Welcome to episode 1 of the Spiritual River podcast, where we interview recovering alcoholics, addicts, and people who work in the substance abuse community.
Today’s guest is a recovering alcoholic by the name of Mark.
Mark has his own website where he writes about addiction and recovery at The Clean Life.
Patrick : Ok, so welcome to the SpiritualRiver podcast, episode one of our new radio show. Iíve got a new guest on today, his name is Mark. Weíre going to get a little of Markís story. Mark, itís nice to have you on.
Mark: Thank you, Pat. Itís nice to be here.
Patrick: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for doing this. †How long have you been sober, Mark?
Mark: Well, my last drink was, letís see, October 26, 2009. That was my last drink. That was in the evening.
Patrick: Nice. Nice. So youíve got several years of sobriety.
Mark: Yup, and I came up on five years, right? So there.
Patrick: Very impressive.
Mark: October 27th was my first day of sobriety.
Mark: Havenít had a drop since.
Patrick: So let me ask you this, how many times had you attempted to get sober before you finally were successful at it?
Mark: Well, I would say, two times. One time lasted about a year and things happened and I went right back to it and it went a few more years of drinking and then I went for two years with nothing to drink and, I guess, something came up in my life again and went right back to it. Probably I wasnít ready.
Patrick: Ah, ok, thatís interesting because I tried twice as well. I went to rehab two times and I failed both times and then the third time I finally got it, so itís interesting that you sort ofÖ..that we both got it on the third tryÖ..kind of thing.
Mark: Yeah, threeís a charm, right, Pat?
Patrick: Yeah, thatís pretty interesting. So let me ask you this, when you were struggling with your alcoholism, did your friends and family try to convince you to quit?
Mark: Oh, absolutely. They told me I had a problem. They kept telling me slow up at least. I just let it go in one ear and out the other because I truly didnít think I had a problem. I just thought that I was just enjoying my beer and alcohol just like anybody else, you know, my friends and things like that. I didnít think I was doing anything wrong. I was living in denial for many, many years.
Patrick: Definitely. Definitely, it was the same with me.† Right, right. So do you think that people need to reach this point of complete surrender and give up alcohol and then some people just donít reach that point? How do you see surrender coming into this?
Mark: Well, for myself, I knew deep down in my heart that I was doing wrong but I just couldnít set it down because I loved it too much. It was like part of my life, the alcohol. It got the grips on me. I knew I had to surrender but like I said before, I guess I wasnít ready. I wasnít ready to give it up and start a new life.
Patrick: Was there an event that precipitated it, that made you surrender or did it just happen?
Mark. Now to be honest with you, that day of October 26th, on an evening, being in my garage drinkingÖI was always alone because my wife didnít want nothing to do with it so I kind of drank alone. And I wrote an article regarding this, that a voice came into my head and started talking to me. There in the dark, in the garage, and things started coming into my head about what the heck I am doing. Iím ruining my life, Iím ruining the lives of people who are in my life, my family and friends, and thing like that. And something just clicked and I said, well, this is it, Iím going to take this last beer or whatever I was drinking and tomorrow morning it will be starting a new life. Like I said, I wrote that, that thing it was called a ďquiet whisperĒ or something I wrote. That would change my life. Some people may not believe that but it happened in my mind and whatever it was, that thing, I donít know what it was, the man above. And that changed my life that evening.
Patrick: Nice, nice. So what do you think are the most important things that someone who just got sober can do to ensure that they stay sober?
Mark: Well, positivity would be one. And yeah, regarding for me, same positive and thinking and know that you could stay sober not just for short period of time but long term sobriety. Staying away from people that you were drinking with to keep the temptation away. And yes, staying away from bars and places that you would go to on a regular basis. Yeah, just for the temptation and the urge. Thatís what I did. Actually I lost a lot of friends and my drinking buddies and I havenít seen them since, to be honest with you, that was five years ago because we had only one thing in common, which was drinking. Now I got staying positive, staying away from temptation that would make me go back to drinking and just try to, whatís the word, try do good for your life.
Patrick: Right, sure, sure. What do you think is the most common reason that people relapse and go back to alcohol? You mentioned that you did have a year where you quit and then another two year period where you quit. What do you think are the main reasons people go back to drinking?
