RE 230: Calming the Mind


Mark, took his last drink on April 19th, 2019 – This is his story.

On today’s episode Paul shares the status on his upcoming book release!  Alcohol is Sh!t should be launched the end of July – to mid-August.  Graphics for the front cover, the back, and the eBook are done.  Thanks to everyone that voted on the tagline and subtitles…this is what we came up with; How to ditch the booze.  Reignite your life.  Recover the person you were always meant to be.

Paul also talks about calming the mind through meditation.  The word meditation comes from the word meditacioun, which means to ponder, and it has been around for a very long time.

What is meditation?  Meditation is about letting thoughts go.  It is about loosening the energetic ties to the past and the future.  It is about being present and focusing on what is, the reality you are currently witnessing.  Meditation is about lowering brain waves to a more relaxed state.  Meditation is a skill and it takes practice.

What meditation is not.  Meditation isn’t not thinking.  It isn’t about obtaining or getting anything, or discovering who you are.  It is not going into a trance.  Meditation isn’t selfish, it all starts from the inside out. 😉


[15:50] Paul introduces Mark. 

Mark lives in Perth, Australia, which is one of the most remote cities in the world.  For work he is a financial professional.  He is 43 years old, married with 2 daughters.  For fun Mark likes to camp, exercise and read.

[18:45] Give us a background on your drinking.

Mark started drinking in his teens and he says he pretty much to a liking to it right away.  It made him feel like a different person and got him out of his shell.  In his early 20s he went to college and continued drinking there.  There was about 3-4 years during his 20s that he got really serious about running and would quit drinking for 49 weeks a year while he was training.

Mark says that once he stopped taking his running so serious, stopped the training, and got a job that there was a turning point and his drinking started to creep up to just about every day.  Mark was in his 30s now.

In 2017, at the age of 41, Mark had his real first attempt at sobriety.

[20:50] Was there a rock bottom moment in 2017 that propelled your attempt at sobriety?

There wasn’t a rock bottom moment for Mark, he says it was more like a series of bad nights.  He started to realize that his drinking was involuntary and he felt like it was something that was just happening to him.

After one night in particular where he drank 2 bottles of wine and getting to work late feeling horrendous, he decided he had just had enough.  After doing some googling on cutting back and found a website called Hello Sunday Morning, where people posted about cutting back.  The website encouraged doing a 3 to 12-month time of no drinking.  Mark decided to try the 3 months and after successfully doing that and feeling good he decided to go for the 12 months.

Looking back now he says it was a really good year.  He got healthy and got a lot done at home and at work.  But something was missing.

[22:22] Go back a little, when did you start to realize that it was getting harder to stop once you started?

Mark drank beer and wine and would find himself drinking whenever he would meet up with someone.  And he didn’t just drink one or two, he drank hard.  It was almost as if he was running his life around alcohol.  He would never meet someone at a café, he would always meet people at a pub or bar.

[24:15] So you’re cruising through 2017 dry, on willpower, how much time did you get?

Mark says he didn’t make it the 12 months.  He made it until mid-August, the same time he and his wife bought their home.  He celebrated that purchase with a bottle of champagne.  He says as soon as he had that bottle of champagne the wheels came off.  He also felt that because he went 8-9 months without drinking that he had changed his relationship with alcohol.  About a month after drinking the bottle of champagne he was back drinking just as hard as before.

[26:00] Once you were back to drinking hard a month later did you stop and think ‘oh shit’? 

He really didn’t.  He just got back into it and by 2018 he was telling people that after his dry year he was back to drinking and that he had a different relationship with alcohol, which he now thinks was a supreme exercise of self-deception.

[26:50] When did this self-deception end?

Mark says really only this year, around April 30th.  After sharing a bottle of wine with his wife on April 29th she went to bed and he went outside with another bottle of wine.  He started to think about what he was doing and started to get angry.  He thought about what a great year 2017 had been and now there he was by himself drinking himself to oblivion.  It was a feeling of self-disgust.  He went back into the house and said, to himself, that he was done, again.

[28:45] What do you think was different that time?

Mark says its really hard to explain, but that he realized that there was no sense of joy drinking that bottle of wine.

[29:45] Talk to me about how you realized that there were no hopes in moderation

In 2017 when he was reading blogs on that website a lot of people talked about AA.  He didn’t really like the idea of AA because of the religious aspect and the surrendering part.  Now fast-forwarding to 2019 he started to understand what the surrender thing was about.  He has decades showing that moderation does not work for him.

