Archive for December, 2013

The same old lip service:

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Do you need to make open or public proclamations of, “I’m an alcoholic.”? Chances are good that if you’re an active drunk people already know. And what changes will happen in your life by making this proclamation unless you make changes in your behavior?

Openly stating, “Hi, my name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic,” can actually be a way of dancing around the problem. An open admission doesn’t mean you’re going to do something about it. Some people make this admission just to appease someone else; a spouse, a counselor, sponsor, Parole Officer, Judge, whoever. Open admissions can also be a way to validate your behavior, “I can’t help myself, I’m an alcoholic, I have a disease,” and it can be a way to explain away your behavior, “I’m normally not like that. It was only because I was drinking.”

Admissions can be self-deflating or self-fulfilling prophecies as well. “I’m weak, I’m powerless, I’m an alcoholic and I’ll always be one.” Statements like that can lower your self-confidence or subconsciously you’re giving yourself a license to continue drinking or to relapse.

You don’t need to make open admissions that you’re an alcoholic to change your behavior and your life. You need to actually do something and make some changes.

But let me be clear, making open statements may be what YOU need to do. Acknowledging to yourself and to others may be the first stage of your evolution and re-invention. Open statements may be part of your plan for sobriety. They may bring your condition out into the open for yourself to hear and for others to hear. You may want to make acknowledgements to people close to you so you will be held accountable for your future actions. Not that it’s the responsibility of your family or friends to keep you sober, but YOU will have to live up to your word once you’ve given it. So if you think it’s a necessary part of your re-invention, then by all means admit, “I am an alcoholic.” You might also wish to add, “And I am doing something about it.”

Let me repeat this again: You don’t need to make open admissions that you’re an alcoholic to change your behavior and your life. You need to actually do something and make some changes.

Call yourself whatever you want to. Give yourself whatever title you wish. As your time living as a non-drinker passes you may wish to change your title along the way, eventually dropping a title altogether. I don’t refer to myself as an alcoholic, recovering alcoholic or recovered alcoholic. If I don’t drink how can I be an alcoholic? How can I be something that I don’t do? I have no problem admitting that I used to drink too much. I have no problem admitting that I liked getting drunk and getting drunk was my goal. I have no problem telling people that I don’t drink because I can’t stop at one. I admit that drinking alcohol was a problem and would become a problem for me if I drank again.

(On that subject, I honestly don’t know if it drinking would become a problem for me again, but my history shows me that it’s a high probability that it would. And quite frankly I have no desire to experiment or take the risk. I have no desire to attempt moderation, yet I still have a craving to catch a buzz and the perception of having fun while drinking with everyone else still pulls at me. I am still drawn to drink but I know that it wouldn’t be good for me. And this is why my book, website, blog and podcast are titled: Living Sober Sucks, but living drunk sucks more.)

I don’t introduce myself as, “Hi. My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic.” I am not defined by what I was. The fact is if you met me in a social setting or just happen to run into me somewhere, you wouldn’t know that I’m a non-drinker. We wouldn’t talk about sobriety unless you brought the subject up.

I would estimate that in 95% (or better) of the conversations I have with family and friends, the subject of sobriety or drinking never comes up. I’m happy to say that our conversations are about normal life; work, careers, bills, health, hobbies, recreation, business, entertainment, events, whatever. Even I get tired of talking about sobriety after a while.

I talk about sobriety in these blogs because that’s what the subject is about and this is the appropriate place to discuss it. But even my blog articles aren’t totally focused on sobriety. Not drinking is only a part of a sober life—yes a major part but still only a part. I try to cover all aspects of life, both for drinkers and non-drinkers. Relationships, wellbeing and trying to make the best out of your life. Speaking engagements and private counseling are the same way. We don’t have to belabor what you were, we focus on what you want to become and how you’re going to do it.

If you feel that it’s important or necessary to make the proclamation of, “I am an alcoholic” then do so. Only your actions and behaviors are what count. And even more important than public statements and public displays are your private displays. How you behave and what you do when no one is watching, when you know you won’t get caught—those are the really important moments. That’s the shit that counts.

Thank you for spending your time to read my blog or listen to my podcast. Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

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.

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

Watch out for the advice of “normies.”

