You’re not giving something up, you are getting so much more in return, it’s just amazing.
Kevin is 53, from South Carolina and took his last drink on October 6, 2019. This is his journey of living alcohol free (AF).
Today’s show is sponsored by Better Help.
Kevin’s interview is with Kris. You guys are going to love Kris’s style. He’s a grounded, laid back guy from North Dakota who fully gets the importance of connection. Just like you all gave me a chance, and Odette, please focus on the similarities, not the differences and welcome Kris.
Speaking of Kris, we’ve made 10 YouTube Videos, and some of them are funny, at least that’s my opinion. and our last video was my top 10 favorite recovery books. Go over to YouTube and type Recovery Elevator in the search bar.
I just finished the book “Breath” by James Nestor. The breath is the true foundation for all recovery work. It turns out, 5.5 breaths per minute is the optimal rate. That’s 5.5 seconds on the inhale, and 5.5 on the exhale for a total of 5.5 per minute. So next time you’re caught up in email apnea, pause and focus on the breath. I highly recommend this book.
Breath by James Nestor https://amzn.to/3zOJ1GZ.
Why did Adele cross the road? To say hello from the other side.
Okay, let’s get started –
Today I want to talk about the incredible feature film on trauma and addiction by Dr. Gabor Mate. The film is called “The Wisdom of Trauma.” This film needed to be made and will move the needle in a healthy direction in terms of how we view addiction.
Book: “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” – Dr. Gabor Mate https://amzn.to/3xOAZx1
This film covers what addiction is. It covers how it happens, when the driving forces behind an addiction take hold in life and it also has practical ideas on how we should address addiction as a society and as the individual struggling with an addiction. On this podcast, you’re most likely listening to address a drinking problem, but all addictions, for the most part are interchangeable, and the mechanisms are mostly the same.
Okay, no surprise here, he talks about trauma. And he is noted for saying that all addictions, start with trauma, and the baulk of that happens in adolescence. The start of addiction doesn’t happen when you lose your job, but in infancy. Always. We often think that trauma must happen in Afghanistan, or a physically abusive parent but it also happens when we aren’t hugged enough as a child or us not getting something we needed when we were young. Parents in the 20th and 21st centuries are pulled in so many directions, that unfortunately, this is common. It’s the kiddos that pay the price.
Please don’t take any of this energy and steer it towards your parents, etc. They did their best. That’s not a healthy way to take this information.
This is an emotional film. I cried during parts of it.
He says that trauma happens when you disconnect with yourself, when you don’t have anyone to talk with. When kids are alone with their hurt. Another way to say this is there wasn’t a healthy way to move the energy. It got stuck. Humans talking about it, is the equivalent of a duck flapping its wings in nature, and we couldn’t do that as a child. So, the body hangs on to the energy. But it’s not fun energy to hang on to. In the western world one of the dominant ways this excess of energy manifests itself is through inflammation in the body.
He then talks about how we look at addiction as a poor choice. We, meaning society, and the individual. Thank you, Mrs. Regan for adding a couple of thick layers of pinyon pine to the stigma with the “Just say no” campaign from the 80’s. That didn’t help much. Gabor, then reframes it by saying, the addiction wasn’t a poor choice, it was the solution. I agree completely. In fact, I’d take it even further and say kudos you found a way to survive. It’s now time to find healthier ways to cope since alcohol, will mess you up spiritually, mentally, and physically in the long run. Do not beat yourself up for having a drinking problem, you found a way to survive. And now it’s time to find a healthier way to connect. That’s all we’re doing here.
I like how Gabor calls out capitalism and most modern economies as fueling addictions. We are primed to feel we need to purchase something external for short term inner wholeness. For long term wholeness, this process must be replicated 100’s and 1000’s of times. This is great for the stock market, but not great for mental health. There’s one word to summarize this. It’s MORE. We are always looking for more. This is a major pickle in modern societies that we have address ASAP. He talks about how this addiction is destroying the earth. We don’t have fix the earth, fix climate change or global warming. We must fix ourselves and the individual level. Planet earth will be fine when we’re gone. Our current way of living, which Eckart Tolle calls insane, is how we are conditioned. It’s crazy, and unsustainable. This paradigm is shifting. You all are part of this paradigm shift.
Dr. Mate talks about how we are treating stress and addictions with more stressors. Most western illnesses are treated with steroids and cortisol creams. It’s not curing or treating anything.
He talks about the two ways society treats or views addicts.
- That it’s a choice, just say no, and if do say yes, you are warned with catchy commercials, then the user is punished. The penal system at the macro encourages intense shame guilt at the inner the micro level.
- That it’s a disease, and not a choice. He feels this is a better approach, since people can then get treatment like any other disease but ignores why people really get addicted which has nothing to do with a disease. Dr. Gabor Mate is clear on his stance about if a drinking problem is a passed down genetic disease that runs in the family. He says it is not. He believes these adaptive behaviors, addictions, are learned and formed to survive in an environment that isn’t conducive to wholeness or happiness. That’s a lot to unpack. Seriously. Feel free to hit the pause button on your podcast player. I’m on board with this approach. In fact, I’ve switched my tune while doing the Recovery Elevator podcast. At first, I thought addiction was a passed down genetic disorder. But now feel these behaviors are coping mechanisms that allow us to survive in environments that are full of static, car alarms, incorrect passwords, identify theft, violence, backstabbing, sexual abuse, spam phone calls, and more. And we all must deal with this incoherent energy. Yes, I do believe this inharmonious energy is passed down generationally and we all must deal with it, not just the addicts. In fact, in most native cultures, when one person in a community was sick, the whole community came forth to help. The whole community would even brunt the financial costs because they knew, a sick person within a community, wasn’t an outlier, but a representation that something was out of balance within the community. And today, in modern, society, we’ve got a lot of sick people, with depression being the number one cause of disability worldwide. Dr. Mate says that in the USA, the richest country in the world, 1/2 of its citizens have chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, addictions etc. Another way to say that, is we got big houses, big guns indeed, but we’re disconnected and need help. This is also the point of an addiction. A fear, or a marker of sorts that something is out of balance and needs attention.
So how do we treat this? Dr. Mate says, the modern medical paradigm separates the mind from the body and separates the person from the environment. I think he would agree that we need to use the mind to come into the body, and not leave it or disassociate with it. I know he would agree that we must recognize there’s an in imbalance. Sure, it’s the first step in all 12 step programs, but science shows this also. You can’t make change in anything, until a consciousness is there to witness it, or say “yes, this is here, and I’m going to deal with it.” There is not a right or wrong way to address an addiction, but what I’ve learned here at RE, is that community must be a component of this. A HUGE component. As in the blades of a helicopter. Or the propeller on a prop plane, or the wheels on a car.
We’ve all heard what you resist persists. Thank you, psychologist Carl Jung. At the individual level, we must recognize something is out of balance. At the group level, we do the same – and it can be a lot of fun.
At the individual level, you’re doing it. You’re listening. Which means you’re open to a whole new way of living. This is what gets me excited about Recovery Elevator. Its exploring new ways to live, that don’t require alcohol to be happy. And we are all figuring this out together.
Before we hear from Kris and Kevin, Let’s hear from Betterhelp.
Visit betterhelp.com/ELEVATOR and join the over 1,000,000 people talking charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. Recovery Elevator listeners get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/ELEVATOR.
[12:55] Kris introduces Kevin
Kevin took his last drink on October 6, 2019, he is creeping up on two years and he feels great. Not every day is great or happy, but he feels better equipped to handle what life throws at him.
[14:02] Give us a little background on you.
Kevin is 53 and lived in Long Island for most of his life. He now lives in Bluffton, South Carolina. He is not married, has an awesome girlfriend, and has dogs named Ben and Jerry. He loves to read; he loves the outdoors, and he loves to work.
[15:39] Tell us about your relationship with alcohol and how did that evolve over time?
Kevin said it had a lifespan. He started drinking in 8th or 9th grade experimenting. He moved to Long Island in 4th grade. He made a lot of friends, but never felt like he fit in. In the late 80’s he was drinking heavily. At the time, he didn’t think it was a problem. College was a continuation – binge drinking on the weekend. He drank through snowstorms, nice weather, hiking, etc. He thought it was normal because everyone else was doing it.
[17:25] Did you have any consequences from your early years of drinking?
Kevin’s parents were strict. His parents knew he was drinking, and his older brother never drank. He became the project for his older brother. After college he got married and his drinking slowed down a bit. Being married and becoming a new Dad, living in a high rent district was stressful. Kevin describes himself as high functioning. He had a nice house, nice family and on the weekends, he drank a lot. In 2009, he got a DUI. He reflected on rock bottoms and his wife (an attorney) was able to help. He avoided additional jail time and he slowed down his drinking for a time.
[20:06] You described having a nice house and a job, did your high functioning ever lead you to believe you didn’t have a problem?
Kevin said, he looked great on paper. He had a business, a nice house, he supported charities, he was on the little league board and was a “good dude”. He knew he had a problem with alcohol. He was a fun drunk and was a great guy to hang out with. At 3 AM, he was sweating, his heart was racing, and he knew something wasn’t right.
[22:15] Walk us forward, tell us more
Kevin tried to maintain the status quo. He and his wife got divorced. He believes his wife deserved better and alcohol had an impact but wasn’t the only factor in their divorce. The alcohol affected his ability to rebuild the marriage. His drinking reached a new level post-divorce. He spent a lot of time on his own. He frequented sports bars and the “type” of drinking escalated. He felt a lot of guilt and shame. The salve of alcohol didn’t last for more than 20 minutes. He knew something was wrong. Kevin put lots of rules on himself – only drink…. He would make a rule, break it, and invent three more. Only this, only that ….. Annie Grace’s book first got him to explore quitting. Annie’s podcast mentioned Paul Churchill. Kevin has met Paul a few times and says, Paul ruined drinking for him.
Value Bomb – when you are in it, it’s so subtle. It takes a different form than you a realize.
[27:52] Paul ruined it for you, so what happens next?
Kevin was driving home and hit a rumble strip and he thought to himself – I’ve got good kids, good friends, and a great business. Two days later he went to a street festival, and he had a beer or two and he decided on 10/6/2019 he knew, this is it! He had dozens of days one’s day 6’s and day whatever’s. He knew it was over.
Value Bomb – Your resets are not for nothingness. They help you establish the willingness to move forward. Dig in, keep learning, it’s all growth.
[30:57] What did the first 30/60/90 days look like for you?
Kevin leaned in heavy on Café RE. He took the advice. He took naps when he needed them. He cut back on work a bit. He cut back on engagements. He learned to set boundaries. He learned to leave respectfully. He learned to prepare and had he faked a few gin and tonics. He embraced NA beer. He avoided drinking. The cravings dissipated over time. Kevin craved situations more than the alcohol – college football, Superbowl. He had the willingness. Preparation was key. As people became aware he wasn’t drinking, it became easier. After a little practice, it became easier every time. Setting boundaries was huge.
Value Bomb – we grow and learn what situations we want to be in an those we don’t. It’s okay to let go of certain situations.
[36:43] How did drinking impact your relationships?
Kevin said his parents were never drinkers, so there wasn’t much of an issue. In his first marriage, he acknowledges drinking made him less patient. Drinking takes up a lot of your money, your health, and your time. Kevin now has great relationships with his parents, his sons, and his ex-wife. He has been able to repair those important relationships and have deeper conversations. His relationship with his employees evolved and he learned to take a genuine interest and helps others.49:22
[40:22] Walk us though what your recovery looks like now.
Kevin is an early riser. He carves out 90 minutes every morning and he reads, meditates, and writes. He spends time with his dogs, goes to work and spends time with friends in the evening. He travels to New York to spend time with his kids. Café RE keeps him connected to the community.
[41:45] Rapid Fire Round
- What was your AHA or OSM (oh sh!t moment) about controlling drinking?
Driving home from a brew pub and hitting the rumble strip became his AHA moment.
- What is your plan in sobriety moving forward?
My plan is to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s not a linear trip. He has dip days. He is going to Café RE meet ups. The zoom chats help, and he offers words of encouragement. Staying connected is key.
- Regarding sobriety, what’s the best advice you ever received?
Be kind to yourself. Look at yourself like your dogs look at you. Loathing yourself isn’t productive. The journey has a lot of whacky dips and bumps. Be kind to yourself.
- What parting piece of guidance do you have for listeners?
You must want to do it and you must do it for yourself. Figure out your why. It can’t be just for your spouse or your kids. You aren’t giving something up. You are getting so much more in return.
You may have to ditch the booze if …
Kevin didn’t want to rupture or end his relationship with his kids, the most wonderful relationships in his life.
Kris’s closing comments
Kris talks about the scale going up after he quit drinking. He talked about the big dreams that come with sobriety. Patience is key to getting healthy and achieving your goals. Manage your expectations. Let the work do its work. It’s okay for some things to take a back seat. Embrace positive affirmations and gratitude. Love yourself, you are doing amazing things. Kris said as he listened to other guests, he learned and has he learned he healed. He is grateful to other guests and his Café RE family. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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