We ask and answer tough questions every day. But the toughest question I’ve faced in the last 10 years was the first time I was asked “Would you like red or white?” at a work event after I quit drinking. I couldn’t seem to get the word “neither” out, so I just shook my head violently like my toddler does at the sight of vegetables. What about these social settings makes being sober so difficult? Well, we use alcohol for networking, welcoming new people, saying farewell to those that are moving on, prepping for a big meeting, recovering from a big meeting, and every other excuse we can come up with. Once I passed the head-shaking phase and I could use my words and say “neither” loud and proud, I found a lot of other empowering and beautiful things happened. These beautiful things fit into the four pillars of Thrive:
1. Well-Being: At first, I was just a generally anxious person. Not a fan of rollercoasters or big public speaking engagements. And, over time, it became crippling to get on an airplane or even read a paragraph in a training session for 10. I thought drinking would help me get the courage to do the things that scared me, but it had the opposite effect. Once I stopped drinking, I found that all of my anxieties melted away. I even use airplanes to catch up on my much-needed sleep now.
2. Wisdom: How powerful it is to say, “My voice is my voice and I stand behind everything I say!” No longer do I wake up hoping I didn’t say something that offended someone. Don’t get me wrong, I still offend people or say the wrong thing, I’m human! But I can accept responsibility and be humble now, instead of being embarrassed and defensive. That’s an amazing feeling.
3. Giving: There is a whole day of wonderful things that can happen. I’m not confined to the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. for my productive self. I have the entire day to think clearly, speak compassionately, and help anyone around me that needs help. I recently met a wonderful man at A.A. that said his hair looked like Rod Stewarts (it really did!). He has Stage 4 cancer and unfortunately needed to shave his head. My impulses took over and I blurted out, “I shave my kid’s heads in the bathtub, I can do yours!” He didn’t take me up on the offer, but this is the world I want to live in and I want to contribute to, and I don’t want to overthink helping anyone in need.
4. Wonder: I found a lot of negative in the world to stew over when I was drinking. I find myself seeing the most beautiful things in the most unexpected places. My home airport is Denver International. When you exit the airport you come up an escalator to where all the family members are waiting patiently for their loved ones. This has become one of my favorite places on earth — the look on someone’s face to see a loved one after time apart. I even saw a grandma meet her newborn granddaughter for the first time. These are the experiences that make me know that being clear headed is the way I want to stay, no matter how socially rebellious it may be.