Mark: Thereís two times for myself things came up in my life. They were not bad, not real bad, but enough to upset me and Iím thinking, oh I can fix this and Iíll drink and maybe this problem will go away. I know now that never happens. But I was just weak, I was weak. Thought I had it over me. I was too weak to stay strong and not touch the drink just because something happened that wasnít that great in my life.
Patrick: Right, okay. Let me ask you this, do you take any medications to help with your addiction?
Mark: No, not a one. Never taken one medicine of any sort.
Patrick: Okay, neither do I. In the past I actually did experiment with a doctor who tried to help me with some medications and it never worked because I wasnít ready to quit drinking.
Mark: Yeah, I can understand that.
Patrick: And since I got sober this time and I stayed sober, I havenít used any medication either. Do you do any counselling or therapy?
Mark: No, none whatsoever. I basically went cold turkey which a lot of people say thatís not a good thing to do but to be honest with you I was afraid to go to a doctor. I was afraid to go see anybody because of what they might have told me of my health because of such long term abusing† alcohol. I was scared to death so I figured even though I know itís probably the wrong thing to do, healthwise, could be dangerous at some point, I just quit cold turkey.
Patrick: Right. Sure. So do you go to AA or a 10, 12-step meetings at all?
Mark: No, never been to one.
Patrick: You know thatís interesting, I donít do therapy and I donít go to 12-step meetings either. I donít go to AA. And when I first started in my recovery I did a little of both of those but within the first two years of my sobriety I drifted away from both of those things and I havenít been back since.
Mark: I never attended one even though, you know, many people said, you should go to AA. You should do this or that .† You know I said I had it in my mind, I made a promise on October 26 of 2009, that I would never touch a drink again. And Iím a man of my word and I certainly wonít break a promise to myself so thatís how I keep it. I stay positive. Itís hard sometimes, many times I had the urge to drink over the last year or two. Many things happened that werenít good and people asking away and things like that and right away youíd think alcohol would ease the pain. But then the longer I hold up and start thinking, all that drinking for a couple of hours is not going to solve anything. Iím not going to feel any better and then Iíd think that what if I even started drinking again, have one or two drinks and at least, all night long, at least the drinking continuously again, and then I would be disappointed of myself. And at the start, all the way back to day one again in my sobriety and I donít want to lose all those years to being sober and have to start all over again.
Patrick: Right. Well, so what does the future of addiction and recovery look like to you? What do you see going forward?
Mark: Oh, I see very good things. Everything, since Iíve been sober. Each year goes by, everything looking better and better.† Things, my family life, my life with my wife has improved a million percent. I just see all good coming in the future.
Patrick: Alright. Do you think thereís any way you could have prevented your alcoholism and would you even have wanted to necessarily?
Mark: Well, like Iíve wrote about this and also a couple of times, it kind of started as an experiment with the friends, you know. Some of the guys, they like the stuff , and some did, which was me. And then, of course, that experiment turned into an addiction, unfortunately. No, I donít think I could have prevented it. Though I think it certainly was a learning experience even though I was damaging my health and the lives of others. But I learned a lot and thatís why I write and as well as you do here to help others that are going through the same thing. Your lifeís not over because you had an addition. You know, sober up and move forward and never think about the past and just try to make good for the better and in the future.
Patrick: Do you have any role models in recovery that you looked up to?
Mark: Well, role models? I would say it would be you, Pat.
Mark: Yup, because your site is what I look at when I searched in Google for how to get sober and yours popped up and you probably remember the comments I left here and there. And it was very interesting and we became buddies. I feel fortunate to know you and I kind of think that your site, Spiritual River, kind of saved me because I thought Iím the only one thatís having this problem and I wasnít. And I read the comments on that site by other people and thinking, boy. And that site, SpiritualRiver, your site there, what made me start to write, which I appreciate with you helping me with that also.† And I write to help others just like your site helped me.
Patrick: Well thank you for that. So you really got sober through the internet.
Mark: Yeah, well, it helped me to stay sober. You know, like how to stop drinking forever and things like that but like I said earlier that voice that came in my head on October 26 is why and when I quit drinking.
Patrick: Right. So that was the motivationÖ.it didnít come from the internet, the motivation came from within.
