Archive for December, 2011

Bullshitters beware – you WILL get caught:

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

“Mark, I’ve read all your books and I just picked up the latest one. I remember that at the bottom of a page you talk about reviewing all that you did for the day and thanking God for His guidance.” All I could respond with was, “I don’t know what book you’re talking about but it sure ain’t mine. I never wrote anything like that.” His retort, “Aww sure you did. It’s right in your book. I’ve read all your work.” Then he couldn’t back down and he continued to claim I wrote that statement and further blemished his credibility with me.

I don’t like bullshitters and liars, especially when I catch them, and I will catch them.

Why do I know so much about catching liars and bullshitters? Because I was one of the best. I was so good at it that I believed my own bullshit. I’ve lost out on some great relationships because of my drunken bullshitting. A big part of starting my sobriety was to stop bullshitting myself.

Bullshitters say everything from “I’m going to quit drinking” to “I’ll love you forever.”  Bullshitters rarely, if ever, do what they say they’re going to do. And most bullshitters honestly believe what they say and they often have genuine sincerity of doing what they said they will do. “I’ll call you, I’ll take care of that, let’s get together, I’ll be there by 8, I’ll pay you back, etc.” Any of these phrases sound familiar?

Let me clarify the difference between outright lying and “bullshitting.”

Lying is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. It is a conscious act of deception so the liar can avoid a loss (getting in trouble, being embarrassed, losing social status, etc.), or to gain something that they are not deserving of (money, love, sex, social status, etc.).

Bullshitting on the other hand crosses a delicate line. Bullshitting is an unconscious and subconscious act. It is the result of lying to YOURSELF first. It happens so quickly that you don’t even notice it. It becomes a way of life. Then when confronted about it, the bullshitter must protect themselves and dispense even more bullshit. Dispense enough bullshit and you will buy into it yourself because it sounds real to you.

Allow me to give you an example of bullshitting. Let’s say that someone I know is person A and I am person B. You’ll see how it all begins with an innocuous statement, then goes into defensive mode, then creates conflict to divert away from the original statement.

A: “Hey, I quit drinking.”

B: “That’s cool. How long has it been?”

A: “It must be close to a month by now.”

B: “So you haven’t had a drink in a month. Good for you. What day did you quit?” (We ALL remember what day we quit.)

A: “Well I haven’t quit completely, but it’s not really a problem anymore.”

B: “Okay, whatever.”

A: “No. I mean it. It’s not really a problem.”

B: “That’s fine. I don’t really care.”

A: “Honestly, I only have a couple of beers when I drink.” (Reiterating and beginning to defend their original statement.)

B: “Well just out of curiosity, how many is a couple? One, two, three?”

A: “I don’t know, I don’t count them. It’s not really a problem anymore.” (Defensive.)

B: “So what you’re actually saying is that you haven’t quit, but you want to bullshit me and bullshit yourself at the same time.”

A: “No you’re getting it all confused.”

B: “No I’m not. You told me you did something that you didn’t do. Are you trying to impress me? Because I’m not impressed. I don’t like bullshitters. Why not just be honest?”

A: Ya know, you’re a real asshole for accusing me of shit. I don’t need this.” (Conflict.)

B: “Look, I don’t care if you drink or not. But don’t bullshit me so you can justify your own action. You shouldn’t have told me you quit in the first place.”

A: “Well I was going to,,, but shit came up. You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what I’ve had to deal with.” (Ambiguous defensive diversion.)

B: “I’m sure I don’t. Good luck with your quitting. Bye.”

I could give plenty more examples, but I’m guessing that you get my point.

You can bullshit yourself, your boss, your family, your friends,,, but eventually you will get caught by the credible (and even the not so credible). And do you know what happens when you get caught? You get played for a while, played at your own game. And after the other person is through playing you, they slowly and quietly go away… bye-bye. Then you have to find someone new to bullshit.

If you are sincere about quitting destructive drinking, then stop bullshitting yourself. Make the decision and the statement, “I no longer drink – period.” Then start behaving as a non-drinker. You can still be wild and crazy, go dancing, go to comedy clubs, movies, watch TV, hang out with friends,,, you just don’t drink while you’re doing it.

When you stop bullshitting yourself you will begin to take yourself seriously and others will take you seriously. Some amazing things begin to happen when you stop the self-bullshitting. You will respect yourself more and you will respect others more.

How much does this shit REALLY cost?

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Let me begin by saying I am NOT some temperance lunatic. I am NOT anti alcohol. Booze and drugs are fun. Alcohol is a LEGAL product and it fuels a large part of our economy. (I dissect this topic in my book: Okay, I quit. Now what?) Without the alcohol, entertainment and hospitality industries, many of us would be unemployed. It is the misuse and overuse of alcohol that has a massively damaging financial impact on our health care and insurance industries, not to mention low productivity from drunk and hung-over employees. The financial costs of alcohol related accidents and health problems due to alcohol misuse are incalculable.

