Category Archives: Sober City

Sober City Redux: Day 87

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What is an artist? Who gets to slap that noble age old badge of honor and mystery on their chest and rightfully wear it with pride? Lots of people claim to be artists. Painters, musicians, actors, comedians, writers, singers, dancers, poets, chefs, designers, film makers, architects, woodworkers, photographers, etc, etc. Artistry lives in manual labor and office buildings; in parenting and gardening; in coffee shop lattes and beach front properties. It’s everywhere we look and yet only a small fraction of us would ever consider ourselves actual “artists”. What does it take to justifiably call yourself an artist and own it? I struggle with that question more often than not. Maybe I’m an artist because I struggle with it. The word holds so much weight and power to me. It scares me. It excites me. It fuels me when I truly believe in it and it hurts me when I don’t honor it.  

The other day I picked up my guitar for the first time in a long time and I had to clean dust off of it. Unacceptable. I’m deeply ashamed of and devastated by this and also by the amount of unfinished song ideas on my iPhone. Add to that the fact that I haven’t properly acted in well over 2 years and I have ample reasons to strip the title of artist from my mental biography. These things are scary to artists. Idleness is death to an artist, the shame of the artist. Without creating art the artist isn’t. What’s worse, even when producing and creating, the artist constantly questions his or her self worth and value, often to the point of complete destruction or dismissal of the art itself. Shutting down. Tuning out. Giving up. Sacrilege. This is where I’m at. This is where I’m at 85% of always and yet, this is also why I know I am an artist. 
Every true artist since the beginning of time has questioned their art. I don’t know this because of documented evidence, I know this because I live this. Doubt is part of the process of creating everything. Doubt is important. The artist needs doubt to achieve greatness, to perfect the craft, to constantly evolve and stay honest and true. But doubt is a fickle ally. It’s a false friend. A necessary evil that can easily poison the artist mind and turn the artist against the very art he or she must create, and make no mistake, the artist MUST create. The only choice to be made is whether to share it or not. The artist never stops. Art will creep into the daily life of the most suppressed artist and find a way. Countless people have silenced their art for a plethora of justifiable reasons but art cannot truly be silenced in an artist. It will find a way. It will always find a way.
I find myself in the midst of a rebirth of sorts. A reintroduction to myself, to the self that I lost with my father; to the self that got tarnished by time and trauma; to the self that’s been malnourished and ignored for far too long; to the self that never really left. It’s terrifying and exciting and jarring and absolutely necessary. I am one of many and also entirely unique. We all are. The artist thrives when the artist is alive and being alive is a constant beautiful struggle, a strange dance we all dance in our own way, to our own music, in our own time. I am an artist in recovery, an artist rediscovering but an artist none the less. I am an artist and I must not forget. I am an artist and I fight not to quit. I am an artist crawling back from the dead. I am an artist…and I’m not finished yet. 
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Sober City Redux: Day 20

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And here comes the blog delays!

I started writing this on “Blue Monday” which is apparently the most depressing day of the year according to people who have nothing better to do than figure out which day of the year is suppose to suck the most. Lots of days suck already people! No need to point out which one is the worst according to people who have the time to fill out surveys! Those people are probably out of work and depressed enough as it is. I’m surprised they don’t think everyday is a struggle. Seriously. Who even takes these surveys anyway? Whatever. Maybe they’re right. I’m clearly cranky.

None of this matters though because I’m not here to talk about public opinion, I’m here to talk about me. 20 days into Sober City 2 and already I’m feeling the stagnant pangs of redundancy. Like pretty much every movie ever, the sequel just isn’t as good as the original (except Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather Part 2 of course). The first one was fresh and exciting, exploring uncharted territory with a younger up-and-coming lead who was out to prove something with will power and wit alone. One man’s year long journey into sobriety. Will he make it? Will it change him? Will Wendy finally realize Daniel Stern has been narrating his thoughts the whole time? (Spoiler alert: She never finds out!) The point being, this all made for a relatively exciting blog worthy adventure and now I can’t help but feel like the follow up just doesn’t carry the same weight.

The biggest hurdle I faced doing this last time wasn’t craving alcohol or feeling pressure to drink when I was out with friends, it was boredom. Hands down. I got to the point somewhere around the fall when I had already lost the majority of the weight I wanted to lose and I felt great but I just didn’t really want to keep the experiment going because I was bored with it. The thing that did kept me going was almost entirely the fear of breaking my promise and letting everyone down. I had to see it through to the end to prove to myself that I could do it (even though I already knew I could do it) and I did do it. Good job. Great ending. Bravo Joe MacLeod. The problem I’m facing now is figuring out a way to keep myself excited about doing this for an entire year all over again and to be completely honest with you, I really don’t think I can. I mean I already know I CAN but the question is do I really think I NEED to or do I really even WANT to.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me throwing in the towel. I’m committed to doing this and definitely have no intention of running out and getting drunk anytime soon but I do question my need to abstain completely for an entire year. It just seems like I’m repeating myself. Rehashing the hits for another tour with the same debut album. That being said, I still think staying away from booze completely is the best way to kick start my weight loss and help get me back into shape (both physically and mentally), so I’m definitely sticking with it for a long time to come regardless of all these trepidations. I’m just trying to stay honest with you guys and ultimately with myself. We’ll see where this all ends up together. Blue Monday’s officially over now. Happy Taco Tuesday everybody!
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 12

