Here's what I learned TOTALLY by accident. Personal story sells.

The more bold and authentic your voice, the more easily you'll attract those you're meant to work with. You've got to tell it like it is, and be wholly you. Because readers want to know if they can connect with you on an emotional, philosophical, or even spiritual level. They need to know what you fucking stand for, and the stories you choose to tell will allow them to determine that. These are some of my stories. This is my take on life, writing, and reading.

What Happened When I Stopped Drinking

December 10, 2017

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.–Blaise Pascal

I was sitting in a mindfulness breakout session in Dublin last week when the leader wrote this quotation on his whiteboard.  It was one of those sentences that grabbed my attention because I immediately recognized the truth of it in my own life.


Just before the start of the New Year, I decided that I would take a twelve-month vacation from alcohol. It’s not that I considered myself an alcoholic, or a problem drinker; it’s just that I didn’t like some of the habits that I was slowly developing:  The half bottle of wine each night at cocktail hour.  Mixed drinks, lots of them, at weekly dinner parties. The Guinness or two—a meal in a glass—each time we sat in a pub.

I didn’t like the weight I’d gained, or my loose tongue, which seemed to elicit arguments. I didn’t like how my speech slurred or my feet staggered, particularly in public. I didn’t like the way I watched the clock and got irritable when my regular fix of Merlot and cheese weren’t forthcoming. Or how I could pound back a gin & tonic, or five, like it was fucking Kool-Aid.

So, just like that, I stopped drinking.  I just stopped.  And some funny things happened.

First, I was surprised by how uncomfortable my refusal to drink made other people feel. Some of my friends insisted that I take a break from my commitment and “enjoy myself just that one night”. They’d pour me a drink, despite my protestations, and place it by my plate, just in case I changed my mind.  Did I want to change my mind? Was I ABSOLUTELY sure? Truly, Ruly Sure? Cause I could have a drink if I decided I wanted one.

Second, I became hyper aware of those moments I really, really wanted a big, fat glass of wine:

  • Those first few evenings I was breaking my habit
  • Social situations with way too many people
  • Whenever I was tired
  • Any night out, after one too many nights out
  • Any time Walt was mad at me
  • After I’d paid the bills

I realized that there were certain uncomfortable feelings—fatigue, fear, doubt—that I did not want to experience. That I’d been using alcohol to mask.

Third, with alcohol out of the picture, I began to notice other vices slipping in to do the job. When I felt socially awkward, for instance, I’d turn to foods I normally eschewed.  Instead of swigging wine, I’d stick my snout into the scalloped potatoes or that tray of desserts. When I got tired, I’d surf the net instead of unwinding under the stars with a shot of Jameson. (I mean, God forbid I go to bed.) After I paid the bills, or got into it with Walt, I’d work and work and work until I dropped. Instead of tamping it all down during cocktail hour.

The thing is, we all have our favorite methods for numbing out. For avoiding sitting in a quiet room alone with those icky feelings.

For a surprising number of my clients, work is their vice of choice.  That panicked, frenetic, behind-the-curve feeling that accompanies a ludicrous schedule is what keeps them from connecting with the truth of their lives. The fear and the disappointment and the insecurity. Not that I would know anything about those.

For other folks, it’s shopping, or smoking, or casual sex. Then there’s gambling, and co-dependent relationships, or reading romance novels eighteen hours a day. They all do the job of keeping us from experiencing our selves

A long time ago, my friend Beth asked me if I were capable of sitting in a room doing nothing at all.  I told her that the closest I came was when I spent the rare half hour on the couch knitting scarves.  She was pretty sure that didn’t count.

And so I ask you.  Can you sit quietly alone in a room?