Grasping for ANY life preserver. (08/02/15)

August 2nd, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

A drowning person will frantically grasp at any item that floats to use it as a life preserver. They’ll even grasp at other people with life preservers or at those who can swim. But in their panicked struggle a drowning person will often endanger both themselves and other people. Substance overuse can be just like drowning. And in sticking with the drowning comparison, we have two situations here.

#1) Grasping for ANY life preserver.

#2) Endangering yourself or another person by desperately grasping on to them to keep yourself afloat.

In a panic to do something, newbies will often grasp onto anything in hopes that it will save them. They may not have a clear mind at the time so they will grasp at systems, medications, religions, other people or replacement substances. Any of those things might be fine at first, just to keep you afloat, but eventually you need to get to a place where you’re safe and comfortable. That may mean changing life preservers occasionally and eventually swimming on your own to safety.

When I first stopped drinking I grabbed on to all sorts of life preservers. (Actually I was in such physical and mental shock at first that it wasn’t until after about 30 days did I start grabbing for life preservers.) I grabbed at the AA life preserver, I grabbed at the religion life preserver and began going to church. I went to those places by myself because my wife continued drinking. I was alone, drowning and desperate so I also grasped on to all of my family and friends and bored them to death with my tales of woe.

As it turned out I didn’t care for the AA life preserver, but it served a purpose at the time. I wasn’t comfortable with the religion life preserver—I couldn’t say with total honesty that I believed in God or that I believed in a higher power. I would have been lying if I were to profess my belief, say that I’m powerless and pledge my allegiance to a group or any religion. All I wanted to do was live a relatively normal life as a non-drinker.

As time passed (about 6 to 9 months), I realized that all of these things that I was using as life preservers were simply floatation devices and I wasn’t going anywhere, I wasn’t making any progress, I wasn’t getting to a safe place. In fact, some of these life preservers were actually weighing me down, and I was endangering myself and some of the people I was hanging on to. I didn’t want to keep holding on to people who weren’t good for me and I didn’t want to be an annoying downer to my friends that I still hung out with. I know how to swim (both literally and figuratively), so I had to let go of these life preservers and some of these people. I had to swim on my own to a safe place.

That’s why I wrote my book, Okay, I quit. Now what? I wrote that book as a sobriety plan for myself. I had made a commitment to myself to stay clean and sober and I wanted to figure out how to make the best out of my life as a non-drinker—no matter how things would develop and turn out. Writing that book has helped me design an entire footlocker filled with life preservers—all custom designed to fit me. I believe that book will help you personally design your own unique life preservers. In the book I give examples and suggestions—but your choices of what to do are left up to you—because it’s YOUR life, not mine, I don’t tell you what to do.

So in the case of “re-invention” you often do have the choice of what life preserver you can grasp for. Find the one that fits you best and is the most comfortable on you. Eventually, you may be able to do just fine and not have to keep holding on to a life preserver. And sticking with my nautical theme here, you always want to have a life preserver when you’re on any boat. You don’t have to be wearing it at all times, but you want to have one handy and you want to know where it is. I’m a good swimmer and I won’t get on a boat until I know where the life preservers are. More than likely nothing’s going to happen, but I still want to know that I have one and where it is.

Living clean and sober is just like that. If you’re heading out with friends, going to an event or a party, you want to have your life preserver handy just in case you need it. Your life preserver is your sobriety plan. If the situation becomes dangerous, what’s your escape plan? How will you get yourself to safety? How will you make sure that you don’t find yourself drowning in a drink?

Look, if you want AA, NA, some group or a religion to be your life preserver, I’m certainly not going to try and talk you out of it. But remember what a life preserver is: it is an item to keep you afloat until you can get to safety. Once you’re safe you don’t keep wearing your life preserver—you take it off and go about rebuilding and living your life.

I’m almost 10 years clean and sober now, and you know what? I find myself still grasping at life preservers now and then. I still get depressed. I still feel lonely and life still throws its’ random handful of shit at me. Once in a while I do feel like drinking. Once in a while I do feel like getting loaded out of my skull so that I can forget all of my problems. But I remain calm, breath deep and fill my lungs with air so I can continue to float. I don’t want to grab at just any life preserver that’s handy—be it a drink, some junk, a religion, a system or a person. I just want to live a relatively normal life as a non-drinker. I use my own personal sobriety plan as my life preserver.

I sincerely hope that you get yourself to a safe place in life where you don’t have to constantly wear a life preserver. And if you do occasionally find yourself in the midst of a bad storm, make sure you have a life preserver handy and don’t be afraid to use it. Just make sure that it’s the right life preserver for YOU.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my blog, podcasts and website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can find my books in paperback, eBook and if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. They’re all available through Amazon, Apple, all sorts of places. I put my blog, podcasts and website out for people to access FREE of charge. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can support me by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I show a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and you can clearly see that I’m not making money doing this. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

The things you DO have control over. (07/30/15)

July 30th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

There are a lot of things in life that none of us have any control over. However, there ARE many things that we DO have control over. We are not as powerless as we may think, or we are told that we must admit to being powerless over.

Within limits we do have control over what we do with our own time. Most of us have jobs and that consumes a good portion of our time, but we certainly can control how efficient we are and what we do with our own personal time. We also have control over our own spending behaviors and our own money. You may have high financial obligations to pay, but they are likely a result of your own spending choices or life choices. You have control over your physical wellbeing because you decide whether to exercise or not. You can assess your physical capabilities and perform exercises within your capacity. You have control over your social environment by deciding if you’re going out partying with friends. You have control over who you hang out with. Sometimes people you want to hang out with don’t want to hang out with you; then the only person you can hang out with is yourself. You do have control over how you will react to temptations and various stresses. Sometimes the best thing to do is to say nothing or sit in solitude and do nothing to avoid reacting badly to a temptation or stressor.

And finally, you do have control over your own hands. You decide to move your hands to pick up a drink, a pipe, a spike, a pill, a joint, whatever. You must use your own mind and control your own motor functions to ingest a drink or a drug. I admit that it’s not always easy to keep your hands under control. But it can be done.

So you DO have control over many things in life. Again, I will admit that it’s not always easy to exhibit self-control. It’s not easy to push yourself to exercise when you don’t feel like it. It’s not easy to remain calm when big problems arise. It’s not easy to make major career changes, relationship changes or move to a different city. And it’s not very easy to say “No” to tempting invitations for drugs, booze, sex, money—whatever your weakness is.

I can honestly say that at times I feel like my life is out of my control. It seems like either my life is insanely busy, or if I’m not insanely busy, then I’m stuck in a boring rut. Rarely do I find myself in the happy medium. But I’m certain that I could control that better. I can learn to say “No” more often. I can plan my work more efficiently. And if I would get busy and do something when I think I’m bored, I wouldn’t be inundated with deadlines and a zillion things to be done all at once because I frittered away my time sitting being bored.

This blog/podcast isn’t about accomplishing more—it’s about controlling stress, pressures, temptations and getting control over boredom. I’m sure that you would prefer a low stress life. I know that I want a low stress life, so I need to use my own time, mind and body more effectively and efficiently to keep stress at bay.