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Excuses are the enemy and I’m their number one arms dealer. I excel at creating them out of extremely thin premises and giving them validity and truth for absolutely no positive reason and it’s extremely damaging. Convincing myself to sleep in an extra hour or two because I “need” the rest; Eating all that extra garbage food on Sunday because football is on; Not joining a new gym because I don’t have the money; These are all lame excuses for shitty behavior and I never seem to run out of them. It’s that voice again. That evil demonic asshole voice who does a masterful job of convincing me these terrible lies are true. Soft whispers of doubt. Loud screams of hate. We all have this voice but some of us do a really good job of ignoring it or even silencing it altogether. I used to be one of the lucky ones. I’ve shut him up plenty. He was a tiny speck in my psyche for so long that when he finally grew loud enough for me to hear, I hardly noticed his influence at all. But it was there. It’s a poison. It’s a cancer. It’s the one thing that has the power to derail the greatest of intentions before thought even becomes action and it never takes a day off. It feeds off of fear and insecurity and in turn cultivates more food for its insatiable appetite, swallowing all that is good and producing nothing but despair.

So what’s to be done? How do we expel this infectious swine from its toxic lair of turmoil and rise victorious in the wake of its destruction? We don’t. We can’t. It’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay because that voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough or we’re not pretty enough or we’re too fat or too old or not the right color or we love the wrong people or we wear the wrong clothes; that voice is our own voice. Sure it can be strengthened by outside influences and various complicated situations but in the end it’s just our own voice and we have the power to shut it up or give it a megaphone. For me, right now, that evil voice is fronting Metallica with 20 stories of Marshall stacks behind it and the only song it’s playing is “You Suck Joe MacLeod”. Nice. Real nice, you jerk.

I clearly have no answers. I’m just experiencing the same thing everyone experiences when trying to change. The shitty voice is resisting and is beginning to roll out the big guns. It’s not an easy fight and I don’t even know if I’m capable of winning. Making excuses is so much easier and immediately rewarding. Why bother trying to do something when doing nothing is clearly a viable option? Terrible lies from the poisonous voice. I’m still optimistic though, oddly enough, that one day I’ll strengthen that other voice, a new voice. A voice of love and compassion and encouragement but some days, some weeks, some years, that shitty voice is just too loud to ignore and that’s where the real challenge lays. When the negative voice is assuming complete control and shouting really, really loud, I have to find a way to plug in my amp, hook up my mic and start shouting louder. Sounds like a good plan at least. Time to see how many excuses I actually have left.
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JM

Sober City Redux: Day 8

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So the one week mark came and went and during that time a lot of people were asking me how I’d been making out without alcohol. Because of this, I feel the need to clarify something on the record for anyone reading this who may not know me on a personal level. I like to drink. I always have. I like the taste and the culture and the buzz and I have a high tolerance so I tend to drink more than some, but I am not an alcoholic. I didn’t drink everyday, I didn’t drink to get drunk, and I definitely didn’t have a problem giving it up for a week. I realize this may sound like text book denial to some of you and if that’s the case then I guess I’m a lost cause because I just don’t see it like that at all. I do however think it’s fair to say that I indeed have issues with drinking from time to time. The simple fact that I feel the need to cut it out completely instead of just cutting back is a good indication of an underlying problem of some sort, I just truly don’t believe it’s alcoholism. But, regardless of what my situation is or isn’t, the important thing is that I’m doing whatever I can to help create a clean and positive mindset to tackle the bigger issues in my life. My weight is one of them but my poor body image is the bigger one. Getting myself back in shape is one of them but getting my self confidence back is the bigger one. Drinking too much is one of them but getting to the issues behind why I let myself give up on truly living in the first place is the biggest one. All of this together is why I’m here.

Also for what it’s worth, I wanted to take a moment to express how grateful I am for everyone reading this and following me on my journey. Making my personal thoughts and struggles public can be a little scary at times so every comment, “like” and share is deeply appreciated. It might seem a little premature to thank you at the beginning of this but I remember how much knowing my words weren’t simply sinking into a void helped keep me motivated and in check last time so thank you, thank you, thank you! You guys are all part of this now whether you know it or not so let’s take this twisted beast by the horns together and ride it until it there’s nothing left!
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JM

SOBER CITY – Day 365 – The Final Post

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Sober City, January 1st, 2012
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Well kids, don’t let them tell you miracles can’t happen because they are horribly wrong and terrible people for lying to your innocent faces. Clearly miracles DO happen and anything is indeed possible. I’ve come to the end of my year long self imposed sabbatical from alcohol and come out the other end healthier and happier without sipping a drip of the good stuff. What started out as a simple challenge turned into a life altering and incredibly fulfilling journey that has allowed me to rediscover who I am and who I truly want to be. I’m extremely grateful for all your love and support throughout the year and I can’t thank you all enough for providing me with an outlet for my frustrations as well as an audience to continually hold my feet to the fire and keep me true to my word. You guys helped me do this more than you’ll ever know and I thank you from the bottom of my alcohol deprived heart.
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Now truth be told, I haven’t made it yet. I mean I made it by the time you’re reading this but as I’m writing this, I still have 28 hours until the year is officially over. It’s safe to say though, baring a situation where I would find myself trapped in a giant vat of beer where my only means of survival involved a straw and a catheter, I’m going to make it to the bitter end at midnight New Year’s Eve. I figure it best to write this final post now though as opposed to writing it through the headache and regret that most certainly will be dominating my Sunday morning, afternoon and rest of the year. I will however add my final video of the actual moment after the countdown so that everyone can witness the official end of Sober City for themselves and cheer me on or gasp in horror and shame.
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So thank you all for paying attention to my little experiment and helping me accomplish something I’ll be crazy proud of for the rest of my life. My Posterous site will stay up and active if you ever feel the need to relive my madness or show it to a friend but this will officially be the final new post. Follow me on Twitter @joemacleod if you want to know how things are going on a regular basis or at www.wordpress.com/joemacleod where I may or may not keep blogging from time to time (my list of favorite albums of 2011 is the only thing up there at this point).
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The Sober City experiment may be over but the big experiment of life is forever going on and no matter what we do or who we might seem to be, we can always choose a new direction if we don’t like the one we’re heading in. If I can do it, you can do it too. So raise a glass with me if you got one, no matter what may be in it and let’s drink to love, laughter and Lemon Hart rum. Always choose the life you want to live and live out your life one choice at a time. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 352

