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.

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Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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.

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IMG_5246+(1)+(1)+(1) (1).jpegMark Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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 drug.

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. 

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

Becoming a Better Person through Recovery

A great joy of my clean time has been discovering true satisfaction.

It’s not that I wasn’t ever happy while high. It’s just that there’s a big difference between satisfaction and happiness. In fact, getting high produces a sort of happiness. It’s instantaneous, satisfying like microwavable dinners. It works—for a while. I craved that temporary release from misery, that brief sojourn in happy land. Drugs take you there, only your stay shortens each trip, and your longing to return becomes crippling.

Cravings took me to selfish places. It’s hard to think of others while jonesing. All that matters when you are in that place is the next fix. It’s helpful for me to understand addiction as an illness, and one of the symptoms is extreme selfishness. If I am sick with selfishness, I can get better. If I think of myself as a selfish person, I wallow in shame.

My happy spells while high got shorter and shorter, and I thought of others less and less in the intervals between fixes. I became alienated from others. And what I’d like to get across to anyone reading this article is that real satisfaction comes from engaging with others, participating in relationships, developing empathy and selfless love.

“Recovery has taught me the difference between isolation and solitude, between happiness and contentment.”

It’s not as if I got clean and sober to become everyone’s best friend. Not even close. The first thing I had to do in sobriety was learn to be my own friend, my own ally and advocate. While I know this is not everyone’s journey, I first learned to love others by loving myself. To love oneself means to care for one’s body, mind, spirit.

I learned the joys of the solitary: reading, writing, meditating. It was then I discovered why I needed drugs and alcohol in the first place. Substances gave me permission to be myself. And so I found them necessary to be around others. I didn’t know who I was. As a result, I tried to be many different things to many different people.

“While drinking and using, I reveled in being alone. It was permission to use how I wanted without anyone judging me for it. The exact opposite is true in sobriety. I have learned to genuinely enjoy the company of other people.”

I could have been in a room with my closest friends and family, and still feel a great distance between myself and the world around me. It felt like I was a spectator in my own life.

Discovering solitude and learning to love myself happened in early recovery. I could hole up alone all day, reading and writing, not caring for the world outside.

Now eleven years sober, I have made a new revelation: I enjoy the company of other people. As proof, my family was away last weekend. In my mind, it had the makings of a glorious time. I would go to a coffee shop and read, maybe write a little. I’m in the middle of a great book, the biography of Frederick Douglass by David Blight.

I found myself, only two hours into their departure, wishing I made plans with friends. I most wished, actually, that I could someone interesting, someone who could tell me their story, whatever it was.

While drinking and using, I reveled in being alone. It was permission to use how I wanted without anyone judging me for it. The exact opposite is true in sobriety. I have learned to genuinely enjoy the company of other people.

Recovery has taught me the difference between isolation and solitude, between happiness and contentment.

“In addition, recovery has taught me that no matter how lofty my goals and ambitions become, ultimate fulfilment comes from service to others.”

Contentment, in my opinion, does not come easily. It’s difficult to foster satisfaction. It requires doing the uncomfortable thing. One of my pet spiritual theories is that, when presented with a dilemma, God’s will for me is the more difficult decision. In practical terms, this means picking up the phone and making the call, going to a recovery group when I am dog tired, relinquishing my pride by telling the truth. Recovery has taught me to enjoy these practices, to stop settling for what makes me comfortable and happy in the moment.

It’s not as if doing the right thing has not cured me of my addiction. If a fix is understood as a fixation, I am still very much addicted. Only I jones after different results.

I’ve developed, for example, a sick obsession with finishing things. I loathe to leave a job undone. This comes at a cost. Mainly, my agenda takes charge. I become obsessed.

This is especially true when I work with my hands. I’m not satisfied until the job is completely finished.

In this way, I have been able to use my addictive behavior—a trait most perceive as debilitating—to my advantage. This is not a perfect course to take. I have long accepted that my struggles for perfection and praise and acceptance are all a part of my curious mental makeup. What helps is using this self-knowledge to set my sights on substantive results.

