Saturday, May 9, 2020

New Blog address and website

In case you missed it, I ended the 101 days of sobriety blog and began a new website and blog. The links are below:

Website: https://xstopwriting.com
Blog: https://xstopwriting.com/sobermilitia
Facebook page: https://facebook.com/xstopwriting
Twitter: https://twitter.com/xstopwriting
Instagram: https://instagram.com/xstopwriting

Please log on to my site and subscribe to my blog and become a member where I have a sober forum starting for members only. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sober - Day 101


The ghost town that is SeaTac Airport


101 Days of Sobriety


     I truly cannot believe I am sitting here typing the words to the blog that represents my 101st blog about my sober journey. It feels a little surreal to be honest because it was really not that long ago when I was dreading day one and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to pull off a day let alone a month or three months or 101 days of sobriety. I will say I was dedicated, I really wanted to make a change in my life. I knew it was time to find myself and to give myself the opportunity to start my life with a clean slate and see just how much I was capable of. As it turns out, I am more capable than I thought. Here is the last blog entry for the compilation I am going to turn into a book but my blog journey is far from over. I will continue down this path because I have had a lot of really positive feedback from people who have enjoyed this journey with me. I don't know exactly what the future holds for this blog, but I do know there is one.

     I thought for today's post I would spend a little bit of time looking back at this journey and recapping some of the things that have come up along the way. I have a lot of people who are taking the time to go back and start on day one, which has been really fun for me. When someone messages me and says they just read day__ and they tell me what they liked about that day, it takes me back to what was going on in my mind at that time. It also feels really good to hear people say they relate to things I talked about or how they liked the way I approached a certain situation. While I am trying my best to stay away from wanting external validation, knowing that people are out there understanding the reason I started all of this certainly does not impede impending future progress. Every view, comment, and message reinvigorates my resolve to continue my own personal sober journey as well as continue to write about it. Thank you to everyone who has supported this blog.

The Beginning


     I remember sitting down to write this blog for the first time. I was in Colorado and I had quit drinking the day before when I traveled there. I woke up that first morning, we were going snowboarding, and went down to the lobby with my computer and tried to figure out what I wanted to say. For those of you who don't know, I had fallen away from writing for about six or seven years due to some personal reasons, and just never found my way back. The significance of my taking the step to begin writing that day was much larger than any of you were aware because it meant I was stepping into my fear and confronting it head-on. Making the choice to write that day aligned with some of the things I have written about throughout this blog. It was a choice that I had to make and ultimately I made it for me, not for anyone else, and because of that, I have begun a new chapter in my life. In fact, I don't even think it is a new chapter anymore. I think it is a rewrite starting from the day I quit drinking and began writing this blog. The difference in my life today because of quitting and writing is unrecognizable compared with where it would be had I not made the choice to quit and begin writing about this journey.

The process


     Once I started writing, I undoubtedly could not stop. It became something I looked forward to every day and still do. I love writing about my thoughts surrounding addiction and I love learning all that I am learning about myself in the process. Probably the most interesting aspect of this process for me has been how it has lined up with everything my therapist had been trying to teach me for the past year and a half. I understood a lot of what she was trying to convey, I could see it, but I could not put it into practice in my own life until I quit drinking. From that day, everything my therapist has ever said makes sense and I now walk through life seeing things differently and therefore approaching them differently as well. As you all know, I have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of perception and how it correlates to pretty much every aspect of our lives. I haven't even touched on the idea of perception to the extent I intend to, but I am looking forward to exploring it further with you.

The product


     By opening up to my inner thoughts and expressing them through writing, I found that I have much more to offer than I have been allowing myself to see. Because of this new perception of myself and my abilities, I began to push myself every day towards goals that I began, for the first time, to believe were achievable. I decided to write another novel and set a deadline for my birthday three and a half months down the road. My birthday is Thursday and I will achieve that goal. I decided to pursue writing online articles for experience and a little extra money. I have been accepted into an online writing company and have now written five online articles. I also took on a ghostwriting job for a man who wants me to help him write his life story memoir. And finally, I will be editing a woman's personal memoir before publication as well. All of these are steps in the direction of my ultimate goal of writing professionally full-time.

     I am a living and current example of how one simple idea, action, and choice can change the entire direction of your life. The hardest part is knowing how to recognize that decisive decision when it comes and then knowing which decision to make to enact the best possible result for you and your future. I believe we all know it when we see it and I believe we all know which decision to make when they are placed before us, we only have to trust that we are courageous, deserving, and ready to take that tiny yet significant step in the positive direction of our life-changing future.

     If you do not think you are ready yet, ask yourself this one simple question. "Why are you reading this blog or seeking information regarding sobriety?" The answer: Because you are ready.

     Take the step.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sober - Day 100

The ABCs of Sobriety


     I think I am a pretty intelligent person, most of the time, and I think I at least try to be aware of things happening around me but today it just occurred to me that I am already on the letter 'Z' for the ABCs of Sobriety. What the fuck happened to all those days? I really hope I came up with some good words and ideas for the alphabet that related to recovery and sobriety. I just can't believe I am at day 100 which means tomorrow is day 101 and the process of trying to turn all these blogs into a book begins. Wow! That means I essentially wrote a full-length self-help book in three and a half months. Not to mention the novel I am about to complete the first draft of by my birthday next week. Two books in three and a half months. Who was asking me about what benefits there are from living a sober life? Time!

     Anyway, I suppose I should concentrate on the letter of the day. This one was pretty easy because it is one of the things I noticed pretty quickly after quitting drinking and especially when I began to work towards all the goals I had set for myself in recovery and through my sobriety. In the past, I have always been good at a lot of things. I have written books; written, recorded, produced and played all instruments for a five-song music demo album; I have raced bicycles and done triathlons, I have dabbled in photography, I taught scuba diving, and any number of other ventures I have embarked on throughout my life. I was good at all of them, but here is the thing. I was not great at any of them. Today's word will be the difference between my past attempts and my present and future attempts at success.

'Z' is for Zealous


     Definition: Adjective - Full of, characterized by, or due to zeal; ardently active, devoted, or diligent. I can honestly say, in the entirety of my life, I have never approached anything I did with the devoted diligence necessary to become great at anything; until now.

     People who know me might argue the above point because they have seen the way I can go after things I like or want. But, there is a difference between taking something on and spending a lot of time doing it, and actually putting everything you have into something and believing at the deepest recesses of your soul that you will become great at it and that you will succeed. The latter is from where I am approaching every day, every aspect, and every task I am involved in, in my life. I have wasted too much time and too much of my life doing shit half-assed. It is about time to begin orchestrating the life I want to live and the way I want to live it and the way I am going to do that is by approaching everything I do with zeal.

How Can You Tell the difference?

      Can you see if someone is acting with zealous intention or disposition? Can you hear it? I think the only person who can answer that question is the person who is doing it. For me, the experience is like night and day once you have seen it for yourself. In my past I have had moments where I was obsessed with an activity or where I spent an enormous amount of time doing something but, looking back now, it was obvious that I was engaging in the activities for external purposes. Wether it was to escape a life I was not happy with or to gain validation for something I was doing, my motivation was outside my self. I received joy from someone telling me I was good at something or that something I did was good. Those comments filled me up and made me feel whole. That is why I was never able to fully realize my potential, I was doing it for the wrong reasons and people.

     The difference is from where you receive the joy that fills you up and makes you feel whole. This has taken me forty eight long years to understand and figure out, not that I have it all figured out yet, but it has changed my life in a very short period of time. I now write because I am receiving an extraordinary amount of joy from exploring my mind and the way I think and taking that information and transferring it on to a page. I love stringing words together and trying to write those sentences and paragraphs that make me feel emotion and pride for how I am able to articulate myself. I have ventured away from photographing people and have found joy in photographing things and trying to find ways to make uncool things cool in an image. I have chosen to proclaim that I will write professionally full-time, not because I think it will make me important or because I may gain followers, but because I can't think of anything I would rather do to make a living than to work from within my mind while doing something of which I am truly proud. 

