Archive for November, 2011

Holidays DO NOT have to be an excuse to drink:

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Holiday gatherings and parties don’t have to be your downfall back into a life of destructive drinking. You can have just as much fun, if not more, by staying sober (abstinent) at Holiday parties. You can still be part of the music, singing, dancing, food, laughter, friendship and Holiday merriment. You just won’t be drinking. Why not simply watch the show that’s taking place all around you? Why not just enjoy being there?

On the other hand, you can let yourself slip and see what happens. Drink at Holiday gatherings if you want to. It’s not my life you’re toying with.

But if your goal is to live sober through the Holidays, then complete self-controlled abstinence is the only way that you can guarantee that you will not get drunk at a Holiday party. The choice is yours.

There are a few strategies and tactics that you can use to make sure that you don’t “crack” at Holiday parties.

  • Go with a sober friend
  • Ask the person you’re with not to drink and to stick close by you
  • Stay far away from the bar or beverage area
  • Always have a cup of coffee, tea, coco or soda in your hand
  • Decide beforehand that you will leave at a certain time
  • Tell the host (privately) that you don’t drink and to please not offer you any alcohol
  • If it’s a family gathering, ask your family members to please not offer you any alcohol
  • Have prepared “No thanks” responses ready for when you are offered a drink

Plan ahead, BEFORE you get to the party, what strategies you might use to keep yourself from cracking. Will you go but hide from everyone? Will you calmly and casually be ready to say, “No thanks, I’m fine,” when someone offers you a drink? Will you tell everyone your tale of woe when they ask why you’re not drinking, or will you simply say, “No thanks.” Will you mingle, have fun and not worry about it? The choice is yours.

The one assured way that you can guarantee that you will not “crack” at a Holiday party is to not pour a drink into your own mouth. You are ultimately in control of your own hands; don’t let them reach for a drink.

If this is your first Holiday season living sober, I’m sorry to say this, but maybe you’ll have to pass on some parties. Maybe you’ll have to leave a party early if you feel yourself getting too tempted. Maybe you will have to stay away from all the loud, laughing people at the bar. It may not seem fair, but self-preservation is not always a fair game. That’s just reality.

Hey, you can even host Holiday parties. It’s your party so you can choose whether you want to serve alcohol to others or not. You don’t have to supply beer, wine and booze. You can tell people to bring their own booze and take the remainders home with them. It’s YOUR party.

You don’t have to hide from Holiday parties. You can go and have fun. If you want to stay sober you’ll want to plan ahead. How will you stay sober? What will you have to do to protect your sobriety? You’ll have to control your own hands and not drink. But if Holiday parties are too tempting, then maybe you’ll just have to pass on them this year. Do what you want – but make sure that whatever you do is in your own sober self-interest. The choice is yours.

Stop thinking for me!

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

What a great way to insult someone – to do their thinking for them. “Oh I know how you are. I know what you really meant when you said that.” Really? When did you get your degree in Psycho-Analysis? (Which is based upon supposition anyway.) To say something like, “I know what you really meant by that,” is a very prejudicial way of interpreting someone. Maybe the person REALLY DID mean exactly what they said. Don’t think for people.

I was at fault of doing this while I was drinking (which is easily done when you’re drunk), and it happened a lot when I first sobered up. I was so oversensitive that I interpreted almost every statement as a personal affront against me or I thought that I knew the true hidden meaning behind what was said. This was great because it helped me misinterpret almost everything I heard, assisted me to live in a constant state of anxiety and made every conversation stressful. All of this took far too much energy. It wore me out.

I quit trying to think for other people and started asking more questions. This is very important to pay close attention to and practice when you first sober up. If you’re confused by what someone says or aren’t sure of their intended meaning, then ask them to expand and clarify.

Here’s what can happen: As you’re attempting to rebuild and reconnect with relationships or friendships, you might be told, “You know how you were. You know what you did.” You will have to ask the other person to expand. “I’m not denying my accountability, but actually, I don’t know how I was. I never had to deal with me, so please tell me.” This may open the floodgates to hearing some painful, embarrassing and hurtful shit, so be prepared. It may also give you a chance to clear some incorrect perceptions the other person has of you. For example, if the other person was to say, “Well you were always out getting drunk, gallivanting and God only knows who you were flirting with or what you were doing!” You might be able to clear the air. “Yes, I was out drinking. I don’t blame you for thinking I was drunk and flirting, but all I wanted to do was drink. I’m now asking you to believe me when I tell you that I wasn’t flirting or unfaithful.”

The other person can only imagine what you might have been up to while you were drinking. Maybe they imagine it was infidelity, harder drugs, gambling, wasting money, lying, who knows what they envision. Can you blame them? Their images may be accurate, they may not. They probably have only seen the aftermath or seen you when you eventually arrived home, drunk. You have no idea what it was like being them, dealing with you. So instead of thinking for them, ask them. Ask them to expand on their statements. You may not like hearing what you will hear, but at least you’ll know what the other person means and you won’t have to read their mind.