Again, I wish to point out that I am NOT stating an argument to ban alcohol, but for some of us, drinking is far more costly than just the price we pay for our booze. Analyzing your own booze related expenditures may help YOU make the final decision to quit destructive drinking and begin rewarding yourself in other ways with the money you will no longer be spending on drinking.

I’ll use myself as an example.

I’ve spent plenty of my money on alcohol itself. I place a conservative average of $10.00 per day, which comes to about $109,500.00 during my drinking career. But now I want to try to account for all of the other ancillary expenditures:

  • Cigarettes / Cigars / Chew or any additional vices while drinking.
  • Special “beer drinkin” snacks or food.
  • After drinking food.
  • Drinking entertainment – not limited to gambling, cover charges, music.

Now I must try to account for lost productivity, errors, poor decisions, unwise investments or purchases, interest on items or booze that I charged, laziness, missed time to further myself. These costs are impossible to calculate.

Then there are the health related costs to account for: All the doctor appointments, lab tests to check blood and organ function, high blood pressure and other medications. I’ve gone to the doctor and ER numerous times due to sprained ankles, broken bones, unplanned holes in my body, ailments and injuries sustained while I was drunk.

I’m confident that most people don’t disclose to their doctor or ER staff that their injury, accident or illnesses (STD’s?) are alcohol related. I’m not accusing people of outright lying, which is why I used the word “disclose.” I never told the doctor, “I was drunk, trying to crack open Brazil nuts with a screwdriver and I stabbed myself in the hand. That’s why I need blood tests, stitches, a tetanus shot and pain medication.”

Unless someone is caught in the act or is clearly drunk, medical personnel can only record what the patient tells them. They can make notes on their own observations, but there is no way to compile factual statistics. Even insurance actuaries and investigators have difficulty proving and estimating this.

Many of us complain about the high cost of health insurance and the cost of government funded medical care. I wonder how much lower insurance premiums would be if there were less alcohol related incidences? I wonder if people would be more careful or be more mindful if they had to pay for their own self-induced alcohol related foibles instead of expecting their insurer to pay the bills?

I can hear it now… “Mark, you were drunk when you ran that drill bit into your knee. I’m sorry but you’ll have to pay the $2,387.00 Emergency Room bill yourself. Follow-up care and medications will also be your own financial responsibility, but that shouldn’t be more than $6,000.00 So, will that be cash, credit or check?”

I haven’t even touched on the cost to law enforcement and auto insurers. And I don’t want to overlook the harsh tragedies that are brought to families and innocent people.

So honestly, how much does this shit REALLY cost?

As I said, this is NOT an argument for the abolition of alcohol, I’m just laying out some things for you to consider when YOU are deciding if drinking is detrimental to tour own wellbeing. These points may solidify your decision to quit. They may also become points which you will remind yourself of when you are tempted to drink again.

I wish you the best health and safety, whatever YOU decide.

*I credit the inspiration for writing this on a post that was made on my Facebook page. I’m thrilled and honored to have people participate with their posts.

The resolution solution:

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Every New Year’s Eve almost each and every one of us comes up with resolutions for the coming year. We want to correct and avoid making mistakes that we made over the past year or we want to improve our lives during the coming year. The New Year seems like a perfect time to begin these resolutions:

  • Eat better
  • Exercise regularly
  • Lose weight
  • Spend less money
  • Start a budget
  • Eliminate debt
  • Stop smoking
  • Stop drinking

We all set out with the most sincere of intentions to keep our resolutions but they are rapidly forgotten. Why is this? The answer is that life gets busy. Within a couple of  weeks or a month we don’t have time to eat well, go to the gym, save for our future, etc. Resolutions that involve controlling destructive habits may suffer even faster. More exciting things come along, friends invite us to go out and party or difficulties and stress show up. But busy schedules, friends, parties, difficulties and stress will always be a part of our lives. So why do we lapse on our resolutions?

It isn’t because we’re weak and flawed; we’re actually very strong and smart. We let the smart part of our mind justify and validate why we can lapse “just this once,” on our resolutions. We can mentally and emotionally support our behavior, even if it’s to do something we know we shouldn’t. Our own mind tells us it’s okay to break our promises – for whatever reason we think is valid – to others and then ultimately to ourselves.

I believe that the best resolution you can make is to: Make a promise to keep your promises. That means that you live by your word. When you say you’ll do something you do it. It starts with the smallest things; i.e. I’ll take the garbage out, I’ll call you tomorrow, I’ll pick up my dirty clothes, I’ll clean the bathroom, etc. All the way up to major life promises; i.e. I’ll stay sober, I’ll complete this course (job, project, etc.), I’ll be faithful to my partner.

Once you’ve given yourself liberty to NOT fulfill a promise, your mind goes to work; self-justifying and validating your non-fulfillment. The dominoes start tumbling into one another and promise after promise is then broken – it becomes a way of living. You expect less and less from yourself. This erodes at your self-esteem. Before long an attitude of, “Awww who gives a shit” prevails, the same habits are back in place, another year passes and it’s time to make the same resolutions again.

