Archive for October, 2013

Getting past a relapse:

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

I personally have no experience with a relapse of drinking but I’ve relapsed at many other things. Oh, not drugs, but other bad habits and other dumb activities which I’ve told myself, “I’m never doing that again.” I consider the making of foolish mistakes as relapses for me. My relapse mistakes have to do more with business and personal relationships than anything else. But I can be understanding, in fact, I can be compassionate regarding someone else’s relapse of drinking. However, I will NOT allow myself the option to relapse at drinking. You laugh, “Relapse isn’t an option you dumb fuck, it’s something that just happens.”

I believe that relapse IS an option and it happens for a reason, and the reason is usually because you allowed yourself into a tempting situation or you talked yourself into “having one little drink.” This doesn’t mean you’re an awful person, powerless and riddled with defects—it just means you fucked up—and now you have to get over it and determine what YOU will do about it so it doesn’t happen again.

Getting past any type of relapse (drinking, drugs, sex, gambling, smoking, etc.), can be a convoluted stew of wildly swinging emotions. You feel guilt for what you did. You feel weak. You hate yourself, which can weaken you further. You might feel embarrassed that you disappointed someone important to you. You might even have fucked up something which has irreparable consequences.

You can forgive yourself, but will the people you’ve made promises to forgive you? Should they? How do YOU feel when someone makes a promise to you and they disappoint you? Do you overlook it? Do you just forgive them? Do you harbor angry feelings? Do you give them latitude to make good on their word in the future? Will you believe them in the future? Remember that other people may feel the same about YOU as YOU feel about others who disappoint you.

If you relapse you may need to directly ask the person(s) who you disappointed, “What must I do to earn your trust again? Is there anything you feel I need to do to show you my repentance? I’m not asking for a pass on this, I’m asking for you to be honest with me so I can earn your trust.” This isn’t very easy to do and it doesn’t always bring pleasant answers. But how else will you know what must be done unless you ask? And if or when you do ask, don’t argue or become defensive—you asked.

Do you think you need to pay some self-imposed penalty? Then pay the penalty and move on with your life. But don’t just simply forgive yourself—determine what YOU must do in the future so it doesn’t happen again. Maybe you need to practice having more “No thanks,” answers ready. Maybe you’ll have to sever ties with certain drinking friends, maybe you’ll have to pass on some invitations to fun events. This is the part of living sober that sucks, but some new decisions and new actions will be required of you.

History doesn’t always repeat itself, but a lot of times history can give us clues as to what will most likely happen. If your personal drinking history shows a pattern of progressive overuse then you can safely presume that it will happen again if you return to drinking. I’ll use myself as an example. I never was a social drinker. I could exhibit some small level of self-restraint on occasion, but that was only in special circumstances and always short-lived. (A business gathering or some other event.) I may have exhibited social drinking behavior or abstinence altogether at the event, but as soon as I left or got home I immediately reached for the heavy artillery.

When I would have those incidences when I got a bit out of hand, my wife would have a nice talk with me and I would temper my drinking—for a while (usually less than a week)—and I would be right back at my old behavior. It doesn’t matter if I was conscious of this behavior or not, that’s what I would do, so my history shows me what will most likely happen if I ever relapse into drinking.

If you continue to relapse you may want to ask yourself why? Is it because of the places you go? Is it because of the people you continue to hang out with? Is it because you allow yourself to get into tempting situations? Or maybe, just maybe it’s because you keep forgiving yourself and keep telling yourself, “Well even Mark says everybody fucks up. So I fucked up,,, I’ll just pick myself up and start over.” If you give yourself a license to relapse you will. There more frequently you do something the more desensitized you become to it. If you relapse once (for one night), you feel bad and you pick yourself up. But if you do it again it might not bother you much because you know you can always start over again. After a while the relapses become more frequent and go on for longer periods of time. “I can always pick myself back up and start over again.” What you’re doing is giving yourself license to relapse.

Relapses can be avoided. You might have to pass on some fun invitations, you might have to stop hanging out with some of your fun friends, you may even have to take more drastic measures such as walking away from a destructive relationship—those are some of the parts of living sober that suck. I’ve been sober a long time and I still pass on a lot of invitations. Sometimes I pass because I know it wouldn’t be a good idea (too tempting of an environment), sometimes I pass because I know I would be wasting my time watching other people get wasted. Sometimes I get bored around drinkers, sometimes I get irritated and other times I wish that I could join in with them. So passing on an invitation sucks and going to a wild party and not drinking with everyone else sucks, but having a relapse—which I could have avoided—would suck even more.

