I’m super excited to share something I wrote on Greed for 7 Spins on 7 Sins over at Paul’sBuzzkill Pod. This is the first installment, so be sure and subscribe so you don’t miss a single sin by a different writer each week. You can also listen to Paul’s always insightful and funny recovery podcast here.
To read the first installment of 7 Spins on 7 Sins, click on the image below or here.
Not to brag, but we were on the creepy clown bandwagon since John Wayne Gacy Jr. ruined clowns for everyone. Click below to read a guest piece on Waltbox and be sure and follow his blog so you don’t miss out on any creepy good fun through the rest of the month and stellar writing year-round.
Clowns are pretty much automatically creepy. But what about a clown who does lots of very bad things, then paints a portrait of your spouse? Kristen of byebyebeer is the next guest poster of the season with this creepy piece about a creepy thing that is very creepy. Yikes! The Creepiest Thing from byebyebeer The creepiest thing I […]
Please join me in congratulating Whistler on his four years sober. When he hit his first anniversary in September 2013, he wrote a guest post and has done a follow-up every year since. You can read them all HERE.
In this post, Whistler mentions the importance of having a wingman or two (or ten) and I am proud to call him one. I guess we can do just about anything on our own, but sober life gets infinitely better once we share it with others.
Well. What do you want to hear about?
I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know about the time before, the drinking years debacle, all that… you’ve probably got your own story. What about right after stopping? You probably know that one too, but let’s say the biggest surprise was the huge amount of time to fill with something other than boozing. I mean really, do the actual math, it’s crazy.
Remember the first six months sober, the first year? Day by day is right. Triggers around every corner…like walking through an airport and seeing a familiar bar full of people, drinking and talking, and feeling that pull. But it gets easier once we learn how to take care of the time and triggers enough to begin to cope and tolerate. Then it becomes less about us and a little more about, well, others.
That was another surprise, learning I wasn’t the only person on the planet that life was happening to. I mean, I knew that and always said I quit drinking because of my son. I thought he needed to see me quit so he would quit drugs. And that was as far as I could imagine what stopping was about. After a while I had to look at drinking right in the eyes and say I quit because I want to live a real life. The funny thing is the more I admitted I wanted to live a real life, the more of me faded away. Just like the romance of alcohol (oh and remember the insane rush to drink every day, like clockwork), those mirage memories, this fades away too. I’m learning to wait a little more patiently at the end of line.
And hey, you know this, but just because one doesn’t drink anymore doesn’t mean our new enlightened life is a bed of roses, right? Fact is there’s lots of leftover junk to deal with and then more junk knocking on the door every time the sun comes up. Difference is we are now in a position to do something with it that makes better sense for us and everyone in our wake.
Oh, last thing learned. If you can get a wingman or two, someone in the fight like you, I highly recommend that. I’m telling you, they make a huge difference. When you’re pulling the sober plow shoulder to shoulder with someone who knows the score, it spreads out the load, such an incredible help. And the sober blogs. Thank ya’ll, you have no idea how you helped keep me in the game. So, sobriety. It’s a trip. It works. And life is a gift. I am very grateful.
The other day, I got an email from a reader named Andy who asked if I would share his personal story of recovery. I found it compelling and empowering and think you will too.
As I close in on five years sober later this month, the last part of his story rings especially true. I initially stopped drinking for myself because I couldn’t stand the hangovers and personal pain anymore. Now I see pretty clearly how much better my life is without alcohol, but it’s truly exciting to feel the ripple effect of sobriety. It extends well beyond myself. Anyway, he explains it much better so please read and leave a comment for him, if you please.
From Addict/Alcoholic to Workaholic to Entrepreneur, A Guest Post by Andy
“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”- Zig Ziglar
I would have to say that this quote by Zig Ziglar is pretty accurate, but he forgot to mention that the stairs are not straight and they do not always go up. The stairway to recovery success is a topsy-turvy one that has no actual end. It just sort of straightens up and levels out a little. Regardless, you are always going to be taking it a step at a time. In this post I’m going to take you through my personal sobriety journey.