      The difference is in the reasons why we choose to do the things we do. Now, as adults we have to make choices to do things for other people all the time, and that is fine. I am talking more about the choices we make about our conscious selves and the choices we make toward our personal growth. Everything we do is a choice on some level. The next time you make a choice to do something for yourself, ask yourself what the motivators were for the choice you made. If other people or things were involved in your answer, I believe it will be more difficult for you to do that thing with zeal. Remove the external things or people from your choice and then look at how that effects your choice. I am willing to bet that your choice will change and you will almost instantly feel better about the choice you made. And, most importantly, you may then have a more zealous outlook on how you will approach that endeavor. 

Doesn't that Make Me Selfish?

     Hell no. I don't know how many times I heard the following saying and thought it was a crock of shit. "You have to love yourself before you can love someone else." I knew I didn't love myself so I could not allow myself to believe that to be true. But, now that I am walking through this world with open eyes and heart, I now see that the more I take care of and love myself the more I am capable of taking care of and loving others. There is no question that your ability to love is directly correlated to the amount of love you feel for yourself. The more you love yourself, the more you are able to effectively take on tasks, work, relationships, passions, and life with a zealous vigor that you may have never known possible.  

     With how much zeal have you taken on your decision to quit drinking, substances, and or behaviors that have been tearing you down? If you are still struggling, you may be able to find out why when you look at the reasons why you are trying to quit. If it is not for you and you alone, I believe the path will be much more difficult. 

     Take the time to figure out and find your true reasons why you deserve to quit your addiction and then you will quit your addiction, with zeal.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Sober - Day 99

The ABCs of Sobriety


     Oh my God! I am on Day 99 of my 101 days of Sobriety blog. I have no idea where the time went, although, I do have a whole lot to show for it. Obviously, I have already decided that, like my thirty-day blog goal, I am not going to stop at one-hundred and one either. Hopefully, that makes more of you happy than not; I am happy, so I guess that is really all that really matters. Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed this, and more than anything, I have enjoyed your comments and views. It has been wonderful knowing something that is helping me is also helping others. What a blessing.

     I have talked at length about the idea of the word I chose for today's ABCs of Sobriety word of the day. Surprisingly, 'Y' was much more difficult than I was expecting. I thought about a couple of options like you, yield, and yesterday, but none of them struck me as a really good word that correlates with recovery and sobriety. Then I accidentally happened upon the word I ended up choosing and it made a lot of sense to me because I believe it is the reason we end up here in the first place. By here, I mean in recovery seeking sobriety.

'Y' is for Yearn


     Definition: Verb - To have an intense feeling or longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from. I almost went with, 'yesterday' but once I saw this definition I thought it was such a perfect word for recovery and sobriety. An intense feeling to make a change is something we have all, as addicts, experienced or I believe we would not be here right now. My favorite part of the definition, which surprised me, was the last part; typically something that one has lost. There is no addict in the world that has not regretted losing something from their past, once they started using. It is a simple fact of the circumstance.

     I wonder when the yearning for change actually begins for an addict? I would have to believe that it is personal and different for everyone depending on their circumstances and reasons for using in the first place. I also have to believe that the yearning for change begins long before we recognize it for what it is and therefore effectively ignore it for as long as possible. We ignore it because we know that with yearning comes work and nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. One of the reasons most of us hide under the clouded veil of our addictions is to avoid the uncomfortable realities of life. Hard work to achieve something that is not necessarily guaranteed is an uncomfortable notion and many people shy away let alone addicts. We couldn't be bothered with dealing with the pains of the actual living world. So we drown them until we can't take it anymore.

When Yearning becomes a Necessity


     At some point, for every single one of us, we hit a point in our downward spiraling journey where we just can't handle the pain we are inflicting on our minds and bodies. When that time finally arrives, the misinterpreted yearning we have been ignoring for years suddenly awakens and becomes so visceral and loud within our minds that we can no longer ignore it. In fact, it begins to envelop our every thought and action. We begin to think about nothing other than how to find change. Even when we are using, we are thinking about how to stop. We begin to talk about it with our friends and family. We begin searching online for ways to affect that change. We begin to think that if we do not change, we will die. To me, that is the point of no return because up until that exact thought, we never really considered the damaging effects of our addiction on our minds and bodies. We just pretended the possibility did not exist. Once it does, the yearning becomes all-consuming.

     The yearning to make a change is one of the most powerful feelings I have ever felt, once I recognized what it was and what it was trying to tell me. It was the catalyst that eventually propelled me out of my past failures and into my present and future successes. It taught me who I am, what I want, and what I am capable of. If it were not for that undying yearn to break free from the self-imposed prison I had created for myself, I would not be here today writing my ninety-ninth blog about how much gratitude I have for my sobriety and my new life.

     Listen to your inner self, the yearning you feel just may be the most important feeling you have ever felt. It may be trying to tell you something that may forever change your entire life and the way you have viewed your life in the past, and now in the present, and into the future.

     Don't forget, this entire blog is founded on the idea of perception. Change how you view yourself, and your view of everything around you will change.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sober - Day 98

The ABCs of Sobriety

     I have had a little bit of a difficult time this morning with today's letter of the day. It is not the easiest word for which to come up with something clever or inspiring, so I decided to go with a variation of the letter in a word that relates to sobriety before I stress myself out with getting too far behind in my morning routine. Once I gave myself permission to veer from the exact letter a little bit, I came up with many options I could work with but ultimately landed on a word that I believe is directly related to what we all want from sobriety.

'X' is for eXcel


     Definition: Verb - To be exceptionally good at or proficient in an activity or subject. It is not so much that I want us to think about being exceptionally good at sobriety, although that does correlate here too, it is more about how sobriety allows us to excel in everything else. Think about it, how many things or aspects of your life were you doing exceptionally well while using, besides using. We were all way too good at that. As far as everything else, I was not excelling at anything.

     Why is it so difficult to excel while using? I think there are a lot of reasons but the most obvious for me was that alcohol simply killed any motivation I had. My biggest motivation, especially at the end, was the motivation to drink. I planned my days around it and went to extreme measures to ensure I had access to it in times where my ability to drink was inhibited. Other than that, I simply went through life perpetually buzzed/drunk and or with a headache and always tired. I was tired because I think my body would wake me up at three in the morning wanting more alcohol and I couldn't get back to sleep. It is hard to believe that could be true, but I don't know how to explain the lack of sleep I was struggling with before I quit. Now I sleep through the night and wake feeling refreshed and ready to go. With all that going on, how is it possible to ever feel motivated to excel at anything? I couldn't.

Where Can I Excel in Life after Alcohol?


     Anywhere and Everywhere!

     Take your pick. I have talked about how time was an unexpected benefit of sobriety. It is amazing how much time you gain back in your day when you are not using. I am not trying to overexaggerate here, but it is extraordinary. The time starts when you wake up feeling good all the way throughout your day and into the evening when you choose to go to bed rather than pass out. How many hours have you spent on a sofa drinking and watching television every day before passing out? For me, it is an excruciating reality to admit but, it is true. The time you gain back in your life affords you the opportunity to begin working on all those things you have been putting off or too afraid to begin.

     Once you begin using your time wisely, you will begin to see just how many things you are truly good at doing, let alone exceptional at doing. This does not have to be some grand idea either, like writing a book or graduating college, it could be something as simple and important as excelling at being a parent, a partner, or a friend. I did pretty well at being a parent, but I do not think I was very good at being a partner or friend. I was too consumed with my own failures and lack of self-worth to give any energy to someone else. Looking back, I truly miss the time I threw away there, but I am and will continue to make up for it now.

A Personal Example


     Here is where I feel I have begun to excel in life since quitting drinking. First, I am a better father and husband; no question. I take time to be with my family and I am more present than I ever have been. I noticed this immediately during this quarantine when I had my son for two weeks and we spent a lot of quality time together. That is worth any discomfort quitting may have ever caused me. My wife and I spend more quality time together too, we definitely laugh more, and we rarely miscommunicate anymore because we have the faculties to be articulate. I am more patient at my job and with life and myself. I have set massive goals that I am actively taking steps to achieve. I feel good about who I am as a person and I am proud of what I have accomplished so far and what I am accomplishing now. I walk through life with a positive outlook, I am able to find the good in bad situations, and I genuinely care about people. All of these things I had no time for nor the motivation or energy to spend on while using.

     One of my favorite changes has been the desire to reach out and help people. Granted, I am new to this, but for the first time in my life, I have a very large desire to help and be there for people who are struggling, especially with alcohol. I feel I have a lot to offer and I am in a position in my life to be available to others. I love the connections I am making and the time spent talking about all the positives of quitting addictions. Each person I meet, each story I tell, and each new experience I have, as the new me, reinvigorates my resolve to continue excelling in my life alcohol-free.

     Come join me!

   

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Sober - Day 97


The ABCs of Sobriety


     I fell in love with the idea for today's word the moment I woke up and remembered what letter I was on for today's ABCs of Sobriety blog entry. It really embodies the reasoning behind most of our choices to find a path towards sobriety, but it also means a very different thing in the majority of its normal colloquial usage. In order to truly understand it from the lens, I would like to speak through today, you will have to have been in a place in your life, at some point, where you felt as though you and your life held very little value; a bottom of sorts. It is from that place where you can really see and feel the difference between the addict's view and the colloquial view of the word.

'W' is for Wealth


     Definition: Noun - A great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches. If you think I am about to write about the first three of those items, you probably don't want to continue. I believe I speak for most of my emotional colleagues who have or are traversing their sobriety path that the idea of money, property, or possessions was the last thing on our minds when making the elusive decision to finally take the step down our sober paths. It's the 'other riches' that I would like to speak to today.

What is Wealth, if not Money?


     While we can all agree that money is very important to our lives as we negotiate the acceptable norms of living in a civilized society, it is certainly not the most important aspect of wealth. However, when looking around the world today it is safe to say that the idea of wealth being anything other than money is slowly losing its potential. Just look at the sheer number of choices for every single thing we want or need to buy. From an economic standpoint, the ridiculous number of choices we now have come from the demand placed on the market by our consumer-based lifestyles. Do the hundreds of different options for cell phones increase the quality of our lives? No, but people are certainly willing to pay an enormous amount of money for something that does very little different from its competitors. Money equals wealth and therefore a better potential for happiness. Right? I spend an enormous amount of my parenting time trying to help my son see that the correct answer is, wrong.

     For the addict, whose life has consisted of uncertainty, struggle, loss, pain, and a complete lack of confidence, wealth has a much different meaning. We stopped worrying about money, possessions, and property long ago and instead spent our time worrying more about survival. I don't know how many times I thought about the potential of letting go of my addictions and what that would mean for my overall quality of life and not once did the idea of money encroach on any of those thoughts. My idea of wealth while using was having a semblance of control over my life and actions, doing things I loved to do, loving and being present with my family and friends, accomplishing goals I never thought possible, and even just experiencing a simple sense of peace and calmness in my mind and heart. That would have been my definition of wealth back then, and you know what, that is still my definition of wealth today.

Wealth in Sobriety is Internal


     I have worked in a career that made over six figures. I have had opportunities to experience how the traditional concept of wealth affects a person's life. I get it, understand it, and I even condone the idea of trying to obtain it, as long as it does not require you to veer from your moral compass.

     Let me tell you about the greatest amount of wealth I have ever held.

     It began on January 19th, 2020 when I made the decision to quit drinking, stay off nicotine, and refrain from other addictive behaviors that negatively affected my life. Since that day my personal emotional wealth has exponentially grown in the form of self-worth, confidence, happiness, love, joy, friendship, family, goal achievement, and a myriad of other self-perpetuating actions that contribute to my overall growth as a human being. In 97 days I went from no having no goals, to establishing and putting into place a course of action that will allow me to enact every single thing I want for my life and the life of my family. I am living a life of abundance because, for the first time in my life, I understand and believe in my true meaning of wealth;

     ... and it has nothing to do with money.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Sober - Day 96


The ABCs of Sobriety


     There is a saying by Walter Benjamin that states, "History is written by the victor." If that is true, then that means whoever wins in a battle has the power to write what history took place leading up to the present. This is quite poignant in the battle over addiction because one of the most common sentiments I hear is how people regret, feel bad about, hate, and can't forget the wrongs they have done in their past which makes up their own personal history. Today's word, if taken literally, tells us that that is no longer the case.

'V' is for Victory


     Definition: Noun - The act of defeating an enemy or an opponent in a battle, game, or other competition. Is there a greater enemy than addiction? Well, there might be but not for the addict, of course. While we can all agree that fighting addiction is not a game or even something we would consider a competition, it is certainly a battle and for most of us, one of the biggest battles we will ever face. The good news? Emerging victorious in this battle allows us to rewrite our personal history, because we, my friend are the victor.

It's Time to Let Go of our Past


     Yes, we all have them and if you are an addict you most likely have a very colorful one. We could all talk for hours about all the stupid shit we have done while using, we have a lot to draw from. One of the things I am desperately trying to do for myself as well as in my Facebook group is to focus more on the positive aspects of sobriety. Let's spend our energy talking about what we want, what we enjoy about sobriety, what we want for our future, and how we can support each other in all the positive that exists in sobriety because there is a lot.

     While attending some online sober (AA) meetings I realized pretty quickly that the majority of the time was spent on listening to someone's struggles and disparaging stories about all the bad things they had done. Interestingly enough, we all laugh at these stories because they are familiar and we know we have been in those same shoes, but is that where we want our focus, especially in the early stages of sobriety? I don't believe that is the best use of our energy. What I did notice from those meetings was at the end of a person's share, there was always a snippet of positivity that I found myself wanting to cheer for, reach out and (virtually) hug the person, and tell them congratulation. That is where I want to spend my energy.

Focus on Today and the Future, but Mostly Today


     I say mostly today because, obviously, the future is unwritten and we never know what is going to happen, but we can shape the future. How do we do that? It all comes down to our decisions and behaviors and for addicts, decisions and behaviors specifically around our addictions. Laura Mckowen, in her book "We are the Luckiest", talks about a time while in a yoga teaching class a student told the instructor that they didn't think they could quit drinking. The yoga instructor simply says, "Of course you can, are you drinking now?" The student replied no and the teacher continues to ask the same question, "How about now?" Until the idea set in for the whole class and they all smiled from understanding. The point is, the "now" that the instructor was asking about is the present. If you are not drinking right now, it is because you are choosing not to drink at this moment. Whether your choice not to drink is because you are in a yoga class, at work, driving, with your children, or in a venue that does not allow alcohol; you are making that choice because drinking in those circumstances is unsafe, not socially accepted, unhealthy, or just plain stupid. But, you are making the choice and you can make that choice in every moment of every day for the rest of your life. When you do that, you are victorious.

Rewrite Your History


     Starting today, with every positive decision you make and every drink you do not drink, you begin a new story of your life. That new story, just ask someone who is sober, will be much more fulfilling, exciting, gratifying, and affirming than any story you can dredge up from your past. Your present will invigorate your resolve to maintain sobriety because you will feel confidence grow inside of you, you will begin to meet your true self, and you will see that you are actually a pretty fucking cool person without alcohol. The way you will rewrite your past, will be by living well in the present and creating a new storyline that anyone would be proud and happy to live and share in the future.

     Victory: The act of defeating an enemy. I am going to do something a little different to end this blog than I have in the past. There is a song by Disturbed that has been inspiring me when looking at defeating addiction or just bad energy. You may not care for Metal music, but the sentiment is pretty fucking awesome. Give it a shot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUJT9unnDok

     If it doesn't work for you, that's fine, it is not for everyone. Just go out and remember that one essential question, "Are you drinking now? No? How about now?"


