Use This Popular Recovery Slogan Next Time You Think About Drinking

“Play the tape forward” is a popular recovery saying. It means that when you are romanticizing the drink or remembering the “good old days” when drinking was fun, go ahead and play the tape forward and think about what has happened the last few times you drank or used or how your life got completely messed up by your drinking. My guess is you probably didn’t have that much fun at the end.

I know how easy it is to slip into that daydream-like thought pattern where I envision a pristine Caribbean beach and sand and those two frosty Coronas sitting on a bamboo table topped with limes. Jesus, it’s making my mouth water just writing this!

People in recovery say that alcoholics have a “built-in forgetter.” Meaning that we are quick to forget the bad times, but always recall the good times. Some people say that’s your disease or addiction talking to you. It wants you to drink, to feed the monster.

For me, there’s a ton on the line if I were to pick up a drink. Literally my life, my marriage, career, relationship with my kids, everything.

Would you be willing to give up everything in your life for just one drink? Think about that question the next time you are at a crossroads.

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Recovery Groups Offer Sober Concert Support

In addition to being a person in recovery, I am a recovering Deadhead. As they say, there’s nothing like a Grateful Dead show, hanging out in the parking lot with the flower children and hippies and dancing to a scorching rendition of Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain. However, Dead shows are filled with people drinking, smoking pot and tripping on LSD. A slippery environment for any sober person, to say the least….

Now that I’m sober, I’ve come to find out that there are many sober folks still enjoying great music at concerts and there are recovery groups organized for each band, with tables set up outside the show and even recovery meetings held during set breaks. How cool is that!

The oldest of the groups are the Wharf Rats affiliated with the Grateful Dead, named after the song Wharf Rat about a down-and-out wino named August West. The Wharf Rats began during the 1980s and are not affiliated with AA, NA, or any other twelve-step program, though many are members of those 12 step groups. The Wharf Rats see themselves as “a group of friends sharing a common bond, providing support, information and some traction in an otherwise slippery environment.”

The Wharf Rats also have a very active presence on Facebook through a closed group.

With the Grateful Dead 50 Year Anniversary concerts coming up this summer in Santa Clara and Chicago, the Wharf Rats will be out in full force. I would venture to guess that a lot of Deadhead who grew up drinking and doing drugs in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s have kicked the habit and are in recovery now.

Although I won’t be able to attend any of the Dead-50 shows, I may catch them on pay-per-view. I hear some drive in theaters will be broadcasting the shows.

Any Wharf Rats or Deadhead reading this going to the shows? How do you plan to guard your sobriety at the concerts?

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debt-collector-madThe Lawyerist just posted a great article entitled “How to Stay Married to a Lawyer.”  Although the article is a form of marriage counseling, it really resonated with me as a person suffering from addiction. Our career choice is so emotionally draining that often our relationships suffer. Add alcoholism to the mix, and it’s a miracle that any marriage or relationship can survive! Here are a few great excerpts from the article:

One of the most prominent stressors I’ve noticed is that my husband constantly has people upset with him. There seems to be very little reward in the daily grind. He or she has clients who are hurting and confused, and they look to Brian to magically solve their ailments. Understandably, they are upset when he cannot fix their problems, or it takes a long time to fix their problems. Then, in court, he has opposing counsel and judges who seem to be upset with him (there probably isn’t anything personal there, but the nature of the courtroom is adversarial). So all day long, he deals with people being upset with him. It is like a glorified customer service representative position, which takes its toll on my husband.

Wow, can I relate to this especially in my litigation practice. It seems no one is ever happy with us. And getting some congratulations or recognition? Forget about it!

Most clients do not visit lawyers to share happy news. Inevitably, they come to us with a problem, and the client wants the lawyer to make it go away. Often, the cases we are working on have a lot at stake. This pressure is extremely stressful because so much of what we are expected to do is completely out of our control. A lawyer can prepare day and night, work around the clock, try his or her absolute best, and still lose. But lawyers are expected to deliver a win regardless of the lack of control a lawyer has over opposing counsel, her client, the judge, and the jury.

