Most people know that I don’t drink (anymore) but this blog is about why.

Let me take you through my experience with alcohol, my time without it and the lessons I’ve learned through it.

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When I was in high school, weekend parties were a regular occurrence and drinking was commonplace. Like most teenagers, I felt a certain pressure to fit in and so, I drank (a lot). I had a lot of fun throughout high school and drinking wasn’t so much a problem as it was an unfortunate habit. However, when I got to college – that all changed.

Like most people understand, college is a pivotal place where new identities are forged and without competitive athletics I found myself sucked into a culture of drinking that was amplified to a new level. Without an established support group at school, I leaned into the party culture and within weeks, I was drinking more than ever before and feeling less like myself than I ever had. Before I knew it, all of my relationships at school were built on the not so sturdy foundation of alcohol, parties and trying to prove myself to strangers.

I’ll spare the vivid details but there was one night of drinking in particular that changed things for me. I woke up to the realization that I was done letting alcohol dictate who I was becoming and I surely wasn’t going to let it take my life.

On January 16th, 2013 I stopped drinking alcohol and never looked back.

I haven’t had a drink since I was 18 (that’s an interesting statement, I know) and that’s presented a set of social challenges. After giving up alcohol I drifted away from people because our paths didn’t align and I felt very alone, very often. I was the kid in the gym from 8:00pm – 12:00am on weekends while everyone else was out partying. I had a lot of time to figure out who I was and I began to channel time and effort into the things that felt important. Even though it was challenging, I can look back now a say that I’m so proud of taking the road less travelled.

While I’m not in complete control of my life (that’s in God’s hands), I have a lot more control than I used to. In the past few years, I came across Athletic Brewing Company (NA craft beer) and their mission resonated with me. One beer in particular, Run Wild, meant a lot. I’ve been anything but wild for a long time and now that word means something new. It means exploring uncharted territories, stepping into the uncomfortable and embracing the uncertain.

This current chapter of life is going to be wild and I’m looking forward to it.

Listen, I don’t have all the answers but I do know this: you can change direction if you want to. If you don’t like where you’re heading or if you don’t feel like yourself, let this blog be a call to action. Take some time to stop and think about who you want to be and where you want to go. Once you have that vision, take small steps to move in the right direction, even if it’s not popular. Live from the inside out and the people in your life who matter won’t mind.

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If you’re reading this blog and struggling to stop something that isn’t serving you (alcohol or otherwise), I just want you to know that you’re not alone. Do what you know is right and the rest will work itself out. I’m always here listen, talk and offer encouragement in any way I can. Per usual, let me end this blog with some words much wiser than mine.

“If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you’re headed.”

Lao Tzu

Don’t be a stranger!

Joe Rinaldi

IG: @joearinaldi

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