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🍹Letter 107: Thoughts from a Former Binge Drinker

7 min

My relationship with drinking, Sobriety, Frank Sinatra, Alcoholism, Sailing, Backpacking

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. This past week I've been intentionally reflecting on my past ten years of drinking. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other learn-it-alls:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all!

Greetings from Diamond Head, O'ahu 🌺

I took a leap outside of my comfort zone. I signed up for a hiking trip with a group I've been meditating with each week. To train, I hiked Waimano falls trail with 25 pounds of weight on my back. It was rough.

Support from my friend Emily is always so helpful.

I've never backpacked before and I'm overwhelmed by the prep that goes into it. Thank you to Twitter friends for responding and creating such a rich thread of backpacking 101 tips for me.

Now, let’s dive into letter 107 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓ Question to think about

What has my relationship with binge drinking been like?

🖊 Writing

"You do not need to be inebriated to have the time of your life. " - Hallie Bateman

During my young adulthood, I never believed this to be true. I was enamored with this illusion of letting loose and escaping my nerdiness for just a little bit. I wanted to become a much cooler, confident, and adventurous version of myself. I wanted to become the life of the party.

I used to be Jenny V. She stood up on elevated surfaces at frat parties and crowd surfed at away swim meet parties without blinking an eye. I credit my roommate in Scott Hall Mackensie for making up the nickname in 2014.

I felt like my drunken stupor was a second shot at popularity, belonging, and being fun. After being voted most memorable in high school, I wanted to continue surfing that wave.

When did I first ever try it? That gross sip I had at the Heineken factory in Amsterdam as a wee one. I was disgusted and went straight back to the Orangina. “Never again,” I told myself. I was still curious though. This was until I discovered my Mike’s Hard Lemonade in the basements of my friends at sleepovers. Then came along looking up to my cool older brother and his friends. The culture of drunken sailors looked so fun. It wasn’t until later when I was sixteen that I had the ‘aha’ and the mystery was over.

It was a Monday night in northern Michigan after my Dad and brother sailed the J-120 sailboat “Nauti Boys” into the harbor of Mackinac Island. The harbor was overflowing with boats, sailors, and booze everywhere. My friend Kat and I ‘smuggled’ booze up to the island. I was so excited.

The moment of what it meant to actually be ‘drunk’. I had a Captain Morgan and Coke concoction in a plastic cup in my hand. Nauti Boys was rocking more than usual. It was chilly, though I felt like a space heater of warmth radiating out of me. The song Levels by Avicii was blasting on the speaker, and I never wanted it to stop. This was until the fun was over and my mom found me ‘blotto’ on the boat and walked me home to our hotel room.

This photo is a little blurry just like how my memory is of it in July 2012

I was ready to have one hell of a time through the rite of passage. I woke up with bonus land effects the next day, still drunk. That salty bacon was the best tasting pig my taste buds ever touched.

I grew up anticipating this voyage. My parents both were a part of Greek life at Michigan and Michigan State University. They both had so many fun stories with their “brothers and sisters”. My dad graduated with a degree in chemistry that he put to good use by making vodka still while he was a broke dental student who surfed the water fountains for change. Some of my friends concocted moonshine. Heck, I accidentally fermented apple cider in my dorm’s mini-fridge in college. My parents met each other when they were 25 years old at a bar where I grew up. I always figured that's how I'd meet my partner. But what if I don't even enjoy drinking anymore?

For the past four years, I have experimented with dry January. It is to intentionally remind myself, especially after the usual drinking that comes along with the holidays, that I do not need that crutch. I felt like I was relying on drinking to overcome my own insecurities. Last fall, my friend Kyle, told me to try dating without drinking. Without drinking I’ve noticed that I leaned on it as a crutch for confidence.

I understand now why I know I relied on it. I didn’t know who I was. I figured who I was wasn’t cool and knew Jenny V was likable. I sought after a desire to belong to any group. I feared loneliness. Drinking has been like the lubricant that started my social wheel to start spinning.

What’s my relationship with alcohol nowadays?

It's a work in progress. I've abstained from taking shots for a year or so now. Have you ever woken up thinking “I’m so glad I tossed back all those tequila shots last night!” Ya, I didn’t think so.

I've mostly given up hard liquor. I'd be lying if I said I won't be drinking a tropical pina colada on the beach. I still love a cold beer after a sailboat regatta race or a glass of red wine on a chilly winter game night.

I'll enjoy one or two drinks occasionally in social settings. I don't feel the need or desire to ever overindulge. I like my sober, present self. No more shots. I want to appreciate the smell and experience rather than the five o'clock vodka stench of rubbing alcohol in high school.

I now know through experience that Hallie Bateman was right– I can belong, be adventurous, and have the time of my life without being inebriated.

📖 Reading

I mentioned in letter 33 how I joined the Compound Writing Community, now renamed as Foster Writing Group. I had the opportunity to edit David Vargas's essay of his First Year Sober that I originally shared in letter 36.

It is a powerful essay about vices, socialization, and identity transformation that I highly recommend reading. It is clear, concise, and engaging. I found it extremely relatable since I used to drink heavily as well for similar reasons of wanting energy and liquid courage as someone who was (and still usually is) shy. I loved it when I heard my drunk persona name chanted at "Jenny V" parties and bars. That ship has sailed and Vargas sums it all up quite well.

🎧 Listening

By mere happenstance, I started listening to Frank Sinatra in my favorite cafe ARS. His music floods me with the feels.

I learned this song on the piano when it was my daily ritual during the start of the pandemic in MichiganSome of these lyrics really resonate with me:

Regrets, I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption.
I've loved, I've laughed and cried. I've had my fill, my share of losing.  And now, as tears subside I find it all so amusing to think I did all that. And may I say, not in a shy way. Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way.

🎬 Watching

Fellow learn-it-all Cams Campbell, a friend I met back in 2020 while taking Ali Abdaal's Part-time Youtuber Academy. He vulnerably shared about his journey with alcohol and achieving sobriety. Thank you for being so bold to share Cams. Watching your journey has always been a pleasure.

🔎 Word to define

Alcoholism: "disease of alcohol addiction," by 1882 or else from Modern Latin alcoholismus, coined in 1852 by Swedish professor of medicine Magnus Huss to mean what we now would call "alcohol poisoning, effects of excessive ingestion of alcohol." In earlier times, alcohol addiction would have been called habitual drunkenness or some such term.

🌟 Quote to inspire

“Everything I do is on-brand because I am the brand” -Mike Posner

📷 Photo of the Week

Wahoo I learned so many new things while sailing last Friday on a French Bennetau 40.3. I got assigned to work the main sheet and better understood how to move the traveler that controls the pulley where the sail is pulled in from.

Because it was so windy the sail was ‘reefed’. This is when the halyard doesn’t pull the sail to the tip of the mast, the tallest pole on the boat. Instead, it is partially rolled at the foot to have less sail area. With less sail, there is less power for the wind to be able to overtake the boat.

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this! If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. Visit my online home if you forgot who I am. If you want to know what I'm up to right now, check my now page.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:

👣 Footnotes

On greenlights in Friendship:

A thread on music that jumps your mind back in time to specific experiences and people:

On a pet peeve of mine from people who aren't descriptive while sharing what they read:

A storm on why I call myself a WOP groupie:


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