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Sober City – December 18th, 2011
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Oh faithful readers, the holiday season is upon us and the spirit of good will and happy times is indeed flowing through my holly red blood, while visions of sugar plums dance in my head like Rockettes at Rockefeller Center. Only they aren’t visions of sugar plums, they’re visions of sweet wines and honey blonde ale and they aren’t dancing, they’re moving hard and fast through my mind like Jack Daniels on a Grey Goose stuffed inside a Wild Turkey. I can smell it. I can see it. I can almost taste it and the best gift I’ll get this Christmas morning is knowing that one week later I’ll be reunited with my trusty loyal liquid companions to seek out adventures only found by sailing to the wetlands with Captain Morgan. It sounds exaggerated but I’d be lying if I said I was any less excited.
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Don’t get me wrong, this experiment has taught me a lot. It taught me about who I am and what I want out of life. It transformed me both physically and mentally and gave me a new perspective on what’s possible. It strengthened my will power and rejuvenated my liver. It helped me progress in ways I never knew I could and stopped me from becoming someone I never wanted to be. And now, I’m ready for a god damn celebratory drink. These past few weeks have unexpectedly been the hardest so far and I’m assuming the last two will be even harder, what with Christmas dinners and reconnecting with old college friends. It’s not like I’ve been overly tempted or anything but I’ve just noticed I’ve been thinking about it a lot more lately and I’ve found myself in situations where I’m finally a little tired of being the only sober one and I really can’t wait to not have to think about it anymore. Two more weeks.
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But what then? What’s next? I spent all year leading up to a moment that’s almost here. What’s the big finale going to entail? Will I still like the taste of alcohol after so long without it? Will I even be physically able to imbibe more than one or two drinks given the dramatic weight loss and new found healthy lifestyle? Will I develop an insatiable blood lust for booze immediately following the countdown and drink myself into an alcoholic coma by 12:30? All shall be revealed soon enough. Until then, the clock is ticking and my eyes are fixed firmly on the prize and that prize is pride. Pride in accomplishing a goal I never thought I’d actually accomplish. Pride in achieving a physical state I’ve never been able to fully achieve. But most importantly, pride in raising that glass again and truly knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I can just as easily choose to put it down. Here’s hoping I never really have to. Merry Christmas! Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 335

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Sober City – December 1, 2011
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I want a drink. It’s been almost a year since I had a tasty adult beverage and right now, at this moment I really, really want one. There’s no reason. There’s nothing influencing me or tempting me or driving me to want to get hammered, I just simply and honestly want a drink. This is perfectly fine too because the key word here is “want” and most certainly not “need”. Just one of the many lesson I’ve learned during this long crazy year of self discovery and denial. I don’t need alcohol…I want it.
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Some of you may see this as me missing the point and perhaps even a small failure in some way, after all I’m sure there are more than a few of you reading this who firmly believe alcohol is better left alone completely for someone like me (and in some ways you may be right) but I can’t deny it’s place in my life. It’s part of who I am and how I like to live. It’s not a big part of my life, or a defining aspect of my personality but I do miss it and I am looking forward to having it in my life again for better or for worse. It’s not perfect but it’s absolutely true.
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I’m not without fear though. I fully recognize the danger of welcoming my liquid lover back with too open of arms and letting her erode all the good foundation I’ve laid in my Sober City house. Denying myself something I’ve loved for so long can indeed encourage me to overindulge when given the chance by “making up for lost time” but this is something I am fully aware of and most definitely not about to let happen without a fight. I’ve come too far to throw it all away on a couple blurry benders and migraine mornings . Perspective has been gained and the horses shall be reigned.
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I’ve got one month left, four more weekends, two more holidays and a year worth of self analyzing and personal growth under my belt. I’ve learned immensely, changed incredibly and will carry this achievement with me till the day I die as a constant reminder of the triumph of willpower and the power of choice. All that matters is the moment directly in front of us right now and every second of every day comes with a new moment of now that becomes another opportunity to express who we truly are and who we truly want to be. This time next month I may indeed be hung over from two shots of Jameson and a glass of champagne but then again maybe not. It’s a choice I’ll make when the time comes and as much as I want a drink right now at this moment, a new moment is always right around the corner and I’ll make sure to raise a glass to each one regardless of what’s in my cup. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 307

