Archive for November, 2013

Where will you be in 5 years?

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Better yet, where do you want to be in 5 years? Is what you’re doing TODAY going to get you there? Well, most likely it will, so pay attention to what you do TODAY.

Do you see yourself living as a non-drinker in 5 years? How do you see yourself behaving as a non-drinker? What do you see yourself doing? How do you see your relationships? What line of work will you be in, what will be your financial situation? Do you think that looking at your life—5 years from now—is farfetched? It’s scary to imagine being a non-drinker that far out isn’t it? Hell, it can be scary to just think about being sober for a week let alone what your life will be like in 5 years. It’s true that we do live one day at a time, but in fact we live one second at a time. However, it is worth thinking 5 years in advance because chances are pretty good that most of us will have to deal with the results of our lives’ in 5 years.

Oh believe me, things will change over the next 5 years and what you envision now may never come to be. There’s a high probability that some of your conditions, desires, needs, wants and opportunities will change within just a year. But without a vision and a plan of where you want to be in 5 years you’ll likely continue to be in the same spot (or worse) in 5 years. If you stand still and you make no effort at progress, make no attempts at expanding your knowledge, skills or behaviors, I can literally assure you that you will be in the same place (or worse) than you are today.

If you agree that where you are today is a result of what you did 5 years ago you might find yourself thinking, “If only I had…” Well you can still do something about it. You may not be able to fix or repair the exact item or relationship that was ruined or re-do what was done incorrectly, but you can make new plans. You can resolve to not make the same mistakes again, decide to change your behaviors and you can take action to improve your current conditions and change the direction of where you want to be in 5 years.

People do change when their lifestyle and/or surroundings change. Some changes are dramatic but most changes are slow and progressive. Being arrested for drunk driving or serving time is a dramatic change. Stopping destructive drinking is a dramatic change, but the results of that change will take time to be revealed.

Without an action plan and performance of the actions you write out, your 5-year vision probably won’t come to be. And you will have to work at it—diligently over an extended period of time. So don’t expect to see results on your 5-year plan on Wednesday if you just began working your plan on Monday. No matter how clearly defined and no matter what method you use to visualize where you’ll be in 5 years, without a plan of action and performance of those actions, shit ain’t gonna happen. I tell myself all the time, “I can put a picture of a Ferrari on my refrigerator but that isn’t going to put one in my garage. What do I need to actually do to put that car in my garage?” (In truth, I don’t want a Ferrari I want a Lotus.) You can put pictures of buffed bodies or bikini clad women all over your refrigerator, but unless you keep the refrigerator door shut and do some exercising, you will never achieve that vision. Pictures don’t do it—only action does.

There are no guarantees that you will achieve what you want or be where you want to be in 5 years. Your conditions, desires and needs will change over time. Factors which are completely out of your control may work for or against you. Everything from local weather disasters to world markets may adversely impact your 5-year plan. They may also help your 5-year plan. You do have the power to adapt and adjust to factors and make the best out of them.

Your vision and plan should be constantly adapting as all of your needs, wants and conditions change. How you see yourself and your life in 5 years will be different today than how you see things a year from now, hell, maybe even a month from now. Be willing to adapt and have a flexible plan.

Myself for example. In 2009 I had established a plan to buy a houseboat on Lake Pleasant (just north of Phoenix) and then live on that for 6 months every year. I established a specific savings account for this and kept this goal in mind to help me stay sober and perform my job at higher productivity levels. However, my desires and needs changed about 2 years into working my plan. I adjusted and adapted. The core work that I had done on that plan gave me a foundation to work from towards my new and adjusted plan.

So, had you asked me the question 5 years ago, “Where will you be in 5 years?” I would have given you a completely different answer than where I actually am today. I had no idea that I would be where I am today, but I won’t complain because it’s better than what I had planned—but it’s still different from what I had planned. So in reality, my plan of getting a houseboat on Lake Pleasant was not a wasted effort, I just had to adapt and then make the best out of changes that came my way.

I want to ask you to think about your own life for a moment. Did you imagine (or plan) 5 years ago to be living how you are today? Maybe it’s better than you planned, maybe it’s worse, maybe you never even thought about it and just bounced along for the past 5 years? Did you have a vision and a plan? Did you adapt and adjust along the way as your conditions changed? Did you make the best out of your conditions in spite of of whether you liked the conditions or not? Regardless of whether you worked an actual plan or not, your life now probably isn’t exactly as you thought it would be. But then maybe it is, I could be wrong.

It isn’t like I’m saying that you sit and ponder this question every day. It may be worth doing it when major changes happen in your life; a marriage, a breakup, a death, graduation from school, a new job or moving to a different city. You might also consider doing it annually. People like to make New Year’s resolutions, but I use my birthday as the day to do my annual review. I’m so weird that I have a 1-year plan, 3-year plan and a 5-year plan. I find it fascinating to look back and see what has happened according to plan after a year, what wants and needs have changed and how I’ve adapted to meet those changes.

