SOBER CITY – Moderation

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This post feels weird for 2 reasons; Number 1: It’s the first Sober City post I’ve written in a while without a numbered day attached to it.
Number 2: It’s the first Sober City post I’ve EVER written while drinking a beer. You read that right. I’m drinking a real beer and it’s delicious.
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So for those of you who might have missed my last post (or were just confused by the vague subtly of my redefinition of this blog), Sober City isn’t about me not drinking anymore, it’s about positive self reinforcement through moments of clarity and sober thinking. In other words, I’m drinking again. Realizing alcohol wasn’t my main problem meant taking away any power it had over me. Avoiding it entirely only makes it more of a constant presence in my life by becoming this thing that I’m always talking/thinking/writing about, when it really shouldn’t be anything more than a beverage I enjoy on occasion…and therein lies the key. On occasion. Moderation. It’s the minor character that has been hovering in the wings this entire blog since day one and it’s time for it to take its rightful place at center stage.
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Now before I go any further, I should stress that I fully realize that moderation doesn’t work for everyone and that people with serious alcohol/drug/nicotine addictions should absolutely seek help in quitting full on. The obvious question here is, “What makes me think I don’t have a serious problem?”. Well while it’s hard to answer that without sounding like I’m in complete denial, all I can say is, I don’t. If in trying to moderate my drinking I find myself not able to just have a couple here and there without getting wasted every time, then I will be the first to admit I have a problem, but for now I’m just focusing on staying happy and healthy mentally and being the best me I can be. So far so good.
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Moderation has always been the better way to go with things that are ultimately “bad” for you one way or another and practicing moderation doesn’t have to be as hard as it can sound. It’s nice to be able to go out and stop at 2 or 3 drinks instead of thinking I need to keep going until I guarantee myself a hangover. I still get the desired effects, I still get to indulge in the things I enjoy and it’s ultimately not that hard to do. After spending an entire year avoiding it completely, cutting back and moderating myself seems like a cakewalk in comparison and I have a pretty good gauge of when to have one more and when to switch to water. This is all common sense of course and it’s seems ridiculous to even have to waste time typing any of it but it’s all part of the process and sometimes it feels good to remember the simple things.
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Now I’m not saying I’ll never get drunk again, but I am saying it’s going to be WAY more infrequently than ever before and only when I make a very conscious choice to do so. It’s been said a million times but I’ll say it again, “Everything is fine in moderation”. It’s just being honest with your ability to moderate that’s important. Here’s to hoping I can be sober minded enough to do just that.
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JM

