Day 220 of Not Drinking: No BS

butler raines

I stopped drinking 220 days ago. Recently I questioned my decision. I am recounting these events to remind myself why I chose this path; why it is necessary.

By May of 2016 my body was falling apart. After practicing yoga for 3 years, my progress halted. A chronic shoulder injury, tendonitis and weakness plagued me. I collapsed on Peidmont Road sober one afternoon. Blood work showed a major vitamin D deficiency. After some research, I was pretty sure I had alcoholic myopathy. It takes months of not drinking to reverse. If drinking affected muscle this way, what was it doing to my heart?

In September 2016, I read, “A ‘Memory Hacker’ Explains How to Plant False Memories in People’s Minds“. This stood out, “The world as you know it only exists to you, [as you are] right now. Every day you wake up a new person,” with a different brain.” I could to wake up with a new brain! Just feed it goodness not whiskey. It gave me hope I could change.

A few days later, an article, “I HATE saying I’m SOBER,” appeared on LinkedIn. Jenny Schatzle‘s story resonated with me. I could identify. I wrote her. She was very kind to respond. More hope.

I attended a close friend’s wedding in November. I disgraced myself. I got into a heated argument with my friend, the groom, at rehearsal dinner. I got blackout drunk at the wedding. The next morning I woke up sickened with the feeling of not knowing what I said or did or how I embarrassed my friends. I am still ashamed.

George Michael died on Christmas Day. His death hit me harder than any other death that year. I had already been drinking most of that day, and upon arriving back in Atlanta I listened to his music, drank myself into a stupor and cried. He died at age 53. It seemed so young.

At 11:03 that night I text Mama, “How old was daddy’s daddy when he died? He had a problem with alcohol right?” “57, heart damage from alcohol”

“How long had he been sober?” “15 years.”

Will I live to 57?

For me, there is only one choice. Stop drinking.

I never met my grandfather. He died 8 days before I was born. I want to thank him for helping me do what was necessary so I can become the best man I can be. I love you.

I know change is possible.

Here is what I know. My transformation started when I entered a beginners yoga class in Atlanta GA. Little did I know I would be introduced to Ashtanga yoga. Little did I know what yoga would do for me. I was 240 lbs and drunk most nights when I started my journey.

1) You have to take action if you want to make a change.
2) Transformation is hard work but can be achieved.
3) Use an established system with teachers and proven results.
4) Don’t expect results overnight just trust the system.
5) Find a loving community that will support you and hold you accountable.
6) You can start exactly as you are.
7) Just show up.

On day 210 of not drinking, I am a humbled man.

“Transformation isn’t sweet and bright. It’s a dark and murky, painful pushing. An unraveling of the truths you’ve carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting before becoming.” -Victoria Erickson

Arrogance told me I could do this on my own. My ego demanded it. The truth is even though I am surrounded with the most amazing and supportive friends and communities anyone could ever hope for, I often feel alone. Drinking was such a part of my identity. I had no choice but to ask for help.

In the last 10 days, I found myself unconsciously walking to my favorite bar — fortunately having the strength to sit on a bench and write instead. I have had to asked friends to give up their personal time to just sit with me without being able to explain. I conceded and asked strong men and women I know in recovery for guidance. I went to AA for the first time because an angel of a friend reached out at just the right time.

I’ve been been drunk for more than 20 years. I remember being on front campus of college in my 20s, and after a short pleasant conversation this acquaintance commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sober before.” Back then I foolishly saw it as a badge of honor. Hearing this 20 years later at the age of 40 was a wake up call that helped set me on this journey.

What started as a 120 days experiment became a choice to stop drinking. I choose to face my past, fully experience the present and become the best man I can be. The man I want to be.
I feel I have a lifetime of lessons to learn and behaviors to unlearn. It is daunting and recently feels like I’m at war for my soul. But this is why I chose this path — to, for once, feel the things I need to feel and make the changes I need to make. Being honest with yourself is brutal. Regret fucking sucks. Pain is necessary, and it is ok to ask for help. I will endure, and I will do the hard work required.

There is no going back; there is only through.

Thanks for letting me hold myself accountable to you.

200 Days Sober: Really Facing Yourself for the First time

Warning: Awareness may come with pain.

I’ve been completely sober for 200 days. The last 10 days have been the hardest since I entered recovery 4 years ago. I spent 20 years numbing pain and excusing behaviors I did not understand. I lived a persona who pretended not to care.

I thought addiction was the problem. It was but a problem.

I thought drunkenness was the problem. It was but a problem.

But when you are sober and willing to be aware, only then are you truly forced to examine yourself, see the truth and own it. And that truth for me is old and painful. My truth has to do with accepting myself and believing others willingly accept me. Unfortunately, as life goes, this type of understanding came only in hindsight and at a great cost.