“Without recovery, without my life as a clean and sober man, I would not know this unique brand of joy. ”

In addition, recovery has taught me that no matter how lofty my goals and ambitions become, ultimate fulfilment comes from service to others. The more I realize this, the more I grow and cultivate the spiritual nature within. After exhausting all my attempts at self-fulfillment, it is when I pick up the phone and call some newcomer in recovery that I feel restored.

My children have helped me learn a great deal on this subject. When taking my son to his first movie theater experience, I observed that it was more fun for me to watch him enjoying the movie than to sit and try to enjoy the movie myself. That thrill—the full and complete investment in another person—is a major departure from the misery of selfishness that I once knew.

Without recovery, without my life as a clean and sober man, I would not know this unique brand of joy.

It’s as if all my attempts for self-improvement failed me until I stopped focusing on the results, stopped jonesing for that fix. Focusing instead on my actions and behaviors bring about the results I had always been after in the first place.

From one vantage point, not a lot has changed since my drinking days: I continue to seek out what makes me feel good. Only in recovery, in sobriety, I make sure that the things I am seeking give me a long-term enjoyment, not a quick fix. I am still hooked on a feeling, but now I know that the best feeling is self-esteem. And to acquire self-esteem, I must do esteem-able things.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

It’s Time to Examine the Racial Disparity in Addiction Treatment

Why do we accept struggling with drinking, but stigmatize those struggling with other addictions? And what does race have to do with it?

A recent study suggests that income and race might be a key determining factor in buprenorphine prescriptions. The drug helps prevent the likelihood of overdose by inhibiting the high produced by opioids. Similar to the way that Chantix prevents people from smoking, buprenorphine prevents people from craving for opioids. The University of Michigan study found that treatment using this opioid agonist might be limited to more wealthy and white communities.

If proven true, the finding should not come at a surprise. 

The Medical Opinion on Alcohol

It took a while for alcoholism to become widely accepted as an illness. Bill Wilson and friends chose to lead their iconic sobriety manual, commonly referred to as the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, with an opinion from a renowned physician, Dr. William Silkworth. This demonstrates that there was a need to shed the stigma of the drunk with no willpower. In fact, the book describes the very nature of the alcoholic illness in terms of powerlessness over alcohol. And a voice from a doctor helped to persuade the public to consider alcoholism a mental disease, not a moral failure.

The anonymity of the program allows alcoholics to recover without fear of shame and humility. On page 562 of the fourth edition big book, anonymity is listed as one of twelve traditions of the group. The success of Alcoholics Anonymous, which in its latest edition published in 2001 lays claim to a worldwide membership of 1,000,000, has helped change public opinion about alcoholism. Namely, the alcoholic is not a man or woman with low morals or failing will power, he or she is one who suffers from alcoholism, a commonly accepted mental disease whereby the sufferer cannot control how much he or she drinks once s/he starts. This is what Dr. Silkworth referred to as the phenomenon of craving, coupled with a cunning mental obsession for the next drink when sober.

Bill Wilson also elicited the opinion of renowned psychologist Dr. Carl Jung, referred to as the “celebrated physician” in chapter two of AA’s text, helping to enhance and elaborate on the nature of the illness as a fundamentally spiritual one.

In these ways, recovering alcoholics have, in their sobriety, leant clout to the notion that alcoholics should be treated as sick people, not criminals.

The Story of Addiction Takes a Different Turn

A 1914 New York Times article created an uproar about a “new madness” surfacing in the southern United States. Crazed southern negroes were purportedly taking to murder with the proliferation of this new stimulant, cocaine.

Dr. Hamilton Wright, United States Opiate Commissioner, testified to Congress that southern women were in danger because the drug created sex-crazed negroes. Police Chief Jacob Haager added that once negroes get too much cocaine, “they are likely to go on the war-path, and when in this condition, they give the police officer who attempts to arrest him…a hard time.”

