Substance Use Disorders  
 August 19, 2020

Why You Should Stay Optimistic During the Big Rona & How I Am Using My Sobriety To Stay Positive

“The service industry, as we know it, is changing before our very eyes. Fine dining restaurants have become quick-service takeout joints, bars are acting as bodegas, and bartenders have become online spirits instructors. It’s wild how quickly a business model can change in moments of crisis. We’d like to believe that once we get past COVID-19 (Big Rona), everything will be back how it was, but I’m here to tell you: it won’t. The entire structure of the hospitality industry is going through a forced remodel, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll be discarded with the scraps.”

These are the words of Dante Wheat, a local beverage director in my hometown of Louisville Kentucky. Dante is also a freelance writer and founder of Raw Pineapples, an editorial web-page that gives an authentic look into the cultures, people, and spirits that make up the bar industry.

As of this morning, more than 17 million individuals have applied for unemployment, and with no end in sight, many more will be forced to do the same over the next several weeks. The reality is, many of our favorite bars and local diners won’t survive this pandemic. With so many individuals left questioning what’s next, I openly acknowledge it can be challenging to feel optimistic about what our quality of life may look like post the Big Rona.

For myself, I too have had to ask this very real and hard question of what may be next. For the past three years I have been navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. And while I am extremely proud of the progress and contributions made during that time, it can be easy to lose hope during these odd times. We don’t have our own product to sell online. Nor do we have our own brick and mortar to offer take out orders. So, how does a company like The Mocktail Project, a service based mission that crafts mocktails survive when the entire world is on pause?

In 2014, I made a life changing choice that forced me to optimistic about living a lifestyle that I didn’t know was possible.  Now six years later I am encouraging you to do the exact same thing; to stay optimistic about the quality of life that may be waiting for you at the end of this pandemic..

I figure we have two ways of looking at our current situation we are all living in. .

The doom and gloom, or the forever optimist.

To reference Dantes’ latest post; “Im not here to take a piss in your Negroni; I honestly think the industry will be stronger for this… eventually. We’re starving right now, but that isn’t always bad. In times of famine, the first thing you do is burn the “fat.” I think the years following this, you’ll see some of the most focused restaurants and bars we have seen in years. You’ll see people letting go of bullshit gimmicks, overpriced mediocrity, and wack products. Instead, you’ll find getting us back to what we genuinely need, excellent hospitality. My curiosity (and hope) is at an all-time high waiting to see the fire menus, concepts, and service regimes that come out of this.”

For myself, I made up my mind six years ago that I wanted to stop being the “fat.” Each year, on April 16, I get to celebrate 365 more days since I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 25 years old when I made that choice to start believing in myself. Believing that there was hope. Taking action in my own daily routines. Taking action over my own mental and physical health. Believing that there was hope for a better future, even without truly knowing if there was light at the end of that tunnel or not . . Optimist!

For longer than I can remember, each time when I reached for a drink of alcohol, my outlook on life, at best, was doom and gloom. There was no light at the end of my tunnel. What seems like a crazy thought today, I genuinely struggled to find value in my own life. I hated who I had become, and yet, I was doing nothing to change it. I had lost most of the people in my inner circle and was a shell of a person. I was lost. More times than not I felt hopeless, no place to turn, a constant downwards spiral into another empty bottle. Like any pandemics, it can be a struggle to look beyond the chaos of the storm you are living in at that very moment.

My first pandemic, a disease I tried to fight without the right mindset to overcome a brutally exhausting lifestyle caused by my own doing. Days and nights lost. Career opportunities squandered. Friendships thrown by the wayside. I spent years and years excessively drinking myself into darkness. I spent nearly ten years unsuccessfully trying to fill an emptiness that couldn’t be filled, at least with the tools I was using in my toolbox.

Today, I openly share my story because someone once did the same for me. I share my story not only to remind myself to continue to look towards brighter days, but to offer you hope and encouragement during even the darkest of times. . . like say a global pandemic. . .

Choosing not to drink hasn’t always been easy for me. There have been days and weeks that I felt like giving up. There were countless times over the past past six years that I questioned myself, internally, asking myself what I was doing with my life. Why I started my own company. Why I was living out of my own car just to keep this project alive. Why, Why, Why?

Like so many us, I was a product of unfortunate circumstances that I later acknowledged wasn’t my fault. I took my very first drink as a young child and then proceeded to spend more than ten years trying to deal with my own insecurities. What I have learned in my own reflections is that when you are living inside of the eye of the storm, it is challenging to look beyond, but I am here today encourage you to do just that, look beyond.

Although this current pandemic, the Big Rona was not of my own doing, it has reignited an energy inside of me that I haven’t felt in years. An energy of optimism that I haven’t felt since I was 25. As the world pauses, it has provided all of us a great opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask; what kind of life do we want to live post the Big Rona?

For myself, rather than looking at the doom and gloom of our current situation, I am challenging myself to manifest into existence the life I want to live post the Big Rona. I am using this time to rework The Mocktail Project.  A mission and project that is near and dear to my heart. In this down time, I am thinking about how I can bring new and creative experiences to you. How to create memories that will inspire you to remember exactly when and where your where in life when you reached for that very first mocktail post the Big Rona.

If covid-19 has taught me anything, I hope it has taught us just how precious life truly is.

Today, six years after making that life changing choice, to stay optimistic, that one day I may end up living a life that I didn’t know was possible. . . well, I have been living it. I made a choice to look beyond the eye of that storm and manifest a better life for myself. In the past six years I have started my own company, The Mocktail Project. I vanlifed to 49 out of 50 of our beautiful states, only (AK) left to go. I have been to more music festivals than I can even count, something I love doing, and something I thought I would have to give up without drinking. I have been able to create countless memories with my family. I’ve traveled abroad. Marked off epic bucket list items. I have lived 10 life times compared to the life I was living at 25. My life isn’t perfect, nor am I. Progress, not perfection they say. Most importantly, I am happy.

I am not asking you to use this time to get sober, that was simply what was best for my own journey. I love and miss a good bottle of red wine and some of my greatest partnerships with The Mocktail Project are my friends on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I am encourage you to use this time we now have for self-development. If you have a family, cherish this extra time with your loved ones. Start up a new daily routine that addresses your mental and physical health. Read that book you have been putting off for years now. Get in your kitchen and try to cook that meal you have always wanted to try.

Use this time to be grateful for what we have. The odds of being born are so slim that it’s truly a miracle that you and I even exist. The odds of being born are 1 in 400 trillion. You must remember to live each day to the fullest.

My goals for 2020 have already changed a few different times this year, and that is ok. Now more than ever, when things get tough, and they will be tough for a while, I am going to choose to stay optimistic during the duration of this global pandemic, and I hope you do the same. I want to personally thank all of my friends and family that have supported me throughout the entirety of my life, especially over the past six years since I made the personal choice to have my last drink.

Stay safe, social distance, and wash your hands!