When you live by keeping your promises you begin to truly think before you speak and act. You start taking yourself seriously. Resolving to keep promises can be painful. It’s painful to reflect on all your broken promises from the past. It’s painful to see your own fallibility; that broken promises were your own doing. And even more painful to honestly realize that future behavior is your own responsibility.

Just as breaking your promises erodes self-esteem, keeping your promises builds self-esteem. You will feel valuable because you know that your “word” is good. It really doesn’t matter whether others trust or believe your word, it matters that YOU trust and believe your word and keep your promises. In time, others will come to believe and respect you.

Along with making a promise to keep your promises, what about individual resolutions? I’ll use losing weight as an example resolution:

  • Make your resolution realistic. (Is losing 50lbs realistic? Or would setting a goal of 20lbs be more realistic?)
  • Make your resolution attainable. (20lb weight loss is far more attainable than a 50lb loss if you have certain time constraints or physical limitations. If you lose the 20 quickly, then shoot for the next 30)
  • Make its progress trackable. (Check your weight every week, write it on a calendar)
  • Make it public to someone other than yourself. (Your partner, workout buddy, friend or relative)
  • Develop a reward for its accomplishment (which you receive AFTER they are accomplished).

I’m sorry to say this, but sticking to resolutions will be difficult. They will likely require work, effort, self-control, sacrifice, change, personal accountability and time. That’s just how it is. Life isn’t always fair, everything isn’t always easy and you won’t always feel like keeping your promises. But winners in life keep their promises. Losers on the other hand,,, well, we all know plenty of them.

Your first resolution for the New Year should be to PROMISE to keep your PROMISES.

Who are you?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

I was asked a question on my Facebook page: “How do you find out who you are once you’re sober, when you’ve been drinking and doing drugs since you were 8 years old?” They have never been sober as an adult.

Here’s my answer:

It will involve thought, effort and RISK! You will undoubtedly experience boredom, failure, frustration, uncertainty, feelings of mental inadequacy, loneliness, and thoughts of, “I don’t even know who I am.” Discovering what you like and who you want to become takes time, trial and error. If someone has been absent, drunk and numb for the past 10 years (as an example), how can they expect to answer such a major question in a matter of minutes? This is not like downloading a video from the internet in 12 seconds. It takes time and it will be an ongoing process of success and failure. Demanding or desiring to have an answer RIGHT NOW is parallel to drinking – “I want what I want when I want it.”

When drinking, the mind is numb and boring shit seems interesting (hell, I was considered interesting to other drunks). Most drunks follow the crowd or their peers. You might disagree and say, “I did whatever I wanted and would do whatever I wanted to. I didn’t listen to anybody.” That’s true, you probably didn’t LISTEN to anybody, but you followed along with the crowd and went out partying. You went where they were, you wanted to be around other drunks; you followed the crowd. Even if you drank alone, you probably weren’t “hiding” from something; you were catching a buzz, keeping your mind busy and consuming time.

So how do you discover yourself, who you are and what you like now that you’re sober? Back to risk and work. You have to think, by yourself, with yourself, “What would be something that I would like to try, do or learn that doesn’t involve getting high or drunk?” This is scary because you have to think on YOUR OWN. This fear is why many like to glam on and follow the steps, they don’t have to think on their own, they can keep busy by following steps, following SOMEONE ELSE’S orders. Following.

It’s also scary because you might fail at some things. No, allow me to clarify – you WILL FAIL at some things. So what if you fail? At least you’ll be trying. You’re virtually guaranteed failure if you never try.

My best suggestion would be to sit down with a pad of paper and write out what you would like to do. Don’t know how to write or spell very well? There you go, that’s first on the list of things to learn. Because once you acquire knowledge, no one can steal it from you – it’s yours.

Write out your desires, from the wildest to the simplest. After you have a page or two of things you would like to do, have or learn, look at each item on the list. Are they realistic? Are they possible? Are there any physical, financial or geographical limitations? Are there any other limitations? You don’t have to do everything that’s on your list. You might find that something you thought you always wanted to do doesn’t sound all that exciting now. Some things might be impractical, some might be impossible. But if you never sit, think and write out what you would like, you’ll never get to know who you are.

After you’ve written out your list of things you would like to do, have or learn, then write down some things you can start doing now, tomorrow or next week to get you involved and making movement towards accomplishing your list.

This exercise requires time, effort and thought. So what? You’re sober, you’ve got time. Thinking for yourself may be completely new to some people. This alone can be an exciting discovery. Your thoughts are YOURS and no one else’s. Thinking about yourself and for yourself is how you find out who you are and what you want. If you don’t put in the effort don’t expect to get any answers.

It is NO ONE else’s responsibility to keep you entertained or tell you what you like. It’s YOURS.

