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.

What will you do with all the money? (07/02/14)

July 2nd, 2014

Click HERE to listen to Podcast of this blog article.

So when you quit drinking and doing drugs, what will you do with all the money you’re no longer spending? Are you making the most out of your sobriety savings account? Oh, you don’t have one… Well buy my book and I’ll show you how to start one and explain what it is. Because if you don’t establish a specific “Sobriety Savings” account the money will just migrate to some other place and you probably won’t see the rewards of your efforts.

There’s a lot you’ll be able to do with the money in your sobriety savings account. You can pay for unexpected expenses, pay off off bills, start investing or buy cool stuff. But you might want to consider buying yourself some new and fun experiences with it.

Drinking and doing drugs is an experience. You want to experience the buzz and you want a feel-good experience. But maybe after a while it gets carried away and it isn’t a fun experience anymore. The dependency can cost more than the price of the substance itself through lost productivity, lost time, lost opportunities, lost relationships and lost experiences.

So if getting drunk is the act of pursuing an experience, why not use the money you’re no longer spending pursuing sober experiences? You can buy yourself fun experiences. You will be able to buy things or do things you wouldn’t have been able to afford as a drunk.

Let me give you an example of how it can work: If you stay sober for 3 months and stash away $10.00 a day, (c’mon, you can stay sober for 3 months), at the end of 90 days you’ll have $900.00 in your sobriety savings account. Then YOU decide what experience you want to buy for yourself.

Stuff might be necessary to allow for the experience to happen. Go buy a tent and some basic camping gear then go out on a fun camping weekend. Or buy a bunch of fishing gear for you and your kids and take them fishing. Save enough and you might be able to afford a boat, camping trailer or RV. The “stuff” simply allows for the experience to happen.

I ran into a fellow camper here at Bahia Honda Key State Park. (By the way, I would never be experiencing this had I continued drinking.) And he commented on the lettering all over my RV. We got to talking and he’s been a non-drinker for a little over 5 years.

Out of the blue, and with no prompting he said, “I did the math on how much I was spending on booze. I figured I was going through 12-to-15,000 a year! My buddies at work ask me how I can afford to come hang out in the Keys a couple times a year. I tell ‘em it’s because I don’t go hang out in the bar with them after work anymore. I don’t drink so I can afford all sorts of cool shit. I just bought my ol’ lady this bad-ass looking butterfly montage at an art shop in Key West. I would have spent twice what that thing cost on a weekend of drinking and I wouldn’t be hangin’ out here in the Keys.” He’s spending his booze money on experiences.

I found our conversation a bit ironic because I was walking around on the beach contemplating how I would structure this article. This helped jell my thoughts together.

We were seeking an experience through drinking. So to reward ourselves for not drinking, why not use the money we’re no longer spending buying booze and buy ourselves some new and fun sober experiences? YOU decide what you would like to experience. Establishing a specific “Sobriety Savings” account will afford you the money to do this for yourself and for the people you care about.

Think about this for a minute. Wouldn’t it be cool to afford to do some fun things with your kids or loved ones simply because you no longer drink? Just think about it.

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.

The BEST advice ever: (06/25/14)

June 25th, 2014

Click HERE to listen to Podcast of this blog article.

The best piece of advice I can pass along is this: “Don’t make the same mistake twice.” While this is great advice it really requires deeper thought and review of the principle. So what does this advice actually entail?

Some people take this advice too literally and it holds them back from ever trying something or trying something again. If you were laid off from a job once does that mean you should never get another job because you might get laid off again? If you were in a bad relationship or marriage does that mean you should never get into another relationship or marriage? Does this also mean that you should never trust a person who disappoints you, or if you’ve been disappointed by one individual you never trust anyone else?

You can call these instances “failures” or “failed attempts” if you wish. But they’re really just inconvenient occurrences (some more dramatic than others), but inconvenient occurrences happen to everybody. I believe that the best thing you can do for yourself is to learn from these occurrences. You can learn to be more cautious in the future and to pay more attention to signals and red flags. What this means to me is that one shouldn’t shy away from things that failed once, but instead, one might consider a different approach. Or changing the conditions may help avoid making the same mistake again.

When I was drinking I kept making the same idiotic mistakes over and over again. Then to massage my way through I would try to drink the mistakes away. My mistakes and subsequent problems weighed on my mind so I self-medicated with booze and drugs. I wasn’t just trying to hide from my problems—I genuinely liked getting high and drunk. But in that drunken state of mind I would turn around and make the same mistake over again the very next day.

So here’s what I suggest you do when you make a mistake: Review why, what or how something went wrong. Look honestly at yourself. What role did YOU play in this? What was your part? Did you or your behavior have something to do with how events transpired? Maybe you just made a faulty decision in the first place based on incorrect information or on delusional or wishful thinking (like thinking you’ll get rich quick on a poor returning or losing investment for example). But don’t become too mired down in placing blame on yourself or someone else. And don’t become too mired down in finding all the answers. Sometimes shit happens due to events or conditions that you have no knowledge of—or may never have any knowledge of. Losing a job or being passed over for a promotion for instance. You might think you know why you were passed over, but there most likely were events, conditions and decisions that took place behind the scenes which you may never be aware of. Don’t get too mired down in trying to find out all the details.

