Archive for January, 2014

We’re not the same people we once were.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

Think about this for a minute. Are your political views exactly the same as they were 5 years ago? Are your religious views still the same? Have your musical tastes changed? How many jobs, friends or relationships have you gone through in the past 5 years? Do you still feel the same way, about the same people, that you did 5 years ago? Do you feel you’re more knowledgeable today than you were 5 years ago? I’m sure that as you thought about it some of these things have changed. This doesn’t mean that you’re fickle. And it doesn’t make a difference if you’ve been drunk or sober for the past 5 years. I’m just pointing out that we do change and we may not realize it while it’s happening.

I don’t know you personally, but I would guess that you’re not the same person you were 5 years ago, 1 year ago, maybe even 6 months ago. I know I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, certainly not who I was 8 years ago and probably not even 1 year ago. We change and evolve over time. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Just because we may have sobered up doesn’t mean we’ve automatically changed for the better. We may have become more introvertant, isolated or insulated. Some become more self-righteous. Some lose their zest for life. While others learn to make the best out of their sobriety and grow into amazing beings.

The changes that take place are not always that noticeable, especially to ourselves. Now admittedly there are some obvious and dramatic changes that occur when we stop destructive drinking. Our physical wellbeing changes, usually for the better. Our financial situation typically changes. We likely change our social circle, our habits, what we do for recreation, entertainment and relaxation. We may end up changing career paths, where we live and our relationships.

Because when you sober up chances are good that your value systems will change. Your level of morality and empathy will likely change. If you’re not drunk your panties may not spontaneously fall off as frequently and you may not get into arguments and fights as easily. You may become more compassionate towards the plights of others. You may even go to the opposite extreme and become repulsed by people who drink or do drugs. Yet some things—at their core—will remain the same, just with better control. But we are not the same person now that we were while in the midst of our drinking career.

The realization that I’m not the same person I was became apparent when I went to a friend’s house to watch a football game. Let me bore you with a kind of funny story: I was invited to watch Super Bowl at a “Biker’s” house. Yes, hardcore bikers. But the guy’s ol’ lady keeps an impeccable home. Clean, finely furnished, well decorated, a normal home in every regard even though they’re bikers. (Even the guy’s garage is impeccable—I’m sure you know the type.)

Anyway, we’re watching the game and the guys are drinking and smoking pot—because that’s what they do—and everybody’s got a bag of weed except me. I’m drinking my O’douls and nobody’s bustin’ my balls about it (I don’t think they noticed or cared what I was drinking). A joint works its way around the room. It comes to me. I like the smell of pot so I take a little sniff off the end of the joint and I pass it to my buddy next to me. My friend Keith looks at me, shakes his head and says, “Dude. You’ve changed man… you’ve really changed.”

He didn’t mean that in an insulting way, he said it the way a biker says funny shit. But that’s when I realized that he was right—I had changed. In some ways I changed very little. I was still hanging out with my buddies watching football while they drink and smoke pot. And in other ways I had changed dramatically. I wasn’t getting hammered and I didn’t feel compelled to drink or smoke pot with them and I knew that if it got too dicey I could just leave. So without me realizing it while it was happening, my acceptance and comfort with my own sobriety had definitely changed.

No matter how much you change, some people will always think of you the same way. Some people say, “Oh, I know how you are.” I have had that said to me plenty of times. In most of those conversations I sit quietly and don’t respond to it. In some of those cases I may come right out and say, “No you don’t. You don’t even come close to knowing me. But I don’t fault you for it. You haven’t taken the time to get to know me as I am now. You think you know me but you don’t. And I can safely say that I don’t know you either. So I won’t disrespect you by saying that I know all about you. But if you’re interested, we can spend the time to get know each other now.”

Realize that people may think they know you. But what they know is your past behavior. If you’ve let them down a million times in the past you can’t expect them to believe that you’ve actually changed, especially if you just sobered up yesterday. Give them time to get to know you and give yourself time to get to know them. And more important, give yourself time to get to know yourself. Really good friends will give you the time and will take the time to get to know you. You may even reminisce about “what idiots you were.” Cherish those friends and don’t let them down.

There’s something wonderful about meeting new people and developing new friendships once you’ve gotten sober. When I meet new people they have no idea what I was like as a drunk and I don’t have to tell them if I don’t want to, so they have no past history bias. The focus of conversation isn’t about “what we were.” I don’t like to talk about “what we were.” I prefer to talk about what we’re doing now and what we plan to do in the future. (Maybe that’s why I don’t like the flavor of meetings?) This isn’t hiding from the past or being deceitful. You can always talk about your past if you want to. But it’s just like swearing or talking dirty, there’s a proper time and place for it.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re sober or drunk, over time you will change and you will not be the same person a year from now that you are today. The reasons you change will vary. Conditions around you change so you change with them. I call that reactive adaptation. You can adapt and make the best out of the conditions or you can react to the conditions forced upon you. On the other hand you may want to change your conditions so you actively change yourself. I call that self-selected evolution. You can wait for change to be forced upon you or you can stay ahead of change in a proactive way and try to make change work in your favor, even when it’s reactive adaptation. We all change. Forward is evolution, backward is devolution.

Understand that you will either evolve or devolve and you will be a different person a year from now than who you are today. You will change. To what extent? I don’t know and you don’t know either. But that can be the beautiful part of your discovery and your sober evolution. You don’t always know what will change or how you will change. You won’t know until you try. And you just might discover some fantastic things along the way. Every plan you make won’t work out and in fact some things may produce shitty results. But I truly believe that if you try, and keep trying to improve your life and the lives of those around you, some amazing things—which you never expected—will happen.

So go ahead and welcome in the new person that you will soon become.

That’s it. 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. 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.

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

Brain altering, body altering and mind altering.

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

“Aww c’mon, what’s a drink or two?” You may not get drunk off of one beer or one glass of wine. You may not feel a buzz or feel anything at all. But alcohol will do what it is intended to do to the body. One beer or one glass of wine will alter your brain and body. Maybe not in any dramatic way, but it will and does happen. After having one casual drink your pulse may slow a bit. You breathe more leisurely and deeper. Your stomach digests food differently with the addition of alcohol. You may talk more casually, slower or openly, your thinking may even slow down or change a bit.

This isn’t terrible or problematic for many people. One or two drinks fulfill the purpose of relaxing them. They are well aware of this effect and that’s why they stop after one or two. So yes, even one single drink does alter your brain function which in turn runs and alters your other internal organ functions. Again, this might be only ever so slight and not that noticeable.

However, add a few more drinks into the stomach and then it becomes mind altering, compounded on top of brain and body altering. You can’t stop the chemicals from doing what they’re supposed to do. Saying, “I’m going to drink a fifth of whiskey and not let it affect me” is like saying, “I’m going to drink an entire bottle of laxative and not poop like a goose.” You can’t “will with your mind” to stop what the chemical is going to do. Once ingested into the body the chemical will do exactly what it is supposed to do: either get you drunk or make you poop, depending on which bottle of chemical you drink.