It’s okay to feel how you feel:

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Are you supposed to hide from your likes, dislikes, emotions and feelings? I don’t think so. Aren’t those things part of life?

Just because you like something doesn’t mean you have to have it. Just because you dislike something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to do it. Just because you have an emotion or feeling doesn’t mean you should hide from it.

When you feel sad or depressed that should be an indicator that you need to fix something. When your arm or your back hurts you pay attention to it. You decide: Will I work through the pain? Will I perform my routine but not strain it any further? What do I need to do so it doesn’t hurt anymore?

Maybe you do work through the pain or adapt your routine so it doesn’t hurt. You might take it easy for a while but then begin to exercise your injury so it gets better. You might make a mental note and remember not to do the activity again that caused the pain. But while this is all going on the pain still exists – it’s real.

I won’t hide from my feelings, desires, likes and dislikes.

  • I LIKED getting drunk, but it wasn’t giving me good results, so I had to change my routine.
  • I felt sad and depressed when I quit drinking. Why wouldn’t I? I just gave up something I liked. I let my sadness and depression run its course. When I got tired of being sad and depressed I began taking action and doing things. I forced myself through it, but I didn’t deny that I was sad. Being engaged in action softened my sad feelings, but they were still there, I just didn’t let my feelings debilitate me.
  • I have the desire to catch a buzz, but doing so wouldn’t fulfill my long-term goals. In fact, it would undermine my progress and actions towards reaching my goals. So I don’t take action on my desire, but the desire is still there.
  • There are a lot of things that I dislike doing in life (i.e. picking up dog shit, certain duties of my job, certain personal responsibilities and obligations) but I still do them. I may reframe them in my mind, remembering that they are necessary evils, but I won’t deny that I dislike them.

I can talk my way through all sorts of stuff, I can talk myself into feeling better about all sorts of things that I have to do or can’t do, but I won’t lie to myself and live in “Pretend-o Land.” Emotions are real, but every emotion doesn’t have to be acted upon or reacted to. Even when I’m experiencing happy emotions I will keep them “in check.” I’ll enjoy the happiness, but I’ll make sure that I don’t get too overly exuberant so I can stay focused on what I need to do and attempt to keep that happy feeling going forward through new disappointments and adversities.

I see many people hide from their feelings and hide from the realities of their likes and dislikes. They become too heavily invested in wishful and deluded thinking. I don’t want to outright slam the book: The Secret, but let’s get real here. I understand the principles and they are beneficial, within reason. However, I’ve met a lot of people who have read it and take it LITERALLY. Look, I’m all for positive affirmations and happy visualizations, but without a realistic accounting of what is REAL, FEASIBLE and PROBABLE – you’re just hiding, being delusional and setting yourself up for letdowns. Visualizations and positive affirmations play an important role in a happy life, but they don’t fully work until finite goals and conscious behaviors are put into action.

For instance, if I wake up in the morning and tell myself affirmations like; “I’m happy, loveable, handsome and wealthy” – does that make it so? No, I need to consciously perform actions if I want to bring those things into reality. I need to behave in a happy and loveable fashion. I need to be clean and healthy if I wish to be viewed as handsome. I need to work and earn a living if I want to be wealthy.  If I visualize that I drink beer all night, dance and fuck like a love machine and then I’m a Rock Star, Mountain climber and Sports hero during the day – will that actually happen just because I visualized it? Don’t laugh; some people believe that can happen simply through visualizing it. But they neglect to take into account the reality that it’s not feasible.

“If I just think happy thoughts I’ll be happy.” This is true… to a point. But if you don’t do things that give you a feeling of efficacy and pride, it’s just fake happiness and it won’t last long. “If I think about money, my mind will subconsciously point me in the direction to acquire it.” If you don’t know how much wealth you want or how you’ll actually acquire it, what can your mind subconsciously point you to do? And some people don’t have the skills or capacity to earn vast wealth. “If I think thin, I’ll be thin.” You can think about being skinny all you want, you can even have a gym membership, but if you don’t go or don’t do anything about it – you can think and dream all you want – but it won’t make your ass any smaller.

It’s not possible for some people, given all the other (past and present) choices they’ve made, to get all that they want simply by visualizing or dreaming. If you want something you will have to take action, make an attempt, risk failure but at least do something other than just visualize and repeat affirmations.

You can fake your way through your emotions and feelings, but they’re still there. I’m not trying to be deflating here. I’m asking that you embrace your feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes, and then work with them. Make the best out of them. Experience them. Let them empower you. Don’t hide from them.

Which do you love more? Booze or your partner?

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

I was talking on the phone with a good friend of mine who lives in Wisconsin. I’ve known him for about 10 years. Christmas Eve will be his 2 year anniversary of sobriety. He had a few stumbles during the first year. When I say, “stumble” I don’t mean that he went out on a two week bender or got completely hammered the few times he drank during that first year. He had a couple of beers at weak moments. He called me and openly admitted that he fucked up those few times. He was trying to test social drinking. He didn’t like how he felt emotionally and psychologically after those stumbles. It wasn’t fun and it always put a strain on his marriage. His wife felt let down when it happened. In any case, he’s been 100% abstinent for over 1 year.

