Today marks my 45-year sobriety anniversary. Yes, it’s been a minute… but my sobriety is nothing I’ve ever taken for granted. I am forever grateful for how things unfolded for me way back in the day, and how I was able to jump on the wagon early in life and, somehow, never fall off.
Back in the day, with a few years of sobriety already in the can…
When I sobered up at the Palmer Drum Abuse Program (PDAP) in Houston way back in 1976, I was super young, so I’ve always joked that my “stoner résumé” probably wasn’t very impressive: lotsa weed, Schlitz Tall Boys, cheap, fruity wine, and regular gulps of bourbon and coke. And yet, I am still acutely aware—every day—of my ever-present inner-addict… that part of me, all these years later, that can’t seem to live in moderation about anything.
Five years ago, I commemorated my 40-year anniversary with an extensive blog post about my sobriety journey. A few weeks later, I was invited to speak to a group of youngsters at a PDAP meeting in San Antonio. It was a great night, filled with lots of nostalgia and good vibes. I was able to talk a bit about my story, my experience getting sober in the program, and how I had managed to stay clean in the music business all of these years.
At some point during the evening, someone asked how many years of sobriety I had when I was finally able to “defeat“ the inner-addict. I told him that if you are someone who truly has that “addict gene,” the inner-addict will always be a part of you, at your core, and you can therefore never defeat him. BUT… you can employ him. (My inner-addict actually has a name: Mr. More, AKA “The Negotiator,” because he’s always trying to convince me to do “more” of something!)
I went on to explain that, for every disadvantage one might have in dealing with their addictive tendencies for the rest of their life, there was one distinct advantage that we have: IF you can consistently redirect that compulsive energy into something constructive, you will be able to channel an unparalleled amount of drive, resolve, and work ethic towards it, thus giving you an advantage—by my estimations—over “mere mortals” without this addict gene.
From the 40-year blog:
“…being sober has been the single most critical game-changer for me. Why? Because without the distraction of partying through the years, I have naturally focused all of my turbo-charged addictive-personality energy into more positive pursuits: serious amounts of practice, weight-training and running, a healthy diet, lots of reading, and other activities that have played a key role in my personal evolution. I just don’t know how you can effectively engage in a lot of these kinds of things while getting blitzed all the time… especially in the meditation/self-reflection realm.”
After my talk at PDAP San Antonio in 2016, the gang presented me
with a special “monkey’s fist:” the program’s traditional emblem of sobriety.
Dealing with Mr. More
In this way, the addict gene can either be a “secret weapon” or a “weapon of mass destruction,” depending on where and how you direct those tendencies. And listen, even with my sobriety so solidly intact, “Mr. More” is always trying to get me to go over-the-top in other areas, particularly where questionable vegan junk food is concerned. Same behavior as the old days.
Example: Let’s say I had a bag of weed that I was intending to smoke through, in even amounts, over two days: 1/2 today, 1/2 tomorrow. So I load up the pipe and start puffing. Soon, I’m at the half-way point. Time to stop. But Mr. More steps in to negotiate:
“Man, this shit is pretty slammin’. Why don’t you smoke a bit more right now, and leave yourself 1/3 for tomorrow?”
But in a crazed stupor, I accidentally smoke a bit too much, and now there’s only 1/4 left. Mr. More speaks up:
“Ok, you fucked up and now there’s only 1/4 left. That’s really not enough for tomorrow, so you might as well go ahead and finish it off. Tomorrow, you can ease back and mooch a few hits from your friend’s supply.”
And the next thing you know, I’m staring at an empty baggie.
45 years later, this pattern will occasionally repeat itself with, for instance, Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream.
Example: I have a full pint that I’m planning on plowing through over two days. I start jamming on it. This shit is killin’. As I approach the half-way mark, “The Negotiator” steps in:
“Man, this fucking Americone Dream is off-the-hook! I say, go ahead and take it to the 2/3rds mark and leave 1/3 for tomorrow. You’ve trained hard today… you could probably use the extra calories. Do it, Thug!”
But in a crazed stupor, as I accidentally surpass the 2/3 mark, the ice cream has transitioned into that enviable, slightly-melted, extra-creamy stage… my favorite. Mr. More has a plan:\
“Oh shit. The stars have now aligned with the perfect texture here. Plus, there’s probably more like 1/4 left. You’ve already fucked up. Might as well go ahead and finish it off, then do without any more dessert this week.
The remainder disappears within minutes.
But here’s the flipside. Mr More doesn’t discern whether a behavior is destructive or constructive. He’s only interested in the rush… the dopamine hit… the sweet satiation of the craving, whatever it is. And in my experience, Mr. More has gotten on board with a variety of constructive pursuits, as mentioned, like practice, training, even writing. If you can get any kind of dopamine hit off of something positive, the inner-addict will show up to negotiate for more, more, more!!!
Example: I’m on the road and in the middle of a multi-show run. We just played a set and now we’re just getting back to the hotel. It’s 1:00 AM and we have a 6:00 AM lobby call for the airport, where we will do it all over again the next day. But I feel like I need to grab a quick workout. Weights only. Will run tomorrow. And I’ll make it fast and token so I can get back to my room, shower and pack, then try and get a solid 3+ hours of sleep.
I get to the hotel gym and start hitting the weights. I’m pretty fried, but it’s starting to feel good. The pump is setting in. I prolong the workout a bit, then notice an elliptical machine in the corner of the gym. Mr. More chimes in:
“I know you were only planning to hit the weights tonight, but tomorrow is going to be another crazy day. Running might be tough, so why not jump on that elliptical and get in some quick cardio?”
I get on the machine and start churning. I’m planning on keeping it short since I do still need to shower and pack. But then, Mr. More has another suggestion:
“Man, fuck this indoor cardio thing. It’s nice outside tonight. You should hit the street and get in some “real” cardio. Hell, even a quick three miles out there will be better than this machine.”
So I get out on the street and, sure enough, it’s nice outside! It’s after 2:00 AM by now, quiet and peaceful, and my legs feel good. I hit the three-mile mark pretty quickly… guess I’d better wrap it up… but wait. The Negotiator has other plans:
“Listen, you’re already fucked for a proper night’s sleep tonight. What’s it gonna matter? Might as well dig down deep and double-up here. Then, you can have a complete day off from training tomorrow.”
Typical late-night running scenario…
I wind up running a six-miler. I should feel completely cooked, but I actually feel elation. My body is raging with endorphins. I’m back at the room after 3:00, and by the time I shower and pack, I’m struggling to wind down by 4:30. Mr. More was right. I am fucked for any kind of decent sleep tonight. But it was a hell of a workout!
Perhaps one could make an argument against such obsessive behavior, even if it’s couched in a category of constructive activity. But I don’t care. Mr. More and I have an understanding. And if it keeps the drugs and alcohol away, and the vices at bay, I’m good.
And I’m happy to celebrate another day of sobriety, every day.
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This whole “Mr. More” concept is something I just shared with my Newsletter readers last week, so I thought I would riff on it here, as well. Needless to say, I feel like there are a tons more advantages to being sober than just capitalizing on the addictive impulse (although that alone can be pretty fucking cool!). To get the whole story of my sobriety journey, scope the blog from my 40th here: