Tag Archives: Alcoholism

Pull lens in tight for life’s best view

I’ve lived in San Francisco for a long time and yet never had any reason to go the Twin Peaks. I meant to and people rave about the views and it’s a cool twisty drive you see in car commercials to embody that wonderful feeling of the open road and… yet… eh. Never really bothered.

Then suddenly I decided I wanted to see it. So off we went on a clear day. It felt just a bit like being Chevy Chase in Vacation staring at the Grand Canyon, nodding my head saying, “Yep, yep, yep… now gotta go!”

It was… nice.

Then a few days later I watched the movie Boyhood, which was one of those too long, too slow, too moody independent films that by the end have your mind in a twist that takes about three days to fully untwist. In short, I (mostly) loved it. But what I really loved was a scene at the end when the boy pulls into a dumpy gas station in the middle of nowhere that you only find on those great road trips that let our minds and spirit truly soar on the open road. (My daughter who hates road trips texted me from one of hers recently asking, “Why is you love road trips?” to which I’d respond… that scene… that look and feeling and moment right there in that movie. That’s what I love). He pulls out his camera and takes the lens in tight, way too tight on single subjects: An old fire hydrant, a rusty lantern, a stop light. He takes beautiful shots of the most mundane things in life.

“That’s the art I love right there,” I told The Bride.

She looked up from her game of Candy Crush to see a too-tight shot of the stop light with its chipped paint and said, “huh?”

I started to explain, but let it drop. Instead I thought about it and compared it to the vistas of Twin Peaks. One was a nice view and sorta of beautiful, yet distant and removed. The other was an ugly old thing that emoted the artistic expression of life and the toll the hands of times take on a thing — even when its us who are the thing. I prefer the ugly old thing. In life especially, I’ll take the ugly old thing every time.

The temptation is to try to live above life as if we are entitled to lofty views far above the noise, pain and erosion of it all. We even envision our gods “up there” “looking down on us” and all those other ways of describing “removed.” We want to be removed from our own lives. We accept gods who would not be bothered to be among us, perhaps even taking comfort in the vain hope that someday we too can join them. We build edifices of removal, be they mansions or skyscrapers or retreats, or less literal notions of the same idea like emotional detachment to the point of addiction. What is alcohol and drug abuse if not escape?

But if the close up is so ugly, why do artists find it so compelling? Why is truth so alluring? Why is it so unsettling and provocative whenever we get close, be it to another, to a god or even to ourselves?

Perhaps because it’s real. I believe our soul hungers for what is real, not the streets of gold our mind imagines in an incessant urge to flee.

Perhaps this also explains why the story of Jesus is so compelling, a rarity in the library full of spiritual beings. Unlike Marduke or Zeus or even the enlightened Buddha, Jesus is the ugly, rusty god, the one with dirty feet who is at home with prostitutes and drunks who came through the birth canal to dwell “among us,” and even when he got here avoided the lure of the ivory tower, king’s palace or heavenly throne in exchange for the bloody, terrible, sweaty, tear-stained perch among two criminals on a cross.

This is the divine plan as the divine modeled for us in his own life. The closer we get to it, the more we learn to celebrate its beauty. The more we reject the notions of beauty others striving to live above life concoct.

Or as Thomas Merton wrote, “The logic of worldly success rests on its own fallacy–the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real.”

The more I work out of my spiritual slump, the more I find the joy I lack when I pull my view of life in tight and see what is truly, really, wonderfully, beautifully real.

Day 14: Clean Eating Challenge fulfilled

We did it. We did the Buzz Feed Clean Eating challenge and didn’t cheat. We stared down the bear and it walked away … for now. We lost a few pounds, feel a ton better, re-established needed discipline, revved up our metabolism with small meals and most importantly broke that compulsive hold over me for dessert.

I’d say it’s a success.

But now the real fun begins. We have to sustain it. So really it’s not over at all. In fact, it’s just beginning. We will not have a celebratory In-N-Out Burger or a massive piece of chocolate cake. It won’t work that way. We’ll stay the course as boring as that sounds.

We will make adjustments:

  • like no more salads for dinner. I hate salad for dinner. I want DINNER for dinner, not more lunch.
  • I will also add in some bread, because I love to make it. But not too much, and not too often. I’m resolved to only eat breads when I make them to make sure we don’t eat too much.
  • We will have dessert now again. But again we’ll try to limit it to those we make and limit the sugar we eat to those we intentionally choose, not pick up through processed foods or late-night snacks.

All of that was needed. In short, this challenge helped us feel back on track again. These things above, along with an intentional plan to eat smaller meals, eat clean, focus on vegetables and stay consistent will help us transition and make this sustainable. Besides, we were eating mostly well. It was the outer edges that were problems. The binges, the second-helpings, the weekends, the late-night snacks that were destroying all the point of the mostly well we did do.

No food challenge is perfect. This had its flaws. But would I recommend it? Heartily. It’s the best thing we’ve done in a year.

But like I said, now the hard part comes. We have to sustain it, which leads me to the single most important lesson I learned these past two weeks: I have to treat my eating like I do my alcoholism. 

I really do.

And it depresses the shit out of me.

I simply don’t ever want to be fat again. After five years of fighting back from the gradual creep into dangerous obesity, after three years of having lost 100 pounds and keeping at least 80 off, after five years of regular exercise that has me in good enough condition to run a mountainous half-marathon in two weeks, after five years of intentional, focused, healthy living, after five years of sobriety, it stuns me to know my body is still fighting me. The battle to stay fit and trim continues. In fact, in may be harder today than when I started 100 pounds ago.

My body just wants its fat back. It’s the only way I can explain it. Plus, my mind wants its addictions and compulsions back. It wants what it wants and since it can no longer have wine or scotch or vodka, it really, really wants chocolate and pizzas and burgers and fries.

Before we stared this challenge, I noticed some weight gain. But more than anything I noticed how badly I wanted dessert at night. How obsessed I had become about certain foods. How much I craved. That’s addictive thinking. In some ways, my addictions to eat the stuff that makes me gain weight is more insidious than my desire for alcohol.

So I have to pursue it the same way in order to be successful. The bear will return. I have to face that. But how I deal with it, how I approach it will make all the difference.

What did I learn these two weeks? That I am in recovery of food and booze, so the work continues…. one day at a time.


Day One: Juice cleanse detoxes dessert addiction

I’m an addict. Of course, that’s well documented here at a site that is basically dedicated to recovery. What’s different about that statement, what might not be as well known, is that as an addict I run a gamut of addictions every day.

I’m an alcoholic who drank every day for twenty years. I haven’t had a drink in more than five. That’s good. I’m doing well.

But I still end up flat footed often when the addict part of me surfaces. I may not be tempted much any more to drink, but the same thought processes in my brain still run amok like a lab let off a leash amid a flock of seagulls.

Lately it’s been sugar. Dessert to be precise. I love dessert. It’s clearly a swapped drug to some extent. I used to love happy hours and nighttime cocktails and everything that made my brain fuzzy and my anxiety quiet. Now, it’s those bites of decadence at the end of a long day. I may not get quite the same buzz experience, but the firing in my brain is pretty similar. Dessert soothes me, as weird as that sounds. And those times I don’t reward myself, I find my mind obsessing on cravings of chocolate late at night watching Netflix and thinking only about a batch of cookies or something like it.

I had to admit, I was powerless. So I looked at the bear within and got serious. I started a food detox, both to combat the growing creep of weight gain, but also to get my mental state aligned properly. I felt out of alignment. Chocolate had knocked me out of balance. This food refocusing is meant to center me up again  and break the addictive thinking about dessert.

(OK, the fact that much of this site is dedicated to food recipes, many that are desserts is not lost on me. I love desserts and will love them again. The challenge is to love within reason!)

Sound extreme? Maybe. Nobody I know of ran a car through a shopping center drunk on dessert, so maybe it’s not as bad. But seeing how obesity is rampant, and people are dying of obesity-related diseases at an epidemic rate, maybe this addiction is extreme.

I don’t know really. I just know I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling complusiveThat is how desserts had become. A compulsion.

So I started this food plan, the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge knowing I needed a higher power. Buzzfeed is it for the next couple of weeks.

But I went a step further as well. I decided I needed to detox a bit before I started. I need to purge the drug of dessert.

So I did a cleanse.

I actually wanted to do a full-scale colonic, but that had to wait. This food challenge couldn’t wait. So I bought a cleanse product from Trader Joe’s that really is a whole bunch of fiber pills. I used it once several years ago and found it helpful, but not invasive. I did one of these cleanses before that and it was well… explosive. Invasive doesn’t do it justice. I felt wrung out from the inside and just didn’t want to experience that much purging this time around.

But to make sure I completely cleanses, I also started my Trader Joe cleanse with a 24 hour fast and juice cleanse.


The Bride and I trotted over to the farmer’s market and about $40 bucks worth of fruits and vegetables. I didn’t have my juicer, so we just mashed them all to bity bits in the blender and made juices the texture of smoothies.



The Bride and I talked about doing a three-day juice cleanse, but about two juices into it, and the cost of the fruits and veggies to sustain it, quickly changed our minds. We settled on one day.

The juices were (not) good. Not. Really, just ugh. I tried to like them. But I was quickly hungry. And the Trader Joes Fiber was twisting my gut a bit. And I was feeling tired and grumpy and and…

Day one sucked, to put it plainly. It was not in the least bit sustainable, which, as I often say, is critical to any food plan. But this wasn’t a food plan, it was detox. It was meant to be hell, I think. Maybe I wanted to punish myself.

What surprised me was not the hunger or the cravings. What did surprise me was my body’s reaction. It rebelled. I felt back pains. My head ached. I felt sluggish. Later in the day I could actually feel the toxins coming off me (ok, not actually actually, but sort of mystically actually… let’s just call it figuratively). I felt like I was… well, hung over, if you can believe that.

I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was stuffing my face with Ding Dongs for the past three years. I ate pretty well over all. But clearly I was more out of balance than I thought. My dessert cravings had impacted my internal well being.

Turns out, The Bride was right there with me. By the end of the day we were a mess. We slugged off to bed early. As we lay there in the darkness my head swirled. Then I heard the Bride say,

“My head is swimming like I’m drunk. This is nuts.”

Yes. Very. So maybe this food addiction is pretty extreme. Maybe more people should try to detox for a day and see just what their body is trying to tell them. Maybe we’are all little more addicted than we think.

007 a new 12-step symbol? Dubunking the myth

So it’s official: James Bond was a drunk. As the immortal Louie of Casablanca said, “I’m shocked… shocked!”

Not really. Any drunk can spot another drunk, and Bond, well he’s the poster child right? That’s why we idolize him still. Wine, women and adventure. Our Walter Middy’s run amok with such fantasies. But that’s why this humorous new study is actually quite important. It challenges the myth. When it comes to drinking, the myths nearly always win out.

The myths haunted me in rehab. I was a month into a six-month inpatient program and still trying to figure out how I could finagle drinking and sobriety at the same time. Only when I did a thorough study of core beliefs, things that went back to the deepest memories of my childhood did I realize that my thinking prized those like James Bond and Ernest Hemingway and men’s men who drank and wrote and loved women and lived hard. I finally put this belief in a statement: “People who don’t drink are weak.”

If I was going to get sober and stay sober, I had to take a wrecking ball to that core belief. It was perhaps the most difficult step in a long journey that now peeks ahead to my four-and-a-half year sobriety mark. Back then, I never, ever, dreamed I’d speak of such things let alone celebrate them.

One of the ways I got out the wrecking ball was to actually document my drinking, just like they did for ole James Bond here.


I did an exercise where I worked out my alcohol budget for a random month prior to rehab. I did the best I could to document my spending patterns. Inexpensive wine for every night of the week. Hard alcohol for night caps. Long Island Iced Teas and Margaritas for company. Happy Hours at least twice a week. Expensive wines for my collection and again, for company. Beer for football and sports bars. Vodka for heavy stress, which was often. Scotch and cognac for those times I wanted to feel like my shit didn’t stink.I learned James Bond had nothing on me.

Seriously, 13 drinks a night, that’s why they discovered about 007? No problem. I used to tell people all the time my mantra: “I don’t drink any more than one drink an hour, just like the guidelines say…. Not to exceed 24 drinks in any one-day period, of course.”

I figured out my wife and I could have driven a his and hers Mercedes for what we spent on booze each month. You do that shit in rehab. You count. Because its rude to count before you hit rehab.

Whoever did this study… well, I’d guess that guy or gal’s been to rehab. We count in there.

The myths of drinking sustain the drinker. “I can handle it.” “It’s fun, not harmful.” “I only take the edge off.” “I don’t drink that much.” “All my friends drink.” “If I drink too much, and I only say IF, then I’m a functioning alcoholic, because I don’t have any problems related to it.” And even more subtly and powerfully, “When I drink, I’m like James Bond.” No drunk says that one out loud, but we think it.

For me I had to recognize that I disdained those who didn’t drink. If they were Jesus Freaks who condemned drinking, they were just scared of life to me. Worse, I hated drunks. If they couldn’t handle their booze, they were the epitome of weak. I believed this so deeply it took days and days of drilling down to even admit it, much less own it.

Eventually, the walls of my myth came down. I discovered people in recovery were among the most strong and heroic and real folks I’d met. The weakest of the bunch was me, someone propped up a lie and myth and image that was killing him and ruining his life. Slowly, I changed my core belief. It now says, “When I drink I am weak. When I don’t drink I am me.”

I’d much rather be me than James Bond. As this study says, Bond likely died from alcohol-related illness in his fifties. I’m in my forties and I’ve never been healthier. I’m going to outlive James Bond (God willing)… and my life is far more fuller because of it.

EffinArtists.com was born in rehab. It’s a celebration of a wide-angled life, one full of pursuits and hobbies and interests, all things I lost when my telephoto life centered on drinking. If James Bond means anything to me, it’s a guy who needs to start the 12th step and nothing more.

I joke a lot on on this site, but this I’m deadly serious. If you read this and connect with any of it, the True EffinArtist who writes across the sky may just have led you here. I’m not going to try to baptize you, or change you, or scare you. I just want to listen. Contact me. Go to EffinArtists.com and click to our contact page. Drop me a quick note. I’ll get in touch. I’ll listen. I walk with you.

And if you are hesitating at all, know this. You are doing me a favor. The 12th step in AA tells me the surest way I stay sober is to be of service to others… “to carry out this message to others…” So help me stay sober. Drop me a line.