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Sober City – November 3, 2011
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In less than two months 2011 will give way to 2012, champagne glasses across the globe will clink in celebration of another turning tide and Sober City will be less one resident. Over 300 days ago I set the wheels in motion on an experiment that would profoundly change my physical and mental self and as I begin these final stages I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and how many of you have come along with me. It’s been an amazing ride full of highs and lows and I thank you all for supporting me through the madness. I truly wouldn’t have been able to accomplish something like this without knowing people out there were not only watching me and holding my feet to the fire but also rooting for me to succeed. This blog gave me reasons beyond myself to stay true to my promise and never stray from the path because I needed to be the example. I mean, if I could do it, then surely anyone could. It gave me the much needed added responsibility that carried me through any tough moments I may have had and brought me all the way to where I am today, at Starbucks typing on my iPhone and drinking way too much coffee…so thank you.
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Now I know it’s not over yet but I can honestly say that after 10 months of sobriety and extreme life changing, no matter what happens, the experiment was a huge success. That’s not to say I’m in any danger of quitting early. Short of someone force feeding me alcohol with handcuffs and a funnel, there is absolutely no way I would ever imbibe before that New Year’s countdown hits “Happy New Year!” and my self imposed spell is officially broken. I’ve come way too far to add a “one year sober except for that one time near the end” asterisk to this accomplishment so get ready to settle up all those bets naysayers. It’s actually going to happen.
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On a side note, part of the reason for my lack of posts lately has been due to Posterous feeling the need to completely change their site to compete with Tumblr and in the process they’ve made it harder for me to post the way I like. It’s too bad because we had a good thing going before and now I’m going to have to break it off and transfer everything to a new site that appreciates all I have to offer them. Your loss inanimate web site, your loss. Any ideas for a better place to blog are welcome, until then Sober City continues to thrive until the great alcohol flood of 2012 commences and order is once again restored. The end is near. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 261

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Sober City – September 18, 2011
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Over 8 and a half months booze free. Couple weeks more and I’ll be able to relate to all the health conscious mothers out there who had to give up drinking because of the little monsters growing in their bellies. Yes your baby is a beautiful shining light that has changed your outlook on life entirely and will one day cure cancer, now drink your Merlot, I feel ya sister! The comparison is flawed but the sense of accomplishment is sound. All doubt of making it the full year has been completely replaced by pride and perseverance and it really doesn’t feel like an experiment anymore. It’s just a part of who I am right now and that’s really all it is.
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We all make choices every minute of every day and these choices help shape who we are and ultimately how we feel. Our experience of life largely has to do with our perception of the world around us so it’s important to help create the world you want to live in by becoming aware of the choices you make. Just being aware of the fact that you are constantly making choices every day, will help steer you in the right direction. For me, making the choice to not consume any alcohol for a year has served as a daily reminder of all the other things I can choose to do or not do and how profound an impact it can have on who I am and how I feel. The food I eat, the places I go, the company I keep, it’s all up to me and the beautiful part of it all is, if something isn’t working it can always go away and if something is missing it can always come back. I get to choose that. We all do.
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The thing is, most of us make the choice to accept the world as we see it and live inside our own little self designed hells no matter how shitty and small it makes us feel and the worse we feel the harder it is for us to see that we’re doing it to ourselves. It can sometimes be extremely hard to change our path but not making the choice to change things is still making a choice. Sometimes accepting your situation is exactly what you have to do to be happy, but sometimes it only makes things worse. Only you know for sure and only you can decide who you’re going to be and how you’re going to live in this gong show of a life called the human experience. That’s the real experiment here. Living a life you want instead of wanting a life to live.
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So in a little over 3 months, the year will be over and a new one will begin. I’ll stop blogging about not drinking and continue to live my life day to day with new habits and a fresh outlook on life. It’s been an enormously beneficial transformation period so far and the growth and learning doesn’t have to end January 1st. It never does, and it never will. I choose to take control of what comes next and take ownership of everything that comes my way and I hope you do too. Because we only have a little over 15 months until Dec 21st, 2012 when the Mayans send dragons to burn us all. Happy Holidays! Cheers!
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SOBER CITY – Day 244

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Sober City – September 1st, 2011
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Change. It’s something a lot of us want or need badly in our everyday lives. We strive to look better, feel better, act better, be a better person than we think we are now. To transform into something different in search of a happiness that might be eluding us in whatever present state we are currently in. When the changes desired are minor adjustments, all it takes is a little time and motivation but what do we do when the changes we want to make seem way too big to ever be possible? Usually nothing. That’s what I did. I literally could not imagine a scenario where the changes I wanted (and ultimately NEEDED) to make would ever happen. As far as I was concerned, the person I had become would be the person I was from now on. Overweight, depressed, unmotivated and unattractive (in my eyes). I was dripping with cynicism and self pity and I was learning to accept the uncomfortable shit world I created for myself while complaining about it to anyone who would listen. I didn’t see a way out because there wasn’t one. I wasn’t letting there be one. I was settling for a life of less, truly believing there wasn’t anything more, when in reality there was a whole universe of more just waiting to be had. All I had to do was feel worthy enough to have it.
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I feel like it’s important to stress and reiterate just how impossible I thought this was. I spent my whole life struggling with my weight and last December I had reached a new high of 177 lbs. I would always fluctuate 5 or 10 lbs here or there but this time I had let myself slide over the course of 3 years further than ever. The emotional weight I carried after my dad got sick (and died 11 months later) had physicalized itself on my body and was dragging me down in more ways than one. Anyone who has ever dealt with weight issues knows how all encompassing it can be. It goes way beyond a vain desire to look good. It’s about self confidence and mental well being and it can completely define who you are. It shouldn’t, but a lot of the time it does. Some people can own it and that’s a beautiful thing but sometimes you just feel like shit and can’t get past that ugly image you see in the mirror. Sure, it’s mind over matter but when it’s your mind that’s the matter it can seen impossible to change that mirror. But you can. Believe that shit! Seriously, if I did it at 31 after being absolutely CONVINCED I never could, then anyone can.
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That’s why I had to attach this picture. I used to watch those stupid late night weight loss ads with all those “before and after” pics and I wanted one so bad. I even spent more than a few late nights googling different weight loss pills and super quick exercise programs (all of which are bullshit) searching for an easy fix while knowing fully well there wasn’t one. You lose weight by burning off more calories than you intake. Simple. Math. I hate math but you can argue with it. So what did I do? Well, I was way too lazy to go to the gym every day, so I figured cutting out all the calories from booze could help. Step one. Then I figured I could slowly cut back on shitty foods and not diet but just be aware of what I was putting into my body. Step two. (I also stopped eating meat but for different reasons). I did about 4 months of that alone, still not stepping foot into a gym and I figure I lost about 15 lbs that way. Then one day I finally felt good enough to force myself into the gym, and believe me I still had to force myself. Nothing crazy, just a couple days a week easing myself in to a routine. Step three. Then I started going more and more until I found myself going everyday. Not doing crazy workouts everyday mind you, but at least showing up for cardio. Then it just happened. I was finally getting addicted to it. Me! It’s ridiculous. You have to understand how much of a couch potato video game geek I was (and still am in some ways), me going to the gym everyday is a god damn miracle and a possible sign of the coming apocalypse (2012 at a rapture near you). Yet, here I am none-the-less.
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I took my “before” picture in early January and took the “after” picture roughly 6 and a half months later. It shocks me. Every time I look at it I can’t believe it’s real…but it is. I’m now exactly 8 months into my year in Sober City and as of today I’ve officially lost a total of 40 lbs. I’m not telling you this to gloat about my accomplishments or fish for pats on the back, I’m telling you this because the person I was a year ago needed to hear it and there’s a good chance someone else could benefit from my story. This happened to me and it can happen to you. You just have to MAKE it happen. I promise you it’s never too late to be who you want to be. Just be prepared to buy a whole new wardrobe. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 232

