When Moderation Leads to Excess: The Alcoholic’s Dilemma, Or, The Bee Sting

It has been said that one of the keys to life is moderation. Don’t sleep too much or little, watch what and how much you eat. Have a job but don’t be a workaholic. Take time to play but don’t play too hard. Find that middle ground. Psychologists call this the “Goldilocks effect”, that point where it’s just right. Graphically, that point would be the apex of an upside down letter U. Anything after that will possibly lead to a point of diminishing returns.

However, American culture values extremes and excess. You can never have too much money, be too skinny, have too many social media followers, never have a house too big or too small. We also live in a world that alcohol has become more acceptable amongst the masses. Continue reading “When Moderation Leads to Excess: The Alcoholic’s Dilemma, Or, The Bee Sting”

Thunderous Silence

And let silence be the general rule, or let only what is necessary be said, and in few words.

Epictetus, Encheiridion, XXXIII

My mother always taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. But it’s not just about nicety. If you can’t say anything constructive, stay silent.

How hard it is to just keep our mouths shut sometimes! Social media has its positive and negative attributes, but in my personal opinion, the negative has a tendency to outweigh the positive, especially in our divisive era. I guarantee there are a plethora of examples of amazing positivity. I think you know from experience, though, that if you were to receive 99 positive comments and one scathing criticism, which one would you focus on the most? Human nature is to respond violently to negativity, even it is some vitriolic firebrand trolling out of boredom. Because we want to be liked, we crave thinking someone cares or is interested in our lives. On my YouTube channel, I always get a chuckle when someone takes the time to give me a thumbs down on an instructional video. We get it, thou dedicated misanthrope. You hate learning!

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Including mine about the pitfalls of social media. Continue reading “Thunderous Silence”

Define Your Environment: Addiction and the Art Of War

Sun_Tzu_open_rights
Sun Tzu

The addictive mind is a battlefield. Everyday occurrences that are mundane and routine to some people can be a complicated mix of emotions for someone coping with addiction. There are many little instances during the day that I still find myself trying to remember how to do things sober or breaking routines and patterns that I developed while I was drinking. For example, I travel the same route to a gig once a week. I usually stop at the same gas station. For a couple of weeks, I found myself walking unintentionally towards the beer cooler. I had no intention of drinking; I had no craving. It was simply a pattern. It was as if I was a deer, traveling the same game trail every day to my food, water or bedding source. It was a simple, nearly animalistic, behavior. The same can be said of coping with your environment. Your environment absolutely determines attitude and behavior and vice versa, at least for me it does. Continue reading “Define Your Environment: Addiction and the Art Of War”

A Simple No Will Suffice

About a month into my sobriety, I performed at a wedding. This was the first wedding I had performed at since I made my choice to stop drinking.

After we had set up and were getting acquainted with the wedding party, the mother of the bride emphatically reminded us to partake of the food and drink. She was fairly insistent about the drink part. My response to her at first was no response. She repeated it a few times. My mind slowly concocted something along the lines of, “I’m driving tonight”. Her reply was just one beer won’t hurt you.

I really didn’t feel like going into the whole “I’m going to AA and my sponsor would disapprove” spiel. I came out of the experience a little frustrated and incensed. Did she just assume that the musicians would naturally imbibe? Do my long hair and tattoos scream “pour me a beer”?

As the photographer passed me, she casually said, “friend of Bill?” It took me off guard, being fairly new to the program and lifestyle. I looked at her in a confused enough manner that she clarified: “AA?” The dots connected. For those of you who may not know, William Wilson founded AA. “Friend of Bill” is kind of a secret code among AA members, a way to keep from coming right out and proclaiming that you are a member.

I relayed this story at a meeting one night. I described how I mentally prepared a set of stories to use when people asked me if I wanted a drink, anything from I’m taking antibiotics to the silly declaration that I am pregnant! An older gentleman who I have really learned to respect and have gleaned a lot of wisdom from chuckled at me and said, “you know what you could have said? No.”

Two things I take from all of this. First, “Friends of Bill” are everywhere. At first, I was almost embarrassed to admit that I went to AA. I practically scream it from the rooftops now! I am proud of taking control of my life and hope that I can give back. I meet folks every day that I never would have guessed that they go through the same struggles as I do. Second, a simple reply of “no” is a perfectly acceptable response to having a drink. I don’t need to justify why I don’t drink to anyone other than myself. My life has been enriched since I took control of it. We were taught as kids to “just say no”! That slogan has come full circle for me today.

