Episode 316 – When I get an urge or a craving, I'll be better next time this creeps up.
Paul took his last drink on February 29, 2020. He is from Long Island and is 30 years old. This is his story of living alcohol-free (AF).
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Finding Your Better You – Odette's weekly message
What is the difference between being sober and being in recovery? The definition of sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol or other drugs. Sobriety is also considered to be the natural state of a human being at birth.
Recovery signifies you know you have a problem and are trying to fix it. It doesn't mean you resolve your issues right away. You recognize something is wrong, which is a critical part of getting help.
When you are in recovery, you feel a kinship to others in recovery, make decisions based on how they will impact your recovery, adjust friendships and relationships based on how they affect recovery, and never let down your guard.
Can you be sober and not in recovery? Yes, abstaining is the first part.
A recovery mindset allows you to grow and develop your self-awareness. It helps you question your relationships and boundaries. Recovery is for everyone. You don't have to be an "alcoholic." Recovery is about being open to change and adjustments in your life – asking for help.
Many of us abstain for some time before we are ready for recovery. The recovery mindset allows for growth, new connections, and community.
Are you ready to step into the arena of recovery? We are here and ready for you.
[7:43] Odette introduces Paul
Paul took his last drink on February 29, 2020. He is from Long Island, NY, and lives in Brooklyn. He is a Physical Education teacher and a personal trainer. He trains for fun, is getting into karate, and likes getting out into nature, which isn't easy in Brooklyn.
Paul opened his training business during COVID. He leveraged COVID as an opportunity to pivot the world of fitness and adapt to the new normal.
Paul started drinking toward the end of high school. Cannabis was his first substance, not alcohol. When he went to college, his drinking dialed up. In his mid 20's cannabis wasn't helping anymore, so his drinking escalated and became a problem.
As Paul reflects, his Dad overdosed when he was twelve, and his mother now has twelve years of sobriety. Childhood issues contributed to his desire to numb out. His substance abuse was a symptom of early childhood trauma.
[12:23] How was your childhood? Were you trying to cope or escape from tragedy?
Paul said he is an extrovert. He is open about his childhood experiences. It helps him to open up. When Paul's mom re-married and had a baby, postpartum depression kicked in, and she shut out the world by drinking. Paul said he was naïve and tried to take the bottle away from his mom. He frequently cared for his brother. His stepdad lost his temper with his mom's drinking, leading to his stepdad's arrest. Ultimately, his mom checked into treatment and now has 12 years of sobriety. Paul leveraged boxing as a way to escape and found solace in fitness.
[16:33] Did you notice that you developed a care-taking aspect of your personality?
Yes, Paul is a caretaker, particularly with the fitness routine and teaching elementary school. He goes out of his way to help people.
[18:12] Our families can recover together. Do you think about changing the trajectory of your ancestry?
Paul said a driving factor for him was seeing the lows his mom experienced when drinking, and he knew he didn't want that for himself or his kids.
Paul sees two sides to the coin. Life is not easy. Addiction is not a surprise; it can harden you. You have to find the why and the bigger picture to overcome addiction.
His last drink was the first confirmed case of COVID in NYC
[21:02] Tell me about the progression of fitness and drinking in your life.
Paul went back a bit and said he experimented with other drugs in college, and they began to play a role in his life. His mom always reminded him that addiction ran in the family. When Paul did a semester abroad in England, his substance abuse became a problem. He played rugby, but his drinking took over. When he returned to the US, he started bartending, drinking, and doing cocaine. Within six months, he lost his best friend to an overdose, then his Uncle to a drunk driver. He didn't realize he was drinking through his grief. He wasn't responsible. He lost his bartending job and ran out of money. He had to move back home. After a fight with his mom, he went out drinking, got a DWI, and was locked up for 24 hours, which was a rock bottom for him.
He turned things around and started applying to graduate programs and was accepted by a non-profit organization that paid for his Master's in Physical Education. He moved into New York City.
[27:06] Were you drinking all this time?
Paul said he does well with a full plate. He was still drinking, but not nearly as much. He took a month off after his DWI. He had three jobs and was in a Master's program. He was too busy for drinking to be an issue. When he graduated from his Master's program, he decided to give personal training a shot. He got a hernia and lost business because he couldn't train clients. He started drinking a lot. In 2017, he walked out of work on New Year's Eve, lost his phone, wallet, and had to call his mom to pick him up – another rock bottom moment. He subsequently completed a teaching certification program and started teaching PE.
[29:58] Did you think by adding responsibilities, you could avoid the rock bottom moments?
Paul said he has always been resilient – he bounces back quickly. He made changes immediately.
[30:36] What did your mom say when she picked you up?
Paul believes his mom knew he wasn't ready yet. She didn't press him about recovery; she was quiet but told him he needed to figure it out. Then he met his girlfriend. He had three bad experiences in a row, which led him to quit drinking. He went to a few AA meetings, started reading quit lit, and within a month, he went into Smart Recovery, and eight months later, he is on this podcast.
Looking at his drinking patterns objectively made it easier for him to decide to quit. Quitting during COVID was odd, but he is mindful of getting through cravings.
[38:41] How did you establish a routine during shut down?
Paul said he trained to fight. He bought a punching bag, kettlebells and he has a very structured routine including mediation, yoga, infrared sauna, cold showers, and daily routine builds his confidence.
[40:10] Did your performance improve when you quit drinking?
Paul realized he was leaving a lot on the table. He ran an ultra-marathon in the summer and is aiming toward a 500-pound deadlift in Q1 2021. He continues to study physiology and has learned a lot about what alcohol does to your entire body, from sleep deprivation, poor recovery, and stress. He knows that drinking kept him from realizing his potential as a boxer.
Paul said fitness is his thing. He doesn't romanticize drinking like artists, writers, or musicians. Drinking hinders fitness performance.
[44:48] Do you work with people in recovery as well?
Paul works with all types of clients and is starting to incorporate individuals in recovery and expand that outreach. He trains people he wants to help and loves working with kids.
[48:10] What do you do when you get a craving?
Paul said he tries to turn it on its head and thinks of it like building a new muscle. Café RE helps him a lot. Family parties stressed him out because he was focused on not drinking. He attends several Café RE meetings a week to surround himself with like-minded people and create accountability. Quitting drinking isn't easy, but it's simple – just don't have a drink.
[51:52] Rapid Fire Round
You're going to be good. Take what life throws at you and keep moving forward
Finding more joy and discovering what joy is for me.
Chocolate chip cookie dough
My business. Fitness will train differently post COVID, and he is excited about what's to come.
Try to picture a life without alcohol before you submit to it. Incremental improvement goes a long way.
You might want to say Adios to booze if ….
If you have to drink a six-pack before a bartending shift or if you lose your car.
Learn more about Paul on Instagram: recoveryfit1
Recovery is an opportunity when you reframe and shift your mindset. The way we label things has a direct impact on our experience. Let this journey back home be full of fun, mysteries, and new discoveries. Your life is waiting. Remember that you are not alone and together is always better.
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