[32:30] What was that first week like after April 30, 2019?

It was just a different feeling that this time it’s not a 12-month test of willpower.  This time Mark just had to accept that it was over between him and alcohol.  He says it felt liberating to just admit that he’d had enough and that he didn’t want to be involved with alcohol anymore.

[34:25] Talk to us about the accountability you set up this time. 

His wife was the first person he told, and he waited a few weeks before even doing that.  He was nervous and shaking but she told him she was proud of his and has been supportive.  He has also told some guys at work and has found support there as well.

[39:48] Have you had any intense cravings since April 30, 2019?

Mark says that the cravings have not been bad, surprisingly, but he does drink non-alcoholic beer and wine and he feels it helps.

[46:00] What is on your bucket list in sobriety?

To enjoy each day and the simple pleasures that come with being sober.

[46:55] Rapid Fire Round

  1. Worst memory from drinking?

Getting really, really, passing out drunk on my 40th and being told the next day that my oldest daughter, who was 5 at the time, was just standing there looking at me with a sense of distress.

  1. When was your ‘oh-shit’ moment?

That moment out in the backyard when I was sitting there with a 2nd bottle for no good reason at all.

  1. What’s your plan moving forward?

I have more accountability to put in place, a few more people to talk to about it.  I really do want to engage more with other alcoholics.

  1. What’s your favorite resource in recovery?

I’m on a blog website called Booze Musings and I have a few things on my reading list.

  1. In regards to sobriety what’s the best advice you’ve received?

When I think about drinking just play the tape forward.  Remember who you are.  If I want that, then I can’t have this.

  1. You might be an alcoholic if…

When its your shot for beers you buy yourself 2.


Upcoming retreats:

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“Recovery Elevator – It all starts from the inside-out.”

Numbers | Running Reclaimed in Recovery

Numbers | Running Reclaimed in Recovery

Four years ago today I ran 26.2 miles in three hours, five minutes, and 42 seconds. It was and still is the shortest length of time it has taken me to complete that distance. I am extraordinarily proud of that personal record, but I feel as though it should have several asterisks after it, because the number doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.

The average person, for example, might look at that number and be mildly impressed. He or she may be familiar with the marathon distance, may have several friends who’ve completed one in 4:xx or 5:xx, and may think, “wow, that’s pretty quick, especially for a woman.” He or she would not know that I logged 80-100 mile weeks from January through April of that year, or that I completed dozens of workouts that indicated I was capable of a sub-3 hour marathon. This individual, unless he or she were compelled to look closely at the splits from that humid June morning, would not know that I ran 21 miles at 6:45 pace before succumbing to stomach issues and dehydration.
But perhaps most important: no one who saw that race result could possibly have any idea that it marked the beginning of a slow and painful decline in the form of alcoholism. Prior to that race, I was able to balance my training with my drinking, but that summer it started becoming more difficult, and in the months that followed, when I had to make a choice between alcohol and running, alcohol started winning.

I have not run a strong marathon since.

One month and two weeks ago today, at 36 days sober, I completed a training run in preparation for another marathon. My goals for this race, while realistic, were optimistic. I hoped to get to the starting line healthy and injury-free. I hoped to run a strong, confident, smart race. I hoped to restore a little bit of confidence that maybe I can continue to improve at this sport. I hoped to qualify for Boston, something I haven’t done in nearly two years, despite easily qualifying in my first-ever marathon back in 2007.

I finished the aforementioned run, 16 miles at about 8:00 pace, around 7:45pm that evening.

Fifteen hours later, I was called to a conference room and informed that, after ten years of better-than-average evaluations, I was no longer gainfully employed. “Your position has been eliminated,” they said without emotion. Almost immediately, the sinister voice was awakened. “You don’t have to get up for work tomorrow,” it hissed.

Twenty-four hours later, I was drunk out of my mind and had completely forgotten about not only running, but everything that matters in this world, and everyone who cares about me.

Forty-eight hours later, I was still drinking.

One week later, I was drinking literally around the clock and wanted only to be unconscious. I’d wake up sick and shaking at 5:00 am, reach for the bottle next to my bed, drink what was left of it, and (if I was lucky) return to a brief and merciful state of semi-consciousness, where I could forget the hell that my life had become. Several hours later, when the stores opened, the cycle started over. I stopped caring if anyone saw me. I stopped trying to hide what I was doing. I went to bars and I went to liquor stores. I drank. I remember some of it. There was a kind bartender who held onto my wallet after I dropped it before stumbling home. A lunch date with a good friend during which I tried unsuccessfully to string together sentences, failing miserably, while spilling food all over myself. (He later admitted that he was “shocked” at my appearance.) There was a woman who caught my arm as I fell backwards, asking gently where I lived and if she could help me. I couldn’t tell her; I knew, but I couldn’t use words. I slurred helplessly and tried to run away, falling over and over again before finally finding my front door, and eventually, my bed.