The introduction of any substance into your body will change how your brain and internal organs perform. Most of these changes aren’t noticeable while some are. A cup of arsenic will have a much greater and different impact on your body than a cup of espresso. “Duhh,” you say. But a lot of people don’t actually think this out. They are surprised that they got “too drunk.” As long as you are aware that substances create changes there are no excuses. Don’t be surprised when coffee, sugars or sports drinks get you all wired. Don’t be surprised when peyote gets you loopy. Don’t be surprised when alcohol gets you drunk.

For those of us who have developed a dependency on alcohol, or who have a higher propensity to receive pleasure more rapidly or intensely from alcohol, “one little drink” triggers the automatic door opener. One drink, while it may not get you drunk or even slightly buzzed triggers a reaction in the brain to crave more. For me, one drink is a waste of time. If I drink I want to get buzzed. True, that “one drink” may serve its chemical function by ever so slightly altering my brain and body—relaxing me and slowing my pulse—but it’s also going to flip a switch and cause me to scratch from the inside out. For many people, one or two drinks serve their purpose well. For some of us, one or two drinks just opens the floodgates.

The removal of substances from your diet also has an impact. If you are a regular drinker then your brain and organs are accustomed to functioning with the substance of alcohol. Take alcohol away and your brain and organs have to relearn to function without it. This can result in irritability, sleep disturbance, digestive difficulty, changes in heart rate, sweating all the way to full blown DTs. That’s where legitimate medications may serve a purpose. But there is a saying that goes: “You can’t fool Mother Nature.” You really can’t.

A lot of people are trying to fool Mother Nature and they search for a medication that will help them stop drinking. Some meds are designed to make you sick if alcohol is mixed with it. Some meds are designed to squelch physical cravings, some to numb mental cravings. Some are designed to block the “pleasure effect” of alcohol.

I don’t want to promote or endorse any medications specifically, so I won’t mention names. But certain alcohol and anti-smoking medications work to react adversely with or “block” the effects of certain substances when introduced into the bloodstream. But the chemical (substance of choice; alcohol or nicotine) is still present in the body, doing what it’s supposed to do biochemically to the body. The medications are designed to “block” the pleasure you receive from your substance of choice, with the intent that if you don’t receive pleasure you will change your behavior and discontinue putting the substance into your body. So even when taking these types of medications, if you continue to drink (or smoke) you’re not fooling Mother Nature.

I’m not saying that Anti-drinking, anti-smoking and alcohol/drug craving suppression medications are bad, they can serve a purpose. Antidepressants can also serve a purpose when quitting the habit of drinking. The bottom line is that the medication isn’t taken so that you can ingest your favorite substance without any ill effects; the strategy behind taking the medication is to get you to change your behavior. If that’s how you use the medication, as a temporary aid in changing your behavior, that’s fine. But when the medication is used as a crutch or you become dependent upon it then you’re not really helping yourself. (Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an anti-asshole medication? Some pill that you could take that still allows you to get a buzz but not become a stumbling, stuttering fool filled with belligerence and sexual bravado?)

Some medications are necessary and will be used for the balance of your life: diabetes or hypertension meds for example. But along with taking these medications, behavioral changes and other habit changes act synergistically to enhance what the medications are intended to do. You can take diabetes or high blood pressure meds but if you don’t change your eating habits the meds won’t do you much good.

Is medication or therapy or meetings the answer for you? I don’t know. That’s for you to discover and determine for yourself. But I’ll say this, “When it comes to living as a non-drinker there is no detour around the sewer. Sometimes you just have to wade through a mile of shit to get to the end. But then you’re out.”

I think it’s best to accept that substances—alcohol, recreational drugs, caffeine, sugar, nicotine and legitimate medications—will have some level of affect on your brain and body. Don’t try to fool yourself or Mother Nature. Know yourself! Even when given advice from someone, it’s still your choice whether you follow the advice or not. Make your decision. If it doesn’t work then change it. If it turns out you were wrong, then admit it. There’s something freeing about being able to say, “I was wrong.” To learn from it and try to make a better decisions.

Some people and organizations say that we drunks are incapable of making decisions for ourselves. Well, virtually anyone who happens to be in the midst of being drunk or cranked up is incapable of making wise decisions for themselves. So maybe for a while when you first sober up it might not be a bad idea to listen to or follow the advice of your doctor, therapist, family, friends, even your sponsor if you are so inclined. But meds can become the new crutch, the group, therapist or sponsor can become the new crutch. Eventually you want to walk on your own don’t you? But maybe not? If you don’t want to walk on your own then you’re in no position to blame or complain. But if you want to become a mature, self-directed individual, you need to start making your own decisions as a non-drinker. So start practicing making decisions right now.

That’s it. 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. 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.

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

Brain plasticity:

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this blog article.

You might think that your brain is mush from all your years of drinking and drugs, but all hope is not lost. Simply by you thinking and contemplating your condition shows that you still have cognitive awareness. The brain can rebuild itself (up to a point). Even more amazing is that other areas of the brain can take over the control of functions that may have been damaged—that is “Brain Plasticity.” However, this doesn’t happen all by itself. The person must use their brain, and like any muscle, it then grows in strength.

I’m not going to get all heavy into medical and anatomical terminology. I will be using basic examples and words. I’m in no way talking down to you, but if you don’t understand what I’m talking about then my article and message are worthless to you.

Many people who have had physical brain injuries, strokes, born with brain disorders or are mentally challenged (I’m trying to be polite and politically correct here), have developed skills and have discovered ways to express themselves, using different areas of the brain. This isn’t a conscious or willful act, their brain undergoes changes through plasticity as they work at ways to overcome their challenges. I’ll explain this clearer using some examples.

I mentioned muscles earlier. As most of us know, it takes time for muscle strength to build through repeated use. And it takes even longer to build muscle mass and definition. Additionally, any of us who have worked out also know how rapidly strength, stamina and fitness can decline. The mass may hang around for a while, but you’re simply not as strong. The same holds for the brain. When used and exercised it builds strength but it takes time. Sitting in the recliner watching “Dancing with the convicts” is not mental exercise. Browsing porn sites may be mentally stimulating but it isn’t mentally challenging (unless you’re trying to clean your computer of pop-ups and viruses).

An exciting aspect of challenging your mind is that you may discover some other strengths and natural abilities that you were never aware you had. As you actively engage in a mental task, even if it’s a physical task which requires dexterity or eye-hand coordination, your entire brain is being drawn in and your subconscious mind may shine an idea or concept into your consciousness. This is often described as the “Ah-hah” moment or a serendipitous discovery. All it is is your brain working because you’re actively challenging it.