I was only four years old when my parents decided to move from Colombia to California in 1986. I had a really good childhood and my parents worked hard to always provide for me and my siblings.
If you have Latino friends or family, you know how we party, let alone Colombians. Alcohol is a MUST at a Colombian party. The alcoholic drink of choice by most Colombians is an anise-flavored drink called Aguardiente. Not that all Latinos are drunks, it’s just simply something they enjoy once in a while, when there’s a good excuse to celebrate.
I remember the first time I got drunk. I was nine years old and it was at a family friend’s house party. The adults were all passing around a bottle of Aguardiente and taking shots. I was curious and asked if I could have a shot. Of course I was stopped cold in my tracks and scolded. After a few hours when the adults were tipsy enough to be distracted by the loud music and conversation amongst themselves, I stole a sip from a bottle. I hated it, but it was like a game to have a sip without being caught, so I had another one, then another.
All of my fears and insecurities magically disappeared. I felt confident and capable of anything. I danced salsa with my sister and cousins all night long. I wasn’t shy anymore. That’s how I learned that alcohol made me feel better and more confident, therefore I drank whenever I got the chance.
A few years later, at the age of 15, I was introduced to marijuana. I was a little afraid at the beginning, but all of the cool older kids were doing it, so I had to give it a shot. I fell in love and never looked back. At 19, I was introduced to meth at a party and so began the downward spiral. At 23 I was incarcerated in Idaho on drug related charges for two years.
What happened? Why did I jump over the juiciest parts of my story? Well, I’m not here to recount war stories. You and I both know where that may lead. Reminiscing doesn’t interest me at all and for many it can be a trigger. So let’s just move on to the important part of THIS story.
AA and NA
The first time I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous I was in jail. At first it was something I would do just to spend some time out of my cell. It was better to hear what I thought was bullshit, than to be in my shoe box. I had zero interest in the meetings and I would never contribute or assume any responsibilities.
After attending for months, some of the stories started to resonate. One of them was really special because it made me reflect on my own life. A fellow inmate told the story of how he hit rock bottom. He had been off abusing alcohol and drugs and one day he came back home and got into a very heated argument with his wife, took off, and bulldozed through a wall. The next day he woke up in jail. He shared that he was a psychologist by profession, but an alcoholic by nature. He told us that he also had an anger management issue and concluded that “rage spawns from anger, anger spawns from hurt, hurt spawns from getting your feelings hurt.”
I had convinced myself that I didn’t have a problem; that I was in control; that everyone else had a problem not me. I was so self-absorbed that I could not even look an inch under my current situation to understand that I had a drinking problem, a drug problem, a personality problem…a life problem.
AA and NA helped me a lot during my incarceration, yet my life after prison was everything but easy. I struggled a lot to find a job, and even though I was attending AA and NA meetings on a regular basis, I had a few relapses. I lost my job and life seemed unbearable and that is why I checked into a rehab center in Idaho.
After I was released, I felt great and thought I was ready to take life on sober, but I was mistaken and I relapsed after a few months. Again I was broke, unemployed, alone and feeling like life made no sense at all. I had no other choice but to focus my energy on something else to avoid going back to drugs or alcohol.
I moved back to California where I landed a job selling knock-off cologne. I would go out at 5am to gas stations, shopping center parking lots, flea markets, etc. to sell perfume out of the trunk of my car. I learned how to approach strangers, to get their attention and make a successful sale. Making some money really helped with my confidence, so I was feeling positive, focusing on becoming a better salesman.
Next thing I know I was training other people on how to sell the products and a few months later and 10 pounds lighter (still sober), I had my own office and was pushing quite a bit of perfume per day. I had become obsessed with the business and had let every other aspect of my life deteriorate including my physique. Like byebyebeer said in a blog post, “The thing about addicts is we’re always addicted to something.” I had traded drugs and alcohol for work.
In 2007 I was introduced to a book that helped change my life, Jeffery Combs’ Psychologically Unemployable (Jeffery is also a recovering addict). One of the most important things he said in his book is that you should never confuse obsession with passion. A workaholic and a passionate entrepreneur are very different things. That’s when I realized my addictive personality was ruling my life again, but this time with work. After a few months I sold the business and decided to spend some time at my parent’s house in southern California.
