When does it stop being a party and start becoming a problem? Is there a way to steer clear of addiction? Every Wednesday, Mike McGowan, host of the podcast "Avoiding the Addiction Affliction," explores substance use disorders with expert guests. The podcast series is sponsored by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Original cover art created by
Kelly P. of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Tim’s father gave him his first taste of alcohol at age seven. By age fifteen, Tim was drinking regularly and trying almost every drug he came into contact with. Several attempts at treatment and recovery ended in relapse. Decades later, Tim found SMART Recovery and has now been drug-free for the longest period in his life since adolescence. He discusses what he has learned and how he applies the program to his life. If you are interested in learning more about SMART Recovery, information is available at https://www.smartrecovery.org.
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Music]
[00:00:12] Mike: Welcome everyone to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition, I'm Mike McGowan, the host of this podcast. You know we've been focused on the role of support groups in recovery and the variety of different types of support groups that are out there.
[00:00:30] Today I'm pleased to have as our guest, Tim. Tim has been generous enough to share his story of support and also recovery. Welcome Tim.
[00:00:38] Tim: How are you doing Mike?
[00:00:40] Mike: Good. Thanks so much for joining me today. Yeah, it always helps a little bit if you share a little bit about your story so that people know where you're coming from with this.
[00:00:49] Tim: Yeah. I'd like to do that. Um, I actually started, well, I had my first drink at seven years old. Well, it was interestingly enough innocent. But it is kind of the way things went for me. Um, my dad had taken me to Wrigley Field to see my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, play baseball. This was in 1969. So it was the 69 Cubs, which was a big deal when I was a little kid anyways. Um, And the way back from the game, we are walking through the parking lot. My dad stopped at a corner bar and walked out with, I'll never forget it. He had a six pack container plastic thing there with three cans of swiss malt liquor. And he had nothing for me, it kind of looks at me after taking a few steps and he said, "Well, ahh, I forgot to get you something, here why don't you just have one of these so." That was the very first time I, I had any alcohol in my life. [laugh]
[00:02:03] Mike: Wow.
[00:02:03] Tim: That'd be enough. Um, anyways, um, around the age of thirteen, no more alcohol use or drug use until I was about 13 years of age. Um, that's when I discovered cigarettes and I also discovered marijuana, um, Yeah. And occasionally me and my buddies would raid mom and dad's liquor cabinet and mix up a wapatuli, a concoction of all different liquors and get terribly drunk and terribly sick usually was a result of that. [laugh]
[00:02:42] Probably around the age of 15 is when I really started using alcohol and also drugs on a regular pace. And the drinking and drugging became, definitely became a lifestyle for me. Um, You know, I, I, along the way tried pretty much all the drugs that were available, um, back then. I mean, I was born in 1960, so was kind of an age of all the psychedelic stuff.
[00:03:16] And LSD was one of my favorites at the time. It was just so bizarre, um. [laugh] Watching things weren't real happen in front of your eyes. It's just a crazy experience. Um, and you know, the 80's and 90's, cocaine became a big thing I was right there with that too, really, really bad on that stuff ended up doing, um, led me through a 28 day inpatient rehab. And, um, that was my first real experience with, uh, rehabilitation.
[00:03:56] Mike: Well, let me stop them for a second. So if you're starting, if, if you were pretty much heavy lifestyle by 15, did you, did you make it through high school?
[00:04:07] Tim: I did not graduate high school. I did, however, later on, go back and get my high school equivalency diploma. Also went on to get an associate's degree in electronic technology.
[00:04:21] Mike: Yeah. So, so at that young age, it, it affected everything in your life at that point.
[00:04:27] Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:04:29] Mike: And, and, you know, so, so now you go to rehab, um, I, I'm always curious about this. After you got out of rehab the first time.
[00:04:38] Did you, you, did you go back and use?
