Archive for April, 2012

How to meet a sober mate:

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Audio version of this blog article

I dedicate an entire chapter in my book: Okay, I quit. Now what? towards ideas for finding new sober friends and rekindling past friendships. This article will be focused on finding a sober mate. I want to point out that this is not an expose on “how to get laid.” (If you want to do that, just go to a lot of meetings and start 13th stepping the newbies. Sorry, that was shitty of me to say, we all know that never happens.) This article is about a legitimate question asked by many newly sober and long-term sober single people.

This may shock you, but once in a while a relationship ends because one of the people in the relationship sobers up and the other doesn’t. Maybe you’ve found yourself single because you decided to live sober and your partner didn’t and possibly your search for a new sober mate hasn’t been all that rewarding.

Of course it’s nice to have someone to share your life with, but another person CANNOT be sober for you. The right person can help you stay sober and they can become one of the reasons why you want to stay sober, but putting the responsibility of “keep me sober” on another person is unfair. Even if you don’t openly ask the person to do so, you may be subconsciously putting that responsibility upon them. (You might be doing this if you’re in a marriage or committed relationship.) So before you actively go searching for a sober mate, work on being comfortable with yourself and confident in your own sobriety.

I’m in contact with a lot of different people and I’m frequently asked the following question from women: “Where do I go to meet guys like you?  All I ever meet are losers and jerks.”  I know that they don’t mean ME in particular, but they want to meet semi-sane, healthy, employed or at least productive – sober guys. What’s funny is that some of these women are still actively drinking, but they want a sober guy – “no more drunken losers.” That’s when I ask, “Ummm, and a sober guy would want to date you why?” (It’s not just women, guys who drink do the same thing.)

I’m asked similar questions by men looking to meet sober women. This may sound crazy, but sober guys aren’t interested in drunken drama queens – some guys have minds that think beyond their pecker. And the same question is asked by people who are interested in same-sex relationships. “Where do I find a sober mate?”

I believe it’s extremely important that you think about what YOU want and what you can bring to a relationship. Do you want someone who doesn’t drink at all, or can you deal with a social drinker? Do you want someone with the same religious beliefs or same denomination as you, or doesn’t it matter? Are you searching for someone with the same sobriety values as you? (An AA follower for example.) What are some stable and positive qualities that you can bring to a relationship? Can you be fun, diverse and interesting even as a non-drinker?

So, back to the question: “Where do I go to find a sober mate?”

Let me first tell you where and how you WON’T find that special person:

  1. You won’t meet sober people and a potential sober mate if you’re hanging out in bars or nightclubs.
  2. You won’t always meet truthful, sober people on internet dating sites. It’s too easy to lie about marital, relationship, income, drinking and drug use status. Some people actually use these sites specifically so they can lie.
  3. You won’t meet a sober mate by you relapsing and getting drunk at a picnic, wedding reception, party, etc. Even social drinking at these events gives off the wrong message.
  4. You won’t be very appealing to a sober mate by crying your tale of woe, telling everyone you meet about your drunken past and wreckage or preaching the good word of sobriety wherever you go.
  5. You won’t meet a sober mate by hiding at home.

So where and how do you meet a new sober mate? Just because you don’t drink doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to only people within a sober association. Yes, you could attend AA meetings hoping to find a sober mate. But remember that AA is NOT intended to be a sober pickup joint and you shouldn’t use it as one. However, there are social events put on by AA which are intended for socializing. Everyone who attends AA isn’t necessarily an ardent “12-step disciple.” I personally don’t go to those events because “the program” is what most people talk about there, but hey, I’m not you and you’re not me – so give it a try and discover for yourself – you might like their social events.

Where else do you meet sober people? At a gym, a bookstore, at work, at sporting events, parties,,, hundreds of places – any place that people go. What’s key is that you pay attention to what the other person is doing and what subjects they talk about. This means you have to be willing to risk rejection by introducing yourself and starting some small talk.

I think the BEST place to meet someone is at a grocery store and here’s why: The contents of a person’s grocery cart reveals a lot about their lifestyle. Take close look at the guy’s grocery cart. Is it filled with 3 cases of Bud Light, a bottle of Fleischmann’s and a bunch of TV dinners? Maybe he’s not the best prospect if you’re looking for a sober guy. Look at the guy. Is he messy? Does he have a wedding ring on (or a tan line from a ring)? Is there a box of Tampons in the cart? What type of food is in there? If it’s a woman standing in line and she’s holding a couple bottles of wine and has bruises on her arms, you may not wish to strike up a conversation.