Please do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes imagining what you want your life to be like in 5 years. Maybe you’ll even write it down and write out a plan? But ask yourself honestly, “Is what I am doing TODAY going to get me where I want to be in 5 years?” For the most part, we are a result of what we did yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, and 5 years ago. Yes there are factors which are out of our control but we do have the ability to adapt along with those factors and make the best out of them. Please, look into your own future, if you don’t like what you see, what changes will you make? Then see a vision of the way you would like things to be and make an action plan of how you’re going to do it. You will be the result of your actions today.

That’s it. 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. I offer my site, blog and podcasts for free and without the control of annoying advertisers. If you like what I do and what I write about you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible, I proudly pay taxes on every penny I earn, unlike some other organizations.

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

The “Won’t it be great when…” delusion.

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

“Won’t it be great when… when I get married, I get divorced, the kids are grown, I get that new job, I get that new house, I go on vacation, I lose those last 5 pounds, I move to wherever…” I’m sure you’ve made a few statements like this, I know I have. Then, when I got there, it wasn’t what I thought it would be like (or wanted it to be like), and then I found that I wanted something else instead.

The feelings we get when we imagine “what it will be like” are often better than the experience itself. I’m not trying to be a depressing pessimist here, but there is a lot of truth behind this delusion. We imagine things (events, situations, relationships, vacations, jobs, etc.) will be better than how they actually pan out. However, this is a good delusion because it gives us hope and motivates us to make attempts at progress. Sometimes the situation does pan out better than imagined. My own sobriety for instance. I can honestly say that my life and my existence are in many ways better than I imagined, but it’s also different than I imagined. Many of the outcomes I had imagined and hoped for never came to be and along with my sobriety has come some sadness.

There are many delusions surrounding sobriety—one is that it is guaranteed to be the best thing ever. For you it may turn out great, or it may turn out awful, it may turn out uneventful, but it will most likely be a combination of all those things because your enjoyment of and your impression of sobriety will change and evolve over time. Another part of this delusion is that some people will tell you that you’ll be happy and free if you just quit drinking or follow their program, or give yourself up to a higher power (preferably THEIR version of a higher power). But will YOU be happier doing that or are you just making them happy? Will sobriety be the answer to and solve all of your problems? Probably not—but it honestly is a good place to start from.

Don’t worry, I’m going to get to all the good, uplifting stuff later in this article, but first I would like to give some examples of this “won’t it be great when…” delusion.

Winning the lottery is an example. Let’s say that you dream about winning the lottery and as luck has it you win! You now have a million dollars. Will it change your life and be as great as you imagined or might it cause problems? Of course it would be wonderful and exciting to win a million dollars, but consider your reference point. If you were already a millionaire, another million would be nice, but not as life changing as if you were poor and won a million dollars. Then, as time passes, you become accustom to being a millionaire and you might start demanding more and spending more than you have. You might not feel as good or excited as you did when you first found out you won or were just dreaming about winning. It’s not that the event itself is a letdown, it’s more that we become accustom to our conditions.

The subject of money is a great illustration of the “won’t it be great when…” delusion. Many people believe that obtaining a lot of money will solve all of their problems. As a self-proclaimed “unapologetic capitalist” I see nothing wrong with earning a good income and admit that money does help improve your standard of living and money is nice to have, but I have also seen some people become extremely wealthy and NOT become any happier. In fact I have seen some people become more miserable and miserly and some have even gone further into debt as a result of coming into money. Acquiring money has brought on big problems for some people. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Just watch one of those reality TV shows about lottery winners. (Better yet, do some research and read articles or studies on lottery winners.) And it’s not just lottery winners, plenty of Rock Stars, Movie Stars and Sports Celebrities have come to ruin due to suddenly coming into money. Even Mark Twain went bankrupt because he pissed his money away on get-rich-quick schemes.

Here’s another example. Imagine that you’re in prison (some of you are and some of you have been). Naturally it will be great when you’re released from prison, but you’ll be faced with all sorts of problems, temptations and difficulties that you may have never imagined. Your friends and family may not trust you, employers may not want to hire you, you’ll be faced with all sorts of struggles. You might start thinking that it’s easier to go back to a life of crime or drinking and drugs. You might become disenchanted with your family and society because of all the prejudicial “ex-con” shit being thrown at you. So yes, it’ll be great to be free but it’ll also be different than you may have imagined.

Or how about a relationship or marriage that you “thought” would be wonderful but turned out poorly. No, strike that, things like that never happen. We imagine that “it’ll be great with this new person” and things usually work out just as marvelously as we imagined, right?

