college

Re(Pro) #41: Paul Fuhr

Paul Fuhr

Paul is a writer. A true writer. You are in for a treat. He's also a down-to-earth, good man who I'm blessed to call a friend. Whenever he checks in with me, it's always way beyond the surface. This guy is going places and if you aren't already familiar with his work (side-gig writer for The Fix and After Party Magazine and podcast host), it's time to brush up on all things Paul Fuhr.
Fuhriously, er, seriously!

xo,
Laura


Name: Paul Fuhr

Age: 40

Location: Columbus, OH

Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 1/11/2014

Creative niche: Writing

Drug of choice, if applicable: Alcohol

Recovery story in a nutshell: Well, how big is this nutshell?

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Um, where to start? I should've started my recovery story about four or five times throughout my active drinking days. That much I know. I knew there were times that I was a full-blown alcoholic and should've called it quits, but didn't. I actually convinced myself I'd disappoint people at an upcoming party if I wasn't there chugging back beer. I was hiding empty gin bottles I'd stolen from my parents' liquor cabinet in my clothes drawers. I was not showing up for appointments. I'd consider a lunch date as a suggestion, not an obligation to actually show up. I'd text last-second "traffic jams" or "grocery store heists" (both true examples of lies I used) to my "friends" at the time.

Back to your question. I drank, and I drank with gusto. I was the Goodtime Charlie. My first drink was a stolen Zima in a closet, because my aunt told me it was better than sex. Sex was years off for me (I was a huge "Star Trek" fan, so maybe even years further than I hoped for), so I settled for Zima. When I got to college, Goodnight Nurse. I was off to the races. I loved the way that some beers made me feel softer around the edges and thoughtful, while others made me consider that I could knock out someone twice my size that I didn't really have a problem with.

IPAs made me feel like I licked a shag-carpet and disappointed the nearest beer nerd in the room. Wines made me sleepy. Vodka made me horny. Jager shots made do stupid shit and spout "X-Files" trivia. Irish car bombs were exercises in trying to not chip my teeth. No matter what, I was never the guy passed out first. I was challenging everyone to keep the party going, which meant I wasn't up with all the fun people at 2:30 a.m. No, all the fun people at a party were off fucking in their bedrooms or passed out like good college students. Me, I was adrift with the island of misfit toys in a college living room: friends of friends who were too drunk to be sleeping. We played Jenga or watched late-night TV. We had nothing in common so it'd be a series of those half-awake, half-aware, no-consequence conversations carried into the morning.

My drinking simply got worse. Transplant all the "fun" drinking from college and move it to home. No bumper wheels. No keg stands. The carnivality of college drinking was gone. I was living at home again. I immediately got a DUI. Even that wasn't a wake-up call for me. I just made more drinking buddies. I had a stay at a hotel with two other DUI offenders and all they focused on was trying to get booze into our hotel room. I remember thinking THOSE PEOPLE are alcoholics. Not me. Well, I was, but not like those idiots. I just wasn't ready to consider that about myself. Even court-ordered therapists were staring sessions between the two of us. I had plans to go drinking that night, and my arms-crossed attitude told him that.

In fact, let's do this: let's wrap all of my drinking up quickly. Let's call it a wash of hilarious, sexy, awkward, adrenaline-pumping, forbidden, sorrowful, sad, empty, poor, lonely, shameful scenes of me drinking and trying to get by. Let's say it's a real three or four years I can't remember. Three kids are in there, too. A pissed-off, hollowed-out wife, too. Put them in there. That certainly wasn't the real version of me out there. That was an alien powered on draft beer and pint bottles rolling around my seats. Now, let's say it's all behind us. 100%. So, how did I get recovery?

I got sober my listening to other people. First, I listened to those first people who hurt me so deeply: "Maybe you're an alcoholic." That thought caused me to recoil, retreating like back from a flame. But when I forgot to pick my oldest up from school, having passed out from a relapse after treatment, I knew I was an alcoholic. So I accepted that I was. I started listening. I also started listening to the delicate nature of conversations around me: in meetings, between my family, my friends. Even if they were inane things about the weather or how much Oliver, my second-oldest, hates the smell of cereal, I listened. I hadn't heard it before. I sopped it all up. I wasn't listening for years. I was checked out. So, listening was the real trick for my recovery. I wasn't listening to my internal clock telling me when all the liquor stores around me were starting to close. (Do you know what that desperation feels like, knowing it's after-hours everywhere?)

I also started downloading podcasts and reading every single addiction narrative I could find at the library. I couldn't identify with everything -- not completely -- but I tried. I scraped a line here; a page here; a chapter there. Nothing was MY story (not that mine is amazingly unique) but I didn't expect to see myself mirrored in anyone's pages. Eventually, I just found myself to be a listener. In my drinking days, I was a talker. I waited for others to draw in a breath so I could inject my bullshit, be it a James Bond fact or something I simply made up. I hated silence (maybe because it reminded me that I clearly could hear the drunken buzz thrumming through my bones as an electric current or something). Now I was a listener. It helped everywhere. I listened to podcasts; I listened at work to people talking at their desks; I listened in performance reviews I was suddenly giving in a job I suddenly had; I listened when my sponsor told me to check my motives. I simply listened. That's what got my sober. Listening to the stories in my 12-step meetings don't make me feel like I've found my people or that I'm not alone -- they remind me that I continue to walk through this world alone, but can carry what they share with me through with me.

(I also listened to the people I made amends to. That was the feedback I needed to hear most. They were there for the real holy-shit damage, too. That's as much an opportunity as it is a life-changing chance to make a difference and demonstrate how far you're come. If someone is willing to accept your apology at the same time they'll call you out for being a monster, that's a gift.)