You can completely shut yourself off from ever trying something again—but all you’re doing is robbing yourself. Use some caution and common sense in the future. Don’t keep putting your own hand back in the blender thinking that it won’t cause damage this time or hurt as much. Some things you have to tell yourself, “I’m not going to do that again.”

I want you to be just like a good scientist or engineer. They don’t just look for successes and what works, they look for errors, what doesn’t work or what went wrong. They then correct the error and don’t make the same mistake again, but they don’t stop trying. YOU are the scientist and engineer of your life. To obtain success you have to try something, see if anything went wrong, discover what it was that went wrong or what influenced the wrong outcome, but you don’t stop trying.

And just because something didn’t work as well as you hoped for, or didn’t work out at all doesn’t mean it was a failure. And mulling “after the fact” that you could have done better is a waste of time. This only mires you down in self loathing and feelings of inadequacy. I’ve learned a lot about controlling this emotion through my work in the financial industry. Be happy with what you DID gain or DID learn and don’t fret over “what you could have had.” Learn from it and maybe approach things differently next time. But at least be happy and proud that you tried.

And it’s the same with sobriety. If you’ve failed once, twice or maybe a dozen times, then try again. If one method, system or program doesn’t work for you, then try something else. Don’t just give up and say, “I’ll never be able to quit.” And the same goes for relapses. I’m not advocating having a relapse or a stumble, but they do happen. So try to figure out what went wrong. Was it the people you hung out with? (You can’t blame them for partying if they’re partiers. You put yourself in the situation.) Was it where you went? Was it because you didn’t have an escape plan? Try to determine what your mistake was and then don’t make the same mistake again.

And don’t say, “It was an accident.” Relapses aren’t accidents. No one accidentally poured booze into your mouth and then you accidentally drank it. If you want to stay a drunk it’s pretty easy, just keep drinking. I’m sorry to say this but chances are very good that some drastic changes will have to take place if you sincerely want to live as a non-drinker. You may have to change your environment. You may have to change who you hang out with. You may have to change what you do for relaxation or recreation. You may need to quit stopping at the same store on your way home from work, take a different route home or even shop at different places or different times. You really do need to look at what role you and your own behavior play in this.

So regardless of whether it’s booze, drugs, money, business, a relationship, a job, sports, whatever. Learn what you can from the mistake and don’t make the exact same mistake again, but please don’t ever quit trying. If you quit trying you’ll only be robbing 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.

Pulling yourself out of a funk. (06/18/14)

June 18th, 2014

Click here to listen to Podcast of this blog article.

Bad luck happens to everybody. But I’ve come to see that it isn’t always “bad luck” which is occurring, it’s more a matter that things aren’t panning out as I had hoped for or expected. This perceived “bad luck” is very often the result of actual actions and behaviors. When I was drinking I often had delusional thinking, thinking that I would be lucky at this or that. But when things didn’t work out—and failure occurred more often than success—I just took it in stride and chalked it up to “bad luck.” And bad luck was always a great excuse for me to drink more, usually resulting in more failure and bad luck.

When I sobered up I was able to see more clearly that my “bad luck” was often a result of my drunken decisions and actions. My drunken thinking and drunken lifestyle put me right at the front of the line when bad luck was being handed out. That makes sense because there is a clear correlation between bad decisions and bad results.

Soon after I quit drinking it seemed like nothing was going right and that nothing would ever go right and that things were getting even worse. It seemed like bad luck just kept following me. But that’s because I wanted immediate results. “I thought sobriety would change this?” Then, when I calmed down and my mind, body and emotions were working in sober unison I could clearly survey the situations, I could see that things actually were improving.

As my time in sobriety passed I saw certain types of bad luck evaporating. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everything started going my way, but fewer bad things happened and there appeared to be light at the end of a couple of tunnels.

Oh, but then as I had more sober time under my belt the “perceived” bad luck came back to visit again. But this was only a side effect of being involved in more and greater things. It’s a simple mathematical equation that if you attempt more things and attempt to reach higher achievements there will be a higher frequency of failures and disappointments.

So this brings me back to my question: “How do you pull yourself out of a funk when you’re sober?” I don’t mean one or two instances of bad luck, but a long protracted period of time where it seems like nothing is going right. How do you change your luck or get through the rough times when you can’t simply drink your blues away?

Some people will say, “Pray.” If that makes you feel better and gives you hope who am I to say that’s wrong? Do I believe that “praying” works? Well I personally don’t hold any beliefs in a religious deity, and I also find it hard to believe that any such religious deity would show favoritism to those who “pray” to Him or Her. However, I do believe that praying activates subconscious thinking, and that thinking directs the individual towards making wiser decisions and taking positive action. Again I must point out that no one has any empirical proof that praying works or doesn’t work. But if praying helps you feel better, if it calms you and you believe in it, then do it.