The main point of my story here is that he didn’t realize how much he loved his wife until I pointed out some of my observations to him. We were just talking about life and the upcoming Holiday. He was telling me how this Christmas is actually turning out to be fun for him and how much better his marriage is now that he’s completely abstinent.

I said, “Rick, do you realize how much you love your wife?” He hesitated for a moment and replied, “I’m not sure if I know what you mean?” I continued, “Rick, you love your wife more than you loved getting drunk. That says a lot about you, and she may not even know it. You might want to tell her.” He began to understand what I was talking about. “Remember all the problems you two were having? You thought you were quitting because she didn’t want you to lose your job and your house. You thought she was being a bitch and you wanted to get her off your back. But can’t you see that you did this because she loves you and you loved her MORE than you loved getting drunk? You quit for HER, you didn’t quit to save your career or anything else. “

“You know Mark, you’re right. At first I thought, ‘Why can’t she just leave me alone and let me have fun? What a bitch for prying in my life.’ But when I think back, she never really bitched at me. She told me straight out that I was fucking up my job, my health and our finances. She didn’t threaten me; she was straight forward and told me that I can drink if I want to but she would leave if I didn’t sober up. She said she wouldn’t live with a drunk any more, have all this debt and lose her (our) house because of my drinking. She’s been so supportive and willing to deal with all my whining and self-pity over the past two years. We’ve become closer than when we first got married. I can see that I was doing this because I love her, not because I was threatened. I didn’t want to lose her just because I wanted to drink. I guess I do love her more than I loved getting drunk. I’m definitely going to let her know. I should get some really good sex tonight. Thanks.”

I could sense how PROUD he felt about what he had done for himself and for his wife. Hey, they still argue and have shit explode – I’ve witnessed it – but they truly are much happier together now. They spend more time together and they genuinely like each other. He felt good about himself once he realized this.

Which do you love more? Booze or your partner? This is a reality that can be uplifting or it can be heart wrenching. I’ve been on both sides of this equation. It is not an easy pill to swallow. Understanding this dilemma (situation, condition – whatever you want to call it), can be a real eye-opener.

For the sober person this can be painfully freeing. You can accept conditions the way they are. You can still love the drinker, you can stay with the drinker – but for your own protection you recognize what is more important to them. This doesn’t mean that you are worthless or second rate. You maintain your own self-esteem and self-worth by not competing for love against an inanimate object – booze. The other person may change, they may not. But always remember that YOU ARE VALUABLE.

If you are the drinker, I ask that you digest my words here. Your partner (or children) may accept the position of second place, but for how long? If drinking is creating problems in your life and for the people you love, show them how much you truly love them and stop drinking for THEM. Show them through your actions that you love them more than you love drinking.

P.S. I use the term “partner” instead of using spouse, wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, domestic partner, etc.  Partner is the romantic or significant person you hold a committed relationship with. Alcohol misuse does not discriminate against race, gender, sexual preference, religious belief or political affiliation and neither do I.

Overcomplicating the uncomplicated:

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Sobriety really is simple, but it sure ain’t too easy.

This piece was inspired while I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s: What the dog saw. There is a short chapter called: Blowup. He analyzes some major catastrophes (citing Three Mile Island, Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, Apollo 13). He opined, “In real accidents, people rant and rave and hunt down the culprit.” He points out that, “What caused the accident(s) was the way minor events unexpectedly interacted to create a major problem.” Such as in the case of Apollo 13; “The Apollo flight went awry because of the interaction of failures of the spacecraft’s oxygen and hydrogen tanks, and an indicator light that diverted the astronaut’s attention from the real problem. There was no one to blame, no dark secret to unearth.”

Here’s how I parallel this to alcohol misuse: I call this a condition of, “Overcomplicating the uncomplicated.”

Minor events: When getting drunk is a regular or daily activity, small, unrelated, minor problems unexpectedly begin to overlap and interact, and then the next thing you know you’ve got major problems in your life. Some of these minor problems may not be attributable to drinking, while others are a direct result of drinking, but when they all interact – the shit hits the fan.

Most of the minor problems could be dealt with individually and wouldn’t escalate into major problems if alcohol misuse was taken out of the equation. In simple English: You can’t drink the facts of a problem away. You can ignore them or forget about them for a while, but when you sober up, the facts are still there. And quite often when drunk and not paying attention, those facts begin unexpectedly expanding and interacting in a bad way with bad results.

Life is complicated, with thousands of small events taking place all at the same time, all of the time. But many of the major problems that we drunks encounter are easy to ward off simply by not adding alcohol into the mix. Shit still goes wrong, minor and major problems still occur, but by living sober you can avoid many of the unexpected interactions from happening.