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Let me start this by saying, “If my language bothers you, close this. If you are unsettled by my opinions, disagree with what I have to say or angered by my message, then close this. No one is forced to read or listen to my material.” Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with this.

Nothing against anyone who has never experienced a drinking or drug dependency, but a lot of times the “normies” just don’t understand and can offer the wrong advice. Albeit well-meaning and well-intended advice, it can actually be harmful or counterproductive. Even professional counselors and other former drunks can offer very well-meaning yet misguiding advice.

A lot of people will want to offer you advice, and that’s the good part. People truly do want to help and they do want to see your life and conditions improve. But they don’t have to live your life. You will have to live with the choices and decisions you make, not them.

When I first stopped drinking my life really cratered. I may have hit my drinking bottom, but I didn’t hit bottom emotionally, financially and mentally until a year or so into my sobriety. Very well-meaning people gave me a lot of advice which I followed—I made the choice to follow it, so I won’t blame them—but I really fucked up my life, some things permanently, and I was doing what they told me to do. And this was advice from professionally trained counselors. I still “listen” to well-meaning advice from people, but I don’t blindly follow the advice. I have learned to weigh things out and make my own decisions, whether they’re good or bad.

Outsiders and normies often say to us, “If you just quit drinking everything will be fine.” Their words are well-meaning but everything doesn’t always work out fine. What happens to be the best for you (or what you think is the best for you) may not be the best for the other person or someone else. Maybe the other person doesn’t want the same thing you do. Ever think of that? That was a harsh reality for me to understand and accept.

For instance, my wife didn’t like me as a drunk, and evidently she liked me even less when I became sober. I quit drinking and everything DIDN’T turn out fine, I’m no longer married. So no, things didn’t work out the best for me but they apparently worked out the best for her. So now I have to make the best out of how things turned out.

The greatest advice I ever received came from my buddy Mike. But Mike didn’t just dole out advice, he asked a lot of questions before he gave me his feedback. The wisest question he always asked me was: “What are you trying to accomplish by saying (or doing) that? Will what you’re about to say (or do) help?” In hindsight I wish I would have talked to and listened to Mike more often.

Normies like to offer simplified advice. “Just quit drinking and everything will be fine. Just pray and everything will work out. Just go to AA meetings and everything will work out.” Why not say, “Just start stamp collecting and everything will work out.” Does that last statement sound ridiculous? They all sound ridiculous to me. Life is fluid, conditions and situations are constantly changing. Things happen that are completely out of our control. Other people in our life make decisions that are out of our control yet still impact our life. One simple, “just do this and everything will be fine,” doesn’t always work.

I have friends and acquaintances that see their spouse less now than when the spouse was drinking because someone told their spouse that they have to do “90 in 90.” They did the “90 in 90” and now they spend 5 nights a week at meetings and then hang out after the meetings with people who understand them. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Hell, we may have argued a lot when she was drinking, but at least she was home. We haven’t had a dinner together in I don’t know how many months. I almost wish she’d go back to drinking.” That’s a sad situation and a tough spot for both parties to be in. Evidently that well-meaning advice hasn’t worked out fine for both of them.

Here’s an example of simplified advice from a normie: A friend of mine approached me because she wanted me to talk with a friend of hers. The woman she wanted me to talk with is married to a drunk and she’s having marital problems because of his drinking. But the first woman explained to me that she had already talked with her friend. “I told her that if he just quits drinking everything will be fine.” I heard that and I’m thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me? That’s what you told her? How do you know? How do any of us know what he’s thinking and what he wants?” But instead I said, “That was very nice of you. Quitting drinking is a great start, but that’s only going to be part of it. Just out of curiosity, does HE want to quit drinking? I hate to say this, but maybe he likes drinking more than he loves her. Maybe their marital problems have to do with something else other than or along with his drinking?” My friend looked baffled because as a normie, she thought that all you have to do is quit drinking and everything will be fine.

So here we have someone who doesn’t drink—telling someone else who doesn’t drink but wants her husband to stop drinking—what this person’s husband should do and then telling her that it will all be fine if this third person “just quits drinking.” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But I’m sure that most of us have been involved in these types of conversations where we’re discussing and trying to solve the problems of someone else who isn’t even present, that we don’t even know or hasn’t even asked for our advice.

