Category Archives: Sober City

Joe MacLeod’s SOBER CITY 2011

Dear Friends, Family and Followers (The Twitter kind not the Manson kind),

I’m sending out this message to the entirety of my social circle (both inner and outer) as a declaration, affirmation, and proclamation. Sometimes in life we naturally encounter forks in the road that can change our path and sometimes I believe we must make our own “forks” and decide to change our own paths for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes our health is at risk so we take a hard look at our eating habits. Sometimes our jobs are not what they need to be so we think about looking for new employment. Sometimes our happiness is being compromised so we distance ourself from someone or something that’s bringing us down. Other times we just seek change for the sake of change.

I am very fortunate to be living a life I thoroughly enjoy and I have a plethora of invaluable friends and deeply important and loving family members who all mean the world to me. I love acting for a living even though I don’t always get to do it, and I love playing music as much as I can even if I don’t make a living at it. Losing Dad has made the past three years the toughest and most life changing times I have ever experienced, but it has also made me a much stronger and more fully defined person. I’ve had many lows but many highs as well and I’m thankful for both because of the lessons they’ve taught me and the places they’ve brought me.

Like many people at this time I was beginning to think about New Years resolutions and what I would decide to “give up” or “do more of” and I decided to go one step further. I decided to conduct an experiment of sorts. Do something that would seem almost completely impossible for me but would most definitely change me in some profound way if only for a short time. I’m going to the trouble of posting this ridiculously long and self indulgent statement only to bind myself to a public declaration and add a sense of exposed urgency in not wanting to fail everyone that knows me by going back on my word. For the record, the build up sounds way more impressive then the actual idea, but never-the-less if I have any chance of succeeding I need to go all the way and risk everyone holding my feet to the fire on a regular basis. I’m hoping “saving face” turns out to be my saving grace. Oh man that was pretty terrible. I’m “Oprah-ing” this thing way too much. Without further ado (to those still reading and mildly interested) Here is my pledge:

As of January 1st, 2011 for exactly one year,

I AM QUITTING DRINKING ALCOHOL.

Oh, yes. I can hear the laughs and “Bullshit!”s and “Nobody likes a quitter” already and I don’t blame you. There’s a part of me that’s saying the same thing. But the bigger part of me is asking, “But what if I did?”. Now I’m in no way an alcoholic and talking rehab here by any means, but being a Cape Bretoner and musician and very much my father’s son, I absolutely love to drink and we all know I do it quite frequently and in abundance. I’ve taken “breaks” for weeks even months at a time but never an entire year. While that may not seem like that a big deal to some, I know A LOT of you can agree that it is a very difficult and even down right crazy thing to try to attempt. I honestly just need to see if I can actually do it. Health plays a small role in this decision but really only for the weight loss benefits. The biggest reason I feel I need to do this now is to jump start a positive change in my life and challenge myself to be a better version of me. I’m not giving up drinking forever, I like beer too much and I love my red wine and Lemon Hart. I’m just conducting an experiment to test the limits of what I’m capable of and force that fork into the road that is my journey to see where else I can go.

To my close inner circle of friends, don’t stop asking me out to the pub for a pint. I’ll make an effort to go out more than ever and drink all night with you (only with something different in my glass). To my friends I don’t see all the time, we’ll damn well still catch up over drinks and party like we do (I’ll just be using caffeine only this time). To my family, keep that wine flowing at dinners this year, just don’t worry if I cheers you with a different beverage. I do this asking everyone for support and understanding in this endeavor because as head strong as I can be at times, I know I’ll have a lot of tough moments. I’ll never once treat you any different or preach sobriety to you because that’s not why I’m doing this. I STILL LOVE BOOZE and I love people who drink it. I just wanna see how the other side lives for a bit and find out what good can come from it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to hear me out and I apologize if any of this comes off as pretentious or self centered or any other negative adjective that may apply. I’m on a mission to do the impossible and I’m determined to make 2011 the year I reintroduce Joe MacLeod to the world as the person that I truly want to be. Happy New Year and cheers everybody! Here’s to good times and better things!