The search for the culprit: Your therapist (psychologist, minister or whomever you counsel with), will try to get you to dig deep and uncover the traumatic experience you had as a child. “That’s the cause of your drinking problem. No wait, maybe it was that other traumatic experience you had as an adolescent? Or maybe it’s because you have a manic-depressive disorder which was caused by the traumatic experience you had in high school? Hold on,,, no,,, your drinking problem is probably due to your high-pressure job, your spouse, your kids, society, lunar flairs, eclipses, the Mayan calendar.” These are perfect examples of diverting your attention from the real problem.

Maybe the real problem is that you drink to excess because you like to get drunk? Maybe drinking brings you pleasure but you’re not pleased with what happens as a result of drinking? Maybe when alcohol is in your bloodstream it does what it’s supposed to do – it alters your thinking – and you continue doing self-destructive things, like drinking?

Attempting to find the culprit for your drinking is a diversion from the real fact – you drink. “That’s not how it is Mark. I have a problem and I wouldn’t drink if,,, (check all that apply)

I wasn’t depressed

I wasn’t under so much pressure

I had more money

I was married

I was divorced

I was skinny

I was healthier

My kids obeyed me

My (partner) loved me more

My (partner) didn’t drink

My (partner) got a job

My parents had treated me better

My friends didn’t make me drink

Add any other culprits that I may have missed

I’m not lecturing. I’m sharing what I have discovered about sobriety. Chasing after culprits never changed the fact that I liked getting drunk. I’m sure that if I would have finally caught my culprit I would have sat down and gotten drunk with him.

Even if you’ve already quit, there’s no sense in trying to find what your culprit was. No one will be going on trial; no one or no thing will serve your sentence for you. Why not just admit it and say, “I drank because I liked it, but it I didn’t like the results I was getting, so I stopped.”

As to the major problem issue, some problems may become HUGE once you stop drinking. This is because they’ve been incubating while you were out drinking. Now that you’re sober you will have to deal with them. With continued sobriety they will be addressed by you. This doesn’t mean that they will disappear. Some occurrences in life cannot be undone. But future drunken, unexpected calamities will be avoided.

Unlike swerving to avoid a car accident, and then feeling the terror afterwards because you just made it through a near miss, it’s difficult to see an avoided drunken calamity because they don’t happen when you’re sober. I’m not going to ask you to expend a lot of mental energy thinking about all the bad shit that has happened in your life, but I will ask that you spend a little time to consider what is no longer happening. Fewer arguments? Less debt? No hangovers? No lying to people? Less anxiety? No more risks of being arrested or hurting someone while driving drunk?

Eliminating the small, minor, unexpected drunken events will keep them from interacting and becoming major problems. The unexpected events which will inevitably occur will be, as Malcolm Gladwell says, “so trivial that individually they will be no more than a nuisance.”

Don’t overcomplicate the uncomplicated – life is complicated enough just the way it is. Eliminating one or two simple behaviors may do wonders in staving off minor events from unexpectedly interacting to create major problems.

People who rob themselves:

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

It’s sad when I see people pass on what would be a great time just because of booze. Here are the two conditions:

  1. There IS booze being served
  2. There ISN’T booze being served

Let’s go over these two shall we?

#1: You don’t drink, so you avoid places where alcohol is or might be served. This makes sense particularly if it happens to be a drunken Frat House Party or you’re invited to meet people at a bar and they have no other plan other than to get drunk. (I’ve turned down invites to go to bars with friends. They might like my humor and company, but all they really wanted was a Designated Driver so they could get hammered. Fuck that – I value my time and I don’t need friends that badly.)

The sad part about “robbing yourself” is when you pass on invitations that are genuinely innocuous, but you do so because there might be alcohol there.

Would you pass on a friend’s wedding reception, a funeral or a Religious service because there will be wine there? You would most likely attend but make a conscious plan before you got there that you will not partake in the alcohol part. You can do the same when socializing at places that sell/serve alcohol, or when hanging out with people who drink. Plan ahead. Drive YOUR OWN vehicle so you can leave when you want or make arrangements to ride with someone who won’t be drinking.

Why rob yourself of going to concerts, comedy shows, bowling alleys, movies, plays, sporting events, picnics, family gatherings, whatever, just because they might be selling or serving alcohol? Go enjoy the event, but make mental provisions BEFORE you go. “Oh it’s not that simple Mark.” Yes it is that simple. I didn’t say that it would be mentally or emotionally easy. You are in control of the motor functions of your own hands. It takes NO PHYSICAL EFFORT to NOT MOVE your hand and pick up a drink. It does however take mental effort to say the words, “No thanks.” If you feel that you’ll be too tempted to drink, you’re genuinely incapable of controlling yourself or you wouldn’t be able to enjoy yourself if you see others drinking, then don’t go. Self-preservation and protection of your sobriety is your own sole responsibility – no one else’s.

