The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Divorce, Suicide and Staying Sober "No Matter What"

Episode Summary

#6: Dave grew up in Anaheim, CA. His father left when he was 2, and they met again when he was 30. He was raised by his mother and stepfather who were “hippie bikers,” and his stepdad was often confused with ZZ Top. Dave has 24 years of sobriety after getting sober at the age of 22. HIs best friend committed suicide on the same day Dave found out he had also been sleeping with his wife. Through all of this, he did not pick up a drink or drug and has been able to build a beautiful sober life. We are so excited to have Dave here to share his story!

Episode Notes

#6: Dave grew up in Anaheim, CA. His father left when he was 2, and they met again when he was 30. He was raised by his mother and stepfather who were “hippie bikers,” and his stepdad was often confused with ZZ Top. Dave has 24 years of sobriety after getting sober at the age of 22. HIs best friend committed suicide on the same day Dave found out he had also been sleeping with his wife. Through all of this, he did not pick up a drink or drug and has been able to build a beautiful sober life. We are so excited to have Dave here to share his story!

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Show Notes:
1:23 - Growing up

3:45 - Meeting his biological father

6:18 - "Hippie Biker" parents

9:07 - Taking his first drink

13:08 - Doing acid and ecstasy on top of drinking

16:18 - "Why don't you just drink?"

19:40 - The drugs aren't normal, but the drinking is

22:24 - Going to a 12-step meeting for drugs, meeting his sponsor

24:27 - "Try some controlled drinking"

29:00 - Intrusive thoughts and dealing with fear

30:43 - Meeting his (ex) wife at a meeting

33:51 - The relationship's demise

34:28 - "I'm sleeping with your wife"

36:20 - His best friend's suicide

37:58 - Trauma bonding

39:48 - "Don't drink, no matter what"

45:19 - Trying to date someone who wasn't sober

50:21 - The "emotional peanut allergy"

57:43 - The problems that would come with drinking/substance use as an adult

1:01:05 - It became clear I needed to date someone who was sober

1:05:30 - Trying something different when disagreeing

1:13:25 - Why he still does the "work"

1:20:30 - Being sober and the amazing things that come with it (and...we don't have a choice)

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Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast. I am your host Ashley Loeb Blassingame and today I will be interviewing an awesome man in recovery. Dave grew up in Anaheim, California. His father left when he was two and they met again when he was 30. He was raised by his mother and stepfather who were as he describes hippie bikers and his stepdad was often confused with ZZ Top. Dave has 24 years of sobriety after getting sober at 22. His best friend committed suicide the same day Dave found out that he had been sleeping with his wife. Through all of this, he did not pick up a drink or a drug and has been able to build a beautiful sober life. We are so excited to have him here today to share his story. All right, episode six. Let's do this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Dave, I am so excited to have you on this program and have you share your story with us today. It's an incredible story. Will you tell us... I know you grew up in Huntington beach and your parents were kind of hippie bikers, but it was a relatively, as you called it, normal childhood. Will you tell us about that.

Dave P:

Sure. My parents, we would go camping and do family stuff and I wasn't allowed to hang around with bad kids and we would get in a lot of trouble for lying and all of the things that like a good healthy family life would be. They just happened to be using for quite awhile until I was 14.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And what happened when you were 14?

Dave P:

We all went to Catalina because we would go every year in camp and they just left their stuff at home to get off of it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, so they-

Dave P:

[crosstalk 00:01:54].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So back up with me. What was life like with parents that were hippie bikers?

Dave P:

Well, they were... People would ask my dad if he was a ZZ Top. So that gives you an idea of what he looks like. Like I said, they really were great parents. It's just they used drugs, not really a lot of alcohol but mostly drugs like through the '60s and '70s and I think it just lingered for awhile.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you know like were you a little kid going, "Okay, no?"

Dave P:

I don't remember, but my mom had told me that I had seen a couple of things like a plate before with a bunch of stuff on it and I just had never... She got worried and then I never acknowledged it, but I don't... There's like big, big blind spots in my childhood that I don't remember. Like probably 80%, I don't remember.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

80%?

Dave P:

Yeah, I don't know why. I think it might be just that being an alcoholic and focused on feeling good with ADD in there too, that maybe I was so driven towards, I remember thinking, what am I going to do next it's fun and focusing on like the next class who's in it that I get to see and the next thing and I get real uncomfortable if I didn't have something fun planned at some point.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 00:03:10].

Dave P:

So I think I just, all of those types of things I remember, but all of the in between stuff, I really don't. And I think maybe it just just didn't stay in my head consciously because it wasn't something I was excited about or something. So to back up we would go I think around seven or eight years old. So actually let me back up a little bit further. So my mom, my biological father left when I was two. And then my stepdad came into my life, I think when I was seven. And he's my dad today. He's awesome. I'm did meet my biological father at 30.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Do you know why he left?

Dave P:

I think it was just a tumultuous situation and at some point he felt like he was better off not being in my life. I talked to him a little bit about that and he said... When I did meet him that that was the reasoning. And so I'm not in contact with him today, but-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What do you think about that?