The Safety Of Life

The safety of life is this, to examine everything all through, what it is itself, what is its material, what the formal part; with all thy soul to do justice and to say the truth. What remains except to enjoy life by joining one good thing to another so as not to leave even the smallest intervals between?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.29

Life is life. It happens every day, with or without our input. Every day is made up of small events that we string together in our waking hours. I would say that most of these events are unglamorous: brushing your teeth, what you eat for breakfast, your commute to work, relaxing at home. They are just a point of existence in a day. They still hold importance, for sure, but those aren’t the moments we focus on.

On your commute to work, a millennial pulls out in front of you while she is texting and driving. A little blue-haired lady with a handicapped placard is going 15 miles an hour under the speed limit. An overcompensation of a diesel truck rides your tailgate and then flies around you, giving you the finger as his show of appreciation. These little moments are the ones that make you lose sight of the glorious sunrise, that first cup of coffee, the soft words or lips of your significant other, your ever-faithful cat reminding you how hungry he is and that he loves you. Continue reading “The Safety Of Life”

The Honeymoon is Over

A dear friend of mine who attends my home group sagely advised me that if I was starting to feel worse, I was getting better. I was told this about 30 days into sobriety. I had just achieved my first chip and I was on cloud nine. (Many AA groups use a colored chip system for varying lengths of sobriety). I didn’t get his gist at all. I felt better in mind, body, and spirit than I had in a very long time. Sure, it’s a daily uphill battle, but to this point, I was flying up that hill.

His experienced prediction was right, though. I started to feel the end of the honeymoon period very recently, right around my 90-day celebration. A little context: Continue reading “The Honeymoon is Over”

Why I Quit: The Long and Short Of It

I have to be honest with myself and you, dear reader. I didn’t quit for me, at first. It took a few weeks of self-examination and experience to reach the point of quitting for me.

I have quit drinking many times, as I think all addicts have. I had an inkling that I had a problem, but I would never truly admit it to myself. It was always in the back of my mind. But, I was too busy lying to myself and to others to truly hear that tiny voice of reason. It was like trying to hear the buzz of a mosquito over the roar of a jet engine. “I can put it down anytime, I don’t have a problem, I’m not drinking liquor, such-and-such drinks more than I do, they can’t tell I’ve been drinking, I’m fine”. The string of self-justifying lies never ended. Continue reading “Why I Quit: The Long and Short Of It”

My Philosopy: A Disclaimer

My sobriety has relied on two schools of philosophy to help make sense of everything that goes through my head on a daily basis: Stoicism and the teachings of Christ/letters of Paul.

In a nutshell, stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that focuses on personal ethics informed by logic and its view of the natural world. It is about living in the moment, controlling your desires, seeking justice and equality, using logic and reason to understand the world we live in. Personally, it has taught me a lot about accountability and what it means to have virtue in our ever-burgeoning world of material value. These values are found in the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca, among others.

For me, the teachings of Christ boil down to a few basic tenants: love one another, be kind, treat others well, control your desires, do not be tempted by wrongdoing. There is much more to it than those values.

Consequently, these are not the only two schools I study.

I will continue to expand on these ideas throughout the course of my personal growth. But please know that I view my daily life based around these philosophical schools.

Because I use it as a daily “devotional” of sorts, I will often pull heavily from Ryan Holiday’s book The Daily Stoic. Some days, I may take what I have read for that day and expound my own thoughts on his words. Same goes for the Bible.

Ultimately, my personal goal is to strive to use philosophy as a way to expand my mind and cope with addiction.

Welcome!

I have attempted to maintain a few blogs/websites over the years. And in all honesty, they often were for vanity. My younger self yearned for others to care about my opinion on this book or that film, just whatever attention I thought I deserved.

This is the least of my concerns now. At 32 years old, I hit a wall concerning my vices. I had become a drunk. Not just a “binge drink on occasion” kind of person. I had become an” overindulging on a daily basis” alcoholic. I have known for a while that I had a problem but would never face it. I went through the typical internal dialogue daily: I can quit whenever I want, I don’t have a problem, I drink less than (fill in the blank), I’m not hurting anything or anyone, why won’t people just leave me alone?!

Enough. I had to make a change. The truth is, I started by quitting for someone else. But as time elapsed, I saw why I should be quitting for me.

This isn’t directly an advice column. If you take something from it, good on you. This is about my struggles, which I try as often as possible to view through a lens of classical Stoic philosophy (more on that to come). Thank you for showing interest in this. It’s a work in progress, just like me.