So you do have control over more things than you may think you do or than you recognize. But this can also be a tough realization to swallow. Suddenly you realize that you can no longer blame other people or made-up events for your situation. When you clearly see that many things are within your control you might become deflated or depressed. You see that some outcomes are the result of your own doing. That can be painful, especially if you’re not happy with the outcome of events. That is when you want to assess the reality of your situation. “What can I do about this? How can I make the best out of this, even if I don’t like the conditions I find myself under? How can I make this shitty situation less shitty?”

There are and always will be things which are out of your control: weather, global political conditions, other people’s behaviors and much much more. But you can control how you react to those things, what you want to believe and to an extent, how you feel about those things. You can get upset or you can remain calm. You can feel frustrated or you can think about what you’re able to do about it—what actions you can take which are within your capacities and within your immediate universe.

Acceptance isn’t “giving up,” acceptance is looking at realities and then considering what control you do have over the given reality. I’ve got nothing against someone saying, “Hi, my name is ________ and I’m an alcoholic.” By making that statement you’ve accepted your reality. What’s important NOW is to then answer with, “And this is what I’m going to do about it,” then state your plan. You can say, “I am powerless over alcohol (coke, H, meth, whatever), and to regain my power over it, this is what I’m going to do about it,” then state what actions or behaviors you’re going to undertake.

You might have unexpected or unwanted children. You have to accept those conditions, take control of the situation that exists and make the best out of it. If you have an “unplanned” family, how can you make the best out of your life and help your children develop into happy, productive and stable adults? It’s NOT their fault that they were unplanned. You can’t blame them. You made them and they are your responsibility. Accept them and take control over helping them develop properly.

You might have to accept that right now you have to work at a job or in a career field that you hate. “My debt is out of control and I have to work at a job that I hate.” Then ask yourself, “How can I get my debt under control? How will I pursue a new job or career field?” You might have to forego some luxuries, cut your expenses and spending patterns. You might have to work at a miserable job until you have the education, skill or opportunity to leave that shitty job.

Look, I work in a career field where I have NO CONTROL whatsoever over as to what the financial markets will do. I accept that I have no control over the price of oil, Apple stock, Amazons’ sales or whether a given country will go bankrupt or not. But I DO HAVE CONTROL over what maneuvers, strategies or decisions I will make based on the information I have. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. But I am still in control and I try to make the best out of my job. I have not been forced or coerced into this career field. I made the choice to do this and to continue doing it.

The hardest part about having control is actually doing it—actually doing something. I know that I have control over much of my time and my active behaviors, but I still have to do something—I have to take action and do the work. That’s the hard part. If I want to get a blog article written and then record a podcast, I have to do it. I can’t just sit in front of my computer playing solitaire or checking email or pretending that I’m busy doing something else. I have to actively work at that which I want control over. And the same goes for you. Intentions are nice, having a plan is better, but actually doing the work is the most important part.

If you want to take control of your drinking then you have to actually do something about it. If you want a new job then you have to look for one. If you want to change career fields then you need to further your knowledge or education. If you want a happy family and home life then you will have to do something to facilitate it. All of your actions will be solely up to you.

So in summary: You DO have control over many things in your life. (You may even surprise yourself at the amount of things you have control over.) And the things that you can’t control you still have the ability to accept them as reality and then control what you are willing and capable of doing about it to make it turn out to be the best—for you. And of course, the only way to have control is to take action and do something about it.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can find my books on Amazon.com and if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks through Amazon, Apple, all sorts of places. If you really like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

Why the competitive conversations? (06/26/15)

June 26th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Why do so many people feel that life is a competition between one another? This is often reflected in the conversations some people have. Let me give some examples:

You might happen to say to someone, “I’ve been sober for a little over 2 years,” and the other person might respond with, “Well I’ve been sober for 12 years.” Who cares? Does the length of time make one person more sober (or better) than the other? Or you might mention your bottom point and another person will say, “You think you were a bad drunk, well let me tell you what I did!” Again, who cares? This isn’t a contest of who can be sober longer or who was a worse drunk.

These competitive conversations aren’t strictly limited to substance misuse (or various group meetings). Almost any subject you bring up in conversation, another person wants to mention that “they have one more than you, outdid you or already have that.” I sit back and listen as people compete in conversations. I don’t believe they’re even conscious that they’re doing it.

Some people believe that this is a sign of low self-esteem, but I believe that it’s normal human nature to present importance of self to others. This is done by “one-upping” the other person through pointing out how wonderful you are and how good you have it. If you can’t outdo the other person with your accomplishments or your acquisitions, you can always point out how awful and miserable your life is compared to theirs. Even when being dismal you can still participate in one-upmanship.

People also like to get the spotlight pointed towards themselves by pissing in your well. For instance, you go buy a Triumph motorcycle and someone else says, “Aw, Triumph is a piece of shit. You should have bought a (name any other brand).” Or, “why did you get a red one? You should have got a blue one.” “Why did you go to Italy? You should have gone to France.” Notice how you don’t feel good when people say shit like that to you? I typically respond with, “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you go fuck yourself!”

I also find it interesting that when you do have something good to share, some people will act like they’re happy for you, but then suddenly turn sour. “Oh sure, if I had your (insert anything) I could do that too.” Again I say, “Hey, go fuck yourself.” The other person has no idea what struggles you may have gone through, how hard you had to work or what you sacrificed to accomplish what you just told them about.

But all this “one-upping” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By sharing mutual experiences (be they good or bad) and by sharing accomplishments, this builds commonality between people and creates a bond between them. I’m sure none of us has ever sat in a bar and got into a conversation with a complete stranger and within minutes felt a bond of commonality as we commiserated about our problems. The sharing of stories and experiences isn’t bad. What’s bad is trying to take the joy away from someone else by one-upping them or criticizing them in conversation. It doesn’t have to be that way if you pay attention to your own words and how you deliver your words.

You can share your own stories in return and do it without stealing someone else’s spotlight. You could say, “Wow that’s really great. I had something similar to that happen to me, but not as good as what happened to you,” and then tell your story. If you’ve had a bad experience with a certain brand or prefer a different color—keep it to yourself. I’m sure you don’t like being interrupted and told, “Oh, you should have…” You don’t have to dole out false flattery but you also don’t have to piss in someone’s well.

I know that I give many stories and examples from my own life. I share a lot of things on Facebook and other social media. My purpose isn’t to say, “Hey, look at me. Look what I did.” My purpose is to share and show that an average former drunk and drug addict CAN turn their life around and that you CAN accomplish and experience some mighty wonderful things in life. I also make it a point to ask you to share some of your success stories in return. I want my posts and conversations to be engaging for both us.

While writing this article I began to grow curious as to why I am drawn towards some people and why I ebb away from others. I thought about the people I’m drawn to and I noticed that it’s because they aren’t blowhards and the conversations are mutually engaging. I then decided to interview some of these people. I wanted to know if they consciously worked at being engaging and non-competitive in conversations, was this a natural trait and were they even aware of the trait that they have?

I talked with quite a few of my friends. What they all had in common was humility. They also weren’t completely aware that they were so pleasant. But when I asked them whether they knew any blowhards or had an idea of what I was talking about they all said, “Oh yeah.” They could all think of people who always monopolize a conversation or always have to one-up anyone else involved in a conversation.

Two of my friends in particular were able to nicely articulate why they purposely attempt to be engaging in conversation and try their best to avoid one-upmanship. I’ll call them Jerry and Joyce just for the sake of giving them names. I also wanted to give a perspective from each gender.

Here’s what Joyce had to say about the subject: “I know some people who I dread answering my phone when I see it’s them calling. All they’re going to do is talk about all the great things their kids have done, what they just bought and how wonderful their life is. If I ever get a chance to talk, they have a better story to interrupt with. Then there are others who are just going to ramble on about all the same problems they’ve been rambling on about for years. I don’t want to be like that person. They’re not fun to talk to or be around. I want to talk to and be around people I enjoy and who make me laugh.”

Here’s what Jerry had to say: “I guess it’s because my parents taught me to be humble. My dad always told me that no matter how good I was at something there’s always somebody else who can do it better. He didn’t say it to criticize me or belittle me. It helps with my humility.”

Jerry and Joyce are genuinely fun and engaging people to be around because they don’t mind letting others have the spotlight. That’s the reason I like hanging out with them. And Jerry’s dad was right. The fact is that there will always be someone better, faster, smarter, prettier, stronger, richer and luckier than you. You can be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. (Hell, I’m pretty arrogant about some of the things I’ve done. I always say, “It’s not bragging if it’s true, but you don’t have to belabor the point.”) But you can also be humble in your pride.

What does all this have to do with sobriety? I believe that it’s part of your growth and evolution of becoming a fun person to be around. And I think that’s especially important for a non-drinker.

Why not genuinely be happy for someone? Why not listen to their story, and if you’re envious, ask how they did it and learn from them. Even if you have done something better or for longer than the other person, let the spotlight shine on them. That’s true support, fellowship and friendship. Don’t compete in conversations. Don’t be the person that everybody wants to avoid.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel

You get what you get. (06/25/15)

June 25th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

In a classic Rolling Stones song, Mick Jagger sings: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” In sobriety, and life in general, you rarely get what you want. You often don’t even get what you need. You just get what you get. But you CAN make the best out of whatever you do get. It’s not always easy to accept that statement and it can be pretty hard to make the best out of a shitty situation, but that’s a big part of sobriety. Making the best out of it, no matter how things pan out.

Sobriety may be a struggle at times. It may seem boring at times and everything doesn’t go your way. But that’s life. You can’t blame sobriety. Please believe me. I’ve tried to blame sobriety for a lot of things that didn’t go my way. I would wonder if sobriety was worth it. Then I wanted to drink my problems away. I wanted to drink my way into happiness or drink my way into someone’s bed. But I always knew better. I knew that booze would get me what I wanted—at the moment—but I also knew that what I wanted—at the moment—would ultimately turn out to be bad for me. So I never took that drink. But I still blamed sobriety for my sadness and woes.

But then I’d think to myself, “Would I work better if I drank just a little? Would I earn more money if I drank just a little? Would I do more in life if I drank just a little? Would I get laid more if I drank just a little?” (Okay, I might get laid more if I drank, but would I even remember it or would it even be good sex—for either of us—if I drank?) I can’t honestly see how drinking would help improve anything in my life. So I can’t blame sobriety if I don’t work as good as I should. I can’t blame sobriety if I earn less than I want. I can’t blame sobriety if I don’t do exciting things in life. And I can’t blame sobriety if I don’t get laid.

It’s only natural that our mind wants answers and wants to blame somebody or something for when we don’t get what we want. When we don’t get what we want we almost automatically find blame or have an answer. Some people will say, “It’s God’s will,” or “That’s the way God wanted it.” Others will blame their parents, spouse, boss, society, any other race than theirs, drugs, alcohol or even sobriety. Rarely are people willing to acknowledge that things may just be a result of chance, luck and randomness. Fact is that very often there are no obvious correlations to be seen as to why events occurred as they did. But the mind still wants—if not demands—an answer.

Sometimes you can find clear blame. You wouldn’t have been arrested for drunk driving if you wouldn’t have been drinking. You wouldn’t have a hangover if you didn’t drink heavily the night before. You wouldn’t be broke if you didn’t spend all your money on booze or drugs. But those things aren’t booze’s fault or anyone else’s. They are your own fault. You can seriously eliminate a lot of unnecessary and inconvenient problems by eliminating overuse of substances. Sometimes eliminating substances calls for drastic measures, like complete and total abstinence from the substance.

This takes me to another popular old saying which is, “Be careful of what you wish for.” The law of unintended outcomes and unintended consequences comes into play here. There will always be unforeseen outcomes and consequences for almost anything we attempt to do or actually accomplish. Not all unintended consequences are bad, but unforeseen events will occur.

Here are some examples: You end up getting the job or position you were hoping for but it turns out that the job requires more time or skill than you anticipated. Or maybe someone else was vying for the same position and now you have a secret enemy trying to make your life miserable at work, even though you did nothing personally against that person other than to get the position that they also wanted. Maybe you sobered up and your spouse, lover or friends no longer want to be with you because they think you’re not fun anymore. Life is filled with unintended outcomes and unintended consequences. The happiest people learn to make the best out of them.

I also find it rather funny when I hear people talk about what they want. Their desires and wants aren’t funny—what’s funny is the unrealistic extent of their wants. “I want to travel the country but mostly hang out along the Gulf of Mexico and go swimming every day.” Then I’ll ask, “Okay, how are you going to do that? How will you earn money for living expenses? Where will you stay when you’re not traveling? Where will you stay when you are traveling? How are you going to make this happen?” The answers can be hilarious. “Well I want to do what you do. I want to buy an RV, travel around the country and not work much.” That’s hilarious because the person has no idea how much I had to work and forego to earn enough money to buy an RV. They have no idea how I developed a way to work while I’m traveling and how much I do work to earn my daily living expenses. No one gives me free food. No one gives me free diesel fuel. I may be able to stay at a campground for “free” but I have to exchange my time, talents and labor. I don’t just hang out there. I have to put in 8 hour days of working for the campground. And I better work hard and put in more hours than I’m obligated to or I won’t be invited back. I have to do a lot of work for what I want and so will you.

Dream big and want big, but remember that you will have to work for it and there may be some unintended outcomes and consequences when you do get what you want. But don’t let the unknown hold you back. There’s no way to foresee every outcome or unintended consequence—that’s why they’re called “unintended.” And don’t blame someone or something if unintended consequences come along. Accept what’s happening NOW and try to make the best out of it.

You and I won’t always get what we want. We often won’t even get what we need. But continue to try. Isn’t getting 50% or 25% of a desire better than getting 100% of nothing?

I made a small poster which I hung above my computer desk. It has a statement in bold letters and questions that I ponder.

I have more than I need but less than I want. My needs obligate me to work. My wants compel me to work creatively.

  • Do I really need all that I want?
  • Am I veiling a want as a need?
  • What will or might change if I get what I want?
  • Will it all be good changes by getting what I want?
  • How can I better enjoy what I currently have?
  • How can I learn to be more appreciative of what I currently have?
  • How can I make the best out of what I have?

In the end, don’t blame sobriety, anything else or anyone else if you don’t get what you want in life. The one thing that will give you the advantage at getting both what you want and what you need is SOBRIETY. Sobriety keeps your mind clear and that allows you to make the best out of your abilities and capacities regardless of the circumstances you’re in. Do everything you can to make the best out of whatever you do get.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my podcasts and website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel

Stuck in neutral. (03/05/15)

March 14th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Have you ever started your car, put it in neutral and then waited for it to go somewhere? If you keep one foot on the brake you can accelerate all you want but you still won’t move. When you take your foot off the brake you begin rolling in the direction of the steepest grade, either forwards or backwards. Or you might just sit still because you’re on a flat spot. You can accelerate all you want but it doesn’t help get you moving. You’ve got all this power and potential for movement, but if you’re stuck in neutral you just sit there burning up your fuel.

Life can be like this. You want to go somewhere but you don’t know where. And if you’re not in gear, and don’t have a grip on the steering wheel, who knows where it will go. And just like my car example, you can put your life in neutral, accelerate all you want, but if it’s sitting on flat ground it doesn’t move, you go nowhere. Sticking with the car analogy, even when you do put your car (or life) in gear and begin moving it helps to have a destination and a route in mind. Once you do get moving you have to watch for obstacles, other vehicles and obey traffic laws.

Moving out of neutral and getting onto gear is just a part of the journey. If you plan on going somewhere that a lot of other people want to go you’ll encounter congestion. Just like driving somewhere, you may have to take an alternate route or there may be detours.

Were you ever at a point in life when you wanted to do something or accomplish something but you just couldn’t move? It’s like having your car in neutral. That can be frustrating. I’ve been in that spot more than once. And even with all my lists and goals I still find myself in that flat spot now and then. Instead of just sitting there in neutral, I get into gear and go somewhere. It may just be a joy ride for a while until I see something interesting. But sitting in neutral, burning fuel is a waste of energy and resources. Sometimes it’s better to turn the car off, make a plan of where to go, devise your route, then start the car, put it in gear and get rolling.

Lists help keep me busy and get me out of neutral. I know that I must do something mildly productive every day, or at least tend to the things I’m responsible for. My lists aren’t always all that exciting. My list may be: do laundry, clean the house, do yard work, go grocery shopping, work out. But my lists keep me from being stuck in neutral. However, just having a list written out doesn’t do me much good if I just stand there staring at it with my thumb in my ass. I have to expel some energy and perform tasks on my list regardless of how boring they may seem.

Getting out of neutral isn’t just about major changes and movements in life. While sitting in neutral, small, daily responsibilities are missed or put off. And I have found that by getting the small stuff out of the way I have a better vision and path towards the big things. Every day isn’t monumental, but every day still needs to be productive. Without some basic productivity going on, being stuck in neutral (or drunk), starts to feel normal.

Often, work performed looks fruitless or worse yet, it looks counterproductive or that you made a mistake. I’ll grant you that it’s not easy to muster up energy and enthusiasm while in the depths of adversity. It’s not fun to keep trying to achieve something only to keep getting kicked in the teeth. But from my own experiences in life (as well as if you were to reflect on many of your own experiences), that if I do nothing, I am guaranteed of nothing good ever happening. Doing nothing can sound tempting, especially when it seems as if nothing is going your way, but shit can rapidly get out of control. Just like smelly laundry, if you do nothing, problems and responsibilities begin piling up.

I’ve found that the hardest part of life is being able to clearly asses why something didn’t work out. That’s because every bit of information isn’t always available or apparent and so many factors are completely out of our control. But I do know that sitting in neutral doesn’t propel you ahead and coasting in neutral can only work for so long.

Even though I just said that you’ve got to do something, doing the wrong thing can be worse than doing nothing. There’s the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Fuck that! Sometimes you are better off putting the car (or your life), in park and turning it off. But don’t just sit there during these times. Think about the problem, think about what outcome you want and then what needs to be done. Think about alternatives to what you might consider to be obvious answers—and then write all this down while you think. I’m very serious about writing things down. Thoughts and ideas just held within your mind get lost or forgotten.

I might talk a problem out with a friend, but I’m better off sending emails. I write my friends detailed emails, expressing the problem and presenting my answers and alternatives to the problem. My friends know that I’m not necessarily seeking their advice, but that this is my process of working out a problem. Sometimes they see holes in my line of thinking, sometimes they have ideas and alternatives I hadn’t thought of. And sometimes they just reply with, “You are a dark miserable fucker aren’t you? Pull yourself together. Get yourself in gear and do something about it. I’ve seen you get through worse.” I’m fortunate to have some close friends who I can share my problems and dark thoughts with. If you don’t have a close friend or confidant that you can share your thoughts with, then type out an email and send it to yourself. Detailing your thoughts and reading your own words has a way of illuminating things.

Things don’t always work out for the best. But by being in gear, having a planned route and having alternatives in mind, you can make the best out of how things work out. It’s happened to me numerous times. The alternative wasn’t always better and the end result isn’t always grand. But it’s usually better than nothing. And very often (yes, very often), when implementing an alternative plan things do work out better than anticipated or it leads to different or more interesting alternatives.

I wish I could guarantee that every effort you make will bear fruit. I don’t know if it will and I’d be lying and insulting you if I said it would. I know that we’ve all had struggles in life. But I can assure you that you can’t drink or junk your way out of a problem. Continuing on a destructive path or going back to a destructive path won’t fix anything.

Some effort must be expended. Get the most out of your energy expended. Please don’t burn up your precious fuel running in neutral. Put yourself in gear and begin moving towards your destination along your planned route. You may not feel like it, but it’s time to get out of neutral and get into gear.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.

Why do we do what we do? (03/01/15)

March 1st, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

So why do we do what we do, even when we know that what we’re doing is bad for us? I was having a conversation about this topic with a friend of mine who regularly attends AA meetings. Her response was: “We don’t change until the pain of what we’re doing is greater than the pain of changing.” I couldn’t fully agree with this line of thought. To me it sounded like a canned response. I didn’t want to argue with her, so instead of disagreeing with her response I attempted to direct the conversation towards examples of action instead of canned responses. We did have a pleasant conversation, but her canned response really got me thinking.

Many of us continue doing harmful, painful or fruitless things, even when we are well aware that a change would be better and probably not all that painful. People stay at shitty jobs because of this. They stay in unrewarding relationships because of this. They stay in a geographically bad climate because of this and they continue destructive drinking because of this. I think it’s the result of another old saying: “The devil known is better than the devil unknown.” We continue doing what we know is bad for us because we think, or fear, that the change will be painful or come with worse results than what we think we currently have.

Another variation on this question is: “Why don’t we do what we know we should do?” I believe that it’s due to habit of past behaviors, laziness (or lack of enthusiasm) and fear.

I fear failure and ridicule, but then the fear eats away at my enthusiasm which then results in laziness. This is me thinking, “Why try? It’s not going to work anyway.” But oddly enough, I consciously know that if I don’t try I am guaranteed to NOT SUCCEED. But I still end up not doing what I know I should do, or do something else to create a distraction from doing what I know I should do.

I know that I need to work out if I want to maintain good health and remain physically fit, but I’ll create distractions to avoid working out. I know that I need to read books and write so I can hone my craft of becoming a better writer, but I’ll find other projects to work on to distract me. I know that I need to work at my job so I can earn a living, but I’ll create distractions so I can claim I was too busy to work and earn.