If you “just quit drinking” but change nothing else, what will change in your life? Well, there are a couple of things you can count on. You can’t get arrested for drunk driving and you won’t be spending your money on booze. But everything else may stay the same. (This is often termed as being a “dry drunk.”) But people who have never had a drink in their life can be assholes too. Non-drinkers can be lazy, liars, thieves, cheats or philanderers. Would you call them dry drunks? Would someone tell them, “If you just started drinking everything will be fine.” (That’s probably how most of us got started, by someone giving us that advice.)

Look, do what you want, believe whatever you want, follow whatever system or program that you want. If you want to pray then pray. If you want to go to AA meetings then go. But are you going to spend the rest of your sober life asking someone else for advice? Every time a problem comes up or a decision must be made are you going to call your therapist, sponsor or astrologist? We have to practice making our own decisions. You can ask others for input and suggestions, but make YOUR OWN decisions.

Please don’t get me wrong here. Quitting drinking is a great place to start. With a clear mind and body you can approach life from a position of strength. It is only after you’ve quit drinking that your life’s work begins. Make the best out of it. If you’re going to go through all the effort of exhibiting self-control over alcohol why not exhibit that same level of self-control in other areas of your life? Spend time in your own mind and think about what you want to do in life and how you’re going to do it. Think like a non-drinker and then go make the best out of your sobriety.

I’m just asking you to think before you follow every piece of well-meaning advice. Question all advice, even the suggestions I’m making. You might say I’m giving advice, but I’m not telling you how to live your life, what decisions to make or how to behave. I’m presenting suggestions and asking you to do some thinking on your own. We former drunks and addicts need to learn to make our own decisions. That’s the only way we’re really going to be able to make the best out of our sobriety.

That’s it. Thank you for spending your time to read this or listen to my podcast. Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. 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.

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

The mirror that doesn’t reflect:

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Ever look at someone else and think, “Wow, now they have problems. Just look at… how much he drinks, how fat he is, how lazy he is, how many tattoos he has, how many piercings he has, whatever…” Yet the person we’re looking at might be looking at us and thinking the exact same thing that we are. It’s normal human nature to see the faults of others while being completely oblivious to our own. This isn’t a lecture or meant to infer that you’re completely blind to reality. This is meant to be little reminders to look closer at the mirror and to not be so judgmental of others.

The inability (or unwillingness), to see our own behaviors is a condition which has plagued human beings for all of history. It’s only natural to not want to see our own problems or misbehaviors. Looking for, seeing, and then acknowledging your own weaknesses or a dependency is a very difficult and humbling exercise. Even when we see the true reflection we may not want to believe it or do anything about it.

When you’re mired ass deep in your own dependency problems it’s not easy to see yourself in the mirror and it seems like everyone is ragging at you, busting your balls and trying to get you to change. You might think that all some people do is go out of their way to criticize you, but it happens less than you think. People rarely walk up to you and say, “Hi Sandra. Wow you look great in that dress but you sure are a drunken slut. So, have you fucked up anything new in your life lately?” But then again I could be wrong. Maybe a lot of people do say that to Sandra?

So, about this mirror. The mirror of life is deceptive. It can distort what we see. We might either see good or see bad. The mirror can play cruel tricks. For some people the mirror doesn’t reflect true beauty, or at least the person looking sees distorted beauty. The skinny woman (or young girl) who feels she must lose even more weight to be accepted. The salesperson that sees an inept, bumbling businessperson in the mirror. The individual who sees only a failure standing before them. For those who struggle with low self-esteem and low self-worth they see nothing of value, nothing attractive. The beauty is there right in front of them, but they see a distorted view. They can have a friend stand right next to them and the friend can see an honest, hardworking, intelligent, thoughtful, valuable person, but the one looking sees a lazy, ugly, water bloated mess.

Life’s mirror plays another trick—it doesn’t reflect the lack of problems. It doesn’t show us that we’ve avoided a catastrophe, problem or a dependency. We see healthy skin tones but we may not appreciate what we see. If only that mirror could show us what we would have looked like if we had continued drinking. The mirror only reflects what exists, not what is missing or can’t be seen. (I expand on the problem of not seeing the lack of things in the next blog article.)