My philosophy teaches me that since you can’t change the past, you can only only learn and move forward. The Stoics make it seem like it is an instant pivot, but I believe the powerful lessons come when you pause and let yourself feel and admit your new understanding of yourself to the universe. Don’t numb it!

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but unwilling to improve themselves.”

I’ve recently been forced to see myself for the first time. To recognize some harsh truths about some behaviors. I am now aware and committed to correcting these behaviors I previously could not see or understand. It fucking sucks, it hurts but it is necessary. Just when you think you have tackled the hard stuff you have to tackle the really hard stuff.

I am mad at myself for not seeing this before. I am mad I did not give up drinking years ago when Walker encouraged me. I am mad I did not have the foresight to be patient on this journey. I am mad I hurt someone special. It is hard to looking back on the last 20 years of my life and see these patterns in every relationship. But here we are and forward we go.

In six months from now what will I have learned about myself? What man will I be? Hold me accountable. I am still learning a lot about myself. Please be patient with me.

I love y’all.

Six months since I stopped drinking

It has been over half a year since I stopped drinking (190 days). This is an attempt at an honest reflection. Is it worth it? Absolutely. However, it is not easy or without pain. For me. For those who love me. If addiction is a wave of destruction, sobriety is a rollercoaster of emotion, shortcomings and learning. Joy and Pain. Like sunshine and rain.

Ashtanga yoga was essential to my decision to stop drinking. Yoga helped me understand what was wrong in my life and what needed to change. I have made more progress in 6 months of not drinking than the three years before.

I experience joy, much joy. I was unfamiliar with the emotion. I think I had the happiest days of the last 20 years in the last 6 months. Taking my niece and nephew to the Renaissance Festival is the best day I’ve ever had.

I rediscovered a passion for learning and study, and unearthed a love for philosophy. It now sit and learn from the likes of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Pantajali daily. Living is an art.

I love being present when I am with people. It is the greatest gift I can give. It is a struggle in this age of distraction, but I do my best.

It has not been without pain. It is hard it is to love someone who has chosen to get sober. We often don’t love ourselves. Even in sobriety, I can leave a wake of destruction as I struggle to figure out who I am.

I now know what it really feels like to hurt and disappoint without my armor of whiskey to protect me. I have no way to hide from it. No substances to blame for my behavior. I have no excuses. I am left wishing I had done things differently. I carry the responsibility to learn from it seriously.

I vacillate between being open and vulnerable and being scared and needing to protect myself. I now exist with the same thoughts and feelings that drove my addictions but without a way to numb them. I am raw and exposed, often flailing.

But above all I am grateful. I am grateful to all of my friends who love and support me. You continue to love me even when I don’t love myself. It has taken an army of people to get to where I am today. Thank you. I hope I am honoring you with the path I am on. I will not let you down.

I love you.

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself

I found three slightly varying translations of note 51 from  Epitctetus’ Enchiridion. I am a bit obsessed with the subtlety and nuance of translations.

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason?”

“How long do you put off thinking yourself worthy of the best things, and never going against the definitive capacity of reason?

“How long will you then still defer thinking yourself worthy of the best things, and in no matter transgressing the distinctive reason?” (as translated by George Long.)

I first saw this quote from The Daily Stoic and of course loved it but by itself I doesn’t really capture the message.

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3 Books that Changed My Mindset in 2017

An old high school friend reached out several weeks ago and asked what books I had been reading that inspired some of my life changes and stoked my mindset.  I am a little behind on delivering the list but here are:

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Although I gifted this to myself in 2016, it is a daily reader and I have continued to read it consistently in 2017. It honestly take like 3-5 minutes to flip to the day and read the translated Stoic passage and then the commentary. It kicks my day off with something to chew on and gives me perspective. If the current day is dense or doesn’t resonate with me at the time, I usually flip to a favorite.

Here is my absolute favorite:

“To what service is my soul committed? Constantly ask yourself this and thoroughly examine yourself by seeing how you can relate to that part called the ruling principle. whose soul do I have now? Do I have that of a child, a youth…a tyrant, a pet or a wild animal?” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.11

I love this book so much I frequently gift it.

Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

Reading this book in a public place is a conversation starter, but don’t let the great catchy title fool you. It is all about encouraging you to give the right fucks.  It made some great points that caused a lot of self reflection. Two (of many) that still bubble up in my head consistently are:

  • Your problems are not special. The act of complaining of about your problems is a form of narcissism.
  • So what if you are wrong. What does it mean (to you) to be wrong? It is ok to be wrong.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

I imagine I will read this over and over again for the remainder of my life. In fact, I have to prevent myself from simply reading it over and over again and make myself read other books.

Two mantras I recite from this book damn near daily:

  • “There’s no one to perform for. There is just work to be done and lessons to be learned, in all that is around us.”
  • “An amateur is defensive.”

Reading these books caused me to do a lot of reflecting and had a great positive affect on my life. I hope you find them useful as well.