Dave P:

So what happened was a friend of mine, his mom worked for the district attorney's office and she was closing out old child support cases. She saw my name and there was like addresses and letters that he'd written about child support. And so she told my friend, "Hey, I'm not really supposed to do this, but if Dave wants the address then you can contact him."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So it wasn't something you were even looking for?

Dave P:

No, but growing up there would be like a show like Phil Donahue or whatever on, and they're like, reunite parents with their sons or fathers with their sons. I'd get emotional. So I know like that-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was there.

Dave P:

Yeah, it was there. So my parents... I ended up writing him a letter and he wrote back and the weird thing is without me even knowing it, like I had an idea in my head of what he looked like and maybe-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You've never seen a picture of him?

Dave P:

Just from 1972.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Dave P:

And so I was thinking... I just imagined him a certain way and then I was thinking maybe he's sober. What if he's so like you hear stories about like all of a sudden that the dad ends up being sober in a 12 step program also. And so sort of had that idea going on without even really consciously thinking about it. And then I met him and it didn't turn out that way and so good guy, but I don't keep in touch with him. But the interesting thing is, going through the 12 steps, I got rid of the resentment that I had early on that I reconciled that he was doing the best that he could. I was okay with that. And then once I did go through that whole process, I realized that there was closure that I didn't even know I needed. And I never wondered about it again. It was like... I didn't even realize that I was wondering that much and had like these open things in my mind. And like I said, I have a great relationship with my stepdad who's my dad. He's awesome.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That's cool. That's the universe providing for you. Doing for you what you can't do for yourself. It's awesome. So he left when you were a kid, your stepdad came into your life at seven. What was going on then?

Dave P:

I think around eight years old he always had Harleys. And so we would go out to Cook's corner interview for Canyon biker bar, and I played pinball and my brother would shoot pool and then I'd go to sleep in the booth and they would hang out. And then sometimes all of the bikers would come back to our house all night. And then I'd wake up in the morning and they would still be playing like, one dice from all night and I didn't know what they were doing, but obviously they were wide awake for a reason.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

There was some uppers involved.

Dave P:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So did you have any inkling that this was different than friends or maybe not?

Dave P:

No, and we'll get into it a little bit further, but I really didn't have... I felt like, oddly enough, I have a lot of awareness now and I don't think I had any sort of consciousness back then. I didn't ever think about that I felt different or uncomfortable. And then the first time I took a drink, I realized how uncomfortable I felt where you hear some people talk about their whole life, they felt different. I didn't even know that I felt different. I just felt different. But I didn't know that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And the alcohol was like, "Oh, now I feel better."

Dave P:

Right, exactly. And then I just realized how different I actually did feel. So that's kind of, I think the same thing was happening growing up. I just really went from situation to situation. I didn't feel like I felt I had a good childhood. I felt like I had great parents. My stepdad is awesome. My mom's awesome. I'm super close with both of them. And my mom was a single mom for a long time and doing the best she could. And she did a good job. And even growing up everybody would tell my parents or my mom how great me and my brother were. I have one brother and two stepsisters that are my dad's daughter. So I grew up with my brother. He's two years older, so we were pretty close growing up. And then when my stepdad came into the picture, he had two daughters. So it was the four of us. My brother lives in Huntington beach, still and one of my step sisters lives in Irvine. And then the other one nobody really talks to.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's too odd.

Dave P:

Yeah. And then the black sheet.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I think it happens in all families. So what as you got into... You're kind of raised in this with these biker bar gang mentality, but you don't know the difference. And so it's interesting that your parents had all those rules. Like you can't hang out with these people and they still... Like all those things it just, the dichotomy is really interesting. When did you take your first drink?

Dave P:

I think I was 16 the summer after my senior year or junior year in high school. I started running when I was 11 or 12.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Like cross country?

Dave P:

Yeah. And started doing like five Ks and we did like these mini triathlons when I was like 13 and then I got into high school and I was a cross country runner and track runner and I did really well. Set records in track and was only freshman on varsity all four years. It was in fact that was great for my self esteem, all of that. So I stayed away from any sort of partying at all during that time. In fact, the interesting thing that happened the first time that I took a drink, some of my friends as going through freshman, sophomore, junior year, my friends were starting to drink and smoke pot and I would get upset with them because we were very competitive runners. Very serious about it.

Dave P:

Then one weekend I was down in Newport and I don't know why I decided to drink, but these older people were with us and they had like 151 and Coke and I just had maybe like a third of a red solo cup of [crosstalk 00:10:19].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

151 was your first drink?

Dave P:

Yeah. Not much though because the police pulled up and I threw it down.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh boy.

Dave P:

But the minute that I felt it was like I literally took a hard, right. I instantly looked at my friend and I said, we're doing this every weekend from now on. And if you asked me the weekend before, I was completely against it. It was exactly what other people describe. The physical allergy, all of that stuff, it was so strong that it was perfect.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's intense. That feeling of just feeling right and good and all the anxiety that you have in there just goes away.