Now that I’ve presented myself as a depressing pessimist, how about I share the ways that I try to make this delusion benefit me? Without the delusion of “won’t it be great when…” I would never make proactive movements of my own, I would only respond to cover responsibilities and react to the situations or conditions I find myself in.

First off, I do dream and I do hold up hope before my mind and think, “Won’t it be great when…” If I didn’t dream, have hopes and desires then I wouldn’t do anything—at least nothing constructive—I would just react to whatever happens to me. This blog article for instance, I had to want to write it, I had to think about it and imagined “won’t it be great when I get another article done.” But I didn’t imagine that it’ll be the greatest thing I’ve ever written and my life will be filled with joy and complete once I’m done. It’s only part of more things to come.

I don’t imagine or expect MORE than I should. I simply want to enjoy the process, enjoy the accomplishment, reflect back on both the process and the accomplishment and then establish a new goal. I’m learning to catch myself before I get too fixated on a destination and then possibly be disappointed once I get there. (I’m using the term “destination” in the larger sense, not just a geographical point.) So what I do is I have to remind myself to STOP and savor the small accomplishments along the way. I have to STOP and savor the present point which I am at. I try to notice and enjoy the unfolding of the event as opposed to expecting the event and its conclusion to be the payoff.

I have also learned not to demand or expect more from an outcome than is possible. Quite often I am pleasantly surprised that the outcome is great and occasionally it is even better than I anticipated. I am not disappointed as often because of my realistic view of outcomes. I happen to be in possession of a mathematical mind, so I employ mathematics to evaluate feasibility and probabilities of outcomes. (You don’t have to be a genius or a mathematical savant to do this.)

Feasibility succeeds at a higher percentage rate than probability does. Feasibility is asking the question: “Can it happen?” Probability asks the question: “How likely is it that it will happen?” For instance, it’s feasible to win the lottery but not very probable. Eventually someone who holds a lottery ticket will win, so it is feasible that the person could be you, but don’t be so deluded that it will be you.

So I use feasibility as part of my “won’t it be great when…” delusion. If something is feasible then I believe it’s worth attempting and finding out if it will be great or not. I won’t know until I try. But I am not so deluded to think that only one single event will solve all of my problems and make my life complete. It is the joy of discovery and thinking about what I might experience along the way and then what happens next, after the destination has been reached. So for you, if something is feasible then it might be worth your attempt even if the outcome is not very probable. Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting too much or expecting a feasible outcome to happen.

What has helped me enjoy my sobriety is that I don’t expect too much from a final destination and I don’t view missing a final destination (or goal) as failure. Failure isn’t defined by not achieving an outcome that you desired, failure is not even trying.

There are certain mathematical and mechanical truths. I follow them and maybe you want to write them down or print them:

  • If I do nothing I will get no results.
  • If I sit still my muscles (and my life) will atrophy.
  • If I don’t take care of my body and my mind they will both eventually falter.
  • If I isolate myself in solitude I will never meet and engage with anyone.
  • If I am not proactive at attempting things I will only be in a position to be reactive towards whatever comes my way.

All I’m asking is that you think about my points and examples a bit. Don’t invest too much into the belief of, “won’t it be great when…” try to notice and enjoy the experiences you’re having NOW. That’s the real meaning behind the saying, “living in the moment.” Absolutely dream and dream big. Have hope for outcomes to happen as you desire and that your rewards are as wonderful as you imagine. But please don’t wait for it to be great when…  A friend gave me a gift that had a nice saying engraved on it: “When is NOW.”

Thank you for spending your time to read (or listen) to 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 lunacy on Facebook. Just search: Mark Tuschel or Living Sober Sucks. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this. I offer my site, blog and podcasts for free and without the control of annoying advertisers. If you are compelled to help cover my costs, 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.

Simple-VS-Easy

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us want things to be simple and easy, but the two (simple and easy) don’t always go together. Making a relationship work is simple but it isn’t easy. Losing weight is simple but it isn’t easy and the same goes for living a sober life. The answer is simple: Don’t pour alcohol into your own mouth, but that isn’t always easy.

Let’s be honest here, any of us who have ever tried to lose weight, stick to an exercise plan, develop a strong marriage, raise kids, live within a budget, pay your bills on time or exist as a non-drinker know that it isn’t always easy or fun for that matter. Ultimately all of those things can be rewarding and feel gratifying, but it’s not all that easy.

I’m going to give some examples here of simple-VS-easy. Let’s say that you want to lose weight. Well the answer is pretty simple: Eat less than you do now. Simply eat 10-15% less than you currently do. Continue that lower level of food consumption and you will slowly lose weight. And providing that you stick to this lower intake you will keep the weight off. If you want to speed up the weight loss process then you may need to change the types of food you eat and add some exercises into the plan. The answer truly is simple—eat less and do a little exercise—but will it be easy?