The lack of control piece has always been a huge issue for me generally and with my addiction. I used to get so high with the wins and so low with the losses, not realizing that in reality I really didn’t have any control over the outcome. Now, I just put in my very best effort and let the chips fall where they may. If I win, great. If I lose, I don’t jump off a bridge. Meetings and talking about this daily grind help a lot.

The article goes on to suggest mindfulness and acceptance. Hmmm, does that sound familiar to anyone in a recovery program? Anyways, the article is a great read.

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One of the best recovery tools that does not get its rightful due in the debate among the popular treatment options is exercise. Hundreds of studies have found a positive link between exercise and reducing depression, the most recent coming from Sweden which found that well-trained skeletal muscles may provide the brain with an edge over stress, and ultimately engender protection against stress-related depression.

There have been a few studies done on exercise and the treatment of addiction. A 2009 study in Pathophysiology Journal showed treadmill exercise reduced morphine use in male rats. And in 2011, a study in the journal Current Neuropharmacology demonstrated animals’ preference for saline over amphetamines when they exercised.

Exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain medication. They interact with human opiate receptors, which reduces your perception of pain. Serotonin are hormones responsible for mood balance and are the targets for widely used anti-depressant medication like Celexa, Lexapro and Zoloft. Less pain, better mood and all natural? That should be a no-brainer for any alcoholic/addict right?

Since I entered recovery about 3 years ago, I’ve put on a bunch of weight and I’ve not been feeling very good about my physical appearance which has affected my mood and self-esteem. While I go to the gym a few times a week and have taken up cycling, I haven’t found a consistent exercise regimen to take off the extra weight and get back to my “fighting” shape.

That has changed since I joined Title Boxing Club and participated in their intense boxing training workouts 3-4 times per week. The 60 to 75 minute classes are INTENSE even for the most in-shape person, but anyone can do them and you are free to modify the workout to lessen the intensity.

It’s a group class lead by a real amateur boxer/trainer centered around the scores of heavy bags hanging from the workout ring. Your hands are protected with real boxing wraps and you are provided with big, thick heavy bag boxing gloves. (New member deals often include a free set of wraps and nicer gloves). The first 15 minutes is a “warm-up” with jumping jacks, simulated jump roping, lunges, mountain climbers and shadow boxing. I am usually in full sweat 5 minutes into the warm up. The next phase is the boxing, with 8-12 “rounds” of punching combinations on the heavy bag with one minute active rest periods. Jabs, cross, hooks, uppercuts, bodyblows, 3-4-5-6-7 punch combinations, ending with a 30 second punch out as fast and hard as you can. The workout ends with 15 minutes of real boxing abdominal and core work, with punching sit-ups, leg lifts and planks followed by stretching.

Talk about stress relief. I am literally punching aways all my stresses and resentments in one session! The group format and trainer also motivates me to workout much harder than a normal gym workout. My competitive juices start coming out! There is also a group camaraderie with the sessions (sound familiar to AA folks?). I can feel the endorphins and that workout “high” for hours after a boxing training session.

After several months boxing, I’ve lost about 15 lbs, and can definitely notice a change in my body type as well as mood, energy and sleeping. My alcohol cravings have also gone down. When I have had a particularly tough day or when I feel depressed or anxious, hitting the bag for an hour always puts me in a much better frame of mind. In fact, when I don’t box or work out, I feel crappy.

As you can see, I highly recommend boxing as part of my recovery program. Of course, you don’t have to do boxing, just get out there and exercise and it will help!

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Hey fellow friends in recovery. I wanted to share a great short documentary I stumbled across by Irish filmmaker Gareth Bowler entitled “SOBER.” I’ve been watching this as part of my “morning inspiration” even in the car (shush, don’t tell!). I just love the story, dramatic soundtrack, and especially the inspirational message of keeping going forwards, forwards, forwards. I hope you like it too, and maybe it can be part of your morning routine.