Of course there are “tells” when someone is being deceptive, coy, unforthcoming of information, angry, shy or embarrassed. Watching and reading body language can reveal incongruence but it can also give you an inaccurate interpretation. Someone turning away and not looking at you when they speak doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying. You may have done something so hurtful to them that they have difficulty looking at you. The same thing can happen with someone’s vocal tone and inflection. The best thing to do is ask questions.

  • “How did you mean that Jim? I want to make sure I understand you correctly.”
  • “Is there anything else you want to tell me? I feel like I might be missing something.”

Repeat back to the other person, in your own words, how you interpreted or understood what they said.

As you evolve in your sobriety, you’ll likely become more attuned to this phenomenon of others doing your thinking. You’ll notice that other people will hear what you say, but may interpret what you said however they want to. Pay attention to how the person you’re speaking to reacts to your words. You might have to ask them, “How did you interpret what I said? I want to make sure I got my message across to you and that we both understand it the same way.” It doesn’t have to be that formal, you can ask, “What do you think I meant by that?”

I’ve come around to accepting what a person says at face value. I don’t try to read between the lines, think that there is some hidden meaning, subliminal message or Freudian slip taking place. I’m not suggesting that you believe everything someone says as factual data. There’s a difference here. The words someone says are their true words, but the information that they are telling you may be false or incorrect. Some people aren’t skilled at articulating what they want to say or don’t know how to get their message across. ASK – don’t think for the other person.

Another way people think for me is when they say, “You know what you should do? You should…” I realize that quite often this is said with the best of intentions and is generally well meaning,,, but really, how do YOU feel when people say that to you?  When I’m told, “You know what you should do?” I would like to say, “Oh please tell me because I have no fucking idea what I should do!” But instead I calmly listen to their well meaning advice and I respond with, “I’ll take that into consideration.

For example, people are always telling me what I should do to increase business, what I should write, how I should write, who I should call, where I should go. This is all great advice, but I only have so much time and can only do so much. And maybe (God forbid), I don’t want to do things their way. In another example, somebody else in an RV came up to me and said, very emphatically, “You should get all new tires for your RV. You don’t want to have a blowout while you’re driving.” Well no shit I don’t want to have a blowout while I’m driving, but maybe I just don’t have the money for them? (6 tires would cost $2,500+) Even when I said that I don’t have the money to buy new tires, the person kept insisting that I get new tires. “I had a blowout once and it wasn’t pretty. You gotta get new tires.” To finally end this conversation all I could say was, “Thanks for your advice, I’ll take it into consideration and do that as soon as I can.”

People are more than happy to tell you what you should do: “leave your wife/husband, get a new job, move, go to AA, get counseling,” whatever. These things will often be said to you without asking the other person for their advice. As a former drunk, it’s pretty easy to fall into that trap yourself. You might find yourself tempted to tell someone, “You should quit drinking,,, it was good for me.” And then go on and on about how you did it, your struggles, etc.

Even when I’m asked for my opinion/advice I will say, “You might want to consider…” And then I state my thoughts. This isn’t being slick and smooth; this is a great way to communicate with people. It makes me a good friend, because I’m not telling the other person what they should do.

I have a hard enough time thinking and understanding my own thoughts, let alone try to think for or conjure up the hidden meaning behind what someone else says. Please don’t think for other people. Ask them questions and let them think for themselves. And try not to get upset or defensive when others want to give you advice. They’re probably just doing it out of habit and they are most likely trying to be helpful. Just respond with, “I’ll take that into consideration.”

If someone isn’t listening to your words or is antagonistic by saying, “Oh I know what you really meant by that,” then by all means, defend yourself. Ask, “Well then tell me, what do YOU think I meant?” Try to make your message clear so you both understand what you meant. Communications (and life) don’t always work out that perfectly. Sometimes you just have to accept that the other person is going to think what they want to think and will try to do your thinking for you. So be it.

Sobriety needs to be taken slowly

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I was sober for 27 years,I do not blame my divorce for falling off the wagon (although dealing with an MS stricken wife didnt help),but having accomplished that many years of sobriety Without AA(for the most part) I agree wholeheartedly with your take on AA.Human nature is such that if someone swings to far in one direction(sober),they will eventually swing back the other direction.Just my observations after watching friends,counselers,strangers,fall by the wayside in their attempts at sobriety

Disease, disorder or dependency?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Do you think that you have a disease, a disorder or a dependency? Maybe all three? I believe that I had a dependency and a disorder, but certainly no disease. Before I go into my own longwinded interpretation of all of these conditions (and how it relates to alcohol overuse), I would like to share the definition of each of these words as stated in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language. A Medical Dictionary may describe these with some different terms and applications.

  • Disease: A condition of an organ, part, structure or system of the body in which there is incorrect function resulting from the effect of heredity, infection, diet, or environment; illness; sickness; ailment. Disease and Malady apply to organic deviations involving structural change. A Disease is a serious, active, prolonged, and deep-rooted condition. An Affection is a seriously abnormal state of body or mind, especially one that interferes with their functions.
  • Disorder: Lack of order or regular arrangement; disarrangement; confusion. An irregularity. To derange the physical or mental health or functions of. A Disorder is usually a physical or mental derangement, frequently a slight or transitory one.
  • Dependency: The state of being dependent. Something subordinate; appurtenance (an accompanying part or need). Depending on someone or something else for aid, support. Conditioned or determined by something else; contingent upon something else.