[00:04:42] Tim: Not right away. I was, I was clean, I'm going to say two and a half months, three would probably be stretching. Probably about two and a half months before I went back. And, you know, interestingly enough, the first time I went back, I just, I stopped at a local bar and I went in, I had one, one beer and I had one shot. I came out. I was not feeling buzzed at all from that little bit of alcohol. I started my car up, put it in gear and I hit the cement bottom of the cement thing that was holding up the post for the light pole in the parking lot. I mean, it should've been a sign.
[00:05:25] Mike: Ya, no kidding. [laugh]
[00:05:28] And so were you off to the races then?
[00:05:30] Tim: Yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty much. Um, I did try one out of one other kinds of, uh, obscure methods and it was thing called connected breathing. And, uh, this guy ran it out of his house. This guy really didn't have any degree. He was, um, I know had some, some credits towards getting a psychology degree, but I don't think he ever really did have a degree.
[00:05:57] It was a real strange thing. If he would, he would time your breathing and stuff and talk to you while you're doing this. [inaudible] kind of puts you in a altered state of mind. It was really strange. You almost had to feel that to try to understand the way it was going, but, uh, the whole process was, he believes that everyone came into the world wrong that we were born. The first thing that happened to us was we got a slap on the ass and we started crying. Well, that's a hell of a way to come into the world. Um, and that was his opinion, his, his whole idea behind it was get to the, getting to the point of the reversing process. Now I didn't stay on what you have long enough to get to that process.
[00:06:50] I kind of decided it really wasn't working. And I thought after I thought about for a while, I thought it was kind of out of left field.
[00:06:59] Mike: So, so how long before you tried to get sober again, then?
[00:07:04] Tim: Um, it was a long, long time.
[00:07:11] Mike: Yeah.
[00:07:11] Tim: A long long time time after that, that I tried again. Yeah. Um, I, I did some, I did some various things I did, uh, you know, from ROP treatment and then, uh, in intensive outpatient therapy treatment. Yeah, I do it a little bit. I did another in-house another rehab. Uh, and that was, I was in there for 28 days, came out and went to the IOP class and.
[00:07:40] Um, actually did start attending 12 step meetings while work was not a permanent thing.
[00:07:52] Mike: And when you, and then you relapsed again?
[00:07:54] Tim: Yes, absolutely, ya.
[00:07:56] Mike: When you relapsed, you talked about liking the hallucinogenics. Did you just stay with alcohol or were you dabbling in other drugs every time you did that?
[00:08:04] Tim: It was pretty much alcohol and marijuana, a little bit of cocaine here and there, but primarily alcohol with a little bit of marijuana mixed in.
[00:08:15] Mike: Yeah. Well, and, and now you've been, um, you you've been sober for how long now?
[00:08:22] Tim: Uh, it will be one week away from being ten months clean.
[00:08:28] Mike: Is that pretty long for you?
[00:08:30] Tim: That's the longest ever.
[00:08:32] Mike: That's the longest ever since you were 15 years old?
[00:08:35] Tim: Yes, absolutely.
[00:08:38] Mike: Wow. Wow. And, and I know the part of the reason for doing this is you you've tried a lot of different things, right?
[00:08:45] You talked about inpatient, intensive inpatient, uh, rebirthing ?
[00:08:49] Tim: Yeah.
[00:08:49] Mike: I've heard of rebirthing, but not in connection with this, but, uh, and, and now you're in SMART Recovery.
[00:08:57] Tim: Yes.
[00:08:58] Mike: And what, what do you think has worked about that for you?
[00:09:02] Tim: Um, I guess it's kind of why I like SMART's approach to recovery. SMART teaches us, that we are not our disease that alcoholic or addict does not define us. What it teaches us is that. We have a lot of choices to make and a lot of those choices in the past were poor ones, quite obviously. Um, So, you know, I mean, am I going to go into the room and say, "Hi, I'm Tim. I'm an alcoholic and an addict". No, I don't do that. In fact, I don't even do that if I go to a meeting. I introduce myself as "Hi, I'm Tim. I am in active recovery". Because that is that defines me more than the word alcoholic or addict does.
[00:10:01] Mike: So it talks about your, your, you think it, it just refers to your current state. This is who I am today.
