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Sunday, November 9, 2014

I'll let you in on a little secret I have figured out over the years:
The happiest people I know are also the people who continually evolve.

I'll let you in on another secret:
The most boring people I have ever met are those who are continually trying to be "comfortable".

One thing that isn't a secret is how I personally feel about growth and see it as something we're meant to be in pursuit of over pretty much everything else.  I know it isn't a secret because any time I post a blog with a negative viewpoint of corporate America and being a stagnant person, I get a nasty email or two from people who have less grammatical comprehension skills than the crushed Skittle I just scraped off the bottom of my shoe.  Too much?

Coming back to reality, it took me until the age of twenty-eight to realize that I should have spent more time investing in myself when I was younger and less time trying to become comfortable in life.  I mean, that's what you're supposed to do according to...well, the details aren't important because it's just what you're supposed to do.  That whole mindset of go to school, work for a few decades and then retire and just be comfortable the whole time.  Maybe get married somewhere in the middle of that process and have a few kids running around just like someone else planned for you to do.  Hey, you kept it interesting because you made a sizable income and went on two vacations every year so you could come back and show your friends and family a bunch of pictures of the resort you stayed at which they don't care about.  Again, too much?
Don't get me wrong, I love traveling, but I like it flavored with a little more risk and adventure than tourism.

The thing is, I wanted that for so many years - the "comfortable" situation of knowing that I could go out and put on a (figurative) costume every once in a while and play the role of the interesting person who lived inside my head.  Sort of like how your dentist has a Harley he puts five hundred miles on every year and a small stockpile of leather in his closet for that one weekend when he's a biker and rides up to the mountains instead of, you know, being that person on a daily basis?  The more I think about it, the more I'm disgusted with the idea of me wanting exactly that a few years ago.  If comfort means keeping up appearances for 90% of your life, going to parties of people you don't like, putting on a tie you hate, getting into a weekly routine, and spending the other 10% trying to be something else entirely, I'm happy my perspectives have changed.

I guess I'm just getting sick of watching people crash and burn in the pursuit of comfort instead of passion.  The people who will work for companies and within industries they hate because they are promised a hefty retirement.  It breaks my heart to see the same people rush into a blinded marriage situation because they're somehow not doing society any favors by being single at nearly thirty years old - you know, not getting married because they want to, but doing so because they were told you're not a complete person without being married.  Marriage is awesome though, it's just that loads of people really, really suck at it.

You're not really supposed to take this as inspiration or anything, but if you're not happy with where you are in life, aspire to be something else, or are curious about what it means to take a different direction, do it.  I'm not saying to be irresponsible in your life choices, but if you're doing the same thing that everyone else is doing and falling into the same routines as everyone else in your office, take a second to evaluate that and see if you're actually happy.

I was talking to friend of mine earlier who escaped the corporate system like I did and he said the most enriching event in his life involved getting rid of the things he really didn't need, minimizing the impact of his financial situation, and then going all out in pursuit of his passions.  It doesn't always work and I am in the dead center of that very process right now, but it's always worth the risk.

Otherwise, you may just end up old and "comfortable" while contemplating what it would have been like if you had taken the jump to find your own definition of success.

Chasing down your passions, being in continual growth, and taking life for the adventure it is and as a product of your own identity is where you find happiness.  It's where I have found mine.

Don't let anyone tell you what you "should" be doing.
Hold the hands of those who motivate you while supporting your efforts and don't let go.
The only person who is in control of your own happiness is you.

Grace and Peace,

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Two Years Of Being Sober Is Like...

A few months before I hit the one year mark of sobriety last year, I wrote a blog about the reality of my experience up to that point.  That post (which you can find here) was my most read and circulated piece for the next few months until the infamous "Explorer" article went viral and changed my world in an entirely different way back in January of this year.  This past October, I reached the two year mark of putting down the bottle for good, so I thought giving a little update about what has been going on would make sense.

