Lifehacking Sobriety: 100 Days of Ethical Hedonism in South America's #1 Vice City

By Jonathan Roseland

In a radical lifestyle experiment and self-control challenge, I spent over three and a half months completely sober in Medellin, Colombia.

In these +100 days, I experienced meteoric personal development in multiple dimensions. I also partied with some of the coolest, most interesting, and sexiest people I've ever met...

As you can see I was not a monk during my sober trip. I went out and socialized 3-5 times a week with people who were drinking and partying. This article will cover uncommon motives for my sobriety, the lifehacks I employed to keep up with the drunks around me along with the unexpected (and sometimes hilarious) consequences. This article is more for lifehacking socialites, personal development junkies, and self-experimenters than it is for recovering alcoholics. The ultimate message I hope to communicate is that... 

The sober life can be orders of magnitude more fun than the intoxicated life.

There are a lot of references here to Colombian culture and the adventures I had in this lovely country but I think anyone anywhere in the world considering a sober social life will find a lot of actionable takeaways here.

Medellin, Colombia


Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires may have bigger parties but the hometown of Pablo Escobar, Medellin, has to take the title of #1 vice city in this hemisphere with its...

  • Legalized prostitution
  • Constant festivals
  • Reggaeton fueled nightlife
  • The abundance of high-quality, ridiculously affordable cocaine
  • Intoxicatingly beautiful women

In Medellin, something that's common to see is

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM People start drinking beer
10:30 PM-Midnight They do some cocaine, double up on shots of Aguardiente or rum, and hit the clubs
1:00 AM - 3:00 AM While quite intoxicated they will go for round two of cocaine and begin hitting the after-hours clubs and bars for more hard liquor
4:00 AM - 8:00 AM Bedtime is pretty common Thursday-Sunday

People go hard here. So do I.

Why sobriety?

no alcohol

I've always had a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol. I never had a DUI, unplanned pregnancy, ruined friendship, or drunken brawl as a result of intoxication. In Podcast #24 Biohacking Boozing I explain my strategies in-depth for minimizing the negative impacts of alcohol on my system. I adore wine, craft beer, and premium triple-distilled vodkas. I'm a former nightclub promoter, socialite, and practitioner of the art of pickup - so liquor and I mix well. So why go completely sober?

Continuity of lifestyle, that's why!

To quote the rapper, Drake:

I want this shit forever man.

A quick scan of my Facebook wall reveals that many of my old friends who were once so much fun to socialize with are getting fat, married, pregnant, or are just in a real hurry to become boring adults at alarming rates. I don't subscribe to this philosophy that you get about a half-decade in your 20s to party, hook up with hot chicks, do crazy shit with your friends, and then live the rest of your life in quiet desperation.

For me age is not a number, it's a mindset - a robust mindset: I want to be able to transition robustly to whatever age mindset is going to serve me best at the moment. On the same day, I can philosophize like a thoughtful, well-read old man, make juvenile jokes like an adolescent with my friends, handle business like a grown man, and then party with girls till the early hours of the morning like a hormone-crazed youth.

The people who know me best think of me as a workaholic, a health nut, and an intellectual; I work seven days a week, the prevailing passion of my life for the past ten years of my life has been business, and my lifestyle is digitally quantified for discipline, I take scheduled breaks every few hours from my work to do pushups and pull-ups, my diet is very strict - I'd rather go hungry than eat crappy food!
I'm 28 now so at my age I could probably drink socially 3-4 times a week for the next decade or so while still being very healthy and productive, but inevitably I'm going to have to sacrifice either my lifestyle or my health if I continue to drink. Sobriety is the lifehack that allows me to continue my multiple-personality, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lifestyle as long as I want.

Mindset control - One of the most common qualities of people who are successful and happy is a high degree of mastery over one's emotions.

Drawing your emotional state from within as opposed to external stimuli. Alcohol (with the possible exception of coffee) is probably the most commonly used stimulus we employ to change our state; to relax, to summon confidence, to socialize, to fall asleep, to speak our second languages, etc. By abstaining from this crutch in the highest-pressure emotional situations I'm exercising and building robust emotional muscles.

A financial no-brainer


It saves A LOT of money. An informal audit during my time in Central and South America revealed that, like most travelers, I was spending 30%-60% of my budget on booze. Back home when I lived in downtown Denver I would spend as much as $800 a month on my social life.

Lifehack: As a reward to myself for my self-control about once a month I will go to the mall and spend a fraction of the money I've saved on an item of really fashionable clothing, every time I get compliments on the item I let them know it's a gift from sobriety.

Colombian liquor, yuck!

Colombian Liqour

When I did drink I did it because I'm a genuine connoisseur of liquor. The popular booze in Colombia is pretty terrible...
The two popular beers, Club Colombia and Aquila, are basically fermented toilet water.
The crappy rum is so cheap that it sometimes flows in the streets like rain.
Aguardiente, a sugary clear, hard liquor with the personality of a $40 hooker with fake double-D breasts, can actually be bought in a plastic bag and apparently only mixes with three things; Coca-Cola, ice, or more water.

You don't need to wake up very many times with the leftover licorice taste of Aguardiente in your mouth to swear off drinking. Sure you can get imported spirits but they are prohibitively expensive, Chilean vino is actually more expensive in Colombia than in Panama. With my sophisticated tastes, this made it a whole lot easier to say "no."

The challenge

brain mind two faces

As a novelty junkie and perpetual promoter of my Neuroplasticity, I'm always in search of ways to challenge myself. Partying sober you face two challenges...

  1. The external challenge that everyone compliments you on, staying sober while surrounded by booze. This one is significantly easier since you get so much social validation for it.
  2. The internal challenge of drawing state from within, becoming playfully creative, creating the party in your own head first, and leading those around you to it.

What they say is true, the first few nights or weeks out are the most difficult, but the challenge doesn't go away completely, I still consistently have moments where I want to drink but that desire is met by a strong, internal voice that assures me: I don't do that. I like to think this is what psychologists call a core-level identity change. I'll be honest, my ego got quite attached to the accomplishment of being able to socially compete while dead sober with those who were fueled by copious amounts of liquid and white powder confidence.

Sober = Healthier?

Vices Beer Cigar

I list this one last because it's so obvious. Alcoholism kills 10% of men who die of cancer, it took down the Mongol empire, and it killed my grandfather (a rocket scientist who worked at NASA in the '60s and '70s who was one of the engineers directly responsible for sending men to the moon). For someone already very energetic and healthy like myself, it has to be more than a placebo effect that I do feel better and cleaner off the booze.  On the other hand, I begin Podcast #24 by saying that...

If there's anyone who can say that alcohol has actually made their life better, it's me!

When I did drink it was quite rare I would actually feel hungover, because my antioxidant intake is so high my body does a good job of blocking booze from turning into acetaldehyde. I believe that with proper preparation moderate consumption of certain types of alcohol can be pretty close to a neutral health impact, so health was a relatively minor factor in the decision.

Stay motivated

Motivation Sobriety

You could fill a library full of books full of logical reasons to abstain from alcohol but all that logic crumbles in a moment when a sexy 22-year-old girl wearing a mini-skirt in a bar asks you to take a shot with her. I knew if I wanted to commit to a serious sober trip while enjoying life like a lush it was going to take more than the standard health and financial reasons. My secret weapons for titanium solid will power the face of drunken pleasure: fear and social validation.

The fear trigger

Fear is consistently one of the top-performing human motivational factors...

Your Brain On Fear

Anytime I'm tempted to drink (with my lifestyle, almost every day) I let my imagination play out a couple of worst-case scenarios...

  • I mentally revisit a couple of my worst hangovers; times I just went hard with Patron shots, Manhattan cocktails, vodka bottle service, or whatever. I feel that sick sensation in my stomach. I imagine that stupid unproductive headspace after a long night.
  • The self-anger of checking my bank account and seeing that I have blown a bunch of money partying.
  • For about five years I was one of those people who would smoke cigarettes when I was drunk. I've gone a year and a half without a cigarette so I imagine myself relapsing and smoking. I think about how heavy my chest and lungs used to feel after a night of smoking.
  • I imagine myself getting drunk and making an idiot out of myself.
  • I imagine myself failing to accomplish my goals in life because I'm a drunk.
  • I think about all the awesome sober experiences I've had that I might have missed out on.

And as much as I enjoy booze, the fear trigger kicks in and I pass on the drink.

Emotional-social validation

Reactions Sobriety

It turns out that not drinking while partying is an amazing attention magnet for the social validation we often crave. A nightclub or singles bar is an excellent case study of our need for social validation...

  • Women spend hours getting ready in front of the mirror and here in Medellin many millions of pesos on surgically augmented breasts and asses
  • Men will spend half their paycheck in a few hours in a bar, buy expensive cars, watches, and trivial stuff to impress people

All for spikes of social attention they get in these environments. As soon as you announce your sobriety to the other social animals in this kind of place you become the center of attention for between 5-30 minutes. In the past, I used to expend a lot of energy making jokes, break dancing, buying rounds of drinks, or generally making a scene to attract this kind of attention.

How people react

In the beginning, I would try to explain at length the complicated and abstract reasons for my sobriety. This lead to some interesting discussions but when I was dealing with someone a little more shallow (85% of the people you meet partying, let's just be honest!) or a high-energy group this line was golden...

I don't drink because you don't put cheap gas in a Ferrari (Espanol: Yo no tome liqour porque no pones la gasolina borrata en un Ferrari).

Ferrari Cheap gas

Something annoying, entertaining, and simultaneously a great case study of social dynamics was people's constant attempts to get me to drink. You would think that people would respect your healthy lifestyle choice but they don't...

One weekend over a bottle service table somebody's girlfriend was getting aggressive with me, shoving drinks toward my mouth. I had to deftly insult her to get her to stop actually.
I got my shirts soaked in booze on multiple occasions.
Once, a particularly clever Lithuanian girl snuck booze into my bottled water when I went to the bathroom.
Another group of people celebrating a birthday would just not take "no" for an answer to their shots of Aguardiente.

Lifehack ...So I pretended to take a shot but actually just threw the liquor on the floor. In a dark nightclub surrounded by drunk people, you can pretend to take a shot enthusiastically but throw the liquor over your shoulder. Nobody ever notices, just make sure nobody is directly behind you!

Leadership and social roles

Partying people

Socializing sober you'll be struck by how retarded intoxicated people are, particularly men. In the very beginning, it's easy to swear off even going out and socializing because you feel so detached from the people surrounding you, but this is a personal growth opportunity in disguise. It goes something like this...

  1. Disgust with how obnoxious drunk people are, especially guys. By the end of your first or second night out you, will be about ready to commit Gendercide against the single male population in your city.
  2. Amusement at the stupid antics and behavior.
  3. A cocky feeling of superiority over the intoxicated people around you.
  4. The realization that you can say and do ridiculous things that you normally couldn't get away with. You begin to stop filtering yourself.
  5. You relearn to be silly, playful, and self-amused.
  6. You take leadership; you frequently find yourself the Capitan of a squadron of drunken chickens. When everyone else is being indecisive and non-committal about a plan, you risk your social capital by authoritatively promising an awesome night and deciding on the destination.
  7. Increased risk tolerance in your social life along with acceptance and even enjoyment of connecting with intellectual subordinates.

Initial reference experiences

By now I'm accustomed to partying sober but in the beginning, something is missing. It's important that you get some good initial reference experiences with partying sober:

  • Line up some fun parties to go to with your friends so you can feed off the group's energy.
  • Hang out with people who, while maybe not completely sober like you, have a naturally positive social energy.
  • Maybe avoiding going to a big intimidating club alone or in a small group.

What to drink?

Green tea

Bottled water with a green tea bag in it. I haven't figured out how to NOT look and feel awkward while socializing without a beverage in my hand so I always begin my night by ordering bottled water from the bar. I carry a packet or two of green tea which I insert into the bottled water conspicuously, in front of other people always because...

  • It immediately shifts the group's conversation to why I'm drinking green tea instead of alcohol.
  • People inevitably ask what I am drinking which feeds back into the beneficial social validation part of the sober party experience.
  • Green tea contains caffeine and flavonoids; the caffeine makes you energetic and the flavonoids make you more creative and articulate. So you can bring the party! Drink decaf green tea to avoid messing with your sleep.
  • It's cheap! Here in Colombia, bottled water costs about 5000 COP ($2.50) at a nice bar.
  • If security at the venue thinks I'm putting drugs in my beverage they can just ask my friends.