I’ll now share my understanding of how these terms related to my own drinking history.

My DISORDER: I overused drugs and alcohol, mainly alcohol. I did what any normal human being (or animal for that fact), would do – I was seeking pleasure. Some may call it “self-medicating” or “hiding from problems.” Even if I was hiding or self-medicating, the goal in doing so was to bring me feelings of pleasure. In my psychologically disordered state, I believed that the only way to bring myself pleasure was through drinking. My disorder also lead me to believe that drinking would enhance my creativity, sexual veracity and amp up all other stimuli, such as hearing music, sight and give me a general sense of euphoria. Alcohol can do that – in limited amounts by altering how the brain interprets stimuli.

Am I getting too clinical? Okay, let me simplify: A couple of drinks can help your body physically relax. It relaxes your inhibitions and makes your mind think that things sound and look better. That’s the fun part of a couple of drinks. However, a lot of alcohol makes dumb-fucks seem interesting and people who would normally repulse you become attractive. It also makes you think that you are more attractive, witty, intelligent and entertaining to other people. When you’re both drunk, you connect and understand each other. When you’re really really drunk, you think you understand everything and nobody else gets it.

These are just generalities. We’re all different and have differing ways of expressing our drunkenness. Some get talkative, some argumentative, some get horny, some get sneaky, some blubber and cry. Some do all of those things and more during the course of a single night of drinking.

So the disorder occurs when alcohol is used and then overused on a regular basis as a mental crutch or a vehicle to reach these higher levels of joy and pleasure. A “regular basis” for you could mean drinking daily, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, just weekends and holidays, whenever. The disorder is when you think, “Two got me there last time, so three will make it even better ,” or “I seem to always be freer, wilder and more ‘myself’ when I drink.” Thinking that you “need alcohol” to achieve pleasure or avoid pain is what puts the disorder in place. The disorder is brought to full bloom when psychological dependency is established. This means that your mind tells you that you need alcohol to “cope” with life. This type of “coping” is just having your mind function in a state that is “normal” because it has grown accustom to running while it’s altered by alcohol.

My DEPENDENCY: My body and specific organs became accustomed to and dependent upon having a constant amount of alcohol coursing through my bloodstream. These organs learned how to function with this chemical and became reliant on its presence. When I say, “constant amount” I don’t mean that I drank every waking moment, but alcohol was never completely purged from my body. So while I wasn’t drunk at 11am (well, sometimes I was), the chemical properties were still present to some degree within my bloodstream and absorbed into my organs. When the chemical level of saturated presence dropped, my organs craved more chemical to function at their accustomed state.

Too clinical again huh? Okay, how ’bout this: When I didn’t have my junk in me, my brain, stomach and penis wanted more booze to feel good.

This takes me to my understanding of how physical and psychological dependency develops and takes root.

Psychological dependency takes place in your mind, which are your thoughts. Your brain is a physical organ. Your mental thinking is only one of many jobs your brain performs. Mentally, you like catching a buzz. Initially it’s kind of fun.  Mental dependency kicks in when you think and believe that the only way you can have fun is if you’re buzzed, or the only way you can “cope” with life is when you’re buzzed. Psychological dependency is in full bloom when you believe that the only way to have fun or cope is by drinking, even when you are fully aware that there will be negative consequences, but you do it anyway.

Physical dependency is when all of your organs crave alcohol so they can work normally. They are used to working with alcohol as part of their diet. And especially if they’ve grown accustomed to it over a long period of time, they get very ornery if you don’t feed it to them. They let you know that they’re not happy by making you sweat, shake, become irritable, won’t let you think straight and will make you feel like shit until you feed them their alcohol again. Nobody likes to feel like shit, so we feed the organs what they want – alcohol. THAT is physical dependency.

But remember this: Your organs do not need alcohol to survive; they will not die without it. They won’t be happy when you first take it away from them. But just as they’ve grown accustomed to functioning with it, they will grow accustomed to functioning without it. It may take up to 30 days to clear your body of all alcohol residues and up to 6 months to rid its physical dependency. Psychological dependency (desire) may last the rest of your life.

My DISEASE: I didn’t have one and don’t have one. There is nothing structurally or physically wrong or different with my brain than any other normal human being’s. I drank to gain pleasure. I liked getting drunk. Even though I no longer drink I would still like to get drunk. That isn’t my disease talking, that’s ME consciously wanting to gain pleasure by catching a buzz. I just don’t want to fall back into disorder and dependency. I don’t want to have to deal with all the negative shit that was a direct result of my drunkenness. I would still like to catch a buzz once in a while, but I can’t have it both ways, so I must completely abstain.

Wow,,, now we know why I call this: Living Sober Sucks (but living drunk sucks more).

What’s my point? I have no idea what my point is, I’m just writing. Hopefully my writing will get you thinking about your own life and what YOU want to do with it. I ask you to do some research on these words and determine for yourself, which, if any, or all of these conditions apply to you. Knowledge, understanding and accepting the reality of conditions may help YOU take control of it. It still comes down to: “What are you going to do about it?”