So I believe that relapse is often a result of talking yourself into trying to be something you never were—a social drinker. If you want to drink—then drink—but at least blame yourself. Don’t blame your wife, your husband, your kids or your job. I’m NOT suggesting that you do go drink, but quit fuckin’ around and accept that there will be consequences for your choice, regardless of whether you end up drinking or not drinking. As for me, I have NO license to relapse, but I do reserve the right to drink again if I choose to. And if I do choose to drink again, it won’t be a onetime relapse, I’m going full fucking throttle and I’ll go out in flames. This attitude keeps me from having a relapse. I don’t want to lose what I have gained and I certainly DON’T WANT all the bullshit that will inevitably come with my drinking again.

In summary: If you’ve had a relapse then figure out what you must do to avoid another one in the future, what actions will you have to take? Then determine if you need to (or want to) pay yourself a penalty or pay restitution to anyone else. Do you feel you need to address your relapse with anyone? Will doing so help you or the other person? Take this seriously if you’re serious about living as a non-drinker. Be patient with yourself and be patient with getting the results you hope to achieve. Forgive yourself… and don’t fucking do it again.

That’s it. These are my own opinions and you are welcome to disagree with me. Thank you for spending your time to read my blog. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can follow my daily ridiculous writing on Facebook, just search for “Living Sober Sucks.” If you want to help me cover my costs of putting this site out for free, please make a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site

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

There is NO exact replacement.

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

So, you want a replacement for drinking or getting high? Maybe you want something that will give you that same euphoric sensation. Something that will stave off boredom. Something that’s easy, not as destructive, addictive or that you won’t become dependent upon. Well, sorry to say this but there is none—there is NO exact replacement for the sensation of getting drunk.

Some people DO find a replacement (however it’s still not an exact replacement). Some will replace booze with another hobby or even another addiction. The “replacement” is sometimes a conscious decision, sometimes it happens without cognition (just like the drinking addiction). It might be working out, running, eating, working, smoking, religion, involvement in movements (such as AA). By the way, all addictions aren’t unhealthy.

We search for replacements in all sorts of situations and for all kinds of things in life. It could be the loss of a pet, the loss of a job, the loss of money or status, the loss of a friend or lover. Sometimes the replacement we find is better than the original, sometimes it’s worse and sometimes just the pursuit of a replacement is harmful.

This is not to say that you should never search for a replacement—that would be living in the past—it would be limiting your own future growth and you may miss out on some wonderful experiences. But don’t search for an EXACT REPLACEMENT to alcohol (or anything else for that matter). That would be comparable to someone losing YOU and then searching to find an exact replacement of YOU. Do you think that could be done? Sure, the other person may find someone similar to you—in looks, attitudes, behaviors, mental capacities, etc.—but I’m confident that you will agree that there is NO exact replacement for you. The replacement they find may turn out better, may turn out worse, but the replacement most assuredly will be different from YOU.

The status (success or failure) of the replacement often depends on the person’s perception by comparing one item against another. This is a natural mental tendency—to compare one thing against another thing, but comparisons are often flawed and a waste of time. I learned this lesson quickly when I re-entered the dating scene after my divorce. I would mentally compare this new person I was with to my former wife. My mental comparison wasn’t fair to the other person or to me. I was robbing myself of learning about a new person and I wasn’t giving the other person a chance to just be themself.

So comparisons and looking for exact replacements isn’t always good in relationships and especially in living a sober life. I believe that this is worth keeping in mind regardless of what point you are in life as a non-drinker or how long you’ve been sober. Sobriety plays with the mind as time passes. I’ve been sober for more than 8 years and I still crave some “replacement” or diversion from either my problems or what I might consider as boredom. Having a couple of drinks or getting high might serve that purpose. But I know that it would only be temporary so I don’t look for exact replacements.