Moving in with my parents was a very good decision at the beginning because they gave me the support I needed and that helped me get over my rut. After a month I found a job at Target, a job for which I had no passion. It was just a way to help pay the bills. I also found an AA/NA community close by, and I acquired a really good sponsor.
What happened while I was working with him on my personal issues is something I will always be grateful for. He told me he would only keep working with me if I took a class at the local community college.
I was not interested at all in doing that because I felt at that point in my life it did not make sense. I just needed to stay sober, go to work and do my job so I could make money to pay the bills. I forced myself to go to the nearest community college campus and enroll in the only class that really caught my eye. It was a course called Introduction to Website Development (HTML). I liked computers and websites, so I thought why not give it a shot?
It took me just three months to fill my bedroom at my parents’ house with books related to HTML and website design. I found myself at the computer for hours, coding, creating, and learning. Finally, one day I thought to myself that it would be great if I could make a business out of my newly acquired skill.
To not make a long story even longer…today, after nine years of hard work, I co-own a successful digital marketing agency. I have a great team that feels like family and, in fact, my brother is part of it. We are based in Medellin, Colombia, which means my life has taken a 180 degree turn. 30 years ago my parents left Colombia to give my siblings and I a better life, and now I am back with that better life.
Although I’ve been sober for eight years, I still go to meetings. Being sober becomes something you get used to; it’s part of your life and with time it gets easier. Regarding my business, I didn’t let myself get lost while pursuing success. The entire point of being successful is to be who you are and love what you do without getting buried under a ton of work. I went out and found something I was passionate about, put my skills and knowledge to work and built a business. Sobriety, just like building a business, does not happen overnight, and one has to commit to it and work hard.
It’s Not All About You
When you are in the process of recovering, every single thing you do to maintain sobriety seems like it’s about you. Every one of the 12 steps you complete, every single task or piece of homework your sponsor gives you, every book or article you read is all about you and your recovery.
But after months or even years of working on your sobriety, you start to realize that there is a bigger reason for it, a reason beyond yourself. It might be to be a great provider for your family and to watch your children grow; working at a job that you love that becomes your career; helping your aging parents during retirement; or like me, building a business and helping people around you grow. It may not seem clear right now, but every action and step you take in this process brings you closer to your personal success.
I love hearing that sober people are still sober. Does that make sense? I mean when I read or hear celebrities and everyday people say something that lets me know they’re still sober. They’re background affirmations, proof that sober life works for those who, well, work it.
You may recognize Whistler from guest posts here or from comments on other sober blogs. He’s a rare breed who never set foot in a recovery meeting and never waivered in his commitment to stay sober and get the most out of his new life. He celebrates three years sober this month and wrote the following to share…please join me in congratulating Whistler on his three years.
I was given this assignment over a week ago. My teacher is very strict by the way, and I am feeling the pressure. I would advise anyone who wants to recall early sobriety details to keep some sort of diary or you can just take a chance, be like me, and remember next to nothing. I have always hoped for a brain like Hans Delbrück but I am very much closer to Holden Caulfield. So I will write this crumby paper but it won’t be like old Hans could have served up.
First off I should let you know that some things change after three years, some things don’t. Your body continues to change. It’s basically an uncontrollable Christmas present like the first two years so things like vision and skin continue to improve and you are able to do a little basic math in your head again.
But be warned some of the weight you lost in year one and kept mostly off in the second year may return (don’t worry the fat has morphed into something different than the booze fat and you just know it’s the kind of fat you could lose in minutes if you really wanted to). The thing that does not change – the thing that remains the gold standard of not changing – is that everybody on the roadway except you still cannot drive worth spit.
My assignment is supposed to be about what this third year of not drinking has been like. Maybe I can compare the last three years to high school.
Freshman year is just a complete swirl of confusion and second guessing about self and life in general. But it’s OK, everyone is still in braces at that point so we just keep our head down, do our homework, and don’t hang out with upper classmen.
Sophomore year. What can I tell you. Totally forgettable. But… one of the most informative years and you do some of your best work in year two. You learn lots about yourself and begin to get an idea of where you’d like to go when you graduate. You show signs of maturing.
