SOBER CITY – Day 88

P478

*
*
Sober City – March 29th, 2011
*
*
Stupid vices. Dumb habitual moral depravities that completely infiltrate our otherwise virtuous existence. Enough already! Drinking, smoking, eating, using, dating, working, sleeping. Is nothing sacred? It seems like anything that temporarily feels good and has the ability to harm you in excess is a potential vice that should be avoided at all cost. Even a certain city in Florida has been associated with this deadly moniker (a TV show and a bad remake of said show proves this kind of vice is indeed terrible). Why is it that the things we love must consistently insist on hurting us over time? They’re all Ike on our Tinas (or Chris Brown on our Good Morning Americas) and we keep coming back to relive the same old patterns because “this time things will be different” and “we have too much history to throw away all those years because of a couple bruises”. Sure, we can believe anything really. As long as we get to stay comfortable and keep doing what we know how to do best, regardless of how physically damaging or mentally unstable things might become. Whether it’s alcohol and cigarettes or sugar and sex, we’ve become a society of battered wives with varying degrees of substance abuse. Thanks Bing Crosby!
*
Of course it’s not all gloom and doom. Millions of people exist relatively vice free, or at least flirt with the “bad” stuff from a safe enough distance away. These people are the people who don’t really like the taste of alcohol and get drunk off of one glass of wine, or the people who don’t really watch what they eat because their metabolism is that of mythical gods of legend, or the people who sneak a smoke once every couple months or so without ever feeling the urge to immediately buy 12 packs and re-enact Denis Leary’s No Cure For Cancer stand up routine. These wonderful people are called assholes. How dare they skip through life having whatever they want, whenever they want it with little to no consequences! What are they, aliens? Robots? Robot aliens? They must have something we don’t have. It’s in their genes or their upbringing or their personality type or something they were simply born with that makes it easier for them. It has to be that, right? Maybe. Or maybe not at all.
*
It’s really easy to think the world is against you. Woe is me, my parents were fat so that’s why I love food so much. Alcohol is part of my culture and heritage therefor I’m prone to binge drinking. I don’t want to work myself to death but it’s in my blood to work as much as possible no matter how damaging it may be to my health. These are all great excuses, some of which even hold a lot of actual credibility and merit, but at some point the reasons for why we claim we do things can easily turn into our signed certificates of resignation. “This is just who I am”, we say. “No sense fighting natural instincts”, we think. I mean most people rely on these excuse like air in their lungs anyway and if what they’re doing makes them happy and is part of who they are then what’s the big deal? Kudos to you for being yourself! It’s all about living life and being happy, right? Truth. Dig it. I’m all for it. As long as whatever it is you’re doing is in fact making you happy and not actually building you up just to burn you back down. (Arcade Fire lyric but totally applicable.)
*
See, those people that eat what they want and drink when they want and generally piss off everyone else that struggles, they aren’t assholes, they’re proof. Proof that it can be done. All this talk about body types and upbringing and superior genes is all just white paint for the flag to wave when we’ve decided to call the fight. It’s way easier to point fingers and make excuses then it is to rewire your brain and become a better version of you. And let’s not kid ourselves, changing deep seeded habits and drastically improving your life is not something that can be done by reading a book or watching Oprah, it’s rewiring your god damn brain! It’s not rocket science, it’s brain surgery! This is hard stuff and to be honest, most people just aren’t going to do anything. Most people live a perfectly fine life, vices and all, enjoying their peaks and putting up with their valleys even if those valleys keep getting deeper and deeper until they eventually turn into graves. It’s not a terrible life, but it’s also not for everybody.
*
So If you truly want to change something about yourself (and I mean TRULY want to change, not just the idea of change) then you have to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it. Whether you actually do or not, is the only real test of what you truly want and how much you’re capable of. We’re not all automatically guaranteed success in life but we are all guaranteed a chance to at least try (if we want to) and who knows, you might even surprise yourself and rise to the challenge this time. Of course on the other hand, taking a long hard look at yourself and exactly how you’re living your life, just might be all the doctor ordered. Sometimes you’re happier than you think just the way you are. Whatever your situation is, just make sure you’re happy in it and making those around you happy as well and if you want more out of life, then suit up for war and batten down the hatches. It’s you against yourself out there and it’s a fight to the death. Choose your battles wisely and always remember each day is a new chance to storm the gates and burn the enemy castle to the ground. Cheers!