Here’s an example of how some people make silly comparison statements: Let’s say that your favorite weapon of choice is whiskey, but you think that whiskey is what gets you into trouble, so you switch over to just drinking beer. I hear this plenty, “I don’t really drink anymore. I used to drink whiskey but now I only drink beer.” I think to myself, “Well why are you telling me this? Are you hoping I say, ‘Wow, that’s great!’? In your mind you think that beer isn’t really drinking? Well then what is it?” If drinking is a problem for you, replacing whiskey with beer, white wine with red wine (or whatever), doesn’t qualify as, “I don’t really drink anymore.”  That’s like saying, “I don’t cheat on my taxes anymore, I just inflate the amount I contribute to religious organizations so I get a larger deduction.” Or, “I don’t really cheat on my wife. We don’t get along very well and it’s almost like we’re not even married, so I’m not really cheating.”

Now I come full circle back to the subject of “there is no exact replacement.” I don’t have the perfect answer for you. Only YOU can search for and discover what are healthy, enjoyable and rewarding alternatives (or replacements) for YOU. After 8 years of living as a non-drinker I’m still searching. I’m not searching for an exact replacement to fill the sensation of alcohol or drugs; I’m searching for new enjoyable experiences and activities. And I search out ways to repeat the things which are enjoyable and rewarding for me. I don’t expect or look for anything to take the place of getting drunk or high. Other activities may give me a rush or a buzz, but they are not chemically induced mind-altering rushes or buzzes, they’re not the same.  I have replaced my drinking activity and drunken spending habits with other behaviors. I must remind myself that these new activities are NOT exact replacements and I must NOT make comparisons. What I do is try to enjoy the replacement simply for what it is. If it’s good, then I will attempt to repeat the things which are enjoyable and rewarding.

I don’t feel as if this is a fruitless search. I’ve discovered and experienced some amazing things and I’ve found out some definite things that I DON’T WANT. This search keeps me expanding my mind and my knowledge. I am doing what I can to make the BEST out of my life as a non-drinker, so my search will continue.

Some people are more comfortable with the status quo, so I am in no position to tell you what you should search for or do. All I hope is that I stimulate you to do a little thinking on your own and discover for yourself alternative and replacement activities for drinking and getting high. But remember, there is NO exact replacement.

That’s it. These are my own opinions and you are welcome to not agree with me. Thank you for spending your time to read my blog. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you want to help me cover my costs of putting this site out for free, please make a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site

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

8 Year Reflection:

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Click here to listen to podcast of this article.

As of October 12, 2013 I have been sober for 8 years. Not a single stumble, slip or sip since the day I stopped drinking alcohol. This doesn’t mean I’m special, it just means that I’ve been living as a non-drinker. Would we make the same big deal if someone said, “I have not eaten a strawberry in 8 years” even if strawberries were detrimental to that individual’s wellbeing? Strawberries are legal and they’re one of the first items you see when you walk into any grocery store. Beer, wine and liquor are also legal products. In fact, advertising for alcohol is more prominent in stores than it is for strawberries.

I’ll grant you that strawberries don’t cause the level of human damage that alcohol does. I’m certainly not trying to minimize the strength that you have exhibited or take away from your own accomplishments, I’m proud of myself for what I’ve been able to do and you should be proud of yourself as well. But the attitude I’ve come to accept about alcohol is this; it’s a legal product and it’s available all over the place. I just have to make the choice to not put it into my own body, just as someone who is allergic to strawberries must make the choice to not put that tempting treat into their body.

Allow me to expand on this attitude. Some people are fully capable of eating strawberries, donuts, ice-cream, whatever—in moderation. And some people are fully capable of drinking within moderation. But not me and maybe not you either. So just because we can’t control moderation does that mean no one else should be able to enjoy strawberries, ice-cream, donuts or beer? So for me it’s just a matter of, “I’m allergic to booze” and that’s how I think of it.

As far as my 8 years as a non-drinker goes, this has certainly been an interesting journey with many disappointments and some wonderfully unexpected surprises.

During the 8 years there have been a few mental “A-hah!” moments where some insight or realization hit me. But there were no magic moments when something physical inside of me changed. For instance, when I woke up the morning of my one year anniversary I wasn’t suddenly healed; mentally and physically. When I woke up the morning of my 5 year anniversary it was pretty much the same as the day before. And when I woke up the morning of my 8 year anniversary, well, I forgot it was “the day” and I went about my life as normal.

Here are some of the mental “A-hah!” moments:

I have discovered that it’s best to NOT say “I don’t drink” or something to that effect when I’m in social situations. It only creates awkward conversations. I just say, “No thanks I’m good” or I completely ignore the offer to join in or have a free drink.