#2: Other people don’t hang out with you or accept your invitations because you won’t be getting drunk with them. That is sad as well. It’s sad when someone is so devoted to drinking that they won’t even want to stop or control it for a few hours (or an entire day) because they can’t drink as much as they normally would or because you won’t be getting drunk with them.

My opinion: Good riddance! It’s THEIR loss. Here’s the reality – That person LOVES drinking more than they LOVE you. It’s painful, that hurts the heart. The other person might deny it emphatically; but it’s the truth, otherwise they would gladly control or stop drinking for the short amount of time you would be spending together. Oh, they’ll give you plenty of other reasons and excuses, but the truth is that they LOVE drinking more than they LOVE you.

Here’s an example from my own life: I invited a woman over to my Lake house for an afternoon of boating, swimming and then I would grill out for us. At first she was all excited about the invitation, but then the uncertainty came creeping in. “I’m not sure about the weather?” The forecast was perfect. “I don’t want to leave my cats alone for that long.” They’re cats! You go to work for 8 to 12 hours and leave them alone. “I don’t like driving at night. Why don’t you come over to my house and we’ll grill out here.” Why would I want to sit in someone’s yard on a summer afternoon when I can be out boating on a lake, in my own boat at my own Lake house? “Sounds like there’s some other reason you don’t want to come out to the lake. Why don’t you tell me what it is?” Finally she admitted, “Well I want to be able to drink wine and I don’t want to get another drunk driving ticket.”

While her concern about not driving drunk is admirable, she was stopping herself from coming over because of her drinking and she hadn’t even had a drink yet. She knew she was welcome to drink if she wanted to. If she had gotten too drunk to drive she could have spent the night. She knew I would have been a gentleman and respected any sleeping conditions she requested. I have a guestroom. But her own need to drink had her “robbing herself” of a nice afternoon of boating and grilling out. That’s sad. I didn’t get mad or try and change her mind. It was very clear to me: She would rather drink than spend time with me. I won’t give my time away to a person who feels that way about me.

My point? If others want to “rob themselves” of your love, friendship or companionship – let them – remember that it is THEIR loss. Do not compromise your principles just to satisfy the needs of a drunk. The ugly and painful truth is that drinking is more important to them than you are.

What’s more vital is that you do not rob yourself of great enjoyment in life because alcohol will be sold or served at a function. You control the motions of your own hands; you do not have to drink just because it’s there. Plan ahead and have a plan for an escape route if things get too dicey. Don’t rob yourself, reward yourself.

(I must credit my friend Colleen for the inspiration behind this article. She mentioned to me that some of her family doesn’t visit during the Holidays because she doesn’t drink. Her children are being robbed of getting to know their relatives because drinking is more important to those people. That’s sad.)

Overdoing it – the opposite way:

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

I’m going to quote a line out of Malcolm Gladwell’s book: What the dog saw. I will then give my opinion on how this statement is relevant to Recovery (I prefer using the term: former drunks or Re-Invented Alcoholics), but for popular recognition I’ll use the term: RECOVERY.

Malcolm Gladwell: “In our zeal to correct what we believe to be the problems of the past, we end up creating new problems for the future.”

By trying to right every wrong we had done as a drunk, we may create more problems. By trying to correct our past drinking behavior and actions, we may do things that are not part of our own unique character and try to make corrections that don’t need to be made. We sometimes start overdoing it – the opposite way.

It seems to be commonly accepted that many major changes MUST take place when undertaking Recovery. Why? Isn’t the goal simply to not drink? And isn’t that enough of a major change initially? Take your time learning to live sober. Wreckage doesn’t get fixed overnight. Relationships are an experience, not just an apology. Fulfillment of life is a process, not an end of life. It’s okay to allow your wants, desires and goals to change, because conditions, needs and desires change. Be willing to adapt to conditions, make the best out of things. Make certain that the changes you make are YOUR OWN desires. Once you stop the substance from entering your body, let nature unfold.

Consider this: When you drank, all you did was get drunk and didn’t do much of anything else. Oh sure, you were probably busy, but it all revolved around the drink. But now that you’ve become invested in Recovery, you’re supposed to change ALL of your behaviors and become more active in doing spiritual and humanistic things that you never would have done before drinking became a problem. Following along with the group and undertaking all these changes may create even more problems and different problems.

When one first undertakes Recovery there seems to be a mad rush to make everything good again: “I spent six years as a drunken mess, now if I do 90 meetings in 90 days all my problems will be solved. I’ll go to meetings every day because my sponsor told me that I have to; that’s the only way it works. While I’m going to meetings I have to seek out all the people I have harmed and make amends with them. Then I have to carry the good word to the masses. Then I have to…”

Relax, let sobriety evolve naturally. Don’t worry; you’ll still have plenty of problems to deal with in life and plenty of sobriety dilemmas to deal with in the future.

