3 Ways to Meditate to Add Mindfulness to Your Recovery

Let’s begin at the beginning. Prayer is asking. Meditation is listening. 

Everybody knows there are a lot of prayers out there. What we rarely discuss is how many ways there are to listen. Here are 3 Ways to Meditate to Add Mindfulness to Your Recovery.

1. The first way to add mindfulness to your recovery is traditional meditation

The first time I was introduced to meditation, it was suggested to help my anxiety. I couldn’t keep calm. I was having difficulty getting my thoughts together. My thoughts sounded like a tape recording—the same tired soundbytes repeating over and over.

I was told that meditation involves sitting still and counting breaths. 

If you can find yourself in a comfortable and quiet place, you can practice this more traditional brand of meditation. Count to five in your inhale. Count down from five in your exhale. Repeat. 

Two things you can pay attention to.

How is your body reacting? Are you antsy? Are you wanting to open your eyes and move on with your day? These are natural thoughts, but the goal of meditation is to let them pass from your mind. Gradually, you begin to sink into a contemplative state. It is good to set a timer so that you can’t disrupt the practice before it goes off.

The other thing to pay attention to is your thoughts. Are you stressed about something happening today? Are you harboring resentment about something that happened years ago? What does your fear and anxiety sound like in your mind? Meditation teaches you to let these worries and fears go. You can, in your mind’s eye, watch them travel in and out of your mind. Acknowledge their existence, but refuse their company.

In the Buddhist sense, meditation is the practice of letting go. It can help us detach from the things which occupy our mind—the suffering which consumes existence.

2. The second way to add mindfulness to your recovery is deep work

But there are other ways to meditate. 

If you are like me, you struggle with traditional meditations. Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes permanent. So if you struggle to sit still and count your breaths, it might be worth exploring other ways to slow down your body and mind.

Deep work is a trending phrase. The book of the same name by Cal Newport describes the importance of undistracted focus. 

What do you enjoy doing? 

It has to be something that you can lose yourself in for uninterrupted hours of concentration. This may be your job. If it is, keep it. You can meditate by working so long as you commit yourself to one task at a time, rather than the hundreds that you think you need to do at once.

My best illustration of deep work is from the basketball court. 

I play—schedule permitting—two pickup basketball games each week. They are my only true exercise. Each time I play, I can observe the phenomena of deep work. 

Without fail, I show up with a world of worry. It’s not hard, in this day and age, to accumulate unchecked anxieties. Our bank accounts, social media feeds, not to mention the whirling news of a busy world travel in our pockets wherever we go. Gradually, as I get into my second or third game, I’m not considering any of that. Basketball, as a sport, demands too much of my attention. You have to factor in where to pass the ball, when to shoot, cut, drive—which teammate needs help on defense. The considerations are endless, but unlike the worries of the workaday world, they are fluid. You don’t have the time to get stuck in one decision because you never stop confronting newer ones. There’s always the next play. And the next play is all that matters. 

I find that the game demands my undivided attention. For me, it’s bliss.

When I leave the court, without exception, I can’t recall what I was so damned worried about in the first place. I get to hit the reset button in my brain.

This is a major goal of meditation. Those in the know call it pattern interruption. We make ourselves aware that our thoughts come to us in looping patterns, and we develop the awareness to stop those patterns before they become downward spirals. 

Basketball may not be your thing. You may prefer to lose yourself in a book. You may enjoy knitting quilts. Whatever your interests, it’s never too late to try out a new hobby. You just might find yourself calling it meditation one day.

3. The third way to add mindfulness to your recovery is by becoming mindful

The last consideration I have for those seeking the right meditation is mindfulness. 

For a decade, I thought the main goal of meditation was to empty my mind. See category one, traditional meditation. The goal of letting thoughts pass, in my understanding, was to clear the mind entirely. 

I assumed this is how the Buddhists describe Nirvana—that elevated state of consciousness achieved by the prophet where absolute quiet overtakes our suffering. 

I’ve since changed my perspective.

It’s not emptying my mind that brings me peace; it’s becoming mindful. This means that I reach a state of awareness concerning myself and my thoughts. 

Lately, I haven’t had the time to play pickup basketball. Nor have I had the time to sit still for half hours on end. The good thing about practicing mindfulness is that it does not require a timer. 

I still my body. I roll my toes or touch my fingertips together to ground my thoughts. Then, I wait for a thought to pop in my mind. I listen to it. I can thank it for being there or ask it to leave. Whatever the case, I ask myself Can I do something about this today? If the answer is yes, then I take a mental note to do something about it. If the answer is no, then I have to let it go. Send it packing. Maybe that thought will return tomorrow. Maybe I can deal with it then. 

The point is that the goal of meditation may not be emptying your mind of thoughts. It might be becoming more aware of why you think the way you do. And that can be a mighty powerful tool in your recovery, in your life.


10 Great Addiction Recovery Blogs Worth Following

Blogging is a different kind of animal. 

Sort of social media, sort of magazine, the blog really is whatever the blogger wants to make it.

There are great resources out there for people who are struggling with addiction. Here is a list of blogs to follow. They can help you find an online community. These are bloggers, pure and simple; they share their experience. These are sites that post regularly, at least once a month. And they post solution-based insights with humor, heart, and honesty.