Dave P:

Right. So then the next weekend for some, I don't even know how it came about, but I drank a full bottle of Night Train, which is also a terrible drink and blacked out and threw up. And then it was kind of like always like that. I didn't really have periods of normal drinking at all.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

At all?

Dave P:

No, no. I was blacking out all the time from the very beginning.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And how did that affect your family life and cross country and all of that? Did that all fall apart?

Dave P:

Yeah. So I was drinking a lot, blacking out all the time, and then I started hanging around with some people and they would go to raves, which were, this is like 1989-90. So it was like the real ones that we had to call an hour before and then they tell you where the location is and then you walk around and people are saying acid doses, X and you're walking around through the place just buying stuff openly. It was crazy. So I started doing all of that. And for some reason when I would do drugs, I wouldn't drink one drop of alcohol. I couldn't even get it down. I mean nothing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting.

Dave P:

So there was like long periods of time that I didn't drink when I was heavily using drugs. And then when I got into meth, absolutely no alcohol at all.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So there were long periods, but there were no periods of time from that first drink that you ever stopped using on your own?

Dave P:

Yeah, no. I always was using something. Even to the degree of, I didn't like to smoke pot at all, but I would do it every night or every day if that is all I had. I mean, there was no-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 00:12:33] to that, yeah.

Dave P:

Yeah. It was for sure I had to be doing something. I remember specifically this time that I had like... I wasn't even into pills, but I happen to have a Vicodin and this guy, my buddy said, "Well, give me half of that." And I'm like, "It's one Vicodin, what, are we going to split it?" And so I said, "Well, give me your little pot pipe." And so I put it in there and I just tried to like-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Smoke it.

Dave P:

... smoke. It didn't do anything. But it was just like anything that we could possibly do, I would do. That's how it was. It was on.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And did you stop running?

Dave P:

I did, yeah. When I started drinking more and more and I started getting into like doing acid and ecstasy and went to Orange Coast College. I'd start a semester and not finish it. Start again, not finish it. I tried running there and the priority wasn't there and that's where it all sort of turned. And so I was using those types of drugs for a period of time and I never wanted to use meth because of what my parents had gone through, but I was not opposed to trying to make a little money. So I bought some for somebody. I sold them some and figure I'd sell the rest and then I decided, well, I just like swallow some of it, just eat it and which-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Eat it-

Dave P:

Yeah, you just put it in like toilet paper and just eat it, which it works just fine. But I was like, I don't want to snort it. I'm not going to snort it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, because that's a-

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... that's a [crosstalk 00:13:56].

Dave P:

And I did it that day and I did it everyday for a year and a half from that point on. And the end was getting arrested and possession and all that stuff. The interesting thing-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you only ate it?

Dave P:

No, that lasted a week.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, okay.

Dave P:

And snorted.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Got across the line-

Dave P:

Those boundaries, right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Our invisible boundaries is like most people they move their priorities to meet their goals. We move our goals to meet our behavior.

Dave P:

Exactly. So the interesting thing is, is the very first place that I did that was in the bathroom of a taco bell and there was a Ralphs in that parking lot and a year and a half later I got arrested in that parking lot for possession and I was all over the place. I mean it was like [Dana 00:14:45] point, mission [VAO 00:14:45] all over. I wasn't really around Huntington at that point. It was South County, but it was interesting that the first-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, like the first... What I hear in your story a lot is like that first time is actually really important in your story because it sets off like those people who talk about like, I had a drink and I could not put that, that was it. Like if I have one, I don't know what's going to happen and I keep going. I mean, yours is like that for a year. And when you started drinking that was it. Like here's cross country, this big priority. It's competitive and boom, it's gone and and every weekend you're loaded.

Dave P:

So what happened was that just took me down really hard. And then my parents, I'd called them one day from a pay phone or wasn't really cell phones going on back then to ask for help, they didn't answer. So I fell asleep at this girl's house who her mom called my parents. And so I woke up to them standing there and I took off. Even though I was asking for help earlier, I'm like, I don't know, I'm out of here-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 00:15:47] gone.

Dave P:

Right. And so I ended up going with them. They said, "Listen, there's a place called hog that you can go to for treatment or you can stay in our motor home outside of our house and that's like the motor home obviously. At that point I would just smoke weed at night to try to just like not continue using anything. And I remember at that time, my mom, they were worried about me with all the drug use and they said, why don't you just drink and just mellow out and just drink like normal people. And I said, "Okay." And so when I really got into drinking at that point again.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting. So your parents, they decided when you were 14, just to stop using amphetamines and they detoxed on Catalina and that was it?

Dave P:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Was their drinking intense after that and did do you think they had any understanding of addiction?

Dave P:

They did not drink a lot when I was growing up. I never noticed it. And actually my mom stopped drinking I think maybe like eight or 10 years ago now. And she said that she was an alcoholic and she needed to stop. And I was surprised actually.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting.