Joe

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SOBER CITY – Day 2

New Years always leaves me with the same profound life question year after year without fail that I’m sure we all can relate to…Is it spelled New “Years” or New “Year’s”? I never know. Year’s looks a little better. Damn you proper grammar! I’m sure that’ll be the first of many such grammatical and spelling situations I’ll find myself in over the course of this year as I try my best to document this crazy experiment of sobriety I’m conducting. I can’t guarantee I’ll post everyday (or even every week for that matter) but I do think a little blog of progress would be a beneficial thing, if not for the reader for the writer at least. I’ll even try to video blog along the way just so everyone can actually see me locking myself into a padded cell on St Patrick’s Day or opening fire from a bell tower during Oktoberfest. You know the little things. So Happy New Year’s everyone! Only 363 days left in 2011. Make em count!

Joe

SOBER CITY – Day 6/Top 10 Albums Of 2010

Day 6? Really? I could’ve sworn it was more like 42. Anyway, I’ve been sick for all of 2011 so far so an update on how I’m doing with the no booze thing is pretty pointlesss given the steady flow of antibiotics and cough syrup in my system. So instead, here’s my picks for the top ten albums of 2010. I someday might regret some of the album placements but I stand by all albums included in this list for the impact they had on me personally and the greatness I believe they convey each in their own way. Also it’s just a list of albums I thought kicked ass last year. Enjoy!

 

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
2. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More
3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. Dead Weather – Sea Of Cowards
5. The Black Keys – Brothers
6. Delta Spirit – History From Below
7. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
8. Ray LaMontagne – God Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise
9. Florence + The Machine – Lungs
10. Sweet Thing – Sweet Thing

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eminem – Recovery
Kings Of Leon – Come Around Sundown
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Afraid Of Humans – Forward, the Light Brigade!

 

Yeah that last one’s mine, but it IS awesome! I kept it out of the top ten for obvious reasons but I couldn’t ignore it completely! $9.99 on iTunes! Buy one for everyone you know! Happy 2011 y’all!

SOBER CITY – Day 14

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Here we go with another update on my year long sober experiment. So far so good. I’ve been sick for most of 2011 so not drinking has been a piece of cake. I’ve also realized that it’s not necessarily always going to be that hard and it may be too soon to keep a regular blog about my experience. That being said, I’m sure there will be interesting moments and good stuff to talk about soon enough. Until then, here’s another list! I’ve been making a lot of lists. Might be a side effect of sobriety. I’ll do some research. Anyway, I posted my top ten albums of 2010 and realized there was a shit ton of awesome music in 2009 that I felt the need to share with someone. I couldn’t bring myself to put them all in order or limit them to 10 albums so I settled on 15 randomly ordered amazing releases that still frequent my iPhone on a pretty regular basis. Enjoy!

JOE’S 15 MUST-HAVE ALBUMS OF 2009 (In random order)

1. Tegan & Sara – Sainthood
2. Mute Math – Armistice
3. Pearl Jam – Backspacer
4. Hey Rosetta – Into Your Lungs
5. Metric – Fantasies
6. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
7. John Mayer – Battle Studies
8. Band Of Skulls – Baby Darling Dollface Honey
9. Dead Weather – Horehound
10. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
11. The Temper Trap – Conditions
12. Nico Vega – Nico Vega
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
14. Paramour – Brand New Eyes
15. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg

SOBER CITY -Day 22

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Greetings followers of my insane experiment to better myself and test the limits of going against my inner Cape Breton instincts! It’s been 3 weeks and all is well in Sober City. I’ve gone this long many times before so nothing feels really new here. The only difference is when I would take my month long breaks in the past I’d already be planning my “triumphant return to alcohol” at this point and most likely end up on a messy two day drinking extravaganza that would end with a three day hangover and a significantly lighter wallet. Fun times for sure but ultimately not very productive.

I’ve been trying to go out as much as possible and surround myself with as many drunk people and alcoholic beverages as I can. I figure everything is going to be easier at the beginning when I’m still gung-ho and head strong so I may as well start creating new habits while the getting’s good. I’m honestly loving it. Diet Cokes are my go to beverage of choice and I haven’t had a single craving or awkward “I’m-the-only-sober-guy-here” moment yet and the lack of hangovers the next day is seriously kicking ass.

I’m also noticing the strange phenomenon of “contact drunk”. It’s like the contact high you get hanging out with people smoking weed when you’re not smoking at all. Sure that’s called second hand smoke and there’s a scientific explanation for it, but I think the same principles can apply to being sober around a bunch of drunk friends if only psychologically. It’s all in my head but luckily that’s where everything is so it works for me.

