle when I’ve been at it such a short time?

It smacks of unbridled exuberance—like when you’re a kid and had your first beer. Or, you’ve discovered a hammer and so now, everything is a nail.

But that’s just me and has always been me. Once I really get into something I take it up with a very rapid gusto so I can master the essentials, which is a process of shit-canning most of what’s out there, leaving only the valid stuff. That’s why most stuff is easier than it looks—or is purported to be by those seeking your money. They want you to think it’s hard. Not to worry. They’re here to help.

Those with the most just and valid reasons to ask you for compensation are those who are constantly simplifying, clarifying, and deconstructing for ease of implementation and better chances of success. Others continually complicate, obfuscate, qualify, manufacture exceptions, and issue rules that are self-serving, requiring endless guidance and management.

C’mon, look how simple I make shit: don’t [eat, drink, or do X] too much, too often. What’s amazing is how damn difficult it is to get out a simple message like that, undercutting all the abject bullshit. It’s because it’s perceived to be obvious, so of little value. Ironic, that, isn’t it?

In most things being touted and marketed, “simple steps to…” are never simple. Rather, they are intentionally near to impossible. But all that will be laid out in the next release, at a good price…and so on.

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Introduction

I recorded a short intro video while sitting in the morning sunshine and facing a calm Pattaya Beach surf to introduce this post.

In The Beginning

Those who’ve followed along know the story pretty well. Those who haven’t and want the details, see the multi-post series I initiated and this post is next: MY EASY WAY To Stop Drinking Forever: DryGains. For those not interested in the topic, that’s OK. One reason I’m not a single-issue blogger. The other is that I’d rather kill myself and I don’t much care for doing that.

To make a typical story shorter than usual, it sort of began earlier in 2022 when I had one bout of sickness with a fever and gut issues that kept me basically in bed for 2 solid days and then low activity for another two. The gut issues persisted for quite a while longer, until I had my friend Karl Seddon send me some Elixa Probiotic and that helped tremendously.

But, I initially didn’t eat for four days straight, lost significant weight, I liked that, so kept at it. Not eating much. But, drinking [alcohol] increased to compensate for energy deprivation. You see, alcohol is typically a sort of stimulant for me. Unless, I chow down at the same time. So, I developed a general rule over the years: eat OR drink, not both. Yea, I’m quite expert at sipping an entire 5th of whiskey over the course of a day, with ice and plain water or club soda. And I eat little to nothing.

I got myself in a pickle when I found that…

  1. I had zero appetite anymore. Everything seemed disgusting…you know, like when you’re sick and watching a commercial on TV for some food and it makes you nauseous? That.
  2. I had seemingly lost muscle mass, especially in my arms, and I noted that by the difference in attention from Thai chicks. I say “seemingly” because of what I’ll cover later in the Easy section.

So I did a video and a post about the loss of appetite. I had already suspected the root of the problem when a commenter or two suggested alcohol and lack of gym time.

Yea, duh.

So I did another video and post on the very early morning of August 7th, like 02 or 03.00 when I finished the bottle and that has been it, since then.

It’s the rest of the story that I still find remarkable to this day. Exciting, even.

It Turned Out To Be Totally Fucking Easy

I’d been down this road bunches of times before. Yes, I’ve proved many times that I can tough it out for a week, two…even three or four a coupla times.

See, I can quit anytime I want!

And every waking minute, I longed for that day where I could say, ‘that’s enough, I’ve made my point.’ Not drinking alcohol made life worse, and who wants that?

…I expected the same thing but at least this time, I’d be on public record so that if I did declare victory and go back to sipping too much too often, I knew that at least some folks following along would invariably see it as weakness. That doesn’t sit well with me.

So, I had that public shame factor all lined up for me.

I truly don’t know how much it contributed. In times past, my social circle knew I was taking a break, but then again, they’re my IRL social circle and what are they gonna say? So I guess that when I or anyone says they don’t give a fuck what others [strangers on the Internet] think, it’s contextual and qualified. When in the right and blameless, then yeah, ZFG; but if weak or hiding something, then what sensible others may be thinking is probably what you should be thinking of yourself, about yourself.

