Dear Friends of BDC,
I’ve stepped down as CEO of Better Drinking Culture. For as long as I could, I held onto the belief that I would never have to write that sentence. Please, let me explain…
If you’re one of the amazing humans I’ve had the pleasure of meeting since I accepted the role in early 2017, I hope I left the impression that I cared and was all in. I did and was. Today, I still do and am; however, now, it has to be in a different capacity.
When BDC’c co-founder, Camden Brieden entrusted me to oversee the organization, I was humbled, but couldn’t have imagined how significantly it would impact my life. I believe things happen for a reason. I’m so thankful to him for that trust, his insight, curiosity, encouragement, and relentless support. Professionally, no one has ever had my back like Cam. It’s nearly impossible to define where the line between him and BDC starts and stops, but together, they both saved my life.
My historically risky relationship with alcohol had the potential to ruin my marriage, (more) friendships, and my health if it didn’t kill me first. Being able to identify, engage in, and articulate a lifestyle that involved a healthy relationship with alcohol was something I didn’t think was an option. It was and most certainly continues to be. It gave me renewed purpose. As I’ve said many times, I’m a work in progress. And, I’m worth the work. We’re all worth the work.
BDC was blessed with modest start-up capital from a few private investors who believed in the good it could do and the lives it could save. It also guaranteed my salary for at least one year. In that time, we made the following impact pursuing our mission to shift our culture’s relationship with alcohol in a healthier and more positive direction that reminds me that my work was not in vain:
- Created a industry-wide certification program to vet best practices and discourage binge drinking
- Deployed the Universal Mug Club, a nationwide loyalty program to endorse establishments that demonstrated care and concern for the safety and well-being of their customers
- Consulted for Drizly, the nation’s largest online alcohol retailer
- Consulted for Sunnyside (formerly Cutback Coach), the premier mindful drinking app
- Partnered with the Kentucky Distillers Association to audit their state’s distilleries’ welcome centers and tasting rooms to be inclusive of all drinkers
- Trained hundreds of BDC ambassadors
- Gave dozens of talks across the country to public and private universities, and the alcohol industry, including the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Center for Alcohol Policy, and state liquor control commissions
Despite these efforts, many decision-making suits who have absurd disposable finances to support a smarter way of doing business continued to look the other way as if they couldn’t hear us. They heard us. They were not ready to do the hard work. Instead, it’s easier for them to still tell you to “Drink responsibly” (look closely, it’s in the fine print). They sleep cozy at night because their bed is on top of a rug under which they continue to sweep the core issues and sensible approaches. If you still feel like you don’t have a voice as a producer, seller, or consumer it’s because they don’t care whether you wake up hungover or not at all. As long as they get paid or until they get canceled, they’re not changing anything. They have lawyers and politicians to make the tragic headlines go away.
Yes, the tone you’re picking up is frustration and cynicism—from five years of witnessing their indifference. BDC has never been beholden to anyone but ourselves. So, I wrote our book, The Drinker’s Manifesto: Cheers to a Better Drinking Culture as a challenge to all of us to do better. I’m proud of the work we did, proud of the conversations I started while touring the country speaking on it, and I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that I showed up every day and gave it my all to fight the good fight.
Our funding and thus my salary eventually ran out before we could secure the high-level sponsorship support for which was needed to implement our growth strategy. It was on me, and I own that. Committed, I stayed on in my role and worked pro bono for as long as I realistically could. My speaking gigs, book sales, freelance writing and consulting, and a very supportive wife kept me sane for a while. I ended up taking another concurrent full-time job in the beer industry to supplement my income, and still hustled BDC in the early a.m., on my lunch, and after-hours. And then, the pandemic happened. I was not immune.
In September 2021, I moved to Vienna, Austria for two months for a long-overdue mental health sabbatical. While there, I started writing my second book—a memoir of sorts about love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and growth. Those things, I learned from Cam. Isolating yourself in a literal foreign place forces you to think differently. I sought deeper self-awareness and a widened perspective about my life. And, I found it. The conclusion was that in order to save and protect myself, I had to let go of some stuff.
While I’ve stepped down, I have not stepped away. I’m putting BDC back into the hands of those who inspired it in the first place—you, the people, our tribe. I’m still here on call as senior advisor, consultant, author of The Drinker’s Manifesto, and when invited—speaker on its behalf. But! What I’m most excited about is where BDC goes next and who will lead the way.
Be good to yourselves and someone else. And, drink better and live healthier #BecauseHangoversSuck.
With sincere appreciation,