Grand ambitions and high aspirations also bring bigger disappointments. This is one reason some people don’t pursue high aspirations—or if they do have fanciful dreams—they don’t have tangible working plans to reach their aspirations. Knowledge of what work must be done and knowledge of personal limitations can be deflating. Dreaming is easier than doing.

Part of my sobriety is that I do have some pretty lofty goals and I understand that many of them may never be fully reached. This also means that when I have more things that I want to accomplish there will be more things that can go wrong or disappoint me. That’s when a series of disappointments can suddenly look like a run of bad luck. It appears that whatever you touch falls apart or turns to dog shit. At that stage a couple things happen. You try harder and may fail more—feeding the feelings of bad luck. You may also feel so deflated that you quit all efforts entirely and you become gun shy of making any future attempts at anything.

I have had my fair share of protracted strings of bad luck. That’s when I get down into a funk and I don’t even feel like trying anymore. When that happens, what I must do is remind myself that disappointments can happen because I’m trying to do so many things. Remember that if your goals aren’t high, or you have no goals at all, then you will have less chance for failure or disappointment. But you can also be assured that you have no chance for great things to happen.

So here’s what I suggest if you find yourself in a funk of bad luck. Disengage if you can. Don’t quit entirely on the effort—but stop for a period of time. Regroup and build your strength. Just like a pulled or strained muscle, the muscle needs time to heal and then slowly put it back into use. Even if it’s limited use it must be used to build strength again.

Persistence and patience, both can be part of disengagement. While disengaged you’re being patient but you still need to be persistent even if it’s at a lower effort. If I’m battling what I perceive to be bad luck I try to work on various projects or goals that I know for certain that I really can’t fuck up. I’ll do some thorough house cleaning, laundry or some other easy to perform task.

And sometimes you have to actively search for the tiniest nugget of success or good luck. When I take the time to do this I can see that everything isn’t going wrong. It also helps me keep my expectations in check. The smallest thing can get my thinking going in the right direction. (Quick repairs, noticing traffic is blocked going the other way, etc.)

Even writing this blog article and recording this podcast is an exercise in pulling myself out of a funk. I’ve got pages and pages of notes. I have numerous ideas and subjects for articles, but I don’t always feel like working on it—thinking is hard work—which I’m sure most of you know and we’ll avoid it at any cost. Besides, I make no money from this, I get very little feedback but plenty of criticism. However, I know that I’ll feel better when I have created and accomplished something and I’m practicing the craft of writing. So I force myself to do it and it does perk me up a little.

I’ve also noticed that I can’t force the funk out, but it will go away if I am patient and let it happen. As long as I’m constructive and productive, things do start to flow in a positive direction. But again, I must be patient and take note of when the tide is changing and constantly remind myself that more goes right than goes wrong. And just because I say “things are going right” doesn’t mean they’re unfolding as I wish for or hoped for. I have said often: “Things don’t always work out for the best, but you can make the BEST out of how things work out.” That’s what I’ve learned to do when the tide is changing towards the positive. Just because things aren’t unfolding exactly as I want, I exploit my own good happenings and make the best out of them. This causes me to think creatively and I’ll often find alternatives to my plans or wishes that serve me just as well, if not even better.

When I don’t look for instances of good luck I can fall into a funk, and that’s when sobriety can feel like a wasted effort. But I also know that getting wasted won’t change my luck for the better either. When I’m depressed or feeling a funk, drinking sounds tempting. I fully understand that living sober will NOT automatically cure all of my problems. External forces and conditions can and do play a role, but the funk is within me and I must be calm, patient and work at getting the funk out. And it truly is easier for me to get the funk out with a clear mind and clean body.

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.

Appreciation.

April 19th, 2014

Please click here to listen to FREE podcast of this article.

Why is it that scarcity sparks appreciation? Songs, poems, stories, books and movies all use the theme; “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Ever notice that if it’s been cool, cloudy or rainy for a week the first glimmer of sunshine lifts your spirits, even if it remains cool? Health, relationships and money fall into this category. When you have them in abundance they all begin to seem commonplace, but when they’re gone you sure do miss them.

I don’t believe that this is a mental flaw of the human psyche; I believe it shows the power of adaptation. We are amazingly capable of getting used to whatever conditions exist—good or bad. This helps us survive and power our way through the shitty times but it can also dampen the high of appreciation and enjoyment, and not just with simple joys in life.

I’m sure that you’re more stable and mature than I am, but I’ll admit that I find myself rapidly adapting and growing accustom to conditions that exist, especially when things are going well or things are in abundance. For instance, I travel a lot so I get to see a lot of beautiful places. The day I arrive somewhere new I can hardly wait to get out and go for a walk along the beach, the woods or wherever. By day three I’m not as excited, “I’ll get to it,” or “I’ll go tomorrow.” My beautiful surroundings and environment become, “just another day,” and before I know it I’m leaving the beautiful environment behind and I’m stuck driving a 20 ton bus pining to be back on the beach. My own adaptation and lack of appreciation gets in the way of letting me take advantage of the moment.