Let me talk about how we use regions of the brain to perform tasks outside of their intended purpose. For instance, some people aren’t able to verbally explain what hurts them or what emotions they’re feeling, but they can draw or paint a picture of what hurts them or of their emotions. They might draw some bizarre op-art picture of what their pain or emotions look like to them and then when they view the picture, they can clarify their thoughts and better express themselves with words. But it took the visual expression first to unleash the vocalized expression second. The message has gotten out but not in the traditional path. Some people use music in the same way. You don’t know what you’re good at or enjoy doing until you try. And you may not be great at something but you might discover that it helps you express yourself.

Different regions of the brain work in unison with one another and often “cover” for each other when one of them isn’t functioning well. Your occipital lobe handles visual interpretations and then sends what you “see” to other areas of your brain, but that particular region may also help you hear things if your auditory cortex is damaged.

Many sensations and stimuli that we experience go together, as in when you’re describing the flavor of a food (soft, creamy, bright, sharp, etc.) or when explaining a sound (powerful, low, dulling, terrifying, sweet, soothing, etc.). Multiple senses are working together regardless of whether the stimuli is sound, smell, taste, touch or sight. Your brain has the natural ability and capacity to allow different areas to work together and work for each other.

You might hear a song that sends warm shivers up your spine. A different sound may send shivers up your spine as well but they’re not warm shivers—they may be shivers of fear or disgust. The same dual sensation occurs when you see something appealing or appalling. You can feel depressingly low and physically drained (even though you haven’t done any physical exertion), or energized and amazingly high (a natural high from an adrenal rush even as you’re physically exerting yourself). Your brain is able to employ all of its specialized areas in unison, no matter how much damage you feel you’ve done to it.

So all is not lost just because you may have addled your brain with years of booze and drugs. But I don’t want to give you false hope either. Yes, your brain can rebuild itself. By how much is not known and it certainly won’t happen without exercising it. The good part about this is that there isn’t any risk involved in trying. The worst that can happen is you might get a little smarter. Not a bad risk if you ask me.

I know that in my own case I never realized my capacity for learning. It’s interesting that when I was a drunk I thought I was pretty damn smart. Now that I’ve been sober for over 8 years I realize how much I don’t know and how dumb I really am. I’m being a bit self-deprecating here but I’m serious. First, let’s get something straight—I am NOT a latent genius or a blooming savant—I’m just an average person with a normal level of curiosity.

As I progressed (and continue to progress), through my sober evolution, I have discovered a ravenous appetite for knowledge. The more I learn the more I want to learn. This has been a slow, budding process. I didn’t notice it happening. It wasn’t until I looked at my library of books and started backing up all of my writing files did I realize how much information I’ve ingested over the past 8 years. I look at the books in my library and I can see a map of progression by the book titles and the subject matters. I’ve gone from “Curious George fucks a football” to “Understanding Fractal Geometry and its similarity to financial market deviations.” Considerable growth if I say so myself.

I personally know people who have definitely grown and are rebuilding their brain. They may not realize it or see it in themselves, but I can see it. Within years of becoming sober they have expanded their knowledge and have built stronger relationships and marriages. Some have become better parents. Some have gone back to school and others have started successful businesses of their own. If you’ve been clean and sober for a while you may not have noticed this about yourself. You might want to spend some time reflecting on the progress you have made. You might be pleasantly surprised with yourself and how you’ve actively rebuilt your brain.

I am not making any guarantees that you will become a genius and win a Nobel Prize. You probably won’t even notice that you’re getting smarter, and if not smarter, making fewer mistakes and that your brain is repairing itself or using other areas to compensate. By actively exercising your brain you might discover some hidden talents or attributes you never knew you had. You may not even notice your new talents but some things in life will just become easier. You may accredit your new found “smartness” to God, sobriety, the program, whatever. But your new found smartness is a result of brain plasticity and the fact that YOU are actively exercising and challenging your mind, which in turn makes your brain work harder, rebuilding its strength. So go ahead and exercise your brain, you really have nothing to lose.

That’s it. 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. 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.

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

This really sucks, what should I do?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Click here to listen to the podcast of this article.

Quite possibly the hardest part of staying sober isn’t simply staying sober, the hardest part is coming to the realization that certain changes in activities, behaviors and relationships are going to have to take place. It’s a drag sometimes, it can be depressing and lonely. You can feel like the oddball in the group, that you’re missing out on something and that you’re in this all by yourself, that you’re being punished.

But don’t be discouraged, it can get better. Will it? I don’t know and I won’t lie to you and say that it will. But I do know this much, living sober is better than living drunk and it will be up to you to make the best out of your sobriety.

I get a lot of emails from people who say, “This really sucks! I’m bored, I’m lonely, I’m tired, I’m not having any fun. What should I do?” I completely understand those feelings and I respect that someone would ask that question. I’ll get to my suggestions shortly and I will wrap this up with some uplifting thoughts. Right now, let’s at look at why and how this sucks and then when I give you my suggestions they may make more sense.

As former drinkers we might think, “Why can’t I have just one? Why do I have to be alone? Why must this be so painful? This isn’t fair.” No, it isn’t fair. Yes, it can be lonely and painful at times. Yes, it can be a struggle. There is no detour around the sewer. Sometimes you just have to wade through a mile of shit. Sobriety is not a downloadable app. You have to live it and sometimes it sucks. I have found that after more than 8 years of being clean and sober (without one single slip mind you), that you’ll either learn to make the best out of it or you’ll be miserable. I happen to want to make the best out of my sobriety. I may sound cynical, grumpy and miserable, but I truly believe that I’m better off living as a non-drinker, even though it still sucks sometimes.

It sucks to stay home when all your friends are going out bar hopping or heading out to the Halloween Pub crawl. It sucks to go to a baseball game on a hot August weekend and not enjoy a cold beer. It sucks to say, “No thanks,” when someone hands you a beer at a picnic or while you’re sitting around a campfire. It sucks to go to an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise and not have a drop. (Technically you’ve already paid for it, so why not?) It isn’t that sobriety sucks; it’s that you might have to pass on fun invitations and you’ll have to change a lot of your behaviors and may even have to change what you do for relaxation and entertainment—that sucks!

Parties, Holidays, family gatherings, dates, dining out, concerts, sporting events, vacations and other get-togethers are a few examples of when it can suck. It may “appear” as if everyone else is drinking, having a great time and you’re the outsider. And depending on where you go, almost everyone else IS drinking, but that doesn’t mean they’re having a great time, will have a great time later or tomorrow morning. But you still feel like an outsider and that sucks.

If you’re invited to meet your friends at a bar you can safely presume that the majority of people there will be drinking. When you go to a Wedding reception you can safely presume that toasting and drinking will be going on. When you go to a public (professional) sporting event you can safely presume that people will be tailgating and drinking in the parking lot and that beer vendors will be walking around tempting you with “cold beer here.” Hell, I went to see the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and there were wine vendors all around the lobby hawking drinks. Booze is everywhere! So you either stay away from these events or you have to prepare yourself for the temptations that you will face. And when you’re at the event it might feel like it sucks.

As you may be able to tell if you’ve read some of my other articles and my books, I am a proponent of self-analysis, self-pride, self-worth, self-control, self-education and personal responsibility. To me, sobriety is a very selfish undertaking, because it has to be done by yourself and within your own skin. You may get help and support from others, you may even sober up for someone else, but you still have to do it in your own body. No one else can live sober for you.

There is a fine balance between self-confidence and arrogance, self-worth and conceit, humility and low self-esteem. We are told to be humble but we should also have pride in ourselves and in our appearance. “Don’t you have any pride? Brush your hair, put on some makeup, don’t wear so much makeup, lose some weight, put on some weight, wear a suite, who are you trying to fool with those clothes, bow before God, you are the master of your own destiny.” There are so many mixed messages and it all depends on who is giving you the message.

It isn’t proper for me (or anyone else) to tell you what you should do. I will make suggestions, I will tell you what has and has not worked for me, but YOU must come to your own conclusions.

What has worked for me? Self-control and self-imposed lockdowns. If I know that a certain event or that certain people are specifically focused around drinking, then I don’t attend or hang out with them. I’m not stupid, I know where drinking takes place and which of my friends are heavy drinkers. You’re not stupid, you know these things as well. I’m not fond of passing on invitations. Is staying home and reading a book on psychology or neurobiology as exciting as going out, getting all tore up watching drunken broads lift up their shirts? No, no it isn’t. But I know that surrounding myself with temptation isn’t smart and putting myself in environments where I’ll feel uncomfortable or feel like I’m not having fun isn’t a good idea either. I’m not going to torture myself.

Here’s another thing which has worked for me; honestly accepting that there is no exact replacement for getting drunk or high. Trying to find one is a foolhardy undertaking and trying to find one may very well lead to something more dangerous and destructive. Distractions have worked for me, and in some cases those distractions have turned into great hobbies and even great career changes, but they are still NOT exact replacements for getting drunk.

Keeping myself busy with an extensive “To Do” list has worked for me. By default, keeping busy has benefitted me with a cleaner home, nicer yard and a less cluttered life. I keep busy with a strenuous workout regimen and that keeps me fit and feeling healthy. I’m able to do my job more proficiently and I don’t spend my money on booze or waste it in bars and on all of the expenses that go along with the bar lifestyle, so I have no debt and a lot of nice material acquisitions. I wouldn’t have those things had I kept drinking.

Having a “Goal List” has worked for me. When I’m bored or don’t know what to do I can look at my goal list and do something that will get me closer to one of my goals. This helps keep me busy and by default I get a lot more done (see above). These are not all materialistic goals. I have goals for how many books I want to read in a year, what skills I want to get better at, what subjects that I want to learn more about, what new places I want to see, exercise goals and personal growth goals. Having a clearly stated and openly displayed goals list has kept me from straying when I easily could have.

What hasn’t worked for me? Thinking that I can find an exact replacement (see above). Thinking that I can still go to all the places I used to and do all the things I used to and still have fun. I can go to bars and parties and hang out with drinkers, but I don’t really have fun. I actually get bored at bars or sitting around with people who are drinking. I would rather be alone than sitting there wishing I was alone. And the truth is if I’m not going to drink then what am I doing hanging out in a bar?

AA didn’t work for me, I didn’t like it. It served a purpose for me. It gave me something to do when I first sobered up and it sparked me to realize that I wanted more from my sobriety than spending the rest of my life chained to a set of rules and a chair at meetings. But attending AA meetings may be what works for you, even if it is only temporary. You just might like it and I wouldn’t try to dissuade you or tell you that you’re wrong. So if you are an AA devotee and my words disturb you please don’t email me and tell me I’m wrong. I like being sober on my own. I respect that you do it your way, please respect that I like doing it my way.

I said I would close this on a high note. I firmly believe that my health, my finances, my mind and my life in general are far better because I live as a non-drinker. I work better and I’ve been able to rid myself of debt and that’s very calming. I’ve expanded my mind and knowledge base, which has in turn expanded my desire to discover and learn even more. I enjoy feeling healthy and fit. My friendships are deeper and stronger and I’ve become comfortable with myself within those friendships. I don’t feel the need to drown my problems or hide from my emotions. I like feeling my emotions. I like knowing that I am not powerless over alcohol—I have the power to not put it into my bloodstream. Because I know that once it’s in there I no longer have power over it.

Living sober may suck at times, but living drunk sucked a lot more.

That’s it. 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. 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 by making a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible.

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

I just want to be Happy.

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this article.

Have you ever heard someone say this, or possibly you’ve said it yourself: “If I could just quit drinking I would be happy,” or the simpler version, “I just want to be happy.”

Who doesn’t want to be happy? It would sound kind of weird if someone said, “I just want to be miserable, debt ridden, sickly and have my life filled with problems.” Nobody says that. And if that’s what they want it really won’t take much effort.

Saying, “If I could just quit drinking I would be happy,” is a hollow statement. I will agree that initially just getting sober may make you happy, but you’ll end up wanting more, and that’s good. And the simpler version of, “I just want to be happy,” is too vague. What will make you happy and what is happiness? Is happiness so elusive that it’s something that can never be reached?

I want to share some great quotes from others on what they think happiness is. I’ll do a little analysis on each of their quotes. My interpretation is in italics after the quote. I’ll pass along my own definition of happiness and then ask you to think about what your definition of happiness is. Because when you really think about happiness and quantify it into words, you might find that it is within your grasp.

Socrates—“Happiness is unrepentant pleasure.” Enjoying the experience of pleasure without feeling guilt (or ending up hung-over). This doesn’t have to be debauchery or dangerous behavior. It can be as simple as sitting and fishing with your kid or taking a walk with your lover (I mean your spouse or partner, not the neighbor lady.)

Mark Twain—“Happiness is a Swedish sunset; it is there for all, but most of us look the other way and lose it.” That’s a great way of putting it. Happiness is usually right in front of us, yet we have a tendency to not to see it as happiness. We often see something else that distracts us, thinking that the other thing will be more beautiful than the sunset and that other thing is what will bring us happiness.

Nathaniel Hawthorne—“Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” Trying to grasp happiness and forcing it into a net requires a lot of energy and time. Then once caught, what do you do with it? It’s easier to make sure that you’re available and put yourself in the right place, relax and let the butterfly come to you. Allow it to dance on your hand and enjoy the beauty of what it is. It may even hang around you for a while. This reminds me of an old story about two bulls talking. They were standing looking at a herd of cows in the distance. The young bull says to the older one, “Let’s run down the hill, see if we can catch a cow and fuck it.” The older bull said, “Let’s relax, walk down the hill and fuck all of them.” Just sayin’ relax and let happiness happen.