Walking in Sober Boots: 

https://soberboots.org/ 

I connected with Damian’s writing immediately. And because of our proximity, I’ve had the privilege of becoming his friend in real life. What I enjoy most about his writing is the depth of his analysis. Damian is a thinker. His blog is a thinking man’s guide to recovery. Not one step is taken lightly. I appreciate the different ways he approaches recovery. He finds his own way up the mountain so it is worthwhile to follow. 

Untipsy Teacher:

https://untipsyteacher.com/

Wendy is a retired school teacher. She is another blogger I am proud to know in real life. While she lives a few thousand miles away, Wendy is always making sacrifices to put her recovery first in her life. Her posts include explorations of nature, cooking, travel. But I think her writing and takeaways from life are best described as joyful. It is hard to leave her blog without feeling a piece of the gratitude that she exudes on the page. 

Fit Recovery:

https://fitrecovery.wordpress.com/

If you are looking to get active, hop on your bike and follow Jim. He posts frequently about the joys of hobby-building. His thing is cycling. But his love of life and passion for sobriety makes the blog a good read for anyone. His posts also have a great sense of humor.

Ainsobriety:

https://ainsobriety.wordpress.com/

Anne keeps it real. Really real. Sometimes the truth can be really offensive, but she finds a way to make write it gracefully. Anne is a tremendous supporter of other bloggers as well. She posts frequently about exactly what is going on in with her. I think of blogging as “live literature” and Anne is a great example of what live literature reads like. 

Unpickled:

https://unpickledblog.com/

Great name, right? They say once a cucumber becomes a pickle, the transformation can’t be undone. I’ve heard people explain their descent into alcoholism and addiction the same way. Problem drinkers and occasional users become alcoholics and addicts. So this blog, in that sense, does the impossible. What it does best, in my opinion, is help the newcomer. The writing is straightforward and kind-hearted. The blog is a great place to visit for practical tips on how to stay sober. 

Sober Courage:

https://sobercourage.com/

Magz is a great voice in the recovery blogosphere. Her posts remain current and true to herself. She pauses, reflects on where she is in her journey, and offers advice. If you’re someone who is tired of reading cold clinical advice, stop by Sober Courage for some real down-to-earth experience and practical help.

A Hangover Free Life:

https://ahangoverfreelife.com/

A Hangover Free Life is a completely unique space on the internet. Posts often involve pop culture references and different media. Most recently, a sober advent calendar was posted each day leading up to Christmas. 

The Sober Senorita:

https://sobersenorita.com/blog/

Kelly Fitzgerald has been blogging fearlessly for years. A real advocate for social acceptance for sobriety, Fitzgerald’s post are bold and very well-written. She’s parlayed her blog into a career of writing, marketing, and coaching.

Night Shade Gallery:

https://nightshadegallery.com/

Robert Crisp is the most talented writer I’ve come across in this blogging journey. His posts range in genre and content, but they all–especially his poetry–help put a little grace and beauty into this recovery process. 

Mrs. D’s Living Sober:

https://livingsober.org.nz/category/mrs-ds-blog/

Lotta Dann has been blogging her journey since 2011. She has since formed a community of sober people who are helpful and supportive. And as she continues to expand her fields and interests, she posts about it. Her writing is always honest and inspirational.


Staying Sober in the New Year

I was never one for New Year’s Resolutions.

I think New Year’s Eve, the celebration, and the general resolves that are expected on the following day are a bit contradictory.

This line of thinking is dangerous to one who suffers from addiction. Cold Turkey, in my opinion, is not the best way to recover. We place the drunkard’s holiday, New Year’s Eve, next to the “I swear I’m done with this” holiday, January 1st. Not a recipe for success, in my opinion.

It was Saint Jerome who said it best: “When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk about fasting.” The real challenge is keeping your vows when temptation knocks at your door. And you know it will. Alcohol and drugs seem to grow more socially acceptable and more easily accessible by the year. Addicts and alcoholics need more than a vow. We make vows all the time.

I remember waking up from a blackout, vowing never to drink Jagermeister again. On a weekday at least. While couch surfing in Venice Beach. Under a full moon. After winter solstice. My vows were like Playdoh: stretchy, supple, easily broken.

I even did it with tobacco.

Transitioning seamlessly between smoking, dipping, and vaping does not mean I’ve quit tobacco. The only thing I quit during that long spell of tobacco sampling was the hope of ever pinning down what my real problem was.

And maybe that’s the reason resolutions aren’t normally for addicts. 

They don’t solve the real problem.

I mean, if I were told that my body has a problem with peanuts, that if, like so many other people with the allergy, I could die if I eat another Planter’s, I would stop eating peanuts. Right then, right there. I wouldn’t ever think twice about it. Eating peanuts is something I can go without. The problem is, if you’re like me, drinking and drugging is the one thing I convinced myself I could never go without. I needed it the way fish need water. It was more of a matter of survival than a choice.

“New Year’s Resolutions put the emphasis on our will power, our ability to overcome our shortcomings.

This is why I cannot treat my drinking and drug use like it were a weight-loss affirmation. So then, what to do?

If you are reading this, and you think you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, seek help, please. New Year’s Resolutions put the emphasis on our will power, our ability to overcome our shortcomings. This makes addiction sound like a moral failing, not a mental illness. But the medical community, and an increasingly larger body of legislators, see addiction as an illness, not a defect of character.