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Sober - Day 95

The ABCs of Sobriety

     I have used this quote by Johan Hari before because I believe it to be a highly unique (and no that is not the word for U) take on the perception of addiction, "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection." We forget so often about the things that brought some of us to where we are with our addiction and spend more time focusing on what is wrong with us. If the human condition is prone to suffering if left alone, then it would make sense, in a world where it is easy to become isolated for a vast number of reasons, that we could easily succumb to the lies perpetuated by the promises society and alcohol have made to us. Once we use an addiction to "heal" our loneliness, our loneliness grows deeper until we lose all semblance of the social being we were once created to be.

'U' Is for Unity

     Definition: Noun - The state of being united or joined as a whole. For our purposes here, the unity I am speaking of is the unity created by a sober community. I have been amazed by the number of resources available to a person seeking a community to help with their sobriety. I immediately began to seek a community through social media when I first quit in the hopes of meeting like-minded people, hearing their stories, and ultimately building up an arsenal of people I could rely on if times grew too difficult or I just needed someone to lean on. I have certainly found that community.

     I thought for today's blog and in honor of today's word, Unity, I would talk about some of the resources I have found while on my sober journey. In my experience, unfortunately, I was unable to find a community of real-life people in my circle of friends. I imagine that is not too uncommon because we tend to migrate towards people who hold similar beliefs and values to ours. Obviously, for addicts, this creates a conundrum for our recovery and eventual sobriety unless we find other ways to create a community of support. And, we must find a community of support.

Literature

     This may not be what you were expecting when thinking of community but there is a method to my madness. The very first book I picked up, and you have heard this before was, "This Naked Mind" by Annie Grace. It was the book that changed the way I saw alcohol and afforded me the new lens through which to approach all of my addictions. While I loved the book, the book is not why I bring this up in the context of a community. What I quickly learned while and after reading the book was that there were an enormous amount of people who have read the book too and they were all searching for others who have read the book so they could talk about their experiences and share time with each other. In fact, the first day I quit and started reading her book, I found that she also has an online community resource that has been very beneficial to me and countless others. It is the "This Naked Mind Community" Check it out. She also holds classes, seminars, and does videos to help anyone still struggling. This is an amazing resource.

     The second piece of literature I read was "We are the Luckiest" by Laura Mckowen. If you have been following my blog you will remember the entry where I spoke how this book made me breakdown and cry in only the introduction. Her words touched me because through her experience I was able to see my future and it is a future I have always dreamed I wanted but never thought I was capable of achieving. Now, I am achieving my dreams and I will forever be thankful to her for her part in my recovery and sobriety. She too offers seminars, online meetings, and other resources for people still struggling with sobriety.

Online resources

     This is an avenue where a person can certainly get lost because there are literally thousands of resources online for people searching for unity through a sober community. I would suggest taking your time and looking through all that is available out there. In my experience, there are a lot of beliefs and opinions for the "right" way to approach recovery and sobriety and some of them are downright aggressive. I am certain there is something out there for everyone, so be patient and try and find the "thing' that works best for you.

     I found a couple of helpful groups on Facebook that I will not link to because I feel that is something you need to search for and feel out for yourself. I also found that Twitter, surprisingly, held a lot of support in the way of a community through which a person could find unity. Instagram is another good platform through which to find sober communities. The tags I have found the most useful on Twitter and Instagram are #sober #soberlife #sobriety #alcoholfree and #recovery though there are many more.

     I will go ahead and shamelessly plug the work I have been doing too because I have received a lot of positive feedback and it seems that people are relating to what I am trying to put out there, which incidentally, is simply to be there for people who need support. I do the best I can to be available and to hold meetings a couple of times a week, even when nobody shows, I am still there. It is a way of being of service, something I did very little while using. I would appreciate any and all of your support with spreading the word of my work thus far. You are all appreciated. Here are my links, once again:

Sober Blog - 101 days of Sobriety
Facebook Group - SoberMilitia2020
Facebook Page - XstopWriting
Instagram - @xstopwriting
Twitter - @xstopwriting

     There really are an enormous amount of resources out there for anyone wishing to find unity through a sober community. Take the time to find what works for you and use it as a way to keep yourself accountable for the goals you are setting for yourself in recovery and sobriety. Living a sober life is the best decision I have ever made and I am sure it will be for you as well, especially if you can find a supportive community to help you find the success that you deserve.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Sober - Day 94


The ABCs of Sobriety

     As I continue to envelop my life and world with the sober community, I keep seeing the same underlying themes come up, some of which I have already written about here. It is these reoccurring themes that keep me invested in writing about my experiences, reading about other's experiences, and talking to people to try and better understand what is going on for those that keep experiencing these reoccurring themes time and time again. I believe there are a couple of culprits that are obvious, but I think it is the less obvious ones that really trip us up on our road to recovery and sobriety. Today's word is one of those culprits and one that is really not that easy to change; until it is.

'T' is for Thoughts

     Definition: Noun - An idea or opinion produced by thinking, or occurring suddenly in the mind. I have read that the average person has between 80,000 and 100,000 thoughts every single day. That is a lot of thinking, especially for those of us who don't really think we think as much as we think. Anyway, there are bound to be some negative thoughts creeping up in all that mess throughout the day, so how do keep our mind thinking positively all the time? I imagine that is the question of the millennium. I don't know if it is a matter of not thinking negatively as much as it is a matter of focusing on the positive more often than the negative.

     I recently read and watched "The Secret" again and they spent a lot of time talking about how thoughts become things. I am currently practicing this technique in my own life, and what I have learned is that it is very difficult for a person suffering from addiction to hold thoughts that differ greatly from what they are experiencing at a given moment. Let's look at the definition again; an opinion produced by thinking; the opinion, in this case, is what we believe about ourselves. If we hold a negative opinion about ourselves, we will believe it and make it true. If we hold a positive opinion about ourselves, we will believe it and make it true.

How do we effectively affect our thought patterns?

     I follow a lot of social media these days as I search for truths and information about addiction, sobriety, and recovery. Today I saw two posts in a matter of minutes that inspired me to write about thoughts, this morning. The first was a post on a sober page that said, "Why me? Why can't I be done with this already? Why am I so weak?" There are three reaffirming statements that tell a person what their opinion of themselves is: a victim, who is impatient, and weak. How can our mind ever think about ourselves positively with those thoughts swimming around in a consistent swirl of negativity? It can't.

Can we monitor every negative thought we have?

     No, of course not. But, we can focus on the positive and post about that instead, right? Think about how much energy went into that post. They had to first, have the thought, then think about the thought enough times to form a structured idea, then they had to pull out their phone/computer with the intent of writing about that thought, then they had to type the thought into a couple of sentences which they probably had to edit a few times to get it right. That is a lot of focus and energy on negative thoughts. How differently might that person's day have gone, had they performed all of the same actions and thinking that led instead to a different post? "I am strong. I am on the right path. I believe in me." Those are the kind of thoughts that effect change.

     The other post I saw today came in the form of a message. I had asked someone in my Facebook group if they were feeling strong. Their response was, "Yes, surprisingly." To which I responded, "Start there, it is not surprising because you are a badass and you can do anything you want." I know it is hard to change our thoughts, believe me, I am still working on all of this myself. But, it is like anything else we want to become better at, it takes practice. First, just try and recognize negative thoughts. Once you notice one, try and stop yourself for a moment and ask yourself how you could reframe that thought to inject some positivity into your thinking. Even if you don't really believe it yet, just reframe the thought and say it. I promise it will get easier and more importantly, you will begin to believe it.