And speaking of exercise, let’s say that you want to build a chiseled, statuesque body. Well it won’t happen by just taking supplements or pills. A muscle builds strength and definition only through stressing it and giving it repeated use. That requires time, physical effort, correct focus on the specific muscles you wish to strengthen and above all else—dedication. You’ll have to work out and put the proper food—in correct proportions—into your body. True and sustained strength isn’t acquired through any other means than the simple act of working out.

Here’s another illustration of simple-VS-easy and I’ll use exercising and myself as an example. As I just mentioned, it requires dedication to exercise. Here’s the simple part: As long as I get into my car and drive to the gym I’ll start working out once I get there. It’s the attitude of; “Hey I’m here so I might as well do something.” I find that all I need to do is begin with action and momentum keeps me going. But let me describe what happens under different conditions; when I must make choices on my own. I spend close to 9 months a year traveling. I rarely have access to a gym, so I take my weights and workout gear with me. So it’s simple, just step outside the rig and begin working out—right? Well that’s not easy. I can come up with all sorts of reasons (in my mind), to work out later. It’s difficult to force myself to exercise. Even once I get started I still have to push myself along, it’s not easy to finish or do a complete workout. And even after I’m done working out I don’t feel fantastic all filled with energy and happiness, but I do feel good mentally, knowing that I did the right thing.

So I must make choices and force myself and then give myself a reward afterwards, or use some other fun activity as a reward. If I want to go walk on the beach, play with my dogs, read, watch a movie, make dinner, whatever, I tell myself, “You can do that after you’re done working out.” I use this same strategy to force myself to take care of mundane responsibilities, do housework, earn a living and stay sober. “As long as I get this done first, then, and only then will I reward myself.” I don’t allow myself the reward until after I’ve done the right thing.

Here’s another example of something simple but not easy. I hear a lot of people say, “I’m going to write a book.” My response is, “That’s a great idea, I think you should.” Then I might ask, “How many pages do you have written?” (A typical book is 40,000 to 80,000 words.) Most answer with, “Well it’s mainly in my head, but all I need to do is write it down and it’ll be done.” Okay, great—but it’s not done. If I really want to be an asshole I might even say, “Well, try it sometime, see how hard it is and see how far you get. I’m not criticizing you or insulting you, but writing a book is hard work and it requires focus and dedication. But just start writing.” After getting a couple pages written most people either get bored or realize that it’s not easy to come up with a lot of material and then link all that material together into a cohesive and linear flow. So it is simple to write a book—just write—but it’s not easy.

I would like you to think about your own life for a minute. How many things are simple? Dumb stuff like; cleaning out a closet, cleaning the basement or the garage, mowing the lawn, painting a room, filling out a form that you know has to be done, starting and sticking to a budget, paying bills on time or some other relatively mindless  task. Just go do it, right? But is it easy to get started, work through it and then finish it?

Simple does not mean easy. And simple answers are often overlooked or not considered as valuable because many people believe that answers must be deeply thought out, original and highly complicated. Simple answers are often the best answers. It is the execution and the performing of the simple answer which might require thought, originality and highly complicated actions.

Self-control is simple to understand, but it’s not always very easy (or fun) to do. Sobriety, and living as a non-drinker follows the same simplicity. You can’t get drunk and you can’t become powerless to alcohol if you don’t pour it into your own mouth. Is that easy? Fuck no it’s not easy and it’s not always very much fun, but it’s the simple truth.

So the answer to “how do I stay sober?” is simple. Don’t pour alcohol into your own mouth. Don’t go out to bars. Don’t accept invitations to parties. Don’t hang out with your drinking buddies. Don’t stop at a store on the way home from work. If you do have to go to a store then don’t put the shit in your grocery cart. Simple right? Sure, but not always easy or fun. You will have to come up with alternative activities to occupy your time and your mind, or, you could just sit there like a neutered cat. This discovery process and the reward process is something only YOU can undertake. I give ideas and examples in my book Okay, I quit. Now what? There are worksheets at the end of each chapter for you to play around with and figure out what’s going to be best for YOU. Or if you prefer, you can follow someone else’s rules to sobriety, but remember that you’re still making a choice of your own.

A lot of problems and dilemmas in life appear tough, but the only tough part is executing the simple answers. Don’t overcomplicate simple answers. Resolve to do the hard work of exhibiting self-control. I firmly believe that you’ll come to love yourself for it and you’ll find it very rewarding and gratifying in the end.

I wish you the greatest of success at finding joy in simple answers. Be good to yourself, reward yourself, but only after you’ve done the right thing.

That’s it. Thank you for spending your time reading 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 like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this. I offer my site, blog and podcasts for free and without the control of annoying advertisers. If you are compelled to help cover my costs, please make a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site