Steve welcomes JP to share their experience, strength, and hope with you, along with advice on getting and staying sober.
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Until next time, stay sober friends!
Hi everyone, and welcome to Gay a, a podcast about sobriety for the LGBT plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Bennett. Martin, I am an alcoholic. I am grateful for my recent getaway weekend in St. Augustine. As of this recording, I am 611 days sober, and today we're welcoming to guest to share their experience, wisdom, and hope with you. Welcome, jp. Hi, how areJP:
Why don't you introduce yourself toJP:
the listeners? Sure. I'm jp, I'm an alcoholic. I am almost two and a half years sober. And my Friday date is August 14th, 2020. So I got sober during the pandemic. I'm from Southeastern Virginia. I moved here for a job in June and I have a partner. Almost three years as well. He he helped me get sober and we have two cats that we love very muchSteve:
Excellent. And what are some of your favorite hobbies or things to do to keep you busyJP:
in sobriety? So I actually really enjoy going to gay spaces which typically are bars. I mean, I live in a place that's got two gay bars and that's it. There's a life center. but it's, it's all service based, right? It's not somewhere that you can just go and hang out as much as what, what I envision and what I hope to have eventually. But all of my friends know I'm super open about the fact that I don't drink alcohol, that, you know, I'm in recovery. And I have been pretty open about it with most of the people I meet. I actually do enjoy going and seeing people and seeing my friends and having dinner. And they know that if I'm having a bad day or if, you know, I'm not in a good place with my sobriety, that, you know, we can go home and, and, and do that. But yeah, I'm a singer. I'm trained to be a singer and I, I do a lot of singing actually. So I'm actually at rehearsal for. For a concert I've got coming up in a couple of months. And so I sing and I watch movies. I got a lot of that back when I stopped drinking. Cause I stopped singing. Mm-hmm. I watched movies as I was drinking but don't remember them obviously. Yeah. So I, you know, I, I got a lot of that back. I got a lot of the joy back from actually doing it. Once I.Steve:
Awesome. Why don't we jump into it and then, and tell us what your journey with alcohol and addiction wasJP:
like. Yeah. You know, I grew up in the middle of like literally nowhere. You've never heard of it. You have no reason to go there. And my parents, while they were. Good in some areas. They gave me a really stable childhood. They were pretty anti-gay and and in a really covert way in a, in a, like a, this is like positive toxicity kind of way. And so I developed this like super intense self-loathing it from just like basically childhood. it got really bad in puberty, and so I didn't start drinking until the second semester of my college, my first year in college. And from what I remember of that which is not much I have, I have always been disordered. I've always had alcoholism. I loved the way it made me feel. I loved the way it made me completely uni inhibit. uh, I didn't have to worry about the way I looked cause I'm a bigger guy and so I have body issues on top of, you know, having a lot of hatred towards my sexual orientation. And so like when I took that first drink, it made it all go away. Like, it just, it evaporated. And so I felt happy. I felt this like emotional release that. Had never felt before. It was almost like spirit, it was almost a spiritual release. It felt like me. So I would say that like, it's never been good. Like there were, there were good times. It started out really great, right? Like, I was having fun, I was with friends, but like, I never, I was always like, let's get drunk. Like, I don't remember a day where I was just like, I'm gonna have. that just wasn't a thing for me. You know, some people sort of ease into it now. There was no easing. It was, you know, I am gonna get as fucked up as possible. Yeah. Am I allowed to, am I allowed to curse Chris to your heart's content? Yeah. Okay, perfect. Well then I'm just gonna get as fucked up as I possibly can because I didn't wanna remember the stress of the day. You know, I didn't wanna remember you. things I'd done that I was embarrassed about. And I had all of them internalized homophobia. That only got worse. It didn't get better. You know, I, as, as I got older. And this was also interspersed with like relationships that I couldn't manage. I could not manage my friendships. I could not manage like I would I joined a fraternity. who enabled my drinking and in a lot of ways pushed it past what it was probably appropriate. Definitely past what it was appropriate for. But I, I made those choices, right? Like, I'm not blaming them, but I, I chose friends that drink like me, like pretty effortlessly Like, I didn't like look around and say, oh, you know, you had like, let's, let's hang out. But, you know, I, I remember. you know, nights are just like, let's get drunk. And it was like that every weekend. And we would do, you know, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then we'd go to church on Sunday. I had, it was a, it was, it was, it was setting me up for like, the period of where it, the turn happened. But I, I honestly, it, it, I, my drinking was always disordered. And I, and I recognized that