One thing that I have been successful at sticking to is that I know that if I don’t drink I can’t get drunk and then have unwanted consequences of my own drunkenness. I don’t allow myself to fall prey to my own made-up excuses. “Aw, everybody else is drinking, I might as well. Aw, I’m lonely so I might as well go out drinking. Aw, I had a shitty day so I deserve a drink.” In this case, I do what I should do, which is abstain from substances.

So do we finally change when what we’re doing is more painful than the change? Here’s where I disagree with this line of thinking. When I was drinking, any of the pain I had seemed normal because it was what I’d grown accustom to. I didn’t want to change because I liked drinking, getting drunk and getting high. My life wasn’t great but it seemed o.k., or at least seemed normal to me. I wasn’t happy with a lot of things, like my financial situation, my career development, my health and especially the growing tension within my marriage. But I knew that if I wasn’t happy that I must be doing something wrong, so I sought advice from others. I was told by well-meaning people that if I just quit drinking and doing drugs all of my marital, emotional and financial problems would come to an end. That sounded like logical advice, so that’s what I did. Here’s where things become twisted and why I titled my book and my website: “Living sober sucks.”

When I stopped drinking, the change was far different than what I thought it would be. There absolutely was physical and emotional pain during the early period of sobriety, but again, it was (and has been) far different than what I thought it would be. The change wasn’t painful, the journey has been painful and some of the end results have been fucking awful. But I can’t see that staying where I was would have been any better. I can safely presume that things would have progressively gotten worse.

I didn’t change because where I was at was “more painful than the change.” I changed because I wanted something else and I knew that to get something else I had to take drinking out of the equation. But sobriety has only been a part of the equation. Now I’m stuck viewing life through the glasses of reality, knowing that my life is a result of my own decisions and actions. I don’t get to drunkenly blame everyone else for my problems—that sucks. But what’s twisted about this is that without the sober clarity of mind and knowing that my life is a result of my own actions, I wouldn’t have the clarity to make fewer bad decisions and undertake more productive actions. Sobriety allows for more opportunities to improve my life.

I certainly won’t go back to drinking. Drinking and drug use won’t take me back in time to where I was. Even one drink won’t take me back in time to a point or place where I think I was happy. I am where I am. There are so many wonderful people I would have never gotten to know and some amazing experiences I never would have had if I had continued drinking. The journey has been painful at times, some of the results have been awful, but the change has turned out better than I thought it would.

And when I’m sitting here in my own mire of self-pity thinking that living sober sucks, I remind myself that living drunk sucks more. I begin asking the ever important questions: Will drinking (even one drink), make my future brighter? Will drinking bring about life experiences comparable or better than the experiences I’ve had since I started sobriety? Will drinking help my health, emotions and earning ability or financial status improve? For me the answer is always the same. “No, it won’t.” So I had better learn to use my sobriety as way to advance my life by doing what I know I should do.

Ask yourself: Why do I do what I do? Why don’t I do what I know I should do? Will the change be more painful than where I’m at now? Why? What’s the worst that can happen with this change?” And what I believe to be the greatest question: “Will, would or does drinking make my life better?”

If drinking makes your life better, then go ahead, it’s your choice. If drinking doesn’t improve your life, then that’s what you need to take out of the equation. I just want your life to be better and I want you to be happy. If all I do is serve as an example then that makes me happy.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.

Am I expecting too much? (01/09/15)

January 9th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to Podcast of this blog article.

Am I expecting too much out of life and sobriety? Am I demanding too much? Or do I just want too much? Maybe I should expect less and accept less and “live life on life’s terms.” But that sounds a bit defeatist to me. Accepting how things are seems like I’m giving up. “Oh well, life sucks, I might as well just accept it.” Fuck no! I won’t accept it. I will think and work my way out of this.

I feel I need to do more of what’s right and stop worrying about what I might be doing wrong. There is value in reviewing what I’m doing wrong, but ruminating and belaboring it sounds counterproductive. So what is it that I do right that makes me feel happier? Staying busy makes me happy. Working and challenging my mind makes me feel happy—but those 2 things are mentally taxing HARD WORK and I don’t always feel like doing hard work.

Sober living has its ebb and flow, ups and downs, but so does life, whether you’re drunk, high or sober. During the “blue” periods I can find myself blaming sobriety for a boring or uneventful life. There is rarely any logic backing up this kind of thinking. How can I be sad, depressed or feel unenthusiastic about life? If I met me and told me my story and described all the fantastic experiences I’ve had as a non-drinker, I would tell myself to fuck off.

Is booze the magic elixir that makes life worth living? No, it’s the magic elixir that gets me drunk and makes me believe that life is better than it is, that I’m better than I actually am, that I’m stronger, better looking and richer than I am. It works for about 15 minutes, sometimes up to a couple of hours. But then the reality that I’m just a regular, average person reappears and I must pay the price of my drinking, that’s if I drank.

But I don’t drink and haven’t in over 9 years, so my reality of being a regular, average person is glaringly apparent to me. That in itself isn’t the depressing part, what seems to be depressing is the search for something natural in life that gives me the same sensation as drinking. But there is NO replacement for booze. If there was I would buy it. It can, at times, feel like I want to say, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Well fucking kill me now then.”

There is absolutely nothing that can justify me going back to drinking or getting high. It may temporarily mask any perceived disappointments I have now and it would only manifest into self-disgust. I cannot become the orchestrator of my own miserable life.

These are the weird struggles of living as a non-drinker. For a time things in life improve and my mind wants them to keep improving. I want things to exponentially keep getting better. Then, when a flat, low or blue period comes along I don’t give up but I might stop trying. I become lazy and begin feeling sorry for myself and want to blame somebody or something. “I quit drinking so many years ago and shit still goes wrong. How is this possible?” Booze isn’t taunting me, I’m taunting myself with my own mind. In reality a lot of things have been going right and I forget that, in fact, I’ve been avoiding a lot of shit going wrong. Had I given in to drinking, under the false impression that my life would improve or at least be less miserable, who knows how many worse things would have spiraled out of control. A bad event avoided or averted isn’t consciously seen as a good event. What is avoided isn’t seen.

At these moments I have choices to make. I can sit and wait for something good to happen or I can force myself to do what I know I must do—which is get busy being productive, even when I don’t have the enthusiasm to do so. I’ve come to learn that my happiest moments are when I’m fully engaged or immersed in worthwhile work. Not necessarily the “labor” of a job type of work, but doing something productive, even if it’s as simple as making dinner and washing my dishes. Some of that is dull and seemingly boring but it’s still productive. In ways it’s just “busy work,” but at least my life and my living environment isn’t a mess. When everything within eyesight around me is a mess, I feel like everything is a mess within me and that I don’t have control. I can reverse that psychological phenomenon and use it in my favor. When I take control of the simplest things I feel more in control of my life. As long as I get busy, inevitably I begin to feel better about my environment and myself, even if I don’t see immediate or apparent results from my work effort.

For me I begin by making a handwritten list of what I want or needs to be accomplished. I will also write out the actual activities that need to be undertaken to complete each of these items. Then I methodically start working on the list. Writing this blog and recording the podcast is one project. Continued work on my next book is another project. Domestic chores, exercising and fun activities are also listed. I use relaxation and fun activities as my reward for when I’ve completed something that I would consider as “work.” If I just sit here doing nothing then nothing will ever get done and I’ll feel even worse and probably feel like sobriety is a wasted effort. I can’t expect, demand nor even want sobriety—in and of itself—to make my life wonderful. Sobriety simply offers mental clarity. I must take action and use that mental clarity to open the doors for good and successful events to take place.