How can I be bored out of my skull?

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

I do what I want. I go where I want. I have great friends. I hang out with some very interesting people. I have plenty of responsibilities, projects and work that need to be done. So how can I be bored out of my fucking skull at times?

This seems to be a fairly common sensation among active and former drunks. Our constant hunt for pleasure or excitement stirs up these feelings of boredom. When actively drinking or using, this dilemma is easily addressed: Get fucked up! When living clean and sober this dilemma isn’t as easily addressed.

I find it interesting that on certain days I can be thrilled to have a lot on my daily “To Do” list, even if it’s mundane things. While on other days, the list can encompass all sorts of important and genuinely challenging or exciting activities, but I look at the list through bored eyes. Not a thing seems or feels exciting.

Personally, I know of no other way to address this emotion and sensation other than to tell myself, “Just fucking do it.” Once I engage and immerse myself, the boredom wanes (but not always).

Sometimes I feel emotionally rewarded immediately after a task (which I forced myself to do), has been completed. Other times the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t show up for a day, two days or a week later. Doing what I should do is rarely as exciting as getting drunk would be. But with my sober mind, I can grasp the implications of either decision.

Then there are times when I actually force myself to do nothing. “Fine, you wanna be bored ya dumb fuck,,, then just sit here and be bored. But tomorrow you’ll regret that you wasted your time sitting here.” Doing that – just sitting there until I can’t stand it anymore – will inevitably get me doing something, even if it’s one small mundane responsibility. I don’t like feeling that I wasted yesterday, I’ve wasted enough yesterdays in my drinking past.

Boredom also generates a lot of internal self-talk. Much of this bored self-talk is second guessing self-talk. For instance: “I wonder if this is worth it? I’ll bet everybody else is out having a great time and I’m sitting here bored. I bet Jim (Mary, Karen, Patricia, Brent, whoever) isn’t bored. I bet they’re happy and doing something fun. I could probably just go hang out with them tonight and get back on track tomorrow.” (Insert more of your own familiar ruminations here.)

This destructive type of self-talk is why I usually opt for forcing myself to do something instead of just sitting there. I try to do things that require me to physically stand up and require my mental attention. No matter how mundane or uneventful the task is, my mind will invariably be engaged with self-talk about the task at hand. If this distracts me and saves me for only a few minutes, so be it. In those few minutes I can mentally regroup the poop and get my second guessing self-talk under control.

Boredom exists, whether you’re a user or abstainer. No earth shattering revelation here, but what you DO when you’re feeling bored can completely alter the course of your life. Yes, that one moment, that single instance when you might be tempted to alleviate boredom and deviate from your plan of what you want out of sobriety – and pick up a drink – could change the course of your life. That same moment or instance, when you force yourself to do something constructive, may also become the tipping point to some great life altering outcomes. Other moments are spent purely fulfilling mundane responsibilities, but they can still be framed with pride: “Whoopty-fuckin-do, I got the dishes washed, but at least I stayed sober.”

You can count on boredom. How you battle against it will determine the results:

  • Getting drunk will get you drunk and you are guaranteed uncertainty of the outcome.
  • Staying sober and doing something that’s on your what I want out of sobriety list also guarantees uncertainty of the outcome. But it will be getting you closer to an outcome that you want.
  • Doing something on your mundane responsibility list guarantees a task being accomplished, but it doesn’t guarantee emotional fulfillment.
  • Sitting there, bored out of your skull, guarantees the certainty of nothing being accomplished.

The choice is YOURS.

What qualifies me to write this crap?

Friday, November 25th, 2011

What qualifies me to write the stuff that I do? Let’s see…

  • I lived it. Getting drunk was an important part of my life from my mid teens through most of my adulthood (approximately 32 years total).
  • I drank for the pleasure of it – I had no disease – I brought my life of drunkenness upon myself.
  • I’ve been to hell a few times. I know what real shit tastes like (and I’ll never order it again).
  • I’ve been involved with the program (AA & Al-Anon) – I have experienced it myself.
  • I have been through therapy and counseling sessions.
  • I have studied multiple sobriety systems and techniques.
  • I have studied accredited medical research on the physiological effects of alcohol on the brain and vital organs.
  • I have studied diverse psychology philosophies (psychology is based upon opinion and supposition in itself).
  • I beat my powerlessness of alcohol having control over me.
  • I am sober – on my own – for 6 years, one month, 13 days (at this writing).
  • I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who know me personally and intimately that can testify to me being a professional drunk for many years and then going through “Re-Invention” on my own*.

These are facts that cannot be ignored or denied. I don’t make this shit up. Why would I? I don’t care whether you believe me or not. I don’t care whether you want to drink or not. It’s not my life you’re toying with, it’s yours.

What I do is I share what I have done, experienced and learned about living sober. I write for MYSELF and to share with others who are interested. I don’t tell people what they should do. I don’t talk about the evils of alcohol. I don’t want you to join my exclusive club. I don’t want you to carry the good word of sobriety to the masses. I don’t care if you spread my name and philosophies to others. If you glean something from my writing and speaking, and it improves your own life, that’s wonderful. If you tell others about my website, blog and books, I’m grateful. I can genuinely say, “Take what you want,,, or tell me to get fucked.”

