Archive for August, 2013

Going public:

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

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Going public:(08/28/13)

I often hear “I don’t want people to know that I have a drinking issue.” Sorry, but somebody probably already knows, maybe a family member, a friend, coworker or employer. Most important, YOU already know or you wouldn’t make a statement like this. There could be countless reasons as to why someone doesn’t want to go public; being viewed as flawed or weak, looked down upon as an “addict,” the disclosure of alcohol or substance misuse may be harmful to your job status or career, whatever. Truth be told, some people will use this information against you, not everyone is going to be supportive of you. So there can be valid reasons for not going completely public. But some type of public or semipublic statement may be the tipping point for you.

I believe that the scariest part of going public is that when you do you must now be accountable for your future behaviors. If you say, “I overuse alcohol and I need to quit,” then you are obligated to keep your word. That’s scary because now you will have to live up to what you said.

The flipside to your concern of “embarrassment” is that I feel there’s nothing wrong with publicly saying, “I want to better myself. I want to be better for my family. I want to be healthy.” How is that embarrassing?

I’m not suggesting that you run an ad in the newspaper or buy a billboard saying: “I am a drunk and I’m going to quit drinking.” It isn’t necessary to disclose all of your dark secrets and carnage to the general public. There are appropriate places and appropriate people with whom you may want to discuss your alcohol (or substance) issue with. You must determine how public you want to be. Does going public also mean attending some type of meeting and making the proclamation, “I am an alcoholic.” That’s solely up to you.

Subtle words can be used when revealing your intentions and your new lifestyle to people. Something like, “Drinking usually doesn’t turn out well for me so I’m not drinking. It’s not a good thing in my life. I want to improve my health and get rid of all my drunken bullshit.”

“But people might gossip about me.” They probably already do, regardless of whether you’re a drunk or not. I’m sure people gossiped about me and my drinking. I’m certain that some people (if not those same people), continue to gossip about me regarding my sobriety. However, I have noticed that for the most part, people don’t really care or pay attention to whether I’m drinking or not, they’re a little busy with their own life.

I have deliberately gone public with my status, history and philosophies. I understand that people will disagree or criticize me. But I have at least created something other than just criticism. My decision to go completely public is helpful in continuing my status as a non-drinker. By having gone public I feel that I have an obligation to keep my word to YOU, with no expectation of anything in return from you. So what if I stay sober for someone else—the pressure is on ME, not on YOU. And thanks to you, I’m still sober.

My point in all this is that you don’t have to announce to the entire world that you’ve stopped drinking and you don’t have to explain to anyone why you’ve stopped drinking. I also believe that telling someone, “I want to better my life and being a non-drinker is part of it,” isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

Some type of public or semipublic announcement regarding your status may become your tipping point. Just be certain that it’s what YOU want to do because I don’t have to live your life—you do.

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Thanks again for spending some of your very valuable time with me. My name is Mark Tuschel.

Reframing the phrase: “One day at a time.”

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

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I’m not a big fan of all the traditional catchphrases used in recovery (I don’t even like the term recovery). But some words and catchphrases are easy to use and they’re commonly accepted. So that’s when I began thinking about the catchphrase, “One day at a time.” In many ways it does make sense, and it can be a useful catchphrase, when thought of differently, by mentally reframing the definition of “one day at a time.”

One day is a quantification of time (24 hours). Added together this becomes 30 days, 60 days, 6 moths, a year and then who knows how long after that. As each minute, each hour and then each day passes you’ve added another day to your sober streak. How do you stay sober for 30 days? True enough, one day at a time, but you still have to do it for a total of 30 days. Looking beyond “just for today” makes “one day at a time” an integral part of your plan for sobriety and not a way to live life. I believe that one day at a time is only part of a longer goal, and having a reasonable goal in mind helps you look beyond, “just for today.”

Maybe, just maybe, instead of looking at “One day at a time” as a way to live, let’s look at “One day at a time” as a way of recording your history, what you’ve done and how you did it—one day at a time.

So yes, I agree that we live one minute, one hour, one day at a time, but I think it’s important to look towards the bigger picture. For instance, you pay off a car loan or a mortgage one day at a time, even though you write a check or make an electronic payment only once a month. The loan is the big picture, but in the history of your life it’s happening one day at a time. A five year auto loan = 1,825 days, one day at a time, with 60 payments. A thirty year mortgage = 10,950 days, one day at a time, with 360 payments. If you want to complete college, it requires 4, 5 years or more, one day at a time. You can’t just download your diploma. (I suppose you could pay for and download a fake diploma, but then you don’t possess the actual knowledge, time invested or the experience.) Life evolves one day at a time, and linking all those days together brings about great accomplishments—and your entire life.

Sobriety is NOT a downloadable app. Apps help with planning an activity or act as a roadmap towards a goal—but you still have to do the work. Let’s say that you plan on going on a diet. You can download an app that helps you track your calories and maps out an eating plan or schedule, but YOU still have to do the work and do it one day at a time until you reach your goal weight. Or let’s say you plan on running in a marathon. You exercise, train and prepare for it, one day at a time, but the marathon is out in the future.

A lot of people say to me; “I’m scared shitless to think about never drinking again.” I understand; that’s scary. Thinking in terms of the rest of your life may be too much time to mentally grasp. It’s okay to say, “At least for today I will not drink,” but I believe that it’s more important to look beyond today. Think about and plan for a specific period of time, like a week or a month. That isn’t too much time distance for the mind to grasp. As you reach those benchmarks, reward yourself and establish your next benchmark.

So I’m asking you to plan living sober for a clearly specified period of time (30, 60 or 90 days) and complete it, one day at a time. When you’ve made it to your benchmark date you can revisit whether you want to continue along. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking about “not drinking for the rest of your life.” What’s 30 days? A very short time in the scheme of your entire life.

Here’s some simple math on this. If you live to be 80 years old, you will have been alive for 29,200 days (not including leap years). 30 days as a non-drinker is .10273% of your life. That’s less than 1% of your life. Let’s get even closer to reality. Say you’re 40 years old right now and you figure that you’ll live to be 75. That means you have 12,775 days left to live. 30 days as a non-drinker is only .2348% of your remaining life. And you’ll be asleep for about 1/3 of that time. This 30 days as a non-drinker is miniscule in the big picture.

Time (especially when first sober), sometimes seems to drag in the moment, but when you reflect back on your past years they look as if they’ve flown by in a blink. So not going to a party, staying home and reading or cleaning instead of going out boozing may seem boring and distasteful—at first. So what? We all perform tasks that are distasteful, (working at a miserably unrewarding job, studying a boring yet required subject, picking up dog shit, cleaning the cat box, etc.) however, we simply do the distasteful task and life goes on. We perform the unpleasant with the plan of being able to eventually experience the enjoyable and pleasant.

If drinking is really bothering you and you want to do something about it—but you’re terrified to think about or commit to a lifetime as a non-drinker—then just commit to 30 days. When it’s over you can look back at how “one day at a time” was just a mathematical way of recording your history. Then decide if you want to continue forward or you want to go backwards. The choice is yours.

In closing, remember that sobriety is NOT a downloadable app. Great achievements require time and your participation. Why not enjoy great achievements one day at a time, but always be looking towards the bigger pictures in your life. And as you work towards those bigger pictures you’ll be recording your history, what you’ve done and how you did it—one day at a time.

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