Channing Pollock—“Happiness is a way station between too little and too much.” Ain’t that the truth? Trying to find the balance between having a nice little buzz and being too drunk. Not a very easy task for some of us. I have that crazy tendency to overdo everything.

J.D. Salinger—“The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.” This is a great parallel to alcohol use. I received joy from drinking in that I got buzzed, laughed, had fun (at the time) and then pissed all the joy away, figuratively and literally in urine. The joy was always temporary because I had to recover from my joy the next day and the only way to find the joy again was to drink again. Genuine happiness does tend to be a solid. Not that you can hold it in your hand (sometimes you can), but it is part of you.

Hosea Ballou/Minister—“Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.” Simple pleasures and simple happiness don’t always cost a lot. The price paid for temporary joy or pleasure (which is also temporary happiness) can be very expensive. The cost now and the price to be paid in the future.

Palmer Sondreal—“Happiness is never stopping to think if you are.” When we are deeply immersed in something we love, or just plain old busy, we tend to not question our happiness.

I think the best explanation or definition of happiness is this one:

Allan K. Chalmers/Artist—“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” To me, that one encompasses what life is all about. When we have something to do or something we want to work on, this is fulfilling. When we have something or someone we love we do things out of love, to try and bring the other person joy. Having hope gives us reason to do something, love something or someone. Without hope there isn’t much purpose. Combine all three of these and happiness comes from the act of doing, be it for something or someone we love, because we hope that what we’re doing will be worth the effort.

The pursuit of happiness can make you happy. We are often fooled by the “Won’t it be great when…” delusion. We think that we’ll finally be happy when this or that happens, but it truly is the active pursuit of reaching the destination which brings the most happiness. Successful business people, athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, scientists, teachers and parents are always striving to improve. They may enjoy the level of admiration, fame or wealth that they have achieved, but they know that doing is what brings happiness.

Material comforts are all fine and well. Who wouldn’t want a nice house, nice car, nice boat, a nice spouse, whatever. Those things can all enhance your happiness, but stuff may not be the answer to your happiness. For some of you, maybe stuff does bring you happiness. But it seems to me that the thing which makes people the happiest is when they are busy. So even if stuff makes you happy, you have to be busy doing something to earn the money to buy the stuff.

Many people believe that more of anything will bring them happiness. Sometimes it can be the lack of things that can bring happiness. Like the lack of debt, the lack of pain, the lack of unnecessary problems. The lack of unhappiness can mean happiness. Comparing yourself, your accomplishments or your possessions against what someone else has can erode your happiness.  Remember that there will always be someone richer, stronger, faster, smarter and prettier than you. Also remember that there will always be someone who has it worse than you (and they actually may be genuinely happy, so why aren’t you?). Why not be happy with what and who you are now and grow even happier as you actively develop, evolve and work towards something that you believe will make you happy.

Happiness comes in degrees and it can change during the course of the day. You may be excited to get to work to continue on a project but somebody pisses you off on the freeway. You get to work (mildly agitated), and suddenly your immersed in your work—now you’re happy or at least forgot that you’re pissed off. Next thing you know there’s a change to the project or some other bullshit is dumped on your desk—now you’re unhappy. You grumble your way through it, you’re busy but you’re still unhappy. Suddenly you notice that there’s only a half hour left before you can leave and you’re happy.

Or the opposite may occur. You hate your job, you hate your commute but when you arrive at work and settle in at your project or desk you become involved and forget that you’re unhappy. You aren’t all giddy and filled with happiness but you’ve forgotten that you hate your job (until now because I just reminded you).

Happiness is always evolving and always moving. Happiness is not a constant buzz where you walk around and you’re squirting all over yourself because you’re so happy. But I also don’t believe that happiness is outside of our reach. Like the butterflies; relax, open your hand and let them land on you. Like the sunset; it’s there right in front of you, just look at it and enjoy it. And be happy with yourself knowing that you are putting forth your best effort actively in pursuit of your own personal happiness. You are putting forth your best effort aren’t you? Maybe just putting in an effort will bring you happiness?

I don’t know what will bring you happiness. Hell, half the time I don’t even know what will bring me happiness. Most of the time I do feel happy and when I don’t feel happy the best thing I can do is ask myself, “Why?” I typically find that I have no valid reason to be unhappy. And that may be the most important line of thought for me to remember: “I have no valid reason to be unhappy.” Even problems and struggles can bring me sensations of happiness because it means that there’s something to do, something to be worked on, something to win at.

So let me conclude by asking you a few questions. What is it that brings you happiness? Not just temporary joy or momentary ecstasy (nothing wrong with either of those if they are part of your overall happiness) but what is it that brings you the feeling of contentment? Do you believe that happiness is within your reach? If not, why not? Is there anything specific that could bring you overall happiness? If so, what can you do to bring it about? Do you believe you could be happy, right here right now, if you just let it happen?

That’s it. 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. There’s a great book I would like to suggest on this topic. “Stumbling on happiness.” By Daniel Gilbert. I believe it’s worth your time to read.

If you enjoy my stuff or get something out of this 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. I’m not begging but I’m asking that if you like what I do 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.

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

You can’t save everyone:

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this article.

I’m going to start this article by telling you the story of what happened to one of my dogs. It doesn’t have a happy ending so if reading about a pet passing away disturbs you then close this or click on the next article. The reason I want to use the story of my pet is because it’s very similar to situations where we have cleaned up our own life and we feel compelled to help a friend or loved one clean up their life.

So here’s the story: I travel in a giant tour bus and my 5 dogs accompany me. I was staying in a pretty raw area of Florida where there’s snakes, spiders, scorpions, alligators, all sorts of natural threats to humans and dogs. This particular morning I noticed there was a bloom of mushrooms on the jungle floor. I made it a point to keep my dogs away from the mushrooms and they weren’t really that interested in them anyway, they were more interested in all the sounds and smells around us. I had them on leashes because I wanted to protect them from predators. But after a while we all become comfortable with our surroundings and I let them off-leash. I wanted them to have a bit of freedom to do what dogs do; sniff around and have fun, but I kept an eye on them.

The day had gone without incident and me and the dogs were enjoying our lush jungle-like surroundings. I took them out for their last pee and poop of the night—they were off-leash. They did what dogs do; walk around, sniff and tend to their business. But they all gathered around something and a skirmish ensued. No big deal, that’s what dogs do. I yelled, “Knock it off you assholes.”  The skirmish ended quickly and everybody came in for the night. It was just another average day with my dogs, but that all changed soon.