Dave P:

I think I saw her drunk twice ever. But the interesting thing about that is that it's everybody's own personal struggle. She would tell herself she didn't want to drink. She would drink, drink too much, even if it was just in the evenings and then over and over and over.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. It's about how it may... It's the similarities, not the differences. The feelings that we have around alcohol. So, okay, you're like, "No hog. I'm good. I'm going to drink and stand this trailer or the RV Motor home." So what did your drinking look like from there?

Dave P:

I was drinking every day. Not usually in the morning. I had like this rationale that... Not that I had a drinking problem. I had a rationale that would you rather be sober or would you rather be buzzed? And being under the influence of alcohol just is like a logical choice.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, it makes sense.

Dave P:

Right. And at the time it really did, like that was my rationale and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Was your medicine. I mean you were self-medicating for that anxiety clearly, especially given that the first time you had it, it was such a right turn.

Dave P:

Right. So I was blacking out, like at that point I started drinking a lot and I would still go out a lot. Like when I was using, I was indoors or anything. And then I would just go out with a couple of friends or to some bar or something. And I was blacking out like probably four or five days a week. And it was... I was just talking to somebody recently about that. It wasn't like, I never had... Like if there was mixed drinks, I never had a martini. I don't remember. I didn't even had like Jagermeister, I don't even think... I'm sure it was around back then, but it was like literally eight shots of vodka. Just from the point I want to get drunk.

Dave P:

So like that was really the whole point. Like it wasn't... You hear people talk about that 12 step programs that they could drink for a fact. That's really what it was. And so there was no, like I remember one time there was like some Midori and Bob Bodkin so I just put a splash Midori and a glass of vodka. Like it was never about like... And a lot of times I would take a bottle of vodka was sort of my drink, but just turn it upside down and count to 10 gulps and then black out. I mean that was the deal. And then the next day I say, "Oh, that was so much fun," and not remember anything.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Was there any piece of view that was like, maybe this isn't normal or this might be a problem? Like any piece of view that questioned this lifestyle?

Dave P:

Nothing at that point. The drugs, yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not the drinking.

Dave P:

Right. Not the drinking. The drugs I just felt like... I mean it was obvious I would like wake up and tell myself... Because if you're doing meth long enough, your sleeping and your eating and all that stuff. So I would wake up and tell myself I don't want to do it today. And then the bell will go off in 30 minutes later I'm doing it and over and over and over and over and over and just not... My skin just looked gray and I'd cut myself and I wouldn't heal for three weeks and I just was not... It was clear that I was like strung out. When I was able to stop that alcohol was sort of, I had a drug problem, not an alcohol problem. And even when I ended up having to go to meetings because of being on a court card-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I don't know if everybody knows what a court card is.

Dave P:

If you get arrested then you have to end up going to... At that time they called it a drug diversion where you do like this program and they do classes and test your urine and all that type of stuff. I went through that and I had to start going to meetings for that. And when I would go... I went to a couple 12 step meetings and I just held onto that. I had a drug problem that was the issue, not alcohol. Even though there was a couple of meetings I went to where I went halfway through the meeting and went to my car and drink some beer and then went back in the meeting. But it was the drug problem not an alcohol problem.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I completely relate to that. And that was the thing that kept me going out because it was, the drug problem was easy to identify and say, "Okay, yeah, I know this is bad, but the alcohol, you can normalize."

Dave P:

Yup. So I went into a 12 step program and I really didn't want to be sober. Like I didn't want to feel how I was feeling anymore. It wasn't that I was like knew I was done. And you hear people talk about in meetings, like if you don't know you're done, go out and drink until you know you're done or if you don't think you're an alcoholic, you could try some control drinking. My experience with that is that I did not know... I was 22. How would I know? I didn't have any clear view on anything, 22 years old when I got sober, I had no clear view.

Dave P:

All I knew is that I didn't want to feel that way anymore. And people were smiling and I went to this meeting and this identified as an alcoholic and I wasn't going to, but I did it anyway. And this guy came up to me and said, "You're Dave. Right." And he remembered and I was like, "Wow! Somebody cares." Just in my mind, I held onto it because I was in so much fear, and so he ended up becoming my sponsor and that kind of led to me in my sobriety.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you were 22 at this time, you went to meetings for the drug problem and on a court card and then you were kind of running out and you would have a drink in the car kind of deal when... So this meeting where you got this sponsor and you stopped drinking, was that right after the time where you were like, was the intention when you went to that 12 step meeting to stop drinking, like the one that you met your sponsor, or was that still just for the drugs?

Dave P:

I had no intention on stopping drinking at that point. In fact, I got his number and I talked to him a little bit. He was just old punk rock guy and they played in a band. And I went actually to this place in Costa Mesa. It's closed down now. And I saw, I don't know if you've ever heard of [Gas Huffer 00:23:06] but I went to see Gas Huffer band and I blacked out, but I remember seeing him there and I remember I had blacked out and then the next day I'm sure it was like a strategic move. The next day he called me and he said, "Hey, why don't you come to a meeting?" And I said, "Okay, sure." So I went and met him there and then I think I drank one more day and it wasn't like a big deal.