Now that I’ve said why I’m qualified, allow me to share a bit of my history in sobriety:

The negative consequences of all my excessive pleasure seeking was more than I wanted. My drinking and drunken behavior finally began catching up with me. Many of the things I truly valued in my life were collapsing around me. (My marriage, my career, my earning potential and debt was mounting.) I knew that I had to stop drinking to stop all those negative consequences that were directly related to my drinking. I knew that the only way to stop alcohol from controlling me was to control it and to not ever put it into my body again. That was the simple part of recovery – if I don’t drink I can’t get drunk. But then all of the emotional, relationship and psycho-social problems came crashing in at full speed. I thought that sobriety would fix or eliminate all of my problems. I had no idea of how to handle these new sober dilemmas and had no idea of what to do or where to turn for help, so I began attending Al-Anon meetings and then AA meetings.

I openly acknowledge that I attended AA and Al-Anon meetings during the first 9 months of my sobriety. This would lead some to say, “See, without the program you wouldn’t have sobered up.” I beg to differ. I was abstinent and sober for over 30 days before I ever attended my first AA meeting. I began attending meetings NOT to sober me up or to keep me sober; I was suddenly faced with new sober dilemmas that I hadn’t anticipated, so I attended meetings in hopes of finding help handling my sobriety problems.

When I began attending AA, I refused to have a sponsor. Why would I want someone who admits to being weak and powerless teaching me? I never accepted a Higher Power, never accepted or asked for a chip, never hid behind the mask of disease or powerlessness. What I did accept was full and total personal responsibility for every drop of alcohol I had ever drunk. I drank because I liked it and it gave me pleasure. That’s when people would tell me that I was in denial and that I had a disease. Huh? How can my statement be construed as denial?

While attending these meetings I bought and PAID for my copy of the Big Book, The 12-Steps and numerous other AA and Al-Anon books. (I put the word PAID in bold because I have been accused of, “being a profiteer, whereas AA gives what they offer for free.” Uhhh, not so, AA & Al-Anon charge money for books, where I do in fact give a lot of things away for free.) I read each book and publication that I purchased repeatedly and undertook working each step with pure intention. I didn’t believe in most of the steps, but I figured that I should at least work them as described.

As I sat in these meetings night after night, listening to the stories and the teachings, I internalized this system and thought, “There has got to be an alternative. I quit drinking because I didn’t want to be destined to sit in a bar the rest of my life, and I certainly don’t want to be destined to sit in these depressing, group-think meetings for the rest of my life, insulated from the real world. I want to LIVE a normal, full, rich life, because I am normal,,, I just drank too much.”

After I discontinued attending meetings I began writing out what feelings and thoughts I was experiencing. I started making a list of what I want out of living sober. Adjacent to the things that I wanted, I wrote out what activities, behaviors and actions I must perform to attain these things. I also wrote out what was working for me, what I struggled with and what didn’t work for me. (When I say, “didn’t work” I am referring to activities, behaviors and actions that didn’t help me get closer to my goals or simply made me feel worse.)

I have never had a relapse. I have never even had a single sip of any alcohol since my last drink on October 11, 2005. I have been able to do this completely by my own volition – by consciously controlling the actions of my own hands and NOT picking up and pouring alcohol into my own mouth. No power other than ME has controlled my own hands

I have taken control over alcohol. I am constantly striving to make the best out of my sobriety. I am proud of what I have done for myself. And that is what qualifies me to write this crap.

(*By the way, those same people who can testify that I was a professional drunk would also testify that I can be an arrogant asshole, with a heart of pure love, consideration and passion. Many of them witnessed my agonizing transition and “Re-Invention.” They suffered through my whining, wailing and crying. They were patient with me while I went through discovery. THEY are my true friends and they will be rewarded with my arrogance, pure love, consideration and passion. Lucky them,,, huh?)

You are pure and I am pure evil:

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I said this in response to being told, “I wouldn’t have done what I did if you wouldn’t have done what you did. You were a drunk.” Oddly enough, this was a defensive statement made to me when I asked about something that happened AFTER I had sobered up. The other person was blaming ME for THEIR behavior. (I’m sure this has never happened to you and you have never said it to anyone else.)

What a freeing statement for me to say, “You are pure and I am pure evil.” It emancipated me from my guilt. What a relief.

Do I honestly feel and believe that I am pure evil? Absolutely not. But this statement helps me understand how to accept myself and accept other people. Here’s how it works for me:

I realize that people will think whatever they want to think about me and ONLY what they want to think about me. Regardless of any empirical evidence I can present, no matter what I can show them, no matter how I act and behave – the other person will ONLY think what they want to think.

This happens to me when I do speaking engagements. Beforehand, or early into the presentation, I can see the ardent 12-steppers with their arms crossed and furrowed brows. I will ask, “Why do you feel cold and threatened by me?” “Well I know that you’re anti AA and I support the program.” “How do you know this? Have you read anything I’ve written? Do you know what I’m going to say?” “Well,,, no,,, but I’ve heard about you and I don’t buy into your crap.”