[00:10:07] Tim: Exactly.
[00:10:10] Mike: Now, I know you rather than steps, you work through phases, right? And we work on different things. What, uh, what have you discovered, uh, through SMART Recovery groups that has been like a oh, or an aha for you? Like what did you discover about yourself?
[00:10:28] Tim: I guess the biggest thing I discovered was the whole concept of, um, of the behavior. Um, I'm losing my train of thought here.
[00:10:45] Mike: Like when you, when you, let me get, let me go backwards for a second. Yep. Is your dad still with us?
[00:10:50] Tim: No.
[00:10:52] Mike: Did you think that, did he have a problem?
[00:10:55] Tim: Yes.
[00:10:57] Mike: Did he ever look at it, address it?
[00:11:00] Tim: Yeah, he actually did. He went to inpatient treatment, actually at the same facility that I went. He went before I did.
[00:11:11] Mike: Did he help you get in or did he address it with you, yours?
[00:11:15] Tim: I kind of, I went to him, I reached out to him to get into that first, first treatment was a way that that worked.
[00:11:26] Mike: And, and so there's that, there's that family pattern of it, right? Um.
[00:11:32] Tim: Yes.
[00:11:33] Mike: So that's a long time to be using. And so in SMART Recovery, um, what have you learned about how to cope with. Like, like you said, the first time you relapsed, you just walked into a bar, [laugh].
[00:11:47] Tim: Ya.
[00:11:47] Mike: Which is interesting, right? A man passes a bar and he walks into the bar. [laugh]
[00:11:53] What have you learned so that you don't walk into a bar this time?
[00:12:04] Tim: We in SMART Recovery. You know, I've mentioned a thing that earlier that we are not our behavior and that is, that is a big appeal. Um, in SMART Recovery, um, you have unconditional self-acceptance. Therefore, you stay away from the labeling. Um, one of the big things I liked about SMART, one of the things that helped me a lot was called they call it the C B A in the SMART Recovery, and that stands for a Cost Benefit Analysis.
[00:12:40] It's a long-term for a simple thing. It's the pros and cons and you make out a list. You actually make out a list on paper of the benefits of using your drug of choice. And whether they're long term or short term, and then the consequences of using your drug of choice and whether those are long term or short term and what most people find if, if you're like me [laugh] is to ask, uh. The cost you're so much more cost involved then there are benefits. The few benefits that there are, are very short term.
[00:13:21] Mike: So how, how long was your cost page? How long was, how long was that against the ledger?
[00:13:27] Tim: My cost page went, went completely off the page and onto the next page.
[00:13:32] Mike: [laugh] Well, I can imagine that's decades of using and then, and then okay, so, so you have off the page cost.
[00:13:40] How long were the benefits? What did you list as a benefit?
[00:13:46] Tim: Um, [laugh] well, the benefits were immediate gratification, obviously as well. All people with this disease have a yearn for the immediate gratification. Um, I guess the pluses were, um, making me socially more at ease because I have a bit of a. Uh, social anxiety, I guess you would call it.
[00:14:14] So it loose seemed, uh, at least I felt like it loosened me up and made me more talkative, more, um, more attractive to other people, opposite sex included, all of that, all of that kind of stuff. Yeah. It was kind of, uh, where the benefits thing pretty much stopped. Wasn't really a lot of benefits going on and those are all absolutely short-term things.
[00:14:38] Um, [inaudible] one long-term benefit of drinking the way I was.
[00:14:46] Mike: Yeah. I think all of us can identify with those short term, uh, benefits, the, the social part, especially, you know, I've been to enough weddings where people think they can dance. Right. So, um, and, and, and so, but how does knowing that then help you.
[00:15:05] Do you think about that as you're walking down the street or going somewhere as a way to stay away? Like.
[00:15:10] Tim: I actually have put that cost benefit analysis into place. Um, I actually do use that and I I'll use that. I've used it a couple of times, and those were occasions where I had the urge to drink and I right away in my head, the first thing that came to my mind was go ahead and do this cost-benefit analysis.
