Dan, who doesn’t practice abstinence based recovery, shares his story…
“To be human is also to suffer from addiction. The particular vices vary as do our degree of addiction to them, but it takes precious little searching to know we’ve all got something unhealthy that pulls at us.” – Mike Kerrigan, Fox News
[11:08] Paul Introduces Dan.
Paul doesn’t practice abstinence based recovery, and had a drink a few weeks ago. He’s 28 years old and lives in New York City. He runs a channel called Recovery X and Spooky Digital. He does MMA. He has a family. He practices mindfulness.
[12:48] Give us a little background about your drinking.
He started drinking when he was 10. His brother was getting married, and his parents allowed him to have a couple drinks. He got really drunk. He got a lot of attention and had a lot of fun. His family started to warn him about alcoholism but he didn’t yet understand. He would occasionally steal his father’s prescription medicine. He had behavioral problems at a young age.. he would get in fights. He started a school riot between different grades. He always looked up to the trouble makers. They got attention. He has a big family, and he felt like he always had to fight to be noticed. He was kicked out of 8th grade for stealing money from another kid. He was sent to a private boarding school. He was kicked out for fighting. He went through all kinds of behavioral modification programs. He felt abandoned by his family. He noticed that his brother had a different strategy than him.
[18:33] At what point did you realize that you were using alcohol to self-soothe?
He wanted to keep getting kicked out of private schools until his parents would run out of options and send him to public school. He began to drink more once he got to high school. It helped him reduce his anxiety. He ended up getting arrested after a fight, and was sent to rehab in Los Angeles. It was his first experience with a sober lifestyle. He was 16. He saw young people in recovery. He stayed out there for a while and would go on and off about wanting to be clean. He was arrested after a drinking related incident that turned violent. Alcohol always lead to destruction in his life. He had a problem with his thoughts and feelings and emotions. He also had an inability to deal with stress and relationships.
[23:53] Tell us more about the thinking problem.
His experience has been that the drugs and alcohol have been the solution to the problem, which was thinking or avoiding his internal dialogue. He experienced a lot of internal conflict, different conflicting voices. Now he has to be really strict about what he thinks, and what he allows to come into his mind. He had to learn how to challenge and to reframe every negative thought and to turn it into something positive.
[26:17] At what point were you able to detach from the negative thoughts?
He doesn’t differentiate the thoughts from himself, he thinks it’s all him. He thinks the mind is only about 10% of the entire brain, but it thinks that it’s all of it. “It’s like a stowaway on a ship saying it’s the captain”. He had to make friends to his subconscious mind and tell it that he’s listening. He started meditating regularly. It helps him get better at reframing thoughts.
[30:17] Did you experience a rock bottom moment to push into sobriety?
Many. So many times in so many different ways. If he had to pick one it would when he was getting violent in a relationship with a woman. He realized he wasn’t raised that way and that he violated some sort of a core value about respecting women. It made a tear in his psyche and he felt something growing through the cracks.
[32:32] Tell us about the lack of abstinence in your practice. How does one successfully embrace the grey area?
He finds binary thinking in the recovery community. The more we can be inclusive and the more we can embrace the idea the abstinence based recovery isn’t the only way the more people we can reach and the more people we can help. A big misconception about harm reduction is that one needs to be completely sober. Abstinence is a goal, but we’re really looking to improve our health and our lives on a daily basis. The goal has been to monitor his mental health on a daily basis. He started doing DBT (see links below). Part of that is keeping a record of your emotions and thoughts throughout the day. He takes notes about what happens in the day. Our memories are often distorted and the diary helps eliminate that and keep everything straight. He can see the patterns that lead to substance abuse.
[36:41] When you drank recently, how did you feel when you woke up the next day?
Alcohol can beat you up, but you don’t have to do it yourself. Have compassion and keep it moving. Don’t get stuck in the self loathing. Tell yourself positive things.
[38:47] Tell us more about DBT.
DBT stands for Dialectical behavior therapy. It’s a therapy with mindfulness at its core. If one is more mindful of one’s thoughts, one can see the patterns and opportunities for reframing. If someone ahead of you shuts a door in your face, the first reaction might be anger, but if we can see that we are assuming the intent, we can reframe it as a more innocent situation.
[41:05] Talk to us about abstinence being the goal.
Abstinence is one of the goals. The real measure of success is in your life. How are you treating other people? Are you being kind and helpful? How are you feeling?
[43:03] Tell us more about Recovery X.
They are offering free recovery resources to people in need. They offer as many voices involved as possible. They help people find recovery resources in their area. Initially his passion in life was communication. When he was a child he was bad at it. He always wanted to understand communication. After being in recovery, he realized that he could combine communication and recovery to be the most use to people in the world. They want to provide trusted sources and resources that are are not scams. Real authentic honest trustworthy programs.
[48:55] Rapid Fire Round
- What was your worst memory from drinking?
- Did you ever have an “oh-shit” moment?
- What’s your plan moving forward?Focus on mastery, and continue to stay out of the results and just hone the skills.
- What’s your favorite resource in recovery?Recovery Elevator, and RecoveryX.org
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received (on sobriety)?
Have compassion for yourself and just keep showing up and doing the work and you’ll get there.
- What parting piece of guidance can you give listeners who are in recovery or thinking about quitting drinking?
Love yourself like you would love somebody else and reach out to people when you need help. If you’re on Day 1 today, I would say have compassion for yourself.. you are fighting something that isn’t easy (it isn’t supposed to be) and I encourage you to keep at it. Don’t give up. It gets better, it’s a skill.
- You might be an alcoholic if…
“…you go somewhere on vacation and end up on probation.”
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Facebook (where we shoot live)
Additional links mentioned from Dan
Recovery X Facebook Group where they post behind the scenes footage and people interested in recovery can connect with others.
Learn DBT Group on Facebook is a free community Dan runs, where people in recovery from a variety of mental health disorders can come to learn about DBT, get support and find free resources.
Personal Social Media for interviewee Dan
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