By the end of that year, Woodrow Wilson signed The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act into law, enforcing sanctions on opioid imports.

It was not the first time that the American Government passed laws targeting African Americans. After the Civil War, vagrancy laws made it illegal to be homeless, to be poor. Newly freed slaves, beginning with nothing after slavery, were arrested and sent to work for the state through the criminal justice system. The 13th amendment, while abolishing slavery, maintained that a convicted criminal was a slave to the state.

Around 100 years ago, drug use became another means to impose a hard line on the black population of America. This trend continued into the 80s and 90s, when crack cocaine replaced sniff cocaine as the negro drug of choice in the eyes of the United States government. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 established mandatory minimum sentences for the use of certain amounts of cocaine, and made crack one hundred times more punitive. The fear that crack was more harmful than cocaine has not been substantiated by empirical evidence. The public perceived crack, a much less expensive cousin to cocaine, as a problem for the black community. The death of Len Bias helped create this perception. The ‘86 bill represented the same fear presented to Congress 72 years earlier: a drug-crazed black man is a threat to society.

The country is beginning to turn the corner on this unfair sentencing, a symptom of the mass incarceration epidemic. President Obama passed the Fair Sentencing Act to shorten the disparity between cocaine and crack users. President Trump signed the First Step Act into law, helping the incarcerated transition back into citizenship.

But whatever progress can be made, for a century, America has seen African Americans as addicts, and addicts as criminals. There is no separating the role race and class have played in determining how our system perceives addiction.

How Race Has Affected the Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic presents a unique challenge to American governance because the drug affects a larger swath of the demographic. “On the basis of epidemiological studies, structural advantages in health care access may have contributed to increased opioid prescribing and availability among White patients,” wrote Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta. This, along with other factors, helps explain why opioid use has been seen as a mental health crisis, not a crime spree.

Access to health care, the same factor that gave more affluent populations access to opioids, might help explain why access to opioid agonists such as buprenorphine are reaching those same affluent areas in disproportionate numbers.

The journey of alcoholism in the American consciousness took a turn when wealthy white men were able to persuade public opinion that alcoholism is a mental disease. Addiction, on the contrary, has been long associated with criminality and racial bias. Why wasn’t the proliferation of crack seen as a mental health epidemic or a symptom of systemic poverty?

There is no need for such a disparity in opinion between addicts and alcoholics. Alcohol is a drug, after all, making alcoholics and drug addicts different only in how they are perceived and the legality of their drug of choice. If Dr. Silkworth’s opinion that those addicted to alcohol lose the freedom of choice in drink were applied t
o those addicted to other drugs, then America has been unfairly imprisoning the mentally ill for over a hundred years.

The Opioid Epidemic is a landmark opportunity in public opinion and drug policy. We have the chance to give addiction treatment instead of mandatory minimum sentences. That being said, and as new studies are finding, the tools to fight this drug epidemic are distributed to those with better access, better health care—the better off. This bias is not new, but has, in fact, been a part of most drug legislation since 1914.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

Routines That Help Me Stay on Track in Recovery

Kick the habit with a new routine.

We are addicts. We know about habits. They are tough to kick, impossible to manage. I recall my drug habit was so crippling that I couldn’t leave my bed in the morning without mapping out my day according to the fix.

Compulsion is not strong enough a word. My addiction to substances eradicated any sense of control. I was an avatar; addiction programed my every move.

It didn’t begin like that, of course. The downgrade from free-willed individual to full-blown addict was a slow process. I first fell in love with drinking for the relief it brought me from, well, from being me. I had never felt comfortable in who I was. I can recall walking down the street as a child and wishing I could live inside someone else’s skin for a while. Everyone I saw seemed to have life figured out. They appeared to make decisions without the heavy burden of thought that followed my every move. If I could be someone else, I wouldn’t feel this nagging twinge of doubt and insecurity, I thought. I simply was never one to go through the motions.