I wouldn’t expect anything else from someone. People (including me), base their impressions and beliefs upon only what they think they know, have heard, or are willing to accept. Even if the person knows better or has heard differing stories, they will still believe what they want to believe. The only way this changes is if the other person is interested in getting to know me, finding out the truth and then objectively weighing the data.

This has been a good reminder to me that I must stop myself and not prejudge people or harbor incorrect impressions that I had of them in the past. I must be interested in them and find out the facts before I make a judgment call on them. This is not to say that I blindly overlook the obvious. If someone is slamming shots or doing a line in front of me, I can safely presume that they drink or do drugs and will continue to do so. If they boast about their dalliances with a co-worker, I can safely presume that they are unfaithful and will continue to be that way.

When I meet new people, I must spend time getting to know them, observe and listen. When I run into people from my past I must do the same, observe and listen. I don’t open the conversation with, “So, you still drinking your life away, doing blow and fuckin’ your neighbor’s wife?” I must remind myself to drop all of my prejudicial and preconceived notions about them. If I’m curious about something, I ask.

For example, while I’m writing this, I’m thinking back about a working relationship I had with a very talented singer/musician. He did a lot of work for me in my studio, but I always walked around on eggshells, because I had “heard,” secondhand, that he had threatened someone’s life when he was criticized by them and his show was cancelled. He was always friendly, professional and pleasant with me. But I was guilty of improper judgment and I only believed what I wanted to believe. Based on the secondhand story I had heard, I believed that that the teller of the story was pure and this musician was pure evil. I wish I would have asked him directly about the incident. HE would have been able to clear my mind or at least give me his perspective on the situation. He could have defended or supported his own case. Sadly I can’t ask him, he’s no longer a member of this planet.

And here is how this relates to us former drunks: People who knew you during your drinking past will have an impression of you, even if they are aware that you no longer drink. You can present all sorts of intelligent pleas, present your case with sensible logic, tell them how long you’ve been sober, relay your tale of woe, show them your pocket full of chips, whatever you think will work – and they will still have an impression of you – whether it’s valid or not.

By realizing this, accepting this, and NOT worrying about what they think, you can free yourself of needless guilt. Just behave as you normally would. Let them see you sober – at this moment. If they are interested in getting to know the new Re-Invented you, they will ask questions. If they’re not interested, let them believe whatever they want to believe.

I wish I would have learned this earlier in my sobriety and earlier in my life. I have spent far too much valuable time trying to get others to think what I hoped they would think of me. I wanted them to see the truth about me, and in doing so I spent my time trying to please them, to get them to open their minds and see my point of view, come to my way of thinking.

Now I simply behave as I normally would, act as I normally would and let the other person witness what I am, for themselves. If they are genuinely interested in knowing something or getting to know the new, real me, they will ask or express some level of curiosity.

And when someone blames YOU for their own behavior, simply say (or think to yourself), “You are pure and I am pure evil. I’m good with this.”

Why I DO & DON’T support AA:

Monday, November 21st, 2011

First let me go through what I support about AA and why I think you should at least look into it.

If you are serious about living sober – and especially if you’re new at this – you should research, learn and understand the many sobriety techniques that are available to you. This includes going to some AA meetings. You may discover that you like AA. Or you might find a group that’s perfect for you. I think it’s unfair to criticize something until you’ve performed due diligence and have educated yourself about it.

Besides, I’m sure that you invested a fair amount of time in your drinking hobby. Now that you don’t drink, you probably don’t know what to do with all that newfound time. In the early stages of sobriety, AA meetings can serve as a good way to consume a lot of what was once your drinking time.

There is a comforting element to learning that you are not the only person on earth that overuses (overused) alcohol. At AA meetings, you will hear from others who are worse off than you and others who are nowhere near as bad as you. You will likely feel some sense of fellowship, even if you don’t become close friends with other people in your group.

When you are newly sober, it can be beneficial to follow a structured activity list: The 12 Steps. Your mind will be confused on how to live sober (this is a new way of life for you), so following a structured plan of steps may get you moving in a direction that’s right for you. It’s good to spend some early sober time being introspective. There’s nothing wrong with taking an accounting of your life and your behaviors. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to follow a system with pure intention to become a better person. There’s nothing wrong with considering spirituality or God as part of your life (but this does not guarantee your sobriety).

If you go to meetings, go with an open mind and an open heart. If you are going to work the steps (even if you decide to not work every one of them), work them with pure intent. This means really try.

But as you evolve in your sobriety, you may not need, or want, to attend as many meetings. I further believe that people should graduate out of AA after one year. Learn what you need to learn and then take your skills out into the real world. You can always go back to meetings periodically for a refresher course or for continued education.

Here is where I will add my own words of caution about becoming too invested in the program.

  • Meetings become the new social and mental addiction.
  • You can easily fall into the group mindset. You do what the group tells you to do.
  • You can easily find yourself living in an insulated world; surrounded only by the group.
  • Your regular daily life responsibilities, family and friends are forsaken so that you can attend nightly meetings.
  • Family and friends “just don’t understand” and you become distant or detached from them.
  • You can become intolerant of those who don’t follow the program but are still sober. i.e. “They’ll never make it without the program.”
  • You are constantly reminded and told that you are weak and flawed. THAT is not positive reinforcement.
  • Do not use AA as a sober pick up joint.
  • You go to AA with the sole intent of meeting new sober friends because your social skills have been influenced to hang out with only other AA members.

Now I will discuss what I personally don’t like about AA:

There should be no hiding of the fact that this is a religious based organization. AA claims that they are not religious based, but just read over the steps.

  • I must accept a greater power than myself.
  • I must turn my will over to a God of my choosing.
  • I must ask this God of my choosing to rid me of my flaws and guide me.
  • I must share all of my private details with this God and another human being (and anyone else who is in attendance at these meetings).

If you believe in any of the recognized or traditional religions, then you won’t have a problem with this. But you will still be suggested upon (I’ll refrain from using terms like; persuaded, cajoled, coerced, pressured, bullied, pushed, intimidated), to have your God guide you, give you answers and do your thinking for you.

“Take what you want and leave the rest.” But then I would be told, “You have to follow the steps or it won’t work.” Well which is it? Which statement can I believe? Or which statement do I HAVE to believe to be accepted by the group? And when I say “accepted” I realize that all are welcome, but only those who ardently support the group think will be accepted in as part of the group.

There are also the bully tactics, scare tactics and not so veiled threats of failure if you don’t follow the herd. Then there’s the insinuation that your family and friends just don’t understand you the same way the group understands you. This can undermine YOUR home life. If you show up at a meeting and relay any examples of difficulty at home, you will be told, “Your spouse (partner or children), need to join a 12-step program too. This is a family problem.”

There may be family problems in your home, but they were most likely caused by YOU and your drinking. Your family members don’t have to be subjected to bullying and brainwashing – work steps, give their mind and spirit over to the group because YOU couldn’t control YOUR OWN hands and not raise the bottle to your lips. You need to stay sober and fix your own problems at home.

Speaking of family, I want to pose a question here. What’s the difference between being gone every night, sitting in a bar or being gone every night sitting in a meeting? You are still absent from your family – you’re not at home with them. You may respond, “Well I’m not out drinking and ruining my family’s future.” That’s true, but you are still absent and you aren’t at home with the people you should be spending time with and practicing those steps of apologizing and making amends. (What? You apologize once, ask to make amends and then it’s done?) You should be living your amends with the people you love and that love and rely on you.

If you feel that you must go to meetings, then go on your lunch hour or get up extra early and go before work. (Sounds kind of inconvenient doesn’t it?) If you’re going to live sober, why not live sober at home, with the people you love and care about? Be with them and LIVE your amends with them and go to meetings on your own time.

In all of my years of sobriety, I have never wanted to drink more than after an AA meeting. The constant stories of one-upmanship were not only laughable, but made me feel like drinking again. “You peed yourself; well I was so bad I pooped myself.” “I slept with so many guys I can’t even keep track.” “I was so bad that I stole money from my kids.” “I was worse, I drank….” On and on. And then there are the same people with the same story or problem, night after night, week after week. They are clean and sober, but they are never making any headway or progress. (Gee, this seems to be working for you.) “But I’ll keep coming back.”

Every time I questioned something or disagreed, I was told that I was causing problems. I was told (and read) that the program is more important than the people themselves. We must NEVER question the program or we will be destined for failure and death. (Based on my understanding of biology, I’m destined to die at some point in time.) I was repeatedly told that if I continue to question and don’t follow the program’s way of thinking that I would fail. Well, I haven’t failed in over 6 years and I will not fail in the future. I think for myself. I am responsible and accountable for myself.

I have also met members who purposefully attend meetings to prey on the weak and vulnerable. I have been told, “Dude, you gotta come to more meetings. A guy like you could get laid here every night. I get laid all the time working the newbies.” I’ve also witnessed outright racism and sexual preference prejudice. I have watched drug deals take place and parties being planned. This is perpetrated by the people involved, NOT due to the organization itself.

I’m not making these things up about AA or the meetings. I attended about 100 meetings during my first year of sobriety. I didn’t keep track of the number of meetings because I could care less about gaining someone’s approval by the number of meetings I attended and I wanted nothing to do with earning a chip. It made no difference to me how many chips, medallions, trophies or plaques I had on my dresser. All that mattered to ME was MY sobriety, because that’s all that counted.

This may sound confusing, almost contradictory to what I have just written, but out of my respect for the program and my respect of those people who truly believe in the system, I felt that I should no longer attend.

I then embarked on organizing my own thoughts and beliefs about alcoholism. I studied, read and did research on psychology and physiology (I continue to do so). I write my books, my website and this blog as an alternative to the traditional 12-step system. I have no desire to persuade anyone in or out of AA. I actually support AA and feel it is an important tool/stage in the evolution of an individual’s Re-Invention. However, I believe that you should eventually graduate out of AA and take your sobriety skills into the real world.

Ultimately, whether you’re a 12-stepper or a non-stepper, “We both have the mutual goal of staying sober regardless of what system or technique we follow.” On that I hope we can both agree.

So this is sobriety?

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Yup, this is it. Just living a normal life, with all of the normal struggles, joys, successes and failures that come with it. Were you expecting more? Did someone tell you there would be more? Did someone tell you that all your problems would disappear?

