It’s fairly common knowledge that there are physical and emotional costs of drinking. But experiencing these consequences never stopped me from destroying my insides one drink at a time—and that’s the case for many people, too.
As a self-described party girl bartender in Waco, Texas, I spent more than a decade in the bar scene. I was either behind the bar serving drinks or sitting at the bar ordering drinks from my friends. I convinced myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem because this is how everyone else drinks when the reality was this is how my circle of bartender friends drink. I also told myself that getting “hooked up” (bartenders often give other bartenders free or cheap drinks in hopes that the favor will be returned) was saving me money. It turns out, I actually spent the same amount—if not more— by giving my friends substantial tips.
I quit drinking on November 30th, 2015. It blows my mind how much more money I have now that I’m no longer binge drinking until I black out several nights a week. It made me wonder how much money I spent on booze; so I went straight to the math. I made some calculations based on a very low end of my whiskey-soaked spectrum.
On average, I went out for drinks three nights a week for 10 years. I’d spend about $50 a night:
$50 x 3 nights = $150 per week
$150 x 4 weeks = $600 per month
$600 x 12 months = $7,200 per year
$7,200 x 10 years = $72,000
I spent about $72,000 on getting hammered. This is a brutal number.
You may be wondering how I could afford to drink like this. Well, as a full-time bartender I made nearly $1,000 a week in cash. Living in Waco was cheap. My rent was never more than $600 a month, and bills were about $200 a month. Being single with no children, my only responsibility was myself and I could barely handle that. Sadly, this $72,000 figure only reflects money spent going out to bars a few nights a week.
This number does not reflect the amount of money I spent on weed, Xanax, or hydrocodone in high school—before I even knew about the bar scene.
This number does not reflect the weeks where I went out more than three times.
This number does not reflect the nights when it was someone’s birthday and I bought their drinks, too.
This number does not reflect the times I “surprised” my friends with shots, so I could justify taking another one.
This number does not reflect keeping a bottle of Jack Daniels in my apartment at all times.
This number does not reflect the $20 I put in the jukebox, the $15 I spent on tacos at 3 a.m., or the $20 I put toward beer for the after party.
This number does not reflect all of the Camel Turkish Silvers I bought at $5 per pack.
This number does not reflect money spent on coke, ecstasy, or other party favors that I had to have during a night of drinking.
This number does not reflect the money spent on vacations away from Waco in Dallas, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Destin, or Manhattan. Convincing myself that I was traveling to celebrate a birthday or enjoy a vacation, but my real incentive for these trips was just to get drunk in another city.
This number does not reflect the nearly countless concerts and festivals I’ve bought tickets to or the $10 beers and $15 whiskey shots I consumed once I got there.
This number does not reflect the ridiculous impulse purchases made at random stores that were open after 2 a.m. Like the time in October 2009 when I had to have a CVS version of a Michael Myers costume. I strolled around Dallas, shitfaced, in a Michael Myers mask fake-stabbing my friends to make them laugh.
There’s also everything else that one sacrifices to an alcohol addiction beyond the financial costs. The opportunity costs.
Alcohol controlled my life in all aspects. I subconsciously chose jobs in the bar scene because these positions allowed me to be around people who drank like I drank. I got into relationships with men who drank the way that I drank. I nurtured friendships with those who drank the way I drank. I dropped out of college several times because it was tough to juggle studying and bartending and get wasted. If I took a different, more conscious path in life, I may have finished college during the traditional four year period and gotten a “real” job. My life might have had a completely different composition than it does now.
I could have used that $72,000-plus to buy a home, travel the world, donate to charities, invest in mutual funds. But I can’t think that way. I lived how I lived and it brought me here.
I chose to live a decade of my life like every day was an episode of MTV’s Spring Break. With all of that being said, I’ve spent well more than the estimated $72,000 on getting wasted.
In order to make peace with the fact that I’ve spent six figures on self-medicating my anxiety and depression through partying, I look at it as giving myself a research grant for the work that I’m currently doing in the recovery community.
I’m now able to use my frivolous, party girl past experiences to relate to sober and sober curious folks. I’ve taken that passion once used to chug whiskey to now create sober social events in New York City. I consciously choose how I spend my money on things like therapy, traveling, sample sales (because I deserve nice things), and actually having a savings account.
My relationship with money is far from perfect, but it’s improving one day at a time.