Alcohol eased that difficulty. And while I woke up in that same mental cloud the next day, at least I had the power to clear it again by taking a drink.

“Having lost the will to live, I’ve developed a lot of motivation to protect the life I’ve built. ”

My descent into other drugs was an exploration and expansion of that same freedom and relief. But eventually—if you’re like me, you know—the habit took over. The urge to use was incessant, unrelenting. I was so consumed that I didn’t notice when the freedom and relief that drugs and alcohol once brought me began to morph into paranoia and shame. Although my habit stopped working for me, I began working for my habit. It’s not easy to accept a complete loss of control like that, which is why I didn’t exactly volunteer for sobriety. I came in through a psychiatric ward and a 28-day stay in a rehab for drugs and alcohol.

It was there I developed some new habits. To kick the habit, you need a new routine.

I had grown accustomed to skipping meals when, in rehab, my counselor forced me eat. I had enough trouble rolling out of bed in the morning when I was forced to make my bed everyday. No more sneaking night caps when lights out is ten o’clock. The simplicity of dependable actions helped turn my thoughts away from habits and toward routines. I began to do things every day that I had never done before. I prayed to start and end my day, and from my knees, if you can believe it. It’s not as if I was early to church on Sunday, I was only willing to do anything—anything to kick the misery and despair of my addiction.

Having lost the will to live, I’ve developed a lot of motivation to protect the life I’ve built.

Recovery is full of paradoxes, outrageous realizations that only make sense after living them. Who could have guessed that making my bed in the morning would keep me from sweating through my bed sheets at night in withdrawal? It turns out that sober routines, however mundane, help build good habits just as addiction’s routines help form bad ones. I make my bed in the morning because it makes me feel good. And while that feeling isn’t as wild and wonderful as getting high, it keeps me out of the psych ward. What’s more, I have found that compiling enough of those small, predictable behaviors has given me the finest of gifts: self-esteem.

What could be better than that?

With self-esteem, I no longer feel that compulsion to escape. Drinking and drugs are simply not appealing. I no longer want to change the person I am, but become a better version of the person I have come to accept as me.

Now, don’t get me twisted.

There’s a reason that dedicated clinicians and criminal justice reformers insist on calling addicts people who suffer from addiction. There is a wide gap between feeling human and operating like an addict. I’ve straddled that chasm. Addicts and alcoholics who are clean and sober can still suffer from the symptoms of their addiction. I become as hooked on the cure as I did on the habit.

Take writing.

I began writing seriously in the first year of my sobriety. I wrote a poem everyday. I stole away and read as many books as I could get my hands on. I fell in love with the way writing made me feel. It filled the gap when drugs and alcohol left.

As a consequence, it is often all I can think about. Years ago, while buckled in my window seat on a plane, a poem came to me. Not having a pen or phone, I had no way of recording it. The words were pounding my brain. As the plane taxied to the runway, I rang the flight attendant button. “Not until we’re at cruising altitude, sir.” Panic struck. I worried the words would vanish by the time we reached 40,000 feet. Once we did, with pen in hand, I felt lighter. I tasted a sliver of that great feeling I felt when I took a drink. Creativity can be intoxicating.

And I’m hooked, as a result.

When drafting my novel, I woke up at 4:30 each morning for four straight months. This included Christmas morning. If I missed a session, I felt off. If you don’t believe that writing is a drug, ask my wife. She intervened on me as we drove to pick out a Christmas Tree. She told me that she wanted me back. I had grown distant and it was killing her. “I have to get through this draft,” I told her. Thankfully, she was understanding.

How does a person who suffers from addiction maintain a habit with such discipline?

The answer is self-evident. Haven’t I, in my using days, developed incredible survival skills and coping mechanisms? I didn’t miss a day’s work while my addiction was active. And persevering as long as I did—even though my life oriented around prolonging a habit—I developed some major sticking power. It turns out what was desperation in addiction can transform to grit in sobriety.

Who knew?

So if you find yourself with a habit you can’t kick, consider kicking a new routine into gear.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.