“People need to hear your story.”

“What do you mean, bud?”

“People need to hear your story. I think it’s inspirational. I mean you used to be a guy who didn’t do much besides go to bars and get drunk. Now, you do cool things. You love your wife, spend time with your son. You run. You hike. You bike. People need to hear your story.”

“Well, bud, some do. They hear it on my blog. They hear it at meetings. It’s why I have so many followers on Twitter.”

“Dad, you’re semi-viral on Twitter. Anyone with more than 1000 followers is semi-viral.”

“Well, that’s why people follow me on Twitter, bud. Because they get to hear my experience, strength, and hope there. And that’s why they follow me.”

I had this conversation with my son on Saturday as we finished a run that I’d made him go on. Not a long run. Not a fast run. An easy walk/run exercise to try to get him interested in running.

He fought me when I suggested it. He’s 12. He doesn’t want to run with his father. He doesn’t want to run at all. But I know it will be good to help him develop a habit of exercise. No one ever taught me this important life skill. I’m trying to break that cycle in the family.

He’s right. People do need to hear my story. People need to hear all our stories. And telling our stories is important. It’s cathartic. It helps us process the pain that caused us to drink or drug in the first place.

Sharing our stories helps others who may be struggling with similar challenges. As I’ve learned to get vulnerable and share from the heart in meetings, I’ve had many people tell me that my story gives them hope. Hope that they too can get sober. Hope that they can stay sober when the going gets tough.

I have heard enough stories in my recovery community that are like mine to know that I’m not unique. There are thousands, no millions, even hundreds of millions like me, who have given up the drink or the drug and are living extraordinary lives. We are the lucky ones.

But, in the eyes of my son I am extraordinary. That’s all I can ask for. Small recognitions from my son that I’m living up to my Higher Purpose, being a good husband and father. Doing the next right thing.

In the eyes of a 12 year old having thousands of followers is important.


Here’s to being semi-viral.

Three Questions to Determine if You Have a Drinking Problem

On a number of occasions I’ve been asked by friends about how to determine whether or not they have a drinking problem. Many of them have expressed concern about the label, “alcoholic,” with good reason. It carries a stigma. It conjures up images of unshaven men in ill fitting clothes drinking from a paper bag in a back alley. It is a label of the problem not of a solution.

Now, I needed to accept that I had a problem like anyone else who enters recovery. Step 1 is critical. It’s the only one that you have to get 100% right. But even though I owned the label “alcoholic” in my early recovery I struggled with it.

Today I refer to myself as a person in long term recovery. I don’t reject the past but I don’t wallow in it either. I believe we become the stores we tell ourselves. I tell myself the story that I am in recovery because that’s where I want to remain. I want to focus on the solution not the problem.

When someone asks me a variation of the question, “Am I an alcoholic” I ask them to put that question on hold. I don’t think it’s the right question. Here are the three questions I have them ask themselves:

  1. Am I happy?
  2. Am I healthy?
  3. Am I free?

I know that when I was in the depths of my addiction I was not a happy person. Everything felt closed off. The world was small and I was afraid. I hated myself and what I’d become.

My health was in the toilet at the time. I frequently had bouts of diarrhea. I carried all manner of medications, baby powder, and wet ones in my briefcase because I never knew what ailment would hit when. I had pain in my right side under my rib cage. I had a mysterious bout of hearing loss in my left ear. I had symptoms of nerve damage in my left arm. My triglycerides were high, well over 280. I was concerned that I wouldn’t live to see 50.

And I was in prison. Not actual prison but a prison of my addiction. An emotional prison. I rarely went out socially. I rarely exercised. I rarely hade friends over. I never left the house after dinner because I was too drunk. I was stuck.

Today things are different. Today, I am genuinely happy and content in my life. I find joy in the small things and I relish time with my wife and son and our friends.

My health has dramatically improved. I’ve lost 29 pounds and my triglyceride are now down below 190. I look different and I feel different. Better. Well. Healthy.

And I am free to do what I want when I want. I no longer feel chained to my house. I no longer feel trapped in a life that I can’t escape.

I believe that anyone who has a problem with alcohol, if they answer these questions honestly, won’t be able to say that they are happy, healthy and, free. And if you can’t say these things because of your drinking, then you should probably reassess your relationship with alcohol.

Coming Out Publicly About My Sobriety

Coming out publicly about my sobriety has changed my life. I wish I could tell you that I’d planned it out, that I gave it careful consideration, that I’d done it with a complete understanding of what I was getting into, but I can’t. That would be a lie.

I maintained another blog for several years that had almost no focus (surprise, I was a complete mess drinking all the time…) and one day, I just posted that I’d been sober and going to meetings as a way to get the word out to my friends. Over the next few weeks I posted a few more times and thought a lot about whether to keep these posts as part of the old blog or to start a new one. When I had the clarity that I had a lot to say about my journey, and that my journey would be life long, I knew it was time to split out these posts and start this blog.

In doing so I’ve made myself accountable. Most of my good friends, people in my local fellowship, as well as thousands of people around the world have read my posts, many with regularity. By writing about my journey, I’ve let the cat out of the bag and sometimes that’s what’s kept me from taking a drink.

There is also something highly cathartic about writing — I think that’s part of what many find so incredible about the fourth step. When we put our thoughts down on paper (or in bits and bytes as we do today) they stare back at us in black and white. We can’t escape them.

There have been times when I was a little freaked out about being so public about my sobriety. Last spring, while I was talking to my new company I was waiting for the shoe to drop that someone had found my blog. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I feared that this might hinder my chances at a new job.

There have also been times when I’ve worried that my openness may impact my family— more specifically my son. I’ve coached his soccer team, and I’m about to step up to be a Den Leader for his Webelos den. I have worried that people will judge him because of me. Still, I share my story.

See, if people do judge me, I don’t know about it — and more importantly, I’ve received nothing but positive encouragement from people who know that I’ve made a decision to be sober. I think that this represents a turning point in people’s attitudes about recovery. There was a time when being in recovery may have meant a moral failing in the eyes of some people, but I think that the majority of people don’t see it that way anymore. I may be naive, but my experience hasn’t shown me the judgement that I once feared.

If anything, my openness has helped others. I’ve had several friends and acquaintances who’ve asked me about my sobriety. Several have decided that perhaps they might give this a go. Some who have explored it have remained sober, and others have not. I don’t judge anyone who has chosen not to remain sober after talking to me — I recognize that we all have our own path. What’s important to me is that they know that they can talk with me — that they can ask me questions and that I am in a place where I can offer my perspective.

That’s why it’s important for those of us in recovery to tell our stories. If nobody knows that we’re sober, they won’t know who to ask for help.

My Story

My first experience with booze was pretty miserable.  I was probably about 13 years old or so when a friend came over to my house while my parents were not home.  Never one to miss an opportunity to misbehave, he suggested that we should get drunk.  We locked my brother out of the house and proceeded to raid my parents liquor stash.  In order to assure that they wouldn’t notice, my friend suggested that we take a little from each bottle and combine them all into a tumbler.  Then we took shots.

Imagine, if you will, a concoction that included (minimally) the following: vodka, bourbon, creme de mint, liquor 43, peach schnapps and possible tequila.   It is a wonder I didn’t hurl on the first drink.

We got good and drunk. Continue reading