Dave P:

I think I had a couple of beers and it just was the end. I just was tired of it. And so I started going to meetings and I still was holding onto the idea that I wasn't an alcoholic, that I was just a drug addict. And then at some point I started the idea that I started hearing the similarities instead of the differences. Because at first I'd say, "Well, I'm not drinking Jack Daniels at 6:00 AM." Like all of these things that mean that I'm not an alcoholic.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Looking for the differences.

Dave P:

Right. And then I start looking at similarities and about how I felt inside and what, especially about when I start looking at the physical allergy. And when I would drink... It was very, very clear to me once I got sober that I would take one drink and there was no stopping. I mean there was a few times that I did. I remember in the program it says, try some controlled drinking. I think to paraphrase, there's a part of that you leave a half a drink. And so I remember I had gone to this bar and I drank. Of course I had a couple of drinks first with the plan to leave a half. And I drank half of it. And then I put the half down and then I'm like, "Okay, I'm walking away, not going to drink the half, just walk away. I don't have a problem." And it was like really that much effort to leave a half a beer. That's not the idea. The idea is just leave it like you don't care. You know what I mean? Well mine was like this whole production to leave the half.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You got to say there's a like a farewell ceremony, writing cards, letters. There's a saying that goes the great obsession of every alcoholic is that they can drink like a normal drinker and can you control and enjoy your drinking at the same time. So that was something that I learned. It was like, can you control and enjoy your drinking together. I can control it or I can enjoy it. And the control is like a joke and it's like how you described it, where you're like backing away, it's this whole ordeal like to control. It isn't just like trying to wrestle a monster and then enjoying it as zero control.

Dave P:

And I don't know if you felt if that's hindsight that you noticed that or if you can remember trying to-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I remember I had a boyfriend who... You'll appreciate this. So we tried to fix each other and we both had serious drug problems and everything problems. And he was like, "You have a cocaine problem." And I'm like, "You're a heroin addict." And so he actually took me to my first meeting and that was the first time I ever tried to stop doing anything. And I really thought I could stop. I didn't realize that it was going to be this big production. And so I was truly surprised when I... I was doing it to try to prove to somebody that I didn't have a problem. And then my rationale was when it became clear that this was very difficult, was like, well, I don't want to quit anyway. Like, this is stupid. Why am I trying to prove myself? I don't need to prove to him, blah blah. And I mean there was definitely... The first time I figured that out was like someone else had to prompt that.

Dave P:

Because I didn't... For me, like I didn't have... I felt like looking back, my mind just went 150 miles an hour all the time. And I do remember one time I was smoking meth and I was with this girlfriend at the time and she looked at me and she like kind of discussed it and she's like, "Don't you think you've smoke that too much?" And I instantly threw it down and broke the pipe and then she walked away and then I got another pipe out of my pocket. But it was interesting. I was like, "Wow! That was really defensive." I did notice that I was really defensive about it. Just for like a second and then kind of moved on from it. But like I said, it became apparent that I had a real drug problem. It's just the alcohol I was trying to hold on to.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I see a lot of people do... They switch from one to another and from one substance to another, and alcohol tends to be the one where if someone has a drug problem and they stopped doing that drug, they, "Oh I'm just smoking weed now. I'm just drinking now." And for some people they manage and that's totally fine. But then you have the other percentage of people where they're just switching addictions and it kind of sounds like what happened with you.

Dave P:

For sure. So I ended up deciding that I wanted to stop drinking. And even at that point, like I would go hang out in my sponsors garage, they played in a punk band and they would practice in the garage. And I'd go in there and I was really just... I didn't realize it at the time, but I was just full of fear constantly. I mean like I can't describe how much fear I was in all the time. And I had no friends because everybody was drinking and using. So I stopped talking to everybody. And I just started hanging out with them a little bit and my mind is going a million miles an hour. I remember one time this guy Jeff was a lead guitarist in this band and I'm sitting there and I don't know if this is like an obsessive compulsive thing, that component of my personality, if it's just the ism or what it is, but I would just have these weird impulses like as they're practicing, they're like smack his hand off a guitar sitting in there by myself. Like just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's called an intrusive thought.

Dave P:

Is that what it is?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:29:10] intrusive thoughts.

Dave P:

Yeah. But it was weird because I just remember feeling like I was kind of crazy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I get that.

Dave P:

I would go into a meeting and not make eye contact with anybody. I would sit down, they'd pass out the reading and I would just make sure that they did not look at me to read because I could not imagine having to do that in the group. But in high school I was like the kind of person that considered taking a zero before or a report every single time. I mean was just my face would turn bright red. I was so embarrassed. I mean it was like an ordeal to even do that. And so I was just... All of that fear was, I just felt like everything was going 150 miles an hour and super, super loud. So I remember I was going to this meeting and I told myself I need to share at some point.