Within an hour one of my dogs; Mr. Bean Head, was acting listless and weird. He just stared at me all googly-eyed. Another one of my dogs; Rommel, he was panting and staring at me as well. So I sat in the recliner and let Mr. Bean Head lay in my lap. Rommel sat across from us panting and staring. The other dogs went and hid under blankets and slept. This was all peculiar behavior but I didn’t think much of it. I decide to just sit with my dogs and watch a movie. Before the movie ended Mr. Bean Head had died in my lap. I won’t go into all the details but let’s just say it was a mess and through all the surprise and panic I tried to resuscitate him to no avail.

I couldn’t figure out what had just happened. Nobody squeaked or squealed when outside, there were no signs of bites, stings or injury. All I knew was that one of my dogs had just died in my lap and the others were acting a bit strange as well. What the fuck was going on? Was I going to end up with 5 dead dogs in one night? I maintained a vigil watching my dogs all night and by morning everyone was back to normal—except for Mr. Bean—he was still dead.

It wasn’t until after I buried Mr. Bean Head that I was able to sit and think through what had all transpired and I came to the conclusion that he had most likely eaten some of the fresh mushrooms during the dog skirmish. I felt so much guilt over this, “Why didn’t I just have him on a leash? Why didn’t I watch him closer?” It’s kind of like that when we review one of our own drunken episodes:  “Why did I go out with those guys? Why did I keep drinking? Why did I say that? Why did I drive?” or after something awful happens to someone we care about: “Why did I let him drive? Why didn’t I answer his last phone call? Why didn’t I say something sooner?” Maybe we can learn from guilt? “I won’t do that again. Next time I’ll intervene.” But our best intentions don’t always work.

For example in the case of my dogs, I learned from experience to try and keep them safe, but even my best intentions doesn’t protect them from everything. If it’s dark out, if I’m unfamiliar with the surroundings or if I feel uncomfortable about something then I take them out on leashes. But that doesn’t always protect them. I had one of my dogs on a leash, he went to pee on a rock and from around the back of the rock came a scorpion. I didn’t see the scorpion but my dog did, so he went after it. He got stung by the scorpion and it pissed him off so he kept going after it. It was dark and I couldn’t see what was going on or what he was going after. In the mêlée of barking, snapping and dust flying I pulled my dog away. I finally saw the scorpion, stomped on it, but it was too late, my dog had already been stung (possibly a couple of times). My dog lived through the episode, (he didn’t have a pleasant night and he got pretty sick), but I learned something very important from these experiences:

You can’t save everyone from themselves.

Repeated intervention, logical discussions, pleading, bitching, threats, busting my balls, my own declining health, auto accidents, mounting debt and mounting problems had no effect on me. Rag at me all you want, I’ll just avoid you or go about my drinking in private or do it someplace you can’t catch me. If I was “cut-off” at one bar I would just go another. If I burned all my bridges at the local bars then I would go off on my boat and drink alone. I would circumvent all attempts to stop me from drinking. I was not going to be stopped or saved by anyone. You can find the rest of the story of how and why I quit in the pages of my books. This article is about controlling your desire to save someone else.

Saving someone else will NOT make you any more sober. It’s a nice gesture, it may be the right thing to do and you may be able to help someone. But the fact still remains that saving someone else will NOT make you any more sober. (It’s odd because you can get drunker but you can’t get soberer—there’s a limit to how sober you can get.)

Once we sober up we tend to see (or think we see), the drinking issues of others. I’m certain you have friends or family members you would like to help. There are plenty of people who I care about or love and I see them bringing unnecessary drama and problems into their lives’. I can’t save them, but I can risk trying. I use the word “risk” because approaching someone who has not asked for your help may damage the friendship or relationship, it may even terminate it, so tread cautiously. Don’t be surprised if the person you think you’re going to help tells you to “go fuck yourself, mind your own business.”

I suggest that if you’re so compelled to intervene that you do it with tact and tenderness. You can mention your thoughts, observations, your own experiences and make suggestions. But don’t preach. There’s nothing worse than listening to a reformed prostitute preach on the evils of sex.

I don’t go around preaching the good word of sobriety. Yes, I write books on the topic, I have a website, blog and podcasts. I make appearances and do speaking engagements when I am asked to, but I don’t walk around preaching to people, I don’t force this on people. If you don’t want to read this or listen to this then click “close,” you’re not being forced.

When it comes to me feeling as if I would like to help someone I may approach a friend and say something like, “I see you harming yourself and you’re bringing a lot of unwanted and unnecessary problems into your life. There might be some things you can do and some changes you can make that would help your life become a bit easier.” If they’re curious and want to talk further then we will, but I say my piece and leave it up to them. I don’t force my lifestyle on them and I absolutely won’t present false promises if they do want to talk. And there are some people I just disengage from or eliminate associating with in life. If I think they drink too much—that’s my problem not theirs. If I don’t like their lifestyle and their behavior makes me uncomfortable then I don’t hang around them any longer.

We can’t save everyone. Forcing your lifestyle and your beliefs on someone else won’t make you a better person and your lifestyle may not be what the person you’re trying to help wants. Some people will put on a show just to get you to shut up, then go about living how they want behind your back. Sometimes the only way to control another person’s behaviors is to kennel them or to keep them on a leash like a dog. Is that the right thing to do? And what gives you the right to do it? (Now some cases do require a heavier hand such as if it comes to your safety or the safety of your children. But the scope and length of this article doesn’t afford me the time or space to go into those details.)

I believe that the best way for me and you to share the benefits of sobriety is to just go about living our lives’ as we do. Let people approach us and ask us questions. When people see someone who’s healthy and happy they want to know how they did it. Sometimes I’ll get asked, “How come it seems like you don’t have any problems? How is it that you live so well? How did you get your body into such great shape? What do you do for a living?” or any number of questions similar to these. Some people don’t like hearing my answers. Some listen intently and genuinely consider making changes in their own behavior. Most won’t ever do a thing about it. It’s not my job to save them. I can feel sad, I can wish them well, I can use words to plant some seeds, but I can’t do the work for them.

I want to close by making a couple of points here. Please be tender and watchful of your pets. Do what you can to keep them from eating or playing with dangerous items. But no matter how hard we try or how vigilant we are, we can’t always stop our friends from doing something harmful to themselves—that includes pets and people. The best way to help a friend is to let them witness you living well. Invite them into your world but don’t force them into it because you can’t save everyone.

That’s it. 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. 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.

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

Discovering life’s lies (Part 1).

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this article.

This is a two part article and podcast. First I want to go over some of the deceptions and lies we uncover and then I want to share some ideas on how to address those deceptions and lies. I won’t be telling you what you should do, I just want to share some ideas and then YOU decide how you want to handle them.

Have you ever believed in something so strongly that you supported it with every fiber of your being? You followed along with what you were told, you gave of yourself without question, you even helped promote what you believed was true. You may have changed your life for it, gave of your mind, body, soul and finances. Only to find out later that it was a lie or you were lied to by someone you trusted? What did you do then?