I hope you all had a great and sober holiday season. Even if you didn’t or struggled (we all struggle this time of year), get back on that beam, get to a meeting, write, talk to someone or do whatever has worked before to keep you sober.

SOBER // Short Documentary from Gareth Bowler on Vimeo.


Surviving the Holidays Sober and In Recovery

November 29, 2014

So here we are two days after Thanksgiving. Did you make it through in one piece? For many people in recovery and who are actively drinking, this is the hardest time of the year to get through. Thanksgiving — Christmas — New Year’s. Hey, it drives “normal” people to throw punches at Walmart over big […]

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Philip Seymour Hoffman and Why Addiction Isn’t A Choice

February 3, 2014

When I saw the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman lost his long-time struggle with addiction to a heroin overdose, I audibly gasped “Oh, no!” at my Twitter feed. Lost in the unanswerable why, things were a blur for a few minutes after that. I posted on my personal Facebook feed about how sorry I was […]

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Put Ego and Analytics Aside, Lawyers In Recovery

January 1, 2014

A great many of us lawyers have strong egos and sharp analytical minds. That’s what makes us talented litigators and corporate attorneys. But those two traits are huge liabilities in recovery. It certainly has been for me. An over-inflated ego makes it much more difficult to achieve humility and identify with others in the recovery […]

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Can A Puppy Help You Stay Sober?

October 21, 2013

I don’t know the “official” answer to that, but it sure does help! We just got a new puppy a few weeks ago — an adorable mini-golden doodle. Her name is Lucy. I have to tell ya that having a cute little puppy in the house does wonders for my sobriety. Puppies and dogs live […]

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Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Yikes! Is Summer Over Yet?

August 13, 2013

Hey there! It’s been a long time since the last post. My apologies. Life gets in the way. Anyways… For me, summer is always a very difficult time for my recovery. Everyone seems to be out drinking and partying. Tiki bars, cold beers, margaritas, pina coladas, whatever, it’s out there in the open during the […]

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The Sober Lawyer’s Personal 12 Steps

January 26, 2013

My therapist told me to craft my own version of the Twelve (12) Steps since I am always pointing out the illogic in several of the Steps. I’m not trying to replace AA’s 12 Steps, but rather, formulate my own personal set of steps or guidelines for my own recovery. Each person has a unique […]

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Reflecting On The Sandy Hook Shooting

December 16, 2012

As the horrible details started to emerge from Sandy Hook, CT on Friday, the pit in my stomach grew more painful. My productively and concentration level at work became less and less. I was holding back tears all day. I drove home with my dad who had not heard all the details. When he learned […]

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A Lawyer’s Life Cut Short

November 27, 2012

Hey there. I haven’t posted in a long, long time. Life, work, family just got in the way. Quick update. Things are going well. Still sober and very much active in AA/recovery. Still haven’t got my head around the AA dogma, nor do I think I will ever really. Heading to my favorite speaker discussion […]

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Hijacking The Brain: The Science Behind 12 Step Programs

September 3, 2012

Hijacking The Brain, How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Hijacks our Brains – The Science Behind Twelve-Step Recovery During my time-off, I read this amazing book called Hijacking The Brain, by Louis Teresi, M.D., a Harvard neuro-scientist and also a recovering alcoholic. This book, for me, was like a gift from heaven. As you could tell […]

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Stacking Meetings Before Starting A Big Trial

July 30, 2012

Just a quick note because I’m crazy busy at work preparing for a big jury trial starting next Monday. I’ve been “stacking” up meetings — which around here means simply going to more meetings than usual for a particular reason. So I’ve been hitting around 5-6 meetings/ per week, up from my usual 3-4. My […]

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My First SMART Recovery Meeting

July 14, 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been looking into the SMART Recovery program. I wrote about it previously in this post, Is Smart Recovery A Smart Choice For for An Alcoholics Anonymous Member? I can say that for this alcoholic, it was a smart choice, and I got a lot out of it. I’m just […]

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Struggling, So Time To Make Some Changes