Advertisements

SOBER CITY – Day 80

P438

*
*
Sober City – March 21st, 2011
*
*
I’ve been having a pretty easy go with not drinking lately and of course I immediately wonder why and assume it won’t last. Not because I’m a pessimist so much as a slave to my patterns. There are a lot of cycles I tend to fall into on a regular basis and I’m pretty convinced there’s no way to get rid of them. I haven’t been able to pinpoint what (if anything) triggers these phases and at this point it’s just about trying to figure out how to maneuver my way through them instead of wasting time trying to stop them. Generally the busier I am, the easier it seems for me to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s the down time that tends to lend itself to destructive behavior and as an actor I tend to have a shit ton of down time in between projects and therefor ample amount of opportunities to leap from the wagon to the glorious wetlands.
*
It’s always the same. A couple weeks to a month of feeling like I can take over the world and do everything, followed by an equally long period of drowning in self doubt and paralyzing laziness. It’s frustrating and annoying and a regular part of my life at this point, so I’ve decided to just accept it and turn it into something useful. How, you ask? Good question. I guess by simply being aware that these moments (however long or short they may be) are ultimately fleeting and not a real representation of who I truly am. That’s a good start. When I feel especially optimistic and full of life, I try to be as productive as I can for as long as my positive mind set allows because I know it won’t last forever. Alternatively, when I’m going through a “woe is me, everything seems pointless” period of time, knowing that the negative period also doesn’t last forever, makes it a little easier to get through. It doesn’t work all the time, but it helps a bit. You know what helps a lot though? Having a couple drinks to distract your mind from the mundane realities and negative thought patterns that poison the brain. Works great, feels great, and god damn does it taste good! It’s a scientific marvel of the highest degree.
*
“Ah, but Joe, doesn’t drinking also encourage those same negative thought patterns and shitty times because it’s a depressant and actually poisoning your mind?” you might ask. First of all, stop interrupting me. I don’t know how you’re squeezing questions into my blog but this isn’t The View and neither of us are Barbara Walters (as far as I know). Secondly, yes, alcohol is a depressant and yes too much of it can send you further down into the abyss of troubles but not all the time. Not if you keep it under control. There’s a reason people have a drink to “take the edge off”. It works. At the very least it calms an overactive mind and allows one to relax a bit more then normally. I don’t know about you but my greatest enemy when I’m depressed is my own thoughts. The second guessing, the insecurities, the wallowing in self pity. Shut those voices up and I’m instantly in a way better position to see things in a more positive light. Now, thankfully there are many non-alcoholic ways to calm the nerves and distract the mind. Exercising, going to movies, playing video games, writing blogs about being a quitter, these are all good things but they’re just not a glass of scotch are they?
*
So is it all hopeless? Is it all just deceiving ourselves into thinking we’re OK when really we’re not? Maybe. Maybe relying on alcohol to help us through bad times is only perpetuating our grief but maybe it’s just another coping mechanism in a long list of devices we all use to maneuver through life. Different ways of dealing, all equally flawed and equally helpful in their own way. Who’s to say drinking is worse then stress eating or compartmentalizing all your feelings? Only you truly know what’s actually good for you and what’s just adding to the problem. Here’s the thing, good times and bad times are going to happen no matter how clean or dirty your hands are. No one escapes reality. We can blame all of our problems and hard times on one thing or another and do everything in our power to stay happy and healthy but at the end of the day we’re all just tiny dots flying through space on a big unstable ball. We’re gonna get mud slung at us no matter who we are or what we do so I say skip the “why” and head straight to the “how”, as in “How am I gonna deal with how I feel now?” and “How am I going to change it to feel better tomorrow?”.
*
There’s no use over analyzing your life and crying over spilled lattes. Notice your patterns and work through them accordingly and if a couple of drinks helps you make it through easier, Mazel Tov! Just make sure that whatever it is that helps you get through the bad times, isn’t actually recycling you right back through them again. The world can be a sneaky snake sometimes so always remember to have your skinning tools ready and maybe you’ll come out on top with a new lease on life and a slick pair of boots. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 74

