You’re not an alcoholic, but sometimes you drink too much. Are you often unmotivated, stressed, lacking energy and tired? Are you sick of hangovers? Do you want to stop missing out on life, regain your health, improve your relationships, reignite your business or career, and enjoy greater control, clarity, focus and freedom?
We sat down with the Australian-American entrepreneur, award-winning journalist and former ESPN SportsCenter anchor to talk about his new book, The 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge: Your Simple Guide To Easily Reduce Or Quit Alcohol.
Here’s what he said:
James, when did you quit drinking alcohol?
For most of my adult life, I’d enjoy a few quiet beers during the week and go a little harder most weekends. I wasn’t an alcoholic; society would have called me a “normal” or “average” drinker.
But I gradually became more unproductive. Often feeling tired and lethargic, my weight steadily increased to an unhealthy 218 lbs.
On March 12, 2010, I awoke with a shocking hangover after a fun night at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
I walked into an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) for a “hangover breakfast.” The sight of those scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes made me feel ill.
I said to myself: “James, what are you doing? Enough. Time for a change.” As I looked out of the IHOP window, I committed to a 30-day no alcohol challenge. Just as an experiment to see if I could do it.
What happened during the 30-day experiment?
I had withdrawal symptoms for seven days. Within two weeks I felt better, slept better and had more mental clarity. After 30 days, I’d lost an incredible 13 pounds of fat around my stomach—just from not drinking. I had more money in the bank. (I wasn’t blowing hundreds of dollars on alcohol and alcohol-related activities like taxis and late-night pizzas.) I started enjoying getting out of bed early morning to exercise. My skin looked considerably better. (Look at the photo of me before I quit drinking compared to how I look now.)
So I said to myself, “I feel great. Keep going and see how far you can go.” When reaching my milestone of one year alcohol-free, I found myself back in Austin at South by Southwest. I went to a pub, ordered a Budweiser and put it to my mouth. It smelled good. I had every intention of drinking that beer. But something stopped me from taking a single sip. I paused for a minute and considered how my life had transformed. The pros of an alcohol-free year far outweighed any temporary pleasures I thought I was going to get from an alcohol-filled life. I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since.
How did people react to you?
At first, I thought most people would assume I was an alcoholic in recovery. My friends gave me a hard time. “You’re not Australian!” they’d say. I just laughed, pointed to my head and gave them my signature response, “I’m too strong in my mind!”
Some people even tried to secretly slip vodka into my soda. I made a point of always sniffing before drinking if someone else ordered my drink for me.
When I told women I wasn’t drinking, they told me they were impressed with my self-discipline. “Beautiful,” I thought. “I can stop drinking and still be fun, entertaining and attractive to women.”
How did your life change?
“Within six to 12 months, my relationships became considerably better. I was constantly thinking about how I could help my friends rather than how they could help me. I was calmer and made better decisions. My work productivity soared. More opportunities—like an ESPN audition to host SportsCenter—came my way. I was clear-headed, energetic and seized the opportunity. I ended up getting that gig and hosted SportsCenter for two years on national TV.
I’ve gone from feeling tired, sluggish and irritable to getting my dream job hosting a TV show, growing a multimillion-dollar business within one year, attracting incredible platonic and romantic relationships and feeling like I have limitless energy.
But isn’t one drink a day healthy?
You might think that one glass a night is no big deal, right? Especially if you want to unwind after a stressful day at work. Or maybe your habit is a big deal.
One nightly glass of alcohol is enough to disrupt your sleep just a little bit. When your sleep is disrupted just a little bit, you wake up just a little bit irritable.
When you wake up just a little bit irritable, you’re more inclined to snap at your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or kids. So all your relationships start to suffer.
If you leave home just a little bit later because of an argument, then maybe you’re not showing up to work on time. Maybe you’re not doing your job to the best of your ability.
If you run a business, maybe you’re not as energetic, focused and clear-minded as you would be if you didn’t have that one drink the night before. That’s costing you money.
Maybe you don’t get a promotion at work, so that costs you money. Maybe you don’t make that extra sale in your business. That’s costing you money, too. And it's killing your confidence.
Maybe it’s that one drink after work that’s causing you to be too tired to finally get to the gym for that workout routine you’ve wanted to start.
Maybe because you’re just a little bit irritable and foggy after that drink the night before, you’re more inclined to eat a crappy breakfast—which doesn’t sustain you. Maybe you go to Starbucks for a cookie or McDonald’s for some fries. Maybe you eat a Snickers bar. Any of that is enough to make you a little more overweight, which worsens your sleep.
This perpetual cycle is hurting you from the inside out: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And all it takes is one seemingly innocent drink a day.
I’m not saying that alcohol is the devil or that you should never drink alcohol under any circumstances. But one drink a day can have an insidious effect on your well-being.
Why should someone read your book?
Whether you consider yourself an occasional, social, binge, compulsive or addicted drinker, this book can help you re-explore your relationship with alcohol.
Maybe you want to improve your relationship with your kids, spouse or friends. Or lose weight. Look better. Start that new business you’ve been dreaming of. Save money. Make more money. Attract your dream partner. Travel.
It’s not Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s not a 12-step program. Who wants to go to an A.A. meeting and say, “Hi, my name’s James, and I’m an alcoholic?” Not me. And just because you occasionally drink too much doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic.
That’s not to say A.A. can’t help. It’s helped a lot of people. I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to be. I’m just a guy who got tired of social drinking and figured out how to quit and stay quit for many years.
Whatever your motivation, I believe reducing or quitting alcohol—starting with a 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge—is going to make you feel better and help you achieve your goals.
Sounds great, how can you start?
I have an online community that people can join. Many studies have shown that change happens in groups.
If you want to make real change, if you want to achieve real goals, you must start with why. It could be to lose weight, be more productive, make more money, enjoy a better sex life or stop feeling tired and irritated. Anything that’s important to you.
Then, change your language from “I have to” to “I want to” or “I choose to.” If you say or think, “I have to quit drinking,” it implies tough work. “I choose to create an incredibly healthy life” gives you a completely different feeling. When you feel positivity around something you “want” or “choose” to do, you are more likely to complete that very thing.
But what should the reader do if they need to network over drinks?
Simply have polite and sensible answers:
- “I've got to get up early in the morning.”
- “I'm the designated driver.”
- “I’m taking a break from alcohol for a while.”
- “I’m not drinking tonight.”
- “I’m good with water for now. Thanks."
But won’t I lose my friends? Alcohol is what brings people together.
One of the world’s leading evolutionary psychologists, Professor David Buss, says the fear of not fitting in is hardwired into our brains from when we roamed the land in tribes. We fear our social status will fall if we don’t conform to group norms. We fear being a less desirable friend, coalition partner and potential mate.
But here’s the thing. Losing social status within a tribe was a real danger for our ancestors. If we had lower status within a 120-person tribe, it affected our ability to mate. If we couldn’t mate, we hit an evolutionary dead-end.
But in today’s world, tribes are everywhere. Tribes are all around us. If you get kicked out of one tribe, you can join another. You can start your own tribe online with a few mouse clicks. (Create a meetup.com group or a Facebook page.) Or join hundreds of people in my 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge community.
When I quit drinking, I found a tribe filled with successful, entrepreneurial, health-conscious, spiritual, positive and engaging people.
Follow James on Snapchat or his social channels below.