Archive for January, 2012

Sober dilemmas:

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

You know what I discovered about sobriety? Life is still filled with problems and dilemmas even when you’re sober. The toughest part, for me, has been learning to handle these new sober dilemmas because they are nothing like drunken dilemmas and nowhere near anything that I was used to (or expecting).

I was under the impression (and belief), that when I sobered up everything in my life would turn rosy, everything would start going my way and I would be insanely happy. Well what the fuck? How come that never happened? How come life still has its struggles, disappointments and letdowns? Ummm, because that’s just life – sober or not, life continues to happen.

This is NOT to say that my life is awful as a sober person, but there are many new dilemmas, and I like to call them Sober Dilemmas. Here are a few examples of sober dilemmas:

  • Not feeling sorry for myself when I see others drinking socially and I can’t.
  • Refraining from “preaching the good word of sobriety” when I see others getting drunk or when I haven’t been invited to speak about it.
  • Overcoming the temptation to have “just one little drink.”
  • Overcoming the temptation to attempt to be a social drinker.
  • Squelching any feelings of superiority when I see others unable to take control of themselves.
  • Squelching feelings of glee when I see someone who has wronged me – fail (schadenfreude).
  • Learning to laugh and enjoy the company of others, even if they are drinkers.
  • Refraining from being a whiney fuck to people, complaining that “I can’t drink.”
  • Learning to handle stress, disappointment and bad days without having a drink.
  • Learning to enjoy successes and happy events without having a celebratory drink.
  • Learning how to graciously say, “No thanks” to friendly drink offers.
  • Learning to say “No” to friends who want me to go out and party with them.
  • Learning to be engaging at social events without the “personality lubricant” of a couple of drinks.
  • Not worrying (or caring) what people think when they hear, “Mark used to be a drunk. He’s a recovered alcoholic.”
  • Just learning to be normal, because I am normal – I just don’t drink.

These are a few examples of sober dilemmas. I’m certain that you could expand on each of them and add many more to this list.

These are real life problems that the majority of us former drinkers have to deal with. Recovery programs, groups, systems and books address the drinking dilemma, but few address the sober dilemmas. I’m a firm believer that quitting is the easy part; the hard part is staying quit and learning to enjoy it – that’s where the sober dilemmas come into play.

At this point you might expect me to go over each of these situations. Well, that’s why I wrote two books on sobriety. Concepts and strategies to handle these dilemmas can go on for pages. I cover these situations in detail within my books – I offer up ideas and ask that YOU discover what concepts and strategies are best for YOU.

Please don’t let sobriety turn you into some overzealous, pushy, preachy, grumpy, depressed, temperance lunatic. (There’s nothing much more annoying than listening to a reformed prostitute lecture on the evils of sex.) Don’t worry about what others do, how they behave or whether they drink. And don’t worry about what others think of you – worry about YOURSELF. Take control of sober dilemmas and make the best out of your own sobriety.

If you’re interested in my books:

Living Sober Sucks (but living drunk sucks more)

Okay, I quit. Now what? / Becoming a Re-Invented Alcoholic

They are available in paperback, PDF, eBook and Audiobook. You can buy them directly through my website, at Amazon.com, on Kindle, on Barnes & Noble Nook, iTunes, iBooks, at Barnes & Noble Stores, all sorts of places.

Do you earn or demand respect?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

This has been a difficult article for me to write because as I thought the subject out, and subsequently interviewed other people for their thoughts on respect, I found that there are varied interpretations to “respect.”

I normally attempt to write in a linear fashion: setup the premise, address the issue and then summarize.  In this particular subject, I’m going to throw snippets together and I hope it makes sense and that you begin thinking about what respect means to YOU. How you can earn it and show it.

I would like to offer my own personal perspective on the subject of respect:

We all want respect from others and we want to feel genuine self-respect. Respect can be earned and it can be demanded – but which is best? There are situations when you will pursue respect both ways.

Respect is a component within any type of relationship – work, friendship or romantic. Respect is viewed on many different levels and it is something that a lot of former drunks seek to regain upon sobering up. Respect is a difficult thing to explain because it means something different to each one of us. Some people want to be respected for their behaviors, morals and ethics, others prefer to be respected for their accomplishments, stature, profession, education level, financial status, physical attributes, car, home, boat, whatever.

Receiving respect is unique as well. Some feel that they deserve respect simply because of their position: Parent, Manager, Supervisor, Business owner, Teacher, Doctor, Lawyer, etc. How an individual interprets what respect is, is also unique. A parent may just want their kids to not talk back, an employee may just not want to be berated or humiliated in front of other employees by the boss, a battered woman may feel that not getting hit by her abusive lover is respect.

Some people only feel respected if they are kowtowed to, obeyed, not questioned and always have full attention given to them – you must be a kiss-ass to appease them. “Respect me and don’t disagree with me.” A strong person is okay with you disagreeing with them, but you still admire and respect their character and opinions.

Respect, approval or adoration? Are you just trying to gain approval? That isn’t authentic respect, that’s just someone else liking you, contingent upon you making them happy. Adoration isn’t respect either. That’s just someone being impressed with your status – doesn’t mean that YOU have to be a Rock Star, Sports Celebrity, Actor or any other public figure – the other person is impressed by what they “think” you are.

Women and men experience respect in different ways. I have no idea what it is like to view respect from a woman’s vantage point. My friend Renee put it this way:  ”I value myself and my value system, that’s why even when people try to disrespect me I don’t feel disrespected. I know they’re assholes. I am self-assured in my beliefs, so I present a strong image. Yet I will respect another person’s view even when I don’t agree with it.”

Demanded respect is short-lived. Situational power offers you situational respect. But this is not genuine respect, it is respect given to you because of the status you hold above the other person.

Respect due to situational power; “I control your outcome, therefore I demand respect.” (i.e. Law enforcement, IRS Auditors, DMV employees, the individual within a relationship who holds the purse strings, etc.)The person showing their respect then dose so out of fear and this is not genuine respect.

True personal respect is most often earned as a result of behaviors, ideals, ethics, principles and consistency of behavior.

How an individual shows respect to another is highly subjective. This can be influenced by many factors – geographical, societal, family, ethnic culture, peers. I believe that a lack of respect for another person is, at its core, founded upon prejudice; gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, political affiliation, sexual preference, etc. This is a sad condition but none the less a true condition in many human interactions. I am a white male, so I presume I have been shown respect in certain situations by default. I have also been disrespected for no valid reason, and disrespected justly due to my own behavior. I follow a simple strategy:  I will earn respect as well as earn friendship and love, based upon my consistent behavior. I do not need to be liked or loved to be respected. For ME, the most important respect is self-respect, knowing that I do the right thing even when no one is watching.

Some of the greatest respect that you can earn is when people defend your honor when you are not present to defend it yourself – that is earned respect. For example when a friend covers for you. Someone else may say something bad about me: “Mark is a real piece of shit. He talks a good talk but I bet he’s drinkin’ a couple of cold ones right now.” And my friend defends my honor with, “Well, you don’t know Mark like I do. I’ve been around him when he could have gotten away with anything, but he stays true to his word. I’ve caught him doing the right thing when no one was looking. You may not like him but you’ve got to at least respect the guy.”

Sometimes you won’t be respected but you may be feared, garnering you the same end result – the other person will act the way you want them to act towards you. Sometimes, you hold an inflated respect of yourself, but don’t feel respect towards the other person, this can lead you towards feelings of superiority.

Demanding respect in personal relationships rarely gains it. Genuine, sustained respect is earned through your actions and behaviors – over a period of time -and it is given to you due to what others see. Sometimes people don’t see all the actions you wish they would, so they don’t know you are worthy of respect.

Often, genuine respect is bestowed upon you when it is mutual respect – mutual in that you respect yourself and you express respect towards another person.

How can you show respect to someone even if you disagree or don’t like them? Listen to them. Listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to agree, just listen. Listening will earn you respect in return.

Respect runs parallel to your reputation.

Sorry for the scattered style of this article. I really invite your input on what YOU feel are important elements of respect. Thanks for reading my lunacy,

Mark

Mark@livingsobersucks.com

The excitement of the unknown:

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Many might say sobriety isn’t exciting and I’ll agree, sometimes it isn’t. Hell, I even titled my website, this blog and my first book: Living Sober Sucks. So yes, some parts of living sober really do suck! But that doesn’t mean your life has to suck.