All of these little exercises and activities may not change factual conditions which exist, (physical or mental health issues, financial issues, limited job opportunities, loneliness, unhappy relationships, boredom, whatever you might be faced with in your life), but activity will help you with forward momentum towards overcoming and breaking through these factual conditions.

I feel this is worth repeating: If I just sit here and wallow in my mire, thinking how miserable and powerless I am, I’ll never break out of my funk. When I think about what I have done right, what is within my control and what I am capable of doing to improve my situation, I begin moving forward out of my funk. I’ll admit that at times it seems like I can’t do anything right. That’s when I’ll do some of the most basic, simplest activities—things I know that I can’t fuck up, like cleaning my house or going through mail. I need to get a few small successes under my belt so I have the confidence to get back in the saddle so to speak. This is a war of mental challenges. I refuse to lose the war, especially if I’m losing it to myself.

Please don’t ever give up and don’t be a defeatist. Yes, honestly accept how things are and then use your mind to figure out how to make the best of it. Look at what you may be doing wrong and then stop doing it. Invest more of your mental energy and thoughts towards what you do right and do more of them. Expect nothing from sobriety but demand the highest level of effort from yourself.

I’m not offering false hopes. One small success will spark the next. This may be what you need to get you through today and tonight so that you’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow. Never give up your own fight.

These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.

Getting to “No” you. (11/28/14)

November 28th, 2014

Please click HERE to listen to podcast of this article.

I believe that many people, if not most of us, have a difficult time saying “No.” We aren’t able to say “No” to requests from others who want our time, talent, money, love, sex or mind. And we have a more difficult time saying “No” to ourselves. We buy things we know we shouldn’t. We go places and do things we know we shouldn’t. We say “Yes” when we’re fully aware that saying “No” would be in our own best interest.

This isn’t because we’re weak or stupid. It’s only natural that we all want to be helpful to others and to be liked and popular. We think that by saying “Yes” to requests we will be liked and popular. Or maybe you say “Yes” because you fear saying “No.” You fear that there will be some argument or repercussions if you say “No” and you don’t want to deal with it. You might fear that you’ll hurt someone’s feelings or you fear that they may get angry and hold it against you. Maybe you feel embarrassed to say, “No, I don’t have enough money. No, I don’t know how to do that,” or “No, that goes against my principles and I won’t do it.” It might also be that you don’t have confidence in your own decisions and say “Yes” just to please or impress someone else. There are plenty of reasons why you don’t say “No” when you should. Just spend a moment to think about a few times when you wanted to say “No” but didn’t. What was the real reason?

Some years ago a good friend of mine who is a singer and popular performer told me, “Mark, the most powerful word in entertainment [and business] is No.” In business and entertainment, the word “No” protects you from being abused, mistreated, taken for granted or underpaid. The word “No” helps build a sense of worth, value and self-esteem. It will do the same in your personal life. You may miss out on some opportunities by saying “No,” but you’re less likely to compromise yourself and fall prey to self-destruction and lowered self-esteem.  Say “No” to preserve your dignity.

People will sometimes try to guilt you into changing your “No” to a “Yes.” You don’t have to be rude when you say “No” and it doesn’t mean that you’re uncaring. You can present alternatives or say what you are capable of doing or what you are willing to do. If a friend asks you for money you can say, “No, I don’t have $500 to loan you, but I can help you go through your bills and figure out a budget and payment plan.” If someone you don’t trust wants to use your car you can say, “No, I won’t give you my car for the weekend, but I can give you a ride and I’d also like you to pay for gas.” If your buddy calls and asks you to go out and party you can say, “No, I can’t make it tonight, but we can get together next weekend and hang out, but I’m not just gonna go out boozin’. Let’s go to a movie or something.” And sometimes you can just say “No.” You are not always obligated to give further answers or explain why. The more times you say “No” to someone the fewer requests you’ll get from them.

I like giving real-life examples so please allow me to bore you with one of mine. I recently said “Yes” to something when I should have said “No.” I eventually offered alternatives, but I still ended up doing something I didn’t want to do. However, I learned some lessons from the experience and it was a clear reminder to me that I need to say “No” more often—and it also reminded me of how easily a “Yes” can set the stage for a relapse. What I said “Yes” to doesn’t have anything to do with drinking, but the sequence of events shows how peer pressure can draw you into something you don’t want to do or how a relapse can occur because of one small “Yes.”

I was asked by a friend of mine to do some home repairs for a friend of hers. At first I said “No,” but my friend was pretty persistent. She didn’t beg me or guilt me, but she tried to persuade me by saying all the right things. “Mark, I know you’re so good at this stuff, you’re responsible and I trust you and they’ll pay you cash for your time. Can’t you at least just look at it?” First off, I didn’t have the time nor did I need the money. I already have a fulltime job and work 2 part-time jobs. But it was a request from a friend so I said “Yes” and agreed to at least take a look at the home and give my opinion of the needed repairs.

Well the home was a complete dump and it needed more repairs than I wanted to undertake. As I did my inspection of the property and gave my assessment of what needed to be done, the couple who owned the home kept asking me to do the work for them. I felt kind of sorry for their situation so I said “Yes” and agreed to do some minimal repairs, even though I didn’t want to do any of them. (I guilted myself.)

What I did was I allowed myself to be drawn in by not sticking to my original “No.” I began doing the repairs but then I found myself thinking about compromising my standards. The place was in shambles and such a mess that I began thinking, “Who cares if I drip paint on the floor or don’t do that good of a job, nobody will notice anyway.” And it dawned on me that this is what happens when we put ourselves in tempting situations or we’re surrounded by a drinking environment. We think, “Who cares? Everyone else is drinking. No one will notice.” That’s when I reigned myself in and said “No” to myself. “No. I won’t do a substandard job. I will do what I’m supposed to do and keep my self-dignity by doing a good job.”

After my repair work was completed I felt good that I stuck to my standards. I was proud of my work and proud of myself for not compromising. The couple asked if I would be interested in doing some other work for them. I pleasantly—and emphatically—said “No.” I gave no reasons or explanations. They kept asking but I kept saying, “No.” I don’t have any regrets for getting to “No” them. I retained my dignity and didn’t compromise my position.

Now that I’ve divulged how awful and coldhearted I am because of my willingness to say “No,” let me give examples of when I do say “Yes” even in situations where I don’t want to. I will say “Yes” to a request when I can make someone else’s life easier or happier. But my “Yes” is thought through first. If saying “Yes” doesn’t take me away from a prior responsibility, it doesn’t go against my principles and it doesn’t jeopardize my health or sobriety, then I will oblige the request. But even then I will establish boundaries of what I’m willing to do and will likely offer alternatives. For instance, I help out at a church to prepare and serve free meals to the underprivileged during certain holidays, but I won’t do it every weekend. I don’t help out because I have strong religious feelings or any sense of spirituality, I do it because it makes the couple who ask me to do this happy. It takes a few hours of my time and I usually meet some interesting people.

