News Coming Soon!

Hello all!

Well, it’s been a while since I have posted! Apologies. I know you were all sitting and waiting with baited breaths.

There have been many substantial life changes for me since my last post in September. Where has the time gone?

Most notably, I am back in school studying geomatics, the technical term for surveying technology. Thus, a large chunk of my time has been dedicated to getting back into the swing of school and, you know, making the grade and all!

All that to be said, stand by for some new additions to Stoic Sobriety. I’m staring down the barrel of one year of sobriety. I have learned so much about myself and my place and purpose in life. Stoic philosophy remains tantamount to my understanding of life’s little curveballs and how to deal with them (which often means relegating them to the “out of my control” subheading!)

Make sure and add me to your RSS feed. I’m really excited about the future of this site!

A Little Help From My Friends

Be not ashamed to be helped; for it is thy business to do thy duty like a soldier in an assault on a town. How then, if being lame thou canst not mount up on the battlements alone, but with the help of another is it possible?

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VII.7

Two are better than one, because they have good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

-Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I began this conversation a couple of days ago via a live stream on Instagram. It was prompted by a discussion topic at an AA meetings concerning what part of the program stands out to me or what aspect has been really helpful in my recovery. It’s true that the program has to work holistically, all parts being a conduit to the whole recovery. Consequently, each part helps me through different stages of growth and development. Continue reading “A Little Help From My Friends”

Put The Phone Down: The Truth About Drunk Texting

It’s 2 in the morning. You’re drunk. You pick up your phone. Something goes through your mind that you just have to text an ex-partner and talk to them. The next morning, as the hangover sets in, you pick your phone up to assess the damage. It can be of varying degrees. Regardless, it was dumb and you know it. You can erase the text string but that doesn’t mean that it never happened.

It seems like we always had that one ex-girlfriend we texted when we were drunk, regardless if we were in a relationship at the time or not. Truth be told, I was just as addicted to her as I was the beer. But the beer amplified that effect. We had a tumultuous relationship, plenty of highs and lows. And her memory stuck with me for years. I’m writing about her right now for that matter.

As I’ve mentioned before, we alcoholics and addicts are masters of deception. We have spent years lying to ourselves and everyone around us, trying to hide the fact that we had a problem that we weren’t willing to face. As I get sober and begin soul-searching and examining, I have to admit to myself that I have cheated on partners. Not physically. I never slept with someone while I was dating another person. I credit myself with that. But I have drunk texted and said lewd and obscene statements to women that I had no business saying. And of course, I got caught by contemporaneous girlfriend and tried to cover my tracks, blaming the other party for instigating the text conversation.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I been sober, I wouldn’t have done so. Alcoholic brain convinced me that I could get away with it. Which I didn’t. Liars always get caught because of the string of lies that can be traced back to us.

One of the 12 steps is all about making apologies. As my journey continues, I discover more people that I feel like I need to apologize to. This particular ex-girlfriend got the phone call a couple days ago from me. I kept it fairly short and succinct but I knew it had to be done. Much like alcohol, this is finality, a closing of a door that I had purposefully left open.

I am incredibly lucky. I am with the woman of my dreams. Beer clouded that fact on and off for a large portion of our relationship. For some reason, she kept giving me chances. I think she saw the good, the potential in me that I had blinded myself to. Had it not been for her ultimatum concerning my drinking, I may not be where I am today, 129 days sober and knowing that there is no turning back. She has been away for nearly two weeks and the distance is becoming painful. I love her a little more and more every day.

Toby Keith: A Philosopher For Our Generation

I’ll never be ashamed to quote a bad writer with a good saying.

Seneca, On Tranquility Of Mind, 11.8

I’m starting to question my reality. I was forced to endure a country song I’ve heard a 27garbage_600thousand times and actually took something from it. Toby Keith’s song “Ain’t Much Fun” has imparted some wisdom on me. Mr. Keith (because I know you are reading), I respect you as an artist, being one myself. I like country music, but I am a purist. While I can’t say I particularly enjoy your lexicon of work, I will say thank you for this song.