If drinking has been all you’ve known, or drinking has been used as a way to enhance experiences, then sobriety will be a strange and different way of life. I am often bored out of my skull. I often feel as if I’m missing something in life. But am I really? Or am I still comparing my sober life to what I think I remember as being exciting from my drinking life? Do I feel lonely and bored because I’m not willing to extend myself?

Drinking seemed to allow for the excitement of the unknown. Hanging out in bars or clubs, I would meet lots of people. While drinking, I was uninhibited and would do wild things, say goofy shit and approach anyone. But as I reflect on this, the people I approached where also drunk. If they were sober (or not as drunk as me), we didn’t find each other very interesting. It seemed easier to meet people and do exciting things when I was drunk – that’s because my brain didn’t have to do any work prior to doing something stupid.

Now that I don’t drink, I still want excitement in my life, but the excitement is going to be different. And finding the excitement will be a challenge. I’ve had to try a lot of things that turned out to be not that much fun, that I didn’t like or did some things that I thought would be exciting but just didn’t bring me joy. But that is part of the excitement of the unknown.

You will have to force yourself to try new things, but that’s only if you want to. Just because you sobered up doesn’t mean that everything will be new and beautiful. Some things might be. Some very simple things might bring you joy. You might notice the sounds of birds that you’ve never heard before, looking at nature and manmade structures might bring you a sense of awe. But every new thing won’t be exciting. Everything you do as a sober person won’t be thrilling. Every day won’t be a fucking Carnival.

Here’s something I’ve learned about enjoying the excitement of the unknown: The anticipation of the unknown or trying something new is where the rush comes from. Think about how excited you get before a vacation or how excited you feel before going to a concert, a movie, a Football game, whatever. It’s the anticipation of doing something that often brings a better rush than the doing it itself. Am I making any sense here?

Look, I understand that it can be scary to try new things or to go introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. But that’s the part that can be exciting. If you get nervous, sweat and feel scared, then feel the rush as you approach them. Let all that energy give you a natural buzz. I do all sorts of crazy shit that terrifies me – that’s where I get the buzz. After it’s done, I’m not scared anymore and I’m often pleasantly surprised by the unknown that I just experienced.

When I refer to “crazy shit that terrifies me,” I’m not talking about dangerous thrill seeking, I’m talking about letting the excitement of anticipation give me a buzz, then completely experiencing what it is that I’m doing. It can be as simple as walking through a park and listening for noises that I don’t recognize. Watching a sunset and looking at the full landscape around me to see what I’ve missed in the past. Seeing someone else doing something that looks fun or interesting, walking up to them and asking them to explain it to me.

Going after the unknown doesn’t have to be exclusively something that gets your heart pounding. The excitement of the unknown can be experienced through educating yourself. Learning new skills or trades might open up your world to a career you never imagined before. Learning about music, art, sports, anything creative, may take you in a direction that you never thought was possible for you. You don’t know what you might find interesting. That is experiencing the unknown.

You can get excited about doing something or going somewhere with your kids. You can get excited about your kids getting to go somewhere or do something through their school. You can feel excitement with other people for what they are going to do. You can get excited about spending a wonderfully quiet night with your lover.

There is NOTHING that will replace the buzz of getting drunk. I’m not looking for a replacement when I go after the unknown. But I also understand that getting a buzz or a rush is something that I liked about drinking and drugs. So I allow myself to feel and experience a rush during the scary moments prior to and while doing the unknown.

Do yourself a favor and pay close attention to your feelings next time you have to do something that scares you or is unknown to you. You might find that you really get a kick out of the rush. And the next thing you know, you’re trying new things. The excitement of the unknown may open up an amazing world to you that you never imagined possible before.

Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

That was part of graduation commencement speech Steve Jobs gave to Stanford Graduates in 2005.

This next quote is from JT Batson, President, DDS Digital: Death is a great motivator. You have to get out there and do stuff, because someday you won’t be here.”

These were part of an article I read in WIRED Magazine. The article is a reflection of Steve’s philosophy on creativity and life, but once again, I can connect it to being highly relevant to us Re-Invented Alcoholics.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” This is a difficult philosophy to balance, especially for drunks/former drunks. Sometimes you have unplanned and unwanted obligations from your past that require that you live “for” someone else. But that isn’t living someone else’s life, that is being responsible for what you have created, i.e., children, debt, damage to another person, damage to yourself, etc.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Here is how I interpret what Steve Jobs was saying: Don’t drink just to make your friends, partner or anyone else happy, because then you’re just living someone else’s life (and they don’t have to live your consequences). Don’t go places your friends want you to just to please them, because then you’re living someone else’s life. Don’t act a certain way and do things because your friends want you to just so they will accept and like you, because then you’re living someone else’s life. Don’t dress and value what your friends tell you how you should dress and what you should value, because then you are just living someone else’s life. When you do things in the hope of pleasing someone else, making them happy, you are living someone else’s life.

This doesn’t mean that you live with total disregard or concern of others. There are legal, moral and socially agreed upon standards and commonsense courtesies. If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you pay attention to your partner, you spend time together. You are flexible and do things that make your partner happy.  If you have children, you spend time with them, teach them, educate them and grow together. You should go places with your friends and try new things, (providing that they aren’t self-destructive), to expand your experiences.

I’ll use myself as an example. If I go to a friend’s wedding I will dress appropriately – wearing a suit and tie. If I go to a concert I will dress appropriately – wearing shredded jeans and a t-shirt. If I am hired by an employer or accept a job I will do the job I am hired to do. If I say I’m going to do something then I do it. That isn’t living someone else’s life, that is being responsible.

I will NOT have “one little drink” just to make a friend happy. I will NOT buy something because a friend tells me to buy it or to try and impress my friends with it. I will NOT do something that isn’t in my best self-interest or that I feel is immoral or improper just because someone else says I should.

Death is a great motivator. You have to get out there and do stuff, because someday you won’t be here.”

Go do stuff, enjoy your own company, share of yourself, experience, look around you, smell life, explore, discover, live, find a passion. That doesn’t mean you go about with total disregard or concern of your own health or of other people. Again, I refer back to common sense and courtesies.

You probably have obligations and responsibilities. Sacrifices will have to be made for you to be able to go out there and do stuff. You might have to work at a job that you don’t like. We all can’t have our dream job: Get paid obscene amounts of money for doing whatever we want. This doesn’t mean you can’t strive for a dream job, but be realistic. There are limitations in personal skill, talent, physical abilities, mental capacity, etc. Some of you may have to accept a job as a dishwasher or a manual laborer so you can pay your bills, put food on your family’s table and fulfill your obligations. But you can still live your own life after your job is done for the day.

I’ll use myself as an example again. I am self employed and I actually work a few different jobs. Some of those jobs require me to work when I don’t feel like it and to do things that I don’t feel like doing. But people pay me money in exchange for my time and talents. I work for THEM and the money I earn pays my bills, covers my obligations and allows a little extra for me. I may be working for them but I am still living my own life. After my bills are paid and my obligations are taken care of, then I do what I want to do.

“That all sounds great Mark, but I don’t make enough money to go out there and do all the things I want to do.” Well neither do I, but I make the best out of what I do have. I have learned to stop comparing my life to someone else’s life. I’ve had to discover what simple things bring me joy. Drinking brought me temporary pleasure but it polluted my quest for joy. I’ll admit that I did a lot of wild, exciting and fun things during my drinking days. I did a lot of things no sober person would ever do. But I also ruined a lot of things that no sober person would have ruined. Now I do things that no drunk person COULD EVER do. Many of them are very simple, healthy pleasures which bring me joy.

Just like staying sober is a choice, I have to make choices with what I can afford to do with my time. It is a mathematical fact that every night when I go to bed I am one day closer to my death. This isn’t morbid thinking – it’s a reminder to me that my time is limited and I had better get out there and do stuff, because someday I won’t be here. I wasted a lot of time (years and money) getting drunk. I can confidently say that upon my deathbed (if I’m cognizant), I won’t be saying, “Gee, I wish I would have spent more of my time drinking.”