*
*
Sober City – March 15th, 2011
*
*
It’s funny how your entire perception can change from one day to the next. Some days you wake up full of optimism and excitement at the new moments and experiences that lay ahead, and other days you just really really want a god damn beer! Just one, maybe two, that’s all. No big deal. No lost weekend in Vegas. No after-after-after parties. No waking up while driving a cop car. One beer! Or a medium size bottle of wine. Maybe some shots. Three, four J├Ąger bombs, tops. Half a dozen rum and cokes. Maybe a couple double Jack and…oh I see the problem here. The slope. The sneaky, slippery, delicious slope. It is indeed steep and it is patiently awaiting my departure from the wagon. The downside to the uphill struggle of holding my ground and keeping my feet dry. The deceivingly dangerous allure of the 180 flip that is absolute total debauchery. “What happens when the experiment is over?”
*
No one can deny that there is a strong chance of me experiencing an immediate downward spiral after being sober for so long. Human nature dictates that denying oneself of a certain pleasure can in fact intensify the craving for the very thing you’ve spent so much energy avoiding. I don’t know if that’s true. It sounds true. I mean it’s true for me as far as I know. Not to say that a year long booze binge is absolutely inevitable when this ride is over but it’s not completely out of the question either. That being said, I’m in no way planning on going off the rails and spending days on end pushing the limits of sanity and self medication. I’m just recognizing that the urge might arise and when it does, I’ll be ready, for better or worse. At least I think I will.
*
See, there’s that pesky little fact that my entire perception can change on a daily (if not hourly) basis and undermine any good intentions I may have right now. I mean we all end up doing whatever it is we think is right for us at any given moment, so who’s to say that the choices we’ll make tomorrow will stay in line with the choices we’re making today? There’s no way to guarantee anything really. It all depends on how we feel at the time. That’s a sort of mass chaos. Bedlam and pandemonium. A circus run by howler monkeys and crazy people with bears on bikes and pink elephants driving clown cars! Looney Tunes. The only way to make sense of all this madness is to just be aware that it’s not suppose to make sense. Shit changes. Situations evolve. Life is not a series of square pegs in square holes. It’s curve balls and lottery numbers and it’s totally fine that way. Every moment is a moment to change. Or not. Whatever. It’s your choice.
*
If this experiment has taught me anything so far, it’s that we are always ultimately the ring leaders and conductors of our own twisted side shows. We call the shots. We make the rules. And while we’re on the topic of rules, I have to admit that lately I’ve been secretly thinking about shortening the year of sobriety to 6 months. Last week I was probably 99% sure I was going to stop this whole thing by July at the latest. But today is a new day dear readers, and the funny thing about new days is that they can bring about new perspectives and different ideas. I’m full steam ahead to the finish line at this point. Wishful thinking and high wire flipping. It can all change tomorrow kids, but luckily today is all that matters. No more expectations, just new days and honest choices and that should be more than enough to make it through. It has to be, otherwise we’re all going down on the same sinking ship together. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 71

P301

*
*
Sober City – March 12, 2011
*
*
Coffee helps. Like millions of people on the planet I enjoy the java on a regular basis. It’s delicious, it packs a punch and in these turbulent times of sobriety when all I really want is a nice glass of Cabernet and a shot (or 12) of good rum, coffee helps. I’ve been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember (I’m way too narcissistic to refuse something often referred to as a cup of Joe) and I have definitely at least doubled my caffeine consumption since I’ve banished the booze. This can obviously be diagnosed as a simple case of trading one addiction for another and while that might seem to be the case, it’s not like I was caffeine free before this experiment and picked up coffee simply as a coping mechanism. I’ve pumped a Grande something or other into my system every day for years now and would most likely have way more of a tough time giving up the allure of the green and white siren that is the Starbucks mermaid then alcohol any day.
*
Like many people, I just don’t feel “right” till I’ve had that first cup of coffee in the morning and I constantly associate it with meeting up with friends or curling up on the couch with a good book. It doesn’t even really make me feel energized anymore so to speak, it’s just something I’m convinced I need everyday. I even yawn while I’m drinking it sometimes which should be entirely impossible and most certainly can’t be a good sign, yet I keep drinking it because it makes me feel good and it’s part of my comfortable daily routine. So how is that any different than “needing” a pint of beer on a summer patio or having a glass of wine at dinner? The answer: It’s not. In fact, the only real difference is that skipping the regular caffeine kick in the morning will probably have an actual minor physical affect where as passing on the pint will only make me drink more water (or coffee).
*
I know I’m not making any startling revelations here or discovering amazing new realities that no one was ever aware of. Alcohol and caffeine are both drugs and can both become mentally and physically addictive in high enough doses over a long enough period of time, but I truly believe that in moderate amounts, even on a regular basis, they can be enjoyed as a positive part of your life. It just has to be something you consistently choose to have instead of something you always need to have. We owe it to ourselves to realize why we do the things we do and make sure we’re the ones making the choices and not just operating on auto pilot. Habitual activity is easy to form and hard to change, especially the kind of habits that have quick short term benefits, but we’re the ones who form them so we’re also the ones who can change them. Coffee in the morning, drinks after work, popcorn during a movie, they’re all habits we created and they’re all habits we can change. We just have to make the choice and stick with it. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say then to do but it is possible. Giving up alcohol for a whole year may be unnecessary and predesigned to encourage unrealistic extreme behavioral ideals (and possible excessive drinking in the future) but I need to ride this wicked beast until it’s twisted legs refuse to carry me any further in order to steal it’s secrets and capture it’s soul! I do miss drinking and nothing is going to take my mind away from the day when I shall once again enjoy the nector of the gods with childlike wonder and newly enlightened appreciation. Until then, coffee helps. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 67