If the person looks interesting, ask an innocent question: “You know how to cook all that?” or something to that effect. No one likes rejection, but you’ll never know until you ask. It’s better if you just ask a simple question and don’t try to be a smooth pickup artist. After a bit of small talk, a nonthreatening question such as, “I’d like to get to know more about you. Would you like to go out for coffee or to dinner sometime?” See what happens. You won’t know until you ask. It hurts the ego if the person says, “No,” but it isn’t like you were asking them to donate blood to save your life (and if you view a turn down for a date as a threat to your life then you have bigger problems than this article will help you with).

You can find out if the person is a drinker when you ask questions during small talk BEFORE you ask them if they would be interested in a date. There are verbal cues a person that drinks puts out. You can ask about hobbies or sports interests. Even discussing grocery shopping can reveal whether a person is a drinker. Asking something like, “So what kind of wine goes good with that?” is a great question. The person might say, “Screw the wine, two Martinis would be better,” or they might say, “I don’t know, I don’t drink.” If you actually pay attention and listen to the person you will hear subtle cues. This isn’t being sneaky; this is just finding out about somebody and what they like.

If the person accepts your offer to meet for a date, you can suggest meeting for coffee or ask where they would like to go. If they say, “How about we meet at The Blue Sombrero? They make REALLY good Margaritas,” you can safely presume they’re a drinker. Or you can also suggest a place. “Do you want to go somewhere with an extensive wine list? I don’t really drink, so it’s no big deal to me.” Again, this isn’t sneaky and devious manipulation. You’re trying to discover about the other person. Your goal is to be with someone who isn’t a problem drinker. Asking questions is far more tactful than coming right out and saying, “I’m a recovering alcoholic and I don’t want to be around people who drink.” You don’t want to sound like a temperance nutcase right off the bat.

Once you’re on that date, remember it’s not an AA meeting where you unload all your history and past wreckage and talk about how weak and flawed you are. Keep that shit to yourself. Imagine what the other person would think if you sat down at the table and said, “Hi, my name is Janet, I’m an alcoholic and I’m really glad to be here.” If the two of you have more dates in the future there will be plenty of opportunity to reveal your history.

What if you go out on a date and the other person does drink? YOU don’t have to drink just because they do. You may decide you don’t want to see them again, and because you don’t drink, they may not want to see you. That’s okay – it’s just a date. And just because a person accepts your invitation to go on a date doesn’t mean you’ll find one another interesting. That’s okay.

Once you do start dating someone, sobriety shouldn’t be all you talk about. (That’s why I suggest against using AA as a place to meet sober dates.) There’s a whole world of fun and excitement out there to be lived and enjoyed. There is more to life than the program, discussions of wreckage and constantly reliving your drinking past. Isn’t the idea behind sobriety to live a normal, fun life?

Dating a daily drinker probably won’t be good for your sobriety because their social activities, entertainment and recreation will be all about drinking and going to bars. If the person is a legitimate social drinker, and you’ve spent some time together, you may wish to ask that they refrain from drinking. But don’t begrudge them or belittle them if they do feel like having a drink. Your sobriety is YOUR issue – not theirs. As long as you’re comfortable with your date drinking and you’re confident with your own resolve, then go for it. Why rob yourself of what might possibly be a fabulous relationship just because the other person drinks once in a while?

In summary:

  • Don’t expect, demand or believe that a mate will keep you sober – you have to keep yourself sober
  • There are a zillion ways and places to meet a sober mate, look beyond AA
  • Ask questions, learn about the other person
  • Ask for a date, risk rejection
  • Risk making a mistake
  • The first sober person you meet isn’t necessarily your perfect match
  • Protect your own sobriety – you’re better to be alone than in danger of relapse
  • Act normal, be normal, don’t always talk about sobriety
  • Let someone enjoy you and you might find that you will learn to enjoy your sobriety and maybe even forget all about the negative stigma of being a recovered alcoholic.

All of this is purely my own opinion based on my experiences and culled from talking with others. Try what you feel comfortable trying and discover what works best for you. It is possible to be part of a group or movement and still be an individual within that group.

What has alcohol ever done for YOU?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Audio version of this blog article

That’s an odd question for me to ask, isn’t it? I know for fact that it’s gotten me drunk most of the time. I’m sure that it got me laid a lot too; however I’m also sure that I wasn’t at my peak performance abilities when those instances of getting laid while drunk occurred. I’ll admit that I had a lot of fun while I was drunk. I did a lot of wild things when I was drunk. I laughed a lot while I was drunk. I can recall most of the experiences but I just can’t seem to completely remember or appreciate all the experiences.

