This episode features a conversation with Gary Chattaway, a recovery advocate from London, England whose work can be found on his website thehumanglitch.com, and his YouTube Channel. Gary is the author of The Human Glitch a short book that briefly describes his experience with alcohol addiction. He is currently working on a new book that will delve deeper into how he overcame alcohol cravings and what he learned that can help you kick start your recovery.
The transcription of this episode was created by Lena R. from North Bay, Ontario. Thank you, Lena!
John: AA Beyond Belief is a podcast by, for, and about people who have found a secular path to recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous. Today my guest is Gary Chattaway, a recovery advocate from London, England whose work can be found on his website: thehumanglitch.com, as well as his YouTube channel: Gary Chattaway. Gary is the author of The Human Glitch, a short book that briefly describes his experience with alcohol addiction. And he’s currently working on a new book that will delve deeper into how he overcame alcohol cravings and how it can help kick start one’s recovery. This has become his great passion as of late and it’s nice to have him here today. Welcome to AA Beyond Belief, Gary!
Gary: Hey! How you doin’ John? So thank you for having me on. Yeah, just one one before we do go ahead – your interview I heard the other day – I listen to a lot of podcasts all year-round… the nature of my job, I’m always travelling – and your one with Ray Baker, one of the best podcasts I’ve heard this year so far, and he was – he was brilliant, and his definition of addiction was just so smooth as well.
John: Yeah, he’s great. He’s really good. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve been able to talk to some experts in addiction and some authors since I’ve been doing this podcast. I never would have had that opportunity before. But he is really good, and he gives some really excellent talks as well. There are some talks of his that he gave that are also posted on our website. So thank you, I’m glad that you listened to that.
Gary: I’ve actually taken notes. I’ll go back and re-listen to a few little bits. And also, the stuff about the secular approach was – the way forward, I think.
John: I think it absolutely is. Well, I always like to start at the beginning. I think it’s a good place to begin. [chuckles] So, can you give – why don’t you go a little bit into your background – how you grew up, what your family life was like, when you started having problems with drinking and how those impacted your life. Just kinda go through that a little bit?
Gary: Yeah, sure. Yeah, no problem. Well, it was all just a pretty – I mean, I’m nothing out of the ordinary in any case whatsoever. Normal loving family. I’ve got – I think I’ve got no – what I thought were mental issues, mental health issues, and it was, as I say, a loving background. And, for some reason, I just seemed to have – I just enjoyed the experience of drinking and taking drugs, I suppose. It’s just something that ever since my first drink – I can remember having my first drink, and that was mind-blowing – just that warm blanket of euphoria that washed through me. I was only about 13 and it’s just stayed with me ever since, really. And progressed through the years, it was the normal stuff – the Christmas drinking, the birthday drinking, the being-on-holiday drinking, you know, and it just progressed and ended up I was a musician playing in bar bands, touring England and that, so I was surrounded with it – alcohol and drugs as well, but mainly alcohol was the one for me. And it just progressed from there until pretty much near total annihilation at one point, a few years ago. But um, I mean that was pretty bad, and I got to the point where I was easily doing like – I mean, I was up to what, a bottle and a half of vodka a day – and we say that and people are like, “Oh my god, how’d you get to that point?” But it was such a slow process that I didn’t even see the changes until right at the end where it exploded. And yeah, all hell broke loose for a couple of years, really. It was full-on.
John: Yeah, I can relate to that. That seems to be how – I started off young in life, around the time that you did, and it was the same thing. It was kind of a gradual progression, and it was like the last 5 years, it just really – it really ran my life, you know? And at that point, I think in the back of my head I realized I was having problems, but I just kept pushing it away, and said “this can’t be possible, can’t be possible,” until I was forced – my hand was forced, I was basically locked up for a little bit, [chuckles] so.
Gary: Oh, right, right. Yeah, I heard one of your other podcasts actually saying that.
John: Yeah, once they start putting you behind bars, it’s like eh… maybe there’s something I need to look at here. [laughs]
Gary: Robert Downey Jr., he’s got that quote that he says where he don’t drink anymore because he keeps breaking out in handcuffs.
John: So when did you first start seeking help?
Gary: Funny enough, it was my fiance who first ever said to me, we was here one night where I live now, and she said, “you do know you’re an alcoholic?” and I never even – it didn’t even enter my mind before. And to tell the truth, it was a good few years after that before even I really settled down into that – that realizing the, “oh my god, something really is terribly wrong.” But from – even though you like, maybe you’re starting to fight back from there, from there it was still hell on earth to unpickle the damage of what you do, you know? It was full-on. And to tell the truth, I was getting desperate really, at the end, because I was just having mental breakdowns – sorry, not mental breakdowns – I would just come home and cry my eyes out. And I just didn’t know what was going on with me. And when it gets to the point where you’re dreaming about alcohol, you’re waking up craving like totally infested by the craving of it. And so, yeah, it was just rough, really for a little while. Really rough.
John: And what did you – enter a treatment centre? How did you….