I remember vowing to go without my drug of choice for the month of September. I withstood the mental onslaught of withdrawal for a good four weeks. I suffered internally, battling with myself in an endless war to avoid picking up. It wasn’t a battle I dared to let other people know about. I was going to go clean that month. And I was going to do it alone. And I did. Almost. On the 27th of September, I reasoned that four weeks was a month in all good practicality. And four full weeks occur at midnight on September 27th. And then I tried to remember the last hours of August. Did I give myself a grace period? Would it technically be a month clean in the afternoon of September 27th?

Staying clean for those 27 days did nothing to my resolve to be a sober man. It only demonstrated that in a battle of attrition, my addiction wins, every time.

I think the fundamental difference between making resolutions and recovering comes down to one word: surrender.

Resolutions are made by winners. Joining a gym to get in shape, installing an app to curb screen time, reading a book every week—these are wins. And our culture sees most gains in this binary, so it is very tempting to view sobriety the same way. It would be a massive accomplishment to go sober for the new year. But if seen only as a victory, won’t it be tempting to celebrate? And, if your like me, there’s only one way to truly celebrate.

Recovery, in most every form and program I have come across, begins with a faithful and honest admission: we have a problem. Best practice is to surrender to that fact. It is far better to accept I suffer from addiction than it is to fight with that monkey on my back. He’s a tough one to get a hold of, that monkey. But if I stop struggling to seize him, he can become one of those friendly monkeys that sits peacefully up there. Maybe that monkey becomes my friend.

“Resolutions are made by winners. Joining a gym to get in shape, installing an app to curb screen time, reading a book every week—these are wins.

That has been true in my experience, anyway. By surrendering, I can make my addiction work for me, rather than me working for it.

Knowing that I am an addict, that I will become slavishly dependent on whatever mind or mood-altering substance I ingest, I am certain that I cannot drink or use drugs safely. I also know that it is the first drink—or pill or smoke or snort—that gets me drunk. The drinks that follow are only a result of that first drink I picked up. So I don’t pick up, not because I am reigning victorious over my problem, but because I have surrendered to it.

Just because I don’t pick up that first drink or drug, doesn’t mean I won’t experience addiction. I’ve been hooked on an assortment of behaviors in lieu of those bad habits I broke in getting clean. The truth is I get hooked on most anything that makes me feel good: exercise, chocolate, even writing. What I have learned is that taking on these lesser addictions—some of them, like house cleaning, can be fairly productive—I have been able to shake those awful cravings that dogged my first year sober.

So, my advice, if you’re looking to be sober in the new year, is to make the most of what is left of 2019. Find your new habits now, so that January 1st becomes just another day for your sobriety.


 

6 Unexpected Changes in Your First Year Sober

So, let’s face it. Sobriety is really daunting. If you’re like me, the prospect of staying sober a year can seem downright impossible.

When I first got sober, I spent many hours with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in my hand—filled half way so my shaking hand wouldn’t spill it—thinking about what life will be like sober. I can admit that I didn’t think much of the sober lifestyle. I thought being sober would mean retreating to the Himalayan mountains to live some monkish existence removed from my fellow man.

I wish I were exaggerating here. But I literally could not imagine living alongside other human beings without resorting to drinking and drugging to cope.

It turns out that sobriety was nothing like I thought it would be. It was so much more.

1. SOBRIETY MAKES YOU MORE SOCIAL

I was the guy who snuck a few drinks on his own before pregaming with friends.

If you don’t know—I might be dating myself here—pregaming refers to the party before the party. It’s when you meet with your closest friends to loosen up before going to the larger party. I thought I just needed a little more of that social lubricant than most.

It made sense at the time because the majority of my social hours revolved around drinking. It was what I did to feel most comfortable around other people.

The idea that I could no longer drink made me think I could never be social again, never crack a good joke or banter with a friend or flirt with a woman.

The truth is that staying sober at parties gives me use of all my faculties and intelligence. I’m a much funnier person than I ever gave myself credit for, more witty than I ever knew.

The effect of alcohol was largely in my perceptions, not in reality.

2. KNOWING WHEN TO LEAVE

One thing that has changed is I don’t stay at parties as long. This is voluntary. Observing the course of a party is more of a science than it is an art. There is a threshold, after which, if you are sober, the party isn’t much fun anymore.

The main qualifier of passing that threshold is the level of drunkenness in the room. For the most part, when people get too drunk, they start repeating themselves. And they never, ever, act as funny as they think they are acting. It’s for this reason that I usually leave around midnight, when, like Cinderella’s spell, the magic of the buzz is spoiled by the bore of the drunken.

3. EXPECT TO BECOME COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SHOES

Part of the sober fun of party going and other aspects of social life is the gift of the sober identity. I quote my friend and author Lisa Neuman here. “QUOTE HER?” It is having confidence in who are that is the surprising LIKE YOURSELF MAYBE?

I never thought I’d like the person I became sober, mainly because I didn’t know or hang out with any sober people.

I was surprised that sobriety did wonders for my self-confidence. I think this has something to do with actually remembering most of what I say and do. It’s hard to be too confident in yourself when you honestly can’t remember the way you behaved the night before.

4. EVERYDAY LIFE IS MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE

I write a blog called the miracle of the mundane.

I try to capture in my writing the incredible experience of re-discovering the joys of daily life. I imagined growing up and having a family as surrendering in some battle. How could I possibly deal with the boring minutiae of adulting without a drink or drug in my hand?