All in all the experiment is still a success and the ride is smooth. My birthday is a week from today and I’m planning on having a big night out with everyone that can make it so I’ll blog about that for sure. It’ll be the first birthday since I was about 15 that I will not be celebrating with at least one adult beverage but I’m not too worried about it. It’ll just be another chance to have a new experience involving altering an old tradition. When you get right down to it, nothing really changes. You still get to have the fun of being with all your friends and acting crazy if you want to, you just get to remember more and feel better in the morning.

So far that’s the biggest discovery I’ve made. Nothing really changes if you don’t want it to. I guess I already knew that as I’ve seen it with Cory, the only fully sober friend I have. His experience and reasons for being sober are way more serious and important than mine but I’ve found myself thinking about how he was (and still is) always down to go out and be around alcohol no matter what. He never appeared to be the “sober guy” the entire time we were shooting Kaya and we went out quite a bit including a 48 hour trip to The MTV VMAs in Vegas. I figure if he can live the life he’s living (especially now) and stay sober for as many years as he has then a year for me should be a piece of cake.

It’s all about perspective kids! Life is what you make it and everything that we experience is first filtered through our crazy brains. It’s up to us how we interpret those experiences so we might as well focus on the good things instead of all the shitty stuff. Write that down. Good not shitty. I’m a word wizard. Shazam!

SOBER CITY – Day 25

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January 25, 2011

Ever since I was a young lad of about 11 or so growing up in very rural Cape Breton Nova Scotia, I’ve had a borderline unhealthy obsession with The Academy Awards. It involved me seeking out and watching every nominated movie (including all the acting nominated performances), printing out two separate ballots (one with my predictions and one to mark official winners on the night) and ended with me dressing up in a suit and locking myself in my basement to watch the telecast completely uninterrupted in Oscar glory. Now while I’ve downgraded my obsession quite a bit, I still never miss the show and I still try to watch as many related movies as possible. This year is no exception and today is nomination day! Here’s a full list of nominees before I go on:

http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/83/nominees.html

And once again the Academy has overlooked a major Canadian contender…me. I mean did they even watch my riveting performance as a mostly silent bass player in the Wal-Mart made for TV movie “Change Of Plans” starring none other than American Idol hopeful Brooke White and Mrs Huxtable from The Cosby Show? I was perfectly channeling Daniel Day Lewis and Sir Anthony Hopkins the entire time I was jumping around in the background behind Randy Jackson and my delivery of the line “I wasn’t playing slow” was so compelling and realistic that you could barely remember I wasn’t playing at all! Politics. Such a tragic snub. Me and Ryan Gosling.

Anyway, in honor of the Oscars I’m getting my own top ten movies of 2010 list ready and I’ll be posting it very soon. I just have a couple more movies I feel I should see before I lock 10 down forever on the never forgetting inter webs. Who would ever take me seriously again if I made a best or 2010 list without first seeing Fury Vengeance or Yogi Bear? I hear that Justin Timberlake gives a superb performance as famed file sharing mogul BooBoo.

Still sober. Still feel great. Still keeping the dream alive. We’ll see how I deal with my first big test this Saturday on my birthday. Prediction: January 30th won’t be as terrible as it has been for the past 14 years (The same may not be true for the Smith brothers). Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 31

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January 31stIt’s been 31 days of sobriety and as of two days ago 31 years of being alive. Every year since the mid to late 90’s I’ve usually spent yesterday in various stages of head throbbing, body aching retribution from the evil booze gods, but not this year folks! I am happy to report that zero alcohol was imbibed by yours truly and I have to give Morgan Smith (of Day Theory and Afraid Of Humans fame!) partial credit for drinking not only my share and his, but also enough booze to fuel the streets of San Francisco twice over. What a trooper. I had a great time with great friends and discovered that Beck’s non alcoholic beer isn’t completely disgusting. That and two separate sessions of Rock Band 3 (with my new keyboard peripheral thanks to Meghan!) made for a fantastic birthday that went well into the wee hours of the next morning.So how different was it not drinking? Not different at all. The only minor thing I noticed was how some people felt briefly weird about being so drunk while I was dead sober, but those moments were few and far between and more about them being temporarily self conscious than honestly feeling weird. All my friends have known me long enough to know that I really don’t mind being around drunk people whether I’m sober or not. I was raised on the road by musicians and roadies after all.So all is good! I’ve got my Top 10 movies of 2010 coming up next and hopefully many more blog worthy adventures in Sober City. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 36

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Saturday Feb. 5th, 2011
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So it’s been over a month sans the booze and I’m feeling pretty great. This is now the most days I’ve gone consecutively sober since my early 20’s and this blog is sounding more and more like an AA meeting everyday. I was briefly spooked by a link someone left on my last post about how some non-alcoholic beers are actually 0.5% and therefor technically contain alcohol. This is true but thankfully after double checking the type of Beck’s I had on my birthday, I confirmed that it is in fact one of the few that actually contain 0% alcohol so bullet dodged and experiment still intact.
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Now I think that’s a high enough percentage of booze talk in this blog, so let’s move on to my Top Ten Movies of 2010! Normally I’d add pretty pictures of all the films and little blurbs about why I included each movie on the list, but I’ve opted for the simpler “list of movies unnumbered in semi random order”. That just means they’re not necessarily in order from “best” to “less best”, but I did spend some time considering placement from top to bottom so it’s not complete chaos. Also there ended up being a handful of movies I didn’t get to see yet that could’ve ended up on the list, including “I Love You Phillip Morris” which never played anywhere in Canada EVER and is officially THE FIRST JIM CARREY MOVIE I DIDN’T SEE IN THEATERS ON OPENING DAY SINCE DUMB AND DUMBER! But I digress. Here’s the list:
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BEST MOVIES OF 2010 (according to me)
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True Grit
Black Swan
The Social Network
The Fighter
Inception
Blue Valentine
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Exit Through The Gift Shop
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There ya go. Good for you. Thanks for reading. You know what? Here’s 5 more great movies from 2010 just because you’re so awesome:
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The Kids Are Alright
Easy A
Toy Story 3
Kick Ass
The Town
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Good times. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 42

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So I passed the one month mark and am now in the cold grip of February winter in Toronto without the warming effects of sweet sweet alcohol. All is good though! No serious urge to quit the experiment or inflict harm on anyone just yet and the soda water seems to be doing the trick at bars. One of the things I’ve noticed recently is the connection I have with drinking and writing. It’s age old and kind of cliche but true none the less. Writing and music are both historically connected to drinking. There is no exception in my case as I’ve spent countless hours at bars across North America with a note book and a bottle of red wine. It’s the romance of the tortured artist writing words down on a tear stained page with one hand while the other hand is firmly wrapped around a glass of some sort of liquid inspiration. It’s a nice image and maybe it worked out a little for Charles Bukowski or Jim Morrison but there’s a danger in linking booze with inspiration and it’s not just the risk of ending up dead in a Paris bathtub. It’s an illusion of creativity and while it can definitely get the juices flowing, it can also slur those juices after a while.
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I bring all this up now because I’ve had a pretty bad case of writers block for the past year or so (maybe even longer) and any writer or musician knows how frustrating that can be. Then last week out of nowhere, I write (and more importantly finish) two new songs. This initially made me angry. Two new songs from scratch and not one line written in a bar with a glass of Shiraz?! What the hell Eddie Vedder? I thought that was your muse! I really wanted to believe all those nights alone in bars were necessary and productive (in some ways I’m sure they were). Obviously that’s ridiculous but it’s these little moments that need to be recognized. It’s all habitual kids! A bunch of false truths we make up in our wee little brains that we swear are real and faithfully abide by no matter how detrimental or crazy. It’s psychotic really. Then again humans are pretty crazy by nature I suppose. I guess it’s up to us to decide just how much crazy we’re willing to live with. Personally I think I’ll keep the majority of my wacky tied up in pretending to be other people for a living and melodically telling strangers stories with a guitar in bars. That’s plenty enough crazy for anyone. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 50

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Sober City – February 19th, 2011
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OK. Fine. You got me. I admit it. This is not as easy as it seemed at first. I wouldn’t say I’ve had cravings exactly but over the past few days I’ve definitely experienced moments of longing for time spent with my good pal beer and his gang of Australian wine friends. The Beck’s Non-Alcoholic beer is doing it’s job and keeping me out with friends but it’s like being at a party with Keith Richards and Lindsay Lohan while you spend your time at the snack table with newly sober Charlie Sheen. Oh sure the stories about doing blow with Pee Wee Herman and hiding dead hookers at The Playboy Mansion are cool at first but after a while your looking for an excuse to find a bathroom, secretly hoping you’ll bump into Kesha and Andy Dick so you can have some real fun you will inevitably regret and relive insesently through stories at future snack tables forever. I exaggerate but only slightly.
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But fear not dear readers, the force is strong with me. I have yet to give in to these evil moments of temptation and I’m not about to ruin my entire experiment for a fleeting moment of liquid satisfaction. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it anyway, what with all the guilt and prying eyes attached. I just think it’s important to convey to anyone reading this that it’s not a walk in the park and I’m really no different than anyone else out there who thinks they could never do what I’m doing. I don’t think I can do it either! That’s exactly why I’m doing it. If I knew this was something I was 100% positive I could do no problem then it would be a pointless experiment and I’d be at a pub right now writing a blog no one would ever see about how terrible Kareoke makes me feel. The things that truly change you and make you a better person shouldn’t be easy and shouldn’t be familiar. No one grows without change and you can’t change if you play it safe.
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All those inspirational words aside, I do look forward to reuniting with my adult beverage friends in 2012. Not enough to become clingy and overbearing but enough to maintain a healthy relationship and let then know I still enjoy their company. Except Jäger. He’s just an asshole. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 58

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Sober City – February 27, 2011
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There has been plenty of times in my life where I have bitten off more than I could chew. In high school I organized, emceed and performed in a large scale, multiple act concert event (largely on my own) and managed to turn a profit. When asked to do the event again the following year with more bands in a much bigger venue for many more people, a young 18 year old Joe said “Absolutely I can”. My second year at Mount Royal College I was cast as the lead in The Music Man (a large scale musical) as well as a main character in the smaller but equally demanding touring show, Nobody’s Children. I was taken aside by the head of the program and asked quite seriously if I could handle doing both. A 20 year old Joe said, “Absolutely I can.”
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10 years later I find myself in Toronto, a working actor/musician undertaking a year long experiment on the implications of not drinking and I keep asking myself on a daily basis if I’m actually going to last another 10 months without even once indulging in the simple pleasures of alcohol, and a 31 year old Joe says, “WHY IN THE HELL DID I AGREE TO THIS MADNESS?!” Somebody get me a bottle of Lemonhart, hook it up to my arm and put me on a plane to Vegas with a steady flow of Wolfblass Yellow Label and Grasshoppers at the ready accompanied with a video camera stuck on record to document the entire fiasco for future generations of anthropology students to dissect in classes about moments in historical awesomeness! I’m a musician damn you! I’m an artist! I’m suppose to be experiencing the world through booze goggled glasses so I can parlay it all into songs about strife and give future performances filled with heart ache and pain! I do honestly think this way a lot and I know how ridiculous and false it is, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real.
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It’s the constant struggle between feeling good about myself and feeling like I’m undertaking a pointless task that is serving no real purpose other than frustration and boredom. Alcoholics always talk about getting clean because of hitting “rock bottom” and needing to turn their life around or not being able to just drink socially. I doubt “quitting for a year just to see what would happen” has ever been a real reason for sobriety. Even though I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a straight edge guy by any means either so this whole all or nothing thing doesn’t suit me very well. I’m not saying it would be easier to cut out booze completely if I had an actual drinking problem or believed alcohol was inherently bad, but having a legitimately solid reason for quitting would probably help a great deal.
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That being said, I’m still on track and I gotta say that going public with this was the best/worst thing I could possibly have done. For better or worse I’m in it for the long run now and as I approach the two month mark I can honestly say I’d probably be calling it off if not for you dear readers. It’s out of my hands now and slowly becoming something bigger than me, so I’ll keep going and keep complaining and keep writing about my frustrations and triumphs equally as they come. If not for my personal curiosity and self betterment, then for what I can only hope is public inspiration and entertainment. So you can ask me if I’ll continue this sadistic, self sacrifice of zero alcoholic intake for the entire year of 2011 and ask me if I’ll stay sober even during patio season and rock concerts and you can ask me if I’ll pass on that glass of wine tomorrow night during the Oscar telecast and rest assured the answer will continue to be “Absolutely I will”. God help us all. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 62