A mirror is actually a very useful tool. Why do we use a mirror? We use the mirror to preen ourselves, to make sure that we look proper, to make sure that our tie is straight or lipstick isn’t smudged. We look into the mirror to make sure we appear attractive to others and maybe even to admire ourselves a bit. You can use life’s mirror in the same way. To preen your behaviors, to make sure that your actions are proper and to admire the good and the beauty that is YOU.

This topic isn’t just about looking in the mirror to find alcohol or drug dependency issues; it has so much to do with all areas of life. There is a fantastic line in a song by the Butthole Surfers. “You never know just how you look through someone else’s eyes.” It so important that I’ll repeat it: “You never know just how you look through someone else’s eyes.”

I can only imagine what people see in me that I can’t or don’t want to see myself. For instance at this point in my life I have 4 dogs, but at one time I did have 8 dogs at my house. I personally owned 6 dogs and traveled the country in an RV with all 6 dogs. People must have looked at me and said, “Hey look, it’s that crazy dog guy again,” but I didn’t see myself as a crazy dog guy. To me they were just my family.

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Oh my God look at her; she has 5 cats… what a nut bag!” But the person saying this has 3 gigantic dogs themselves and they think they’re ok. Or someone might say, “That guy can’t keep a job for more than a week,” while the accuser is continually getting released from jobs every 3 months them self. Here’s another one of my favorites: “People think I drink a lot, but Jim, now that guy is a drunk—he has a problem.”

When you hear yourself saying, “Now that guy has problems, just look at what he does,” remember that you don’t know everything about him or why he does what he does. Consider whether you’re saying something to tear someone else down or to self-justify your own behavior and build yourself up.

“You never know just how you look through someone else’s eyes.”

I was blind to my own dependency on drinking and I certainly couldn’t see my own behaviors. I still have problems seeing my own behaviors, so I have to ask others what they see through their eyes. So once or twice a year I will call or visit with a close friend and ask them to critique me. I let them know that I’m not going to argue or interrupt with a defense. I’m not going to hold their critique of me against them. To get this started I’ll come right out and ask, “What do you see that I don’t see. What personal characteristics or behaviors could I stand to improve on?”

I might have to seed them a little by saying, “For instance, I think I can be a bit emotionless and come across as callous. I should work on being more pleasant with my words and facial expressions. What do you think?” This helps the other person feel more comfortable to critique and will usually help them open up. At that point they might respond, “Well, you can be brutally direct. So ya, maybe you might want to temper your words a little but you can still be honest.” I don’t always like the feedback I get (especially when I know they’re right) but how else will I ever see myself through someone else’s eyes if I don’t ask?

If you’re serious about your sobriety and you’re serious about improving yourself and your life, don’t be afraid to ask the people who you love and trust what they see in your mirror. You might be surprised at what you hear. “You never know just how you look through someone else’s eyes.”

Don’t let the mirror of life fool you. Somewhere in that mirror resides the true reflection. If you look closely I’m sure you will see a kind, charitable and valuable person. You may also be able to see a few warts and zits that could use a little attention. So have some pride and go ahead and treat those warts and zits. But also see the vibrant good and beauty that is there, right in front of you. When you see the good image of you, you’ll want to live up to that image. So look for the good, I know it’s there.

That’s it. Thank you for spending your time to read or listen to my podcast. 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.

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

Oh we with the best intentions:

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Click HERE to listen to podcast of this blog article.

It’s easy to talk about our grand intentions, in fact, isn’t it exciting to be in the midst of talking about our intentions? We get all energized and amped up about the great things we’re going to do, all the money we’re going to make, all the fun we’ll have, how proud and fantastic we’ll feel. It’s exhilarating to talk about what we’re going to do. It almost feels like it’s really happening at that moment.

But I think it’s also safe to say that we all know that to execute our intentions into reality is difficult. The next day we rattle off the same old excuses: “I was going to start… dieting, exercising, saving money, going back to school, (whatever), but this or that happened (insert any excuse you want here), I’m going to work on that tomorrow.” I’m not ragging at you; I’m guilty of this myself.