While I was staying at a National Park in Florida I was illuminated to something very disturbing to me. I am a “Recycle Psychopath.” I make it a point to separate anything recyclable from my garbage and place it in appropriately labeled bins. This Park has such bins. During a conversation with one of the Park Rangers I was told, “I don’t know why they have those? The garbage truck comes by and dumps everything into the same hopper. It all gets mixed back together in the truck and dumped into the same landfill.” I was shocked, hurt, pissed off, I felt like a fool, I felt violated. I had been being lied to!

I felt so good about my recycling efforts before being informed of this lie. But I was co-operating with a lie and I felt good about myself when I didn’t know it was a lie. I would have continued my behavior and continued feeling good about myself while participating with this lie—even though in TRUTH—I was wasting my time. But now that I knew the truth what was I to do? Was there anything I could do? I considered my options:

  • Become cynical and find fault everywhere.
  • Become angry, go to the other extreme and try to get even by taking pictures and sending them to the Capitol or Newspapers exposing the lie.
  • Do what everyone else does and throw all trash together.
  • Change my behavior and not care about or participate with recycling in the future.
  • Change my behavior for where I was—adjust and adapt—and save my recyclables to dispose of them properly at a legitimate recycling point.

I chose the last option: Change my behavior—where I was. I wasn’t going to play along with their lie and I will do what I know is right, even though it may be inconvenient for me. I would collect my recyclables and save them until I get to a proper recycling point.

You might think this is silly of me to get that worked up over “recyclables.” But it’s an example of believing something, feeling good about yourself, behaving in accordance—only to find out you’ve been being lied to. It’s also an example that you do have choices in life. Some of the choices may be inconvenient and no one else may know that you’ve made a choice, but none the less you still have choices.

This experience got me thinking about all the other lies I have been told in life and the lies that I tell to myself. I found that how I view these lies makes a big difference in whether I live as a drunk or live sober, how I interact with other people and how I work at making the best out of life as a non-drinker. Let’s take a look at some of these lies shall we?

Mutually agreed upon lies: These are the lies that we just accept in life. There are mutually agreed upon lies in politics, religion, relationships, marriage, fidelity, business, economics, science, medicine, the environment, you name it. For instance, if I don’t expect or believe that you’ll keep your promises to me then I won’t feel bad when I don’t keep my promises to you. We may never discuss our “arrangement” openly—it just goes without either one of us saying anything. A lot of mutually agreed upon lies are like this. We don’t talk about them but we know they exist.

Advertisers use mutually agreed upon lies to sell their products. A lot of times we overlook the lies and buy the product anyway, or use their lie on ourselves to justify our purchase. Do you honestly believe that “game day” won’t be complete without beer? Do you honestly believe that you’ll look 20 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, be the coolest cat on the dance floor and pick up the most beautiful people if you drink a certain beer, vodka or rum? (Drink enough of it and you’ll believe it.) Do you honestly believe that you absolutely must have all the latest techno-gadgets or you’ll miss something important in life? Do you honestly believe everything your political leaders say, that your religious leaders say or what your teachers say? We just mutually agree with their softer lies, make the best of it, and go about our life.

Self-deception: These are the softer lies we tell to others and that we tell to ourselves. If we didn’t tell ourselves lies we probably wouldn’t want to live another day. These lies aren’t said with devious intent—that’s why I call them softer lies—these are for self-preservation. “I don’t think that lump in my brain is as serious as the doctor says. 20 extra pounds isn’t bad on me, everybody’s a little overweight. I’m a hard worker, I deserve a raise. I don’t drink as much as Jeff does.” These are all natural human thoughts; you are not a pathological liar because you dance with self-deception. Deceptions are said or thought so that we can get them out of our mind and go about our daily life.

We also deceive ourselves so that we can fit in with the crowd and go along with the “norm” or what we believe is the norm. If everyone else that you know goes out drinking, then you’ll probably go out with them because that’s the norm. If everyone else that you know goes to AA meetings then you’ll go as well. Privately, the other people may not agree with the behavior or the belief (excessive drinking, meetings, religion, etc.), but because it’s “the norm” they deceive themselves and go along with it and so do you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’re social creatures and we want to fit in with a group or we want to see the positive side of life, so we deceive ourselves. The trouble comes in separating harmful self-deception from healthy self-deception.

This takes me to some of the lies surrounding sobriety. “It’ll be the greatest thing you ever did.” (These words can actually be used to get you started drinking or doing meth, coke, whatever.) Some of the lies I was told about sobriety were: “Everything you’ve lost will be regained. You’ll feel wonderful, at peace and everything will work out. If you follow the steps, give yourself over to a higher power, the steps will work. If you just quit drinking everything will be fine.” Well that isn’t how it’s been turning out. Everything doesn’t go as planned and everything I want may not be what other people want.

But here’s the odd situation. I don’t know if I would have been so committed to my sobriety during the first year had I not been lied to. (Again, these weren’t outright devious lies but they were well-meaning deceptions.) I had no one to present realistic and honest assessments, so I played along with the lies. I feel fortunate that the disappointment and disenchantment of discovering the lies didn’t weaken me to return to drinking. It was actually the embracing of these deceptions which started me writing. I wrote for myself. I wanted to clearly express what I was feeling and then detail out what I could ultimately do about my feelings and what actions and behaviors I needed to perform so I could start making the best out of the conditions that were in front of me. I didn’t want any more lies or false hopes. I wanted truth, regardless of whether I liked the truth or not, at least I could then deal with reality and build my strength on reasonable hopes. It may have been disappointing to discover the lies, but it has been a freeing experience.

I know that in my own case I continue to lie to myself all the time. But I believe that my sober self-lies are healthier than the drunken lies I told myself. (I might be lying to myself right here?) I create my own version of sunshine, cupcakes and happiness in my own mind. I tell myself, “Getting sober is the best thing I ever did. I would never be doing all this if I wouldn’t have sobered up. This is all so wonderful and everything is working out.” How do I know? I can safely presume that I wouldn’t be doing most of what I do now had I continued drinking, but maybe other things would have been better had I kept drinking? I don’t know. I only know my reference point of where I am at this moment. So I tell myself that my decision to live sober was the best decision I ever made. But was it? I don’t know.

You may disagree with me and say “living sober is the best thing ever”—that’s fine, that’s your opinion—but you don’t live in my skin and I don’t live in yours. I won’t tell you what you need to do to make your life wonderful so please don’t tell me what I need to do to make my life wonderful. None the less, I will continue deceiving myself so that I can keep a positive attitude towards my decision to live sober and so that I can continue along in my pursuit of personal happiness.

In the next article I’ll go over some of the ways I deal with deceptions and offer ideas for your consideration. I won’t tell you what to do because you may have better ideas than I do. (Did I just lie to make you feel better?) Anyway, thanks for your time. I hope to get you thinking on your own in the next article.