Gary: Okay, interesting! This is where it gets interesting! I don’t know what it is, but I couldn’t stand the thought of going to a treatment centre. I don’t know why. Never on the radar. I’ve heard a lot about them. I’ve heard the horror stories about the expense that families put into it – like life savings, and don’t always necessarily get the results from that. My first port of call was AA, funny enough. And that was just from a chance meeting. I was living in London as I was saying, I was working in Bethnal Greene, and I was doing a job for this gentleman and he had the serenity prayer above one of his walls. I just said to him, “I recognize that.” So he was one of the main people… one of the chapters in Bethnal Greene, he took me to the meeting. This was a time when I couldn’t even – I couldn’t walk around with cards of money on me, neither, because I would just spend it. So, anyway, he took me straight in and the people there were fantastic. Straightaway I was swamped with phone numbers. And it was odd being there anyway, and no matter what I done at that point in my life, it was odd anyway. But I left there knowing something just didn’t really fit there for me in that meeting. I don’t know what it was. I mean, this whole thing about god, we can talk about later. But it wasn’t anything to do with that. I didn’t really feel – it was still great people, but something wasn’t right.
Gary: So I left there and I stumbled around for a little while longer and then near where I live near Montford, come to a few AA meetings around here. And they were even worse. I left there really sad, got a drink but I was sad, because I felt that was my one “thing” that I knew about, getting out of it, and I knew deep down that it wasn’t gonna work. The worst it got – not the worst it got, that’s the wrong thing to say – one of the last meetings I went to, they wait for people to get up and stand and talk and I wasn’t in any state that I… I couldn’t even barely speak as it was. And they were waiting for me to get up and speak, and I wasn’t prepared to do it. That was it for me, really. I was done, then, with it all. And I left there, really, and for the next few weeks, it was really bad because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what avenues I was gonna turn, and then I just got lucky, really. I just had a stroke of luck. So, yeah, it was pretty… it was just an emotional roller coaster, so, yeah.
John: No, I didn’t go to treatment either. I was 25 years old. I didn’t have, you know, serious physical withdrawals. I didn’t need to be medically detoxed or anything like that. So for me, it was – I had a lot… it was difficult to not drink, you know? But I did, for me, I went to AA at the time, which is all that there was around here, you know? And that’s been, like, that was like 32 years ago, so. I’ve been around for a little while. And it’s interesting. I have evolved a lot from where I started.
Gary: Mmm. Yeah. It’s strange, but as I was saying to you before we started recording, though, this whole secular movement thing… I mean, that doctor Ray Baker was saying, that’s really gaining ground now. And I think for AA purposes, I mean, there was always a little bit of my mind that – ’cause I’m not really into religion or anything, and as an outsider looking in, I’m continually amazed about how much time and energy is wasted on that one subject. I mean, couldn’t you – couldn’t everyone put their efforts into their actual recovery instead of worrying about the god thing? But, I get it, I’ve done a little bit of research into the background of when it was formed and funny, that Ray Barker was saying – was it Baker? He was saying about a book he read about Bill W. about his life and it’s meant to be really good, so I’m gonna try to pick out a copy of that.
Gary: But it sounds like, with this new secular thing, that you yourself are quite involved in as well, aren’t you? That’s the way forward, definitely, for AA. I mean I would probably – if I was to do it all again now, and that element was not in AA, if it was secular, I would probably think to myself about maybe giving it a go, now.
John: Yeah, I think so. Honestly, I think it’s a matter about how we communicate with people and the problem that has been in AA that may have actually turned you off of it is that it’s the language that is used to communicate, whether it is religious or not. There’s kind of a… I guess dogmatic would be a good word. Just kind of a rigid type of… insular type of a language, that people will use their AA “lingo” and it’s just kinda… it can be a little creepy. And I think that’s something that needs to be worked on. It’s just –
Gary: And it’s changing times.
John: Yeah, we’re well into the 21st century and AA is using a book that was written in 1939. [laughs] That they’re still quoting from today at meetings! And asking people to read. So, anyway.
Gary: Yeah! I was also intrigued as well, what you were talking about that week – about emotional sobriety as well. That’s my next goal. There’s a few little things upstairs that I need to get sorted out.
John: Well, you had a video that you have on your website and actually I went on YouTube and it was – I think it was a video that someone else might have posted – where it’s talking about the difference between sobriety and recovery. So you distinguish between your sobriety and recovery?
Gary: Yeah, yeah. That’s a while ago, that video!
John: Yeah, it was a while ago! Yeah.
Gary: Yeah. What I think a lot of people now, I mean, I don’t know if I’m taking it in the right context when you mean social sobriety, I mean as in… ’cause a lot of people I know now, they’ve quit the drinking, they are clean now, but a lot of them, it’s like… not unstable, it’s because everything’s a little bit imbalanced. And I think that can cause all kinds of emotional problems. And a lot of people nowadays are taking all these SRIs and all these pills to try and keep on top of them, whereas I’m finding ways now where I can do this through supplements and supplementation and also good diet. Massive – good diet! A really good diet. And exercise to try and combat that kind of thing. But yeah, that’s what I’m trying to pitch it as a social… being emotionally sober.
John: Yeah! Yeah.
Gary: The hardest trend I’m facing at the moment, definitely.
John: Yeah. It is kind of an odd term. I guess I think of it more as just mental and emotional growth, you know? Being mentally healthy as much as possible, I suppose. Trying to be open to the idea of growing as a person, as a human being. You know? Not to be run so much by my emotions.