Thoughts are Everything

     I know it sounds a bit cheesy and somewhat superlative, but what if it is true? I can honestly and emphatically say that in my relatively short time working through changing my mindset, perception, and thinking I have personally seen this to be true. I am learning how to change my mood simply by changing the thoughts in my head. This is how I change a negative mood into a positive one. First, I literally say thank you for as many things as I can come up with, in a short amount of time. Then I go through my list of intentions for how I want to live my life. I say them as if I am doing or already have done them like this: I am a professional writer. I have books on the New York Times Best Sellers List, I am a great husband and father, etc... I do those two things until I begin to smile, and I inevitably begin to smile every single time I do this. It takes a little practice, but it works.

     Manipulate your thoughts until your thoughts manipulate your world.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sober - Day 93

The ABCs of Sobriety

     There are so many separate things attached to the word of the day that I believe someone could write an entire book on it if one were so inclined. If you are like me, you have walked through life pretty unaware of what you were capable of and too afraid to really ever take the risk to find out. When things did go well, you experienced the "imposter syndrome" and never really trusted that your good fortune was meant for you, because you did nothing to deserve it. Unfortunately, the inability to see, accept, and trust in today's word is really one of the most poignant facets of sobriety and subsequently, recovery.

'S' is for Self

     Definition: Noun - A person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflective action. Oh my, what a wonderful definition. I especially love the idea of the object of introspection and reflective action. How perfectly does it fit into the ABCs of Sobriety and play a role in recovery? I can't think of a better word, actually.

Self-Doubt

     This is where most of us started this whole debacle of spiraling out of control until hitting a bottom, of some sort. I can truthfully say that while going through the first forty-eight years of my life, I did not believe in my self because I had no idea of what my self consisted of. I don't know how some people seem to be born with a strong sense of self and others seem to have figuratively missed that class, but it is clear there are two defining types of people in the world. People with a strong sense of self and the rest of us.

     The obvious problem with self-doubt is that if we hold that opinion in our minds and continue to tell ourselves we don't believe in ourselves then our mind agrees and ensures it to be true. That is all the time I am going to spend on the negative aspect of self.

Self-worth

     When talking about self, there are so many avenues we could traverse down but I think for sobriety's sake, I will just focus on a couple that I believe to be essential in recovery and ultimately, sobriety. Self-worth was the tallest and most challenging hurdle I had to face while finding my true self. I just couldn't see it. I could not believe that I had anything to offer. I could not see that I was strong, determined, and just as capable of success as anyone else. I did not believe that I deserved to be happy.

     Self-worth. I do not fully understand how quitting drinking affected my self-worth so dramatically, but it did. I think it was simply a way to show myself that I was strong, that I could choose to make things happen, that I had determination, and that I could resolve to do anything I wanted. The difference between not understanding your worth and knowing it is this: Ask yourself these questions and fill in your own blanks, "Do I deserve to be ________? Do I deserve to have ________? Do I deserve to feel _________?" If you hesitate on any of those questions, then you are probably struggling with some aspect of your self-worth; and that's okay. But, you HAVE to change your perception in regard to your self-worth before you can truly make the changes that directly correlate to your recovery and sobriety.

     Alcohol, nicotine, destructive behaviors, and any other addictions have one job; they keep you from finding your true self. They keep you in a state of depression and feeling worthless so that you cannot garner the strength necessary to overcome your weaknesses. Feeling a higher level of self-worth is taking that power and control back.

Self-Confidence

     Once you have begun to see, trust, and understand your increasing level of self-worth, you are then able to feel your self-confidence, and this is fucking remarkable. How many times have you seen something you wanted or something you wanted to do but then told yourself, I cannot have/do that? Why would we tell ourselves that? We do it because it is easier to deal with the idea that we don't have the capacity for something rather than the idea that we tried to obtain it and failed. It's a self-preservation technique that effectively keeps us from finding our self and our happiness.

     Self-confidence is the emotion that propels us past any thought of cannot and into a perpetual thought of can. We can do anything we want if we believe it to be true. That is self-confidence. Let me show you what I mean. I have recently proclaimed something that I believe in my heart and soul to be true. I believe it so strongly that I am already taking steps to prepare for what my life is going to feel and be like based on the changes that result from this proclamation. Ready?

     I am a full-time professional writer.

     Hold my non-alcoholic beer and watch this.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Sober - Day 92


The ABCs of Sobriety

     Throughout my short time in sobriety, I have witnessed and heard a lot of talk about today's word. I believe it is actually somewhat controversial in the sober community, which of course, is right up my alley. I can have an open mind and understand the origin of the word in the context of sobriety. I can even say there is some merit to it, but as I continue to move forward in my sobriety and witness people struggle, I think it is time to do away with this word in the sober community. I say this because I think it carries only negativity, and from an addict's vantage point, the last thing an addict needs is more negativity.

'R' is for Relapse

     Definition: Verb; a deterioration of someone's state of health after a temporary improvement. The problem I have with this word is not so much whether or not it relates accurately to the idea of sobriety, but whether or not it is helpful in the idea of sobriety. From a technical standpoint, yes a relapse is a deterioration because the person now has alcohol in their system which came after a period of abstinence from the poisonous chemical. But, does that action honestly deserve the stigma that follows it in some of the sober communities I have recently witnessed? I don't believe it does.

How does the Sober Community View a Relapse?

     Unfortunately, the traditional sober community places a lot of emphasis on days of sobriety, which makes sense based on the way their program is designed, "One day at a time." I don't have any problem with that at all. And, if I am honest, I am contradicting myself a little based on the title of my blog, Sober - Day _. I just like the way it sounded, it wasn't necessarily meant to be a counter. Anyway, the problem I do have with the importance placed on how many days a person has sober is that over time, that becomes somewhat of an identity. What happens when a person relates wholly to a particular identity and then suddenly that entire belief of who they are is erased because they simply made a "mistake." People making a "mistake" is generally considered a normal fact of life and even celebrated as a learning or teaching moment in every other aspect of the human condition. Why then do addicts, the people who actually need the most forgiveness, connection, and understanding, not receive the same consideration in sobriety?

     It seems, in the sober community, the word relapse is synonymous with failure. I believe failure is the worst emotion an addict can feel when actively taking positive steps towards healing and a better life. If a person makes a mistake in any other avenue of their lives, they are only considered a failure if they do not learn something from their mistake. If they do learn something and then apply what they have learned towards their next attempt, they are considered a success, or at the very least, on the road to success but they are certainly not considered a failure for making a mistake. What would happen if we applied this same concept to the idea of sobriety?

Relapse is NOT the Deterioration of the Sober Person, it is simply a Teaching Moment.

     Obviously, having a drink/s after abstaining from alcohol for a period of time is not going to feel good or help build confidence. But, neither does falling off a horse. What is the saying, "Get back on the horse?" That saying, interestingly enough, is really the determining factor of whether or not a person has failed in their sobriety. If they get back up and no matter how reluctantly make an effort to swing their leg back over the horse and try again, they have NOT failed. It is the action of giving up wholly that places a person back where they started that, though I don't care for this word even in this context, may afford them the ability to label their action as a failure.

     As long as a person continues to learn, try, and seek help and understanding of their addiction, they are not failing, they are simply taking active steps to find their own personal path to sobriety. Let me assure you, there is no single set path to sobriety. I do believe, however, that there are easier paths than others and that belief has somehow solidified itself in my mind as a personal quest to uncover the evasive and elusive course to what I still like to call, "Easy Sobriety."

The Bottom Line?

     Take it easy on yourself and others. Be kind and forgive each other for being human. We are fallible and the sooner we accept our fallibility the sooner we can do the necessary work of trudging down the unknown paths that lie before us until we inevitably find the right fork in the road that allows us to feel that sought after feeling of finally finding our emotional home. I say inevitably because it is just a matter of time;

     As long as we keep trying, we are NOT failing.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Sober - Day 91

The ABCs of Sobriety

     It's another Sober Friday and the only thing better than that is Sober Saturdays when I wake up and feel refreshed and ready to tackle all my goals, intentions, and projects. Sober mornings just never get old. Occasionally, I wake up a little dehydrated from not drinking enough water and I feel a little off or a slight fogginess in my head and I have a momentary panic attack about why I feel that way. Then I remember it's not because I drank too much and I continue about my day with still more energy than I ever did on my best hangover days. You just can't beat living a life filled with energy, aspirations, dreams, intentions, and productivity. 

