Re-thinking our relationship with alcohol
Is it time to lose the booze?
👋Hello, my friends. I've got three things I really want to share with you before you this week:
The latest episode of the Intentional Wisdom podcast
Some (hopefully non-preachy, non-judgmental) thoughts on our relationship with alcohol.
A few pieces of content that have really impacted me recently
Podcast: Ep.13 - Bill Shufelt - The Alcohol-Free Revolution
Ten years ago, Bill Shufelt had a career on Wall Street that was successful by virtually every external measure. But something wasn't quite right. He felt tired, stressed and overwhelmed. On a whim, he quit alcohol for a month to train for a race. The decision ended up changing his life. Bill founded Athletic Brewing Company in 2017 to tackle a market opportunity no one else could see: reinventing non-alcoholic beer. Fast-forward to today and the sub-$1bn non-alcoholic beer market has grown to over $20bn and Athletic Brewing Co. has a 55% market share. Yes, Bill now runs the largest non-alcoholic brewer in the U.S., and it's growing like a weed. It turns out that the time was right for the world to move on from O'Doul's and the 20+ craft brews that Bill and team sell have brought something brand new to this space: incredible tasting non-alcoholic beer.
In this conversation, Bill and I talk about:
the challenges he faced in starting the company
how the stigma associated with non-alcoholic beer is slowly but surely fading (and why the market is taking off so much)
where Athletic will go next after a recent $50m investment from Keurig Dr. Pepper
If you want to try Athletic, they ship anywhere in the U.S. Follow this link to get yourself an extra good deal.
Re-thinking our relationship with alcohol
You don't really notice just how ingrained alcohol is in our culture until you try to abstain from it. I realized this back in 2018 when I did a year without drinking. I quickly saw that booze was at the center of virtually every social occasion. Afterall, it's the only drug that people think you're weird if you DON'T do it.
That year was hard in some ways, but it got easier as it went on.
Today, just a few years later, the landscape has changed dramatically for people who want to abstain from alcohol in two important ways:
The mass proliferation of non-alcoholic beers, wines, mocktails and even spirits (that actually taste good)
A pretty dramatically altered social landscape where not drinking has become much more accepted - if not, dare I say, cool.
This year, I started to reassess my own relationship with alcohol once again. It wasn't because I had "a problem" — in fact, I think I only had one really "big” night out the entire year.
Rather there were two things that drove me to reassess:
A mismatch between alcohol consumption and every other part of my life. As you know from reading this newsletter, I'm always trying to improve myself. Trying to get in better shape. Trying to be a better dad. Trying to be more effective in my work. I'm on a constant mission (sometimes more successful than others) to optimize my diet, my sleep, my exercise. In other words, everything is pushing in the direction of making me and those around me happier and healthier. And then... on Friday and Saturday nights, I’m voluntarily putting a bunch of poison in my body that works in the complete opposite direction of everything else I'm trying to do - making me less patient with my kids, less ambitious with my work, less disciplined with my diet. It just... makes no sense. Like none, at all. To get "buzzed" for a couple of hours was increasingly not worth it when I had so much I wanted to achieve the next day—workouts, newsletters, time with my kids, etc.
A podcast episode from Andrew Huberman on alcohol. I've got more on this at the bottom of this article, but for me (and MANY) others, this podcast episode was a huge eye-opener. It's an unbiased scientific look at what alcohol actually does to your brain and body. And without trying to be a major buzzkill, this was a "holy sh$t" moment for me. Hearing an unvarnished take on all of the negative effects that alcohol has on us—even from modest consumption—hit me like a ton of bricks, and again, just forced me to think "why am I doing this?"
So I quit, once again. That was about 3 months ago. In contrast to my 365 days without booze in 2018, I'm thinking of this time as less of a streak and more of a lifestyle change. Am I completely done drinking alcohol forever? Eh, I'm not really ready to say that. But right now, going without it feels pretty damn good—and sustainable.
It's SO much easier than it was in 2018. As referenced above, the non-alcoholic beer/wine/spirits choices have exploded in popularity and availability. In 2018, I was stuck with club sodas and La Croix's for a year. And, I'll be honest. It kind of sucked.
Today, I'm drinking Athletic brews, Guinness 0 (yes, this exists and it's good!), and Heineken 0.0, and looking to try all the new ones coming out. You might not think it's a big deal to be drinking these vs. club soda. Let me tell you: nothing is further from the truth.
I don't know if it's placebo effect or some other social or behavioral effect that comes from drinking (even a non-alcoholic) beer at a party or wedding, but it's a total game-changer.
Seriously, it's taken me from: "I want to go home." to "I'm having a great time at this party."
Weird, right? I can't really explain it. Bill Shufelt and I talked about it on the podcast. He thinks part of it is having something in your hand that you're a) proud to drink, and b) not going to get a million questions on.
Of course, one of the biggest benefits to drinking non-alcoholic beverages like this is getting the fun without the hangover. Now, you're not going to be bouncing off the walls, but if my experience is any indication, you can hang out, have fun, and still be crushing a 6:30am workout the next morning and making breakfast for your kids by 8am—all while in a really good mood. That's not nothing.
One other thing I'm starting to think after getting more and more social reps under my belt without drinking: I don't think it's alcohol that people crave. I think it's relaxation, unwinding, laughing and connecting with friends and family. And at the risk of sounding like an afterschool special, that stuff is all very possible without alcohol. I'm now experiencing it regularly.
Okay, okay, I'm starting to veer into preachy territory, which I don't want to do. I don't care if you drink or don't drink. I'll gladly hang out with you either way. And I'll have a good time, too. I mean... I still want to be home by 9pm but... I can be fun until then!
What’s my takeaway? How about this: Alcohol may not need to play as much of a role in your life as our cultural norms (and billions of advertising dollars) would lead you to believe. With all the downsides associated with drinking, it may at least be worth asking the question of whether or not it's time to take a fresh look at the relationship you've got with alcohol and if you're still happy with it.
That's it this week, my friends, but before you go... a few pieces of content that have really impacted me:
Podcast: What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain and Health - Andrew Huberman
Again, this one is an eye-opener. Here's my Cliff's Notes summary. Apologies in advance for the buzzkill:
Ethanol (alcohol) is toxic to the body and destroys cells (aka you are ingesting poison).
Alcohol changes neural pathways, making us more impulsive, more anxious and more stressed (measurably higher cortisol levels) when we are NOT drinking - even 1 or 2 drinks on a regular basis has this effect.
Alcohol kills bacteria indiscriminately (including so-called 'good' bacteria) wreaking havoc on gut health, leading to inflammation, digestion issues, etc.
The architecture of sleep even after just one alcoholic beverage is disrupted.
The theory that red wine is good for you has been thoroughly debunked. The optimal level of alcohol consumption for humans is zero.
Alcohol consumption is associated with a statistically significant rise in cancer risk (due to its effects on cell mutation and the immune system). Regular consumption is associated with a 4-13% increase in breast cancer risk.
But good news... Many of the negative body/brain impacts of alcohol are reversible after abstaining for 2 to 6 months. So don’t say I was a TOTAL buzzkill today.
Video: Life is Short. How to Add a Sense of Urgency - Tim Ferriss. (10 mins)
I came across this video this week and thought it was really powerful. Tim leans into Stoic philosophy in thinking about this question. The part that will stick with me is this idea… Ask yourself this question: In 20 or 50 years, how much money would I pay (like an actual, specific dollar amount) to re-live an experience I might take for granted today... maybe spending a few minutes with your kids or parents... Whatever it is that you can do now but in 20 or 50 years won't be possible. Think about this one yourself.
Last thing... Below is the YouTube version of my conversation with Bill Shufelt and here’s a Twitter thread with clips from the conversation. If you get a chance to check it out, let me know what you think! And please subscribe and share. I'm looking to bring on a sponsor for Intentional Wisdom in 2023 so I appreciate all the efforts to continue to spread the word and to help grow the podcast and newsletter.
Okay, that’s it. I'll be back in your inbox in two weeks! - Greg