John: To have some presence of mind, to understand why I’m reacting the way I am to life.
Gary: Yeah. The thing is, when you come out of recovery, it’s so easy to come out with it, though – as I say, being slightly… I don’t think damaged is the right word… but it’s easily, ’cause you can be a little bit… what’s the right word… without sounding terrible… It can leave you a little bit weakened, you know? You don’t want to be, then, get off one drug, then to be put on all these other drugs to try and combat that, you know? But yeah, that’s a fascinating conversation as well.
John: Yeah. Well I know that there’s a movement here in the States and in England as well where more people, younger people, are realizing that alcohol itself isn’t so healthy. You know? And there’s more of a proper understanding of what we used to call “alcoholism” as being more of on a spectrum. You might be from bad to worse, I guess, on a spectrum. And people fall on different levels of the spectrum, but the bottom line is to not drink is healthier almost for anybody on the spectrum. I was reading – I read a book, I think her name was Catherine – I think it’s Graham? Catherine Graham or Gray.
Gary: Catherine Gray! Catherine Gray.
John: Yeah. The Unexpected Joy…
Gary: Yeah, that’s a great book.
John: Yeah, it really is. And in that book, she talks a lot about how people today are connecting online, they’re finding other resources to connect with people who also want to stop drinking, and they’re not so fixated on alcoholism so much as just understanding that, you know, not drinking seems to help me. [chuckles] So I kinda like that approach. I really liked her book.
Gary: Yeah, there’s a great piece in the book, she says – I can’t remember the exact quote… but she was saying that animals and baby kids, they can all tell when you’re on it. They can tell. And it’s so true. My little doggie, he used to know when I was intoxicated, definitely. That’s a really good book, that is. It’s a great point that’s in there, as well, for anyone in early recovery, which was good. There’s a few good books out there, actually. Craig Beck done a good book as well, Alcohol Lied to Me. That was really good. And also on YouTube – there’s some great people on YouTube, especially when I was first getting in recovery. Who was the one I seen – Kevin O’Hara was really good. That was kind of when I started putting myself out of the woods, actually, was discovering some of them people on YouTube. And Kevin O’Hara was really – he’s got some great points. Annie Grace was another good one as well.
John: Yeah. Yeah, I need to read her book and I need to learn more about her. She’s actually mentioned in Catherine’s book a lot.
Gary: Oh, really?
John: Yeah. She is. I think it was, anyway. So yeah, there’s a lot of good resources out there, more than ever that I remember. You know, when I was getting sober was 1988. There was no internet, there was… [laughs] there was a library that you could go to with the cards that you could sort through to figure out what books might be there, you know. [laughs] There just wasn’t a lot out there, you know. It was more difficult to connect with people, I guess. That’s what is a game-changer today, is that – look at this! Me and you talking. This would not have happened in 1988.
Gary: No. No. That’s what somebody said, everyone – that’s what scared me, when I realized that, for that period in time, it wasn’t working for me. Because I literally – that was all I knew as a way out. Thankfully, the grace of God opened my eyes a little bit more, but you’re right, back then it must have been even worse.
John: Yeah, yeah. You were limited. You were limited for sure.
Gary: Yeah, there’s a lot of people online nowadays that are even – they’re flogging their own courses now, which is quite interesting. Whether they’re good or not, I don’t know, but.
John: Oh yeah. I’ve met people just on social media who have started groups of like-minded people who just have a desire to help each other not drink and it works for them very well. I think that’s kind of the future.
Gary: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, I agree with you.
John: So have you met up with anybody that uses sort of a support group?
Gary: Um, not really. I’m quite – I’m a bit of a lone wolf, really. I always have been. And I think my addiction may have made that more pronounced. But not really. I’ve reached out to a few people. The thing is, some people they seem to get to this point where it’s not – with their popularity, where they’re kind of hard to reach, and you just don’t tend to get many e-mails back, really, from people like that. I’m doing quite a bit on Instagram, now, actually. When I first started this I had all the different accounts and talk about “spread yourself thin,” blimey. So I picked one and concentrated on that and that was Instagram. I’m on the Facebook but I don’t really do them. And I’ve been connecting with a lot of people on there. A lot of people.
John: See, I’ve never got into Instagram! I don’t know why, I guess I’m not – I use YouTube, I use Facebook, I have a Twitter account but I’m not really that crazy about Twitter.
Gary: No, I don’t get Twitter whatsoever! I really tried as well, really tried.
John: Yeah. I just couldn’t. And then people have suggested that I get more involved with Instagram or get more involved with Instagram with AA Beyond Belief, but I just… I don’t know, man. I just don’t get it.
Gary: You know what, John, I try to keep it simple with any kind of social media. Personally, I don’t how much I would use it. Maybe Instagram – not Instagram, YouTube – because YouTube’s just brilliant. But I mean really, a lot of the time, there’s so many people on there trying to build these platforms, aren’t they? And it’s so easy for you to get sucked into it and you always get added for this stuff – you know, why are you adding me? I’m not used to all this stuff we’re doing. So I’m trying to keep that minimal and also I’ve had it before on Instagram where they couldn’t – all of a sudden, they can just cut you out of nowhere and you can’t do nothing on your account for like 2 months. You can’t find out why, what you’ve done wrong… so if you’re using that as a vehicle to move forward, you’re in trouble. So I try and keep that social media stuff as easy as possible and just let it do its own kind of thing. But it’s a great way connecting with people, though.