The premise of the song is of a man getting sober and returning to real life. Chores, the “honey-do” list, the everyday routine of life. It’s very tongue in cheek, but the reality of it is, well, my reality. I don’t get to go out an party all the time, drinking away my problems for another day and time. I can’t go to work and drink the whole time (I’m a musician) and then come home and do it again scot-free. At this point, why would I? Things creak and cramp hard enough in the morning without a hangover.

I know that a fear that many people in recovery have is how to cope with being sober. One question is whether they will get boring, whether they can have fun sober. Continue reading “Toby Keith: A Philosopher For Our Generation”

You Always Hurt The Closest To You

As regards his general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian, or anti-Christian, periodicals…is is usually a melodramatic or mythical hated directed against imaginary scapegoats…thery are the creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door…the great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 27,28

I’ve asked both of my parents multiple times why they didn’t just give up on me. I had lied and hurt them continuously for eight years. How many sleepless nights had I caused? How many times had they worried if I was alive, dead, hurt, in jail? What made it so easy for me to keep handing them the aftermath of my alcoholic spiral?

Often, the answer I get is the rote “we are your parents and we will always love you”. But why? I had given them so many reasons not to. So many of my motivations were to spite them. I was sick of them babying me, telling me I had I problem I didn’t have, threatening me with treatment, taking my car, kicking me out. So what? I’m a grown man. I didn’t need them. How wrong I was. At 32 years of age by the grace of God, I’m beginning to understand that they aren’t just overprotective idiots.

We hurt the ones closest to us, the loves of our lives, our firm foundations, the most and the deepest. We know that we can stab them in the heart and they will forgive. Or, we take for granted that they will. We know every button to press, exactly the most precise point to cut with the scalpel of words to make them bleed out. Yet, through my drunk years, they would stitch and bandage their wounds and keep on fighting.

I’m almost embarrassed as I write this. Not to relay the information, but just thinking about all the times I have drunkenly screamed at my mother or girlfriend. How I was too drunk to have the common courtesy to send a text and let anyone know where I was or if I was safe. I would be nicer to my friends (let’s say drinking buddies) than I would be to those closest to me. I would rather move into a tiny little house that should have been quarantined so I could drink in peace than live under the “iron fist” of my parents. Pride and stubbornness were a contributing factor in my downfall.

In sobriety, I realize the grace that my closest allies have. I know that I am having a terrible time with continually forgiving someone who keeps doing me wrong. I know it is because I am holding others to my own expectations of myself and have to stop viewing people through my lens.

I have had my fair share of ultimatums. The last couple of them have stuck. My girlfriend’s last ultimatum contributed to my sobriety. I think it hit just at the right time too. I was close to rock bottom.

The quote above really struck a chord in me. How often have we all done this? We treat the closest people to us like dirt, but are sugary sweet to friends and acquaintances? The answer is that those closest to us hold us most accountable, as they should. The mistake we make is assuming that they will always be there to pick us up when we fall. I know at this point that I have too much skin in the game to assume. If I pick up the path I was going down, I will lose them. She will leave me. My parents will not be as forgiving. They may say they will, but do I really want to test that theory? I have pushed the envelope for long enough.

This isn’t to say that I will be a perfect model from here on out. I will slip up and take advantage of their kindness, as they will mine. But it won’t be because of alcohol. Cling to the strength and safety of your true allies. Show them you love and appreciate them. Make every effort to not hurt them. For us addicts, they have put up with us in times when any other person would have given up on us. Keep that thought as a constant reminder. There is a lot at stake now.

 

 

Sober Scapegoat

I’m going to make this post short and sweet.

The definition of a scapegoat is defined in two ways, both very fitting:

  1. a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency
  2. (in the Bible) a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people on it.

To be clear, I’m not calling anyone who drinks a sinner! I’m the alcoholic here. Drinking responsibly is the way to do it, a commendable trait. I hope that I am humble enough to take responsibility for my past transgressions and regret my actions as a user, both of people and alcohol.

I have had more people than I can count drive my drunk carcass home. Honestly, like a selfish moron, I would drive myself more often than not. But this isn’t the point.