So you have great intentions but you don’t always follow through on them. It isn’t because you’re weak, flawed, defective, lazy or stupid. Self-control, personal motivation and forward movement require effort and we want to see rewards for our effort. Life, distractions and interruptions get in our way. And there is no question about it, doing something can be hard work and not all that rewarding—both at the moment which the work is being done and in the short-term—but the effort will undoubtedly pay off. Not always in the way you want or even in obvious ways. The rewards may be hidden.

For instance, if you say “No” to an invitation to go out drinking with your buddies one night, you won’t cognitively see the obvious reward the next day or even how it may have affected your future. You can’t see the lack of things. You can’t see that you don’t have a hangover. You can’t see that you don’t have to apologize for what you said or did last night. You can’t see that you aren’t further in debt or missing money. (You started the weekend with $100.00 in your pocket and you end the weekend with the same $100.00 in your pocket so it doesn’t feel as if you’ve gained anything—because you don’t have more than you started with—but you haven’t foolishly wasted anything.) You don’t see that you didn’t cause harm to yourself or someone else. You don’t see that you’re not in a holding-cell or that you might be facing time. You don’t see that you won’t have to pay fines, hire an attorney, lose your job or whatever. You don’t see that you avoided any number of negative consequences or undesirable bullshit. That’s because it may have happened or it may not have happened. You have probably gone out drinking hundreds of times without major problems happening. (You still spent money and still caused harm to your body, maybe even wound up with a hangover, wasting the next day, but nothing major bad happened.) You don’t see or feel the lack of loss.

I feel that one of the strongest factors in a relapse—and not fully enjoying sobriety—is forgetting about the lack of things. When we forget how bad it was, or could be again, we go right back to the scene of the crime. It’s like shoving your hand in a blender, forgetting how painful it was, then going back and doing it again, thinking or hoping that it won’t hurt this time. (Women parallel this experience when they speak about going through labor.)

Have you ever had a cold, sore throat or were sick for a couple of days? Slowly, as the cold fades away and you feel better you might forget how shitty you did feel just a few days ago, maybe even yesterday. That’s a simplified version of what crawling out of dependency is like. Slowly you feel better. Slowly your finances become more stable. Slowly you don’t have phone calls and drama. Then you get used to no drama and it seems boring, like nothing exciting is going on in your life. We forget that the pain, agony and the usual drunken bullshit is missing from our lives’.

This mental fog is probably the largest daily battle I face. I am a constructive and productive person, so I want to see results. I want to see things right in front of me. I have difficulty grasping and visualizing something that is missing. I am constantly reminding myself that the invisible lack of problems is a good thing and that I must consciously look for it. Sometimes I have to create a visual reminder. I may write out a list of things I’ve accomplished since I stopped drinking. I may look through a photo collection of the places I’ve been and things I’ve done, reminding myself that I never would have had those experiences and opportunities if I were still drinking.

I have to do this in many areas of my life. Within my relationships, my work and financial situation. My problem is that sometimes all I see is that I don’t have everything I want. I forget to notice that my life is pleasantly lacking many of the things that I don’t want. I’ll give you some examples and I’d like you to think about your own life.

I want to be in a loving relationship but all I see is that I don’t have one. I don’t see that I am not in a destructive, unhealthy or volatile relationship simply because I’m under the impression that “I have to be one or I’m not complete.” I want to earn more money, but I don’t see that I’m not going further into debt or wasting what little money I have on booze. I want to be stronger, healthier, better looking, but I don’t see that poor health, a poor diet and a poor complexion have been avoided because I’m not drinking. I don’t see the benefits of what is lacking so I must consciously remind myself of those benefits.

So what brilliant wisdom do I have to impart on how to make our intentions happen? Sometimes you just have to get started. There really is no special trick other than doing what you say you’re going to do. This doesn’t mean that you must, or will, accomplish every single one of your goals. But at least through trying you have a better chance of accomplishing your goals.

Enjoy talking about your grand intentions, get excited about them. If you don’t talk about your intentions you’ll never know what you want and desire in life. And please take action and do something about it. But remind yourself that the lack of things (the lack of problems, drama, debt, sickness, hangovers, etc.) can be just as good, if not better than having all of the things that you do want.

That’s it. Thank you for spending your time to read this or listen to my podcast. 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.

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