So for the most part, all alcohol ever did for me was get me drunk – all the other shit I did while I was drunk (the good and the bad), was my own doing and the bad stuff was completely my own fault. Alcohol influenced my thinking and behavior, making it a mitigating factor, but I was still the person doing and participating in whatever I did. Alcohol is not to blame, I am to blame.

So drinking alcohol never did anything productive for me or gave me anything, but not drinking has given me a lot. And now that I don’t drink, alcohol itself actually does give me a lot. How is that? I own stock in beer and alcohol companies – so alcohol pays ME dividends. Yup, every three months I get a check for other people drinking. The more people drink, the more profit the alcohol companies make, the higher my dividends. So alcohol pays me back – but that’s providing I don’t drink it.

Is that evil on my part? I don’t think so. I’m not anti-alcohol and I’m not against people drinking or getting drunk. My goal is NOT to talk people into following my way of life. My goals are:

  1. Keep myself sober
  2. Make my life the best that I can
  3. Share what I have learned about sobriety with those who are interested
  4. Earn a living by offering people something that is of value to THEM

I don’t hide from the fact that alcohol and drinking is a major part of our economy, our families and our society. I will not hide from society and isolate myself in a closed group. I want to participate and enjoy all social functions, go wherever I want and hang out wherever I want. I will not be governed by what a sponsor wants me to do or tells me where I can go. I will not relinquish my own decision making over to some organization. I will make my own choices and I will be responsible for my choices.

Making my own decisions requires me to think. I must pay attention to my own thoughts and feelings. I must pay attention to what environments I put myself in and what type of people I hang out with. Sometimes this means that I must forego certain people, places and events. But it’s not that big of a deal because most of the things that I forego wouldn’t be good for me anyway. Making good decisions – for myself – builds my pride and my self-esteem, which is then positive reinforcement towards continuing to live sober.

So back to the original question: What has alcohol ever done for YOU? Has it ever gotten you a job? Has it increased or improved your education? Has it earned you more money? Has it gotten you out of trouble? Maybe it got you INTO trouble? Maybe it helped you get pregnant when you weren’t planning on it? Maybe it helped you hook up with someone that was your perfect soul mate? (right…) Alcohol doesn’t actually do these things; it only assists YOU in doing them yourself.

But who knows? Maybe drinking has done some wonderful things for you? I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for what I did yesterday. I currently I have over 6-1/2 years of sober yesterdays. And for you, maybe you’ll be in a better place tomorrow because you decided to live sober today.

If drinking alcohol hasn’t ever done anything good for you, try living sober for 30 days. What’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t like it, you can always go back to drinking and get more of the same results alcohol has given you in the past. The CHOICE is yours.

The past is still here:

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Audio version of this blog article

6-1/2 years sober is a long time. Sobriety is so normal now and my life is so different now that I sometimes think to myself, “I’m doing pretty well. I’m more sane and stable. I’m not that bad of a person. How did things get so fucked up?” Well they did get fucked up – the past still exists. I can’t change those events.

The distance between where I am now and where I was 10 years ago makes my drinking seem like it wasn’t that much of a problem. But evidently it was a problem or I wouldn’t have had to have gone through all the wreckage that I did. And I must still deal with that wreckage today, which is the result of my behavior from well over 10 years ago. Shit doesn’t just go away because you get sober.

The time distance between sobriety and destructive drinking can cloud my memory. I know I have the wreckage and the factual consequences, but I often forget (because of my current sobriety), that my abusive drinking was the cause. So now I must pay even closer attention to my sobriety and make sure that I don’t foolishly allow myself to fall back.

I don’t want to constantly relive the past, but if I forget about it I may talk myself into slipping. (Actually, I won’t allow myself to slip; I’ve made the commitment to abstain from alcohol.) However, it’s the mental temptation to drink that haunts me because the errors seem so distant and the agony of sobering up is rapidly forgotten.

So this means I have to make NEW memories and create a better recent past – events, results and behaviors that reinforce my decision to live sober. But I don’t want to mix all the memories together because that’s how the bad memories and factual events of the past get muddled, which then gets me thinking, “I wasn’t all that bad. Drinking wasn’t really that big of a problem.” The mind is very sneaky, even for a sober person.