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SOBER CITY:TR – Day 9

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One week. Really? That’s it? Jesus. I was kind of hoping to make it at least a month or two before getting disenchanted and discouraged…yet here I am. I feel like I’ve been putting a lot of positive thinking and feel good, motivational speaking out there in the blogosphere and not really fully hearing any of it myself. I know It’s incredibly early in this journey but I don’t want to give the impression that after making the choice to take control of my life and turn things around, I was able to just automatically do it. For the record, I still feel pretty shitty and anything resembling a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel is still too far away or too obstructed with hurdles and roadblocks to see. I’m not trying to be depressing or sound like a defeatist, I’m just being honest. Change is hard and it’s hard from day one.
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But as I write this, it’s becoming clear to me that I’m completely missing the point. I’m realizing that this entire blog might be focusing on the wrong issues and that alcohol really isn’t my main problem. Sure it doesn’t help me in any way or make things any easier but it’s just not the crux of my unhappiness. Giving it up isn’t a bad idea in general (and it’s really not that hard for me to do at the end of the day) but it’s really just a fraction of the bigger issues. Now it is true that every day without a hangover has a way better chance of being a productive/happy one and that any chance at losing weight and staying fit is amplified 10 fold without those added calories, but my real problem lies not in my ability to lose weight or quit drinking, my real problem lies completely in my inability to be happy with who I am right now. I’ve lived a lot of years in a happy productive balance (drinking, working, creating, living) and I know a lot of people who still do. So what changed for me? What set me off on this recent path of unbalanced living and all or nothing attitude? When exactly did I get so insecure and unsure of myself? What made me so scared of living life all of a sudden? It isn’t drinking too much or gaining too much weight that’s the problem. The problem is me, not liking me, RIGHT NOW.
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I’ve become so obsessed with how I used to be or how I will be one day that the only thing that actually matters, who I am now, is getting completely ignored. If we only attach happiness and success to things we used to have or have yet to attain then how will we ever be happy with who we are today? We won’t. It’s a problem. “We’ll feel better when…”.”We’ll be happy if…”. It’s not real. It’s misleading at best and completely destructive at worst. It’s not a recipe for anything but depression and anxiety and it’s not how I want to live my life anymore. No more waiting. I want to start being happy now and loving who I am today, unconditionally and the only thing standing in my way is my stupid brain telling me I’m not good enough yet. What a bunch of donkey shit. I know on some deep level that’s just not true and I need to start owning that belief again and stop trying to point the finger at everything else. That’s why it’s time to redefine Sober City.
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Sober City isn’t a place where no alcohol or no drugs should be the focus, it’s a place where the sobering truth of reality reigns and honest self analysis and growth should thrive. I’m not alone in this. We’ve all had moments of clarity where life made sense for a fraction of a second and everything felt perfectly aligned and good. That’s Sober City. We’ve all been surrounded by friends or family, deep in meaningful conversation and comfortable laughter, losing all sense of time and place, even if only for a couple of minutes. That’s Sober City. It’s the feeling of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, with no foot in the past and no fear for the future. Happiness now without conditions for later. That’s Sober City. It isn’t about getting somewhere else, it’s about being exactly where you are, and thriving there. My solution isn’t doing something to make myself a better person tomorrow, it’s being that better person today.
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So from now on these posts will probably have less and less to do with alcohol and more to do with trying to truly live in the present and learn to completely love who and where I am right now, today. It’s probably going to get even more personal (and possibly more preachy and pretentious) so I might lose a lot of you along the way, but I’m going to keep pushing forward regardless and hope that honesty and courage will lead me to clarity and truth. Living for today, one day at a time, without waiting to be someone else. The only hard part is actually doing it…
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JM

SOBER CITY:TR – Day 6

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4 days in a row at the gym and I hate it. OK maybe hate is a little strong. I don’t hate being AT the gym or the feeling I have AFTER the gym, it’s the going TO the gym that really chaps my ass (only figuratively…so far). It’s the idea more than anything, that not only do I have to go now, I have to keep going over and over again for the rest of my life in order to keep this monstrous beast that is excess fat and depression constantly at bay. Come on!! That’s not cool. Let me lose weight playing video games and get rich sleeping in every day. What’s wrong with that? This is why diets and workout plans fail so often, they’re a lot of work at the beginning with little results until later. This is the mountain I faced before and this is the mountain I’m facing again. Taking the first step may indeed be the hardest thing to do but the second and third and tenth and twentieth steps sure as shit aren’t any easier.
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But the proof is in the pudding and not drinking, coupled with eating less and exercising regularly, absolutely works for me. It makes me lose weight, it makes me feel happier and above all it motivates me to be a better me. What in the hell more do I want? Free sex? Guaranteed immortality? No! I want what everybody wants who struggles with weight issues or career problems or substance abuse. I want that magic pill that makes it all happen immediately so I don’t have to do anything at all and get everything I want. Come on science! How hard can it be? We’re two years away from hover boards in the Back To The Future universe and Doc Brown didn’t even have an iPhone! Get your shit together!
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The point is; waiting sucks. Losing weight is not easy and neither is getting clean or rebuilding a career or quitting smoking but they’re not impossible achievements. What’s more, they’re not even that complicated to achieve as long as you’re willing to put in the time and do the work. Every fad diet and trendy workout phenomenon preys on our society’s inability to put in time and wait, when it’s really dirt simple. Want the secret? Here it is:

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“The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution For a Better You” by Dr. J.W. MacLeod D.F.A.

Chapter 1

Burn more calories than you eat.

Chapter 2

Repeat.

The End

Pulitzer Prize please!
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We all know this and we don’t care because we’re all lazy impatient assholes who get angry when a web page from Africa takes over 10 seconds to load…on our cellular telephone…on an airplane…FLYING IN THE SKY LIKE A BIRD. Not good enough. We want everything we want immediately all the time so no wonder we feel the same about big life altering changes to our endlessly complex bodies and lives. It’s pointless and damaging and we do it just the same. The key is to recognize it and move on.
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So waiting sucks and the mountain of change usually seems insurmountable. Fact. So what? “Oh well, it’s not worth it?” Bullshit. It’s absolutely worth it and I know because I got to the other side once before and it was amazing. Looking back now at the time it took me to get there, it seems like nothing more than a brief moment in time. It seems that way because it WAS just a moment and it IS just a moment and it’s all going to BE just a moment again. So really, complaining is useless and only makes you miserable. Waiting sucks, sure, but idling is worse and time waits for no one. Your future self is coming no matter what you do or don’t do so you may as well do something. Those hover boards aren’t gonna ride themselves.
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JM

SOBER CITY: TR – Day 3

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Regression sucks. It just does. Any time we take a couple steps backwards from the direction we want to go in, it can feel like a complete failure. Case in point: Me. Anyone who is already familiar with my Sober City blog (or has spent more than a few days with me) knows that I have deeply ingrained and sometimes ridiculous weight issues. I'm sure being in a business where what you look like is a big part of how much you work doesn't help but I know I share this struggle with millions of people outside "the business" as well. It's been a problem since I was little and (if my mother is any indication) it'll probably be an issue my whole life. Unless of course I just stop caring about it altogether which is totally easy and will probably happen without any therapy at all, right around the same time as the presidential inauguration of Honey Boo Boo.
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I bring this up only because this blog needs to be about complete honesty if it’s ever going to do me any good to write and be worth any time at all for you to read. I believe the only way to make sense of anything is to get to the truth of the moment in every moment and the only way to get the to truth is to be completely open and honest as much as possible, beginning with yourself. Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in over a month and it felt great. Sometimes simply making the choice to change and head in a better direction is enough to make you feel a thousand times better than you did the day before. True for me, until I stepped on the demonic and twisted device from the seventh circle of hell known as the scale. Make no mistake, the scale is an evil bastard and wants to eat your soul. There was really no purpose to get on it unless cannibals were planning on purchasing parts of me to eat and needed to know the daily market value of White Nova Scotian. They didn’t. They still don’t. Regardless, I continually use this device and receive information that I do nothing with except panic over and directly attach to my immediate happiness or (more often) personal failure. Because of this, yesterday I went from feeling awesome after a great workout to thinking "Oh shit, I gained over 30 pounds since 2011. I'm back to where I started. Why'd I let it get so bad? What a fool I am! Help me Dr. Oprah Jesus!". Ridiculous things fly through the mind of the weight obsessed on the hellish scale of pain and I fall prey to it's vicious ways time and time again.
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But how does that really change anything? Well, the good news is, it doesn't at all. I'm still on the right path, I'm still moving forward and I'm closer today to where I want to be than I was yesterday. Simple as that. It feels like regression getting on a scale and seeing numbers you don't want to see or falling behind in a career you used to be further up the ladder in or indulging in something you promised to quit even though you were doing so great avoiding it, but it's all an illusion. It feels like regressing but it's actually just repositioning. How can anyone truly regress when it's impossible to do anything but continue to move forward? Sure sometimes we veer a little to the left or right but we're still all going the same way. It's not about getting "back" to somewhere you were before, it's about knowing where you want to go and heading forward in that direction.
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If there's one thing I've learned doing Sober City the first time, it's that change can happen anytime you want it to and it's never to late to turn it all around. I also found out that as soon as I decided to take the wheel and get myself back on track to where I truly wanted to be, the quickest route had been right in front of me the entire time. All I really needed to do was pay attention to the signs and enjoy the ride.
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JM

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SOBER CITY: The Return

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This is not an April Fool’s joke.
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I wrote an update for my Sober City blog about 6 months ago with a desire in my heart to change my life but a lack of motivation and will power to act on any of it. Needless to say, I never posted it. My year spent in “Sober City” 2011 proved to be an experiment that profoundly changed the direction my life was headed and was also one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. I lost 50 pounds, wrote more music than ever and reawakened a passion for life inside of me that I had previously thought was gone forever. In 2012 I brought alcohol back into my life and everything was great…until it wasn’t. Here is that never posted blog from late last year.

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Sober City Update – Sept. 21st 2012
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It’s been 273 days since I ended the year long lease of my alcohol free residence in Sober City and since that day I’ve enjoyed over 9 months of untethered freedom at my familiar homestead of Jameson St and Grasshopper Ave in Booze Town. The year has been full of good times, great people and exceptional hangovers. It’s sent me home to Cape Breton to drink with my family and back to Chicago to drink with my friends. There have been many bottles of wine, plenty glasses of whiskey and countless pints of beer, all washed down with smiles in my eyes and laughter in my ears. A careful balance was struck between gym trips and bar tips and all was right in the world. The exile was over. The celebration commenced. And commenced. And again. And again.
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The workouts started to dwindle somewhere near June. Nothing serious mind you, just down to 3 or 4 times a week, which is probably a more reasonable amount of time to spend at the gym than every day. Not a bad thing. Moderation and balance. Then the weight started coming back. Also good news according to all of my friends who insist I got way too skinny. Fair enough. Nothing wrong with maintaining a normal, healthy body size. The extra booze is probably actually a good thing in that respect. Right? I still felt pretty great so why not keep it all going?
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More nights out. More mornings in. Drinking instead of writing. Hangovers instead of workouts. It was all good though. It was all fine. Then something changed. A subtle poisonous undercurrent of insecurity was bubbling below the surface and it was slowly starting to spill over. It didn’t happen overnight but it didn’t take long either. Something was wrong. I hated working out again, my clothes started feeling uncomfortable again and worst of all I stopped caring. All of a sudden it was October 1st and I felt terrible. Depression took hold. Anger. Resentment. Despair. All of the things I spent a year getting away from were coming back stronger than ever and I hated to think I was going to end up back where I was before this whole journey started in 2011. The solution was obvious. It was time to move back.
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The only thing I had to do before I changed residency once again was make a simple decision. Do I tell everyone? Do I start another potentially pretentious regularly updated blog about a very personal experience to share with everyone regardless of how well they know me? Is there anything valuable left to say about my drinking habits and how they affect me? Who really benefits from a documented account of such a personal and otherwise insignificant choice? The answer is simple of course. I do. I need to tell you because I need to do this for me, with you. Even if there isn’t anyone actually listening, as long as I think there is, that’s all I truly need to keep me motivated and on track.
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So, to all my friends and family and anyone remotely interested, I’m officially moving back to Sober City indefinitely. It may not be for long, it may be for way longer but it’s time to go back regardless. As before this isn’t about alcohol so much as its about regaining control of my life and trying to force something to change. I’m convinced that for me alcohol is just a small part of a bigger picture and for the rest of this year (at least) I’ll be stepping away from it to better understand it with a clear head and an open mind. Just in time for the Mayans to kill us all.

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So that never happened.

Now it’s 6 months later and it’s been 15 months since the last Sober City post and I’m almost back to where I started. Did I learn nothing? Was it all a waste? Absolutely not. These past 15 months were just as valuable if not more than the year of sobriety because no experiment can ever be complete without direct and unbiased comparison. Well the results are in and it couldn’t be more clear. Alcohol is a problem for me. Maybe not always but definitely right now. It’s the only clear difference between the happy, inspired and productive 2011 me and the slowly deteriorating, unmotivated, constantly depressed and insecure 2012-present version. It’s a shitty murder mystery because there’s only one bloody handed suspect and I keep inviting him back for more. They say alcohol isn’t a problem until it gets in the way of living your life and lately it’s been getting in my way much more than ever before.
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So it’s with this not so new knowledge that I came to an obvious decision. Time to move back to Sober City. For real this time. (You’re reading this so I can’t back out now). It may or may not be a permanent move but it’s absolutely necessary for me now and it’ll probably be necessary for quite some time later. So to everyone who knows me or is at least mildly interested in my sober ramblings and self analytical blog posts, you’ll be happy to know that Sober City is officially back up and running for everyone to read and ignore accordingly. I fully realize that it’s absolutely more for me than it might be for you, but it’s just something I need to do and I truly appreciate any and all support and encouragement that might come from documenting all my madness and neuroses. I changed direction once before and it’s clear that something has to change again. Time to see if the blueprint still holds up.

JM

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