I was surprised to discover that what I thought was minutiae is actually wonderment. Sobriety creates these incredible moments of joy that I never want to miss. I grow more invested in domestic life each year, and my life continues to grow more rewarding.

5. EXPECT TO BE INSPIRED

Alcohol and drugs are not the gateway to creativity I once thought they were. As it turns out, the sober mind is capable of great creative feats.

There was a time when I needed a certain level of toxicity in my blood before I could sit down to write. It was a lie. I didn’t need it, no matter what my stinking thinking told me. Addiction is a monster. Monsters learn how to survive and grow. But they can diminish if you stop feeding them.

I not only have more frequent creative inspiration, but sobriety allows me the discipline to prolong projects. It took me five consecutive months of waking up at 4:30 in the morning to finish my novel. In doing so, I achieved a level of consistency and routine I never could have accomplished drunk.

In reflection, the more I drank and drugged, the less I was able to write. As proof, I was writing a screenplay in my bottom. While much shorter than a novel, I took the same five months of time and was unable to complete it. I didn’t even finish half of it.

6. YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I never dreamt of finding enjoyment at concerts or movies without a buzz or a high. Going to concerts sober was sacrilege. How boring!

Watching live music or going to the movie theater were activities that needed enhancement. I thought drugs and alcohol brought these experiences to life, gave them a finer texture. Yes, I was the person who, while high, wanted to theorize about The Matrix.

In truth, I’ve come to enjoy movies and music on much deeper levels while sober. My conversations about art have become more informed and richer.

In short, I can go see a movie like Inception and enjoy it more because I can follow it better. What’s more, I don’t need to see it again to try and understand what the hell is going on.


Full Disclosure: Outing Yourself as A Person in Recovery at Work

This was my third year speaking to the senior class on retreat in the school where I work.

As usual, I shared my journey in recovery and the faith that came as a result. With 12 years sober, I am fortunate that my school trusts me to share a nearly full disclosure of my history with drugs and alcohol. I feel grateful for their trust.

It has been a long road. In fact, three years ago, when I first shared my story with a group of seniors, it was the first time many other faculty chaperones in the room had heard my story as well. I was able to say to them in full honesty, “I am about to share with you some things that no one else at the school knows about me.” It made for a powerful moment. If not for them, for my journey as a man in long term recovery from addiction and alcoholism.

“I was happy to have my recovery circle and my professional circle completely separate. Recovery was a thing I did after hours, on weekends.”

I can remember my interview to get the job. I only had a year and a half sober then. I certainly wasn’t eager to broadcast that I was in recovery. As receptive as those interviewing me may have been, it felt like a risk. I used vague language to cover up the gaps in my resume. I didn’t mention my rehab experience. I am lucky to have a clean record so there were no red flags in my background check.

The fact that I am in recovery surfaced in one conversation over the course of my first seven years at the school where I worked, and the teacher I spoke about it with left the following year.

Not that I cared. 

I was happy to have my recovery circle and my professional circle completely separate. Recovery was a thing I did after hours, on weekends. No one knew that I worked a program of recovery or piled up day-after-day of continuous sobriety in their midst.

In the process of being a closeted man in recovery I learned a few things.

Firstly, no one cares that I don’t drink. I mean, tell someone you’re a sober alcoholic and you’ll have his attention, but when it comes to saying no to a drink at a Christmas party, people don’t mind.

I thought everyone would obsess over the fact that I was sober. But, as is true in so many cases, I am the only one who obsesses the way I do about alcohol. I thought saying yes to a drink was mandatory; turns out saying no to a drink is customary and acceptable.

“When I was newly sober, boundaries weren’t my thing. I was quite sloppy about what I said and to whom, and didn’t much care about the repercussions. As a sober man, I’ve learned the importance of boundaries. ”

What I mean to communicate to anyone who is insecure about outing themselves as a person in recovery at work is Do you really have to? You may not want to or need to. It may be more helpful if you don’t. It is your recovery. You recover however is best for you.

Now, your line of work may require you to identify as a sober person. Maybe you entertain clients for a living or travel with hard-drinking colleagues who are insistent you partake in after-hour celebrations.

If these or similar scenarios pertain to you then you should consider creating some healthy boundaries for yourself.

I know when I was newly sober, boundaries weren’t my thing. I was quite sloppy about what I said and to whom, and didn’t much care about the repercussions. As a sober man, I’ve learned the importance of boundaries. But I also had to learn that making boundaries does not mean stampeding over territory. What I mean is, I don’t have to tell people all the gritty details of why I don’t drink. While certain people may press me for the details, those people have no right to my reasons why. And should those same people have a problem with your withholding reasons, contact your union rep or human resources agent: no one can force you to drink, certainly not drugs.

With that written, I’d like to share with readers that outing myself as a man in recovery has become an incredible asset to my professional career.

It began when I already had nine years sober, mind you. Again, don’t let anyone else tell you how to walk this path; you must journey it for yourself. I couldn’t stay anonymous about recovery after starting a blog where I write and post articles about recovery.

I didn’t want the administration at my school to stumble upon it one day. My job is incredibly important to me. I love to teach and, now with three kids, I am building a life for my family around that career.

So I told who I thought were the two most important people to me at the school at that time: the principle and the coach who I worked under.

For me, the process felt like I was making amends. I asked for a private meeting and got to the truth quickly, unflinchingly, the way that only a near-ten-year sober person can.

