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Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

The Joy of Thinking (Not Drinking)

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A self-described “re-imagined alcoholic” of five years and no stranger to despair, 49-year-old Mark Tuschel is examining sobriety and articulating his insights. The thesis of his successful book Living Sober Sucks is that “living drunk sucks worse.”Last winter, Barnes & Noble agreed to sell the book; it’s also available through Amazon, iTunes and Tuschel’s website, livingsobersucks.com. Tuschel is currently traveling the country with six rescued dogs in a van named the Sobriety Coach, promoting his nationally syndicated radio show, which includes a call-in segment titled “Ask the Alkie.”

What’s the most common question you get?


"How do I quit?" My answer: Don't drink. If you don't pour it into your own mouth, you can't get drunk. Not many like that answer—they want something more profound.My life did not become suddenly better when I stopped drinking, but I have gotten better at enjoying what I do have in life, and I’m learning to be happier with my sobriety. Drunkenness is devolution; learning to enjoy sobriety is evolution. I'm discovering that there is a very large subculture of alcoholics and addicts that have been looking for alternatives to the antiquated recovery system that wasput together by white, wealthy, Christian men in the 1930s. We want to live sober, but also to participate in all that life offers, not live in an insulated world surrounded only by program people, limited in our social activities and pigeonholed as recovering alcoholics. Yes, we have to be vigilant about where we go, what we do and, most importantly, whom we hang out with, but we can lead normal lives. I spoke with a group who wanted me to join AA. I asked them, “What do you want out of sobriety?” They couldn’t tell me. I tell people to make a list of what they want, and don’t want, because you may not see any concrete gain, but you are absent bullshit like, “Where’s my car?” and, “Why did I argue with my spouse?”

I drink to get to sleep.

I believe that too many Americans do in fact spend far too much time ruminating on useless thoughts—I was one of them. Reformed alcoholic or not, we have a tendency to avoid reality and critical thinking. I'm shocked and saddened by how much mental energy and time I expended on worthless thinking: worrying about shit that never happened or, worse, delusional grandiosities. Now I worry less and think less, but it's more focused on productive thought. I absolutely have difficulty stopping my brain. I have come to embrace this. As long as it won't stop, I might as well use it to think constructively. I try to focus my thoughts when I lie down to sleep.I nap when I’m posed with a dilemma. That's when I get many answers and digest new knowledge. Some might call that "meditation," but I call it “napping.”