So what did I do? I had to create a new folder in my mind where I can store my sober life memories. In essence, I’ve had to spend the time to “defrag” my brain, arrange and rearrange folders, then delete some unused files. I’ve deleted certain events and people who are of no use to my future life or my sobriety. But I haven’t deleted everything – certain factual events shouldn’t be deleted – that would be hiding from my past and lying to myself about my culpability. This a very difficult thing to pull off, because I don’t want to keep berating myself for what I did while I was drinking, but I don’t want to forget that my excessive drinking was the catalyst to many of my problems.

For instance, if I recall a fun event when I was drunk, I also attempt to recall if anything bad happened during that event. Not all of my drinking memories are bad events. I had a lot of fun. I openly admit that I liked getting drunk, but I don’t want to spend mental energy romanticizing about drinking. I can however romanticize about the memory of an event. This is a delicate mental separation process – reminiscing about good times with good people – while simultaneously keeping the temptation to revisit those good times and good people by drink again. Temptation must be kept at bay and this is accomplished by remembering what I have done (the bad while I was drunk and the good while I’ve been sober).

Sobriety is far different than I imagined. Some things are better than I ever thought they would be, some are more problematic. The physical urges to drink are gone, many of the painful feelings have subsided, but I still have those fleeting thoughts of, “I wish I could just have one.”

Yup,,, 6-1/2 years sober and the past is still here. But at least I’m sober today and I’ll be sober tomorrow and that’s what will create a new sober past for me.

SOBRIETY – Is it worth it?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Audio version of this blog article

That’s a crazy question for me to ask, isn’t it? Most program people, addiction counselors and therapists would wholeheartedly say “Yes,” sobriety will be the greatest thing for you. It might be, but it will be different. Are you ready for that?

Living sober will not automatically bring you all the things you want in life. It won’t eliminate all of life’s problems. Without hesitation I will say that a lot of things will improve, however some will get worse. Don’t expect your family, your ex, your partner or your kids to come running back to you the day after you quit drinking. But who knows? They might eventually. You can expect to lose some friends when you stop drinking. Your best drinking buddy or the party girls probably won’t want to hang out with you, and you probably won’t want to hang out with them. You might even find yourself going in a different direction than your partner if you were both drinkers. Are you ready for that?

You will feel frustrated when you come to the clear and sober realization that you do have certain limitations (physical, mental, financial). You will be angered when you realize all of the time, money and energy you wasted on getting wasted. You will come to see that there is more that you don’t know than how much you do know. You will be disturbed by your past. You may become irritated with those who won’t forgive you and welcome you back. You may become angry towards alcohol and others who still drink. Are you ready for that?

You will have to go to all the Holiday parties, celebrations, events, picnics, BBQ’s, concerts and sporting events and stay sober. There will be good times and bad, you will have to deal with them sober. Every day life will show up and you will have to face it sober. Are you ready for that?

You will be bored at times, wondering what to do at the moment and then wondering what to do with your life. You will have to spend time discovering what you find interesting and entertaining in life. You will experience emotions in an entirely new way and even some emotions you have never felt before. Are you ready for this?

I’m not trying to talk you out of quitting; I’m just laying bare some conditions you can expect.

On the upside, there are many good things that can and will come about by living sober – but you’ll have to work at it and make the best out of sobriety. Here are a few of the good things that will occur when you eliminate destructive drinking.

  • You’ll find that you have money for other things in life. But you’ll have to decide what those other things are. You can’t expect that more money will make you happy, but you will find that not wasting all your money on getting wasted is a comfortable feeling. But don’t worry, you’ll still have other money problems to deal with.
  • You’ll feel better physically and look better physically. No more hangovers and being rundown the next day after a night of drinking. But you’ll still catch colds, feel like shit some days and get depressed. However you will be in a better physical and mental position to recover from these inconveniences.
  • You will most likely lose weight (the beer belly or wine pouch), but that’s providing you don’t replace booze with eating and comfort foods. You will have to eat healthy foods in the proper proportions and make sure that you perform some type of physical activities or exercise routine.By the way, extended overuse of alcohol isn’t as forgiving on women as it is on men. Sorry, but men can get away with a beer belly and a rough face. I’m sure most women don’t want a beer belly or wine pouch. Don’t you want to look good? Don’t you want to look appealing? That’s not being superficial, that’s self-respect and self-preservation.
  • You will encounter new friends, all of them may not be as exciting (or what you think is exciting), as your old drinking buddies. Some of your relationships and friendships will become deeper and stronger.
  • Drama and drunken bullshit will disappear but you may not notice it. It’s easier to see “present drama” than it is to notice the lack of drama.
  • Your luck will improve. Not that you’ll win the lottery or tear up the craps table, but instances of bad luck will become fewer and far between because you won’t be putting yourself in dangerous and risky situations as often. You will be in a better position to take on calculated risk. By living sober, you will be in a better position to recognize and capitalize on opportunities.

All of these good things won’t automatically happen by default. You will have to work at bringing good things to the surface.

So is sobriety worth it? For me it is. It hasn’t been some fairytale, happy story – it sucks at times. But the good has outweighed the bad, so I choose to continue to live sober.

So is sobriety worth it? That’s up to you to decide and it will be up to you to make the best out of it. If you’re going to undertake this, make sobriety pay you back. Make it worth it.

Going back to drinking – Is it worth it?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Audio version of this blog article

Is it worth trying to drink in moderation? It fails for most of us former drunks. If you stopped drinking because getting drunk was causing problems, going back to moderation isn’t going to work. Think about it – you probably tried moderation in the past – I know I did. A lot of times I had no intention of getting all wasted, but alcohol changes how you think and the best plans get all fucked up when you add booze to them. Alcohol does exactly what it’s supposed to do, alter your thinking.

I recently hung out with a good friend of mine who is a legitimate social drinker, he can quit after two beers – if he chooses to do so. But even HE got drunk the night we hung out. Why? Because he didn’t choose to stop after two. Suddenly he had three, then four, then who knows how many? I wasn’t keeping track. But once he got past the point of rational thinking (because he was drunk), he just kept pounding beer. Within a couple of hours he was hammered, talking stupid (more stupid than he usually does), and behaving like a fool (more foolish than he normally does). I wasn’t mad at him (I know what alcohol does), but I wasn’t enjoying his company. His wife certainly didn’t enjoy his company either – they had words. She’s wasn’t mad at me; she’s smart enough to know that it isn’t my responsibility to watch how much he drinks, it’s HIS responsibility. His getting drunk made for an uncomfortable evening for all of us.

He didn’t do or say anything that he needed to apologize for, but he felt like shit the next day. He said, “I gotta pay more attention to when I need to stop. I can see how drinking gets carried away. I won’t do that next time we hang out.” He understood that we could have had more fun had he not gotten drunk. He understood that he couldn’t get that night back, but he can make future get-togethers more meaningful.

I’m not saying that you can never go back, I don’t know you, you might be able to make it work. But is it worth the risk to possibly fall back into unhealthy patterns? If you liked getting drunk (I know I did), what’s the point of having one or two drinks? Sure you’ll cop a little buzz, but then you’ll want more of a buzz and more of a buzz, then the next thing you know, you’re all fucked up. Then you feel shitty about yourself and the only way to (temporarily) mask the shitty feeling is to drink again, and suddenly you’re right back where you left off.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you’ve been sober for 90 days or six months and you want to reward yourself with a night of boozing. Is it worth it? Is it worth possibly having something bad happen? Is it worth the risk of falling back into a habit you worked so hard to shed? Is it worth the risk of disappointing yourself or disappointing those who have supported and trusted you? Why would they trust you again? You’ve worked too hard – don’t let them down, don’t let yourself down.

I’m honored to have spoken with thousands (yes, thousands) of people about this. I could share stories, more examples and emails from people talking about how quickly they fell back into their old habits and how difficult it was for them to stop the second, third or fourth time around. You could go to meetings or visit some online sobriety chat rooms and you’ll hear the same stories as well. We hardcore drinkers just can’t go back to being something we never were.

Learn however you must. Take the risk if you must. But remember that there are always consequences to every action and inaction. If you attempt to go back and drink in moderation; you might fall back into an old habit. If you do nothing and don’t drink; you might find yourself doing something productive and constructive instead. All consequences are not bad.

If you’ve gone through the effort to eliminate self-destructive drinking from your life, but you’re tempted to dabble with moderation, ask yourself: “What’s the point in having one or two drinks? What am I trying to accomplish or get out of it? Is my sobriety worth risking? Is it worth it?”

For some of us, complete abstinence is the ONLY path. I’m sorry if it doesn’t seem fair. It’s not fair that a diabetic can’t sit down and eat an entire Bunt Cake without having ill effects; it’s not fair that someone with a nut allergy can’t eat a plate of Cashew Chicken. Sorry, but life isn’t always fair. So before you drink, ask yourself: “Is it worth it? Will drinking improve my life?” I’m sure you know the answer to that question.