after I got sober. I was sexually harassed in grad school. I, so I, I graduated. It was, I, I took a while to get outta school and went to grad school and I was sexually harassed in grad school was groomed and subsequently like discarded basically. Cause that's what groomers really like to do. and it messed me up and it, and in that, that experience really is where the turn happened. I lost all faith in myself as a singer, as a person, all my self worth, like, I basically gas lit into, you know, all kinds of things. And so I had no emotional outlet. I just was like, I'm just gonna get drunk and. you know, it was normal. It was normal for me to be doing my homework with a drink in my hand. It was normal for me to have, you know, two or three days of drinking Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then recover right Sunday through Wednesday. Around this time also, my, my grandma died unexpectedly. My family fell apart pretty much immediately after that. and my father, who has his own recovery program left and I don't know where he was for six years. So I went from this like very stable home life, which had issues but like was stable. I had two parents that really loved me to the best of their ability, and then it just collapsed and went under me and I, this was happening at the same time that I was profoundly unhappy. I didn't have a lot of friends. I was only doing singing and I hated it. And so like, there was nothing, like, I didn't, I didn't even think about it. It was, it was, it was just like how I felt normal. And I remember not, I, I don't think I ever was like, well, I need this, but I couldn't go more than a. without getting drunk without alcohol, which like is the same thing for me, you know? So I, I, so this was like 2017 it's 2016 to 2017 is really where the turn happened, or it started, it wasn't fun anymore. It was like I needed it. I, I was, I was drink, I was getting drunk all the time. I was still doing, You know, in, in undergrad I was having like drink all days. Like they did, I'd, I assume they still do them, I dunno. But you know, I was doing it in grad school, well into grad school, you know, having drink all days and it, it wasn't fun anymore. It, it, and I knew that, but I couldn't, I couldn't stop. Like, I, I convinced myself that if I just drink one more, I'd, I'd, I'd get that same sort of, you know, release. But I move. for a job. Cause I had decided I didn't wanna sing opera and was in a subsequent, also was terrible. I was, she was the worst boss I've ever had. In fact, you, you cutSteve:
out a bit there. Can you just kind of repeat like the last three seconds about the transition?JP:
Yeah. So in June, 2017, I left Memphis and went to Louisville, and I was working in one of the worst places I've ever worked. It was miserable. I was in constant Missouri and I was working two jobs, one, both of which became full-time, and I was in this constant treadmill. I would go to this job, I would go to a movie theater for my other job. Then I would go home and drink and I would pass out, and then I'd get up and do it all again. I didn't drink every day, but like I ev every other day, it was sort of the same pattern of just like Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Wednesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. You know, I, I was so m. but I didn't, I didn't know how to get out of it. I didn't know, couldn't see a layout, and so I just kept doing it because I was so desperate. I left in February of 18, and by this point it was pretty much five, four to five times a week. You know, I'd, I'd go to. And I drink, I get home at like, as soon as I hit the, as soon as I hit the door. And, you know, I was in a, i I did a summer residency at a, at a summer program in the woods, and there's literally nothing to do. There was no, I mean, like, there was hiking and I had, I then I had lost all interest in the things I was doing. You know, I was, I was an Eagle Scout growing up, so I loved the outdoors. Didn't hike a single, single day while I was. I didn't do anything but a drink. I went to work, I did my work, did my work. Well, functionally I was still a mess, but like plenty of people saw me and like plenty of people knew that I had serious, like, I, like they knew. They just didn't know how to talk to me about it. Cause they didn't know me very well, you know? Cause I, I would be in a conference room drinking on the off base. Right. And so like I hid it from the people that didn't need to know whatever. I can only assume that everyone knew cause I was just a mess. And so that carried over into 2018. It was, it was starting to get into like leaving early to go home and drink. Being late for. calling in and saying, I'm hungover. Not, not, I'm, not, that I'm hungover. Pardon? That I'm sick. I'm not feeling well. Mm-hmm. And you know, there were, there were fun moments in there I guess, but like the pattern was that I could not stop once I started, I could not do just one and I could not, and, and if I drank earlier in the day, I would go home and get. I would have just a feeling of like, you know, I can't do this, you know, and then plan, you know, I'm, I'm in philanthropy now. I was in philanthropy at that point, and I don't know if you know this, but like, philanthropy's got a ton of free liquor. Mm-hmm. just a ton of it. I mean, it flows like water because it's, it's so easy to ask people for money. It's easier to ask people for money and then say yes when they're, you know, buzzed. The ethics to which. not great. And so, but for an alcoholic it's super easy to stay hidden. It's super easy because no one's looking because they're also all drunk or, you know, tipsy or whatever. So they couldn't, they couldn't discern you. They couldn't see it. Right. I'm gonna get to the, the, I promise, but I, I, I really like to talk about because about this, because like, I had a, I had a party instead of serving. and I was with a bunch of work colleagues and there were other people drinking, right? But like they were drinking one every like 30 minutes. And I'm just counting 'em away like I am jerk a skunk, like an hour in and I stumble on home and I knew people saw me just like completely wasted at this work function, right? But I held it together. that no one questioned it. No one, like after the fact, no one mentioned it. And so I just kept on my, on my merry way. Right. About a year since this was 2019, I got sober in 2020 during the pandemic. And about six months after I got sober, I saw a, a, a colleague, and she, she came up to me and she. You know, like the last time I saw you, we were, when you were serving people and you were drinking more than you were serving. And at that point I wasn't ready to tell people like, you know, I'm in recovery. Like, I'm sorry for behave. You know, like, so like I was really taken aback by that and I still sort of am because, but just how like blunt it was. But that's, that's how disordered I was. I had completely given up pretense. I had given up, like caring about if people saw me. I had come into work drunk a couple of times and passed outta my chair and no one caught me. Thankfully, I guess you know, maybe I would've gotten sober sooner. I dunno. But towards the end right before my, my, my husband moved here in 2019 and that entire year it had started to escalate to. I was, I was going to bars, I was driving home. I don't remember lots of time in between that. It is a miracle that I'm still alive. It's a miracle I didn't kill anyone. And the shame of it all just kept me from, from admitting like, I have a problem and I need help. Because admitting that meant that I had to admit that I like did things that I. believe I could do, but I did them. You know, I drove drunk. And I would, it was weird because like I would get I would wake up and be like, oh my God, did I hit someone? And then I would do it all over again the next week. You know, I would go a couple weeks. The fear would leave me, you know I couldn't stop drinking. No, no, no. Can't do that. You know, you're just gotta make sure that I just don't drive drunk. Paula, that didn't work very well. So I my husband moved here. He's completely oblivious to all of us. He's, he's not from the United States. And so, you know, I'm hiding it from him. And it was easy cuz he, we were in a long distance relationship. And he got here and immediately knew like I was, I was drunk, right? And I, if he knew that I had a drinking problem, we had numerous fights about it all through that next, constant. I mean, it was constantly because I could not control, I cannot control my drinking, right? So I gave it up Pete. I, I tried controlled drinking starting in June of 2020, and it went as well as if any alcoholic controlled drinking ever goes, which is to say that I have zero and I have 100 miles an hour and never the train shall be I can't do it. August of that year. I don't remember starting, I only remember waking up and me having the biggest fight of my like wife with him where he basically didn't say anything other than like, I'm, I'm so disappointed in you. And that know, if he, if I didn't stop, then he would leave. And that was enough for me to say, I have a problem. I didn't join AA for another three months after that. Because I had told myself like, oh, if I could just get sober for a bed, I did what every alcoholic that doesn't wanna do. AA does. Right. Which is to say that like, I started and then I stopped drinking and that was good enough. Right. Well no. I just, I couldn't, like I, I, I felt out of control. I felt irritable. It was only a matter of time before I relapsed. But I had a, I was working at a university and they have a recovery program for students and they were doing recovery trainings and I I was like, oh, I, I think I have a problem. I them to learn, like how to advocate for myself. And in the middle of the session, I just have this complete breakdown. Like I am just like, like we're in a breakout room. There's like four people, they're telling me stories and I am like, I'm an alcoholic. It's not that I just have a problem with it. Like I literally cannot, I have no power over this and I need help. And so, The four strangers, I've never met them before in my entire life. And I'm telling them a life story. And so like my, my sobriety date is like, the last drink I had was in August of 2020. And that's the date that I, I claim is my sobriety date. Cause I, I really did stop drinking then. And but I didn't join AA until probably December, January of 21. I. I am stubborn and so like, my journey has been sort of winding. I, I left AA after probably like a month and a half, maybe two months. Simply because I am not a rule follower. I love to be stubborn. So what I'll tell you is that I never struggled with step one, like at all. Like I knew as soon as I hit, like I knew I had a problem. But as soon as I hit the rooms, people were talking about, you know, how they. how they use and how they, you know, how they drink. And it was me, like, I saw all these people, the the stories are, are mine, right? And so I never had a problem with that. It's the other steps that I had problems with, the higher power, particularly like I'm, I'm ready to, to, like, I could do that tomorrow, right? but it's like spiritually turning myself over when I have been fighting on my own for a long time is still difficult. And I, like, I have left and come back now. And I'll get to that in a second, but I, I left AA cause I just didn't, I wasn't ready for a higher hour. Like I just wasn't. And I, I'm still struggling with it a little bit, but like I. Yeah. I, so I, I just left and I've just been, I've been out here by myself and it's lonely and it's tiring and people don't get it. People don't like, normal drinkers don't understand what you're going through and they're super supportive. Like it's has nothing to do with them not being supportive. Right. But they don't really understand that. It doesn't leave it, it goes away, but it comes. and like the desired romantic. Like right now I'm really romanticizing drinking, you know, like how it made me feel and like the good stuff and it's just come back. Cause I've had a lot of job issues in the last month and completely unrelated to alcohol. But you know, I, they're the same sorts of behavioral patterns where I like take things really personally and I internalize 'em on as me as a person. And so I, I'm outta control. And so I, I started two weeks ago today, actually, incidentally, I started back to I went to a meeting before that, but I, I was really, I'm really serious this time. Just cause I have too much to lose, too much respect for my, for my husband. The person that I am now, as you know, as challenging as I can be. A better person than I was when I was drinking and I can't go back to that. Not even just from like my health perspective, but like ethically, morally, like I don't wanna be that person again cause I'm, I'm not a good person and I, and I feel I've got a sponsor. I'm really excited about it. And it's, it's exciting. I, I'm actually really excited about it in a way that it wasn't the first time. So, yeah, that's, that's my story, Well, that's a lot, but I yeah.Steve:
Thank you so much for sharing it with us and especially like kind of stepping your toe back into program again. What are some things that you do in your daily life to help keep you sober?JP:
So I always wake up and I my sponsor told me this. I wake up and I make my bed. Mm-hmm. I say the Serenity Prayer. I go to CrossFit. I'm a CrossFit athlete. I love CrossFit. I've been doing it. I was doing it while I was drinking and I wasn't seeing results. the weirdest thing. Obvious reasons why But I, so then I also I also text or call three, at least three people from a program every day. Just to tell them like, I'm thinking of you. Hope you're doing well, staying sober. Right now I'm doing 90 and 90, so like I haven't missed a meeting since two weeks ago. Which is wild to me because I didn't think I was ever gonna stick to AA and now I'm here. So yeah.Steve:
Excellent. And no matter how we get sober, we generally find either a quote or a lyric or something that we like to try and live by. Do you have any favorites?JP:
I love the song, don't Carry It All by the Decemberists. Mm-hmm. the whole song is talking about, you know neighbors burying their burdens of, of other people. I, I can't think of a quote off the top of my head, but like, I love that song and I, every time I get down, I listen to it and. Think about the fact that like, I, I'm not by myself, I'm not alone. And that, that song is very much about like focusing on community. Yeah.Steve:
That's awesome. Excellent. And do you have any last words of wisdom or advice for ourJP:
listeners? I would love people to know that it gets better. Mm-hmm. that You can be drinking for 10 years or 20 or 30 and get, take good. It does get better. I didn't think I would have the life I had when I was drinking. I actually have the life that I have now that I wanted while I was drinking that I thought I could find while I was drinking. And I have friends that love me. I have like a sponsor. I have friends in in the program. that are gonna be friends outside the program, I think in a way that I didn't think I had before. So that's yeah, I, I, it gets better.Steve:
That's awesome. I love that. And how can someone find you if they wanted to follow you on the Instas or anywhere?JP:
Yeah, my I have two inta. One is for my singing, which is JP Paul 10. And then I have another one for my philanthropy work, which is JP Paul va. Okay.Steve:
I'll be sure to put 'em both in the show notes. Yeah. So people can follow 'em both. Thank you so much. Great, jp. It was great getting to know you better. Yeah, you too. Thank you. Yeah, stick around. We'll have our post show. But in the meantime, thank you listeners for tuning into another episode of Gay. If you're interested in sharing your story or just saying Hi, I'm an email away, gay podcast gmail dot. And be sure to follow us wherever you're listening so you can get new episodes when they come out every Thursday. In the meantime, if you're hungry for more, head on over to our Paton page for our post show episode with JP and exclusive content weekly by going to patreon.com/gay a. And until next time, stay sober Friends.