John: No, it is. And I do the same thing. I have for AA Beyond Belief, we have a Facebook page where people can learn about our articles and our podcast episodes but we also have a private Facebook group and sometimes I regret having started that, because Facebook is a really strange place, you know, for people sometimes. It seems like people will say things to each other on Facebook that they might not actually say to each other in person, you know?
Gary: It’s the whole world on social media! The whole world’s like that! It’s a nightmare!
John: It’s weird! [laughs]
Gary: That’s why I’m really weary of Twitter because the amount of grief I see being dished out on that platform…
John: I know, I know!
John: I know!
Gary: That’s freaky. There’s people hiding behind these things, you know. And they’re being really, really mean. And no one can do much about it.
Gary: It’s shocking! It’s the Wild West out there!
John: What’s that?
Gary: It’s the Wild West!
John: Oh, it is! It certainly is, yeah. It’s pretty crazy. So what about The Human Glitch? What was the idea behind that?
Gary: So, yeah. Well, what happened with me, I was, as I said… I’ve got a little… I got lucky. I realized I found out by pure chance that anything I do – cardio-wise, or getting the heart rate up – killed my cravings. Cravings were my downfall. I just kept giving into them constantly, which we all did. And then one day I found out that through cardio you can kill a craving. And that for me was the start of my slow, slow buildup back. And from there – because then I was starting to kill more cravings. I got a bit of time, of distance, to be able to think. And I just started writing. I wrote a book on – my first book, which is discontinued now, was on idioms – so a lot of strange sayings. Yeah, I just wanted to learn too much – I’m quite creative anyways, being a musician, and I didn’t want to play anymore, so I thought I’d write. Learning through that. And then I started doing this new thing called The Human Glitch, which was just a day in my life when it was crazy. And I just slowly worked on that. Really, I used that as part of my recovery as well, the writing – just to not think about certain… like, just to think and be creative and get stuff out there on the page. It just snowballed from there, really. It’s definitely… it’s hard work, writing. Really, really hard. But I won’t leave it. I try and do at least 3 hours a day. At least. Yeah.
John: Wow, that’s tough. That is a lot of work.
Gary: Yeah. It took me a while to get to that point. And for the first year or so, I’d have moments where I’d be lost for months at a time, then I’d come back to not really remember what I’d done and have to go through it all again, I was like slowly clawing my way back out. But The Human Glitch is out there now – it’s free, and it’s been #1 on Kindle and Amazon charts a couple of times, there. It don’t get downloaded a lot, it just gets downloaded consistently. And people seem to like it, so. I’m just letting it run as an introduction to me and sort of, you know, just got it out there. And that was then, and this is now, and now ’cause I’ll do everything in extremes, I’m 192,000 words into my second book. [laughs] Yeah, I thought I’d have the first draft done by April of last year, and I’m literally not even finished my – I’m finishing my first draft now.
John: Yeah. But I think that’s pretty cool, you know. I consider you an advocate for recovery for sobriety and it’s doing work like that that not only helps you, you know, I’m sure it does help you, it keeps in your mind your importance of staying sober. But it’s also helping other people. And that’s how you’re making these connections with people, too. I really think that that – I’ve met people like that, and I’m pretty impressed by it.
Gary: I love it! I love the whole thing. And this new book, ’cause cravings is my thing, when I think of recovery now, I think in 2 ways. I think, number one, you’ve got to get over the cravings. Because the thing is, I couldn’t go and sit with a counsellor. I couldn’t have even thought, really… even taking supplements would have been a bit tough in the first few weeks. I just wasn’t around. You need some time and distance to get to that point and to get to that time and distance you’ve got to have a break from it. And the only way to have a break from it is killing the cravings. For me, I just keep it simple and that’s what seems to work for me.
Gary: Once you’ve got that time and distance between the cravings, then you can concentrate on all – say if you have got mental health issues, or you’ve got issues in the past, then go and get help and take it in. Because you can’t take it in if you’re doing that much, like, taking that much chemical during the day, there’s no way you can sit in someone’s office and take something in and learn. So this new book is for everything I learned about getting over cravings. Every single tip and I studied everything. Like, I found out chilis, like eating chilis in chili sauce is a craving killer. Yeah. Anything like that, or if you’re out and about, and you’re struggling, just necking a little bottle of Coke, just to get your sugar levels back up. I didn’t know none of this. And I was shooting in the dark half the time. All I had on my side was just the fact that I knew if I went for a run, the craving would go, and it always did. That saved my life. So I’m putting that into words, now, and I talk about diet in there, as well, because there’s so much with diet that can get things levelled out. It takes time, it won’t happen overnight, but you can get things levelled out. And if you eat away at them cravings, then you give yourself that time and distance to be able to breathe.
John: Yeah. I think that’s one area that has been neglected in recovery circles.
Gary: No one talks about it!