And then comes the Junior year. My favorite.
The most serious year so far, you know enough to understand what it takes and you apply what you’ve learned. You become comfortable with yourself enough to begin to want to be a part of things. Rip Van Winkle stretching himself awake. A terrific year really. It serves as the foundation for what’s to come.
And what’s still to come is that Senior year, when catching Senioritis and thinking you’ve become bullet proof can get you kicked out of school. Got to be careful, there will be moments. I will need to plan ahead, avoid traps. I am not going to worry it to death but I’m not going to take it for granted either. Other than that if it is anything like the last three years, it promises to be a slow steady gift box of surprises and revelations.
I guess everyone says this. I did not expect it to be like this. I just knew I had to stop. I had no idea what I was missing. No idea.
The thought of being 30 years sober makes me feel a little giddy, dizzy even. How does one stay sober that long? Does it have to involve meetings? Is relapse still a threat? Do you even still think about being sober anymore?
Robert, who blogs at the wonderful, wisdom-filled Process Not An Event, shares candidly about his recovery process and some of the most important things he’s learned in nearly three decades of sobriety.
This August I will be sober for 30 years. In 1984, three months after I was released from the detox unit, only one other person from my cohort of 20 remained sober. I have often asked: Why Me? Why have I stayed sober and others have not?
I know sobriety has nothing to do with who drank the most or who had the most dysfunctional childhood or arrests or job losses. When I reflect back on my first recovery meetings, the old timer drunk-a-logs and their long-term sobriety held little meaning for me. I wanted to hear how people put together just a couple of weeks or months of sobriety.
Over the years, below is some of what I have learned and wished I had heard at my first recovery meetings:
It’s not that I can’t drink today, rather I don’t have to drink today. If I want to live life on life’s terms, then I don’t need to anesthetize myself to simply exist in a passive world.
AA meetings, sponsors, reading the Big Book and all of those practices ultimately are not the reason I stayed sober. Making a decision to live in recovery and not in active addiction is the reason. Until I made that decision, all of the recovery tools were pretty useless.
Making that decision led me to explore a diversity of recovery tools. In my first year of sobriety, I attended over 300 meetings. From years 10 – 15, I don’t recall attending any AA meetings. Today I go to about 4 AA meetings each month. I don’t know if I will go to more or fewer meetings in the future. Ditto on reading the Big Book. But I do read something or listen to a podcast or engage with some other recovery based material on a daily basis. I have not had an official AA sponsor in about 25 years, but I have honest and self-searching dialogue with others about recovery on a regular basis. I also share my experience, strength and hope of recovery with anyone. In essence, on a daily basis I remember that I am a recovering alcoholic.
I very truly believe that both recovery and relapse are processes and not events. When I was first sober, I was warned that the sky was going to fall, that alcohol was “cunning, baffling and powerful” – which it is. One dude who was perhaps the most unhappy several-year sober person I had ever met had a line that “each day I am sober, I am one day closer to my next drunk.” Based on my experience, I completely reject that notion. A healthy fear of “slippery places” is good, particularly in early recovery, but it’s not going to keep me sober. I am either on the recovery road or the relapse road in the same way I can either travel north or south. I can’t get south by going north, nor will I relapse if I am going in the direction of recovery.
Today, what keeps me sober is not so much fear of drinking as is my total love and embracing of life in recovery. I have learned over the years that my very existence today is the complete antithesis of my life when practicing my addiction. Today, I am a role model for my step-children – that’s not a label I use but one given by my wife and children. I am able to play a leadership role in my career. I enjoy working with students, especially those who struggle to live into their true selves. I don’t say this out of grandiosity, but out of humility in what recovery offers. Without question, all of that is out the door with the first drink.
Recovery is about living life on life’s terms, and not the dictates of what others think I should be doing.
I often end my shares at AA meetings with “I have not a complaint in the world today.” A bunch of years ago I decided I was going to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were, and live life fully in recovery.
These are the most important things I have learned about recovery.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known on Day 1 of your recovery? Please feel free to share in the comments. And check out Robert’s blog if it’s new to you. I find myself going back again and again. Thanks for the great post, Robert!