Always pay attention to context, especially when using stock bromides like IDGAF.

…It probably helped that I needed to go to sleep anyway, once I polished off that last pint in the video—probably the 2nd of the day; or, the nightcap after a 5th already sipped down over its course. Must have been 04.00 or thereabouts.

I remember waking up, no hangover, which is typical. Hangovers for me result from having violated my no-eating rule and I was very strict with that rule.

What wasn’t typical was having zero urge or desire to begin sipping, going through sites, links, emails, and thinking about what I might write over the course of the day, which is always exciting. There’s nothing like going through stuff and suddenly getting the inspiration to write, then looking over to see a mostly fresh bottle and knowing I had plenty of ice in the freezer and bottles of club soda in the fridge.

Pro tip: a pinch of baking soda enhances the flavor of the whisky and keeps the stomach settled.

Booze and writing are a marriage made in heaven for me and I’ve vast experience at keeping it on that knife edge; knowing I’m in a sharp-intellect realm where I just see more connections and integrations…while being just inebriated enough to write shit I otherwise wouldn’t; and over the edge, with blurry eyes and poor motor control in the fingers.

When I find myself over that edge, time for a trip to the cool pool and taking in some sunshine on bare skin too. That’s regrouping. Another sign I’m over the edge is that it’s taking too damn long; I’m spending too much time in mental masturbation, not tapping it out in a rapid stream of consciousness. When in that zone, I can bust out 1,500 to 2,000 words an hour or two, and that’s including smoke breaks. Another hour to polish it up, hit publish. Three to four hours or less, usually.

So amazing, on the first morning: I missed none of this. I still don’t know what the fuck happened and it’s the honest damn truth that it has been totally fucking easy the whole time. Watch the video intro. Does it look like a relapse is just around the corner?

Figuring It Out

I was mystified that I was having no problem. It was like I was enjoying it, and not in any sort of glutton for punishment sense.

It was a kick. I was havin’ a ball.

WTF? Why?

So I started thinking about it and naturally, the first things to occur to me were what’s different from the times and attempts before.

  1. Environment. I’m an expat living in paradise, both in terms of beach and sun, and young Thai chicks.
  2. Even though I took an enormous financial hit thanks to Covid and not minding my backup funds because of it—thinking it would be short-lived—It’s still ridiculously easy to to live nicely here on a modest sum. Accordingly, financial pressures simply aren’t anything like they are Stateside.
  3. I was married before, now I’m not. Free as a bird. And, the one time I abstained from booze here in Thailand was for about a month while out in deep rural, after building that house. But, that was very much like a marriage sort of relationship.

I just didn’t quite feel like I fully had the the explanation. That would come later and I’ll save it for later here, as well.

…At the same time, I was slightly obsessed with the notion that I’m not losing anything, I’m gaining everything. So I was constantly proving it to myself. I started hitting the gym again, and combined with appetite returning with a gusto within days, my muscle mass immediately, astoundingly rebounded. I don’t know the physiology behind it, but I certainly didn’t have to rebuild new mass. It was there, just hyper deflated, I guess. I dunno. Someone in the know, tell me.

I also proved it daily by going to all my regular haunts, chatting with expat friends, chatting up the girls, etc. …Just that I was drinking club soda, diet soda, or the occasional sugar-water soda. That got really fucken old really quick. I started just sipping a water drink as 1/3rd the normal price of admission, and just leaving most of it.

It also wasn’t the same in the relationship area.

Relationships: The Good and the Bad

Initially, everyone assumes you’re doing a dry spell just as many guys do here from time to time, since the entirely of expat life revolves around socializing and that revolves around drinking. The non-drinker is a rare creature. I think I know only one other, a Kiwi.

Eventually, it becomes apparent that you’re in it to win it and it’s not at all that there’s anything bad that changes, it’s just natural evolution. The relationship revolved around getting together for drinks, getting buzzed, telling lies to each other, and so forth. If you’re not getting inebriated, well then, it’s not the same.

Is that a loss? In one respect, sure. Those were fun times. Can you overcome that loss? Easy for me; this was quite valuable and I recommend it.

So for the first few weeks I’d go to the same places, same times, run into the same dudes. I sit there sipping my club soda, engaging in conversation as normal. But over the course of time, they get increasingly loose, loud, boisterous, etc. Normal stuff. Having fun.

The thing was, I wan’t missing being a part of it at all. I’d think with some dismay, “that used to be me,” and this is not me now sitting on some throne on high passing judgment. Not at all. Hell, I’m happy that they get to do that and for most, it doesn’t devolve into the too much too often I developed over the years. For some, yea, but that’s their business.

I never even bring it up unless asked, and I try to even avoid the subject now. If someone asks who doesn’t already know, “not drinking?”

“Not today,” I’ll reply.

But over time I’ve just naturally gone out like that less and less. Part of what’s behind that is that I’m sort of a workaholic now with this blog. And I love it.

I used to think that the boozing was a big part of what made it what it was. Everyone knew, just not the extent of it. Increasingly over this space of time, however, I’ve come to realize that was just one of many reasons (excuses) to keep enjoying the sauce.

In fact, a sober, clear mind gives rise to the discipline, though, and control necessary to begin running this thing as a business rather than an indulgence. I still get to write about everything I want and nothing I don’t, but there is at least some structure to it now; some planning, some intention, some direction, some real point to it all.

And I’m quite happy about it. It’s given rise to opportunities that are easily and joyfully embraced without the burden of alcohol inebriation around. More on those in due time.

So in the end, it’s not that relationships sour or anything. Some just drift away, no harm no foul. I find going out to a bar now to be fucking boring, except when I go to a few girl bars now and then. At least there’s some nice scenery and fun banter. And perhaps now and then, a who knows?

It’s just far less frequent now. I typically go some weeks between such outings. It’s enough and otherwise, I like very much what I’m doing. It’s as common to see me through the window tapping away at 03.30—either because I’m still up or just got up—as it is to find the drapes closed, room dark, A/C at 25, and me sleeping at 15.30.

No, I don’t do naps. No matter what time, when I do bed, it’s all in.

My favorite is to hit it early, like 20.00ish, sleep 4-5 hours, get up and tap it out until 04-05.00 and then go down for another round of 2-3 hours sleep. It’s like a twofer, 2 days in every one day. And I think it’s perfect for someone who likes my kind of writing, which is rapid fire, write, publish, immediate gratification, and start drafting again for the next fix.

Bottom Line

I’m saving this for the last because I want it to be the takeaway.

I believe the reason abstaining was too impossibly hard and I failed every time before—compared with the absolute ease this time around—is that I was fundamentally and deeply unhappy before, and alcohol was my self-medication. This time, it was different. It wasn’t that I was overjoyed with life, I wasn’t. But I wasn’t woefully unhappy, or feeling trapped or locked into situations or commitments I didn’t truly desire.

And that was the big difference.

I don’t proscribe or prescribe for others. Everyone is different. Plenty tackle it successfully with AA and that ‘I’m a perpetual sinner with only daily redemption through the grace of a higher power,’ thing. For them, not for me.

I’ll say this and I’ve said it before: Things that are too hard may not be worth doing, or doing now, or attempting to do them the way you’re doing them. It may take some pre-planning and pre-execution.

If you’re unhappy, is it because you drink too much, too often, or is it—more likely in my view—that you drink too much too often because you’re unhappy already and that’s your coping gig?

What happens if you’re not well and you try to take away the one thing that keeps you going? Of course, there are individual degrees of severity and varied circumstances, but generally speaking, you might be looking at it the wrong or opposite way.

What if it’s not that you have a drinking problem at all?

What if it’s that you have a happiness problem, and that taking away drinking improves health, relationships, job, and other things it was damaging, but doesn’t address the root problem at all: unhappiness?

So think on that.


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4 Comments

  1. Matt Miller on October 20, 2022 at 01:17

    Sounds like you never experienced any physical withdrawal symptoms. Did you have a plan for dealing with them, in case you did?

    I hardly ever drink, but I’ve been kicking a couple other substance habits for which the detox is very rough, even taking a slow-turkey approach.

    My strategy for dealing with it is to bombard my body and brain with as many endogenous feel-good chemicals as possible, therefore replacing the “fix” that I once got from an exogenous chemical. (Getting high on my own supply, so to speak.)

    The best tool for this is cold exposure. For the last few weeks I’ve been taking daily ice baths. It’s a fucking shocker and I feel like a god when I get out. In addition, I’ll throw in some exercise and sauna sessions.

    Here’s a bonus tip: Since you’re no longer using alcohol as your creative muse, you might try doing some cold exposure before a writing session. When I was in grad school, I would take an ice bath and then immediately go to the coffee shop to write. I’ve never experienced that level of relaxed focus and productivity in my life. The words would flow effortlessly.

    I seriously think that cold exposure is the best (drug-free) mood booster and cognitive enhancer known to man.

    Didn’t you play around with cryo a few years back? I think I remember you doing some posts about it back in the paleo days.

    Anyways, thanks for the great content. Godspeed on your booze-free journey.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2022 at 09:09

      Matt, yea, no physical withdrawal. But I know what you mean. From about 2010-11 when the boozing became pronounced (morning boozing, all day boozing, etc.) and I would then do bouts of zero, I always got night cold-sweat withdrawal for about the 1st three nights. Wake up with torso, shoulders, and neck soaked.

      In about 2015 I did something like a 40-day zero thing, got the sweats, and from then on, I have never had them again when I stop cold-tukey.

      Weird.

      Regarding ice baths and sauna, did you miss the part that I live in Thailand, LOL? Half the time, it IS a sauna. And, during rainy season, you’ll sometimes get caught in a torrential downpour during a longer trip on the motorbike, and that can chill you to the bone.

      But yea, there is a place close by that has sauna, steam room, a cold bath, and a pool. I go there sometimes for lunch (great food good prices) and use the pool gratis. However, you still have to pay for the others. I’ll find out. Maybe doable.

      Yea, I was into the cold exposure for a good while. My gym had a 45F (7.2C) cold dip and over time, I built up from 30 seconds to 15 minutes. That chill to the bone would last for hours, reminiscent of a full day of skiing where with the activity, you didn’t notice the deep chill until the day was over and you’re back inside. I eventually got a livestock water trough in my backyard. Initially futzed with ice but then determined that the garden hose (at about 60-70F) was plenty good enough.

  2. Peter Collins on October 20, 2022 at 04:32

    Hi Richard
    My experience was, during a phase of drinking vodka or whiskey every day, I lost muscle on my shoulders & arms, T depletion estrogen elevation, I was pushing string too by trying to lift weights at same time.
    My woman noticed my sex drive diminish & fired off some warning shots.
    So I listened.
    I immediately & easily cut spirits & enjoyed wine on the weekends because I love a drink.
    Result after 8 months, massive gains from strength training (aged 54) powerful sex drive & my woman loves having a real man back in the house.
    I am sharper in business dealings & back to communicating precisely & truthfully full of feeling elevated in the masculine hierarchy.

    On food & drink – my partner is Polish, her family know from experience that Polish men pickle themselves to an early death with vodka.
    So when I have a drink, she loads up a polish meat platter, no carb shit & water on the table to protect me.
    That works but take care as the food can quickly spill over into fat gain if done too often.

    I still drink some wine & Guinness (I am Irish) and have found a happy balance.
    I never drink to get pissed ever.

    PC

    • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2022 at 09:13

      ‘My woman noticed my sex drive diminish & fired off some warning shots.”

      As good a reason as any. I deal in 20-something Thai chicks and they’re pretty demanding on the please-me front, so it’s good to stay on top of that. Rewarding.

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