Gary: I was shocked! I’m writing the book and no one else’s done it. I’m shocked!
John: Yeah, yeah. Hardly anyone addresses nutrition.
Gary: Yes, do you know, funny enough, there is one really good podcast that they… I can’t remember the name of it now… The Evolution… it’ll come back to me. The Evolution Podcast. They’re really good. They’ve got – there’s one episode on there, earlier, number 17 that they made, number 17 show, sorry, and the whole show is dedicated to supplements and anything if you want to raise your cognition. I mean, it’s one of them shows where you sit and have a notepad and you’re writing all this stuff down, like what was his name Ray Baker? Really good show. ‘Cause there’s some great supplements out there, now. And it’s not all about body – you really want… when I thought of supplements, I think bodybuilders. It’s nothing like that, now. Like, I didn’t know about L-glutamine because it can be processed for your blood sugar levels. It can keep it stable. They are spiking them… like, with drinking that Coke, that can spike your blood sugar levels. And it can send you on a big down again later on. L-glutamine keeps it level. So you don’t get them highs and lows. I didn’t know about that. It’s just an amino acid. And there’s all kinds of stuff on there. And, as I say, supplements are great with food, and back to the diet, the diet is so important. So important. I mean, normally in the early days, I say to people, don’t worry about that, and just eat! Because we don’t eat!
John: Right. No, we don’t, no!
Gary: I forgot what it’s like to taste food!
John: Oh god, I lived off of popcorn in bars.
Gary: Oh, really?
John: Well, yeah. I say that, but it’s partly true, yeah! Really. Yeah, I didn’t make a lot of money when I was drinking, so I would spend – sometimes, I’d spend an entire paycheque, I’d blow it all on alcohol and then – so then you have to kind of, you know, getting food to eat was not always the priority. It was always difficult.
Gary: Do you know what, John? I’m still amazed. I still look at my other half, and I say to her, “how the hell did I finance that? How do I finance this?” Because I was doing this and I was doing a lot of other chemicals at night just to bring me back down, because I was home… I was, I mean, it was terrible. How did I finance that? I’ve come out of it and I’m looking back and I mean, I’m not really – I mean, I know people that are in thousands and thousands and thousands of debt, I mean, just in cocaine! Thankfully, it wasn’t really my thing. But I still really, I mean, I remember cutting up a lot of credit cards in drunker moments because I didn’t want to use them again. I still got them, were’ slaves to them all. But looking back now, I just think, finances… I don’t know how I done it! I remember having a few funny phone calls from the bank saying “what’s happening with your money?” But the beauty of recovery is that all of a sudden, you’ve got money. You’ve got time and you’ve got money. Unbelievable. A great combination.
John: Yeah, the time – that was one of the first things that I noticed is that I had time. More time because so much time was spent drinking, getting over drinking, dealing with the problems of drinking… it was really a time-consuming deal. And to all of a sudden have the time – I didn’t always know what to do with it, you know? And in the very beginning, I mean, my first instinct was – well, go to some bar! I mean, that’s all I knew. But that wasn’t a good idea for me, and so I quickly learned not to do that, but. Yeah, having the additional time now…
Gary: Do you know what, John? Funny you say that. Because it’s amazing in recovery circles, they say that it’s almost like a warning… “you do realize you’ll get out a lot of time. You’ve got to fill it in!” I don’t say that. I say that it’s a blessing that you’ve got loads of time and finances. You can do anything you want in this world and finance it. Brilliant! Brilliant!
John: Yeah! Yeah. You can find something that you enjoy doing, something you’re passionate about, and, you know, devote some time to that. Yeah, it’s great. Your family, you know?
Gary: I’ve just found a website where I can get – I’m doing a course now, counselling. And it cost me 40 pounds. I mean, 40 pounds is nothing! And it’s like they do it online and they send you the papers and stuff. And, I mean, you can do any – I mean, and some of the courses they’ve got on there is amazing! They’ve got everything from healing, finance… it’s brilliant. And the time that you can use to really build yourself…
John: Yeah. So what are you looking at doing going forward with the book and – what you’re taking right now in counselling? You’re taking a counselling class for yourself to get into counselling?
Gary: Um, possibly! I’m not sure, because I’ve done on Instagram a few weeks ago, I thought I’d just put out a take someone on. You ain’t gotta pay me, just come on board and I’ll just tell you everything that I know and we’ll talk it through together. And I’ve kinda got 2 people that I’m doing that with now, ’cause I’m learning on that kind of thing as well. I’m not – I don’t know, “I’ve got the answers,” I’m just letting them know what I know. And so possibly going down that route.
Gary: I mean, ideally, I want to get this book published by Barnes & Noble and then become… [laughs] That’s not gonna happen. I’ve learned that with my other book. So I’m gonna put this book out there and I’m just gonna see how it goes… I wouldn’t mind getting it published professionally. I’m not sure, though. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I would love to do – maybe do some courses in the future, I’ve got someone looking at that possibly. But then I’m not sure if I can offer that constant – if you’re doing courses, say they’re a month long or two, because a month, really, is a month long enough for a course? Probably not if you’re in the state that I was in. You need more than a month! So now how do you work that? And also you need – I personally think you’ll need almost daily one-to-one interaction to begin with. It’s no good having that once-a-week call because that won’t cut it. If you’re waking up and craving, and you need constant attention. So I’m not sure that will work, yeah. But gonna send the book off to a couple of publishers and maybe get some agents to look at it. But I tell you what, John, there’s a long way to go yet, though. A long way. A long way. I’ve got so much work to do on this book, now! So I’m just gonna batten down the hatches of it and then we’ll just see what happens with that.