Dave P:

And so for like two months straight I would plan on it and plan on it and plan on it. And then finally one night it was like dark in the meeting and I shared for probably like 40 seconds or something and I finished and that was it. And then for the whole rest of my first year of sobriety, I didn't share. I mean it was like just to describe like how fearful I was all the time. So at that time, I'm at 60 days sober. My sponsor was dating somebody and she was friends with this girl and they introduced us. And so I met my now ex wife when I had 60 days sober. I had done an inventory at 60 days. I didn't even know that I could just not walk the steps I just walked.

Dave P:

I just did it because I didn't... I was just in fear. So I was like, he told me what to do and I just did it. And so I ended up meeting her and she had I think a year sober and I had 60 days and then we ended up staying together for 14 years. Two daughters who are 19 and 17, almost 18 now. And it was-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you guys got together and what was your relationship like with her?

Dave P:

She was really good wife. Made dinner. She actually was really good to me. But I just... One of the issues with getting into a relationship when you're newly sober is I had always thought that it would jeopardize your sobriety. That was like the main focus. Then what I realized is that I had no idea who I was as a person, like zero. So I'm in a relationship... I'm picking someone to be in a relationship with without even knowing myself. And as we stayed together, we grew apart. One of my daughters, my older one was very difficult when she was a baby on. And it put a lot of strain on the relationship and already a relationship that was already pretty, not like a real intimate affectionate relationship. I wasn't affectionate and I could not bring myself to be affectionate to the point where like at one point was ready to go to the Meadows in Arizona for intimacy problems-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I wen there.

Dave P:

... because I thought there was something wrong... You did?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I went to the Meadows in Arizona for intimacy problems.

Dave P:

Oh yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was great.

Dave P:

I almost went and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, it's wonderful.

Dave P:

... because I remember she bought me a books on it and I'm thinking what happened? Because I had this weird vision of something that might've happened to me when I was young and I just was like, something's off. And unfortunately I wasn't in love with her and I didn't know that. I just couldn't know that. I didn't even know what that was.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When do you think you fell out of love with her?

Dave P:

I had 60 days sober. She had a year and for a long time in my sobriety, I did not really know who I was. So I don't know that I ever was really in love with her ever.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Because you just didn't know.

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And that's you're trying to find yourself. You get sober and there's a nest to sizing for all that other time and you get sober and then you're supposed to like jump into being a functioning adult who's mature and all these things you haven't had, although even blacked out for all the other life lessons maturing, growing that everybody else has gone through. But you look like a grown 22 year old man, not the young 16 year old boy that you actually are emotionally from when you started drinking.

Dave P:

Exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So how did the relationship fall apart?

Dave P:

Well, I was working out of town a lot and kids were getting a little bit older. And so what happened was, I was just running a muck with a friend of mine, my best friend at the time, and just doing stuff that any man with integrity wouldn't do if you're married. And what ended up happening was I finally had told her that I wanted a divorce and it crushed her. And it was extremely stressful moment. So I moved in with my best friend and then he like two weeks into that, he called me one day and said, "Hey, I told her about everything you were doing and I'm in love with her and I'm sleeping with her," my best friends had that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wait. So your best friend called you and said, "I've told her everything, I'm in love with her and I've been sleeping with your wife."

Dave P:

Right. After we got divorced shortly after, within a few days, not divorced, a split up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Dave P:

I of course lost my mind and I don't even remember. It's such a blur, but there was like a few day period where he was like making up some other stuff that wasn't true. Just adding stuff in. And he worked for me at the time and so she kind of realized that he was as much of a scumbag as I was at the time. So he left. And he went down to my shop and I went down there with her and he was... I walked into my warehouse and my business and he walked out and we were like, nose to nose and he was holding this truck tie down like the ratchet tie downs. And I just told them I needed to leave.

Dave P:

No, I didn't really say it that way. I said it much worse. I told them, you need to leave. Don't ever come around me or my kids or anything. And she said, "I think you might hurt himself." And I said, "I don't care.' And that's like the cleaned up version of all of it. And so he walked out the back of my warehouse and I was pretty angry, but I didn't want him to do something stupid. And so I called his ex and said, "Hey, just call the police so they can go 51 50, if he's going to do something." And then like an hour later we got a phone call from the sheriff saying that they've identified a body hanging and he went up behind my shop and hung himself. That's why he had the truck tie down.

Dave P:

So that was like, that whole experience was... I can't even describe how bizarre it was. Even to the point of me sitting in the apartment that I moved into and his mom there and his mom was like a bad drug addict and she's screaming and then his ex was there and all these people are crying and I am still angry at him. So it was just a really, really bizarre situation.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What were... It goes without saying, but I'm really sorry that happened. What was going on for you when you got that phone call?

Dave P:

It just was sort of a shocking... I don't even really remember too clearly to be honest. There was a few things that transpired. He was obviously mentally ill because he had called his old best friend's wife and told her that he was in love with her. So there was some odd... There was a number of other things too that came out that was really bizarre.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Like really unwell?

Dave P:

Yeah. And so what that did was that like all of the secrets were out, it completely purged everything. Like there was no more secrets in the relationship. So we unfiled for divorce and we stayed together for three more years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow!