I can’t (and won’t), tell you what YOU should do. You have to go out and discover for yourself. Be responsible but live your own life, not someone else’s. Go out there and do stuff, because someday you won’t be here.

This will be different:

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

I was reading an article about Steve Jobs in WIRED Magazine (December 2011 issue). Within the main article was a short, sub article written by Bruce Sterling. One of the lines that popped out at me was: “Think Different means Live Different, though different does not entail better.”

Bruce was referring to Apple computers but his line is so very applicable to sobriety.

Without a doubt, sobriety will make your life different but not necessarily better or easier. You see, sobriety doesn’t guarantee shit. It just means that you are sober and it will be up to YOU to make your life better through the power of your sobriety. Sobriety in itself does not assure you of joy, happiness and the rebuilding of broken dreams. Sobriety will not be fair at times. It will be very different and you will have to learn to make the best out of it.

This is not meant to be deflating, depressing or for you to use this as an excuse to not stay sober.

Different how?

Some things may turn out better than you ever imagined. Some unbelievably rewarding things may begin happening in your life. And some things may actually get worse. Most likely it will be a combination of both better and worse. But with a sober mind you will be in a stronger position to make the best out of the good things and the worse things.

Your social life and entertainment interests will be different. The way you interact with your family, relatives and friends will be different. How you spend your money will be different. How you view alcohol and others who drink will be different. How you view life in general will be different. So many things will be different, but different does NOT mean that they will all be better.

If you make $8.00 an hour at your job, you’ll still make $8.00 an hour after you quit drinking. You can’t walk in to your boss’s office and say, “I quit drinking. Can I have a $2.00 an hour raise?” However, that $8.00 an hour will now go farther and you’ll make wiser use of the money you do earn – maybe. And after you’ve been sober for a while, you might decide that $8.00 an hour isn’t enough to reach your new sober goals and you’ll decide to further your education and go looking for a different job – maybe.

Explaining different:

I often hear people attempt to explain the unexplainable by saying, “There’s a reason for everything and everything always works out for the best.”

Two points I wish to make here:

  1. Yes, there is a reason for everything; it’s called “cause and effect.” Things occur because of factual conditions and actions. We often don’t see or understand the conditions and actions (and their correlation) until AFTER everything has played out. Even with focused effort and logical planning, randomness still plays a role. That’s why it will be different.
  2. Things often DO work out for the best, but only when you make the BEST out of the way things worked out. And when adversity turns out well, we often forget that WE played a role in its outcome. WE took action and did something about our different situation. Randomness and outside influences may have been a factor, but it still comes back to you, as an individual being an active participant.

I’ve had people tell me, (and maybe you’ve heard it or said it yourself), “Getting arrested for drunk driving was God’s way of telling me that I drink too much.” No, it was the police who arrested you because you broke a law – that’s the fact.

Let’s say that you were arrested with a BAC of .09 The law states that you are legally drunk at .08 BAC, therefore you were arrested because you were over the legal limit. However, what if the law was .12 BAC and you were at .09 BAC, (same BAC as the being arrested example), but you were let go because you were under the legal limit. Would you still believe that God wants you to stop drinking or would you wait until God had you arrested for being over the higher (.12 BAC) legal limit?

So, about those “reasons” and “things working out for the best.” It’s an old story and it goes something like this…. An individual works hard, struggles, practices, strives for their big break but rejection and failure keep popping up in front of them. Yet they continue along, striving to reach their dream. Then, just as they have reached the last of their strength, they prepare to give up, or actually do give up, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere; their big break comes and pulls them out of their despair. Everything magically works out for the best!

Sounds great doesn’t it? The romantic thought of final success, rewarded because of the individual’s work and effort. But it’s a capsulized story. There were many different changes and adaptations along the way. What one originally sets out to do most likely led to something else, and that something else is what brought about the final victory – if final victory is ever achieved. That is why I say sobriety is not only different but it will be evolutionary.

I thought that getting sober would save my marriage, well it all turned out different than I thought. I never imagined that I would be divorced. I never imagined that I would eventually write books and travel the country. Primarily, I never imagined that I would ever be a non-drinker. In fact, during my drinking days I didn’t imagine much of anything at all, I just had drunken, fanciful dreams. I basically went through life living drunk “one day at a time.” Make it through today and I’ll figure out a reason to get drunk again tomorrow.