John: Yeah. Well I think you’re right about – you have to find a way to deal with those cravings before you can do anything else. That was really my experience. I guess you would call them cravings, I mean, it was for the first – definitely for the first 30 days, all I wanted to do was to drink. And I think the reason I wanted to drink is because I had all these problems from my drinking that still hadn’t played out yet. And I couldn’t get them out of my brain. I couldn’t stop worrying about, you know, how much – am I gonna go to jail? For how long am I gonna be in jail? How am I gonna find a place to live? Am I ever gonna get a job? You know, crap like this. And the only way that I knew to shut my brain off was to drink. You know? And that was what was so difficult in the beginning. So for me at that time – I live in the – Kansas City is a fairly large city – and so there were a lot of AA meetings at the time I could go to. And that’s what I did at that time. I didn’t have a job or anything, so I spent my time doing that. But once I could get past that wanting to drink all the time, then I could start going to therapy and sitting down with someone and talking and that kind of thing. So, yeah, to come up with ways to help people get through that difficult period of the cravings is very helpful.
Gary: The noise is so loud, that’s the problem. That noise is screaming in your ear. That’s why, when you got that craving, that’s why cardio is so good, because it literally crushes – if you’re going for a run, and if you’re with someone else and you can’t speak to them because you’re working on just holding your breath in, you ain’t gonna be craving because you ain’t got the time to think about it. Because it is totally smothered by it. But you’re saying that first 30 days when it’s a constant theme – and sooner or later, if you don’t address that, you’ll break down. So that’s why the things that you have to do – it’s about changing states.
John: Yeah. You know it actually lasted for me for quite a while, too. The closest I ever came to drinking was after 2 years of sobriety.
Gary: I remember! I heard this! I heard you saying that!
John: Yeah! It was the closest I ever came. I was working somewhere and I wasn’t really making money. I had all kinds of problems, I was angry, I was upset. And for whatever reason, I think I was getting gas one day, and I was at this gas station, and behind the counter was a bottle of brandy. And I couldn’t get that bottle out of my head. And I kept thinking about it, and thinking about it, and the thought was growing and growing and growing… and I wasn’t telling anybody about it. But I just had this thought. And then I started thinking, “you know what? I’m gonna go to the liquor store. I’m gonna get a bottle.” And for whatever reason, I decided it was gonna be apricot brandy. Because I had a bottle of apricot brandy with some friends when I was in high school. Anyway. So I was thinking, apricot brandy. And I’m gonna get that bottle and I’m gonna put it in my coat pocket, and I’m gonna keep it there in my closet, in my coat pocket, just so it would be there when I needed it.
John: I know! Crazy, isn’t it! So anyway, I went to the liquor store to get that bottle of brandy, and I tell ya, it was like in the movies, where you just feel like everything – the walls are gonna cave in on you, [laughs] and you’re just panicking, I was in a panic, and I was standing in that fucking place, and I realized, man, I gotta get out of here. I turned around, and I ran out of there. But that was the damn closest I ever came. It was just – it was absolutely insane. It was an obsession. It was totally – I understand the obsession for alcohol.
Gary: Yeah. You’re not there. You’re not present.
John: No, you’re not! Yeah, it’s totally – it’s like… it’s something else. But I got through that. I was able to get through that. But that was after 2 years of sobriety.
Gary: Yeah. You never, ever know. You never know. My first relapse was at after 181 days, it was unbelievable… looking back now, I can see it, I get it now. It comes so slowly, the relapse. I get it now. But at the time, I think you gotta go through a couple of them, you have to. I had to to learn – to learn what the deal was. And I was reading something that was very interesting by someone – I can’t remember what the gentleman’s name is now – and he was saying about relapses. How quick they’re actually over with. So you have all these months, and like for you, the minute you left that store, in a matter of hours, you would have been free. And it would have been all cleansed. And he says it passes within hours of you just walking over that cliff, and it is so true. Just get to that point, just see it through and it will just disappear within seconds. But also I found a lot of times my problem was the fact – like what you was doing. You kind of romanticized about terrible times.
John: Yeah! [laughs]
Gary: How does that work?
John: I know, I know.
Gary: Unbelievable. I never remember the bad, but I remember the good.
John: Yep. I wasn’t thinking that about – when I was thinking about that bottle of apricot brandy – I wasn’t thinking about my last experience when they threw me in jail, but I’m thinking about, oh, the great times when I was in high school with my friends.
Gary: Yeah. Yeah. It’s all – I mean – I remember times that I couldn’t take a phone call, once, ’cause I was crying, I couldn’t physically speak. On the other downside, you got the cravings also that it’s that tiring now, when they’re gone. Even though sometimes, as I was saying, the craving passes, it’s gone, you’re still left physically and mentally drained from it. Because you’re yo-yoing, aren’t you? You’re between two sides – “I should, I shouldn’t, I should, I shouldn’t, I can, I can’t, I can, I can’t,” and it doesn’t stop. Yeah, but that must have been great getting over that, though.