Time heals everything that it should. Everything else wasn't worth it in the first place, in my opinion.

Top 5 Recovery Tools:

1. Spotify.
I would pay at least $200 a month for this. I can't explain how important this is to my recovery. As fast as my broken-brain's moods will shift from one second to another, Spotify is always there for me. I create specific mood playlists, playlists for friends going through similar, playlists for my podcast episodes, anything and everything.

2. Writing.
I don't journal, really. With all my professional writing obligations, I don't have time for that. But writing is a huge recovery tool because I'm airing out my past and current recovery in articles, podcasts, appearances, and books.

3. Family & Friends.
There's not too much to say here, other than this list grows and swells and shrinks at a moment's time. And I don't pay much attention to it. I know who will be there for me, sure, but I'm more worried who **I** can be for someone when they need **me**. That's not something I've ever considered before.

4. 12-step work.
I host two podcasts, writing countless paid articles, speak at 12-step meetings, answer FB messages from strangers, and work with others on a regular basis. I think this is as fulfilling as it is rewarding as it gets. When someone reaches out to me to say they got something out of an article, it makes everything worth it.

5. Sleep.
I never slept before. Not for real, anyway. This is where I should put "exercise." but I think if I get control over "sleep," everything else will follow. Sleep, though. That's my white whale. I have teeth-gnashing, vivid, talk-aloud nights, and then I have the kind where I feel like I didn't sleep at all. I just want to wake up and go, "All right. With a cup of coffee, this won't be so bad." I swear, four years later, my brain is still expecting a brutal hangover and a zillion excuses.


Connect with Paul.

Re(Pro) #19: Beth Leipholtz

I adore Beth.  She is a magical sweetheart with mad graphic design and reporting skills, but more than that, my sister in sobriety.  I didn't realize how similar out stories/paths were until I featured her as TSC's 19th Re(Pro).  Expect big, beautiful things from Beth.

xo,
Laura


Name: Beth Leipholtz

Age: 24

Location: Alexandria, MN

Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 5/07/2013

Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.): Writing and graphic design 

If applicable, drug of choice (or not of choice...): Alcohol

Recovery Story in a Nutshell:

I grew up in a stable, loving home, in small-town Minnesota. Both my parents had struggled with depression/anxiety, and as early as third or fourth grade I remember feeling different than others my age. I had what I then called “bad thoughts,” in which certain things would enter my mind and I just couldn’t shake them. I remember telling my mom once as she was driving that I had this desire to just jerk the wheel and see what happened. It was those streams of thoughts that would enter my mind and take up residence, refusing to budge.

Soon after admitting this to my parents, I saw a psychologist and began taking an anti-anxiety/antidepressant. Overall, it really helped and I had a good grip on my mental health. I was a straight-A student and a varsity athlete, so drinking was never on my radar in high school. Once I got to college, I knew I was open to drinking. So when freshman year rolled around and I joined rugby, I jumped at the first chance I had to drink. I had two beers and felt immediately more at ease. Talking to strangers was easy and making friends came effortlessly. I fell in love with the way drinking made me feel, and from there I was always looking for more, more, more.

At first I only drank on the weekends. Then weekends turned into Thursdays as well, then during weeknights, until eventually I was drinking before classes. I was never a daily drinker and I never needed alcohol to function. But it didn’t matter, because I wanted it all the time. My life became a series of drinking and looking forward to when I could drink again. Blacking out became normal for me, and I was usually the drunkest one in the room. Moderation meant absolutely nothing to me. I had somehow made it through two years of college without any major consequences from my drinking habits. Sure, I did stupid things, hooked up with the wrong people, fought with friends. But nothing earth shattering happened, so to me, I was doing just fine. From outsiders, that wasn’t the case. .

My last night at school before going home for the summer before junior year, I went out with friends. I remember the first hour or so, and then nothing. The next memory I have is waking up in a hospital bed, seeing my parents huddled in the corner and thinking, “Oh, shit.” Oh shit was right. The night before I had apparently drank myself into a stubborn, blackout state, and refused to go home with friends. I left the bar alone (I have no idea how I even got in the bar since I was not 21) and tried to make my way back to my dorm. Instead of making it there, I passed out on the sidewalk, where the police found me. I was told I had a .34 blood alcohol content, so they took me to the hospital. Sadly, this amount of intoxication was normal for me, so all I needed was to sleep it off. However, nothing about this was normal for my parents. My mom immediately began making calls to treatment centers. I knew I wasn’t getting away with my actions, so I complied to treatment, thinking I would just go back to my previous ways after I was done.

The first month was hell and I was resistant to everything I was told. I didn’t think I belonged there and was convinced I was better than everyone else beside me. As time passed, I came around. One day I came across a quote that read, “An alcoholic is anyone whose life gets better when they stop drinking.” And that was when I knew. I was an alcoholic, because in just a month without alcohol, my life was immeasurably better. I had energy again, I had lost weight, I didn’t have to wake up with no memories, and I had begun rebuilding relationships. From that point on, I ran with it.

 
 

Today I am three years and three months sober. I am in a healthy, happy relationship with a steady job. I am an active voice in the online recovery community, something that makes me feel like I am finally giving back what I was so freely given. I’ve even been able to stop taking my antidepressants, in part because I have faced the demons that haunted me for so long. I still hit bumps, sometimes daily, but now I ride them out rather than drown them out -- that’s what life is about. 

Top 5 Recovery Tools

1) Writing about recovery/sharing my story.

2) Forging relationships with others who have been in the same situation.

3) Exercise/creating new goals for myself.

4) Being honest and open with myself and others.

5) 12-step meetings (on occasion).


Connect with Beth.

 
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