I am always here to help a friend home who has had too much to drink. I wish I had enough forethought to make the call myself. However, sober friends are not yours to use as your personal taxi service. We aren’t your proxy designated driver. Do not assume this position and do not make your sober friends your babysitter.

Another scapegoat scenario, this one for alcoholics and addicts: if you get caught, fess up. Tell the truth. One of my favorite excuses for my girlfriend finding empty beer cans at the house was to blame it on my friends who came over to hang out. “Oh no, babes. Such and such came over to watch wrestling/football with me. They were drinking. I didn’t have any.” Don’t blame your friends. Don’t lie and place the blame on someone else. Don’t scapegoat your friends, placing them on the altar of lies.

As a former idiotic drunk driver, if you are my friend and I know your are impaired, I will ask for your keys. You’re talking to the king of “nah, man, I’m fine”.

Don’t use your friends for your needs.

Don’t drink and drive. Ever. Period.

That’s Just Your Opinion, Man

Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinion about the things: for example, death is nothing terrible, for if it were, it would have seemed so to Socrates; for the opinion about death, that it is terrible, is the terrible thing. When, then, we are impeded or disturbed or grieved, let us never blame others, but ourselves, that is, our opinions. It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.

Epictetus, Encheiridion, V

Disclaimer: Reading this aloud to myself, it rattles of teenage angst. Emotions involved with anger are difficult dragons to slay. I am proud that I am able to take responsibility for my actions, to the point of blaming myself for things that I shouldn’t. This is a hard pill for me to swallow because I almost want to be the agitator, I don’t want to think others have done wrong. The fact of the matter is that I can’t blame myself for everything, only the things that I know I am directly responsible for. C.S Lewis stated that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less”. In this particular situation, I still find myself on the fence. I haven’t discovered the true resolution if one is possible. I would rather face this than sweep it under the rug, cognizant of my lack of definitive proof against myself or a surefire resolution.

Resentment is an ugly, awful feeling. There are a couple of people to this day, as hard as I have fought in my mind, that I continue to harbor varying degrees of residual resentment towards. One, in particular, has become very troubling. I started to really analyze this problem and figure out how much of it is me, picking individual elements and situations apart to see if I was the ultimate cause.

According to the dictionary, resentment is a feeling of “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”. If I adhere to this definition, I’m not truly resentful. I’m angry, to the point that I don’t want anything to do with the situation any longer. Continue reading “That’s Just Your Opinion, Man”

Feel Free To Remove The Kid Gloves

Kid drawingWhen kids do something wrong, often you have to handle them or the situation gingerly and delicately. As an adult, I expect someone to call me out if I do something wrong. But not with kids. They don’t process like adults. Drawing a picture of the house and the family on the living room wall with markers is technically wrong, but the child did it with the best of intentions. They love their family and want to create, sometimes for posterity thanks to the Sharpie company, a visual representation of that love. There is a subtle art to balancing discipline with toleration. Consequently, my former alcoholic brain didn’t process things like an adult either. The problem encountered by our peers is that most of the time, kid gloves nor iron gauntlets can show us the error of our ways.

I know that all recovering alcoholics and addicts have experience that awkward situation where a friend or family member tries to protect you from yourself. Continue reading “Feel Free To Remove The Kid Gloves”

Sobriety Without Sanctimony

If you have assumed a character above your strength, you have both acted in this matter in an unbecoming way, and you have neglected that which you might have fulfilled.

Epictetus, Encheiridion, XXXVII

soapboxThis may be the last time I get sober, but it surely wasn’t the first. I would be interested in viewing statistics on the number of people that truly quit on their first attempt. I am currently trying to quit chewing tobacco as well, for the umpteenth time. I gave myself a grace period after I quit drinking alcohol. Nicotine is a real hard demon to get off your back. And from an earlier experience, quitting both at the same time is nightmarish.

A couple of years ago, I achieved a successful and fairly long-lived quit. One day, I woke up and decided I had had enough. I put down the alcohol and cigarettes on the same day and walked away. The next week was one of the most physically painful weeks of my life. It made my body hurt so bad. My brain felt as if it was barely functioning, wrapped in a fog of incoherence. I found myself constantly looking at online “quit timelines”, making sure that the sensations I was feeling were normal and trying to calculate when they would end.

One side effect that was not described anywhere in the medical information I found was an increased sense of sanctimony and self-righteousness. I had developed this “holier-than-thou” attitude over time towards anyone who drank. I seriously thought that I was stronger than them, better than them, cleaner than them. In retrospect, I was probably a deplorable drag to be around for a period of time.

Soapboxes are portable platforms that public speakers use to elevate themselves above the crowd. Before the advent of corrugated cardboard, many trade products like vegetables or fruits were packed into wooden boxes for the shipment of wholesale merchandise to retail establishments. These wooden boxes were chosen as mobile platforms for impromptu speeches, oftentimes for a political or spiritual purpose. In America, the period after World War I was considered the heyday of soapboxing. There was very little money in circulation for a majority of the population so these “soapbox preachers” served as cheap entertainment. Often, unrest would result between these amassed crowds and local authorities because the crowds would block walkaways or disturb vehicular traffic. There were cases of local law enforcement attempting to disband “street meetings” out of fear of social unrest and the possibility of an outbreak of violent protesting.

Between 1907 and 1916, street oratory was widely practiced amongst members of the International Workers of the World, a union and labor movement based on socialist and communist policies. Many members of the socialist movement used the soapbox method to hone and sharpen their political acumen, in many cases to spearhead the cause of free speech brought on by attempted censure by local governments.

I have been guilty of soapboxing my sobriety. My attitude about being sober was to the point of irritating zealotry. One of the goals of the AA program is to help and give back, to turn from selfish behaviors and attempt to help those that need it. By looking down my nose at those who drank alcohol, the only thing I accomplished was disenfranchizing everyone around me. I had become just as irritating sober as I had been when I was drunk.

This time, with the help of AA and the true and heartfelt willingness to better myself and change, I have kept my teetotalling attitude in check, or at least internal. I can not look you in the eye and admit that I haven’t had moments where the old attitude has crawled into my head. Fortunately, I am honing my ability to examine my sentiments and dissect why I am having those feelings and thoughts in the first place. Admittedly, it is often because I am jealous of those who can moderate. I find those thoughts happening less and less, but they still exist on occasion.

I have consciously and actively reframed how and if I even speak about my sobriety. First of all, I don’t go around and talk about my sobriety to just anyone who will listen or has a pair of ears; they don’t hear it whether they want to or not. If people ask about it, my goal is not to tell them that quitting is best and they should because of reasons x,y, and z. Rather, I describe how it has enriched my life, made me a better person, more cognizant of my actions and how I have really begun to find the real me through self-realization. I want to be the person that is here to help and listen to someone who believes that they have had a problem, not the person who preaches to those who may not have a problem in the first place. I have come to see that there is a vast difference between drinking alcohol and being a true alcoholic. It is not my job to regulate those who can moderate. My job is to regulate myself and live my best life so I can be of the best use for those who need help.

I have placed my soapbox in the darkest corner of my closet to collect dust. My object is to be the best me I can, to lead by example and lend a helping hand. As classic Roman philosopher Cicero stated, “men were brought into existence for the sake of men that they might do one another good”.

Advice From Napoleon

 

In war the general alone can judge of certain arrangements. It depends on him alone to conquer difficulties by his own superior talents and resolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s Art of War, Maxim LXVI

In an earlier post, I utilized a quote from Marcus Aurelius that encourages a person to ask for help, to not be afraid and accept that there are many occasions and circumstances we can not nor should we tackle alone. Friendship and community are one of the foundations to successfully quitting drinking. Hence why groups such as AA are as popular as they are. I could not have done this alone. Swallowing my pride and asking for help created a sense of courage in me that I knew that I had but was too stubborn to use. It’s hard to say if I would have discovered this fully on my own, but joining an AA group aided in the willingness to self-exam and lead me to that goal.

Napoleon Bonaparte has been called a giant for the ages. His military prowess is considered to be on a scale rarely seen before in human history. Continue reading “Advice From Napoleon”