Because of my mechanical aptitude I am often asked by my friends to look at their car, home, RV or boat and give them my impression of what needs to be repaired or replaced. I’m usually willing to say “Yes” to those requests and I may even offer to do some of the repairs myself. But I’m also willing to say “No” if I don’t have the time or the job is beyond my skill level. And if I do say “No” I will offer an alternative or some suggestions.

Saying “No” to someone’s request isn’t being mean. It’s a way to protect yourself from harm and to retain your dignity. However, the most important person you must learn to say “No” to is yourself. You need to be able to tell yourself: “No, I’m not going to drink even if I do feel sad, mad, depressed (whatever). No, I’m not going out with those guys because I’ll just get into trouble. No, I’m not buying that because I can’t afford it. No, I’m not going to do that because it’s a waste of my time or it goes against my beliefs. No, I’m not going to put up with this abuse any longer. No, I’m not going to live like this anymore.”

Once you’ve told yourself “No,” what alternatives will you come up with? What will you do instead? Those answers are yours and yours alone. You must decide what will be best for YOU. Don’t be afraid to say “No.” It’s a powerful word and using it more often may just preserve your sobriety and your dignity.

Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.

The changing perspective of a non-drinker. (10/21/14)

October 21st, 2014

Click HERE to listen to Podcast of this blog article.

I’m thrilled that someone sent me an email with a question and suggestion for a blog article. Here’s the question Janice posed to me:

Mark. As one of your readers I thought to suggest a blog article about re-entering the world sober. You’ve written on the subject in your books and I am curious if you have a different perspective at this juncture in your life.

Maintaining sobriety in an environment without alcohol or drugs is certainly much easier than the opposite. It is also very easy, in theory, to state how having fun with friends (whom are able to partake without becoming psychopaths), is not tempting. However, for me, it is not easy and it is tempting which is unbelievable given my experience and knowledge of self. Getting past this point of uneasiness is where I am personally at in my almost 6 months of sobriety and figuring out how to navigate it for myself is the task at hand. Thanks for any insights you can offer.

Well Janice, my perspective on drinking, drugs, money, relationships, entertainment, recreation, physical fitness and education have all changed and evolved since I stopped drinking. I just recently passed 9 years of being clean and sober and I look forward to even more changes in my perspective. But you’re at 6 months sober, so let me start at my beginning.

I learned a lot when I re-entered the world sober and then as a non-drinker. Those two things may sound like the same but they’re very different, at least to me they are. Sobering up was a physical and emotional process that took about two years to fully jell. The physical recovery of my body and organ functions took about 6 months. During that time I started feeling physically stronger, healthier, I slept better and my digestive system was becoming accustomed to eating good food. This didn’t just happen one day. It was a slow, almost unnoticeable evolution. There were burst of progress. When I first quit I felt pretty good. No hangovers, not as tired and sickly. But my body (organs and digestive system), were accustomed to functioning with the chemical of alcohol. After about 10 days of no drinking all of a sudden my body didn’t feel so good. My sleeping became irregular, breathing was harder at times, I would sweat like a pig in heat for no reason at all and my guts were all fucked up. Whatever I ate I pooped like a goose. All those discomforts slowly went away. But I had to consciously take notice of it. When I consciously recognized that I was physically doing better, my mind and thoughts became more stable. I then signed up for a membership at a health club and jumped back into a regular and rigorous exercise routine. This helped me feel even better physically and it also helped with my self-esteem and mental attitude. Physical exertion brings more oxygen into the bloodstream and that’s good for the organ of the brain. Physical exertion also releases natural chemicals into the body which will help you feel better mentally.

But my emotional and mental recovery took closer to two years. I was an emotional mess for about the first year. Crying and feeling hurt and alone. I suppose it didn’t help that I was also going through a divorce. I stopped drinking in an attempt to salvage my marriage, but my wife continued drinking, so we were going in completely opposite directions. We weren’t friends anymore because we didn’t drink together. Now my former wife isn’t here to give you her side of the story, so it isn’t fair for me to air dirty laundry. I can only give you my side. Ultimately I couldn’t be around the drinking environment that was in our home, so I had to make the painful choice to leave.

After my divorce was final I did go out with my buddies to bars and clubs, but I didn’t really have any fun. I wasn’t tempted to drink. I was sober and my mind was becoming clearer and I didn’t like what I would see. I’m by no means a prude, but I was turned off by a lot of behaviors I saw and I found myself completely turned off by drunk women. I really didn’t know what else to do for recreation or entertainment, my whole life had been centered around drinking, and I wanted to feel “normal,” and I thought that going out to bars was what I was supposed to do.

I felt disingenuous when I was out at bars and clubs. I thought, “What the fuck am I doing here? I don’t drink. I don’t like drunk broads and I don’t want to hang out with drunks.” Without being conscious of it my perspective on drinking was changing. I became very introverted when I was at bars, so instead of going out I started to isolate myself at home.

After the sobering up process ran its course (about 2 years) is when I realized I had evolved into a non-drinker. I no longer felt like an “alcoholic” or a “recovered alcoholic.” If I don’t drink how can I be an alcoholic? As a non-drinker some of my social activities changed and my perspective of entertainment and recreation changed. But that was a result of the change in who I wanted to spend my time with. I still like to do a lot of the same things, but it’s with different people now. I don’t like going golfing with 3 drunks. I don’t like going boating or fishing with a group of drunks. I don’t like going to sporting events with drunks. I don’t even ask for a second date if I take a woman out to dinner and she pounds down a bunch of drinks. I don’t care if someone wants to drink socially or drink heavily. I just don’t want to deal with it and I don’t have to.

My perspective and my own behavior in bars and clubs has changed. I like going to a Sports Bar or Hooters with my buddies to watch a football game, I’ll even be the Designated Driver, but I don’t like going and sitting at a bar so I don’t offer my services as a Designated Driver for that. And when I do go to a sports bar with my buddies I ask for a separate bill, I’m not going to split a bar bill with a bunch of drunks. I’ll even ask our waitress to put all the food on one bill—and give that bill to me—and put all the beer and drinks on another bill and let those fuckheads argue over who owes how much. What I think is funny is that the food bill is about half of what their bar bill is.

I’ve learned to embrace all of these changes and I accept that my perspectives are continuously changing. I have found that when I am in social settings I quietly slip away from the heavy drinkers and gravitate towards the sober, or less drunk people. It’s not that I become tempted to drink, I just don’t have any fun hanging around with drunks. I find them boring and repetitive. I know that sounds arrogant, but I don’t feel that I’m any better than anyone else or above drinkers. Actually, I don’t have any feeling towards them at all.

I believe that what’s more important than my changing perspective on drinking is my changing perspective on living. As a non-drinker my pursuit of what I consider to be real fun and real excitement has exploded. In the past 5 years I have done more genuinely exhilarating, crazy and dangerous things than I ever did as a drunk. I have done, and lived through things I never could have when I was drinking. My perspective on work, personal growth and creativity has changed since becoming a non-drinker. I hunger for new knowledge, I want to try new projects and get better at my job. As a non-drinker I have a better perspective on being responsible, paying my bills and not overspending—I like not being all stressed out over money. But there are also a lot of quiet times as a non-drinker.

