Many of Frank Hall’s experiences over the past 11 years are a blur. He spent many nights binge drinking, a habit that began when he was a student at Lynbrook High School and grew worse in his late 20s. It led to myriad blackouts, severe depression, hundreds upon hundreds of dollars spent on booze, and alcohol-fueled arguments with his family and friends.
Then, he said, enough was enough.
“I was living life in extreme highs and extreme lows,” Hall recounted between sips of coffee. “That’s not really the greatest way to be. The lows were very, very low. There were dark thoughts, and it just got worse and worse.”
After one particularly rough weekend, he decided that it was time to quit. He tried everything he could to kick the habit, he said, including attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but nothing worked. The most cathartic practice for him was scribbling in a journal, identifying the triggers that made him drink and taking steps to change his lifestyle.
Hall hasn’t had a sip of alcohol in almost a year, and vowed that he never will again. He turned 28 on April 9, and spent the weekend hiking with his girlfriend, Maria Contoveros, in Virginia rather than sitting in a bar.
Quitting cold turkey meant that Hall has abstained from buying his usual “tall boy” 24-ounce beer for the train ride from his job as a carpenter in Manhattan to his home in Lynbrook. He has also traded in his shots of “Jame-o” — Jameson Irish whiskey — for other activities he loves, such as writing, skateboarding, sports, music and hiking.
“My cognitive thinking skills have improved,” he said. “I’m able to flow better in a lot of aspects because I’m always clear-minded. I’m sharper.”
In the hope of helping others overcome alcohol dependency, Hall self-published a book called “Slaying Your Weekend Warrior: An Alternative Approach to Abstinence.” It is a 57-page, do-it-yourself guide to sobriety, which helps readers discover their “triggers,” incentivizes them to give up drinking and provides support for their struggle.
Hall graduated from Lynbrook High, where his heavy drinking began, in 2008. Afterward he studied social work at the College of Saint Rose in Albany.
When he was young, Hall was a member of the Lynbrook Titans wrestling program, which he said gave him his resolve. Lynbrook Village Trustee Hilary Becker, who runs the program, called Hall courageous for sharing his struggles.
“I’ve read his book, and I highly recommend that every parent read this book,” Becker said. “It will give them an insight as to the current state of the social world their children will be experiencing.”
Becker recently helped establish the Wrestling Takes Down Drugs organization, which teaches children in the program awareness, prevention and treatment. It was sparked by the opioid epidemic on Long Island.
Hall attributes his sobriety to his college friend Angie Calantjis, who encouraged him to stop drinking after he told her he was becoming depressed. Calantjis said that they used to binge drink together, but now they help each other stay sober.
“His book is an amazing representation of how he stopped drinking, and a lot of his methods helped me during the rough times I faced with settling into a life without alcohol,” she said. “I recommended the book to several friends of mine who are trying to eliminate alcohol from their lives as well, and it’s really helping them on their journey to abstinence from alcohol.”
The writing process
Hall said that it took him six months to write the book. When an idea came to him, he feverishly typed away on his phone’s notepad. He also began frequenting the Rockville Centre Yoga Studio, where employees Prem Sadasivananda and Tre Meigliano encouraged him to publish his ideas. Yoga instructor Dawn Bossman edited the book for free.
Hall self-published it through the distribution company Book Baby for a little more than $2,000. His high school friend Courtney Miller created the cover illustration, a depiction of Saint Michael slaying a demon symbolizing the Weekend Warrior, with wine spilling out of it as though it were blood.
The book starts with a brief introduction, as Hall shares his story. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote from a famous author, philosopher or poet, and is bookended by self-reflective questions that readers must ask themselves. The chapters also conclude with challenges, including going out with friends to a bar and abstaining from drinking. Many of the challenges take weeks to complete before the reader can move on to the next chapter in what is meant to be a four-month journey.
Hall likened his own experiences of returning to bars sober to the Ghost of Christmas Past in “A Christmas Carol.” “Scrooge goes and sees how he was acting, and he hates himself,” Hall said. “You see the fights. You see the people throwing up, and how disgusting it really is. You see how people lose control of themselves. You see how you were acting.”
In the first chapter, “Ground Zero,” Hall coaches readers as they give up alcohol, challenging them to abstain for one week and to document how they feel. The second chapter focuses on identifying triggers, and aims to help readers come up with the best methods to change their ways. Chapter 3, meant to be read one month into the process, delves into healthy hobbies and routines.
Next is a chapter focusing on reaping the benefits of being sober, as readers identify how they feel after two months without alcohol. By the fifth chapter, which offers advice on how to stay motivated, they should be three months sober. And in the final chapter, “Becoming Your Own Hero,” readers are asked to develop a “code of honor” for staying sober, initially by thinking of their idols and the qualities that make them admirable.
Hall said he hopes the book will eventually become a mainstream alternative for those looking to get sober. It will be available for purchase on Amazon on April 22, for $21.68 for the hardcover version and $8 for the e-book. It will also be sold at Barnes & Noble. Updates about the book can be found by following and “liking” @SlayYourWeekendWarrior on Facebook.
Hall said that even if people slip up after reading his book, they should stay the course. “You have to take responsibility for the mistakes you made,” he said. “But you also have to take credit for all the positive things that you do. That’s why it’s called ‘Slaying Your Weekend Warrior’ — it’s not ‘Hiding from Your Weekend Warrior.’”