Dave P:

Yeah. It was so traumatic that nobody could even really relate... We both went through something that was so bizarre.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. So you kind of needed each other at that point because no one else-

Dave P:

We almost bonded over it-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah-

Dave P:

... really in a odd way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, you did. It's trauma bond, so it's called. That's incredible in a very literal sense. How did you stay sober through something like that?

Dave P:

Oddly enough, there wasn't one single time that I thought about drinking. I don't know if it's like the foundation that I had in recovery or if it was because I worked through the steps early and at that point I continued doing the steps again. And I don't know if it just was that, that really just is not an option. I just had a conversation with somebody in this group online that people say like I'm part of the no matter what club. And for some reason people get stuck on that... They get stuck that that means that you don't do anything else. You just won't drink no matter what, which the 12 steps and the program tell you that, that is not what will give you relief.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. That's abstinence.

Dave P:

Working the 12 steps is what gives you relief. My view on it and it seems like it would be... I've never heard anybody say I'm part of the, no matter what club and I don't do anything else for my sobriety.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Dave P:

They're not implying that that is the only thing they do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. And for the people who are listening who don't know what we're talking about, the no matter what club that's just saying, I have no idea if it's specific to Southern California 12 step, but it's the saying that like I don't drink or use no matter what period, end of story. And so we're sort of talking about that as that doesn't mean that that's the only thing you do, that you show up and participate in recovery and don't drink no matter what. Like it's a whole process, it's not just the abstinence piece.

Dave P:

Right. The point of it behind it from how I see it anyway, is that it is not an option no matter how painful it gets and what that means... And that's sort of probably where my head was at, that that was not an option, but it meant that I had to... One of the greatest things that I've been able to do for my sobriety is to be vulnerable with at least a few people, if not more. A lot of people now, but in those earlier years, just to be more vulnerable and transparent with a few people because when I was able to talk about it and get support from people, it took all the power out of it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think we have a lot of people who deal with the topic of being upset with someone who kills themselves. What is it like to deal with grief over with someone you are insanely angry at as well?

Dave P:

And the anger really after that moment went away. I was no longer really... I was more like in shock that that happened. I never took it on. I never thought it isn't my fault. I never took any responsibility as far as like making it my fault. I mean he made his own decision and for whatever reason, and I'm not the kind of person that like I can be the kind of person that beats myself up over everything-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Definitely.

Dave P:

... all the time. Like nobody needs to pull my covers. I've already thought about all those things and I beat myself up 100 times. I'm extremely aware of my defects and I just recognize that that decision that he made was a decision he made.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But the anger went... You didn't have a lot of lingering anger?

Dave P:

No, I've spoken in front of groups before and I never really got even sad about it. But when I've spoken about it, I have gotten emotional when I've talked about it. So there's something there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What do you think that is?

Dave P:

Probably just simply that it was just super gnarly, like really traumatic and sad for him that that had to be the way that he goes. He had a baby the day before from somebody.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Dave P:

Yeah. So he made that decision the day after his child was born. They weren't together, but it's just obviously a sick person.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So you and your ex wife stayed together three more years?

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And then what happened?

Dave P:

The stuff that really made it so that we weren't a good match, just kind of came to the surface again. It wasn't any sort of infidelity or anything like that. It was just... And interestingly enough, when that time came, we were both very calm about it. I remember she was like online dating when I was like still living in the house and I was like, "Oh, what's he like, did you meet him? Was he nice guy?" We were both just very, very checked out at that point. It really I think was a much better way for it to end. It hasn't always been... Since then it has been contentious often.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How old were your kids at that time?

Dave P:

I believe they were... I was just trying to remember this the other day. I believe they were around like six and almost eight right around there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How were they taking all of this?

Dave P:

My younger one who was much more reserved, just got really quiet and my older one who is not reserved, got really, really upset. So that was, and for quite a while she would share that that was the worst day of her life.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you handle?

Dave P:

I've never talked to them about any of those types of issues. I don't know if their mom has. I heard my daughter mention something one time that gave me an impression that maybe something was said about my behavior, but I just said that we weren't going to a good match for each other and really for me moving on from that was that... Especially being girls like I needed to... I'm not saying it was her fault because it was just not a good match. And if I couldn't be affectionate in the relationship and show love and affection then what exactly are they getting, especially as girls, young women. So that became important to me, that to be like in a healthy example of a relationship for them.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And how long were you sober at this time?

Dave P:

I was probably like 14 years sober at that point. Maybe 13 somewhere around there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So what's cool about that is that you had that foundation of recovery and you had done enough work so that when things fell apart, you had that stability already around you, despite the other stuff. So what happened after you guys got divorced and where did your life go from there?

Dave P:

Shortly after that I met... I had decided that no more. I didn't want to date anymore sober women. I was just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's the problem.