Dating sober

Dating Sober

Sobriety is a double-edged sword in dating. There are a couple of obvious benefits:

  • Sober men in bars or nightclubs are a rarity. Sober men in bars or nightclubs who are actually fun, confident, and socially intelligent are even rarer. You are an instant high-status novelty; which can make you more attractive but it can also make you seem unattainable, which is a problem, more on this below.
  • On the other hand, lots of women party sober, 20% - 30% in my experience (debatably the better 20% - 30% of women). With your powers of observation not retarded by alcohol, you will notice which girls are sober, you can point out your rare commonality to build rapport with them.
  • It saves a ton of money. It probably cuts the hard monetary cost of dating by 60%.
  • It's way easier to remember names and personal details.

The negatives

  • Alcohol is an undeniably effective stimulant of serotonin and dopamine along with the corresponding confidence, humor, dance floor antics, sexy energy, and good memories. Sometimes after a long day of work, Sober Jonathan just could not bring the social energy to his interactions to make magic happen like Pleasantly Intoxicated Jonathan could.
  • In dating interactions more often than not the woman will follow the man's lead. I had a few dates that I'm pretty sure would have gone better if her BAC was above .00% but she didn't feel comfortable drinking while I was sober. The dating lifehack for this situation is that I would tell her a particular bar had amazing cocktails or beer or whatever and that I wanted to experience them vicariously through her. The only booze I tasted during the sober trip was that left on the lips and tongues of the girls whose exotic company I enjoyed.

Alternative addictions

Alternative Addictions

They say that when you starve one addiction another one takes its place. While a self-destructive vice didn't present itself this maxim did ring partially true during my sober trip:

  • Caffeine consumption may have gotten a little out of hand; I found myself drinking a one-liter bottle of green tea a day in addition to a large cup of premium Colombian coffee.
  • Chocolate, my dark chocolate habit got a little crazy. I had chocolate at least six times a week, usually while I was working.
  • Workaholism, 8-9 hours a day Monday-Friday and 4-7 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Nothing out of the ordinary for me.
  • Socializing; I found myself especially driven to go out and socialize 3-5 nights a week. Often I would be up working in my office by 8:30 AM after partying till 3:00 AM or 4:00 AM. I could tell I wasn't as productive as I should be due to a lack of sleep.

no alcoholSober habit tracking

Speaking of newly acquired addictions, my most recent is This app quantifies the consistency with which you practice winning habits and adds a dimension of social pressure by making your check-ins to a habit visible to the other people who practice it. They can encourage and give you props on your progress, don't let them down!

Join Sober habit

As you can see, I don't check-in to the sober habit every day because honestly, it's not that great of a challenge to me daily but maybe for a recovering alcoholic, it would be a good idea!

Connect with me on, I've got some seriously wacky and empowering habits, I also sporadically leave notes on my habit check-ins with funny anecdotes. I've found that the app gives me 3X the motivation to consistently practice habits that in the past were a major challenge for me!
Category: Apps & Software

Piracetam, the smart drug that beats addiction

It increases dopamine along with the corresponding perception of reward and arousal from natural stimuli like...

  • Food
  • Social interactions
  • Laughter
  • Exercise
  • Physical contact and sex

If you do Piracetam within a few hours of socializing you will NOT feel like drinking booze. This smart drug has been shown to help those suffering from alcohol and methamphetamine addiction. On the Wikipedia page, there are 6 different studies linked where Piracetam helped people with alcoholism issues.

Social media vs sobriety


I'll suggest something seemingly counter-intuitive to those of you who are inspired by this article. Don't brag about your experiment with sobriety on social media until you've made it at least 10-14 days sober.

Why? Three different studies authoritatively demonstrate that bragging about your goals (in this case sobriety) actually demotivates you from accomplishing them. This is especially obvious on social media every January 1st when you see all kinds of New Years' Resolutions to finally get serious about losing weight, writing a book, quitting smoking, or whatever.

After you've made it 10-14 days let me (and the world) know what kind of adventures the sober life entails for you. When you do use the hashtag #YouDontPutCheapGasInAFerrari.


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