I was shocked at how supportive they both were. I had the benefit of years of service as a reliable employee, I’m sure that helped. These were two men who had never seen me taken a drink.

“I have heard met people who suffer form addiction who, in order to stay clean, had to be honest about past wrong doings. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

I am aware that not everyone has that luxury. A talent agency was my last employer while I was actively drinking and using. I have since made amends to individuals who work there over the phone as it’s not a good idea for me to return to Los Angeles where the agency is located.

Those phone calls were much different. They were hard. And, even then, I did not have to return to their employ.

Some of you reading this may be facing more dire circumstances. You may have to face some sort of music for the things you’ve said and done at the workplace. Take courage if that is the case.

I have heard met people who suffer form addiction who, in order to stay clean, had to be honest about past wrong doings. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. I’ve even heard stories of sufferers who had to confess to wrongdoing only to go to jail. But they served their time without picking up and were released onto the free world as clean and sober individuals.

And that’s what matters most. 

There’s No Place Like Sober For The Holidays

The holidays can test your sobriety for several reasons.

Issue One: Family

Deck the halls indeed.

For better or worse, your family plays an unrivaled role in your personality. This means that, even when you leave your family to create your own life, you take them with you. You take the expectations, the doubts, the dreams of others and carry them on your shoulders.

What came first, the family or the drinking problem? It’s not worth debating. Recovery requires self-evaluation. We stop looking to blame others for our behavior and start to focus on personal responsibility. We become accountable for our actions. There’s little use in blaming family.

But, of course, family plays a role.

There is no normal family, in my opinion. The idea of normalcy is how we believe we should be behaving, never how we actually are. Coming home for the holidays, as so many of us do, can pose a threat to our sobriety. All the old triggers can emerge. You don’t like my career? Have an issue with my spouse? Think I should be visiting more often? More questions than these can be answered with a swig of the bottle or the pop of a pill—or worse.

“There is no need to fall into old footsteps. You are too busy setting a new course in your life. ”

My suggestion: own your changes. 

You are no longer the person your family thought you were. That is a good thing. Whether or not they accept the changes you have made doesn’t change the fact that it is good. Have confidence in your new self.

There is no need to fall into old footsteps. You are too busy setting a new course in your life. If possible, take some time before the holidays to think of the ways your sobriety will be tested. Map out your triggers and the people who tempt you to pull them.

On paper, you can set down your alternative responses. Rather than lashing out in anger, lust, or relapse, what will you say? Write your script and keep it in your back pocket.

Your family will not fully understand the ways you’ve changed. That isn’t good or bad—it’s fact. Don’t let their misunderstanding ruin the person you are working so hard to change.

Problem Two: Idle Time

The holidays are a vacation. Sometimes we can forget that. It can feel like full-time work, but in reality, there will be idle time. If you’re accustomed to the 40 hour work week, there will be large windows of free time that you are not used to navigating sober.

If you’re like me, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

Downtime in my mind becomes downward-spiral time. I’m better when I’m busy. If I let too much time go when it is just me-myself-and-I, my thoughts become very convincing.

Then all it takes is a phone call from an old friend. “You back in town? Want to roll a blunt?” Well, I’ve got nothing better to do, you might think.

Solution: don’t go idle into that good night, my friend. 

Is exercise your thing? Do it every morning. Do you go to meetings every day? Go twice each day. Do you like to journal? Write a memoir. Been meaning to get to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Read the whole Millenium series. This might be the only time I’d recommend binge-watching some show on Netflix. Just don’t make it Breaking Bad if you smoke meth or Weeds if you smoke—well, you get the picture.

Problem Three : Old Habits Die Hard

And yes, by the way, Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever made.

I’ve read that it takes two months to successfully form a habit.

A football coach gave me the stat. If I wanted to change something in how I play, I had eight weeks to make it involuntary. He was telling me this to focus on my off-season training. Once the season rolled around, I had to worry more about playbook and game prep. I only have that precious off-season time to change my motor-mechanics to achieve what is commonly known as “muscle memory”.

My early recovery was filled with new muscle memories.

I began to do things like make my bed, eat three square meals, talk about my day, pray, write, meditate. These were all great new habits to create for myself. And, once started, they got easier to do. I have to admit that prayer seemed like an onerous chore until I started praying every day. Then it was as routine as hitting the button to stop my alarm clock. It’s just something I did.

But the holidays throw a wrinkle into the creation of new habits.

As sound, as we think we’ve become in creating new routines, gathering around with family in gone-but-not-forgotten locations, can bring back something more powerful: tradition.

“It’s the hap-happiest time of the year, right? Nothing says holidays like a party with your colleagues. Likely it is a gathering that you don’t particularly wish to be at, but show up to in order to get your bonus. ”

Unlike habits, traditions may only come around once a year. Maybe it’s a hotel-sized bottle of liquor that siblings sneak into your stocking or a yearly splurge on grandpa’s pain medication or extended trips to the bathroom to alter the chemicals in your brain. I don’t know where your drinking and drugging traditions once took you, but be warned: they will return with a vengeance.

Solution: create a new tradition.

I have a corny example for you. My longest friend in recovery and I used to exchange gratitude lists every Thanksgiving. We began the tradition at the Oxford House where we lived in our first year sober and then did it every year after that.