“Discovering life’s lies. (Part #2)”

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Click here to listen to podcast of this article.

This is Part 2 of my blog on “Discovering life’s lies.” In the first part we looked at the various lies and deceptions we participate in. Now let’s look at ways to handle them and maybe even learn to laugh at them.

So how have you addressed all the deceptions and lies in your life? We’re all told lies when we’re kids: Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Skippy went to dog heaven, daddy is tired and has a headache from working so hard. As kids, it’s not a bad idea to lie to us, we don’t have the mental capacity to understand a lot of things, so our parents just tell us fun stories to get us to shut up. So lies aren’t always bad and harmful and we learn early on that little deceptions can work wonders.

How did you feel when you discovered these deceptions about Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny? Did you continue to play along until it didn’t work for you anymore or simply couldn’t believe it yourself? Were you saddened to discover the truth? Did you vow to never tell your children those lies only to do it yourself? We trained ourselves as children to play along with mutually agreed upon lies and it continues into adulthood.

Here’s how I see it, you may see it differently. Just because everyone else drinks (or I think everyone else drinks), doesn’t mean that I have to. I don’t have to do what other people say and go out drinking. Conversely, I don’t have to do what other people say and follow a program to stay sober. I don’t have to become angry at alcohol or drinkers and go to the other extreme of self-righteousness and preaching to everyone. What I can do is I can change my behavior. I can adjust and adapt my behavior for where I am both physically (at a party, wedding reception, family gathering, etc.), and mentally. I must do what’s right for me—even if it means passing on invitations or doing something that’s inconvenient. Sometimes I must deceive myself and say, “I believe I’m doing the right thing.”

Quite often a lie helps get you started. “Aw c’mon, this will be easy.” Sometimes a lie is useful. “This won’t hurt.” Sometimes a lie is outright deceit. “This won’t hurt.” These are silly examples but they’re true. All the words are pretty much the same, all the lies are pretty much the same, but depending on the context and the situation in which the lie is used the lie is helpful or it’s harmful.

Having been lied to and betrayed by people I trusted I’ve learned to be more skeptical in life. This helps me protect myself from hurt and heartache. Let me give an example: If I don’t expect you to be honest, if I don’t expect you to do what you say you’re going to do, then I can’t get angry at you and damage my own heart, but I can still be disappointed. However, with this attitude can also come a marvelous upside—you might give me a pleasant surprise and do what you said you were going to do. You may become more regular at being reliable and begin to show consistency.

Do I get even with those who lie to me or do I mete out vengeance on those who tell me they will do something and then don’t? Well, all situations are different. If it happens to be part of a legally binding contract I will hold them to it. If it’s on a personal level and I have given you my word but you haven’t kept yours, I will fulfill my part and then severe ties between us. I won’t invest in heartache so I limit or completely eliminate my interaction or involvement with the individual in the future. The sad part of this is that I will miss out on engaging with them in the future, but I will not invest in heartache.

I may sound cynical and bitter but I’m not. By not believing what people say I can like them, even love them for who and what they are. I look at our history together. If history shows me that the person is unreliable what makes me think they will be reliable this time? I expect nothing different from them than past experience, but I keep my mind and my heart open for a pleasant surprise. Maybe they will be reliable this time, people do change.

Think about someone close to you. Are they consistently reliable or unreliable? Why would you expect their pattern to change? You can hope for a change in pattern and hope for a pleasant surprise. Why not give the person the opportunity to prove themselves. Remember that if you hold no false expectations of them you can’t get angry with them if they stick to their pattern. You can be disappointed and angry with how it affects you, but don’t be surprised and don’t open yourself up to heartache in the future. If you want to engage and get involved with an unreliable person remember that you are participating in a mutually agreed upon lie.

Without mutually agreed upon lies the world would look mighty harsh (or harsher than it already is), and none of us would ever get married, vote, join a club or movement or even establish friendships. We need the softer mutually agreed upon lies. Self-deception and self-delusion give you the optimism to go out and live in a world that simply wants to pummel you daily just for being alive.

It’s kind of weird because we like to view things realistically and honestly, and if you weren’t a bit overconfident and overestimated your own abilities with some self-deception you would never try anything new or never make any progress. We all internalize and believe some type of self-deception. Most of us think we’re smarter than average, better looking than average or better drivers than average. These are all quite normal thoughts. But don’t worry, most of these delusions don’t get too out of control because there are plenty of people in this world who are all too happy to remind you that you’re not as amazing as you think you are.

We need a bit of self-deceit. If you honestly evaluated everything you were about to try or undertake through the mathematical laws of probability, you would see that the odds are stacked against you and you wouldn’t do anything. Without a bit of self-deception you can become quite despondent in life. Psychologists call what I’m describing as suffering from “depressive realism.” This type of person doesn’t view things through beer colored glasses but they also don’t get too excited about life. They aren’t as surprised by or let down by disappointments in life. Yes, they still experience disappointment as well as joy, but it’s a flatter sensation. While this flatness can be helpful at dealing with disappointments it also means that they don’t feel the emotional highs as often and may not have a genuine zest for life. That’s where the term “depression” comes into play. They are often called pessimists or cynical by their family and friends. And quite often they’re not willing to risk trying new things or risk rejection. They rob themselves of experiencing life.

Self-deception and self-talk can also be harmful so be very careful of what you tell yourself. If you constantly remind yourself that you’re weak, powerless and you’ll always be a drunk, you probably will be. (What I find a bit confusing is when you’re told, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” but then you have to openly state that you’re weak and powerless and if it weren’t for so-and-so or such-and-such I wouldn’t be here today.” These are incongruent beliefs and the brain is confused by incongruency and inconsistency.) Use self-deceptions and self-talk to empower you, not to degrade and berate yourself. Believe me, there are plenty of people who are willing to that for you.

Is there some great revelation I can reveal or some brilliant advice I can impart here? Probably not, I’m not that smart. If anything maybe you just want to look closer at what you’re being told and ask yourself, “Is this an outright devious deception intended to harm me or take advantage of me, or is this a lie which is intended to help me? Am I participating in a mutually agreed upon lie?” Additionally, ask yourself some questions about your own self-deceptions: “Am I just bullshitting myself? If I am, might I be harming myself with my own self-deceptions?”And then again, maybe you don’t want to, or need to think this out too much. Life is never going to be perfect—and if you think it is or that it will be—then you’re lying to yourself. But lying to yourself may be just what you need to get through another day of life.

All of life’s’ lies and deceptions are not awful—they’re just part of being what we are, human. Try to make the best out of them and try to not let them harm you too much. Try not to expect or demand too much from life, yourself or from others. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised when good things happen and when you do catch people telling the truth. Life can be harsh, but it can also be a lot of fun. Please don’t rob yourself of experiencing life.

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. 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.

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