Upon sobering up was when I realized that this was going to be different.  I began making plans for what I wanted out of living sober – that was different. It was different to come to terms with my own limitations. I suddenly saw how foolish and useless my drunken, fanciful dreams were. I felt guilty for wasting so much of my life drunk. But feeling guilty didn’t change anything; I have to look at where I am today and where I want to go tomorrow – this is a different way of thinking from my past drunken way of thinking. I will not waste my sober time the same way I wasted my drunken time. This is all different, regardless of whether it’s better or not. But hey, I’m here, so I might as well make the best out of it.

Sobriety brings about some wonderful things and some difficult things, which is why it will be different, but not necessarily better. Some of the things that you hope for or are counting on may not happen. However, there is a higher probability that your life WILL be better by living sober. Physical, financial, psychological and emotional health will all likely improve. Your spiritual health may also bloom. There are no guarantees of this. But I can assure you of this – it will be different – so why not make the best out of it?

Proving myself wrong:

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

This is something a good scientist does. Instead of spending all of their time researching and supporting why they’re RIGHT, they want to make sure that they undertake research to see where they might be WRONG.

I am not necessarily out to prove myself wrong, but instead I wish to objectively make sure that I am correct. And this is often accomplished by seeing what is wrong or considering alternatives. I want to look for a hole in my plan or an error in what I think is correct. As I just said, quite often when I consider alternatives it helps to solidify my original position. At the very minimum I am at expanding my knowledge.

This is not to say that I question each and every one of my beliefs. My morals and work ethic are things that I don’t need to keep questioning. But I want to stay informed of new information and new concepts. Doing so has opened up many great opportunities for me that I had never considered before.

The principle of “proving myself wrong” has helped me make the best out of my sobriety. You see, I almost fell prey to the belief that I was weak, flawed, abnormal, diseased, riddled with defects and destined for an eternity of support groups. I studied many systems and educated myself about various programs. I saw several holes in those programs. This supported my conviction that I can stay sober on my own; that I can live a fun, normal, happy life without joining into the forced beliefs and steps of an exclusive club.

Yes, I still have desires to drink and temptation is almost always present. But I don’t have to act on my desires or the temptations. I “proved myself right” that I am in control of my own hands and therefore I have control over alcohol. I stay sober because I want to get more out of sobriety than I will ever get out of drinking.

Here’s what happens when a person doesn’t try to prove them self wrong: You might pick up on a certain belief and then read only what is related to that belief, perform research that only supports the belief and surround yourself with fellow “believers.” Many people feed themselves only the information that supports their belief without questioning the reality or the credibility of the belief. History is rife with instances of individuals and entire societies doing just that. Here are some examples of beliefs that people have held:

  • The world is flat
  • The sun revolves around the earth
  • Smoking helps you breathe deeper
  • Potatoes are an aphrodisiac
  • The heart doesn’t pump blood through the body
  • Ridiculous home remedies and acts people believed were methods of birth control
  • Archaic superstitions that were once held as “fact” that we now consider laughable
  • The use of arsenic, lead and mercury in facial makeup and medicines
  • I’m sure you can add a few more to this list

Many of these beliefs were held as fact and truth for many years by millions of people. Some of these “beliefs” were blatant lies. Others were supported by scientific “proof” or propelled by religious and political leaders of the era.

When all effort is put into showing why a certain claim is correct and no alternative views or research are ever taken into consideration, stagnation takes place. This is fine for certain viewpoints. Religious beliefs for example are based upon faith. Some people say they have experienced and witnessed proof of God. That’s wonderful, but religion is still faith. I am not asking you to question your religious beliefs.

The point of this article is to spark you to think. I’m not asking you to question everything in your life. I’m asking you to expand your knowledge and educate yourself on alternative views. You may find out that you are RIGHT by spending the time to prove yourself WRONG.

Be careful of Intervention:

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

When I talk about intervention, I’m not referring only to a major confrontation and sending someone off to rehab. Intervening can be simply you saying, “I really think you have a drinking problem and you should look into getting it under control.” Once you have said something like that you can’t just walk away thinking, “My job is done.”