I know that some recovery clubhouses offer round-the-clock meetings. Maybe your new tradition could be one of service. What better way to ring in the new year than brewing coffee for a midnight meeting?

New sober traditions are out there. You just have to find them. And if you don’t find any? Peruse the resources here at WorkIt Health or stop by my blog. We’ve got your back.

Problem Four: The Christmas Party.

It’s like Die Hard out there. Only instead of bare feet over glass, it’s a sea of free booze at your feet.

It’s the hap-happiest time of the year, right? Nothing says holidays like a party with your colleagues. Likely it is a gathering that you don’t particularly wish to be at, but show up to in order to get your bonus.

It can be mighty tempting to forget to ask if the eggnog has any bourbon.

Solution: Don’t go. 

I mean it.

If you are newly sober and have kept the same job, the people at work my only know and expect the Tom who gets rip-roaring drunk and tells dirty jokes. They may be pressing Tom as to why he isn’t drinking. Don’t put yourself through that.

A lesson I had to learn in early recovery is that it doesn’t benefit me or my sobriety to put myself to the test. That’s not good, sober, thinking. It’s potentially disastrous thinking, in fact. It’s the old way of thinking when I would hold on to the bar with white-knuckles to prove that I can only order one drink. It’s insanity, really.

Have to go?

Have your non-alcoholic drink of choice ready. Bring your own six pack of Schweppes Ginger Ale. I enjoy having a drink in my hand at parties. But it doesn’t have to be hard cider.

My celebratory bubbly of choice? Martinelli’s sparkling cider. I highly recommend it.


No. Drinking Alcohol in Small Amounts is Not Good For Your Health.

You’ve likely heard that having an occasional glass of wine benefits the drinkers health.

I know I’ve heard it. 

A 2004 study published by the Oxford University Press cited evidence that lighter drinkers are at a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (Klatsky 324). The study mentioned the myriad of health concerns for heavy drinkers and binge drinkers: high blood pressure and heart rhythm disturbances to name two. Klatsky found that wine, especially red, might provide extra protection against heart-related ailments, so long as drinkers observe a healthy threshold of intake.

“You don’t have to have read this 2004 study to have heard that drinking a glass of red wine daily is good for you. “Wine O’Clock” is a popular term for parents who drink wine once their children are asleep. Not to get a buzz, mind you, but because it’s good for you. ”

To better define that threshold, Klatsky referred to a century-old common sense measurement known as the “Anstie Rule”. The rule recommended a limit of three drinks daily. This rule, according to Klatsky, “was intended to apply primarily to mature men, but Sir Anstie was a distinguished neurologist and public health activist who emphasized individual variability in the ability to handle alcohol” (327).

This common sense approach is proliferated in popular opinion. You don’t have to have read this 2004 study to have heard that drinking a glass of red wine daily is good for you. “Wine O’Clock” is a popular term for parents who drink wine once their children are asleep. Not to get a buzz, mind you, but because it’s good for you.

For the person who suffers from alcoholism, no amount of alcohol is a good idea. The very definition of alcoholism is the inability to control one’s consumption. Often, the alcoholic mind will tell the sufferer that she can have one drink. But once one drink is in the system, another drink follows. And then another drink, inexplicably, follows that.

I  have had first hand account of this phenomena of craving. In my drinking career, having one drink or only a few drinks, sounded like a fine idea. At one point, I kept the pull tabs I tore off of beer cans in my pocket to keep track of my consumption and monitor my intake. Usually, in the morning, the tabs would be gone and I would wake up with the taste of tequila in my mouth. I could never keep track of those tabs like I intended.

“For those who might not identify as alcoholic, public opinion for several decades has held that small amounts of alcohol consumed on occasion can be good for your cardiovascular health.”

A key line of reasoning for alcoholics to understand is that the first drink gets you drunk. Because drunks possess a high tolerance for the effects produced by alcohol, the heavy-drinker can easily rationalize that it is not the first drink, but the fourth or fifth, maybe sixth that gets him drunk. But if the first drink leads inevitably to the fourth or sixth or twelfth, than there is no getting drunk without that first sip. And, thankfully, if the first sip never happens, the excess can be avoided.

For those who might not identify as alcoholic, public opinion for several decades has held that small amounts of alcohol consumed on occasion can be good for your cardiovascular health.

New studies are surfacing which point to the harmful effects of alcohol, even for those capable of enjoying the drug in small amounts.

A Springer study conducted by a host of contributors found that alcohol of any amount created a risk for breast cancer in Mexican women. The study was a population-based case-control study of 1,000 breast cancer cases (863). The study found that, at least with Mexican woman, any alcohol intake increases the risk of breast cancer.

While this may be true only for Mexican woman, it is enough to question the common sense threshold of healthy drinking that has dominated the new millennium’s popular opinion.

Another recent study addressed the population bias in Klatsky’s findings: “Western observational studies show moderate alcohol use, compared with never use, positively associated with health. Moderate users differ systematically from others, making these observations vulnerable to confounding” (1054). The Hong Kong based study found that moderate drinkers tend to be the more affluent and well off, so sampling moderate drinkers is going to favor the cardiovascularly healthy before alcohol consumption is taken into consideration. Rather than focusing on the effect of alcohol, this study analyzed the health attributes of its moderate consumers.

“While the science of alcohol’s effect on the body continues to work its way through the myths that have dominated western opinion, it is safer to say, whether you suffer from alcohol abuse or not, that if you want to be healthy, total abstinence is best.”