'Q' is for Quality

     Definition: Noun - The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something. This can be taken in several different ways and in several different contexts but I believe the most important standard the alcoholic/addict must measure something against is their own past. I teach my son to never compare himself to others in regard to his happiness and I think that applies here too. You could look at friends or family who have become sober and compare and contrast their experience with yours, but I think the best comparison you can ever make is to compare your life when you were drinking with where you are now (or want to be). I say want to be because some of you may not be where you want to be yet, and therefore do not have the alternative comparison. If that is the case, then imagine what you want your life to look like after quitting alcohol or other addictions and concentrate on the quality of your life then until you achieve it.

The 'Quality' of the Addicted Life

     Since the definition refers to measuring two things, I figure it makes sense to look at life while using first and see how that makes us feel. I will talk about my life since I am an expert in that area and have a little insight to offer. My life before sobriety was not as messed up as other stories I have heard since becoming sober. But, that is all relative, isn't it? My life didn't look that bad, but I was in bad shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had three addictions and probably more if I am honest, and they were simply destroying my ability to live a life of 'quality.' The nicotine was controlling too much of my thoughts because as I mentioned before, I was trying to not do it around L and that meant I had to constantly be aware of when and how I would get my next fix. It felt like a full-time job and when I found myself in times where I couldn't use it, I panicked and felt horribly anxious. 

     Alcohol was literally controlling my every move. I was not waking up in the morning without the thought of when I was going to be able to drink. I did not, mostly, use at inappropriate times, but I absolutely could not wait until I was able to allow myself to consume alcohol. This meant the rearranging of my day and responsibilities at times to ensure I could drink earlier and as much as I wanted. I woke up thinking about drinking, I went through my day thinking about drinking, I talked about drinking, I bragged about drinking, and I pretty much lived to drink. It was very important to me and my identity. One evening at bowling, after quitting, my partner made fun of me for not drinking anymore because only a couple of weeks prior I made this comment, "I don't trust people who don't drink." What the fuck? Just typing those words gives me chills. Who holds such an opinion?

     My other addiction was more behaviorally related. It was another 'time suck' as I like to call it that took up entirely too much of my time and kept me from doing all the things I was wanting to do. It was something that held me down as much as the substances, but harder to let go of because it did not carry the obvious negative physical qualities as alcohol and nicotine. I had to find other ways to see that it too was detracting from the quality of my life and that I needed to let it go as well. It doesn't really matter what it is; if you see something as a negative in your life, then you must consider letting it go. I needed to let that go too, and I did.

The Quality of the Sober Life

     Sobriety has brought with it a quality of life I never knew possible. I know I have said that time and time again throughout my blog, but it is the most truthful statement I know. What is the difference in my life now? I no longer spend any amount of time thinking about negative ways to fuck up my body, mind, and life. I no longer waste my time doing things that do not benefit me, my family, or my future. I am in constant motion towards healing and progress in all areas of my life. I now set goals and achieve them. I set intentions and watch them occur. I live a life of positivity, abundance, joy, gratitude, and kindness. I am living the quality of life I never knew I wanted because I never knew I could achieve it. Sobriety is the biggest gift I have ever given myself and I will spend the rest of my life showing gratitude for that gift. 

     As a side note and because of the predicament we, as a society, find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I would be remiss not to mention how the quality of life during this quarantine would have been different, had I still been using. I honestly cannot even imagine what a trainwreck I would have been if I had not made the decision to quit all my addictions before this occurred. I would have been drinking too much every day. I would have been full of anxiety trying to use nicotine while trying to keep it from L. I would have felt like shit every day and I would have probably gained twenty pounds just from boredom. Worst of all, I would not have taken advantage of the time to better myself as a person.

     Alternatively, I have exercised every day and finally established working out as part of my lifestyle again. I have read several books including quitlit and novels. I have written a blog every day that I am going to turn into a book. I have almost finished a full-length novel. I have taken on writing work as an editor, a ghostwriter, and I have been accepted to write articles for an online writing firm. My wife and I have gotten along magnificently, she quit drinking too, and I have spent way more time with my son doing things he enjoys as well as things we enjoy as a family. While I hate all that is happening in the world with this unfortunate virus outbreak, I have not let it bring me or my family down and we have made the most out of a bad situation. 

The Takeaway?

     If you are reading this, you most like are not happy with at least one aspect or quality of your life. I am here to personally tell you that life sans addiction equals the highest quality of life you can imagine. Take control of your life and live the life of your dreams. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sober - Day 90


The ABCs of Sobriety


     If you follow this blog at all, you do not even have to guess what the word of the day is for today's blog. I have been fascinated by it, talking about it, trying to understand it better, and okay I've been pretty much obsessed with it. How could I not? It is the single most important aspect of not only sobriety but of every single thing we do in our daily lives. I love talking about it, learning about it, hearing about it, and living while constantly considering its power. It is the one true answer to every question and problem we encounter throughout or lives.

'P' is for Perspective


     Definition: Noun - A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. Just for fun, I decided to look up the phrase, 'point of view' as well: An opinion, attitude, or judgment. At this point, my therapist just laughs when I bring up how engrossed I am with this concept. She doesn't laugh at me, she laughs because we talked about it for a year and a half before it finally set in and now that it has it's all I want to talk about it. I said in the first paragraph that it is the answer to all things and that might be a little lofty but I don't believe by much.

How does Perspective relate to Alcohol?


     I have talked about this a lot but I don't believe it can ever be heard too often, especially for those of us in our early stages of sobriety. Look again at the definition: A particular attitude toward something; ask yourself right now, what is your relationship with alcohol? If you answer with any form of positive feelings toward the substance, then you are holding on to something that will forever make abstaining difficult. If you miss it, then you mourn its absence and therefore set yourself up for failure. Here is the tricky part; I don't believe you can hate it either. How many things in our lives have we hated and continued to do, consume, or allow in our lives? If we give a lot of energy and time to something, it will continue to manifest itself in our lives every day.

Don't hate alcohol, understand it!


     By understanding what alcohol is and how it affects our lives, bodies, and relationships, we take the power away from it. We change our attitude toward it and therefore our perception changes about its role in our lives. How can we hold a positive feeling toward something that literally kills us and our loved ones every day? We can't if we see it for what it is. If we continue to hold on to the opinion shoved down our throats from childhood that alcohol is good, it helps us calm down, it makes us more fun, it makes us funnier, it helps us socialize, it is something we deserve for living a life that is hard; then we will continue to view it as a positive influence in our lives. Our perception of alcohol gives it power but if we see it as a poison, then it is a poison.

     Understanding that alcohol is literally poison is one thing, but understanding that it actually does none of the things listed above is another. Alcohol does, in fact, lower our inhibitions and limits our defense mechanisms which allow us to feel more "brave;" it does numb our physical and emotional feelings making us feel stronger and certainly encourages us to do things we may never do sober; it does create a sense of security while using it, that makes us feel more 'ourselves', but let's honestly look at what all those things really mean.

     Rather than talk about the science behind how alcohol is a false security blanket, I'll explain what I have witnessed since I quit drinking that allows me to understand that none of the "benefits" stated above are actually true. The more I socialize while sober with people who are drinking the more I realize how much of what I always thought about alcohol is truly a fallacy. The people I used to think were hysterical, really are not that funny. The idea that I could not dance without drinking was self-imposed; the truth is, I actually dance better sober than I ever did drunk because I have all my faculties in order. The idea that I was able to socialize better was complete nonsense because now I am able to recall information on the fly, I am able to form coherent thoughts that actually make sense, and I am able to hold a truly intellectual conversation about subjects other than booze, food, personal conquests and partying.

     The worst, of the alcohol lies, is the idea that alcohol calms us down. Yes, it does numb our nervous system and shuts down our thought processes but that is only temporary. The moment it wears off we are hungover, feeling like shit, and have less confidence about handling life stresses than we did before we started drinking. The only option we have at that point is to drink more to dull the pain we feel ensued from the previous nights drinking and begin the whole cycle over again all the while never actually dealing with or solving the catalyst of the stress that caused us to drink in the first place.

Alcohol has been Gaslighting us since the beginning of time and we didn't even know it


     Of course, until we change our perception of our relationship with alcohol; our trusty little 'friend' will continue to beat us up every day, it will tear us down and cause us to lose ourselves, our friends, and our family. It will ensure that we always rely on it because that is where it receives its power. It makes us feel we need it when, in fact, what we really need is only to see the lies it and society have been telling us since we were born.

     Alcohol is not our friend but remember, do not see it as the enemy either because we fight with our enemies. See it for what it is, it is then that you will understand that you no longer need to fight with it, you are above it and so begins your 'easy' sobriety.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Sober - Day 89


The ABCs of Sobriety

     One thing I have learned over the past eighty-nine days is that I have caused myself to miss out on an enormous amount of opportunities throughout my life due to my addictions. I definitely cannot say that I did not have chances along the way to better my life, to explore new passions, to experience new things, or to meet new people. We all do, probably every single day, we have moments that come up and afford us the chance to make a choice; we either go for it, or we do not. Unfortunately, I spent most of my life not going for it. Not any more.

'O' is for Opportunity

     Definition: Noun - An occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to or have to do. I was not expecting this blog to go this direction but I am suddenly overwhelmed with the idea of choice. Opportunity is certainly the word of the day but the choice we make is ultimately what gives it its power. Otherwise, it is just another unremarkable event that occurs and we either experience it or we do not. An opportunity presents us with a choice to do something we want or have to do. In regard to sobriety, I would have to suggest that the opportunity is to do something we have to do.

When does an opportunity present itself and how do we know when it occurs?

     I would have to say this is the most difficult aspect to discern. First, we have to be open to the idea that it is possible to have a moment or moments align for us that place us in a state to enact change. This goes back to the deserving part of sobriety. We have to believe that we deserve it and that we are worthy of it in order to see it occur. I believe most often, the opportunities we have missed or allowed to pass us by are simply a result of our mind's inability to see them take shape. We can only truly see what we believe to be true. We all deserve happiness.

     Second, once we see an opportunity present itself, we have to then recognize it as what it is; an opportunity to do something we have to do. For addicts, this means to walk away from the thing that has stripped us down and left us hanging by a thread. This is by no means easy for anyone but we are surrounded every day by people who have not only recognized the opportunity to make a change but who have taken that opportunity and effectively used it to open new doors, paths, and a potential they never knew possible. Look for those people, reach out to them, open yourself up to meet them. I am proud to say I am one of those people. It took me a while, I fought it for as long as I possibly could, but eventually, the fighting wore me down and I could no longer ignore the fact that opportunity was staring me in the face every single day of my life. You know what opportunity is called? Today.

Today is your Opportunity

     Every day you wake up is a day that is offered to you as an opportunity to make the changes necessary to live the life you have always wanted. You have had a feeling stirring in your gut for as long as you can remember. You know the feeling I am referring to; the feeling that tells you deep down in your soul that you are meant for something bigger. I know that it is hard to accept that feeling as truth. I know it because I remember how detached I felt from the feeling when I felt it. It felt so vastly far away from me that even if I wanted to believe it, it was too far to ever reach. I was certain that no matter how fast I ran, how hard I tried, and no matter what I did, that idea of a better version of me would just keep pulling away from me like a life raft blowing downstream just fast enough for me never to reach it.

Make the Choice to Accept the Opportunity

     The difference, I am not afraid to say, is a choice. If you don't make the choice to accept the challenge of the opportunity laid before you, then that life raft will just continue to blow just out of your reach. Stop struggling to reach it. Choose to reach it. It is in your right, power, and will to make the choice to change your life and subsequently the lives of everyone around you. Your strength becomes someone else's strength and so on. Opportunity is a perpetual wheel of positive and life-changing potential and it starts with you.

     Your opportunity for change is today. Accept it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Sober - Day 88

The ABCs of Sobriety

     When thinking of the word of the day, there was really only one possible option that came to mind and that word is attached to a piece of writing I read at the beginning of my sober journey. In trying to ensure I am not overstepping legalities with other publications, I reached out to the business and asked if it was okay to write about their book in my blog. I did not give them enough notice to get back to me, I think, so I have not yet heard back from them. I decided to go ahead and write about it anyway because it is such an integral part of sobriety for me.

'N' is for Naked

(as in: "This Naked Mind" by Annie Grace)

     Definition: Adjective - Bare, stripped, or destitute; or, without the customary covering or protection. This feels a little like cheating because I will not be writing one hundred percent from my own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs today. I am going to write about someone else's thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, which to be honest is pretty much what we do anyway. Most of the time, we develop "[our] own ideas of other people's ideas" as stated by Bo Burnam in his standup special "Happy." Nevertheless, Annie Grace's book was the catalyst to why I believe I am enjoying 'easy' sobriety as opposed to 'hard' sobriety, as you have undoubtedly heard me say many times throughout this blog.

Why did "This Naked Mind" resonate with me?

     It was the simplest idea really, and one that I had been working on with my therapist to understand through the idea of Core Beliefs and how they affect our relationship to many things, including alcohol. In the introduction, she states this as concisely as possible when she says she is offering, "A perspective that will empower and delight you, allowing you to forever change your relationship with alcohol." That is exactly what her book did for me, it changed how I looked at, felt, believed, and saw alcohol; and let me assure you, I no longer held a kind notion of alcohol.

     It began with her quote that I have used in my blog several times, "Alcohol is the only drug you have to make an excuse not to do." This actually angered me to the point that I physically felt angst in my heart. I thought to myself, how can that be possible? How can something as damaging as alcohol be so widely accepted to the point that if a person chooses not to do it, they have to feel uncomfortable or make excuses why they are not doing it? The absurdity in that idea alone should be enough to cause anyone whose ears it passes through to voluntarily clear out their cabinets of liquor and vow to never support a system of societal peer pressure like the one of alcohol.

The Media Perpetuates the Peer Pressure

     While watching the hit television series "Ozark" the other day, I notice something that blew me away and caused me to take serious pause and to reflect on the extreme level of this issue. Below is a picture of the rating and parental discretions for the show, which is used to help "protect" us from unknown or wanted negative and harmful content.
They use two words that relate to sexuality, just to make sure we don't subject ourselves to that heinous content. They clearly state smoking, which we have known for decades is truly bad for us. But, look at "substances." Why do they leave that so subjective and vague? Other than Marijuana (which is becoming widely accepted because of its growing legality) the only "substance" regularly seen in this television show (so far, I'm only on season one) is alcohol. It baffles me that those who make the ratings and parental discretions do not believe that alcohol, one of the most addictive substances we know and one that is directly related to a growing death toll not to mention the disintegration of countless individual people, families, and relationships; is not worthy of a mention by name.

Are you angry yet?

     You should be. Everywhere you go, everything you do, every movie you watch, and every book you read has some subliminal or explicit mention of alcohol and it's "positive" effects on our lives. I could go on and on about how Annie Grace's book, "This Naked Mind" outlines all that is wrong with the system of alcohol in our society. In an effort to refrain from writing an unreasonably long blog post I will end with one of my first experiences after quitting alcohol that further substantiates Annie's sentiment about alcohol and it's overwhelming social acceptance.

     At the beginning of my blog writing, I spent a lot of time writing about my "firsts" without alcohol, so you may have heard this already. Every Tuesday night for the past two years I have been going to the bowling alley to participate in my bowling league. Now, this is a group of about two hundred people who drink heavily and have no qualms over bragging about it, and I was one of those people. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive to go on that first Tuesday after quitting. I walked into the bar, to order something non-alcoholic and, of course, the bartender knew me by name and immediately said hi while simultaneously reaching for the tap containing my favorite beer. I stopped her and told her I was not drinking to which she replied, "What's the matter, are you not feeling well?" I said, "No, I quit drinking." To which she and two other servers who knew me responded in unison with, "Oh, don't be a quitter." My jaw fell to the counter and I just made up something I can't remember, grabbed my O'douls and walked out of the bar without saying another word.

     Read the book, I promise that you will at least begin to look at alcohol differently, which I believe is the most important asset to your sobriety success.

     Thanks, Annie Grace, for your wonderful take on sobriety through, "This Naked Mind."

Monday, April 13, 2020

Sober - Day 87


     The ABCs of Sobriety.

     Today's letter and word is certainly a tough one because we have all needed if not begged for it at some point throughout our sober journeys. In order to carry a burden heavy enough to require one to request, beg, or plead for it, a person has had to suffer a great deal of physical, emotional, and personal misery and they have had to feel that they cannot obtain it on their own. It is an unfortunate characteristic of the consequences that stem from the inevitable loss of one's self on the way down to our bottom. Much like yesterday's word, the definition of one's bottom is defined and enacted by us and us alone. Nobody took us by the hand and led us down to our bottom. In fact, it can be argued that we made that trip all by ourselves and we made it willingly.

     'M' is for Mercy.

     Definition: Noun - Compassion or forgiveness that is shown to someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. Damn! In regard to sobriety, I tend to think of mercy as something we have to find and have for ourselves. It is difficult because if we did not feel horrible about something we have done as a result of partaking in our addictions, we would not be here looking for a way to give up those addictions. Even if your motivation is only from a health perspective, what you have done to cause the decline in your health is worthy of needing atonement for your actions. If you are anything like me, you are much harder on yourself than you are on any other person. This makes the idea of having mercy for ourselves more difficult, most likely because we do not feel we are worthy of it.

      I read a lot of posts, tweets, and blogs from people who are struggling to stay on a path of sobriety and there seems to be one common theme that runs throughout all of them. That theme is the idea that the person is weak, that they are stupid, that they are incapable of quitting, that they are sorry and that they need help. While only the last two are even remotely true, if someone believes the others to be true then they are certain to act in such a way as to prove themselves correct. It is not to say that we have not all felt weak or stupid at some point, it's that as long as we do, we are not being kind to ourselves; we are not showing ourselves compassion or forgiveness for the fact that we have become addicted to an addictive substance that we were told from birth to partake in because it will make our lives better.

     The only difference between us and every other person on the planet who is using the substance or participating in the behavior we are suffering from is that they have not reached their bottom, yet. You have, now it is time for you to take the necessary steps to climb yourself out from your bottom, regain your self-worth, and begin to live a life without the substance that everyone else is still using and walking through life acting as if they are not the ones with a problem. They are, they just haven't experienced it, yet. Remember, one's bottom is not singularly defined and may not ever be recognized by the addict, which is even worse than actually recognizing it. At least once you have acknowledged you are there, you can begin to forge change.

     Here is the caveat. Once we have reached our bottom or our non-negotiable point of no return, we have one very big, very important, and very difficult job to do before we can effectively make the changes necessary to heal. We have to have mercy on ourselves by showing compassion, offering forgiveness, and loving ourselves regardless of what we have done in the past that got us to the point of needing mercy. There is a quote in a movie called "28 Days" where one of the people in rehab says to another patient, "Those are just things you have done, they are not who you are," or something along those lines. Our past actions do not define us, but they certainly help guide us when the time comes to find out who and what we want to be in the future.

     If you are still struggling to find your path toward sobriety, please do not call yourself weak, do not say you are stupid, do not say you are incapable of quitting; instead, have mercy by showing compassion and forgiveness as you would to your best friend if they were struggling in the same way you are struggling. Love yourself, be kind to yourself, and start telling yourself that you are smart, that you are strong, that you are capable of quitting, and then begin acting in such a way that proves yourself correct.

     Have mercy.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sober - Day 86


     The ABCs of Sobriety.

     It's Easter Sunday and while the obvious word for the day based on the letter 'L' is probably love, I think there is a word that is even more relevant to sobriety especially taking into consideration today's holiday. I am willing to wager a handsome sum that every single one of us who are reading this blog, joining sober groups, attending meetings and seeking help have felt that we, at some point in our lives, have struggled to do the word of the day or at least struggled to do it well. Fortunately, if you are here reading this blog, joining sober groups, and attending meetings you are at the very least beginning to take the necessary steps necessary to afford you the opportunity to start doing it fully. Congratulations!

     'L' is for Live.

     Definition: Verb - To have life, as an organism; be alive, be capable of vital functions. In order to fully understand the meaning of today's word, let's also look at the root word, life. One definition is as follows: Noun - The power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. To live a life could simply mean to not die. But, to live a life worth living and one that we are proud of is an entirely different ideal. It is an ideal that I never really knew existed growing up or while I trudged through adulthood. I just figured we had to do what our elementary teachers taught us, "we get what we get and we don't through a fit." That's what I did for the better part of thirty-plus years. I just lived life as it came to me, or more truthfully, as I personally took an active role in directing it's outcome.

     The first and hardest step is to realize and accept that we were not simply victims, we were active participants in the slow and intentional disintegration of the lives we lived. As long as we believe we play no part in the outcome of our lives, we cannot take steps towards making the changes necessary to afford us the opportunity to live the life that we all inherently deserve. Once we see, accept, and begin enacting the active role in our lives, we then have the power to begin to see how things could have been different. And the difference is overwhelmingly impressive.

     Now the really interesting, and quite frankly, fucking amazing facet of this whole ideal of living life is the fact that there is no single right answer to what that means. Every single person holds the key to their own definition of life and what it means to live a happy, productive, and successful one. It is up to us to discern what life means to us personally, individually, and emotionally. How fucking cool is that? We can literally write the definition of the words live and life based on our own beliefs, experiences, and desires. If you are not jumping up and down right now (virtually) high-fiving everyone around you and singing "It's my Life," by Bon Jovi, I don't know what to tell you. Take hold of the reins and start writing your own narrative.

     After looking back at the past thirty-plus years of my life and regretting all of the life I wasted, I am developing a pretty serious personal belief and comprehension of what it means to live. While I honestly don't believe I missed all of those years, I am one hundred percent certain I could have done a much better job and that is what I am going to do moving forward. Here is my working definition of what it means to live a good life. I wake up every morning and give thanks (not to God but to the universe) for the life I live. I give thanks for my son, my wife, my house, car, and job. I give thanks for the love, joy, and happiness that surrounds me every day. I give thanks for my friends and extended family. of course, I always give thanks for my and my family's health, especially during these times. Then, I set intentions for the day. I decide what I will walk into the day believing and doing and then I do it. My intentions look something like this:

     1. I am a great father and husband. 2. I am a professional writer. 3. I act from a place of kindness. 4. I write in my novel. 5. I write my sober blog. 6. I exercise every day. 7. I give and allow myself to receive love. 8. I am the best version of myself.

     I try to write my intentions from a perspective that states what I am and will do rather than what I want to be or do. I believe those things are already done and I remind myself of that every day. Once my intentions are set, then I approach my day with the greatest amount of positivity I can. If I feel myself begin to drift toward negative thoughts or beliefs, I try and catch myself and remind myself of the things I am grateful for. This, generally, cheers me back up and I can continue my day with positivity. It may not always work, but I believe the more times you make it happen, the easier it will be each time you try. The rest of my day I work towards completing the goals I have set and loving the people I am with.

     I live each day with passion, intention, and love in my heart for myself, my family, and my fellow persons. I have lived more in the past 86 days than I think I have in the past forty-eight years of my life. It's never too late to begin living the life you never knew you wanted or deserved.

Sober - Day 1

         I did not write this day because the first day always feels like an unknown. I'll begin writing on Day 2.