John: Mm-hmm. Yeah, what I did, I called somebody, a friend of mine, and we just talked about – I told him about that, and we just talked about anything, basically. And I think it was just getting out of that damn thing, telling somebody what was going on really helped me out. But, yeah, that was the closest I ever came.
Gary: John, that’s a good thing you’re saying that, as well, I was gonna say too about – I hear a lot of stuff that they say online and people get a little bit funny about AA, don’t they? And there’s a lot of AA-bashing out there, but AA’s got 2 really good things going for it that people seem to forget, and they’re basic stuff. You’re saying there about the sponsor – the sponsor thing in AA is worth gold dust. I mean, even for cravings – talking about cravings now – talking to someone is one of the best ways in the world to get over it. Another thing that everyone seems to – they don’t really seem to talk about when they talk about AA is the fact that you’re surrounded by these like-minded people and they’re all looking for the same goal. And not only that, 9 times out of 10 there’s always 1 or 2, probably like yourself, that are veterans involved in every room. So obviously you gotta think ahead, you can see that actually it’s been done. But yeah, bringing this up to these people, they get a little bit funny about that, man. [laughs]
John: Yeah. There’s a group of people – I find them online, mostly – that are so anti-AA that I can’t, I mean, I actually invited one on the podcast, but I don’t think she would –
Gary: Wouldn’t that be an interesting conversation?
John: Yeah, she wasn’t – wouldn’t be interested in even speaking with me. Which is fine, and you know, I can understand it to a certain extent. But the thing about AA – it would be like, any organization could have these problems, but AA is kinda unique because every AA group is different.
Gary: Yeah, big time.
John: You know? Very different. And even the meetings within that group can be different. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t some overall – our culture, you know, that has its problems, too. But it’s really on a group-by-group basis, and it’s hard to judge the whole thing by your one experience with one group, you know? But the problems that I see in AA that people have issue with, and many of them are valid, it’s this idea of having a rigid, one-way approach and sometimes, as you said, the sponsorship thing can be good, but it can also be dangerous, you know? If you have someone who is trying to manipulate someone.
Gary: Yeah, yeah, imagine that.
John: There’s a lot of issues. But you know, that could happen anywhere. That could happen in LifeRing. It could happen in SMART Recovery. That could happen in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. I mean, it could happen anywhere. Yeah, there’s some advantages and disadvantages to it, for sure. But I think that whether it’s AA or anything, I think what helped me was just having some kind of connection with someone else who also wanted to stop drinking. And it didn’t matter if it was what we were doing but just having a connection with someone like that. And that connection –
Gary: How often do you get to meetings a week? How many –
John: Not so much anymore. During my – on average, I was probably doing 3 a week, after I’d been sober for quite a while. In my early days, I was going a lot, you know, probably on a daily basis when I was first – yeah. But as of late, I’ve really kind of slowed down. I do so much work with the podcast and my website that it’s hard to have time to go to meetings. So a lot of my recovery work is now done online more than going to meetings. But I started an AA group, a secular group, here in Kansas City, about – a little over 5 years ago. And I do like checking in on that group because it uplifts – it lifts my spirits. It’s nice to go there and see people benefit from that who are making friends, whose lives are getting better, who aren’t worried about steps and god and so forth and just… it’s just nice to see that it’s making a difference in people’s lives and I enjoy that. But yeah, I don’t probably get to very many anymore, and right now, because of the pandemic, I don’t get to any face-to-face meetings.
Gary: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s gonna change a lot of things, this pandemic, isn’t it? Why – face-to-face meetings and everything’s gonna change.
John: It certainly will. It certainly will. And hopefully for the better. I can definitely see work changing. I mean, I’m doing all of my work from home, and I don’t think that’s gonna end anytime soon. AA, hmm, really any kind of social support group is going to, for a while – and this is just my opinion – but I don’t see here in the United States, anyway, that things are gonna get better any time soon. And if people start meeting again in groups, it’s just gonna start it all over, you know? So, I don’t know. So yeah, we’re getting used to meeting online, and…
Gary: Do you reckon that will – that won’t change much, though, will it, if it’s on – if you’ve got all these groups of people, will it still have the same effect, I mean?
John: Um, yeah, I think what will change, hopefully for the better as far as AA goes, first of all – AA has been slow to embrace technology. I mean, if you go to their websites, they’ve made some improvements, now, but they really suck. And they’re afraid –
Gary: Why doesn’t someone get on top of this, though?
Gary: Why doesn’t someone get on top of it, then?
John: Well, they’re – there’s a lot of problems with it. But they are afraid of technology because they have the concept of anonymity which I kind of have an issue with. And the whole idea of being anonymous was that you don’t act as a spokesperson for AA and, anyway. So, anyway, that has made it difficult for people to talk about AA openly on social media. It happens, but. And so AA has stayed away from social media. So anyway, what’s gonna happen, I think, now, is that more AA members are going to get used to using technology, social media, to connect with each other. They’re gonna meet with people from other countries, states, provinces or cities who have different experiences so it won’t be so insular. Their minds might open up to new ideas and ways of doing things and communicating about recovery. So, I think there could be some benefits that come from it in the long run. I sure hope so.
