For the past 20+ years I’ve worked in the advertising business. And while the business has matured from its Mad Men days, it’s still a very work hard-play hard, high-pressure environment in which drinking is the common denominator and “go to” solution to most problems that presented themselves.
Client unhappy? Take them out for a nice meal and several bottles of expensive wine. Employees feeling over-worked? Throw a party, open bar, lots of shenanigans. Can’t crack the ‘big idea’ for that new business pitch? Go get drunk and let the ‘ideas’ flow.
And, personally, there were more than a handful of times in which I simply drank too much. I was in the flow of drinking – the conversations were energetic and the laughter uproarious - and the alcohol clouded my true character and drove some bad decisions. Nothing movie-worthy – just the kind of thing you wouldn’t want in your obituary.
Cocktails vs. Alcohol:
Here’s the thing. Personally, I’ve never craved or even really liked alcohol. I love a great cocktail, served in a beautiful glass. The liquid – an alchemy of ingredients from around the world that have come together, all for me in that moment. And I love the social interaction. I love being in a cool bar. With interesting people. Talking about common interests and shared experiences.
The alcohol, as I saw it, was a necessary fuel for all of that.
And, in my mind, when my glass was empty, that meant the party was over. Time to pay the bill and go home. But I didn’t want the party to be over. I was having fun. I was making “connections”. And it was all a credit to the alcohol. Or so I thought. So I’d order another drink. And the party went on.
Connections vs Interactions:
I always rationalized the effects of the alcohol – of being drunk – by pointing to the “connections” I made while drinking. I believed that these “deep meaningful” conversations I was having were really establishing relationships. With employees, colleagues, clients, friends and, often times, with complete strangers.
But were they? As time went on, I started to see that those ‘deep, prolific, meaningful’ conversations we were having – seven or eight cocktails in – were just frenetic, stream of consciousness collages of drunken story telling. Which, if I’m honest, has its place but shouldn’t be confused with real human connection.
I loved a great cocktail. I really valued making connections with people. But I fooled myself into thinking that the alcohol and the fog of interactions while drunk were the same as having a couple cocktails and making real connections.
The “ah ha” month:
Like so many of us, I lived the ups and downs of constant regret of having drank too much the night before. The effects of the alcohol took my energy for the next day. Stole my creativity. And occasionally damaged my reputation.
But a few nights later, back we were.
And then came the grand experiment. Stop drinking for a month. I’d actually never done it before because there was always a ‘special occasion’ that just wouldn’t be special if I didn’t have a cocktail in hand. Hey, it’s Flag Day….
One month turned to two, turned to four, turned to six. And, here’s the thing… My connections with people didn’t dissipate. They deepened. I was more present. More able to think about how that person was felling. I asked more questions (vs just blurting-out the next funny story).
We’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s the alcohol that drives our ability to be social, to make connections, to have a great time. It’s simply not true.
And, to be clear, I’ve started drinking again. But I’ve found a good balance for me. Over the course of a night, a couple of cocktails, mixed with a few glasses of something non-alcoholic. And these days, I appreciate an alcoholic drink so much more. In true moderation. I look at the glass. I sip more slowly. I appreciate.
And, as for my love of a great cocktail, it made me wonder, ‘what if cocktails could GIVE vs. TAKE’? What if you could have that same cocktail experience – the thoughtful ingredients from around the world that are melded together in beautiful ways, all for you, all for that moment but in a form that elevates and brings healthy benefits vs. breaking you down?
So, after 20+ years in the advertising business and countless mistakes in my search for the right balance in my social life, I’ve stepped out of the comfort of the business that I know so well and, at the age of 46, have started a new career. I’ve founded The Free Spirits Company. Our mission is to give people more options when ‘drinking’. So we’ve dedicated our company to crafting complex, hand-crafted non-alcoholic versions of the spirits that so many of us love to drink. Because living alcohol free for the moment, the month or longer shouldn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your cocktail experience.
I’m beyond excited for you all to try our spirits and am wildly grateful to have you along on this journey.
Live free. Drink free.
Founder & CEO | The Free Spirits Company
Free Spirits. The Good Spirit of Great Cocktails.