Length of sobriety isn’t a contest. I rarely mention how long I’ve been a non-drinker, unless the mention of such time is relevant to a conversation, piece of writing, interview, post or a speaking engagement. Whenever I am asked in social settings, I just say, “A long time.” I found that sometimes others like to chime in with, “Well I’ve been sober 12 years, etc.” Yes, this builds our common bond, but it can also sound like a contest of who has been sober longer or who is more sober. This isn’t a contest. Let’s just be happy for one another. Sometimes it’s a bigger accomplishment for someone to have made it their first 30 days than for someone who hasn’t had a drink in 20 years.

Then there’s also the old saying, “Everything works out for the best.” Well I agree that something always does work out; it’s called “life as it is.” Whether things work out for the best or not is questionable. But I am living proof that when you look at your situation, think and take action you CAN make the best of how things worked out.

Would my life be better today if all that I had originally hoped for happened? I don’t know. Maybe it would have been wonderful, maybe it would have been worse. I can’t ruminate over it. I do know that I’m pretty pleased with where I am today and I am extremely happy about all the cool people I’ve gotten to know and all of the friends I’ve made.

I’ve softened a bit over the years about AA. I still feel the same way about the structure and rules, but I don’t go out of my way to debate the matter. I continue to voice my opinions in my books and occasionally in blog articles, but in conversations, when meeting AA followers or at public speaking engagements I prefer to keep my opinions muted or at least subdued. I do find it interesting when I receive emails or I’m approached by ardent AA zealots who feel compelled to tell me how wrong I am and how I’m destined to fail because I don’t follow the program. (I don’t tell people they’ll fail or that they’re weak because they follow the program. I don’t try to persuade them away from AA.)

I’m also still a bit uncomfortable answering the question, “Are you a friend of Bill W’s?” Who cares? Why do people need this secret code language or establish themselves as part of a secret, exclusive group? (Remember that this only happens because I have signs promoting my website and pictures of my book covers plastered all over my tour bus. This doesn’t happen when I’m just hanging out, so I don’t want you to think that I’m inferring that all AA followers are vocal zealots.) However, the prejudice of “You’re destined to fail without the program” only reinforces my strength to stay sober on my own and my decision to stay away from that organization.

Now, on the other hand, I truly do believe that if you’re serious about living a life as a non-drinker it’s worth your time to investigate AA, attend a few meetings and decide if the organization is right for YOU.

I do have a few regrets. I regret that I didn’t pay attention to the people I loved sooner and paid attention to my own problem sooner. I regret that I didn’t treat the people I loved (at that time) better. I regret that I waited so long to become an active participant in my life after I had sobered up. What I mean by that is that I expected sobriety in and of itself to make my life better. All sobriety has done for me is kept me out of jail and allowed me to think with a clear mind—I’ve had to do the rest. I’ve had to take care of my own body physically. I’ve had to expand my knowledge and education. I’ve had to take calculated risks by rejoining the world and risking failure at projects, rejection and disappointment. Once I stopped waiting for sobriety to solve my problems and took action—on my own behalf and for my own wellbeing—that’s when my life as a non-drinker began to improve.

Has it all been great, wonderful and the best thing I’ve ever done? I would be lying to both of us if I said it has been. But in many ways, at this point in my life, things are far better now than when I was living as a drunk. There are so many things I’ve done over the past 5 years that no drunk could ever do (I kind of wasted my first 3 years of sobriety). Like some of us, I had many a drunken daydreams and made plenty drunken proclamations of, “I’m gonna blah, blah, blah someday.” Well now I’m doing the things I say and said I would, and it’s only a result of my clear, sober mind.

I can’t go back to what I thought I once was. And if I would try to go back I believe that it would be different than I imagine. I can’t foresee any good coming out of going back, so I will continue along as a non-drinker and attempt to make the best of whatever situations come my way.

So here I am, celebrating and reflecting on “a long time” as a non-drinker. I hope you learn a little something from me and attempt to make the BEST out of your own life, regardless of how things work out.

That’s it. Thank you for spending your time to read/listen to my blog/podcast. Remember that these are my own opinions and you may disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m still grateful that you spent your valuable time. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you want to help me cover my costs of putting this site out for free, please make a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site

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