Purpose, knowledge, adventure – these are the things that great men live for.
When you quit boozing, you realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time in your living room (and in your bed). You might have to lay low and let your mind adjust for a few months after you quit drinking. But this isn’t the end of the world – it’s an opportunity to be introspective and make new plans.
If you’re 2 years into recovery and you spend most of your days in sanitized group therapy rooms under fluorescent lights with the same people and stale air, you’re missing out on life. And you’ll always secretly miss intoxication.
Get to know yourself. Commit to learning something new every day. Get outside as often as possible. Explore new cities and new countries when you can afford to. Reexamine the premises that have guided your life and tackle a new long-term mission.
And make a bucket list of new attitudes, goals, and adventures. Your list should embody your vision of the person you want to be. Here’s a blueprint.
1) Find out what you love to do and just do it.
What sparks that ferocious inner fire when you think about doing it? Stop thinking and start doing. Ability + Passion + Time = Success.
Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor who plays The Most Interesting Man in the World in Dos Equis commercials, was basically an extra who got killed on screen by John Wayne over 4 decades ago. He struggled for a long time but just knew he’d eventually make it as an actor. Now Michael Jordan asks to take pictures with him and he’s a multimillionaire.
Where would he be if he’d skipped that audition and given up?
2) Get into shape.
Training tones your body and spirit. I’ve been out of shape and in shape, and I can confidently say that life is simply way better when you’re in shape.
Lifting weights will increase your testosterone, muscle mass, sense of well-being, and your chances of rescuing someone who later ends up being your wife.
3) Get some nice clothes and wear them.
A few months after I quit drinking, I hadn’t shaved in several days and I did an experiment. First, I didn’t shower or shave and I went to the grocery store in sweats and an old hoodie. I looked shabby, felt mediocre and people looked at me suspiciously.
Then, I went home, showered and shaved, changed into nice jeans with dress shoes and a cashmere V neck sweater, and went to buy a sandwich. I felt reenergized and full of purpose. As soon as I walked in the door a man gestured for me to cut him in line (I declined). The woman at the register smiled and called me “sir.”
This is another truth that apparently offends people. You feel better and command more respect when you present yourself well. Take a look at Casual Style 101 for sartorial guidance.
4) Learn boxing or a martial art.
People don’t want to admit that beneath the surface of polite society, there’s a primitive and dangerous potential for violence.
Knowing you can handle yourself and protect people you care about lends an aura of self-confidence, and mystique. It’s also a really fun way to stay fit.
5) Stop caring about what other people think.
I don’t mean the people you genuinely care about. I mean those nosy people on the periphery of your social group who never do anything for you but always have strong opinions about you. Don’t waste your energy forming an opinion of them. They’re zeroes. You’re on a mission and your bucket list is too big to expend energy on random people, unless you sympathize with their cause and feel compelled to help them achieve something.
6) If you’re single, go on dates. If you’re not, be the best partner of all time.
People are advised not to go on dates for at least a year after quitting alcohol. I followed this advice for 3 months, but any longer and I would have lost my mind.
Going on coffee dates is a great way to increase your confidence and improve your new sober self. Interpersonal connections are crucial for recovery, although take care not to invest emotion too quickly. I always inform my date in advance that I don’t drink, and if she’s curious I’ll even tell her I that I used to have a problem with alcohol. Only one girl has ever declined to meet after hearing this information. I guess she needed to get drunk that night. Good riddance in advance.
If you’re newly sober and you’re lucky enough to still have a girl by your side, thank her with your actions. Don’t become perpetually apologetic or submissive. Take her out to dinner or take her on vacation with all the money you’ve saved from quitting booze.
7) Don’t avoid venues with alcohol once you’re stable.
Temptation is best avoided for some time after quitting, but not forever. I went to 3 weddings in the 9 months after I quit drinking, and each one was easier than the last.
A confident man faces his fears and conquers them. Don’t let your life be ruled by fear. Having had an addiction doesn’t disqualify you from being a man. You might just discover how much natural charisma you actually have. When it gets late and people start slurring and acting like idiots, go to bed. The best part of the night is over anyway.
8) Become a cigar aficionado.
A fraction of the money you’ve spent on alcohol would have been better spent on much more sophisticated luxuries, like cigars. Get yourself a nice cigar box if you can afford it.
A lot of people chain smoke in “recovery.” Save your money and splurge on a nice cigar every 2 months.
9) Learn an extreme sport.
Extreme sports bring you closer to nature while releasing natural endorphins. Drunk people at bars fantasize about skiing, surfing and climbing mountains. Why poison your liver and make stuff up when you can go out and live a real story?
10) Learn survival and spy tactics.
A real man knows how to break free from zip ties, and he subconsciously plans an escape route no matter where he goes. His significant other feels instinctually safe with him at all times. Need to catch up on training? Check out Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life and 100 Deadly Skills.
11) Learn about great works of art.
Don’t envy the guy at the wedding who’s jumbling his mind with his fourth martini. He looks calm but he’s well on his way to functioning on the same level as a rhesus monkey. I would know, I used to be this guy.
Strike up a conversation about Gothic architecture with the beautiful art and design major, who’s wondering whether all men are drunk slobs with corny pickup lines.
For a brief yet highly entertaining introduction to art, check out Glittering Images.
12) Learn how to cook a gourmet meal.
A man who can cook well is truly self-sufficient. Pat Conroy’s cookbook is my current favorite.
13) Maintain an aura of mystery.
If you’re an adventurous man who’s committed to his purpose in life, your authenticity will overshadow your past. People will silently respect you. You have better things to do than drink, which is unheard of in boring social circles.
14) Go fishing with an expert.
No explanation needed – fishing is among the manliest of activities. No doubt that Hemingway would have caught more marlin if he hadn’t been drunk the whole time. I blame booze for giving a sad ending to The Old Man and The Sea (but it’s still a great story).
15) Learn how to shoot multiple types of guns.
Few things contribute more to confidence than knowing how to defend yourself with a firearm. Take the time to properly learn how to shoot a pistol and a rifle. Some of the best dates I’ve been on have involved going to the range.
16) Learn a new language.
Admittedly, I haven’t even decided what language I want to learn yet. But I can’t think of a more rewarding way to learn something new and keep my mind off the mundane.
17) Go on vacation somewhere exotic.
With no set itinerary whatsoever. You won’t need one, because after you’ve finished everything else on this bucket list, you’ll be the most interesting man you know and booze will have had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Just make sure you’ve learned the right language. And I sincerely hope that you don’t have to utilize any spy tactics. (But you never know.)
You Can Do All The Above If You Don’t Do That Thing
I’ll close with my favorite commercial quote from The Most Interesting Man in the World: “Find out what it is in life that you don’t do well. And then, don’t do that thing.”
I know what that thing is for me. And I have too many things on my bucket list to even consider doing it.