8 Year Reflection:

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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.

2 Responses to “8 Year Reflection:”

  1. daisy8ga says:

    Hi Mark-

    I happened upon your site and thoroughly enjoy it. It articulates many thoughts that have gone through my mind since I stopped drinking this past Easter. The title in particular caught my eye and expresses frankly a truth I initially didn’t want to acknowledge-that living sober does suck….but living drunk sucks more.
    Anyway, it is very helpful to read how you articulate your views and struggles, AA etc. and I will make a modest contribution. I have been challenged with some very difficult family issues during this period (the type that would always exonerate anyone for excessive boozing) and I haven’t succumbed yet because of the very simple truth that I know I don’t have a governor (that works) on my alcohol consumption and that living drunk was much worse than living sober. Thanks again. Very much appreciate the support words and thoughts have given me and effort you’ve made to evangelize it to anyone who is interested. Best, FJ

  2. czabka says:

    Mark you share your day zero with my mom’s birthday so that is special in itself. Love this post but I have to think that when I read what you said about after you woke up with 1 year of sobriety and then woke up with 5 year’s and now today with 8 years its the same as before…….oh no no my friend you wake up with a fabulous mind, attitude, and crazy fabulous body….lets re think the waking up 8 years today as still a non moderation drinker cause like me drink in moderation??? What the hell is that and why??? um you can kiss that mind, attitude and body goodbye cause you would not have any of that maybe a spare tire and not for you sweet ride and your mind nope foggy and tude a bit crabby….take care Mark Happy 8 yrs to you and many more!!

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