How I Quit Drinking and Blew Up My Sales Career

Written by: John Crowley | Just John Crowley

The first week of every year, I get a bunch of calls from friends and colleagues that start with - "I was just thinking about you".

We catch up for a few minutes and then the conversation evolves to, "soooooo, my new year's resolution is to quit drinking and I don't know how to handle going out with customers."

The most difficult aspect of walking away from alcohol is the psychological and social impact.

Like Dr Phil, I've said my fair share of stupid things. These people aren't calling me because I'm a psychologist - I'm just a guy who quit drinking 8 years ago.

The day I decided to quit drinking

I woke up at 10am with a raging headache. I had stayed up the night before until 4am watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship match and I drank a lot!

What did I gain from a night of drinking and watching such intellectually stimulating TV?


At that point in my life, I was miserable. I was in terrible shape. Traveled 4 days a week for work. Absolutely hated my job. When I was home, I was mentally distracted from my wife and kids. And - I drank like a fish.

Something had to change. As I thought about what I wanted from life, being the guy who could drink you under the table was neither a career aspiration nor a legacy I wanted.

But drinking was my job - right? I entertained clients every night on the road. When I was home, my wife and I went out with friends.

I spent 1/4 of my adult life drinking. Drinking was my routine.

So when I walked downstairs that Sunday morning and told my wife that I was going to quit drinking - she thought I was crazy.

Well, crazier than usual. I tend to do stuff like this.

I had been thinking about this change for a while. Being able to feel my pulse through my pounding headache was just the pain I could draw upon as a reminder why I needed to quit.

But there was one perceived consequence to not drinking. I was in sales. A huge part of my job was relationship building. Could I do my job effectively if I didn't drink?

At the time, I worked for a company known for their relationships. One of their value-propositions was the ability to throw a kick-ass party.

I wondered how my colleagues react to a sober Crowley? What would I do when customers wanted to meet for a drink - or many, many drinks? Would I be able to maintain my relationships?

I laugh now. How naive could I be to think that customers buying decisions were based on my ability to drink shots?

How I quit drinking at work events

For a while I avoided entertaining customers at night. Instead, we’d meet for coffee or lunch.

After a few months, I lost the urge to drink. I decided to get back into entertaining so I’d arrive at the restaurant or bar early to tell the waiter that every time I ordered a vodka club, I just wanted club soda.

Then, something really cool happened.

  • I found time. Rather than spending all night drinking and watching mind numbing television, I started to go to bed early.
  • I found my waistline. Do you know what is open at 4am? The gym - that’s it! When you go to bed and wake up early, the only thing to do is go to the gym!
  • I found my passion. With my newfound time, I started studying how to be a better salesman. I realized that partying with customers helped foster relationships but didn’t create value - the real reason for purchasing.
  • I found money. An analysis of my Amex bill showed our annualized liquor store purchases decreased $2,200! Our spend on dining decreased $4,946 despite continuing to dine out every weekend.
  • I found my biggest commission - ever! All the focus I put into studying the art of sales paid off. I didn’t work longer hours, I just became more effective at selling.
  • I found a better me. I was happier, healthier and more engaged at work and especially at home with my family.
  • At this point, people around me could see I was different. Better. This made it easier to explain why I wasn't drinking.

    "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with" - Jim Rohn

    Sure - I lost some drinking buddies along the way. Other “friends” didn’t like my focus on improvement. They’re gone now.

    I’ve replaced them with people who mentally challenge me. People who push me to think and act different. Many of these people drink but they don’t frown upon me for not.

    At some point, I had to decide if I was happy with status quo. If contentment is your thing, keep doing what everybody else does. If not, connect with me. You’re the type of person I want to hang with.