I can’t say that all people experience this. If you love chocolate and eat it every day that doesn’t mean you’ll grow bored of it or stop liking it, but you may not get the same high level of pleasure from it, maybe. This isn’t just a mental or emotional phenomenon, it happens physically as well. The more frequently you drink or use a substance, the greater your physical tolerance builds, then you need more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. That’s when dependency can set in and you need the substance to simply feel normal—even if you’re not getting a buzz or any enjoyment from it.

It just seems to me that when you don’t have genuine appreciation for something you end up seeking and searching for something else that brings that sensation of excitement back into your life. This often leads to dangerous behaviors or experimentations which can then turn into dependencies—or simply screw up what you already have—a job, money, relationships or marriages for example.

Scarcity can (and usually does) rekindle appreciation. A lot of times nature helps out and creates scarcity in our life through loss, bad luck or some other undesired circumstance. Think about your own life for a moment here. What loss or occurrence of bad luck have you encountered that helped rekindle your sense of appreciation for someone or something?

I’m sure that when things are scarce you try to conserve and make the most of what you have. Recreational drugs users do this by default. If you only have a little bit of weed left you try to make it last. But as soon as you get a big bag of weed you’re rolling joints the size of a Louisville Slugger—until weed becomes scarce again.

I am aware of my own natural tendency to overuse what I have in abundance so I will purposely hide things or make them inaccessible to me. Why would someone sacrifice, forego or purposely create scarcity? To regain appreciation of what they might already have in abundance. I feel that this can be done without throwing yourself into a morass of martyrdom and suffering. You can create your own scarcity without giving away your savings and living like a monk, just cut back or stop using something you have in abundance for a short time. You may find that you only need to do this once in a while to regain your appreciation of something.

One can even experience appreciation through failure. Simply knowing that you attempted (and most likely learned something from the attempt), can bring appreciation. As an example you might gain an appreciation for how difficult something is—like losing weight, staying sober, earning an MBA, starting a business or writing a book—thus admiring and emulating those who have done what you tried to do or will attempt to do again. You can appreciate how difficult these things can be.

You may not need to reinvigorate your level of appreciation. You may be the most grateful person to ever walk the planet. But I do believe that we all experience some degree of emotional complacency when conditions of abundance exist. This is in no way an inference that you are an ingrate or a spoiled brat. This is just a natural and normal mental condition for humans. You may personally live a life of abundance (most of us in America actually do compared to the rest of the world), and there are ways to boost your level of appreciation.

I certainly don’t rob myself of enjoyment or live like a pauper, but I do force myself to use things as a treat even if I have them in abundance. This helps my level of appreciation. I do what I can to savor the moment. I also try to add variety to regular routines to make them feel different. I like the same cut of meat and I never grow tired of steak. But I will change my seasoning combination, change the method of cooking or sit at a different place at the table. I know this all sounds silly but it creates variety. It sometimes helps me appreciate my tried and true methods more or I may discover that the new method is even better. Even the slightest variation on a regular routine can make it exciting again. (Look, I’m more perverted than you are but I’m purposely keeping this subject clean, but I think you get my drift.)

There’s always a fine balance to find. I certainly don’t suggest punishing yourself or accepting a poor or substandard existence. I think it’s natural to seek better conditions and more of almost everything. But a little scarcity or a little less use—of what you have in abundance—may help you appreciate what you do have. Why be part of the song lyric, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

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.

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time to check this out. Mark Tuschel

Is freewill and choice only an illusion?

March 17th, 2014

Please click here to listen to the podcast of this article.

It’s not always easy to simply choose not to drink. But if you’re serious about staying sober you can choose your environments which will then help you not drink or make it impossible to drink. “Oh really Mark? Please tell me how because everywhere I go there’s booze. I can’t even turn on the TV without being tempted.”

I agree, it’s tough. Booze is everywhere. If you happen to need food you have to go to a grocery store. What’s also in a grocery store? Beer coolers, the wine and liquor department. There are end-caps and mid-aisle displays of beer and chips for whatever Holiday is looming. Usually, right next to all the organic fruits and vegetables is a shelf filled with local micro-brews. Right on the other side of the yogurt and fruit drinks cooler is the cooler filled with Coors, Corona, Bloated Shark and Budweiser. Just around from the chips are shelves of Yellow Tail, Franzia, Piss Orchards and House of Sewage. Stores are selling legal products and they just want to make it easy for you to buy more of these legal products.

I’ve got the feeling that somewhere, at some grocery store or Walmart, the store manager is a former drunk. How do you think he or she must feel about stocking aisle after aisle of beer, booze and wine? How do you think they control themselves? I’m sure some have quit their job because of either the temptation or they felt like hypocrites. But the fact remains that alcohol is a legal product.

So what do you do if you want to stay sober? Use your brain and your freewill. Many grocery stores are open 24-hours a day and most are open until 11pm or midnight. Typically, a grocery store can’t sell alcohol after 9pm or on Sundays (which I discovered in a panic while skiing in a small town in Colorado). So, do your grocery shopping after 9pm or on Sundays. This might be inconvenient (because the butcher isn’t in or the fresh bakery counter is closed), but it may be what you need to do—for now—to save you from drinking tonight. You’ll be using your freewill and your freedom of choice to shop when alcohol can’t be purchased.

We can’t just establish laws to make life easier for a select few (us former drunks, me included). How would you have felt when you were a drinker if some law was passed that said booze can only be bought from certain stores, or it was made illegal altogether? (We tried that once—it didn’t work.) And just because recreational drugs are illegal did that ever stop you?

So yes, we do have freewill, we do have the freedom of choice and we do have motor control over what we do with our own hands. (No one ever physically forced a drink down my throat or shoved cocaine up my nose, I did it all under my own power.) But just because we have those freedoms doesn’t mean we can completely control our behavior and actions. I understand what takes place when someone is dependent upon a substance. No matter how bad you “don’t want to use” you suddenly find yourself using. Your preference may be to stay clean, but your prior behavior limits your capacity to make a choice or express your freewill. You no longer have “freewill,” your dependency makes you a puppet to your substance. It sounds mean but it’s the truth.

I had to be physically restrained when I quit cocaine. My buddy Fat Ernie handcuffed me to his couch for 3 days. He took me to the bathroom, he let me watch TV and read. His fat wife Fat Barb made me dinner and they got me through it. There was no other way for me to stop, no matter how badly I wanted to. I had no freewill and I needed to be restrained. I will forever be thankful for what Fat Ernie and Fat Barb did for me. And by the way, they didn’t force me into that agreement, I asked them to do it. I used my freewill and freedom of choice to ask to be restrained.

I don’t believe that freewill or the power of choice is an illusion. But I do believe that very often our freewill is tempted and our freedom of choice is limited. For instance, if you’re sober and you want to go out dancing Dry dance clubs or Dry bars wouldn’t be very popular or profitable. Professional sporting events or concerts would lose a sizeable attendance and certainly wouldn’t be as profitable without beer sales. Grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations would miss out on a lot of revenue. I would rather learn to deal with temptation than have the government or some other organization deciding what I can or can’t buy, what I can or can’t do. It would sound ludicrous if I demanded all donut shops be closed and donut sales be banned because I’m overweight and can’t control myself around donuts. The same goes for alcohol. Just because I have a problem doesn’t mean everyone else should pay the consequences of my problem.

Another fact is that people don’t always make the best choices towards their own wellbeing, even though they try to. This is often due to lack of information, lack of education, lack of choices, past behavior history and acting on past choices. I believe the most confusing aspect of freewill and choice are powers and forces that are out of your control. I’m not talking about mystical or religious forces; I’m talking about forces you have no knowledge of and events that take place which you are completely unaware of. I’ll give an example.

Let’s say you’ve been at your present job for 3 years. You get paid $12.00 an hour. You hear about a similar job at a different company that pays $18.00 an hour. It’s a stable, well recognized company so you apply and get the job. Excellent choice. It’s a 50% pay increase and life is good. You start spending a bit more because you can afford it. What’s there to worry about?

But taking place behind the scenes you have no idea that the sales staff can’t secure an extension on a certain contract or get any new contracts and the company suddenly has to start laying people off. Anyone with less than 2 years seniority gets the ax and you’ve only been there 6 months. The position at your old job has already been filled and you’re out of luck. Suddenly your only choice—at the moment—is to take another job that pays $9.00 an hour or remain unemployed. Life isn’t too good right now.

It would appear that you made some bad choices, but you actually made good choices based on the knowledge you had at the time, but things took place that you were unaware of and totally out of your control. That’s what sobriety has been like for me. I still feel that I made the right choice to live as a non-drinker but many things have not gone as hoped or planned. Unseen forces and events, outside of my control have taken place. Writing about this isn’t just a way to share these thoughts with you, they’re good reminders to me as well. It’s a reminder that I do have freewill and I do have freedom of choice, even with constraints and limitations. All you and I can do is try to make the best out of things with the knowledge that we have.

Another fact is that each one of us is different and we are all at different stages of having the capacity to make good choices and exhibit freewill. Some people prefer and are better off being given directions and having their choices limited or made for them. Many of us evolve in our capacity to exhibit willpower and self-control once we sober up.

So you do have freewill and freedom of choice. You can choose to engage in the rest of the world and prepare yourself with a plan of self-control. You can plan ahead and limit your exposure to tempting environments. Or you can choose to lock yourself up and live within a cloistered or isolated environment. They are all your choice.

Just because we have freewill and freedom of choice doesn’t mean we have to exercise it. Believe me, there are a lot of things I would like to do, but I must choose not to. Even when we are faced with limitations and constraints, I believe that we each have more willpower and greater freedom of choice than we realize. I hope you learn to use them wisely and to your benefit.

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.

Does our past determine our future?

March 16th, 2014

Please click here to listen to the podcast of this article.

In many ways yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s absolute. Who we are today and the decisions we’ll make today and tomorrow often follow along our past experiences and behaviors.

Past experiences and past behaviors usually serve us well. It takes a lot of mental energy and time to think or rethink through every decision or purchase. It’s a lot easier, and time efficient, to go through the grocery store and grab a box of Cocoa Krispies, 2% milk, Doritos, etc. because that’s what you’ve always bought. It’s a lot easier to reach for a bottle when you’re bored or troubled than do something else, if that’s what you’ve always done.

In support of this theory, ask someone these questions about virtually anything, “Why do you do that?” Or, “Why do you do it that way?” The answer is often, “That’s how my dad (or mom) taught me. That’s how we always did it… that’s what we’ve always done.” While that explains part of the behavior, it doesn’t explain the rationale behind “why” it’s done or for what outcome is desired. That’s how our history forms our present and future behaviors. We don’t always know why or where these preferences and biases came from, but if you do a little thinking you might spot the trail. It’s not easy to let go of ingrained beliefs (and I’m not talking about religious beliefs here). You were exposed to traditions, attitudes and viewpoints in your past and you may not have had any control over it.

For instance, you may have grown up in a fairly normal family (like I did), and even if you didn’t sneak a drink, smoke cigarettes or smoke ratty weed with your friends when you were young, if your peers made the lifestyle look tempting then you would have had a bias towards trying those things as you got older. In my case, my parents didn’t have a stockpile of booze in the house that I could nip into. My siblings didn’t drink or do drugs so I couldn’t steal anything from my brothers. I had to work real hard as a kid to find “bad” friends.

So even though I didn’t get the chance to drink and do drugs as often as I wanted to as an adolescent, my past enamored impression of the lifestyle helped shape my future when I was old enough to pursue these adventures on my own. And that spirit of “adventure” continues to shape my present and my future, but it does it in a good way now.

Past behavior sets the stage to allow future behavior to follow a pattern. How many people have said, “I’m quitting smoking when cigarettes hit $5 a pack (or whatever figure). But then cigarettes go up in price and the smoker keeps smoking. Beer goes up in price and the drinker keeps drinking even if you make no more income or your income goes down. The brand may change but the purchases continue. Economists call this “Price elasticity.” (I don’t know why it isn’t called spending elasticity?) As I just mentioned, prices may increase but your personal demand doesn’t necessarily decrease—your brand may change to something you can afford or you forego buying something else (like food). I’m very familiar with this game. My preferred beer was Bud but it costs a lot more than Milwaukee’s Best. So if I had to pay for my own beer, I started with a couple of Buds, then switched over to some other cheaper brand. A buzz is a buzz.

The longer you do something, believe something or act a certain way, the more ingrained and natural it becomes. If you’ve “always” sat down and began drinking beer after you finished mowing the lawn, that’s what feels natural and it will be different to change that routine. But that new “present” will become your past and a new routine will become natural after a while. You can do something about your future by changing what you do in your present. It takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months for a change to become a natural behavior. “I can’t wait that long.” Well you have to start someplace and at some point in time, so why not now? Life takes a long time—usually until you stop breathing.

Your past becomes your present sooner than you think and you can become accustomed to your past sooner than you imagined you would. For instance, nobody likes to get a reduction in pay, but if it happens, after about 6 months you adjust, make a few changes and get used to it. (You may not like it but you do get used to it.) That present becomes your past and tomorrow will be your past in 6 months.

Very often, when there are no forces pushing you to change, you just continue along with past behavior. You may not be self-imploding but you may not be in a happy state either. An example is that a lot of people don’t save anything or plan for retirement until it’s too late, no matter what they’ve been told, what they’ve witnessed or how much they earn. Some people drink too much but that’s what they like and that’s what they want to do, no matter what anyone else tells them, so they continue along. Other people want to quit but they keep getting drawn back in. They might exhibit intense willpower in one area (or many areas) but they just can’t shake this one monkey off their back. I understand what’s taking place when someone is dependent upon a substance. No matter how bad you “don’t want to use” you suddenly find yourself using. Your preference may be to stay clean, but your prior behavior limits your capacity to make a choice or express your free will. You no longer have a “free will,” your dependency makes you a puppet to your substance. It sounds mean but it’s the truth.

I don’t claim that I have the exact answer for you nor can I tell you what action you must take or that it will even work. But I do know this much; If you continue in past behavior it will likely continue as future behavior. But here’s a caveat. Bad behavior doesn’t always produce bad results and good behavior doesn’t always produce good results (such as saving and investing for retirement). You may not see good results or receive the results exactly as you want them, but you also won’t see the bad results that you avoided. That’s the tough part about life and that can be confusing and it doesn’t seem very fair. But good behavior does stack the odds of having good results in your favor.

So if we know that our past does play a role in determining our future behaviors, what can we do? Well, do you like where you are now and where your future looks like it’s heading? If so, that’s great and your past behaviors are working for you. But if you don’t like how things presently are and you don’t feel very hopeful about your future then I suggest that you make efforts at changing your present behavior so that they will eventually become your past behavior. Change is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. It may not seem pleasant or like it’s worth it at first. But I believe that if you continue along with positive behaviors, the behavior changes you’ve undertaken will become your past and they will become more natural—with the hope that it will give you good results. And that’s what I wish to leave you with: HOPE.

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.

Not the AA I know

March 15th, 2014

I have been sober for over 30 years. I have never encounter the issues that you describe. I don’t have to do anything and AA do not force me to do anything. I don’t have to believe in anything eather. I only follow the path of successful people that has been sober for a long time. However I have a choice. The best thing that I got from AA is my ability to choose. That is real freedom. I don’t what AA are you talking about.
Best regards,

Bob M.

The power of Loss aversion and loss avoidance.

March 5th, 2014

Please click here to listen to podcast of this article.

I’m always promoting and talking about setting goals and moving forward, but there are a couple of other natural human behaviors which are just as powerful, helpful and might be more influential with you, depending on your personality.

We all hate losses and we all participate in some type of loss aversion and loss avoidance. Loss aversion is more in your thinking and loss avoidance is more in your behavior. Both are more prevalent in your life than you may realize. Insurance is a perfect example. You insure valuables (your car, home, health, life) to protect against a loss that you may or may not incur. (Other than dying which is inevitable—but you won’t be collecting on your life insurance.)

When you’re drunk or genked up you don’t have that same sense of loss aversion because your mind and thinking are altered. Drunken wishful thinking rules the day (or evening). “I’ll be fine. I can drive. I won’t get pulled over or get into an accident.” You’re not thinking clearly of what you can lose. When you’re drunk you’re not worried about losing anything, or maybe that’s why you are getting drunk—to forget about your losses?

It hurts to lose, it even hurts to see missed gains because they feel like losses. Any of you who have ever owned stock or some other investment like real-estate or collectables can relate to this. Let’s say you buy a stock for $8.00 a share and sell it for $9.00 a share. You feel great because you made money! But then you see that what you just sold continues to go up and all of a sudden it’s at $9.10. You feel like you lost. You missed out on .10 cents—and that perceived loss emotion overrides they joy of gaining $1.00. It’s crazy but that’s how it is. In my line of work I deal with this all the time.

Then your memory stores how you felt about the loss (not the actual amount of money you gained but the perceived loss of a dime) and that influences your behavior in the future. So you get greedy with the next investment and it goes up, but you’re greedy and wait. Suddenly it tanks and you’re down $1.00 per share. Your gut churns and you feel like crap. “Oh, why didn’t I sell when it was up?” But the fact is that you haven’t really lost anything (if you haven’t actually sold it at a loss). But the feeling of loss is very powerful. What you feel is often more powerful than what you experience.

Because we hate to lose we often hang on to things too long or simply never let go. This isn’t just investments—this includes friendships, relationships, jobs, beliefs and habits. Sometimes it does eventually pay-off to hang on to a losing situation, things can turn around. And that’s another type of loss aversion—hanging on to something—because mentally it’s not really a loss until it’s actually gone. (Why do you think guys like me keep stuff in our fridge way beyond its expiration date? I’m not lazy or think that I’ll eat it; I just want to wait until the Blue Cheese salad dressing is actually green before I throw it out. That’s loss aversion.) But deciding on when it’s time to “cut your losses” is a personal decision. Cutting losses often frees you to move in a new direction, but that new direction may not be any better than the old direction. I believe that it’s worth careful deliberation when thinking about “cutting your losses,” especially when it’s with friendships, a relationship, a job or moving.

In hindsight I can see all that I have lost because of my drinking (or at least I can see most losses—some losses will never be apparent to me). But now that I’ve been using my sober clarity of mind in the process of goal setting and reward techniques to rebuild my life, I don’t want to lose anything. Loss aversion keeps me from putting myself in dangerous situations where I could easily crack and lose what I have gained. I have a fear of loss if I were to start drinking and this is a good type of fear for me.

How do people deal with the fear of loss? As I mentioned earlier, insurance is one way. But the easiest way is to simply stay away from things. Some of you have been burnt by investments or hurt by certain habits or people—so you stay away from them. I stay away from booze, drugs, volatile investments and unstable people. I may be missing out on some fun or potential gains, but my loss aversion helps me play it safe, avoid losses and ultimately maintain my sobriety.

When it comes to maintaining your sobriety or just deciding to start on your sober journey, rewards and all you’ll gain are great to keep in mind, but loss aversion and loss avoidance may be just the thing for you. Gains are uncertain, but losses can be counted on. If you drink and drive you can count on something bad happening. You can count on losing your driver’s license. I lost my driving privileges for six months and I never want to lose them again so I don’t drink. If you keep drinking you can count on degrading health. You can almost count on bad shit eventually happening.

Sobriety doesn’t guarantee that you will gain or regain anything, but it will help you avoid losses. The fear of loss is normal so why not use it to your advantage in maintaining or starting your journey of sobriety?

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.

Is anonymity good, bad or irrelevant?

February 25th, 2014

Please click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Does anonymity allow for a person to be honest or does it create opportunity for them to lie or even become evil?

This article was sparked off some of the emails I received in response to a different blog article titled “What’s it worth?” In that article I asked readers to consider placing a monetary value on their sobriety. I gave an example of what my sobriety is worth to me in terms of cash value. Many of the messages and emails were angry and juvenile. “Oh aren’t you great! Well if I had your kind of money I would be rich too, etc.” Most of those messages and emails came from “anonymous” and alias email addresses so I was unable to respond.

