As a boy I loved to learn. Mama would sit with me at the dining room table every night and help me with my studies. Daddy, always the avid reader, modeled the behaviors of a lifelong learner.
I am not sure where it changed. But after more than a decade of drug and alcohol abuse, my brain was not what it once was. Once a master of chemistry, I could notw string together coherent sentence.
In the year before getting sober, my body and my brain were falling apart. I spent thousands of dollars on all types of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I spent hours searching for articles on being inarticulate.
On Jan 1 2017 I wrote,
“I want to be more well spoken. I have felt less articulate than ever before. I will read more. Read something daily and dare I say 50 books this year?
I will dedicate time to write. I think this improves the brain and helps you find new words and thoughts. Dare I say I would write something daily. That may offer me little flexibility. Worth a try? And not just this copy quotes bullshit but actually reflect. I like quotes and new words, but I think I need to write about them.”
I decided to start writing publicly to hold myself accountable. Instead of starting a blog I decided to use social media. The character limit on Instagram is 2200 characters. Fitting what I wanted to say into 2220 characters made me a better writer. It’s made me restructure, simplify and stay on message.
The public accountability along with leveraging the notorious dopamine effect of social media keeps me reading week over week so I can digest, synthesize and share my thoughts and feelings.
But most importantly, this act has healed me in an unexpected way. Many people have reached out to me because they need or are curious about sobriety. Some reach out and berate me. They say sobriety should be anonymous, and I only do this for my ego and that one day I will relapse, and I will make a public fool of myself.
Maybe they are right, but I write anyway. I write because I want to write. I write for me. And this act of doing what is right for me has healed me as much as anything.
I was speaking to the team in our weekly meeting. As was often the case, my enthusiasm came out in choppy simple sentences. I’d get stuck recalling the simplest word. I was embarrassed. I had so much to say yet unable to get it out. My brain was broken.
This was my reality before I got sober. Getting sober wasn’t just about drinking destroying my body, but also about fixing my brain. My mental states were all over the place, and I could barely conjure full sentences.
New Years resolution 2017: Stop drinking for 60 days. Write a public post every 10 days for accountability. Read more.
Publicly I shared I was taking 60 days off from drinking. Privately I hoped I could quit for good.
The first book I chose was Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic.
Reading philosophy started to inspire me and give me hope. The Stoics, The Gita, The Sutras. Spinoza. Why wasn’t I taught this as a kid?
I felt calm in study. THe Yoga Sutras and Stoic philosophy taught me the importance of learning to control my mind.
My writing became bolder. Once only few sentences, I began writing paragraphs about my experiences and learnings.
My brain and mind changed.
“What flows through your mind sculpts your brain.”
Unfortunately this works both ways.
People do not choose to become addicts. Due to circumstance, environment or pain we chose to use. Our mind convinced itself being high is better than our normal experience and our brains attach and form a pattern.
In this day and age, most of us do not get the tools needed to combat this.
If we are fortunate enough to be “safe”, we are bombarded by attention merchants and advertising. We are made to feel less than and incomplete. We are rarely exposed to sound philosophy and true spiritual practice as youth. We are instead groomed to participate in a culture of more and better than.
Then enemy is at the gate .The battle is here. Only to win, the fight is internal not external. Learn to change your mind, be an example, then help others do the same.
Break the pattern.
“More than ever, the human world needs to find ways to build love, understanding, and peace, individually and on a global scale.”
Twas December 2016.
I was getting back to Atlanta a little later than planned after speaking at Georgia College’s winter commencement. Even though I was exhausted traveling, I decided to drop by Jen and Tom’s holiday party.
I quickly felt energized by the buzz of friends and strangers enjoying good company and libations. The evening started out with a lot of engaging conversations and karaoke, but my propensity for drinking too much whiskey, as it did so often, got the best.
I was embarrassed the next day. I couldn’t remember what I had said or done. I was positive I had made some guests uncomfortable and my hosts mad.
Tom is always honest with me. He shared that I had drink a lot, and they had been forcing me to drink water. He also shared another guest, someone I hold in high regard, commented, “I’ve never seen Butler sober.”
Christmas has always been hard for me. I’ve don’t understand why. Maybe never will. Here is how it usually went?
I arrive at my parents house on Christmas Eve. I would crack open the fifth of Jack on the way — usually in the parking lot of the liquor store. I’d walk into my childhood home and pour a drink. I would continue drinking trying to block out my feelings..
We would open gifts. I’d sit in the recliner and pass out then wake up and begin drinking again by lunch.
After lunch I’d head back, stopping in Dublin GA to pick up another fifth to nurse on the ride back. I would sit at home crying Christmas night wondering why I felt so alone in the world.
This was true Christmas of 2016. However I learned on the ride back George Michael died. I began sobbing immediately. I couldn’t stop crying.
53 seems too young to die. A I assumed as a celebrity he has abused his body with drugs and alcohol much like me.
Later than night I text Mama. I thought I remembered my grandfather had died in his 50s. She said he was around 57.
I asked her how. She replied, “Heart problems complicated by alcoholism.”
“I thought he was sober.”
“He was. He quit drinking 15 year before.”
I was about to be 42. I stopped drinking 6 days later
This Christmas I feel different, and I am grateful.
Merry Christmas everyone!
“On this path effort never goes to waste and there is no failure.”
Taylor and I sat down to record an episode of his podcast. Here sat a teacher and friend I feel like I’ve known a lifetime yet it’s only been 14 months.
So much of my youth I can’t remember. Adulthood is a blur. A lifetime of being pushed and pulled by unconscious forces and conforming to what others wanted me to be while hating myself for not being the stereotypical Southern man.
700 days ago I decided to stop drinking for 90 days. I didn’t have the strength yet to say it was for good.
630 days ago, sitting a breakfast in St. John, I open Taylor Hunt’s book, “A Way from Darkness,” and highlighted every word I identified with. Later that day I stood in samasthiti and entered a yoga challenge for the Trini Foundation, even though I thought, “I am not good enough at yoga to do this.”
I committed to the 14 day challenge and somehow was one of the winners. I won a workshop with Taylor in October. I convinced myself that I could not meet him and have started back drinking.
425 days ago I met Taylor Hunt for the first time. I attended his workshop at Balance Yoga Atlanta. It was my first workshop in the nearly 4 years I had been practicing Ashtanga yoga. I was not good enough at yoga to do a workshop.
Nearly 2 months later, or 370 days ago, I boarded a plane to Costa Rica. Taylor mentioned a week long retreat he was hosting. I had never been out of the country. No one else from Atlanta was going. No way is my practice good enough to go to a retreat. I made the decision to go.
A year later, or 7 days ago, I again landed in Costa Rica, a different man, closer to who I wanted to be and who i’ve always been. Even in paradise I still had to battle my demons. Am I yogi enough to be here? Will people like me as I am?
Last night I read a book while waiting for the sun to set on Playa Venado. In that moment, I learned that the physicist Erwin Schrodinger believed we were all interconnected and in his writing he referenced Spinoza, a philosopher Dr. Flores recommended I read.
In that moment it sure felt like Schrodinger was right, and I forgave myself a little bit more.