Having written all this, I often feel like returning to my days of health class in high school. Alcohol is, fundamentally, a toxin. The effect produced by alcohol is a result of the human bodies inability to process the chemicals in drink. If any common sense threshold should be used, it is the threshold of abstinent. Poisoning your body is never the best thing you can do.

You can’t always trust popular opinion.

I’ve heard recently, for example, that psychotropic mushrooms are the new health craze. People have reported and research is being conducted to prove the worthiness of psychedelics for sufferers from different traumas, including drug abuse.

While research is still inconclusive, my common sense response is that solving one drug problem with another will never be the best practice solution. Of course, there are circumstances that warrant the intervention of drugs for a solution to problems in brain chemistry and mood disorders. But I seriously doubt if any empirical studies will ever yield drugs as the answer to drug problems.

While the science of alcohol’s effect on the body continues to work its way through the myths that have dominated western opinion, it is safer to say, whether you suffer from alcohol abuse or not, that if you want to be healthy, total abstinence is best.


Yes, Men Need Self-Care Too

The Workit team asked if I could write an article on self-care because articles on self-care aren’t written by men often. My instinct told me they were right about that.

Self-care sounds soft, too vulnerable a topic for a man to tackle. 

But just to make sure, I googled the term and clicked around. Sure enough, every article on the self-care search list was written by a woman, although the top hit was the song of the same name by Mac Miller. It’s hard to tell what that song is about, but I know getting high is important to him. The video is of Miller hot-boxing a coffin. This is eerie to watch with the knowledge that Mac Miller died of an overdose in 2018.

Self-destruction is more popular for males than self-care. We love the Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club mentality: “Maybe self-improvement wasn’t the answer. Maybe self-destruction was the answer.” That story taps into something I appreciate very much, the need for reckless abandon. I was a heavy drinker and drug user. I played football and rugby. I enjoy the release of the senses, the feeling of oblivion.

In fact, getting sober hasn’t changed my need for self-destruction. 

I continue to abuse my body—playing pickup basketball until my leg muscles fail or depriving myself of sleep in order to complete projects around the house. I need challenges and higher callings in my sober life. And sometimes achieving goals conflicts with basic self-care.

With that being said, here are some manly ways to practice self-care in recovery:

1. Care for your word

Recovery has taught me to be as impeccable with my word as possible. This was a big change for me. Normally, words were primarily used to get the things I needed. And, as my addiction spiraled, my needs became more and more immediate. Carefully doing what I say I will do and not making promises to do things I might not be able to do has revolutionized my existence. I no longer second guess myself. The more I practice this form of self-care, the more I am able to recount the things I say and do. I’m getting to know myself so well, in fact, that I can think that doesn’t sound like something I’d say and be right the vast majority of the time. Before getting sober, there was no telling (or remembering) what I’d say.

2. Show Up

My late sponsor had a nifty saying. He’d tell me, “Ninety percent of life is showing up. The other ten percent? Showing up.” Obviously, he was a big believer in the power of being there. And I am beginning to understand why. Showing up may not be so revolutionary for people who haven’t experienced the throes of alcoholism. There is a lack of control that accompanies this mental illness, a compulsion that is all-consuming.

It is a gift to know where I am going to sleep tonight and that I will wake up in the morning refreshed and energized. A result of self-care for someone in recovery is establishing or re-establishing self-trust. Doing what I say I will do and showing up when I say I will show up develops self-esteem and meaning in life.

3. Give away what you’ve been given

A great paradox in recovery is that giving it away increases your share. It is a paradox because the world operates according to the opposite principle. Under normal circumstances, we are encouraged to earn and save. And if we give something away, make sure what we give is tax-deductible. Recovery teaches a different sort of charity. In order to stay sober myself, I have to give away freely the wisdom others have imparted to me. I believe this is the key to long-term sobriety. After a few years, the desperation to stay clean and sober can lose its edge. But when you help someone who is early on in his sober journey, you are reminded of where you were when you started. It is a humbling experience and can serve as a constant reminder that sobriety has to be a top priority in your life.

4. Love yourself in order to love others

The process of recovery means learning to love yourself. When it comes to self-care, it’s hard to be motivated to do what is right if you don’t believe you deserve it. Loving myself allowed me to truly love others. I can’t say this would be the case for everyone. I’m sure there are people who can experience love by loving another first. In my case, my addiction and alcoholism carried a mix of selfishness and self-loathing—a deadly concoction. Proof was everywhere. I wasn’t seeking out good relationships because I felt undeserving and I believed love meant heartbreak. I had to learn to take care of myself first. I’ve since learned how to care for others.

5. Practice humility

My interpretation of humility needed an overhaul when I got clean and sober. Before then, my best definition of practicing humility was being humiliated. As it turns out, humiliation is just the underside of ego. Whether I’m thinking too much of myself or too little of myself, it is thinking of myself that is the bad practice. Humility involves thinking of myself less often. This requires a dedicated effort. I’m not wired to consider others first. I must actively engage my concern for others. But when I do, magic happens. My world, all my petty concerns, shrinks. It is quite a relief to know that I am not responsible for things like other people’s opinions of me or, in the more extreme case, the fate of the universe.