Consider this. I’m sitting here alone, writing this article and recording this podcast. I’m not out partying, looking for a wild time, but I’m also not sad and feeling like I’m missing out on something. All I’m missing out on is drama, wasting money, wasting time and morning headaches. I’ve accepted that some parts of being a non-drinker are uneventful. But uneventful can be calm and relaxing. I’m okay with that.

Do I still feel that living sober sucks? Yes, I do. I would love to have a beer or two and go socialize with people. I would love to have a couple of drinks, relaxing and talking with an interesting woman. But I know that I would forget all about the conversation, and the woman, and just focus on getting drunk. I know that about myself, and I know from my own experience that living drunk sucks a lot more than living sober, so I will continue to live as a non-drinker.

I invite you to discover more about yourself and your own changing perspectives. Accept that if you want to live as a non-drinker some changes are going to happen and you may have to be the one to take control of those changes. If being around drinkers is too tempting and feels torturous, then don’t do it. Don’t look at it as a punishment or view it as if you’re missing out on something. Change your own perspective and view it as a challenge to discover something new to do and something new about yourself. This can be your first evolutionary change into becoming a full blown non-drinker.

Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.

I can’t lose weight for you. (09/07/14)

September 7th, 2014

Please click HERE to listen to podcast of this article.

Imagine that you and I go to exercise at a gym and your goal is to lose weight, but all you do is sit there and watch ME exercise. Maybe you do a few pushups or get on the Stairmaster for a few minutes but do no more. Then the next day you don’t even show up at the gym but I do. No matter how much weight I lift, how many laps I swim, how many miles I log on the treadmill, I can’t lose the weight for you! We can work out together and motivate one another, but YOU still have to get your own fat ass on the treadmill if you want to lose weight.

I see a lot of parallels between living as a non-drinker and going to a gym to exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise—you can do it at home—but there are reasons I believe you should go to a gym but I’ll get to them later. For now, how is it that I see sobering up, then living as a non-drinker and exercising similar? Well, they both really hurt at first. When you begin doing a daily exercise routine your body will be in pain. Your body will hurt so much that all you can think of is, “I can’t and don’t want to do this anymore. It hurts too much and it’s a pain in the ass to stop what I’m doing and go to the gym.” Any of that sound similar to the early days in sobriety?

But let’s say you’ve muscled your way through the first week or two of hitting the gym. The soreness is going away and you feel strong and revitalized. “Why didn’t I do this sooner? I feel great!” Then you get on the scale and you weigh no less than when you started. “Nothing’s happening. How come nothing’s happening? I thought I would lose weight and be happy?” You see no immediate benefit in going through all this. Sound familiar?

Now let’s say that you’ve been hitting the gym and exercising regularly for 30, 60 or 90 days. You feel great, you’re starting to see some progress and you feel pretty confident with yourself. “I don’t have to go today, I can skip a day, what’s one day?” That one day suddenly turns into a week and then two weeks. Next thing you know you haven’t been to the gym in a month. “Oh shit, I’ve gotta get to the gym. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then tomorrow comes, and the next day. Then it becomes easier to keep putting it off than to actually do it.

Once you do get to the gym you forget how much hard work it is and how painful it is for the first few days. It’s just as painful every time you restart as it was the first time you did it. And starting and stopping is a lot of stress on your body. You’re better off to either dedicate yourself to working out and exercising on a regular basis or don’t do it at all. Binge workouts do your body no good and you can actually injure your body.

When I see overweight people at the gym I applaud and compliment them. “You should be proud of yourself, you’re doing something to improve your health.” I don’t ask how much weight they’ve lost—this isn’t a contest. I don’t care where you were, I want to know where you want to go. I ask what their goals are and what exercises their going to perform to achieve those goals. I also applaud them because I know that it’s extra hard work to exercise a larger body. As they lose weight there’s less mass to move around and exercising gets easier. I work out with some very strong guys and because of their bulk and large size they struggle to do some of the flexibility exercises I easily do. They can bench-press double what I can but they can’t do half the pull-ups I can. We understand that and don’t laugh or make fun of each other, we push each other to achieve within our own limits and congratulate on what is done. This is not a contest—it’s friends with a common goal helping to motivate one another.

And that’s where groups like AA come in. I’ll openly say that I don’t attend AA and I don’t endorse it, but I won’t dissuade you from going or criticize you for following it. I see AA meetings and having a sponsor as similar to going to a gym and having a workout partner. You do it together and you emotionally support one another. In the gym, I can’t lift the weights for you and you can’t lift the weights for me. We each must lift our own weights, but we can push each other along. Sometimes you need a spotter and at other times you will be the spotter. (For those of you who don’t know what a “spotter” is, it’s having someone strong standing next to you while you lift weights, to help out if you get stuck or the barbell is about to crush your face! The spotter doesn’t do the work for you—they yell at you and compel you to do the lifting yourself—they’re your safety net if you get stuck.)

Sobriety and physical fitness are also similar in the way people will ask, “How did you get in such good shape? I want that, I want to be like that, I want what you have.” And just like sobriety (and some AA materials mention), you respond with, “I can show you how.” That’s when I add, “But I can’t lose the weight, build your body or live sober for you—you will have to do the hard work yourself and be dedicated to yourself.”

That concept scares a lot of people. “I was hoping there was an easier way to (get sober, stay sober, lose weight, build strength, whatever).” Sorry, but there is no easy way, there is no detour around the sewer. I come right out and tell the people who want an easy way, “Look, if you want to spend the rest of your life fat, drunk and broke, I don’t care. That’s your choice and I won’t be hanging out with you. But if you’re willing to do the work, I’ll show you how, but I can’t do it for you.” I would rather seem heartless but honest, than lie and give people false hope.

Now, on to why I recommend and endorse membership in a gym:

Going to a gym consumes time and keeps you out of bars, at least for a few hours. I may not always feel like going to the gym, so I force myself to go, and once I get there I jump right into my workout. When I’m all done working out and showered up I don’t have time to hit a bar. I have to get home, make dinner, get to my second shift job of writing, checking and responding to emails, podcasts, etc. I also have to prepare for my fulltime job that I have to be at the next morning. That’s why I go to the gym in the early evening. I’m too busy and don’t have time to get drunk at night.

Picking specific days and times that you go to the gym helps you develop a regular schedule that you follow—you’re practicing self-discipline.

You’ll be making a financial and personal commitment. Fulfilling commitments helps build self-esteem.

Going to a gym offers socializing and networking opportunities. You develop friendships with people because you have a common bond—a desire to live healthy. And both of you know that it requires dedication and work to hit the gym. If you go at the same time on the same days you’ll likely meet someone who has similar workout routines and health goals as yours and become workout partners. There are those days when I don’t feel like going to the gym, but if I’ve made a commitment to a workout partner you can bet your ass that I’ll be there.

There are a lot more benefits in going to a gym than I’ve mentioned here. Why not go discover what they are? And who knows, living healthy and strong may turn into a way of life for you.

So in conclusion. Working out, building strength, losing weight and sobriety are very similar. I can’t do it for you and no one else can do it for you. I can show you how, we can do it together and we can support one another. The bottom line is that you have to get your own fat ass on the treadmill and do it yourself. And I have the feeling that when you do, you’re going to feel great and you’ll be proud of yourself.

Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible.