Tag: early sobriety

Patience: Not just a Skill, a Destination

Patiently Reading while Learning Nothing

It is said that those of us who suffer from alcoholism froze our emotional maturity at the age at which we started to drink regularly. I am living proof of the voracity of that statement as I lived decades of my life, well into my early sobriety, with the emotional maturity of a teenager.

 

Impatience is a cornerstone attribute of emotional immaturity, and my ability to calmly wait for anything was as undeveloped as that skill can be in a human. I learned early in my recovery that patience was a tool I needed to master if I hoped to make it over the elusive hump to permanent sobriety.

Top Ten Rules to Control Our Alcohol Consumption

Top Ten Rules to Control Our Alcohol Consumption

Rules. Discipline. The ever-popular, yet mystically elusive mythology known as human willpower. I just needed to try harder. I just needed to establish a realistic drinking strategy and follow it. Drinking alcohol was far too important a component of my happy and successful life for me to give it up. I just needed to unlock the secret to controlling my drinking.

 

Here is my top-ten list of drinking rules I adopted at various times in the last decade of my drinking career. As you read through them, see how many you have tried. Are there rules on this list that the drinker you love has used to try to control his drinking? Keep track of the number of rules you recognize, and I’ll give you my take on what it means at the end.

 

Rule #10: Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach

My wife noticed the correlation between my intoxication level and the lack of food I consumed. So, for some period in my drinking career, I agreed to eat with or before drinking alcohol. Now that I have a good understanding of the importance of blood sugar regulation, this advice has some practicality to it.

Result: Never underestimate the dedication of a serious drinker to put enough booze back to get where we are going – no matter how much of our dinner we eat. With a little extra effort, I was still quite often quite drunk.

 

Rule #9: No Sugary Mixers

When I bartended in college, we were told about recent scientific findings about how sugar got alcohol into people’s blood streams faster. It was a caution about over-serving people who were drinking mixed drinks with soda or fruit juice as a sugary mixer. At some point in my troubled drinking, I took the advice to heart. I started drinking whiskey and vodka on the rocks – no mixer.

Result: Somehow, even without Coke or OJ to rush the alcohol to my bloodstream, the booze found its way into my vessels all by itself. Drinking straight alcohol meant drunkenness ensued.

 

Rule #8: Never Drink in the Morning

Only alcoholics drink in the morning, so I thought this would be an easy rule to follow. Until the end of my progression into alcoholism, I didn’t really do any medicinal morning drinking. But I did drink Mimosas on Christmas morning. And there were those football game tailgates. Every four-year-old’s birthday party I escorted my kids to at 10am on a Saturday morning had a cooler of beers for the dads. What would be the point of brunch without the Bloody Mary? I’m not a heathen.

Result: I drank when it was socially acceptable to drink, regardless of my rules. I don’t know what this myth about five-o’clock is all about…Americans find plenty of excuses to drink in the morning.

 

Rule #7: Sip Scotch

I joined a scotch and cigar club that met weekly. The idea was to get enjoyment from slowly sipping and discussing a very expensive single-malt on the rock. Slow down. Savor. Treat drinking like a delicate privilege.

Result: I did OK with the scotch, but the nine beers I had with the guys while we finished our cigars after the scotch was a problem.

 

Rule #6: Water Between Drinks

I read the suggestion somewhere that if I drank a glass of water each time between alcoholic beverages, the water would dilute the alcohol and reduce my level of intoxication. Brilliant! And scientific.

Result: I got just as drunk, I just spent an incredible amount of time swaying drunk in front of a toilet. Science failed me!

 

Rule #5: Social Drinking Only

I was very comfortable drinking alone. Growing up, I never received any social cues that indicated solo consumption was a problem. But, I was drinking too much, so I tried only drinking in social situations.

Result: This one got expensive fast. In order to drink socially in a way that was comfortable, I had to substantially increase my socializing. And drinks in a bar are much more expensive than drinking at home. I also pestered my wife to drink with me when she had no interest. This was an added relationship-crushing bonus.

 

Rule #4: Light Beer Only

I got so anxious about counting and regulating my consumption that I decided I could drink as much as I wanted, as long as I only drank low ABV light beer. I live in Colorado, and I am loyal to the local economy, so for me, that meant unlimited Coors Light.

Result: I transformed into a burping hillbilly surrounded by empty beer cans. It was a lot of effort to get as drunk as I wanted. Luckily, I was an alcoholic overachiever. This was one of my wife’s favorite rules for the enhanced disgusto-factor as my right hand was perpetually holding a can of suds.

 

Rule #3: Counting Drinks

I made rules about the number of drinks I was allowed in different situations. During the work week, I allowed myself two cocktails after work. On the “regular” weekend days when we did not have plans, I allowed myself six high ABV IPAs. On the “big” weekend days when we had plans for socializing, I “limited” myself to a twelve-pack of IPAs. Now, looking back, I find sad humor in the limits I set. If you think of half a case as a limit, do you really need this top-ten list to help you identify yourself as an alcoholic?