6. Don’t apologize; act differently

Part of my recovery included an amends process. I seek out those I’ve harmed for restitution. My mentor advised me not to apologize. In fact, it was a rule. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” I was told to vow a change in behavior. See self-care tip number one. If I am impeccable with my word, then I have to live up to that vow. He explained that apologies were excuses that didn’t change the course of action. By dedicating to a different line of behavior, I could make the amends necessary to maintain sobriety and experience the bliss of living without regret.

And the self-care of recovery continues. After making amends, we learn to not repeat the behaviors that brought on apologies in the first place. Better than having to say, “I’m sorry,” is not enacting the behavior that brought the apology on in the first place.

So there you have it, folks. Self-care for men. I don’t know much about skin exfoliation or yoga, but I do know this when it comes to self: it is an inside job. Changing what is on the outside will never fulfill me. It’s who I am on the inside that ultimately counts.


Here’s Why You Don’t Need Drugs or Alcohol to Have a Good Time

While in my addiction, there were several activities that I convinced myself I needed to be drunk or high in order to enjoy.

Live music was a good example. Who would want to go to a concert sober?

There was something in the feel of the music, in my opinion. Drugs just enhanced the experience. The same went for going to the movies. The big screen seemed bigger in the right state of mind. The 32-once coke was sweeter too. I thought it was the nature of these activities that made me want to get high.

This same idea spread into other areas of life.

Socializing was always easier with a few drinks in my system. But, after a while, I became so convinced that drinks could help me loosen up, that I couldn’t be at a party sober. I’d have to drink before meeting up with friends to drink some more.

I began needing a drink (let’s face it—several) to be intimate with a woman. And I became unable to determine how much was too much.

The last bastion of sober fun was athletics. I enjoyed team sports. Once I began to get high before practice in college, I was certain that I performed better. The same went for classes. If I attended lectures high, I figured I had to take the tests high or else my brain couldn’t process the information accurately.

I never imagined bringing that lifestyle to the workplace with me. Until it was there. And once there, it was like I could never work without it.

The pattern was clear. What always started as a tipsy experiment resulted in utter dependence. Of course I didn’t needed to be high in order to play the sports I loved. I was just a person suffering from addiction. And a sufferer is unable to see the red flags in himself.

The action of getting sober required a radical transition in the way I thought about things.

If you can imagine the disease of addiction as a voice inside your head, mine told me that if I stayed sober, I couldn’t go to concerts or movies. I couldn’t be friendly with men or intimate with women. My disease tried to convince me that the activities for which I needed to be high in order to enjoy—which by the time I got so sober was virtually everything—would not be available to me sober. The grip of my addiction was so firm that I thought I would have to become a monk, cloistered in some far-off mountain.

Fortunately, my bottoming out was grisly enough that life in the monastery sounded like a wonderful alternative. Addiction took everything from me. By everything, I mean my will to live. I was ready to die. I welcomed death, in fact. Like many other addicts in their bottom, it was then that I became willing. It’s not that I wanted to be sober, necessarily, I just wanted to stop letting drugs and alcohol have dominion over my every thought and action.

Getting clean was terrifying. I thought I would have to become a brand new person and that scared the hell out of me.

I was wrong.

I remember going to my first concert sober. It was The Black Keys after their album Attack and Release came out. In the days leading up to the show, I prepared myself mentally. I imagined that going to a concert sober would be like paratrooping behind enemy lines. I would have to operate in stealth and secret. My intentions weren’t to enjoy the show, but to survive it.

I was sober for about a year at that point and had learned enough to know that the problems I had in life and the issues that I took with life were related to my abuse of drugs and alcohol. I could no longer blame circumstances or crowds. I had also learned that the loss of my will to live was a result of my incessant use.

But I had very little practice in public abstinence. I could only imagine what it was like saying no to someone offering me a drink or a drug. In my using career, I don’t think I ever turned down an opportunity to get drunk or high, it’s as if the word “no” was not in my vocabulary.

So rather than getting wasted before the show, I played out scenarios in my head. If someone offers you a drink, just explain to them how you are allergic to alcohol. And although you’re dying to have a drink, you know better because just one drink will ignite an insatiable craving that will leave you shaking down bouncers to score something stronger. Or if someone offers you a toke, explain to them weed is not good medicine for you. In fact it is extremely addictive and highly habit forming.

I’m not kidding when I say that I imagined things could go down that way. I thought staying sober required public service announcement or a lawyer’s opening statement.

Thankfully, I never needed to address the jury. In fact, I distinctly remember what it felt like at the Black Keys concert to say “No.” A kind woman had two beers in her hand and offered me one. It was time. I said, “No,” a little too loud, probably. And I gestured my hand across the space between us as if I was performing a Jedi mind trick. She said, “OK,” and walked away.

Was that it? That was all it took?

The lesson I learned at my first concert was that no one else is as obsessed with my drinking is I am. And if they are obsessed with my drinking, it is their problem, not mine.

With that battle over, I danced and sang and jumped with the crowd. A concert is much more enjoyable with all your senses running at full capacity. I took in more of the nuances of the show than I ever had before. And I got hooked on something new: going to shows to sober.

Soon enough, I began to do all the other things sober that I had previously told myself would be impossible without getting drunk or high beforehand.

It turns out that sobriety does not withhold from me all the activities I enjoyed to do drunk, it makes those activities more enjoyable. And what’s even better, sobriety opens up a realm of things to do I never thought possible, including sharing my story with the world in hopes that it might help someone.