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Sober City – August 20th, 2011
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Wow. It’s been a while huh? That Joe MacLeod sure is a lazy jerk. Making us all wait around so long for his stupid words then starting of his new post in the third person. What an asshole. Anyway, it’s true I’ve been having a hard time coming up with a worthy entry into this mad experiment lately and I have a few theories why. First off, it’s possible I’ve done all the public self reflection necessary and I’m just enjoying my life in the real world too much to remember to document it. This could in fact be the case but my lack of posting, while partially due to my lack of decent talking points, might also be a direct reaction to my ever dwindling audience. Sobriety, as it turns out, just doesn’t bring in the ratings like drunken shenanigans and booze infused adventures do. Not that it should matter how many of you read this but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have some sort of impact on me and my need to write. I’ve always been a performer and it’s always easier to play to a full crowd. That being said, I do have a solid number of you that read this blog on a regular basis and your comments and messages have been absolutely invaluable throughout this whole self imposed residency in Sober City and I can’t thank you enough for helping me make it this far. So maybe lack of audience really doesn’t matter after all.
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I think the simple truth is, I’m just happy. Finally after over 2 years of depression and grief and weight gain and self loathing and sealing myself off from the rest of the world, I’ve emerged from my stupid shit cocoon of despair and found myself again. The “old Joe” me and my friends used to talk about as if he was an actual loved one that died, has found his way back to the land of the living and has consumed all of the poisonous thoughts and actions that engulfed my conscience while silmultaneously rescuing any and all positive improvements to my well being that may have been picked up on the battle field. It feels like a win. It feels like I’m already fully bathed in light from the end of the tunnel and there’s still more light to come. Turns out this wasn’t an experiment, it was a rescue mission. I was severely injured and kept dragging myself further away from the search party. This whole idea was the spark that ignited the giant flare to remind me that I was still alive. It wasn’t about not drinking, it was about realigning my compass true north, instead of stumbling along aimlessly with no hope in sight. The experiment was a mission to pull myself back from the brink of despair and the mission was a success.
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So here I am now. 35 pounds lighter, 7 and a half months soberer and 10,000 times happier. All because I gave up drinking booze. I mean that’s what it is right? It’s pretty obviously not a coincidence that I quit drinking and solved the majority of my problems at the same time. Right? Booze is bad. That’s the moral of the story isn’t it? Well, it may seem to be that simple but I really don’t believe that it is. Life is very rarely black and white and while it’s true that alcohol did in fact contributed to the downward spiral I was on, it wasn’t the real problem. There was a whole myriad of issues at play and I think it’s important to realize that most of life’s problems can’t be boiled down to a single factor. It’s a never-ending game of discovery and the rules constantly change and need to be relearned. All I know is that sometimes the direction you’re heading in isn’t the way you think it is and the only way to get your bearings is to shake up the snow globe and completely change your perspective. The person you want to be is in you, it always is and it always will be. You just have to be willing to send out the search party when the weather gets bad and know that nothing inside you stays lost forever as long as you keep lighting those flares and fighting for survival.
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I’m not a recovering alcoholic or a reformed addict or a newly enlightened spiritual warrior or a self help expert with get happy quick solutions. I’m just a fellow human being experiencing life, same as you. While our circumstances may be wildly different or vaguely similar, we’re all in this together whether we like it or not and if anybody reading this can take something positive away from following me on my strange journey, then Sober City will have become something far greater then a platform for some asshole to whine about being thirsty. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 216

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Sober City – August 4th, 2011
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OK guys seriously, I really can’t believe I made it this long without at least a tiny drink, like a swig of pink Zinfandel or an “accidental” swallow of Scope but no, not even shitty booze has passed these lips in 2011. It’s as shocking to me as I assume it is to many of you. The other shocking thing is that I really have nothing to say about it. I always just assumed the postings would increase as time went on and my mind got clearer but as it turns out there is in fact a limit to the amount of pointless rambling I can do about myself. Who knew? So in lieu of more stupid words here’s a video of nonsense instead. Enjoy!

Cheers!

SOBER CITY – DAY 184

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Sober City, July 3rd 2011
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The half way mark. Here it is. Jesus Christ. I’ve spent 6 months as a resident of sober city dodging shots and keeping the streets dry from my vacation rental and now I have 6 months left on my 1 year lease and for the first time since this whole thing started I’m thinking about buying. It’s not like I’d become a permanent resident of Sober City forever but I’m starting to like the idea of actually owning a piece of land here and maybe hanging out longer than some wide eyed, snap shot tourist. It’s a huge revelation and not one I take lightly (especially since last month I was convinced I’d be ending the experiment on July 1st) but I also know how fleeting my ideas can be so there’s a grain of salt firmly embedded in all this as well. I just really like how I’ve been feeling these past few months and I can’t ignore the weight loss, productivity increase, happiness boost and overall positive energy that has been surrounding me since I’ve settled into this “City” I’ve created. It feels good to finally feel like me again and it can’t be a coincidence it’s happening now.
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We all lose ourselves in different ways. Whether it’s with work or with the wrong partner or with growing older or hanging around the wrong people or drinking too much or simply not remembering what it is that burns inside of you. It’s really easy to lose sight of our passion and spark if we don’t nurture it and recognize that it’s always there even when we think it’s lost. I had to step away from some old habits I had made part of my identity to rediscover the better parts that were getting buried. That’s really all it took. Just a shift of focus so the more important aspects of my being that I truly love and admire could get front and center again for everyone to see.
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Having said all that good stuff, it hasn’t been a cakewalk all the way. I still second guess myself on a pretty regular basis and bad days are still bad days but that’s all part of this shared human experience we’re all involved in and isn’t something that necessarily needs to be avoided. You just have to make sure you equip yourself with as many of the weapons and tools you have at your disposal, to kill the beasts of negativity and maneuver the choppy water of self doubt as best you can. Anything that greatly hinders your progress or reduces your chances of eradicating the twisted demons that hold you back from your true self, should be nailed to a cross and beaten to death with parts of it’s own body. Metaphorically speaking of course. We’re at war folks. But it’s not Us Vs Them, it’s Us Vs Ourselves and we can chose the winning side if we want to but it’s gonna take time and determination and a shit load of inner strength. It’s up to you. Every day is a new battle but every day can also be a new victory and no matter what happened “last time” or what might happen “next time”, you can always take comfort in the fact that right now at this moment, we’re winning. Cheers.

SOBER CITY – Day 142

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Sober City – May 22, 2011
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I’m getting bored with sobriety. That’s the spaghetti god’s honest truth and according to the number of readers I’ve lost, a lot of you are too. Well not you specifically, you’re still here and that’s really cool, but my readership is sinking at an incredibly fast rate and I think it has a lot to do with the mundane reality that sobriety isn’t that interesting. I mean it’s all about the journey and my personal experience with the whole thing that’s suppose to make for good blogging but I feel like I’m definitely stalling in the self analytical department and just repeating all the same ideas in slightly different ways. Some good; I lost a little weight. I feel a little healthier. My mind is in better shape. Some bad; I miss drinking with my friends. I feel uninspired. I’m drinking way too much coffee. Obviously the good things outweigh the bad and we can all agree that excessive drinking is a dangerous and deadly problem, but how much is there to really talk about? Quitting something you’ve done and loved on a regular to semi-regular basis is a hard thing to do and some days you’ll feel great and some days you’ll feel like shit. That’s really the extent of my revelations in a nutshell. Sobriety is hard. Drinking is easy. Genius.
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But here’s a question I haven’t posed to myself yet. Here’s something a lot of you are probably wondering or assuming or acknowledging as truth on my behalf. Here’s a little piece of honest self reflection that can open up some healthy debate within my mind and soul. Do I have a legitimate drinking problem? A lot of you say yes and a lot of you say no. I’m sure you’re deducing the validity of my potential drinking problem using your own habits as a mirror to the seriousness of the charge. I mean shit, if you drink more than I do then I can’t have a problem because that would mean you definitely do. It’s all relative. I’m pretty adamant that I don’t have a drinking problem but so are most alcoholics so I guess I have to at least entertain the thought that I could be wrong. Let’s look at the facts: I wasn’t drinking everyday but I’d have drinks about 4 or 5 days out of the week. I didn’t get drunk every time I drank but I did drink to excess on average 2 to 3 times a week. I never drank first thing in the morning or before any days on set (or auditions) but I did drink before and during most music performances on stage and while writing songs. I never drank to the point of being incoherent or completely out of control but I do have a high tolerance for all types of booze and therefor drank a LOT when circumstances permitted and had frequent memory lapses from the night before and more than a few epic hangovers. Problem? Maybe.
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Here’s the thing, it’s entirely possible to have an honest and real drinking problem and still live out your days normally and even successfully. The term “functioning alcoholic” comes to mind and countless seasons of Intervention has shown us how most early stages of full blown alcoholism do indeed begin that way. Maybe I’m nipping an actual life threatening problem in the bud before it gets to the point where I end up on A&E screaming at my friends and family before inevitably getting on a plane to Florida underscored by that fruity guitar song. Or maybe I’m making a big deal out of absolutely nothing and turning a simple pleasure into an over analyzed frivolous experiment that is actually insulting to people out there struggling with real alcoholism.
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The point is, I don’t know whether I have a legit drinking problem or not. I know I have a somewhat abusive relationship with booze but I also know I’m not ready to ditch it forever. I needed to take a hard look at how it was affecting my life and make adjustments accordingly but I’m really getting tired of feeling like a full blown alcoholic avoiding all forms of booze like it’ll send me into a downward spiral of crack dens and 24 hour booze sweats. It’s not all or nothing for me yet. I’m testing my will and personal strength and that’s all fine and dandy but there’s a good argument to be made for enjoying life and practicing moderation as opposed to extreme behavior. It’s not a problem with drinking so much as a problem with normalcy. The impulsive artist in me is constantly at war with the responsible adult in me and there is no clear winner in sight. It’s looking more and more like 6 months might make more sense then a whole year. Sometimes less is more. Does that apply here? Probably not. Who really know anymore. I sure don’t. Abandon all ships and swim until you can’t see land! Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 134

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Sober City – May 14, 2011
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It’s been over 4 months since I’ve had a drink and apparently I’m running out of things to say about it. It’s getting harder and harder to post on a regular basis and my readership has gone down about 75% in the last few posts, possibly as a result of my inconsistency. I’m not sure exactly what it is that changed but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s way easier for me to post when I’m feeling like complaining or ranting about something, so the fact that I haven’t felt the need to write lately probably means I’m fairly content and happy in Sober City. It’s business as usual and a little boring really. I’m sure something crazy and blog worthy will happen soon, and when that time comes, the posts shall follow. Until then I might entertain the idea of another medium. Maybe it’s time for a new podcast or video blog. Maybe I should take questions from the readers (those few left). Or maybe I just keep posting the way I’ve been posting, sporadic as it may be, and embrace the peaks and valleys as they rise and fall. Real life isn’t always audience worthy (despite what MTV may tell you) and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the public spectacle that is our 24/7 Twit-Face-Blog-O-Personality and forget that the only status update that truly matters is the one we check in to when no one is around in our quietest moments. Still breathing? Good. Still loving? Great. Have dinner? Check. This is what truly matters.
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I love you all dear readers and I thank you for taking this journey with me from the bottom of my alcohol free heart and whatever form the documentation of this experiment should take on next, be it audio or video or more of the same, I do hope you come with me. Just remember to always keep reflecting and check in with your real self more often then you check in on Facebook. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 115

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Sober City – April 25th, 2011
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Oh yeah, I blog. Right. I almost forgot about that. An absence of that length might lead one to believe that I have leapt from the cursed dry wagon into the wetlands of 6 packs and 40 ouncers. Fear not boy and girls, the train is still on the tracks and the experiment continues! So what big event has kept me from documenting my adventures for almost two weeks? What obviously way more important thing has tied up my brainwaves so much that I couldn’t dedicate 30 minutes of my precious time to typing a couple hundred words about myself for you fine people to read? I’ll tell you what it was…LAZINESS. I’m lazy. You got me. Congratulations. Collect your complimentary toaster from the door guy. I’m lazy and what’s more, this may come as a surprise to many of you, but I do get tired of talking about myself from time to time. Weird right? Some self centered actor I am. “Man up and tell Billy Bush how much you love Dancing With The Stars MacLeod!!” Never. I won’t and I don’t. “James Lipton wants to know what your favorite curse word is.” Ego. Next! “Don’t you feel so much more creative now that you’re sober?” Sure do! Now hand me that Q-tip and chewing gum so I can MacGyver myself a time machine to take me back to 2007 and a nice cold Heineken. Complaining about not drinking booze for a year. Sounds great. I hear my blog is real big in Japan.
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Thats’s a little angry. I sound angry. I’m really not, it’s just the constant struggle of trying to be artistically honest and real in an industry dedicated to pretending to be something you’re not. It’s not just the acting world either, the music industry can be just as bad if not worse. Entertainment is entertainment no matter what kind it is and the business can definitely make you crazy if you’re not careful. Once again, drinking helps, or at least it seems to, but it’s all psychological right? I mean a drink “taking the edge off” is just something that’s engrained in our collective social conscience, it’s not science is it? There’s no hard proof of alcohol containing some kind of calming agent or happy vitamins is there? I’m not asking these questions to make a point, I actually wonder whether it’s true or not because as I remember it, douchey actors and fake musicians seemed a lot easier to deal with after a beer or five. Coffee just amplifies the rage and the heightened awareness that comes with a clear head isn’t always a good thing. I don’t know. Maybe it should be. Science is hard.
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We’re all learning here folks. Little bits of information swishing around our ADD riddled brains. Aren’t you glad I posted all this valuable important information? Drinking calms the nerves and actors are crazy. Joe is an artist who is bitter and lazy. Write this down kids, there will be a test. It’s multiple choice and every answer is “all of the above” except for the essay question worth 51% which will be a detailed report on how lame it is to complain about Rebecca Black in a country where Donald Trump is a serious contender for the presidency while unemployment is at an all time high. “Hey public school teachers, you’re fired!” Yeah thanks Donald, we already know. We so excited.
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It’s all crazy though isn’t it? Everyone has crazy in their lives in one form or another and we all have our chocolate bunny crosses to bear (That may be wrong, I haven’t been to church in a while). The important thing is to not dwell on something for too long, which is exactly what I tend to do here. So I apologize if my posts become sparatic but it truly is for the greater good. If I post too frequently I’m libel to rant myself onto a defamation coma where the only cure is expensive whiskey and a visit from the ghost of Bill Hicks. As awesome as that would be, I’ll stick to the original plan. Only 250 more days to go. Sweet zombie Jesus. Here’s hoping I don’t spontaneously burst into flames before then. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 100!!

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Sober City – April 10, 2011
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Well folks, it’s been 100 days without a drop of booze! That’s over 3 months sober, 1/4 of a year dry and some amount of minutes I don’t feel like adding up on the wagon. Happy Sober Centennial (I know that’s not what it is but it sounds good) to me! Given my recent behemoth of a post, I’ll spare you all the tedious task of using your brains to sift through stupid words and give you a little video instead. Thanks for taking the trip with me so far! Here’s hoping I make it another 265 days without killing anyone! Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 98

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Sober City – April 8th, 2011
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We all have issues. Some are more obvious than others but we all have little hang ups and let downs that make us the complex and interesting people that we are. For better or for worse, the baggage we carry with us through this magical mystery tour of humanity shapes not only who we are but who other people see us as. Most of it is beyond our control (without extensive therapy at least) and as we get older we find little tricks to manage our issues in order live our lives as we see fit. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The great part is, most people don’t even know about these little hang ups and they probably won’t ever discover them on their own unless we feel the need to open up and divulge the information ourselves. Well my blog friends, I feel the need to divulge. There’s a major issue in my life that I’m sure I share with many of you and I think it deserves a good hard looking at (for a couple paragraphs in this post anyway). I’m talking about the evil cursed demon that is weight issues.
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Ever since I can remember I’ve struggled with my weight in one way or another. When I was in junior high I was definitely the fat kid and I spent most of my preteen years in jogging pants and large MC Hammer shirts. Lots of Nintendo and ice cream, little to no sports and broccoli. The crazy part though, was that I really had no idea I was fat. I was never made fun of at school and I had a bunch of friends who never really pointed it out to me. My mom was well aware of my extra pounds and would encourage me to eat healthier and go for walks as much as possible, but for the most part I lived a blissfully ignorant chubby childhood. Nothing really hit home for me until my focus shifted from video games and potato chips to a much bigger obsession that would eventually provide the motivation and passion that made me who I am today. I discovered girls.
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Like any other budding teenager in small town anywhere, I was infatuated with the idea of “liking” someone or more importantly getting someone to like me. I very quickly came to the realization (or perhaps fabricated the idea) that I needed to get in shape and change the way I look to ever “get with” the girls I liked. While this type of thinking may be damaging it retrospect, it also worked. I starting going to the gym with my friends on a regular basis and paying super close attention to what I was wearing and how I was styling my hair. By the time I was in my Junior year of high school I had already had multiple relationships and felt pretty confident about where I stood with the opposite sex. It probably didn’t hurt that I was in a band at this point or that I was already getting a reputation as a crazy outgoing actor either, but that wasn’t by accident. I can honestly admit at this point that the attention I was getting from girls because of my singing and acting was a major incentive to take performing as seriously as I have through all these years. I’m not saying I got into the business solely “for the chicks”…but it definitely helped. Girls started paying attention and I was instantly hooked. Of course this was all after I lost weight.
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It’s not hard to see how I made the connection between personal fulfillment and weight loss but it’s also not hard to see how that shouldn’t be the overriding factor. The problem is, the experiences we have at certain milestone ages in our lives tend to stick with us no matter how illogical or silly they may be. It’s the same reason we all think the music we grew up with is the best music the world has ever known. The power of association. We attach deep meaning and profound importance to tons of things that not only don’t deserve empowerment but sometimes shouldn’t even be held any higher then a quaint memory. If that first kiss with the girl or boy you loved happened while watching Empire Records, you’ll always have a special affinity towards that movie (and maybe Liv Tyler) but it doesn’t mean that movie is why you fell in love. Of course it’s way more complex when dealing with serious life long personal issues but it’s really essentially the same thing. We are who we are because of who we were.
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Now what does all of this have to do with not drinking? Well besides the fact that I probably have an unhealthy association between drinking and getting laid, I’m really starting to think at least 90% of the reason I started this whole experiment in the first place was to lose weight. Being the sloth like procrastinator that I am, cutting out the booze was the laziest thing I could possibly do to drop the pounds. I literally have to NOT do something. Going to the gym and getting on a healthy eating plan actually takes effort, where as not drinking requires me to physically do less action. Sad truth ladies and gentlemen, but the good news is that it’s totally working. I lost over 10 pounds in 3 months doing absolutely nothing, so suck on that Billy Blanks! In all actuality, the fact that booze has so many calories is probably saving my life. If alcohol somehow disintegrated fat off my body, I’m sure I’d have an I.V. bag full of Jack Daniel’s hooked up to my arm 24/7. As of yet, this is not the case.
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That’s enough. I really just wanted to confess that I have body image issues and that my weight is something I’ve always struggled with and will probably continue to struggle with for the rest of my life. Being an actor doesn’t help matters any and the genetics on both sides of my family aren’t exactly ideal. The men on my dad’s side are all prone to big beer bellies and my mom (who is NOT overweight by any means) has history with diabetes and still struggles with weight issues on a daily basis. Does that mean I’m just inevitably screwed? Sure, maybe. But I don’t think it’s that simple. While these hang ups we all have run deep and in most cases are securely engrained in our psyche, once we recognize that they exist we can slowly start to see how ridiculous and unimportant they really are. It’s not easy stuff to overcome, but it is possible if you’re at least willing to try. Sometimes if you just look at something long enough, you’ll see something you never knew was there before and that something just might be enough to change everything. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 88

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Sober City – March 29th, 2011
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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!
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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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!