[00:15:39] And I could remember. I mean, I'm not going to tell you I to remember the whole, the whole page and a half of stuff I had written down, but I remember the way it looked and which one was longer and which one was shorter.
[00:15:53] Mike: Sure.
[00:15:54] Tim: And, and right then and there there's my answer.
[00:15:58] Mike: Yup.
[00:15:58] Tim: If the benefits gonna to be short term, don't do it.
[00:16:01] Mike: Well. I've talked to a lot of folks over the years, and the thing you said about it made me more social at ease. I hear a lot. And, and, but when you go into your groups, when you go to SMART, um, that also helps develop those social skills, right? And to feel at ease.
[00:16:20] Does that work for you?
[00:16:21] Tim: Yeah. Yeah, it absolutely does. Yeah, it does help break down the barriers for sure. I mean, I guess it's maybe a little easier when you're in that sort of environment, because you are with, with people who have, um, who are going undergoing the same issues as you, but, but yeah, for sure. Um, I mean this, this whole SMART system is really a lifestyle it's.
[00:16:46] It's not just, uh, to make you get better. This is, this is a way of, pretty much a way of life you know.
[00:16:54] Mike: And, and so those people at the group also must be tremendously supportive.
[00:16:59] Tim: Absolutely people in the group have, um, uh, my family members are very, very, have been very supportive. Yeah. I I've got nothing but support. Um, really.
[00:17:10] Mike: You know, I was going to ask you actually about family, because if you, when you use, as long as, as you did, you have had to burn some bridges.
[00:17:20] Tim: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, there were bridges burnt and I really, I can't, I can't make people, um, accept me or make people get over what I may have done to them that that's not something I can do. I can't force anybody to like me again. All I can do now is show them who I am now, um, who I'd become now. And it's up to them, you know, that's completely up to them, whether they wanna forgive me on what, so let me back into their life or not.
[00:17:59] And I accept that. I accept that.
[00:18:02] Mike: In, in, uh, AA, you know, they talk about reaching out and making amends when possible. Right? So have you reached out to some of those folks and then just let it be with them to recontact you.
[00:18:14] Tim: Um, no, I'm going to say no, I have not. Um, I really have not reached out to them. Um, if we found these people, most of them are family members. Uh, we're going to run into each other sooner or later. And if it happened not too long ago with one of the family members who I had burnt some bridges with. And it was like, nothing was said, it was like, uh, nothing ever happened.
[00:18:42] Mike: Really?
[00:18:43] Tim: Yeah, he offered me, uh, I was having a problem with my truck. He offered me to come over and use my garage. I'll I'll help you with it. I didn't take them up on the offer, but, um. Obviously he saw something in me that told him that I wasn't who I was when those things were said that caused us to pull apart.
[00:19:09] Mike: Isn't that amazing? How, what a capacity for forgiveness we all have?
[00:19:14] Tim: It really is, it really is. Yeah.
[00:19:18] Mike: Well, okay. So then the natural question from there is, how about forgiving yourself, how does that work through?
[00:19:26] Tim: You know, that's the hardest, that's the hardest thing I think in this whole process is actually forgiving yourself.
[00:19:34] And, and again, um, I go back to the basic teachings of SMART and, and, um,
[00:19:43] You just, you're not your addiction. Um, you've made, poor choices it just keeps going back to that. You made a lot of poor choices. The thing that I was looking at your past is I think there's a good, it's a good learning experience. And that's exactly what we have to use it for. You learn from that and move forward.
[00:20:07] Um, to look on the past and dwell on it, that's when you get into a lot of shame and that type of thing, um, making mistake isn't bad if you learn from that.
[00:20:21] Mike: Yeah. Well, and that's the difference between shame and guilt, right?
[00:20:25] Tim: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, guilt is really, to me, it's the feeling you get when you did something wrong.
[00:20:36] And shame is a feeling, you know, that, that your whole being your whole self is wrong and it's not necessarily from a single event.
[00:20:50] Mike: And I, you know, I don't, I don't, I don't know about you, Tim. I don't know what you all talk about, but I, I think that resolving that shame I think is really important to, to live for today because, you know, if you keep going back to I'm bad at the core, you know, it's not good for the soul or anything.
[00:21:08] Tim: No, you do have to definitely get past that at some point. You're right. You have to forgive yourself and you have to move on. You know, convince yourself to make better choices and you make a couple of those choices and you'd be surprised how much, uh, how far, just a couple of those right choices can make. You know, it's just, uh, it's really something.
[00:21:35] Mike: So the practical matter, how often do you go to the SMART meeting?
[00:21:41] Tim: I go to, I go to the live in-person SMART meeting once a week. Um, I also go through at least one, um, Zoom meeting a week. Um, and I also do one 12 step meeting two a week. I try to get to one of those.
[00:22:01] And I guess the reason behind going at a 12 step meeting is simply because. Um, at least, uh, it's an hour and a half or so, I get to hang around with sober people and with people who are like minded.
[00:22:19] Mike: Ya, no kidding.
[00:22:20] Tim: If there were more SMART meetings locally, I would definitely be going to them. But right now there is only one.
[00:22:30] And I am hoping to sometime change that, sometime down the line. I'm actually going to be doing a. During a Zoom thing tomorrow, um, for the possibility of taking the facilitators training to maybe be a SMART facilitator, who knows, maybe some day down the line, I'll host my own meeting. That would be great.
[00:22:57] Mike: That would be great. So when does the, when is your year going to be?
[00:23:05] Tim: My year will be, June 19th.
[00:23:10] Mike: June 19th.
[00:23:12] Uh, are you going to, how, how will you celebrate that? [laugh] Go to a meeting?
[00:23:20] Tim: I just may go to a meeting. One thing, one thing that I probably will do, and I probably shouldn't because I needed [inaudible]. But I, I would probably, probably you'd have sit down and have a good steak dinner. Is probably how I would celebrate it.
[00:23:39] Mike: So what, so Tim then, what is it like? I mean, you spent, uh, you know, you talked about how old you are, so you spent a long time. Uh, and this is the longest time you spent, um, sober. So what is it like to wake up every morning? What does that feel compared to how you've spent most of your life waking up?
[00:23:58] Tim: It's great, Mike. It really is. You know, I get up, I have no hangovers. I have no headache. I don't have this, um, overbearing worry about. Um, do I have enough booze to make a through until the liquor store opens up this morning. I won't have to worry about all those things. And before I did worry about those things, you know, having [inaudible] and being addicted to alcohol is a full-time job. It really was.
[00:24:36] Um, but now, um,
[00:24:41] I love the fact that I have new choices to make. I made a lot of poor ones before, but now it's time. It's time to make these new decisions and make good ones this time. With the help of SMART and some other stuff, the 12 step group definitely helps too. Not gonna say anything against 12 step, because I, I go, I mean, they are a support group as well.
[00:25:13] Mike: Your dad would be proud of you. Right?
[00:25:16] Tim: I think my dad would be very proud of me. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:25:19] Mike: That's great. Well, I'll tell you what invite me to the steak dinner. I'll buy dessert.
[00:25:24] Tim: [laugh] Sounds good.
[00:25:26] Mike: [laugh] Tim,I wanna, I want to thank you for joining us and telling your story. You know, we've had so many stories on here and I get feedback all the time that everyone who shares their story inspires someone else, which is why we continue to do this. Um,
[00:25:43] Tim: Yeah, I find it. I find it too. When I hear other people's stories, I find them very inspiring. So hopefully this will inspire someone.
[00:25:52] Mike: I think so. And for those of you listening, uh, please feel free to listen in next week when you'll hear yet another story that hopefully inspires you until then stay safe.
[00:26:04] And if you need to make new choices.
[00:26:08] [END AUDIO]
The Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition’s mission is to support networking, encourage education, explore gaps, and realize solutions to improve treatment and reduce alcohol and other drug abuse in our community with a primary focus on families.