Result: The stress for the drinker associated with counting and limiting drinks is excruciating. I often drank past my limit. When I did stop as planned, I wanted to chew my own arm off as punishment for not continuing to hoist alcohol to my mouth.

 

Rule #2: Drinking Only on the Weekends

For most of the last decade of my drinking career, I played soccer in an over 30-years-old men’s league on Thursday nights. After the games, my teammates and I headed to the bar. So, logically, my weekends started on Thursday nights and ran through bedtime on Sundays. Taking those three days off between my drinking-defined weekend was a great idea, but three days of sobriety is no match for an alcoholic brain.

Result: Mostly, I didn’t drink on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. But that just made me hate Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Hating 43% of my life was a very alcoholic thing to do. Oh, and sometimes the stress and pressure was too much, and I drank during the week.

 

Rule #1: Beer and Wine Only

I thought I was an inventive genius when I decided to swear-off hard alcohol and only drink beer (or occasionally, wine). Little did I know at the time that almost every single alcoholic has tried this one. The theory is sound. I drank whatever was in my hand at the same rapid pace. If I only allowed myself 6% ABV beer, my chance of keeping it under control was far better than if I drank 80 proof whiskey.

Result: I quit drinking after two or three beers occasionally, but I drank a lot of beers a lot of times, and this rule didn’t solve my alcoholism.

 

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “Rules are made to be broken,” but I bet he was an alcoholic. Look, here is the fact: Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It cannot be controlled. If you have questions about your drinking or the consumption of someone around you, it can only get worse. That rule is accurate 100% of the time.

 

If you think you are the exception, if you think you can control it, you are in good company. All of us alcoholics thought that at one time or another.

 

I asked you to keep score on the number of my top ten drinking rules that you or someone you love has tried. Here is the answer key. If you resonate with any one of my rules, you should stop drinking alcohol. You don’t invent rules to limit the amount of broccoli you eat or the number of hugs you give to your kids. If you have to make rules in a vain attempt to control your drinking, you’ve crossed the invisible line.

 

If you question my assertion, please consider these two big questions about your alcoholic status.

 

  1. Do you think about alcohol (regret from your last drink or anticipation of your next) when you are not drinking?
  2. Is alcohol causing problems (minor or major) in your life?

 

If you answer those two questions in the affirmative, either about yourself or on behalf of someone you love, your direction is indisputably clear. That’s the good news. There is no gray area. There is no indecision related to my advice.

 

You or the drinker you love need to quit drinking alcohol.

 

If that news is disappointing, and the steps you should take to leave the misery of high-functioning alcoholism behind seem daunting and unclear, please read my Guide to Early Sobriety. It is a free ebook you can get through easily in one evening during the time you or your loved one usually dedicates to drinking.

 

It is free. It is private. It requires no commitment and you can delete it if you don’t like what it has to say.

 

You can delete it, but you can never forget your concern about alcohol. Once rules are involved, we can’t unknow what we know.

 

Read the Guide to Early Sobriety, and let your future bring you the freedom those rules could never deliver. You’ve got this, and we’ve got you. Consider the soberevolution.

Guide to Early Sobriety

It’s the Perfect Time to Relapse

It's the Perfect Time to Relapse

Last week, I saw dozens of social media posts from people experiencing their first sober Halloween. As is customary when using the communication tool designed to allow us to compare our lives to the lives of hundreds of others, the posts were cheery and positive, with captions like, “First booze-free Halloween, and I feel great!” or, “I can’t believe what I was missing when I used to drink my way through Halloween.” Two things went through my mind when I saw so many of these posts last week, and in this order. First, I thought, that person is full of shit or trying really hard to convince him or herself. Second, I thought, wait a minute…maybe something is wrong with me because that’s not what my first sober Halloween was like at all.

Soberer

Soberer

I get this feedback all the time. Sometimes it is polite but dismissive, like this: “I have trouble paying attention to the opinion of someone with just four years of sobriety. Talk to me in a decade or so.” Other times, it is downright mean: “Shut up and get to a meeting, asshole!” Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion, but some people really should consider a little less caffeine or maybe doing something about the constipation that’s putting built up pressure on the old kindness gland.

 

I’m sober. I’m fully and completely sober. I feel like I need the coroner of the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz to declare about my active alcoholism, “She’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.” (Now you’ve got that voice and that song stuck in your head, don’t you. Go ahead and Google that scene and watch it on YouTube – I did.)

Evolving into Sobriety

Evolving into Sobriety

There. It’s done. I just decided that I’m done drinking alcohol. I’m sober now. There’s just too much pain, deceit and insanity. End of discussion. It’s over.

 

I had those very thoughts, full of determination and resolve, more times than I could count. It seemed so simple to me – severe and punitive – but simple just the same. I am strong and definitive. I’ve made thousands of decisions over the first half of my lifetime, and I have a very good track record of follow through. I don’t waiver or vacillate. I analyze, decide and execute. No analysis paralysis for me. Let’s go.

 

And that’s why my relationship with alcohol was so diabolical and transfixing to me. I couldn’t leave it behind no matter how determined I was, and no matter how good my track record for decision making otherwise was. Alcohol was like a permanent fixture, an irreversible commitment tattooed on my soul.

I Couldn’t Hear Until I Learned to Listen

I Couldn't Hear Until I Learned to Listen

My wife almost didn’t marry me because I couldn’t wrap a gift. Alcoholism – we survived that. Four kids, emergency room visits, emotional immaturity, running a business together – we made it past all of those major hurdles, but Sheri almost dumped me before any of it got started because I did such a crappy job of wrapping her present on our first Christmas together.

 

It’s true. My wife takes the act of giving seriously. At first, I thought her rejection of my feeble attempt at wrapping made her selfish. Then I realized I had it backwards. She puts so much thought and effort into the act of giving, and she didn’t want to be with someone who half-assed it. It’s not about materialism, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. But if it’s not from the heart, she’s not interested.

 

Sheri used to make a really big deal about her birthday. She would celebrate for a week. Again, it was never about gifts or receiving. It was always about spending quality time with quality people – the kind of people who take their time with the wrapping if they do give her a gift. It was experiential, and Sheri wanted everyone to be as happy as she was that she was a year older. She didn’t need a big, fancy party. Her smile and laugh were celebration enough. She oozed carefree joy.

 

And I ruined it all for her.

The Nightmare of Trying to Escape the Monster

The Nightmare of Trying to Escape the Monster

It is terrifying. I’m running as fast as I can, but something is bogging me down. It’s like my joints have been soaking in rubber cement and I’m wearing clown shoes. I’m trying to get away from whatever is chasing me. Is it a man with a knife, or is it a monster? I’m unsure, and really, it’s unimportant. What matters is that no matter how hard I try, I can’t run fast enough, and whatever it is, it is gaining me.

 

Have you ever had this kind of dream? I have this one semi-regularly. It isn’t just about being chased, it is about my own ability to run being hampered or limited. I don’t know what it means. I’ve never had any of my dreams analyzed. But I can tell you what it reminds me of. It reminds me of trying to get away from the high-functioning alcoholism that was slowly killing me. My progress was slow and clunky, and I felt like I could not put distance between me and my pursuer. My top speed, as mediocre as it might have been, was completely elusive as I trudged weakly forward, trying to gain traction while the earth oozed like quicksand below my feet.

Confirmation Bias: This Is Why Your Sobriety Won’t Stick

Huge Beer Display
Anheuser-Busch Pontoon Boat at Walmart

It’s called confirmation bias, and it’s the reason we humans are so tribal. When we see others repeat an activity or opinion that we embrace, the “others” solidify our belief system.

 

I know what you’re thinking. Awesome, this guy is going to write about politics and how broken our society is because of tribal stubbornness and because we only listen to people who sound like us, right? Wrong! I’ve got news for us all. Confirmation bias impacts a lot of aspects of our lives beyond the polarizing issues of politics. In fact, your confirmation bias might just be the biggest hurdle keeping you from long-term sobriety.

Positive Proof of why Traditional Recovery Methods Fail

Positive Proof of why Traditional Recovery Methods Fail

A double negative is not nearly as effective as a positive. I’m an eternal optimist, so as someone who is perpetually fixated on the positives, I should know the difference. Less (negative) of a bad thing (negative) is not nearly as awesome as a good thing. And this, my friends, is why our traditional addiction recovery system doesn’t work. I should probably do some explaining.

The Stages of Alcoholism: From 3rd Butt Cheek to Manicured Eyebrows

The Stages of Alcoholism: From 3rd Butt Cheek to Manicured Eyebrows
Windy Much?

Where did that come from? In my life that features so many memories lost to blackout drinking, that’s a pondering I’ll never forget. That question dominated my brain on several occasions in my late teenage years when I was experimenting with alcohol.

 

It happened once the morning after a huge drunken fight I had with my high school girlfriend at a party on full display in front of probably a hundred friends. It happened another time after I took a swing at my best friend after drinking together for many hours. Thankfully, I was drunk enough to miss, but I’ve never been in a fist-fight in my life, so it was beyond surprising when I was putting the pieces of the puzzle back together the next day.

 

In fact, had I woken up after either of those instances having grown a third butt cheek I would have been less surprised than I was to learn of my aggressive and abhorrent drunken behavior.