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Sober City – March 3, 2011
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Two months down. Ten more to go. My last post sounded a little like I was tearing at the seams but I assure you I am not. Save for a reoccurring dream almost every night involving me drinking and then freaking out that I ruined my self imposed liquor sabbatical, I’m doing relatively well. While the dream surely can’t be a good sign, as long as I confine my slip ups to my sub conscience, all is good and on track. The real question seems to be, to what end? Curiosity was the catalyst, weight loss and productivity are the driving benefits, but what is the true and honest expected outcome of this experiment? A better appreciation for self control and personal betterment I suppose. But really? Is that it? I mean that might be enough for now but come June I’m gonna need a better excuse to pass on those patio beers.
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The mind is a powerful thing. People always say, “It’s just in your head” (or some variation of that phrase) to explain an overreaction to something or to clarify the ability to change an unfavorable situation, and they’re absolutely right. It is just in our heads. But that’s the problem. EVERYTHING is in our heads. Our ideas and our beliefs and all of our personal truths about what is and what isn’t, who’s right and who’s wrong, what’s real and what’s not, it all comes from our heads. It’s essential to our everyday lives and it creates the landscape of the world we all co-exist in but it’s largely sub conscience and deeply engrained in those wonderful aforementioned heads of ours.
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Me needing to go to a pub and write lyrics while drinking a bottle of wine is something I completely made up in my head (mostly due to every damn artist biography ever written) but so is my fear of spiders or my taste in music or how often and what I eat. It’s all made up. From family tradition, from past experience, from association with a loved one, from something seen in a movie once. It’s all part of the life long construction of our personal realities and it is both incredibly easy and impossibly hard to change over time. It’s all in your head so just think a different way, right? With your head. The same one that created the thing your trying to change in the first place. Can you do it? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.
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All I’m trying to say with this rambling mess is that life is a series of choices and consequences and the way we choose to experience these outcomes, however big or small they be, will dictate both the type of person we are and the type of life we lead. Choosing to change something is as easy as looking at it from a different angle. The tricky part is getting yourself to the better vantage point. That’s really what this whole thing is all about I guess so I’ll be sure to keep my head up and my eyes peeled. Every day is just another beginning. Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 64

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Sober City – Saturday March 5th, 2011
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Shit. I’m starting to hate this. OK, maybe hate is a strong word, but I’m definitely not having the gay old time I was having in January with the whole “going out more” and feeling so healthy and productive. I’d like to be able to report that I do in fact feel so much better sober and I have such a clearer mind and a much more productive attitude and a new found love of life and all it has to offer, but that would make me a bold faced liar. Sure I feel good and the absence of hangovers is peachy keen but nothing has changed in such a dramatic way that I’m waking up each morning full of piss and vinegar at the possibilities of the day. I mean it is early I suppose in the grand scheme of things, but there’s a familiar little voice in my head growing in both volume and persuasiveness that’s saying “Drink up asshole! Life is too short to spend it like a bitch!” He’s a jerk, but what if he’s right? I could drop dead on December 31st at 11:59pm and become nothing more than a cautionary tale to “Live every day like it’s your last, lest you end up like poor Joe MacLeod. Dead and thirsty.”
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TV only makes matters worse. Shows like Californication and Mad Men should not be allowed anywhere near my eye holes during this time in my life. I don’t think there is any guy on this planet who doesn’t desperately want to be Don Draper for at least a day and in my case I have to constantly remind myself that not only is Hank Moody a fictitious character, he is also partly made up of David Duchovny, who I in no way resemble (and who I’m pretty sure at 50 years old is some kind of alien rockstar sex monster). Still, I, like most red blooded open minded artistically inclined males watch such behavior with nothing short of sheer romantic adoration and deeply aspire (secretly or not) to achieve some state of self confidence and awesomeness one day somewhat on par with these fictitious legends. Not a good show for residents of Sober City (or Sober Valley Lodge for all you tiger bloods) because like it or not, alcohol plays a big role in all of these fantasies and it’s wormed it’s way deep into my consciousness with reckless abandon for common sense and better judgement. The crazy part is, I’m fully aware it’s not real and I still conpletely believe in the lie.
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It’s all venting. It’s all part of the process, the journey. I have to believe I’m suppose to be doing this now for reasons yet to be revealed and I have to stick to the plan if only to see where it takes me. As much as I complain and miss the comforts and benefits of drinking every now and then, I know something good will come out of this experiment and the only way to truly understand it is to see it through till the bitter end. That’s what I hope will happen. The other option is a new blog called “Fuck It Funtown” where I keep a detailed account of booze fueled lost weekends in hotels around North America accompanied by random cocktail waitresses with daddy issues and generous free pours. Only time will tell which blog I’ll be writing come July. All we can do is buckle up kids and hope for the best. Fire in the hole! Cheers!

SOBER CITY – Day 67

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Sober City – March 8th, 2011
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

SOBER CITY – Day 71

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Sober City – March 12, 2011
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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.
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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).
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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 74

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Sober City – March 15th, 2011
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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 Jäger 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?”
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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.
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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.
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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 80

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Sober City – March 21st, 2011
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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.
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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.
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“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?
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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?”.
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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 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!

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!