Mark: Well, that one night, yeah. But I also, you know, like I said, write after that because Iím thinking right away, well, letís see, I feel a couple of times. And there was this something thatís going to be temporary and I wanted to research more. Believe me when I tell you, in the very beginning it was very, very, very hard for me not to touch that drink. And I just kept writing on the internet and I started off a blog and actually writing helped me because I knew when I was writing something, hopefully somebody in the world that reads it, it will help them too. And that also helped me to stay sober.
Patrick: Yeah, writing is a huge part of my recovery and even just journaling can be a huge part of their recovery to just get the stuff out on paper, type it out, write it down, whatever. And I think that could make a huge difference.
Mark: Yeah. Itís a good feeling to know that hopefully youíre helping somebody and I get emails in my Gmail from people. I get comments and people write their hearts out. I donít have the answers to everything, I just tell people what happened to me and how I stayed and staying sober and hopefully they understand and they somewhat follow my advice. Like I said, I donít know everything, Iím just going by my experiences.
Patrick: Sure, sure. So let me ask you this, can you give our listeners any advice if theyíre struggling with alcoholism right now and theyíre trying to somehow break free from addiction?
Mark: Well, my advice would be is to just try to look into your future and see where you will be if you continue to drink. I mean, will things get better, or will things get worse. And we know that keep on drinking and abusing alcohol and things are bound to get worse. Youíre going to get sick sooner or later, and God forbid, have an automobile accident or something. And you just got to make up your mind and want to change your life for the better. And not only changing your own life, you got to think about your family and if youíre married or got a girlfriend or a boyfriend or whatever it takes, you got to think and look at them in the eyes and think of what youíre doing to them. Youíre not spending quality time with them, which was my case. Iíd rather stay home when there was an event, stay home and drink because if there was no alcohol being served I said, no I donít want to go. You just got to be positive, you got to want to change your life for the good, for you and for the people that love you.
Patrick: You know that was my experience exactly, when I reached this point where I was struggling with alcohol. I was drinking everyday and this was right at the end when I finally surrendered and I realized, it was like you said, I finally could see the future. I finally got a glimpse of my future and I donít know why I took so long for me to realize that but it was like I looked ahead and I said, you know what, if I keep drinking everyday, Iím never going to be happy. Itís not going to change. And I donít know why an alcoholic has to bang their head into the wall over and over again for so many years before I was able to wake up and see that future and say, hey wait a minute, Iím never going to be happy if I keep doing this.
Mark: Thatís right, and youíre right. And as your health fails and thatís why I said I was scared to death for many years to go to a doctor, thinking what theyíre going to tell me, you know, your liverís shot, or this, or this. Never had blood test and now I went a couple of months ago, a complete blood work. And I guess my liver, whatever was wrong with it, it was healed. Everything came back perfect. After all those years of drinking, believe me when I tell you, I was scared to death to get those results and they all come back fine. Four and a half years, for almost five years, not a drop of that poison in me. And everything starts to, I guess, heal themselves. But yeah, you have to look at your family, like how I looked at my wife and I knew, they hurt inside too. They want to try to help you. They want to tell you that youíre abusing alcohol and why I canít just have one or two drinks and call off the day. Thatís not like me. I know for a fact that if I touch one drink, Iím doomed. Iíll just go to a wedding and just have one drink, I donít know. No, no, no, Iíd rather have my warm coffee and Iím good.
Patrick: Alright. Okay one final question for you, Mark. What is one action that a person can take today to improve their sobriety?
Mark: Well, one action would be staying positive. Think back of what your life was when you drank and abused alcohol and then think of your dreams that you have or had that you want to achieve in your life. And by being sober, you can achieve those dreams. Like for myself, my dream was to live at the shore, where Iím at now. But that dream never came true because I had alcohol in front of my dreams. And once I quit drinking and every week, month, year that passed, things would get better. Now Iím living at the shore, which was my wife and Iís dream for 32 years that weíve been married. You just got to do whatís right.
Patrick: Nice. Well, thank you so much for this interview, Mark. I really appreciate your experience. Youíre obviously doing well in sobriety and hopefully your experience will benefit others who listen to this so thank you so much for coming on the show.
Mark: I thank you for inviting me. Itís a pleasure and an honor.
Patrick: Definitely. Alright, well, let me end this and if anybody finds this interesting they can come discuss it on the forums at spiritualriver.com. And once again, thank you, Mark.
Mark: Thank you, Pat.