July 11, 2012

With the nice summer weather upon us and the abundance of parties, I have been having a hard time. July 4th weekend was particularly difficult. A cold beer would have really hit the spot…. I’ve determined that my current program needs some changes. I’m going to get a new sponsor.  I have fallen out of […]

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Enjoying The Good Life…Managing Quick Success In Early Recovery

June 18, 2012

My sponsor texted me the other day: “You alive? Still sober?” I had to laugh because I just got back from the most fantastic family vacation to Disney World in Florida. I replied, “Yes, very much so!” (On a side note, DisneyWorld is an awesome venue for a sober vacation, especially if you have kids. […]

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Reflections On Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino Getting Sober

May 22, 2012

“The Situation” Sobers Up Get More: Music News   If you don’t know who Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is from MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show, you’ve lived under a rock for the last few years. The show is a maelstrom of booze, partying and debauchery depicting the lives of a bunch of 20 year olds […]

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Wreckage Of The Past: The Double-Edged Sword

May 16, 2012

Just a quick blog before I leave for our Disney family vacation (which is directly related to my sobriety!). Last night at my favorite AA meeting — a speaker discussion — the topic was our past. For me, my past, and its associated wreckage, is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I still […]

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De-bunking Powerlessness: I Have Power Over My Choice To Remain Sober

May 14, 2012

The first part of Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous states that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.” There is a lot of talk in AA meetings about the concept of powerlessness and what it is. Being the over-analytic attorney that I am, I often find myself trying to figure out […]

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Balancing A Busy Lawyer’s Work Schedule And Recovery

May 9, 2012

I just finished a crazy week of preparing for a big trial. It’s one of the busiest and stressful times for any trial lawyer. This case involved mold exposure so I had to become an expert on toxic mold and analysis. Plus I had to deal with an extremely emotional and stressed out client. So […]

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Anger Management and Emails: Pausing Before Hitting “Send”

May 2, 2012

I’m now in my 5th month of sobriety, and I still get pissed off at certain things. Maybe more pissed off now as I don’t have the alcohol to dull my pissed-off-ness. Being a lawyer and getting pissed off from time to time go hand in hand, unfortunately. There are a ton of jerks who […]

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Is Facebook Bad For Early Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery?

April 22, 2012

Pictures Of Cocktails And Drunk Karaoke On My News Feed Will Be Blocked! My usual Sunday morning internet routine consists of checking my Facebook feed from the night before — Saturday night — an often dreaded night for those in early recovery. (I always go to my Saturday Night Live AA meeting, so I’m always […]

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Is SMART Recovery A Smart Choice For An Alcoholic Anonymous Member?

April 21, 2012

Differences and Similarities Between SMART Recovery & Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) My previous post about the Huff Post hit piece on AA has made me start reading more about the different alcohol recovery programs. I have all the respect for AA and its fellowship, but it was written in 1937 without the benefit of the last […]

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Trepidation On The Eve of My First Sober Business Trip

April 9, 2012

Later in the week, I’m heading out of town for 3 days for some depositions. It’s definitely giving me the heeby-jeebies. Not that I’m going to drink or anything, but it’s just being out of my routine and my comfort zone that causes me anxiety. I’m having dinner with my clients on the first night […]

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Recognized As “Blog of the Month” In Sober Bloggers Directory!

April 5, 2012

Very unexpectedly, I received word that the editors of the fantastic Sober Bloggers Directory selected this Blog as a featured “blog of the month”! The Sober Bloggers Directory is, by far, the best compilation of sober blogs out there. I recommend it very much. Also check out their Sober Sites Blog which also features sober […]

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Helping Another Alcoholic And Hitting 100 Days

April 4, 2012

Recently, I’ve been helping another alcoholic get into the program. I’ll call him “Mike.” I’ve kind of become his de facto sponsor although due to my limited sobriety I’m not qualified to be his sponsor. I’ve been trying to get him a real sponsor, but I’m not sure if he’s ready. Anyways, the situation presented […]

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Huff Post Therapist Doesn’t Know Diddly About Alcoholics Anonymous

