Written by Troy Howard

06 June 2014

I used to spend a lot on booze. Now I spend a lot supporting grass-roots activism. You can too.

For #FridayDonation, give as much to your local cause as you do your local bar.

Alcohol and Activism

This story starts on a sad note; a falling from grace. In my teens and twenties, I did a lot of political activism. Much of it was local, with me spending my time and direct personal effort to do things like feed the homeless, organize protests, community-improvement projects in the ghetto, awareness efforts, etc.

At that time, I was living in St. Louis, and was making the least money I've ever made. I couldn't have afforded to donate to charities. I was barely keeping myself afloat financially. Instead I gave my time and effort. This work culminated with me moving to China for a long-term humanitarian mission there. That part was awesome!

However, in 2005 I had to leave China and return to the US due to a family emergency. I started working full-time in technology, rapidly advancing my career, focusing entirely on work. I stopped being an activist completely. I smoked a lot, drank a lot, ate and slept poorly, and gained a ton of weight. I went from 180lbs to 260lbs in a few years time. I was making the most money I'd ever made, but spending a lot of it on booze.

I'd go to the bar, and drop $50-100 in a night, almost every night. Sometimes I'd be over the line and wake up at home not knowing how I got there, vomiting and hungover, missing meetings at work, deadlines all slipping, a trail of embarrassments and disappointments strewn behind me.

Since then, I've stopped smoking, reduced my drinking a lot, focused on my health. It's working; I'm getting a lot healthier. I'm still heavier than I should be at 230lbs and get winded easily doing things that I used to do without any effort at all.

I still go out drinking sometimes, and when I do, it's really hard to stop myself from over-doing it and drinking too much. But I'm making a lot of progress, and hopefully will reach my lofty personal goals within a year or two.

Donations as Inactive Activism

Despite improving my personal health, one thing that has been bugging me is that I do very little activism. I haven't been able to get myself motivated to go out and be hands-on anymore. I strongly feel that direct volunteering and hands-on work is the best approach, but haven't been able to get back into actually doing it. Maybe I did too much when I was younger, and now I'm burnt out. I'm not sure.

However, I make more money now than I ever have. It's a strange realization that I now have more money than time, considering how poor my family was growing up. Also, I realize that since I've reduced my drinking a lot, I can reclaim that money and use it for something better: donating to activists working on causes that I support.

Not everyone can volunteer, but many people can donate.

So, every Friday, before going out to a bar or restaurant, I spend $50-100 on causes that I care about. Then I make sure I don't spend more than that when I'm out.

It's my allowance/party budget. I feel a lot better about my spending when I know I'm matching it with donations. It makes drinking and eating at restaurants a much more positive and guilt-free experience. That bit is by far, the least important part of what I'm doing, but it's a nice perk.

Sharing is Caring

Starting today (June 6, 2014), and every Friday from now on, I'll tweet out about the things I funded that week with the #FridayDonation hashtag.

If you follow me on Twitter you can keep me accountable and encourage me to keep doing this with a favorite or a quick "nice job" reply. If you want to you can donate to the same things I do, or pick your own and tweet about it. I promise to deliver tons of virtual high-fives if you do!

Also, turns out I'm not the only one with this idea. When I decided on the #FridayDonation hashtag, I found that Jennifer Dellapina has been doing exactly the same thing since at least January of this year. Awesome! High-fives Jennifer! Hopefully we can build a chorus of voices donating to improve the world.

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