Whistler doesn’t keep a blog of his own. I wish he did, but he doesn’t and so I’m grateful for his comments, which started popping up around December of 2012 like little word balloons of kindness and encouragement we get to carry around for the day.
You may remember his one-year sober post he wrote here, which came together after a gentle nudge from Christy, and I should probably give the Universe credit too. Thank you for bringing another meaningful connection not only to me but to those who are reading.
Yesterday I had my last post on trees freshly pressed, for which I am embarrassingly thrilled (thank you, Krista!). When I told Whistler and said I was still planning to run his piece today, he insisted I post something I wrote; that any new followers would expect that. But I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and it’s a great piece and who knows who was meant to read it today. Besides, you are reading my blabber right now.
Please join me in congratulating Whistler on 1.5 years sober. While he doesn’t track the exact date, today is the first day of spring and seemed a fitting time to post about new beginnings and full circles and the little (big) miracles that come with sobriety.
When the choice came down to working full time or going to college and working part time, I naturally chose the latter. I figured delay the inevitable as long as possible, right? That was a long time ago, way back in the 70s, and the location of my institute of higher learning was in a still totally dry county.
As in wet vs. dry. There was no alcohol for sale. You had to buy your hooch out of county and bring it back over the line. No driving down to the corner store to buy a six pack. You had to plan and work for your booze.
This inconvenience did not sit well with college-age voters, so we did it the American way and got enough signatures on a petition to make the ballot and then voted parts of the county wet. And so it stayed for lo these years, some of the county wet, some dry. Through no fault of my own I have lived in one of the remaining dry precincts of the county for most of those years.
But progress being what it is, last November my fellow precinctians voted us wet. That means beer and wine can be bought and sold at the corner gas station, and liquor stores can move in and sell the hard stuff. And sure enough, wouldn’t you know a couple of years ago a doctor in town and his brother built a bunch of those larger twelve pump convenience stores around the county, and one of them is only a couple of miles from my hacienda.
As it turns out the dry thing was turning into a huge impedance to local progress. In the dry parts, folks could not order a glass of wine with their sit down franchise meal, so no one would build places to eat in our small precinct. No restaurants equals no city or county tax revenue, which means not only would we starve to death, but we’d die broke and without amenities.
Anyhow, the Doc and his brother have been very anxious to get their gross sales up where they ought to be, and we all know beer and wine will do that because when you buy the twelve pack you also buy fuel, cigarettes, and play the lotto. Apparently alcohol is the backbone of any successful venture.
We can insert moral number one here (there are two). I was part of the original wet move in the 70s and it finally came home to roost. What goes around, comes around. Alcohol sales and all the joy that come with it – noise, trash, traffic, and all the other big and small hassles – are now just a few short minutes down the road.
This is a good time to let you know that when we did go wet back in those heady college days, I took full advantage of local beer and booze availability. As time marched on, I eschewed convenience and opted for anonymity. I went well out of my way to buy my adult beverages in the least frequented spots I could find. I was mortified of being seen buying the stuff, at least in the quantities I was hauling around.
There at the end, the last five or more years, I knocked back close to three 30-packs a week. Looking back, I’m a little surprised I did not get customer of the year at a few of my go-to beer buying spots. Ironically, I even traveled out of the county sometimes to buy beer just so I wouldn’t see anyone I knew.
About a year and a half ago I quit it. All of it. Had to really. My life was falling apart on every front. Hell in a hand basket. One of the reasons I quit was my 21 year-old son. I felt if I stopped drinking, he might stop doping. Made sense at the time.
Well, he came by last night for the first time in a long time and walked back to the garage to hunt me up. I have not seen him look and sound that strong and good in a long time. He’s working, loves his job, his boss, the people he works with. He has an apartment, he’s taking care of himself, all without drugs since September.
He is making his way. We both are. Not perfect by any means. We’ve got other problems, but we’re coming around.
And that brings us to moral number two. It’s a lot like moral number one but with a different ending. Maybe my good choices influence other’s good choices? You never know. What goes around comes around.