I wasn’t trying to flaunt my net worth. Having saved up over $40,000.00 by simply NOT DRINKING isn’t flaunting anything. I was giving an actual example of what can be done. (Please check out that article.) The subject matter here in this article is about anonymity.

What happens to people when they can become anonymous? Are they likely to be more honest? Do they tend to massage the truth a bit more? Do they tend to create a different persona? Do they feel they can get away with things they wouldn’t do if their identity was known?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions about “anonymity” and there are many sides to this coin. People create “anonymous” email addresses and usernames so they can spout off on websites without revealing who they are. People can be an “anonymous tipster” to help law enforcement catch a criminal or to expose something evil in business or government. People create an “anonymous” avatar for gaming and online interaction so they can become anyone or anything they want to.

Anonymity can open the door to honesty and allow someone to speak freely. It can also open the door to deception and evil behavior.

When I allowed for anonymous comments on my website and blog I was stunned by all the hate mail I received. As soon as I changed it over so the individual posting a comment had to enter a valid email address the hate comments stopped. Hmmm, how interesting. Someone will gladly criticize and insult me as long as no one knows who they are. They can hide behind the mask of the keyboard. In all fairness, I do receive some very civil and intelligent emails from people who disagree with me. We don’t try to convert one another, we have open dialogue and they have actually helped teach me to be more objective.

When I launched my website 7 years ago I used my full name. I hadn’t even considered writing a book at that time, so I wasn’t trying to promote sales and I could have been anonymous. But the whole anonymity thing bothered me. We were all anonymous by first name only at meetings, unless you wanted to be my sponsor or we hung out socially after meetings. This seemed a bit cliquish or “in group” to me. And God forbid that we wave or acknowledge each other if we crossed paths at the gym or some other public place. So I decided to go public with my identity.

I was proud of what I was trying to do and I wanted people to know my name. This public announcement made me responsible for my future actions. Going public about my former life as a drunk and drug user has served me well. I have to live up to my word. I have made a commitment and the only way I can be publicly humiliated would be if I were to go back on my own word. At the time when I began my website and considered writing a book I didn’t know how important this “public admission” would be to my future sobriety.

I understand the principle of anonymity. It allows you to be able to discuss your own past openly and not have anyone outside of the meeting or web forum know who you are. We worry about our image and what people might think of us. There are genuine reasons why someone wouldn’t want their legal identity publicly bandied about. I understand why other people would like to remain anonymous. People can be evil and use things against you. I’m just presenting something to consider about the value of anonymity and what type of behavior it can foster.

I wonder if it would make for more informative and better meetings if people disclosed their full names? You can still keep private about your attendance and the names of others who attend—that’s really the anonymous part—not gossiping and protecting one another’s privacy.

If Brad Pitt goes to an AA meeting in Kansas, don’t you think people would know who he was? “Hi, my name’s Brad and I am an alcoholic.” “Hi Brad.” (I have no idea or personal knowledge if Brad Pitt has ever attended a meeting. I’m just using his name as an example.) I do know that there are special groups and special meeting places for certain types of careers like; doctors, law enforcement, executives, entertainers, mob hit men, etc. But in a way doesn’t that defeat the purpose of “we’re all the same”?

If you’re a local celebrity or some public figure, people will know who you are. In fact, no matter who you are, chances are pretty good that someone somewhere will recognize you. There’s always a realistic chance that a neighbor, relative or coworker may see you mulling around outside of a meeting or walking into a meeting. Who knows what they might think or gossip about you. It’s no different than if your grandma happened to see you walking into an adult video store. How would she know why you’re there or what you were doing? All she knows is that she saw you walking into an adult video store. How awkward is that going to be when you go to grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner. “No, honest grandma, I was going there to buy a gag gift for my friend that’s getting married.” And grandma’s thinking, “You were buying a gag alright you pervert.” Almost sounds like a Seinfeld episode. Too bad I was drunk then, maybe I would have gotten a job as a writer?

I firmly believe that your friends and family “know” who you are and how you are. Oh sure, you can hide things from your boss, your neighbors, your family and even your spouse. But it’s a lot of hard work to lead a double-life. It can be very freeing to say, “This is who I am. This is what I do and this is what I stand for.”

Now I’m not saying that everyone should or must go public about their alcohol use, drug use or every private detail of your life—that’s your own choice and it is a decision that should have your careful consideration. (Hell, I keep my political leanings private.) I’m simply posing a question: “Is anonymity good, bad or irrelevant?” And is it good for YOU?

In conclusion I have no brilliant conclusion. I do know that for me when I admit “ownership” I must be responsible for my behaviors and accept liability of the consequences, I cannot hide behind the mask of anonymity. For me, this means I need to think before I do. This holds me accountable not just to me but to you as well. I am not anonymous—my name is Mark Tuschel and these are my opinions.

Decide for yourself. Shedding your anonymity may be a tipping point for you. But be careful. It can be pretty humiliating to get caught going back on your word. And if you do go back on your word you will only have yourself to blame.

Your feedback is welcome, but please be YOU when emailing me.

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.