Well they lied!

Sobriety may bring about the changes you hope and desire. You may rekindle relationships, marriages, families, friendships. You may get a better job, be looked at for advancement, make more money or get your financial struggles under control. You may end up living a happier life – but this is NOT guaranteed. The only way those things will happen is by you going through the effort to make them happen.

Sobriety is simply being SOBER.

  • Not self-introducing a substance into your body to alter your mood, view or perception of your own life.
  • Accepting all of your own quirks, likes, dislikes, desires, goals, problems and obstacles with a clear mind.
  • Being responsible and accountable for your own actions, reactions and behaviors.

Ooooh, so you’re called a dry drunk. So what? Whether you make amends, live amends, apologize to the world, turn your life over to a Higher Power, forgive yourself, forgive others, forgive your parents, forgive society, mentally cleanse yourself of your painful childhood, work on your psychological issues, work on your personality issues, your financial issues, develop a reward system, become responsible, become a better person, whatever,,, is completely independent of sobriety.

These things have NOTHING to do with your sobriety – it’s the reverse – your sobriety will enable you to address and (with cognitive effort on your behalf), hopefully accomplish these other things. You may accomplish them ALL, you may only get close, you may find that living sober really sucks, but you will be in a better position to undertake all of these other activities by having a clear, sober mind.

Let me ask you: Are you doing these activities because you are told to do them or are you doing them because you want to do them? When you live sober and your mind becomes clearer, you will be able to decide whether you even want to undertake any of these activities.

  • Goal #1 – Stay sober by NOT self-introducing alcohol into your system.
  • Goal #2 – Work on all the other shit.

Go ahead, find (and post), what you believe are flaws in my hypothesis. At least I got you to think.

Enough of this, “One day at a time” stuff:

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

This catchphrase gives people self-authorization to relapse. They have an “out” so they can fall backwards when just the right reason to drink comes along. People use this phrase; “One day at a time,” because they have not mentally committed to themselves that they will live and remain sober – permanently.

Why not make plans for 1, 2, 3 or 5 years of sobriety? “I don’t know if I can stay sober that long.” Well then you’re just not serious about your sobriety. Why not go back and start drinking now?

Do I sound heartless, mean, cruel and unsupportive? Probably, but I am simply speaking truth.

People are afraid to make a long-term commitment and plan for their own sobriety. That takes mental work, self-restraint and the risk of ridicule. Nobody wants to be seen as a liar or a failure if they happen to go back to drinking once they’ve publicly stated that they are done.

Look, I know that it isn’t easy to remain sober. There are plenty of temptations in this world. But guess what? Those temptations will ALWAYS be there, for the rest of your life, not just one day at a time. You can stay sober one day at a time, but your own sobriety still needs to be viewed as a lifelong commitment. Think about this – Not very many of us ever said, “I’ll stay drunk one day at a time.” No, we made plans to get drunk and virtually had made a lifelong commitment to our destructive and continued drinking.

Keeping your mind in the “One day at a time” outlook limits your mental planning and projection of your own future. This catchphrase means that all you’re looking at is today. Yes, you must live and behave, “one day at a time.” In fact you actually live and behave “one second at a time.” But I’m certain that you still make plans for tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.

So really think about the phrase, “One day at a time.” Is that how you plan your life? Is that how you plan your investments, your major purchases and decisions in your life? Is that how a mortgage company bases its decision to extend you a loan? Is that how people plan businesses? NO.

People (and businesses) that don’t make plans and make commitments for their futures, rapidly flounder. I won’t even use the word fail – how can you fail at something if it isn’t even a tangible plan? Floundering occurs when all you see is the end goal or what you want, but there is no tangible plan or commitment on how to get there. You just bounce along, one day at a time, hoping that something somehow will generate results and magically it will all work out. Who knows, you might get lucky and it will all work out – but the law of probability is not in your favor if you don’t plan and commit.

The phrase “one day at a time” can be used as part of an equation. For example, “My mortgage payment is $1,200.00 a month, so I have to make sure that I save $40.00 – one day at a time – so I have $1,200.00 at the end of the month.” Or “I want to buy a new car, so I must save $10.00 – one day at a time – for one year and I will have enough for a down payment.” Or “I want to retire with a million dollars*, so I have to put $50.00 into my IRA – one day at a time – for the next 35 years.” (*This is strictly an example based on 10% average annual return, dividend re-investment, employer matching, blah, blah, blah.) But I’m sure you get the idea of how I’m using “one day at a time” when planning your future.

Even if all you want to do is stop for a while, you still need to make a committal statement such as:

  • I will NOT drink for 30 days.
  • I will NOT drink for 90 days.
  • I will NOT drink for 1 year.

And then stick to your commitment.

So yes, you can stay sober, “One day at a time,,, one hour at a time,,, one minute at a time,,, one second at a time.” But without a commitment and a plan of what you want out of living sober (even if it’s just for 30 days), you are authorizing yourself to flounder. So why not make the statement (and a list) of, “Over the next 3 years, here’s what I want out of living sober and this is what I must do to accomplish those things…..” Then you can do those things – one day at a time – to get what you want.