(I’m going to stop here and state for the record that I live in a city known for its high-crime rate, a city about which not one buttwo award-winning TV shows have been created documenting such crime, and yet no one tried to hurt me or take advantage of me in this horrifying state. I experienced nothing but kindness.)

Two weeks, three days, and approximately one hour after that last training run for the marathon I never started, I took my last swallow of alcohol, and the following day I did the unthinkable: I checked myself into rehab.

I completed inpatient treatment on June 8, 2016. That same afternoon I ran again in the sunshine for the first time, and I felt something different, something indescribable.

In four days I will celebrate one month sober, again.

This is a different kind of marathon. There is no finish line for this one, no stopwatch, no competition, no medal.

But it’s the most important race I will ever run.

Struck Drunk – The Myth

Struck Drunk – The Myth

*Alcoholics Anonymous works for me. The fellowship and my personal program, are what has kept me sober for nearly 10 months. I have a “home group” and attend a daily meeting, or sometimes two meetings per day. Recently, I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a meeting that I had not been to before. While there, someone said something that really resonated with me. That relapse of our addiction happens long before we pick up that first drink.

A recovering alcoholic who is headed for relapse is not just suddenly “struck drunk”. There is a process and a series of events that leads up to the moment when the person picks up the drink. Something happens internally, on an emotional level, before the decision is made to put drugs or alcohol into the body.

When we talk about this occurrence we often refer to it as “emotional relapse.” Before you actually pick up the drink, something happens on an emotional level whereby the alcoholic rather non-chalantly thinks “Whatever, I am just going to get drunk.”

Why does this happen? How can it be prohibited?

Your current emotional state today is a result of all of your past decisions in life. How are you cultivating your emotional garden? Have you excavated your personal history?

The influence of routine cannot be overlooked. You become what you practice every day.

Emotional sobriety and your level of stability are crucial to your well being.

What are you cultivating today? How are you rebuilding your life and your labors?

Are you nurturing your body? What about your character? Are you being showing gratitude each day? If not, how can you begin to increase your gratitude? (Keeping a daily journal, join a gratitude group)

What is the state of your relationships? Are you learning to love yourself again? Even though that takes dedication? Are you learning to love and care for others in your sobriety? And perhaps most importantly, are you learning to set boundaries in your relationships? Are you putting healthy distance between yourself and those who would steal your energy and your serenity?

There are many ways to nurture YOU in recovery. YOU are accountable to find these tools to start living a healthier life. Sobriety is a journey, connected to your physical and emotional well being. To avoid relapse, take care of every aspect of your psyche.

Do you have awareness when you are emotionally upset in your recovery journey? Do you notice that you obsess about the drink when you sink into that state of mind? What is your plan to deal with the symptoms of relapse?  Leave a comment and let us know.

*Recovery Elevator is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous. 

The Bottom Floor

The Bottom Floor

To reach the lowest or worst point of something; to descend to the lowest point possible, after which only an increase is possible; to reach a level that is as low as it will be. 

Hitting bottom is as personal and individual as the God we pray to, or the spirituality we find in our journey to sobriety. Low bottoms, high bottoms all terms to describe what finally left us defeated enough to seek out help in the form of personal serenity. The point at which we admit we have a problem that we can no longer “control”. The sought after peace of sobriety is often driven by fear and shame.

Admitting our powerlessness is the first step in a healthy direction. Giving in isn’t giving up control, but is instrumental in regaining our independence. Handing our addiction over, asking for help, realizing that we are by no means alone in this battle.

I prefer to think of my rock bottom as the moment I surrendered and turned the whole affair over to the universe at large. It was the night, after weeks of intense drinking, that I finally did not want to live. I really didn’t want to die, but in my drunken, defeated stupor, realized that I could no longer keep up the pace and façade that I had built. All leading to a place of unfathomable hopelessness and demoralization. It was then that I just gave up. I quit fighting it, turned it over to my conception of God at the time.

What is your bottom? Are you there yet? How are you climbing your way back up?

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