P254

*
*
Sober City – March 8th, 2011
*
*
The past is a toxic wasteland capable of psychological torture of Sheenian proportions. The ability to vividly remember better times or thinner bodies or whatever glory days we may have lived through as younger versions of ourselves is one of the many evil designs of the human experience that we all share. Oh sure it can be great to reminisce about the good times and fondly remember moments with loved ones and what have you, but it can also remind you of how much better things may have been before and how different they are now. The past will only make you feel as good as the present will allow and presently, my past is making me feel like shit.
*
I’m extremely fortunate to have lived a very full and exciting life in what little time I’ve been here so far and up until a couple years ago it was always getting better. High school was a great time, college was amazing, my life in Vancouver as lead singer of my old band Day Theory was incredible, living at The Highland Gardens in Hollywood three pilot seasons in a row was unforgettable, I got to host a hit Canadian TV show for 4 years, I worked on a ton of great movies, I met life long friends and experienced a small taste of success on MTVs Kaya, and the list goes on and on. I’m not telling you all this to brag about my life and the awesome things I’ve done, it’s actually quite the opposite. Despite what has been an amazing ride so far, full of endless stories and cherished memories, I still managed to get to a place where it all seems like nothing more than a distant memory. Probably because that’s exactly what the past is, memories. Memories meant to be thought of, smiled at, learned from, and not dwelled on. Well, dear blog followers, I sure as hell am dwelling.
*
I feel like this is an important thing to confess because not everyone really talks about it. It’s not cool to dwell on the past and long for the good old days, especially when you’re still “living the dream”. It’s something normally reserved for the middle aged housewives and tired business men trapped behind picket fences with overdue mortgage payments and diapers on the grocery list. The inevitable sullen recollection during post work beers or afternoon wines of an easier time with no responsibilities and an endless supply of hope and wonder. Well I am about as far from that scene as humanly possible and I’m here to announce that I still wallow in the murky waters of what used to be. “If only I looked the way I used to looked when I was kicking ass in my old band”; “If only I had the blind confidence I had when I was on my TV shows”; “If only I could switch my “jaded” setting back to “optimistic”. These are all thoughts I’ve had lately and they are both utterly ridiculous and completely crippling. Logically I know these thoughts are false, but age and boredom can do a really good job of taking logic out in an alley and beating it to death with a self pity bat. The truth is, it’s impossible to be the person you were before and it’s just as impossible to stay the person you are now. We constantly change, that’s just the way it is and it’s just as useless looking back for answers as it is looking too far forward. Oprah and the new agers are right, it’s all about now.
*
Now what does any of this have to do with not drinking you might ask? Well, I can only assume that everything I’m going through is of relevance to this ridiculous game of will power I’ve impossed upon myself and in the spirit of full disclosure and self discovery I try not to censor too much. I obviously felt I was at a point in my life where I wanted something to change bad enough that I decided to actively shake things up, so exploring my past is probably par for the course. I will confess however, that I did assume a lot of my “woe-is-me-I-miss-my-old-self” thinking was solely connected to nights of drinking too much, but it turns out not to be the case. Wallowing in the past is entirely doable sans the alcoholic encouragement. If anything I’m realizing alcohol doesn’t have as much to do with my issues and hang ups as I had originally assumed it did. Kind of a bummer seeing on how I was secretly hoping that optimism and “living in the now” would be some of the added benefits of sobriety. So far the only real benefit has been this blog, which I do enjoy writing so I guess it’s not all bad.
*
Maybe I’m over thinking everything. As much as we do constantly change in most aspects, we are still at the core the same person in our memories as we are in our plans. Once again it all comes down to how you look at things. There are no real answers kids, just a whole lot of questions and at the end of the day, no matter how bad you miss the past or worry about the future, you can always take comfort in knowing that right now is all that truly matters. That, and the fact that you’re not Charlie Sheen. Cheers!