If you intervene in someone’s life, you now have a responsibility. It’s natural to want to help someone correct unhealthy or harmful behaviors that they can’t see themselves. But what if they’re participating in these behaviors because they like them? Why should someone adhere to your way of living or thinking? If you are going to intervene, then be ready to accept some responsibilities and be involved.

There are situations where you might say, “This is YOUR problem and you better do something about it or I am leaving.” But even with that, if the other person is co-operative, you now have a responsibility. I’ll give an example. In fact, I’ll give two examples:

Example #1) I know of a married couple who bailed their adult daughter out of financial debt and legal problems – repeatedly. She wanted to live on her own, and within less than a year she had lost her job, had all her money stolen from her bank account by her “boyfriend.” She was behind on her rent, auto insurance and had numerous other problems. She lived about 1,200 miles from her parents. Her parents had spent thousands of dollars over the past 6 months covering for her and had made quite a few trips to see her.

They eventually did an “intervention.” They showed up at her apartment unannounced and presented her with an ultimatum: “We will bail you out for the last time, but it will be conditional. We will pay off the balance of your lease ($2,400) and we will move you back into our home. But you must follow our guidance, obey our house rules and be active in treatment and rebuilding your life. This is YOUR choice – our rules – but your choice. If you choose not to agree with these terms, we will leave and you can figure this out on your own. We will not take your calls or cover for you any longer. This may sound harsh, but you have cost us enough money, time and heartache. The choice is now yours.” Their daughter agreed to the terms.

I spoke with the father recently. “It’s been about six weeks now Mark. There have been some tense moments. We’ve had to be forceful at times and remind Erin of the agreement we made. But it’s actually going better than I anticipated it would. I have to say it’s because Carol and I realized we have a responsibility now that we intervened. You can’t just tell someone to stop drinking or make them follow your rules without taking on the responsibility of helping them achieve the goals. Erin agreed to our terms, now we must live up to our part of the agreement.”

Many might call this a situation of “tough love.” I would call it a situation of “self-preservation and responsible love.” The parents were utilizing two tactics; ultimatums and boundaries, for both themselves and their daughter.  In its simplest form they were saying: “You need help and we will help you. But you must follow our rules. In return for following our rules we will be available for support, we will not abandon you. The choice to participate is yours.”

Example #2) I am the legal guardian for another adult. This is a responsibility that I agreed to. However, I found myself being drawn deeper and deeper into handling details and responsibilities that this other adult is capable of handling himself. This other adult was becoming more demanding of my time due to his own behavior. I eventually had to present an ultimatum and boundaries.

“My responsibility as your guardian is to make decisions on your behalf, which I feel are best for you. I will continue in my capacity as your legal guardian, but you must co-operate with my directives. Part of those directives will require you to follow orders given to you by the dietitians and the medical staff and you must participate in taking care of your own health. I will make sure that your bills are paid and that you have safe and secure housing. But YOU need to be active with your own wellbeing. It is YOUR choice. Either you follow my directives or I remove myself from being your guardian and you can figure this out on your own. If you decide to handle this on your own, you are not allowed to ever contact me again. If things go poorly, I will NOT reassume my role as guardian. The choice is YOURS.” I am still this person’s guardian and I am responsible to perform my duties.

Why do I bring this subject up? I receive a lot of emails and calls asking me, “How do I get my (insert person here) to stop drinking?” This is a valid question asked by people with genuine concern for another person.

I have not discovered any guaranteed plan, program or system that will MAKE another person want to stay sober. There are countless reasons for someone deciding that they want to live sober – but the individual must still live sober within their own body – no one else can do it for them.

So my words to anyone reading this: If you are tempted to intervene or to “do an intervention,” then YOU will have just as much responsibility as the person that will be doing the changing. If you are not involved in their Re-Invention, you will miss out on some wonderful changes that may take place. If you make demands and then abandon the person to do it on their own, they just might do it on their own. But then you may be left abandoned as they move on to a different life without you. If you desire someone to change, be prepared to take on some responsibilities and to give help.