One of the greatest pieces of wisdom that was ever passed along to me came from an enforcer, a genuine hit man. He told me, “Mark,,, nature takes care of its own shit, and pieces of shit get taken care of. Just sit back and watch nature unfold.” This wisdom is parallel to the cause-and-effect principle. Things do happen for a reason. They happen not because some esoteric or metaphysical reasons, but because something factual happened. If you live your life as a drunk and hang out with other drunks, bad shit is bound to happen – eventually – drinking is the cause of the effect.

When you sober up, try to be something that you are not, do things you normally wouldn’t do as a sober person (maybe this includes certain steps), or try to push nature along too fast – poor results are bound to happen. “I can’t believe that my (spouse/partner) hasn’t come running back to me. I’m shocked that my kids (or family) haven’t welcomed my new lifestyle.” There is probably a reason. It could be unforgivable past behavior. It could be that YOU expect results too soon or that are different from what you’re getting. It could be that as you try to behave as this “new” person, you’re becoming domineering and overzealous. People might be put off by you or they simply don’t believe that your change is permanent. Just because you’ve been sober for a week or a month, even six months, you can’t expect people that you have “wronged” to warmly love you and trust you. They’re like odds makers in Vegas placing bets as to how soon you’ll go back to your old ways. Only time and your actions will show them.

There’s also a tendency to overcompensate with a zealous attitude of temperance towards alcohol. You might become intolerant and bigoted towards people who drink; you have been saved so others should also be saved. You preach to others about your newfound religion of sobriety. You then begin to wonder, “Why aren’t people warmly embracing my new sobriety? See, those people at the meeting where right, ‘normies’ just don’t understand. I have to get closer to the group.” Then you become detached from those who you should be reattaching with and isolate only within the group.

Another problem that results (in the future) is disenchantment or disillusionment. It happened to me. I tried too hard – I tried to push nature. The harder I pushed, the harder I failed at getting what I wanted, so I pushed even harder until I pushed the possibility of what I wanted right out of my grasp. That’s when I consulted my friend and he told me to relax, “Nature takes care of its own shit.” As soon as I started acting more naturally as a sober person, nature started taking its course. No, everything didn’t suddenly turn to gold, but progress began being made and the best progress was with me, because I relaxed.

Why not just live sober and work on being normal, decent, responsible and civil? Why not be what you were prior to destructive drinking or work on what YOU want to become? Don’t try to correct the past by creating new problems for the future. Some things will work out, some things won’t. Let nature take its own sober course.

The other side of the glass:

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I would like to get some comments and observations from people who have dealt with and deal with active drunks. Writing and input from:

  • Sober Bartenders/Bar owners
  • Sober Spouses
  • Sober Children
  • Sober Partners
  • Sober Employers
  • Cab drivers
  • Etc.

I recently interviewed a bartender named Bridget. She doesn’t drink and has dealt with alcohol overuse problems in her own home, her husband, who is going on two years sober (with a few stumbles along the way). Instead of laying this out in a traditional Question & Answer type interview, I’ll write a synopsis of the interview.

In Bridget’s words: It’s a job. I have to separate my own opinions from what I see some people doing to themselves. Drunks tip more as it gets later in the evening. I do a lot of listening. I hold back from giving advice. People come to the bar to drink and escape from their problems at home. They tell me their problems but I know they won’t do a thing about it and I’ll see them again tomorrow night and listen to the same problem. It’s just a job.

I have so many people come in and say, “I can only stay for one,” and them I’m vacuuming around them at closing. I know it’s going to be a tough day when I work weekends and somebody gets there right at 11am. I know they’ll still be sitting there at 6pm when I leave. It’s interesting to watch people change after a few hours. I’d like to video tape it and show it to them the next day when they come in but I’d end up losing most of my customers.

The tough part is keeping my mouth shut when I see inappropriate things taking place. I feel sorry for their spouse because I know that they probably suspect but don’t have any idea of what’s going on. It’s even harder when I get confronted by a spouse and I have to lie and say, “I was so busy I didn’t see what was going on.”

Cutting people off is tough too. Some get angry and tell me that I’m in no position to tell them how much they can or can’t drink. I hate seeing people storm out. I know they’re going to drive to another bar and get drunker because they’re mad at me. I figured out a way to keep them happy but serve them less. I do what I call “top off” their drinks. I pour in the soda or juice then top off the drink with a little alcohol. I don’t mix it so when they take their first sip it tastes strong. I haven’t had a drunk figure this one out yet.

After all I’ve seen, it makes it easy for me to NOT drink. I don’t even want to meet friends at bars to socialize. But I’ll keep bartending. It’s a job.

I would like to hear from YOU. I don’t want sordid stories of wreckage and family ruin (I know that happens), but I would like other drunks to be able to read what it’s like to deal with THEM, what they look like through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes we honestly don’t know what we’re like because we’re drunk. That isn’t an excuse, it’s a reality. As I have often said, “I always thought I didn’t have a problem and that I was a wonderful drunk. But I didn’t have to deal with ME, I was me.”