The ultimate power trip! (05/04/16)

May 4th, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

What is the ultimate power trip to you? Is it driving a fast car, a fast motorcycle, a fast boat? Is it making a big sale, operating heavy equipment or telling people what to do because you’re the boss? Maybe it’s none of those things or maybe it’s something completely different from what I mentioned.

To me, the ultimate power trip is when I exhibit self-control over my own behaviors, emotions, actions and words. I get to experience that power trip every day, multiple times a day, and so can you.

The ultimate power trip isn’t about controlling other people, it’s about controlling yourself. Self-control isn’t just about not drinking (or doing drugs), it’s about not arguing, it’s about not gossiping, it’s about not criticizing people, it’s about eating less or smaller portions if you’re on a diet, it’s about exercising when you don’t feel like it, it’s about not spending money that you don’t have, it’s about doing a job right and completely, it’s about NOT being a total asshole to everyone around you. Self-control truly is an exhilarating power trip. It not only benefits you, it benefits everyone you come in contact with.

Self-control is the foundation to living as a non-drinker and non-user. I have full control over my own hands and I use self-control to put my hands to good use. I decide whether I want to use my hands to pick up a bottle, a pill, a spike a pipe—or to NOT pick it up. I know that once I pick up the bottle and then use my own hands to pour it into my mouth, I have no control over what the substance in the bottle will do to my body or my mind.

For instance, if I pick up a bottle of Super Turbo Laxative and drink it, I have no control over what it will do to my body. I will be pooping like a goose in about a half hour. The substance is going to do what it’s supposed to do and I have no control over that. I know this is going to happen, so I exhibit the self-control to not pick up and drink an entire bottle of laxative. It’s no different with alcohol. I have control over whether I will pick it up or not. Once I pour it into my mouth, with my own hands, I have no control over what it will do to my body and my mind.

Substances like beer, wine, liquor and laxatives are designed to automatically change how your body normally functions. These substances do this without your consent. The only consent you have given is the self-controlled introduction of the substance into your own body. So don’t be surprised that you get drunk when you drink alcohol and don’t be surprised when you get a case of explosive diarrhea after drinking a bottle of laxative. But remember that you had total control of the substance before you willingly poured it into your own mouth.

Laxatives, like liquor, can be fine in small quantities. But too much at once or over an extended period of time can do you a lot of harm. A little amount of laxative may be helpful if you’re a bit bound up. But you still wouldn’t want to drink an entire bottle in one sitting and you wouldn’t drink it every day. I’m sure that if you were at a party or hanging out in a bar and someone offered you a bottle of Super-Turbo laxative you would have the self-control to say, “No thanks, I’m good.” You would exhibit self-control and not take a swig off the bottle.

You might think that my comparison of laxatives to liquor is ridiculous. You’re more than welcome to think that way. But if you were to seriously think about the comparison, I believe you’ll likely find some points of agreement with me.

#1: Too much of either can turn you into a mess.
#2: Drinking too much of either every day will be harmful to your body in the long run.
#3: Drinking either of them every day, even in small quantities, will change how your body normally functions.

I fully understand that self-control isn’t always that easy to exhibit. But it is easier when your mind isn’t already altered by some outside substance. Once you have allowed a mind or body altering substance into your bloodstream, that’s when you become physically powerless over it.

When disappointment, stress, struggles and temptation strike, YOU DO have the opportunity and the right to exhibit self-control. But just because you have the “right” doesn’t mean you will use self-control. I have every legal right to drink when I’m stressed, disappointed, going through struggles or simply tempted to drink, but I take the opportunity to then exhibit my self-control and not drink. I will only become powerless if I put the substance into my body.

I recently experienced a very disappointing situation. I was saddened by it. Then the more I thought about the situation the madder I got. I wanted to lash out at those who disappointed me. I wanted to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to pack up, leave and tell everybody “to go get fucked.” But with a little self-control I held off from doing all of those things. None of those behaviors would have changed the situation and I probably would have only made a bad, irrational decision and then would have made things even worse for myself. Instead, I used my self-control. I quietly listened as this disappointing news was delivered to me. The delivering party was a bit stunned that I showed no emotion. They were waiting for (or possibly expecting) some sort of outburst or backlash from me. So what I did was calmly say, “I’ll have to spend some time and evaluate this new information.” They were wondering (and still are wondering), what I’m going to do about it. I haven’t decided yet. But by exhibiting self-control I didn’t say or do anything that I will regret. And trying to drink away my sadness and disappointment would have been a huge regret. Even though I may be disappointed, I am NOT powerless.

I have heard it said that for those who claim that they are “powerless” there is nothing to turn to but superstition and then to blindly follow others who do have power. Self-control gives you power and it allows you to decide who or what you want to follow. If you want to follow a certain philosophy, political party, recovery system or religion, then exhibit self-control and make the decision yourself of whether you want to follow or not. Don’t just do it because someone else says you should do it. Self-control gives you the power.

Self-control may mean you have to pass on offers to go out and party with your friends. It may mean that you have to pass on all sorts of offers to go do things because you feel it might put you in a situation where you’ll be tempted to drink or use. I’m quite a few years into my life of being a non-drinker, so I’m able to make it through situations which may have been trigger temptations in the past or during the early stages of my sobriety. But now I find myself passing on certain invitations because some of these events or gatherings just aren’t fun for me to attend. It doesn’t bother me (or cause me to be tempted), when I hang out with people who drink socially or casually. I just don’t like hanging around drunk people. They annoy me and I have the self-control to get up and leave when I’m annoyed. I’d rather have the self-control to leave than to hang around and need to call on my self-control to not say shitty things to people.

In summary, the ultimate power trip isn’t had by controlling other people, it’s experienced by controlling yourself. Self-control puts the power back into your own hands and YOU can experience the ultimate in power trips every day. Bask in your own power, enjoy your self-control. Let your self-control guide you to do the right thing. Even if it’s saying “no” to an inviting offer, or by you deciding to go to a meeting, going to church or just staying home and exercising, reading a book, watching a movie or browsing interesting stuff on the internet. Your mind may crave and desire a substance, but the only time you become physically powerless over the substance is after you’ve willingly put it into your own body. Experience the ultimate power trip by exhibiting self-control and watch great things happen for you and for those around 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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

Do you really want what you want? (04/16/16)

April 16th, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

I have touched on this subject many times. You believe that you really want something (a new job, a new car, a new spouse, whatever), but will any of those things actually make a difference in your overall happiness? Sometimes getting what you think you want does make a difference. Getting a better or higher paying job can certainly help with your financial happiness. Getting into a caring and fun relationship can help. Getting out of a violent or stressful relationship is definitely a positive but it still may not help your overall happiness. In most instances I believe that what we really want is the feeling of happiness that we think we’ll get if we get what we want. Allow me to explain.

Advertisers take advantage of this all the time. Advertisers show (and tell) you how you’ll feel if you use their product or service. Apple computer’s shows people printing off beautiful reports, creating dynamic flyers and comprehensive spreadsheets. Then the person flies out the office door and is seen dancing happily in the street. Apple commercials don’t show someone sitting in front of a computer typing in data for hours on end or staring blankly into space trying to figure out what words to write into their manuscript. They show you the end result, and that end result is you feeling excited about being so creative and productive. Beer commercials do the same thing. They show how cool you’ll look dancing in the nightclub or having a great time at a picnic or while watching sports. They show you what you will feel like; they don’t show that you get that feeling by being drunk. Hell, I’ve felt good and excited while seal coating an asphalt driveway just because I was drunk. I got tar and shit all over the place but I had fun. It had nothing to do with productivity or a specific brand. I enjoyed myself because I was drunk.

Let me give you a real life example of wanting something. Let’s say that you think you want a new Smartphone (or whatever), and that this Smartphone will bring you happiness. You go buy the phone and you get the rush of buying it and you’re all excited. You take it home and begin using it. At that point you may get frustrated while learning about all of its features and various apps. Some features you may not understand how to make them work. After you’ve had it a couple of weeks you’ve grown accustomed to it and it’s a normal part of your life—it’s no longer a new toy and you might already be thinking about upgrading to an even newer version that sounds even more exciting. The phone itself (and all of its features and apps), may have helped make some areas of your life more pleasant, but did it bring you new friends? Did it really satisfy your desire for happiness? For some of you it might have. For other people it only served as a brief sensation of happiness and now you’re on to desiring a newer phone or some other toy.

I have fallen prey many times to thinking I wanted something, only to get what I wanted, and then what I wanted didn’t turn out as good as I thought it would or I only ended up wanting something else instead. I have found that when I honestly think about the end result that I’m searching for do I uncover what I am truly in search of. During the course of this thinking process I often discover an alternative to what I originally thought I wanted or I discover something completely different that works out even better.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting stuff or wanting something. I’m a self-proclaimed unapologetic capitalist. Nice stuff is great to have and nice stuff can and does bring me certain types of happiness. There’s nothing wrong with getting what you want. And the best part about getting what you want is that sometimes it turns out to be just as good or better than you had hoped for. But I am also conscious of the fact that happiness is an emotional state of living, and my happiness level is always changing and evolving. I don’t delude myself into thinking that one single item or fulfilled want will make me happy for eternity. I believe in the words of Thomas Jefferson that we all equally have the right to pursue happiness. To me, happiness is living and experiencing the pursuit of our wants and desires.

I believe it’s particularly important to think about and understand why you want something and what you hope the end result will bring about.

This brings me to the subject of sobriety. Do you really want to get sober or do you just want to have fewer problems due to excessive drinking? Maybe you just need to exhibit more self-control? Maybe all you need is a plan or a personalized set of guidelines and limits. Some of us aren’t able to stick to guidelines and limits once the first drink is poured into our mouth. So for those of us who have no control once we start drinking, complete abstinence is our best plan. But maybe for some of you all you need is a set of limits. I’m not trying to talk you into drinking and you can’t use me as an excuse to drink or to have a relapse.

You need to be honest with yourself about whether you want to live totally sober or almost sober. Be honest with yourself with what you hope (and think) sobriety will bring to your life. For instance, if you hope (and think) that sobriety will solve all of your personal, emotional, relationship, health and financial problems, you will be in for a rude awakening. Sobriety in itself won’t do it. YOU have to do it, but sobriety will allow you to approach your situations and problems with a clear mind and then you will have to take action to address and correct those problems.

I know what I want out of sobriety. I want a healthy body and I want a vibrant mind. I want to use my limited finances wisely. I want to have fun and enhancing interactions with other people. Living sober doesn’t automatically give me all of these things. I have to take action and put forth effort to pursue these wants. I use my sober, clear mind to make an exercise plan and then I need to use my self-control to take the time to exercise. I must also use my sober brain to take the time to exercise my mind through reading and furthering my knowledge and education. I must exhibit self-control over my spending and I must engage with interesting and thoughtful people. I can’t just sit back and say, “Alright, I’m sober. Go ahead body get fit. Go ahead mind, get smart. Go ahead Mark, be happy.” It is through the pursuit of these wants which makes me happy. Living as a non-drinker improves my chances of getting what I want from sobriety.

Do you REALLY want what you think you want?

I encourage you to think for yourself. I encourage you to deeply ponder what you want. I ask that you think beyond what you want and think about what the result of getting what you want will be.

This isn’t intended to discourage you from wanting better things and wanting different conditions. Having goals and desires is what motivates you forward. I’m encouraging you to think more about what you REALLY want. This will aid you in controlling impulsiveness. Impulsive actions often lead to regretful actions followed by regretful results. By truly knowing what you REALLY want you will be in a better position to take more control of your actions in the pursuit of your own happiness.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

What will you do TODAY? (03/31/16)

March 31st, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

If you hear yourself saying, “Same old shit, different day,” then you have fallen into a mental rut. There’s a quick way to get out of that rut, and that is by asking yourself the question: “What will I do today—using my natural and unique talents—to help other people and in turn ultimately help myself?” I’m serious when I say that through helping other people you will ultimately help yourself. And by helping other people this will help get you out of the mental rut of, “Same old shit, different day.”

What does this have to do with sobriety? I believe that being of help to other people is a great way to make sobriety, and your life, work in your favor. I believe that by being of help to others, this gets you thinking outside of yourself and thinking beyond sobriety and it will help you develop into a better person. It helps you begin living a pleasant life and helps you go about life feeling normal in your status as a non-drinker. And I further believe that most of the people who read my books, read my blogs and listen to my podcasts desire to live a normal life that isn’t completely focused on meetings and spreading the word of sobriety.

This is a really great question to ask yourself every morning: “What can I do today to help others?” You may want to structure it as a more active question such as: “What will I do today to help others?” (There’s a very subtle difference here. The word “Can” is questioning the possibility. The word “Will” is demanding an action response from you.)

You are able to help others no matter your situation. You may hate your job and your actual job duties might limit your ability to directly be of help to others, but the rest of your time is yours and somehow within that time you certainly can help others. Helping others doesn’t mean you have to give away all of your money or donate all of your free time to charity. You can simply be helpful to others by being courteous. Holding doors open for people, allowing someone to merge or change lanes. Letting someone go before you in the grocery checkout line. I suggest you do these things just for the pure joy of being nice. Don’t do this as an investment. You can, but do it because you want to. Do it because it will make someone else’s life easier or more pleasant.

Solidly sustaining businesses are built around this philosophy. Ethical businesses and ethical entrepreneurs always look for ways to satisfy the wants, desires and needs of other people. Even the “sin” companies follow this philosophy. Beer, wine, alcohol and tobacco companies may be “evil” but they supply a product that people want and then they help them get what they want. Con-men follow this philosophy (kind of). A con-man will prey on someone else’s hopes and desires, claiming that he will help them achieve their desires. Ethical people revel in helping others and enjoy the benefits that each receive. Con-men simply enjoy their own benefits received while being of no legitimate help to anyone but themselves. I present both cases as evidence that helping other people is clearly the way to help yourself.

In the bigger scheme, thinking of ways to help others will be a good foundation if you want to start your own business or want to escalate within the company you work for. Even if you do look at this from an investment point of view, helping other people is a major part of building any successful enterprise, not just a business enterprise but the enterprise of your life. At its core, helping other people is the greatest way to advance your own happiness.

At this point you might be saying, “I’ve tried all that shit and it never pays off. I am nice to people but nothing good ever happens to me. I just helped a friend move and the fucker never did anything back for me in return.” Well, if you wanted something back in return then you should have presented those terms up front. You help other people because you want to. If you are expecting something in return you need to make it clear. “Well, they could have at least said, “Thank you.” I agree, people should say “thank you” and “please”. People should also use their turn signals and merge onto the freeway properly—but they don’t. So what. That doesn’t mean you have to be the same way.

Don’t expect to be rewarded outwardly for your helpful behaviors. Karma and all that other stuff isn’t logged on a balance sheet. In fact, you can be helpful to people all of your life and never have anything outstanding happen for you in return. The rewards you will get are internal. It’s how it will make you feel. Just knowing that you have helped someone else will help you feel better about yourself.

You’re more than welcome to behave and act however you want to, but I assure you that when you think outside of yourself and beyond yourself and begin helping other people you will notice changes. The changes might not be materialistic or reflected in job advancements or good karma, it may only be with how you feel about yourself. But isn’t feeling good about yourself worth it?

Some of you may think that this advice about helping others is very similar to Step #12. It isn’t. Helping others isn’t solely focused on spreading the word of sobriety. Preaching sobriety to people isn’t helping. Living your life normally and enjoying life as a non-drinker is the best way to help. Allowing others to see you living well is the greatest way to show the virtues of your own sobriety. When others come to you and ask, “How can I be like you?” then you have opportunity to help them along with their sobriety.

Here’s an example. A couple of weeks ago I gave an acquaintance a ride to the grocery store because she didn’t have a car with her. She spent over $90.00 on beer, wine and some booze. That was just for the next week. I bought steaks and some other items and spent under $50.00. Eventually I was asked, “How do you live so well?” Simple answer: “Because I don’t spend any of my money on booze, at bars or on drugs. So I can live quite well on a lower income.” And I live near Key West, which is not a very cheap place to live.

Will my statement make a difference in her behavior? I doubt it. But I’m sure it will get her thinking and maybe someday she’ll contact me again to learn more about drinking in moderation or living as a non-drinker. But I was at least being helpful by giving her a ride to the store and answering her question.

Helping others is about stepping away from yourself and your own world. What will you do today to help a co-worker? To help a family member? To help a friend? To help someone you don’t even know? What will you do today to help yourself feel like a better person and help yourself forget about the tough times you might encounter as a non-drinker?

Tomorrow morning ask yourself: “What will I do today—using my natural and unique talents—to help other people and in turn ultimately help myself?” I don’t expect people to remember this question and ask themselves this every morning when they awake. It is easier to ponder this at the end of the day. “What did I do today that helped other people?” But regardless of when you think about this, it’s worth asking.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

Say what you mean. (03/02/16)

March 2nd, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Words carry different meanings depending on how they are arranged in writing and how you present them orally. You may be saying, “Duh, no shit Mark, I know this.” But you would be surprised by how many people don’t actually say what they mean (and not just politicians), and how many people become frustrated when the person they’re talking to, “Just doesn’t get it.” I believe that this is more often the fault of the person presenting the words and not the fault of the recipient.

For example, my brother David is a real live scientist. His fields are electrochemistry and ramen spectroscopy. So if he’s going to explain some theory or principle to me, it’s his fault if he uses technical jargon and equations that I don’t understand. He needs to use simple words and examples that I can recognize and comprehend.

So we have two distinct obstacles to overcome.

#1): Use words and examples the other person can understand.

#2): Say exactly what you mean.

Both of these obstacles get in the way of true connection when communicating.

How is this relevant to getting sober or maintaining sobriety? In the real world of personal interactions with other people, most of us want to be nice or would like to avoid confrontation, so we often don’t actually say what we mean.

For instance, if you’re determined to not drink but your friends want you to go out and party or meet them at a bar, you need to clearly say “No.” Don’t say, “I’ll see what I can do” or “If I get all my stuff done I might be able to meet you there.” They’ll keep calling or texting you all night and tempting you to join them. If you mean “No” then say “No.” This will stop the calls and texts from coming in all night and you’re also confirming with yourself that you really meant “No.”

When I suggest that you say exactly what you mean I’m not inferring that you speak harshly and neglect to edit a bit. If someone asks you, “Does this dress make me look fat?” You don’t answer with, “The dress is fine. Your ass makes you look fat.” Tact and editing are part of good communication. Tact is saying the appropriate words. Editing is also refraining from saying too many things or adding words that have no bearing on the subject being discussed. I’ve been the recipient of many conversations where I have had to stop the other person and ask, “What does that have to do with THIS issue?” Or, “Can we please keep to one subject at a time?” Or even hold up my hands and give the ‘timeout’ signal and ask, “Excuse me, but what the hell are you talking about?”

You don’t need an expansive vocabulary to say exactly what you mean. If you want to make a request or want to express an opinion or need to give a direct order, say what you mean in clear, simple terms. If you don’t clearly say what you mean you can’t blame the other person for not understanding what you are trying to get across to them. And get over your own pride and ego. If you don’t know the answer to something, then say, “I don’t know the answer to that right now, but we’ll find out.” I respect bosses and leaders who answer with such honesty.

Here’s what I do in conversations. You might want to consider trying this. I listen to the other person intently. I try not to interrupt. I wait and think through my words before I respond. I must admit that this sometimes makes people uncomfortable. They often wonder if I’m paying attention to them or if I’m taking them seriously. They’re often a bit confused because I don’t interrupt while they’re speaking. But that’s because I’m actually listening to them. I also take my time in responding. When I do respond I pay attention to not only my words, but to my tone of voice, volume of my voice and delivery speed of my words. Words are the data, but your tone, speed and volume is the music, it’s what enhances the value of your words.

If I’m confused or uncertain about what someone is saying to me, I’ll come right out and ask, “I’m not sure if I’m understanding you correctly. Can you please expand on that?” Or, “How do you mean that? I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly.” I don’t mind asking for examples. I want the speaker to get their thoughts across to me clearly and I want to make sure that I truly understand their words and the meaning behind their words. You can help others say what they mean by asking them questions.

I don’t blame the other person if they don’t “get” what I’m saying. It’s my fault if you don’t understand the message I’m trying to convey, whether it’s the spoken word or in writing. The recipient of my message isn’t dumb. They can’t read my mind and I certainly don’t want them trying to read my mind. I want to make sure the other person clearly receives what I’m saying. I’ll even stop during my own conversation and ask the other person, “Am I explaining myself clearly?” Don’t overcomplicate your message or expect that the other person automatically knows what you’re talking about.

The concept of, “say what you mean,” isn’t exclusively limited to the spoken word. Read your own emails, texts or posts BEFORE you hit send or submit. Look for spelling and auto-correct errors. Auto-correct might insert a word you don’t want. Even check your punctuation. Rambling sentences without any stops or punctuation will make your message confusing to the recipient(s). Read your email from the eyes of the recipient. This isn’t always easy to do because YOU know what you’re talking about, but will your reader? Does your email (or post) make sense? Are ideas and subjects all muddled together? Is there clear separation between thoughts and subjects?

Punctuation and separate paragraphs aren’t just about following the Elements of Style laid out by Strunk and White. Periods tell the reader that this sentence has ended and a new one will be starting. Breaks for a new paragraph help the reader grasp that expansion on the same subject is taking place or that a new subject is about to be discussed. Stops, punctuation and breaks allow your reader to consume and then mentally digest your message.

This is all about making sure that people are communicating their intended messages. Always consider that your listener (reader, etc.), isn’t at fault for not understanding your message. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you present your message in way and in terms that the other person will understand it and grasp it.

You’ve likely noticed that this article isn’t solely focused on sobriety. Not drinking is just one part of sobriety. What you do and how you live the rest of your life, after you’ve become a non-drinker, is what brings the rewards of sobriety. Use your clear, sober mind to learn the craft of becoming a better communicator.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

Are memories real? (02/16/16)

February 16th, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Are memories (both good and bad memories), real? Or are they simply something that you want to remember?

Memories have the ability to change over time and during different periods of your life. Some people are even capable of remembering events that never even happened.

So, can we trust other people’s memories and can we even trust our own memories? Further, each of us witness and interprets events differently, which means that our memories—of the exact same event—may be very different. For instance, you and I both witness a loud altercation between John and Jane. I saw it that John was defending himself and being patient while Jane went off on John in a crazed pre-menstrual tirade. You saw John as a heartless, argumentative prick while Jane was pouring her soul out to him in an impassioned plea. We both witnessed the exact same event, yet we each have a different memory of who started it, who said what and how they each behaved. Which one of us is right? Well, we both are, from our own perspective of what we remember.

This takes me to how each of us remember our own past. I have a tendency to think about my own drinking past as not being too awful. Oh sure, I remember having hangovers and various drunken escapades. But I can’t remember the hurt or disappointment I may have placed upon others. I can remember that I spent a lot of wasted time completely wasted, but I can’t remember all the mistakes or missed opportunities. I also can’t remember all the events when I was too drunk to remember.

My memories of me being drunk don’t seem too awful. But I didn’t have to deal with me as a drunk. I was me and I thought I was just fine. I do remember a few incidences which I am embarrassed about and a few times when I behaved inappropriately. I still feel bad about them. Some of them continue to haunt me to this day. But in the overall, my own memories of my drunkenness and drunken behaviors don’t seem all that unpleasant. Fortunately for me, I have good friends and family who are willing to refresh my memory with facts. They don’t do this to break my balls or lay a guilt trip on me. They do this to help me understand an observer’s perspective. I can only recall my perspective. They help me see the recipient’s side of my behaviors. They also help me see many of my own errors that I wasn’t able to see.

What am I getting at here? Well, your own memories—of yourself and your own past—may have some flaws. You may remember your drinking days with fondness. You may remember your drinking past as awful, mean spirited and violent. It probably wasn’t as good as you remember and you may not have been as horrible as you remember. But facts still remain that at some points and in some instances you most likely did hurt or harm others and you most certainly harmed yourself.

Don’t be fooled by flawed memories. Don’t allow yourself to pine longingly about the good times you had when you drank and possibly slip back into a self-destructive behavior. On the other side, don’t hate and berate yourself for what you may have once been. If you feel the need to make an apology or to make restitution, then do so. But don’t expect those you’ve hurt to welcome your apology and don’t expect that your restitution will make everything right again.

What’s my point in all this? Ummm, I don’t remember. Okay, yes I do. Be watchful and cognizant of your own memories. Question your own memories for accuracy. Try to view your memories from someone else’s perspective. Even if you’ve been sober for years, your most recent memories of just yesterday could be biased or flawed.

Memories can influence future behaviors. If you have bad memories about eating meatloaf, you may never eat meatloaf again for the rest of your life. Your own memories are swayed by your own history. Even your future memories will be influenced by your own history. I’ve done a lot of shitty things in life. Those memories haunt me. But I am no longer as shitty of a person I once was. The memories I have stored over the past 7 years are crisp, vibrant and rewarding. My sober mind helps me recall with better accuracy and my sober behavior helps me do the types of things that allow for developing good memories. The bad memories from my past fade and the good memories become brighter. But I still question the accuracy of my memories.

In many ways, developing memories is why we do the things we do and why we live. We all want to experience pleasures and joys today, but it’s the memories of those pleasant and joyful experiences that we thrive on. Think about all the pictures you’ve taken. You don’t take photographs just to post them on Facebook (well, some people do), those pictures are used to refresh your memory of events and experiences from your life, along with sharing your experiences with others.

Smells, sounds, songs and a variety of other stimuli can bring memories rushing back into your mind. You can’t always control your memories, but you can always question their accuracy (if you feel the need to do so).

Good memories are what we live for. Bad memories are what we avoid. Yet they both exist in our mental reality regardless of whether they’re accurate or not. You can’t avoid sad occurrences in life. You can’t avoid having some bad experiences. But from here on out you can begin to take control of your memories. Live your life focused on doing good things that will create good memories and try to learn from bad memories. But please don’t let bad memories limit or prejudice your future behaviors. Do something good today so that your newest memories will be warm, bright and pleasant.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

“I just want to quit drinking.” (02/03/16)

February 3rd, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

I have the wonderful opportunity to meet a lot of different people, either face-to-face or through email. Many of those people utter the infamous words, “I just want to quit drinking.” But what is it that they REALLY want?

I believe that what they really want is to be healthy and happy. They want fewer problems in their life. They want less drama in their life. They want to have more disposable money available to them. They also don’t want hangovers. They don’t want any of the problems, remorse or embarrassment that comes with excessive drinking. But the truth is that many of these people really don’t want to stop drinking, what they want are the results of being a non-drinker.

People want the results, not the behavior. People don’t say, “I want to watch what I eat and limit my food intake.” They say, “I want to be thinner,” but they don’t want to diet or watch what they eat. Another example, people don’t say “I want to spend dedicated amounts of time lifting heavy things and running endlessly on a treadmill.” They say, “I want a ripped, toned body,” but they don’t want to strain themselves by doing physically and time demanding exercises. People want the results, not the behavior.

This isn’t a criticism of all humanity. This is natural. I want things (results) either without doing any work or by putting in the least amount of effort. That’s thinking in terms of efficiency. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “I want this project to be really difficult, stressful, time consuming and physically demanding. Plus I don’t really care if I get any tangible results.” People want results and they want those results while putting in the least amount of effort.

Living as a non-drinker doesn’t automatically make you healthier, wealthier, wiser, happier or have fewer problems. But living as a non-drinker puts you in a better position to create opportunities and to make those things happen within your life. Many people want the results of living sober and they want those results the day after they quit drinking. That’s why I wrote the book: Okay, I quit. Now what? It’s a pretty logical and reasonable question. “Alright, I quit drinking. Now what the fuck do I do? (With my time, my money, my mind, my body, my life.)” Followed by a few more questions: “How come I’m not happier? How come (blank) doesn’t love or respect me now? How come I’m not richer? (Whatever.)

There are reasons why so many people have relapses. Without a plan of what you want and don’t want out of living sober, you have no tangible reasons to stay sober. Things start going well and the individual feels confident that they can have a couple of drinks. But for those of us that have no “OFF BUTTON,” this is virtually impossible. Having your own personalized plan, goals, an action list for achieving those goals and having an understanding of your own motives will help you evolve into a genuine non-drinker. Before you know it, living that way becomes a way of life and you ebb away from always thinking about sobriety. This is why so many of my blog articles and podcasts aren’t solely focused on sobriety. Once you stop drinking, that part of the re-invention process is done. What you do with the rest of your life becomes your new focus.

Maybe instead of saying, “I just want to quit drinking,” you will rearrange the words and state it a different way. “I want to live a healthier and happier life. I don’t want to feel like shit all the time. I want to feel good about myself and my behaviors. I want to take better care of myself and my family. The way I’m going to accomplish this is first I’m going to stop drinking, then I’m going to change some of my other behaviors and actions. I’m going to go straight home from work every day. I’m going to go to the gym 3 days a week. I’m going to start a sobriety savings account and make a deposit every week. I’m going to eat better and make grocery lists and follow it when I go grocery shopping on Thursdays. This will help me spend my money more wisely and keep me out of the liquor and beer section.” You’re stating your result, but your stating WHY you want the result and how you’re going to get it.

Take control of your statements and put some commitments into your statements and develop structure into your own life. The nice thing about having power and being in control is that YOU decide how much structure YOU want. Some people perform better under highly structured plans. Others like only a bit of structure. Without some structure (combined with self-discipline to stick to your structure), none of those dreams and plans will ever come to fruition. And even with the best plans and structure, the outcomes you desire may not come to fruition. You might lose only 12 pounds instead of the 20 you were hoping for. Or you might lose 25 pounds and still hate your job (or something else). At least you have put forth effort towards your own betterment. You will have proven to yourself that you can take control of your life, and that’s something you can be proud of.

I hope that I get you to think a bit here. When you state what you want such as, “I want to lose weight, I want more money, I want to quit drinking,” ask yourself WHY. Why do you want this? What do you think will be the rewards of this outcome? When you know what the rewards are, this will help galvanize your motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve the things you want.

Remember that when you say “I want…” you will have to follow that up with tangible actions to get closer to accomplishing and achieving the “I want…” This isn’t just a reminder to you, it’s a reminder to me as well. I can dream all day long, but I won’t accomplish jack shit until I actually do some work that moves me closer to my dreams and wants.

If you hear yourself saying, “I just want to quit drinking,” think about what you really want. Stopping destructive and excessive drinking is a great start. But to get the results of sobriety you have to not drink and then start living as a non-drinker. You’ll have to pursue goals, attempt challenges, risk failures. All of the things you’d probably be doing as a drunk, only now you’ll be facing these things with graphic sober reality. You may not be able to control the outcomes, but you will have taken control of the direction, and that’s something you can be proud of.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. And please, check out my latest book: Living Broke Sucks. I think you’ll find it interesting, entertaining and valuable. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

How much is your time worth? (01/17/16)

January 17th, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

How much would you pay yourself if you worked for you? Most people want to be paid at least minimum wage. (I’m self-employed, so I have no idea how much that currently is.) And almost everyone would like to be paid more than minimum wage. So how much would you pay yourself if you worked for you? Well you are working for YOU when you punch out, log off or leave your workplace for the day. If you were a boss, would you want to pay someone to sit around and drink? Would you pay someone to sit around and watch TV? Would you pay someone to simply sit around? You are your own boss with your own time, and your time is valuable. If you want to spend it getting loaded or just sitting around, that’s your choice.

Every single action—or inaction—is an exchange. And what you are exchanging is your time. If you are doing this then you can’t do that. If you are sitting and reading a book then you can’t be working on another project. If you are sitting in a bar, sitting and watching TV or sitting in a support group meeting, then you can’t be somewhere else doing something else.

I’m not inferring that you must work all of the time. Leisure, recreation, relaxation, personal time with friends, social time or time alone is very important. And each of the experiences I just mentioned is uniquely important to each individual. Going to meetings may be important to you. Sitting in a bar may be important to you. Watching YouTube videos may be important to you. Just understand and accept that you are always making exchanges. Sitting in a bar, at a meeting or puttering out in your garage means that you’re exchanging time that you can’t spend doing something else (like sitting with your kids or spouse).

It’s 2016 and 24 hours is the same as it was, 25, 50 or 100 years ago. The following paragraphs are excerpted from my book: Living Broke Sucks. This segment is from Chapter #10, “What money can and can’t buy.”

Which do you value most: Time? Health? Relationships and friendships? Self-actualization? Recreation? Creativity? Material possessions? Freedom? The weird twist is that it truly does require money to have any of these. Your age and how much of any of these you want will establish how much money you’ll need. Let’s go over each of these subjects.

Time: People who earn the most money tend to spend more time working. True, they can afford nice things and luxurious vacations, but enjoying their toys or going on vacation requires time away from work. Because they spend so much of their time working they don’t have much time available for other activities. When they do go on vacation they might try to cram everything into a very tight schedule or they’re constantly making calls, checking email or texting. They return home and go back to work worn-out from their vacation. Have you ever had a vacation like that? Do you have toys you never get to enjoy because most of your time is spent shackled to golden handcuffs?

As recent as 50 years ago most people actually spent MORE time working than relaxing than we do now, yet many talk about “the good old days when life was easier and a slower pace.” Life wasn’t easier, many jobs and household chores required tough physical labor. Today we have labor-saving and time-saving appliances and machinery. But with that machinery and technology comes time consumption. TV viewing requires time. Social media requires time. Look at how much time you spend behind the wheel of a car going to all the entertainment and shopping options you now have. Multitasking, like talking on a cellphone while driving sounds like a timesaver, but it’s time consuming and mentally taxing. Pay scales and labor laws may mean we spend fewer hours at our job and many of our new technologies may be labor-saving, but all of these advances and innovations haven’t given humanity any more time.

One hour is still the same duration today as it was 20, 50, 100 years ago. With all the advances in technology, in transportation and in living conditions we now have many more choices, which makes that one hour seem shorter. You often hear people say, “I just don’t have the time to get everything done.” Having all of these multiple options is what creates the feeling of living at a fast pace and not having any time.

There are actions, and inactions, you can undertake to make it feel as if you do have more time. Instead of multitasking try singletasking. Consciously focus on doing one task at a time. Sure, you can be doing laundry while you vacuum with your iPod on. But if you start too many projects or try doing too many things at once you’ll be bouncing around between projects and forget about something or have to stop what you’re doing to go finish the other project. I have learned that if I focus on one task, complete it and then go on to the next, my work efforts are more efficient, I get more done in less time and the task is done properly. Then I can genuinely relax or go do something else that’s more enjoyable. Singletasking makes me feel as if I have more time.

Walk slower. You will likely notice things—things which have always been there—for the very first time. Force yourself to slow down during meals or while engaged in intimate conversations. Turn your cell phone, iPhone, Blackberry or computer OFF once in a while. When you turn it back on you may discover that you didn’t miss out on very much. At first some of these things can make you feel antsy, but you’ll get used to it and it may change your entire perspective on how you want to spend your time and live your life.

Some people like a hectic schedule, thrive on pressure and always want to be connected. If that’s you, then revel in the pressure, but please don’t complain that you haven’t enough time to relax or to enjoy simple pleasures in life. I like a hectic schedule and high pressure while I’m working at my job, but I absolutely do turn my job “off” when I’m done. After my workday is over I slow down my pace and want to genuinely relax and enjoy the fruits of my labors.

If you have more money you can pay other people to do some of your work, but then you have to exchange more of your time at a paying job to afford those services. Conversely, you can’t pay someone else to serve as “you” when it comes to spending time with people you care about. I’ve been saying all along that everything is an exchange. Sometimes you have to exchange or forego an option so you’ll have more time to yourself, to spend with people you care about or to live at a slower pace. Money can’t buy you more time, but it can buy you more options of things to do with your time. Make the best of those options and enjoy your time in ways that are valuable to you.

I don’t care what you do with your time. It’s your time. I would just like you to think about how much value you put on your time. Consider this: If you have to stay an extra half hour at work you’ll likely want to be paid for your time, especially if you’re an hourly employee. But that same half hour will be gladly wasted away sitting in a bar waiting for your friend to arrive. You might complain that he was late, but you won’t expect him to pay you for your time. Your time is valuable. Decide what you’re willing to exchange it for.

Look, I waste plenty of time doing dumb shit and nonproductive stuff. But when I really think about the question: “How much is my time worth?” I have a tendency to focus on more productivity and my relaxation and “fuckin’ off” time is far more gratifying. This thought process also helps me value my sobriety more and thus helps me maintain my status as a non-drinker. My time is far too valuable to waste it getting wasted.

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes it’s pleasant and relaxing to fritter time away. I waste plenty of time doing dumb shit. But what’s nice about wasting time when I’m sober is that sometimes I actually do get something productive done. Or if I get tired of wasting my time on something nonproductive, I can jump into a productive project and I’m not all drunked up where I won’t do it right or stick with it. I do fewer “impulsive” projects and projects actually get finished with my sober mind.

For me, drinking and doing drugs was a way to consume time. Sure, I was having fun while I was loaded, but time simply passed by. Then more time passed by. It didn’t matter how much time I was using, it was my time, I was loaded and I was having fun. But nothing productive (or all that rewarding) was getting done while I spent all that time getting loaded. And then I had to deal with the ramifications the next day—lower productivity due to a hangover or simply sleeping it off. And it wasn’t just the next day’s ramifications that were hurting me. Due to some of my behaviors I was also ruining the rest of my future.

I believe that most people want to make the best use of their time and most people probably feel that they are making the best use of their time. Getting drunk or getting ghenked up on junk truly isn’t the best use of someone’s time. It may be fun—at the time—but it’s time that you’ll never get back. In fact, no matter what you’re doing, you are exchanging time that you will never get back. Do valuable things with your time because your time is valuable.

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 or if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. And please, check out my latest book: Living Broke Sucks. I think you’ll find it interesting, entertaining and valuable. My books and audiobooks are 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

“Someday I’m going to…” (01/05/16)

January 5th, 2016

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

There are many variations to this hollow utterance. “Someday I’ll blah, blah, blah… As soon as (blank) happens I’m going to blah, blah, blah… If only (blank) would do this, then I’ll blah, blah, blah… When I’m (blank) then I’m going to blah, blah, blah…”

I believe that most people have the best of intentions on doing “something” someday, and many even believe their own bullshit, but they never do it. I don’t think that people are liars or lazy; life is busy and you’ve got plenty of things to do already. Sticking with “what is” can be easier (but less gratifying), than making changes. It’s natural to avoid difficult changes and nobody likes failure. And if you don’t try you can’t fail. Then you can always blame someone else or some external condition for never getting started on whatever it is you were going to do, someday.

My intention here isn’t to lecture you or insult you. If none of this applies to your own behavior, then congratulations and don’t worry about it. And even if you are a “do it now” person, you still may learn something from this article.

Have you ever heard someone say, (possibly even yourself?), “I know I drink a lot, but nothing bad has ever happened. If something really awful happens, then I’ll quit.” If you feel that you have a problem (with anything), why wait for it to get worse? Why wait for something awful to happen? Why wait for the elusive “someday” to arrive?

Life is too uncertain and fragile. Time keeps moving along, whether you want it to or not. If you keep waiting for all the planets and gears to align before you begin, you’ll never begin anything. I have witnessed too many people fade away (die), before they ever made their first move at, “Someday I’m going to…”

These first few paragraphs have a generalized tone to them, so let me give you a couple of solid examples. I’ll use some situations from my own life. I’ll show you both sides; the pitfalls of waiting too long for everything to align and the upside to taking action now, in the present.

Many years ago I planned on quitting drinking, or at least cutting down. That went on year after year. As those years passed by, my marriage was becoming explosive and I sensed some distancing building between my wife and I. I knew deep down inside that my drinking wasn’t helping matters, but I kept on drinking anyway. (We were both heavy drinkers but I’ll take the blame for everything.) I figured that if I quit drinking this would solve the all of the problems. When things finally got really awful, I finally stopped drinking—but it was already too late. That was the pitfall of waiting too long.

After my divorce I began laying out new goals and destinations for my life. I decided that I would like to travel the country and find a new place to call “home.” Well, instead of saying, “Someday I’ll do that,” I began making plans. I had to figure out how I would travel, where I would go and how I could still work while I was travelling. But in the meantime I had to continue working and saving so I could afford to buy an RV. I had to also decide what I could eliminate from my current way of life. I had to decide what I was going to have to forego and do without so that I could undertake this journey. This didn’t just happen in one day. It took a few years of working my plan, making adjustments to my plan and adapting to changing circumstances before I could eventually make my first journey.

Once I began travelling I had to watch for opportunities and take a few risks. Eventually I discovered a place that I wanted to call “home.” The oddest part is that I never even knew this place existed. But by being willing to plan, take some calculated risks and adapt to opportunities, I have found a “home” that is better than I ever imagined. But none of these experiences ever would have happened if I had sat and waited for everything to fall exactly into place. That’s the upside to getting busy and doing things NOW.

I’m not suggesting that you leave your children and go hitch-hike around Europe because that’s something you always wanted to do. You can’t just abandon your responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start making plans NOW and figuring out how and when you’ll do it.

Remember that things may not turn out as you plan, and some detours or alternatives may have to be employed while working at a goal. Hell, you may even go do something, try something or make a decision—and you experience its accomplishment—only to discover that it isn’t what you want. But at least you’ll then know what you don’t want and can then begin pursuing something else.

This isn’t just about the big things in life. Have you ever said, “Someday I’m going to clean out that closet.” That day will never come if you’re waiting for a sign. Just start. You may get it cleaned out sooner than you thought you would, or at the very least you’ll have made a dent. And who knows, you might find those old Capri’s pants you thought you lost. And how do you think that closet got so jam packed in the first place? You kept piling and throwing shit in there, always saying, “I’m going to clean this out and organize it someday.” That’s what life and substance dependency can be like. You keep hiding shit, saying, “Someday I’m going to get to that.” Someday is right NOW.

This “do it now” behavior isn’t just about projects like cleaning a closet, the garage or a junk drawer. This behavior can be applied towards all of the little things you encounter during any given day. Going through your mail, doing the dishes, clearing off the kitchen table, responding to an email, whatever. Just DO IT NOW and it’ll be done and out of the way.

It’s all the little shit that compounds and keeps wearing on you. The little shit can build into an overwhelming pile which will weaken your resolve. It’s interesting how most people can handle big problems. You know it’s an obvious problem or disappointment and you have a coping mechanism to handle it. But when little shit keeps piling up it’s almost worse. You’ve got all this mail sitting there on the table. You look and see that there’s a pile of dishes in the sink. You walk into your bedroom and the dresser is a mess, so you rifle through some drawers and can’t find what you want. You turn the TV on and cable is out. So you grab your phone and the battery is about to die. You walk over to the fridge to have a look inside and a jar of mayo falls out and spills on the floor. But on its way down it hits the leftover spaghetti and that spills onto the bottom shelf of the fridge. “Can’t fucking anything go right for me?” you scream. Only to turn around and you bang your knee into the cupboard that was left open. Now you’re pissed! And it’s all because of little shit.

Some invaluable lessons that I have learned:

  • Don’t wait to make plans. Establish plans NOW and begin working at your plans NOW.
  • Adapt and adjust your plans along the journey.
  • Risks will be part of the journey. Take some calculated risks.
  • Be willing to forgo or do without one thing to gain something else.
  • Watch for opportunities. Many opportunities are veiled behind something else or aren’t obvious.
  • Compounded little shit can weaken you faster than the big problems. Tend to the little shit NOW.

Next time you hear yourself starting a sentence with, “Someday I’m going to…” STOP and think. Is there something you can do—right now—to make today that someday? When is NOW. All of your desires may not pan out. Even those that do pan out may not be as great as you thought they would be. And don’t let all the little shit wear you down; you’re better and stronger than 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 blog, podcasts and website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can find my books in paperback, eBook or 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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

What does an alcoholic look like? (12/10/15)

December 10th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

When people think about what an “alcoholic” looks like, most will visualize the stereotypical bar floozy or unshaven guy sleeping on a park bench or dozing next to a dumpster. But alcoholics come in all different shapes, colors, genders and religions, and many show no outward indication of being an alcoholic. So let me tell you about an alcoholic.

My friend’s wife was a closet alcoholic. She was the perfect image of a mother, wife and professional working woman. No one knew about it. The neighbors didn’t know, her kids didn’t know, not even her husband knew, and he is a very attentive husband. Her alcohol overuse wasn’t affecting the family, her marriage, her career or the household finances, but it was affecting her own relationship with her family. She felt that she was robbing her family and robbing herself by missing out on a better life. Her family was in disbelief when she told them that she had a secret drinking problem and that she wanted to stop. They had no idea because she DID NOT look like or even act like an alcoholic.

Every drunk doesn’t look like one and every person who drinks isn’t a drunk. Judging someone else who drinks is very prejudicial. That’s like judging someone because of the way they look, dress or because of the color of their skin. Plenty of people are fully capable of living normal, healthy lives as a social drinker. Even moderate to heavy drinkers can live normal lives. Just because you see or know someone who drinks heavily doesn’t mean they are a drunk or that you need to preach the word of sober salvation to them. (Just think about how you would have felt—or did feel—if and when people talked to you about your usage.) Unless someone else’s drinking behavior and drinking lifestyle directly affects and impacts yours, then mind your own business.

And even people who have that “druggy look” aren’t all dope addicts. I look like a freak. I have long hair and I’ve got shells and sharks teeth braided into my hair. At first glance you would “presume” that I’m a pot-head. But maybe I wear my hair long because I like it? Maybe I have shells and sharks teeth braided in my hair because I like it? Maybe I say outrageous things because I’m well aware of what I’m saying and I know I’ll get a reaction out of you? Maybe I don’t get high or drink because I don’t want to? But I still look like a freak.

When people first meet me, they figure I must be a wild party animal or a stoner. I am fully aware of what I look like and that people will treat me a certain way because of it. I’m not shocked or surprised by it. What does surprise me is the way people will often treat me after I disclose that I was once a drunk and a drug user. They say, “Wow, you don’t look like you had a problem,” or “you don’t seem like you had a problem.” Well how am I supposed to look or act?

The fact is that people perceive me a certain way because of my appearance. I like it when people say, “Man, I’d love to go out and party with you some time.” I know that we would go out and do more crazy things sober than if we were loaded. But I don’t mention that I’m a non-drinker. If I feel like hanging out with the person, they’ll find out soon enough that I’m a non-drinker. And even if they are drinkers, I may hang out with them again if I find them to be interesting and engaging. But it all starts with their perception of me.

And the same goes for people who openly talk about their recovery. Doing so can create perceptions or prejudices levied against you. “Oh, he’s a recovering alcoholic, he could crack at any moment.” Or if you tell people that you no longer drink they may perceive that you’re going to preach to them, that you’re no fun, prudish or a religious fanatic. Think about the image you project. Do you think that your appearance, behaviors and words are representative of how you want people to perceive you?

Regardless of realities, people have their own perceptions of things. For instance, I find it interesting that some people will talk about how much money a friend of theirs wastes by stopping at Star Bucks every morning on their way to work. They’ll even cite how much money someone could save weekly and annually if that person didn’t buy coffee from Star Bucks, yet they’ll tell me this as they sit there pounding down a 6-pack of beer or a bottle of wine every night. Please explain to me how that’s any different as far as wasting money goes. It is their perception that Star Bucks is a waste of money but their own spending on beer, booze or wine isn’t because they “deserve it.”

You may not agree with my Star Bucks example and comparison here. I know that you can’t get arrested for driving under the influence of coffee. But if you’re spending $10 or $20 a day at Star Bucks and you can barely afford food or rent, then you have a drinking problem—albeit a coffee drinking problem. I further believe that my Star Bucks-vs-Beer purchase example illustrates the vast differences in people’s perceptions of what is valuable to themselves, to others and what is and isn’t a waste of money.

My opinion tries to get away from perceptions because I believe: “It’s your money. You work to earn money so you can pay your bills and reward yourself with some pleasantries. If buying a Star Bucks brings you joy, then it’s not a waste of your money. If guzzling a 12-pack of Bud Light every night brings you joy, it’s not a waste of your money. It’s YOUR money. But every purchase you make is an exchange, and not just a financial exchange. If you have limited income, then Star Bucks, beer, lottery tickets, Netflix or the ultimate cable package are poor utilizations of your money. When you spend money on one thing that usually means you won’t have enough money for something else. But are you wasting it? Who am I to judge? However, if you’re spending money that you can ill afford to spend (regardless if it’s booze, drugs, coffee, clothes, unlimited cell service, whatever), and this spending is harming your health or the wellbeing of the people you are responsible for, then you need to do something about your spending problem.”

So what’s my point with this article and what do I hope that you the reader will take away from this? A couple of things:

Perceptions will always outweigh realities. When you see someone, don’t automatically envision the worst of them. When you see a drinker, don’t automatically think, “Oh, she’s an alcoholic.” And remember that people will have similar perceptions of you as well. If you tell people that you’re a “recovering” or “recovered alcoholic,” don’t be surprised if people treat you a certain way. I know that your sobriety is important to you. I understand and can appreciate that you may be very proud of yourself and want to share your story with others. Use the proper times and places to disclose your history, your pains and your tales of debauchery. People will judge you on what they perceive.

You’d be surprised at some of the crazy (and incorrect) shit that people perceive about me. I don’t like it and sometimes it’s very hurtful, but all I can do is continue to behave and live in a fashion that’s acceptable to me.

And like it or not, people will also treat you a certain way based on your physical appearance or the way you dress. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. About the only thing you can do about it is pay attention to your own behaviors. Pay attention to how you project yourself to others and keep an even closer watch on your own thoughts so that you give those you meet and those around you a fair chance. You don’t want to be judged incorrectly, so don’t judge others incorrectly. Just because you do the right thing doesn’t mean it will be reciprocated.

You will be judged and treated by how people perceive you. Not on facts but on perceptions. You can’t control what others want to think or believe about you. But you do have a certain amount of control over what you present and thus how others will perceive you. And ultimately you do have control over how you perceive others. Please give other people a fair chance before you make judgments based only on your perceptions of them.

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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.

The invisible turning points. (11/09/15)

November 9th, 2015

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Good events and bad events usually have invisible turning points. It isn’t until the obvious becomes obvious that you notice that a turning point has occurred. Destruction happens faster and is more obvious than the rebuilding. A lot of times you don’t see the destruction coming, such as the weakening of a dam or a funny sound coming from your car. But when the dam breaks or your transmission craps out then it suddenly becomes blatantly obvious that something happened.

Alcohol dependency or drug addiction is like this. It slowly builds and develops (or devolves) into a problem until a major calamity occurs—that’s when it becomes obvious. Dependency is a great example of an invisible turning point. I can’t think of anyone who has said, “Next week Tuesday I’m going to start my downward spiral as a drunk,” or, “this Wednesday I’m going to get addicted to heroin.”And even when drinking or drugs becomes an obvious problem some people will ignore it, or they’re so mentally muddled that they can’t see it or don’t want to accept the facts.

You don’t necessarily see problems coming, but then suddenly something bad happens or your problem becomes obvious. Then you start on your rebuilding process. At first it may seem like the greatest thing ever. Then in a few months or years you’re miserable, or you may be able to develop your sobriety into something wonderful. But you don’t always notice all of the subtleties of the rebuilding going on and you don’t always see the invisible turning point when things are beginning to get better.

People want obvious and immediate results. Don’t rely on or expect major and obvious turning points to occur. Look for and recognize the positive within invisible turning points. What at first seemed to be a small or insignificant decision may have been the catalyst to an invisible turning point for a wonderful outcome. The human mind prefers the obvious and wants to see correlations. i.e. “I did this so then that happened.” But the obvious and correlated aren’t always the case. Something may have simultaneously occurred that was out of sight or out of your awareness. Just acknowledge the turning point, be happy with it and work at making the best out of it.

There are more invisible turning points in life than visible turning points. Turning points aren’t always clear and there are multiple facets within any turning point. Having a child come into your world may be a joy, but that child will also come with responsibilities, duties and often some sacrifices on your behalf. Marriage may be a joy, but it will also come with responsibilities. Sobriety may be wonderful for you, but it will also come with hard decisions, sacrifices and self-control.

There are usually only a handful of major and obvious turning points in life: Graduating from school, choosing a college, choosing a career or certain job. Joining the military, getting married, getting divorced, having children or making the decision to live sober. But the wonderful turning points of sobriety (and life in general) aren’t always obvious.

Even when you do make major decisions and undertake major turning points, numerous invisible turning points continue to happen within the spectrum of the major decision you made.  Quitting drugs or stopping excessive drinking are major decisions and major turning points, but many other invisible turning points will unfold and take place. You may suddenly realize one day that you no longer have the same level of cravings. You may realize that you no longer think about or feel like doing drugs or drinking. You may not consciously realize that you’re no longer always broke. (You might still be broke but at least it isn’t because you pissed your money away on booze.) You have to sit and think about these things. “Hey, I’m not completely broke. I don’t feel like shit every morning. I don’t have to remember who I pissed off, argued with or what I did last night.” An invisible turning point has taken place.

It is because of these invisible turning points that I highly recommend that you reward yourself—regularly—for staying clean and sober. (You don’t have to just reward yourself, you can share your reward with your family or friends.) I dedicate an entire chapter on building your own personal reward system in my book: Okay, I quit. Now what? Without constant rewards (even small ones), the invisible turning points slip by without conscious recognition. Having goals and rewarding yourself allows you to see goals achieved—turning points reached—and it helps galvanize your decision to stay clean and sober.

There will be many invisible turning points during your sober evolution. You will rarely wake up one morning and say, “Wow, as of today I no longer feel like drinking.” Turning points happen slowly. If you’ve genuinely changed your life into behaving as a non-drinker, you won’t even notice that the opportunities for temptation become fewer and farther between. If you’ve changed your life you will naturally not get yourself into dicey situations. And even when “tempting” conditions exist, you have turned a corner and can handle the situation. For instance, I have a part-time job where almost every Friday night my co-workers all get together and have a small party. It isn’t a wild booze party. People all bring a food dish and somebody whips out a guitar and starts playing and singing. Oh sure, the beer and wine is flowing, but not everyone there is a drinker. The focus of the gathering isn’t just to drink and get loaded. I typically hang out for about an hour and then slip away. I’m not tempted to drink—and I’m not turned off by others who are drinking—but I don’t feel like hanging out much longer than an hour. I have gotten through an invisible turning point. I can go to parties, hang out, have fun, engage in conversation, and then leave without feeling tempted to drink or feel as if I’m missing out on something. I don’t know when that turning point occurred, it was invisible.

Often there is no clear line of demarcation with turning points. You might meet someone and think they’re the greatest person ever. But you have no idea how it may turn out in 5 years. It might develop into a fantastic relationship. It might be pure hell after a year or two. It can be the same with sobriety. You don’t know how it will turn out, but at least you do know that you’ll be sober while life is unfolding, and that gives you a better chance of making life work in your favor.

Even my own decision to stop drinking was a major turning point (lifestyle change), but so many invisible turning points happened after the obvious decision to stop drinking. Many of those invisible turning points enabled for a lot of wonderful things to happen in my life. I can say without hesitation that I never would have had so many wonderful experiences and would absolutely NOT be living at the standard I do today had I kept drinking. However, some very painful and heartbreaking invisible turning points have also come with it. None the less, I have no regrets for making that major decision to stop drinking.

Additionally, I am often asked what my turning point was for me to make such a major decision. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, downward spirals take time and my downward spiral took a long time—years in fact—to come to a full implosion. Yet there had been many major catastrophes along the way, but I always managed to drink my way through them. In my case, there really wasn’t a single event that turned me. It was a series of events that all collided at the same time. My predicament was that it was too late for me to fix or repair some of these catastrophes. However, I felt I had no other alternative. I knew that if I continued to drink, things would just get worse and worse consequences would follow. If I stopped drinking I could at least still save myself. (It was too late to salvage anything but myself.) I made the decision to change my life and to use my skills and my mind to figure out how to make the best out of all the unknowns and ugliness that was about to come my way. The only regret I have is that I didn’t make the decision sooner.

By understanding that there will always be invisible turning points, I have become calmer and happier with my status as a non-drinker. Now I look for those invisible turning points and I look for ways to make the best out of those turning points. I want my life to continuously keep changing for the better. When you reflect on your own invisible turning points you might see how those various turning points facilitated change and how you adapted to and accepted those changes. Most people don’t care for change, especially when it’s abrupt and dramatic. But slow and invisible turning points will ease you through the change. If you have made the conscious and obvious decision to live as a non-drinker or non-user, then please be patient with yourself. Allow time for the invisible turning points to take place and do what you can to see them, enjoy them and make the best out of them.

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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.