As I said in my first blog about sobriety, people have a tendency to look at you a little differently or alienate you from certain situations socially when they hear about your choice to stop drinking.  I assumed that this would be just like anything else and level off with time, but what ended up happening wasn't really in line with my expectation.  The people I drank with and went out with in that over-and-over weekend routine during those years of fog mostly went away and have stayed away.  The question I was often emailed as a result of making the same statement over a year ago was always worded something like this:
"Well, did you make it awkward?  Were you sitting at parties, staring at the walls and judging everyone for drinking?"
Answer:  Nope.
Not in the least bit.

Trust me when I say I haven't done anything (stupid) while drinking that I wouldn't do sober.  Actually, most of the stupid things I have done in my life have not involved alcohol.  Alcohol was an addiction for me - not a character change or an excuse to do dumb things. 
Most people who drink don't really understand that and assume I would have a problem with being around drunk people, when in reality, I wouldn't care if you bumped three lines of cocaine while sitting next to me and chased with a "Chilly Willy" of Grey Goose straight up the same nostril.  
If there is anything that I learned from my experience as a Theology major after they kicked me out of their program for reasons unrelated to alcohol, is that you:
1.)  Can't control people
2.)  Can't make their decisions for them
3.)  Can't change them

The thing is, I told myself over and over that I was going to stop my daily fifth/12-pack habit about a dozen times for other people.  When I did this, I made it known to people and failed every single time.  It wasn't until I decided to quit for myself and keep my damn mouth shut about what I was doing that I crossed the plateau and didn't want to relapse.  Results may vary, but that's how it worked for me.  Nothing dramatic.  I woke up one day and said I didn't want to die from liver damage.  I. Me. Hangovers too - I was over it.

Part of the alienation from other people reaches into the dating world too and even though I'm not much of a serial dater by any stretch, women are quick to write off a guy who doesn't drink (it's probably the same story regardless of gender).  The flirt factor tends to be strong and the interest level high until "I don't drink."  which leads to a nosedive of interest more often than not.  I won't try to dissect why that is because I really don't care and haven't spent much time thinking about it.  Sobriety makes people think you're lame sometimes and I understand that because it's not something you hear very often.  At the same time, if something so small is what someone banks their level of interest from, a time investment from the sober party probably isn't worth pursuit anyway.
Move on.

Alcohol is a fairly universal cultural experience, which would probably explain why so many pictures of adults on social media have everyone holding a drink or show one in the background.  Seriously though, pay attention to that if you've never noticed because it's pretty fascinating.  That's not a judgment at all, it's just an observation I never noticed until I sobered up.  Actually, one caveat to non-judgment is that douche who takes a picture of his $3000 watch with visible shirt cuff while holding a $1.50 bottle of domestic beer - the "try-hard" aroma is too prominent for me to ignore.  Again, something I've paid more attention to over the years.

People still think I'm on the teetering edge of a relapse though, and I find it pretty funny.  Sometimes I do have a momentary and random brain spasm of wanting to remember what beer tastes like, but it dissipates as quickly as it arrives and happens about once a month when I'm sitting in traffic or doing something else mundane.  I can hold it, pour it, smell it, and it doesn't bother me at all.  Some people in recovery can't do that, but I'm fortunate enough that when I quit, it was for good and I left it without any triggers lingering around.

I did develop a pretty awful caffeine addiction as a result of quitting.  I wouldn't say I "traded" one for the other because I don't drink as much caffeine as alcohol, but it's after midnight, I just drank this and feel no more awake than I did prior:
If caffeine and Splenda are my hangups at this point, I'm doing well enough. Dealing with the consequences is fine because if this crap gives me cancer, it will probably happen later in life than it would have if I had drank myself to death by subsequently killing my liver.

When all is said and done, though, the important and supporting people haven't ever left.  I did a massive Facebook purge a while back and dropped from 1,500+ to around 200 "friends".  Having 50 Likes on a post with so few people to see it is incredibly encouraging and humbling:

Oh, and I stopped cutting my hair when I stopped drinking as well:
That's a thing.

Yeah, still sober, still happy, and never want to be in a fog outside of my own control ever again.
If you think you have an issue and want to talk to someone, my email address is in the link at the bottom.  I get piles of emails from people who read my blog everyday and I respond to every single one.  You won't be bothering me.
I promise.

Grace and Peace,