Gary: Yeah. It needs a little shake-up, doesn’t it?
Gary: It needs a little shake-up, it sounds like.
John: It does. It does.
Gary: And it would do it wonders as well, you’ve got the technology available, I mean… you’ve also got the name, the name AA is still – people know it, you know?
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Gary: That’s powerful in itself!
John: And another way, though, too – it could also become irrelevant. Because, it’s like, you don’t really need some structure, some building in New York City and some book – you don’t really need all of that when all you really need is people like me and you, talking right now on Zoom. You know? [laughs] So, yeah. I think that that could also change things as well, so. I don’t know! It’s kinda interesting. Right now we’re, like I say, I’m just going to a few Zoom meetings here and there, but I’m mostly active on the podcast. Takes a lot of time.
Gary: And your website – that takes up a lot of work as well, you’re like updating it all the time, that kind of thing?
John: Yeah, it’s huge. The articles that we post there are written –
Gary: Nice website! It’s nice.
John: Oh, thank you! The articles are written by people within our secular community. So I don’t have to worry about actually doing a lot of the writing. But just getting them ready to be put on the website and to communicate with the people who are sending them to us – it can be a full-time job.
Gary: You get a lot of people sending stuff in for that?
John: Not a huge amount. It comes – like, right now, we have enough material to get us through the summer.
Gary: Oh, nice.
John: Mm-hmm. Yeah. But we don’t get like a huge amount – a huge number of submissions. And sometimes that can be a challenge, too. But we’ve got a few people that write for us on a regular basis, too, which helps.
Gary: Nice. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going on, then, John.
John: Well, I enjoy it. It sounds like you do, too. And I look forward to following you and seeing how the book turns out and – yeah, I’d like to see you do more on YouTube, too! Because I am a big fan of YouTube.
Gary: I’d love to. I’d love to! It’s just finding the time, to tell the truth, John. Yeah, it’s just ’cause obviously, where I’m working is where – I mean, that’s what I’d like – I’d like to go full-time. Then it’d be a different ballgame, if I could do it full-time. But I don’t have the means yet. But that will come one day. But I would love to – yeah, I would love YouTube. The whole YouTube thing is fantastic. I mean, I’m a plumber, and if there’s something I don’t know as a plumber, I go on YouTube!
John: Yeah! [laughs]
Gary: Brilliant! But as it is, it’s trying to get through in YouTube, because there’s so many people doing it now, same with podcasts, I mean. YouTube’s great. But that’s why I like Instagram, because you can do these little videos.
John: Okay, I have to check out Instagram. ‘Cause I –
Gary: Yeah, I my own videos. You get 60 seconds, and I just do quick – I’m gonna do a few kinda – recently, I just do like 60-second tips to like, eat protein every 4 hours when you first get into recovery, something like that. But if you want to do anything longer, you can use the – I can’t remember – the Instagram channel that they’ve got for their own little TV channel – what, the name’s gone there – so you’ve got 5 options on there, which is quite cool.
John: Okay, I might check that out. I am kind of getting interested in the video part of this. So, yeah.
Gary: Yeah, definitely. It’s so much easier, also, because I think if you’re writing an e-mail, I – sometimes I have so much I want to say to someone, that by the time you’ve typed it out, you get like a 2-word reply and you’ve got to do another whole e-mail. But if you could just talk to ’em face-to-face you could just give the whole shpeel, you know?
John: Yes, yes. And I’m bad about returning e-mails sometimes, because that’s all I do at work all day long. E-mail, e-mail, e-mail. And so then when I turn off the laptop for work, put on the laptop for my regular life, and more e-mail! [laughs]
Gary: Yeah. There’s a trick to that, though. I was listening to someone on the Tim Ferriss show, and he just puts – he sets aside half hour at the end of the day for all your emails and you do shorter, sharper responses, instead of long-winded answers because you’ve got a time limit to get them done in. And he just says he just smashes it out like that. Once a day, every day. He gets it all done.
John: Yeah, yeah. Well, I do need to improve on that. Well, it’s been nice talking to you! I’ve enjoyed this very much.
Gary: Me too, me too. Thanks for having me on, John.
John: Oh, yeah! So, again, thehumanglitch.com is Gary’s website and his book – he’s still working on it, and when it is done, maybe you’ll come back on, Gary, and talk about it!
Gary: I would love to! I would love to.
John: About the book. That’d be great. Alright, so, that is another episode of AA Beyond Belief! Thank you for listening. If you would like to support our site and podcast, there’s a couple ways you can do that. We like to have just regular contributors in even small amounts. Even if it’s a dollar a month. And you can do that at patreon.com/aabeyondbelief by becoming a patron or just donating through PayPal at paypal.me/aabeyondbelief and just going to our website and clicking on the Donate button. But don’t worry about it if you don’t have any money, we’re doing okay, but we do need money to make the podcast work, so. There you go. Thanks again, Gary, it was great talking with you. Thanks so much and come back again!
Gary: No problem. Cheers, John!