March 30, 2012

My Thoughts On Huff Post Therapist’s Criticism Of Alcoholics Anonymous Laura Tompkins is a “certified addiction specialist” who blogs at the Huffington Post. She just penned a slam piece against all that is “negative” and “wrong” about Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled, appropriately enough, Is Alcoholics Anonymous Negativity Based? Ms. Tompkins repeats some of the same tired […]

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Back From The Brink: Reflections On Relapse

March 14, 2012

As I approach 90 days of sobriety — for the 3rd time — I was going through my computer and came across an email I sent to my mom, dad and brother two days after I relapsed. For me, it’s very powerful and emotional. I was a train-wreck. Despite how good I feel now, I […]

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On Being A Jewish Alcoholic: My Spiritual Journey Continues

March 11, 2012

“Religion is for folks who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.” –Anonymous I’m Jewish. At least in my area, which has a decent Jewish population, there are only a handful of Jewish folks in A.A. I definitely feel in the minority, and I’ve felt a bit of […]

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1705 Hours Sober, But Who’s Counting?

March 6, 2012
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It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged here. Too long, actually. As my handy AA iPhone app tells me, I’ve been sober for 71 days, 2.33 months, or 1705 hours. But who’s keeping track?! So what’s been going on with my recovery? Well, not much other than staying sober. So that’s a good thing, actually. I’ve […]

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Power In Numbers: Why I Think Alcoholics Anonymous Works

February 20, 2012

Forget All The Myths Surrounding The Program: It’s All About The Fellowship (For Me) Have you ever tried to do something really hard? Perhaps lose weight, start a new fitness program or stop smoking? Did someone else help you or support you? Was it less difficult with someone’s help and support who accomplished what you […]

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Hazelden’s William Moyers Talks About Whitney Houston and Prescription Pill Addiction

February 17, 2012

I’d like to share this interesting CNN interview with William Cope Moyers, the VP of Public Affairs of the Hazelden Foundation (where I sought treatment) about what is sobriety today and the increase in prescription pill addiction in the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death.  You should also check out Moyer’s awesome book, Broken.

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For My Wife On Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2012

I wrote this note to my wife on Valentine’s Day, and just wanted to share… To My Valentine: Words cannot express how much your support and love has meant to me over these challenging months. You took care of the family admirably and courageously while I was in the throes of my addiction, and when […]

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We Are Only One Drink Or Drug Away From Being Whitney Houston

February 14, 2012

Renew Magazine had an interesting perspective on Whitney Houston’s untimely passing today in an article appropriately titled, No Lesson, Just Loss In Whitney Houston’s Death: When it comes to addiction, we are all just another drink or drug away from ending up just like Houston. And so the recovery blogs and comments online and in […]

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Sometimes In Recovery, You Just Have To Say “No Thanks”

February 9, 2012
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My family put together a nice dinner at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse (which I love) last weekend for my mom’s 65th birthday. They asked me a while ago if it would be OK for me, and I initially said yes. They said no one would order alcohol at the table. As the dinner approached, I become […]

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My Difficulty With Finding A Higher Power

February 3, 2012
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“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” –Step 2, Alcoholics Anonymous For my Step 2 work, my sponsor told me to write a blog entry on my ongoing difficulty with the Higher Power concept. Like most new AA members, this is very hard for me. And as an […]

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Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Alcoholism: The Vicious Cycle

January 30, 2012
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I Used Alcohol To Combat Anxiety, But Alcohol Itself Causes Anxiety In 2006, I suffered my first full blown panic attack. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was reading a bedtime story to my son and felt this weird flip-flopping in my chest. My heart was doing somersaults. Having never experienced any type […]

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Reality Check: My First Al-Anon Meeting

January 27, 2012

Alcoholism is a family disease. I had dinner with my dad the other night, and he was going to take me to an AA meeting after. Over dinner, we were talking about Al-Anon and how it has really helped him. I’ve been wanting to go to an Al-Anon meeting for awhile now, so I suggested […]

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