Dave P:

Yeah, that's what I... I actually, I felt like there was room for one nightmare. I'm the nightmare. We don't need to. So I just wanted to date a normal, a normie is what we call them in sober community. I met somebody at the gym and this started a chapter that was probably equally, if not more difficult in my sobriety, because she liked to drink but she didn't like to drink the way I drank. There was a lot of situations that would come up, like just some behavior issues and some dishonesty and stuff like that on her part. And through that whole process, she ended up getting sober at one point, but she just continued drinking and negotiating about... We went to this counselor and the counselor said, "Well, why don't you just have two drinks?"

Dave P:

And she said, "How about three?" And they said, "Well, two would probably be good." Because they had determined that past two she could easily get out of control and then I'd watch her drink like five and say she only had two-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you are dating an alcoholic?

Dave P:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

To no normie. [crosstalk 00:46:18] alcoholic.

Dave P:

[crosstalk 00:46:19] pick the kids up from school and a black out and domestic violence against me. And just a lot of that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What's it like to be in a domestic violence situation against a man when it's other way around?

Dave P:

I actually wasn't interested in pressing charges or anything. It wasn't like super violent or anything. It happened to throw a mug that broke on my face and so there was a lot of blood, but it wasn't like nothing that I would normally really get need to like press charges for anything like that. But because the police were called and other people got involved, you know the state then.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, it takes it on themselves.

Dave P:

Right, exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So she's this normie that you pick to stay away from sober women because... Turns out to be an alcoholic. How did that resolve?

Dave P:

I think that there's some benefits to talking about this because I've known several people who have been in the same situation. For whatever reason I couldn't leave. And she had kids, I was their stepdad and so it made it a little more complicated, but I just couldn't leave. I don't know why I knew it was unhealthy. I was kind of riding on, well, only if she could just get sober that all of this would go away and she just gets sober then all the problems will be solved. And the way that it ended was it wasn't even... I felt bad about it actually, and I just said, I can't do it anymore. And it wasn't like an angry, awful situation. It was just I just can't.

Dave P:

The interesting thing about that is, is that I would... And I don't know if other, maybe some of your listeners have dealt with this, but I would actually tell her that I feel like I'm getting to the point where I'm going to be done and I don't want to get to that point because I don't think I can turn it around. And then all of a sudden, like not even any big situations or anything, all of a sudden the light switch just shut off and it was done and there was no turning back and it was over. Just like that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I think a lot of our... You've talked about a bunch of different things that I think a lot of people can relate to, how being in a loveless marriage, infidelity, loss, grief, trauma bonding. I mean there's so many topics in your story that I think a lot of people relate to. And the biggest piece that people want to hear about is, or like what are the feelings that go on? How can they relate to those feelings that you're having? And it sounds like a big piece of each of these chapters of your life where it's coming to an emotional bottom with this, like this is where... In each of those situations it was, I can't do this anymore. This is the bottom for me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And a lot of people think that when they get sober that all their problems go away or bad things shouldn't happen to you because you're doing it right or you're going to meetings or you're... Whatever, however your sobriety is formed that it's not fair or whatever it is. And the truth is that life continues to happen. And we now are a raw nerve. And so we have to figure out how to not be constantly a raw nerve and work through those. And so that's where like doing the recovery piece, showing up and being around other people in recovery makes so much sense because life still continues to happen. And that's what happened for you. Life still continued to happen.

Dave P:

And if you're now calling it like me, like the solution needs to be fast. If it's not like an unhealthy solution, then it's probably not fast. It's probably slow every single time-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's so true.

Dave P:

... and so being in that discomfort is brutal for me. Like I remember describing it and I still do some times as like when I'm uncomfortable as like an emotional peanut allergy. Like to where I'm like, "Oh my God, why am I so uncomfortable?" And it's like, I honestly don't think that normal people have such an issue with feeling a little uncomfortable. And the true nature of an alcoholic is selfish and self centered to the extreme. I used to think that had to do with like, I didn't want to share things with people or I didn't want to give, being generous was hard because I'd have to let go of something or stuff like that.

Dave P:

At least how I relate to it today is that it is more about being hyper focused on how I feel. In every single situation, feel good, feel bad. And so for a long time, like if I'm uncomfortable, I'm hyper focused on it and I cannot stay in that place. And I've done everything from... I was talking to you about before this started, he started chewing Nicorette with never even smoking. A friend of mine gave me some.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Tell them about that.

Dave P:

I was in a 12 step meeting and a friend of mine gave me some, I said, "You have any gum?" And he said, "I have Nicorette." And I said, "Okay, well give me that." And it made me like feel nauseous and lightheaded. And then the next week he gave me another piece and then I ended up... I had to drive up to like Bishop near Mammoth and bought a case of it at Costco and just eBay and like for 12 years with like a one year break in the middle of it, I have chewed Nicorette. I mean heavily, heavily addicted to it without even smoking. So I've done everything too-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When you got really into motorcycles too, right?

Dave P:

Right. Really a lot of that stuff, what I've noticed about myself, I don't know if this is true for everybody, but part of me... This might sound odd, but I don't want to get too good. Like I like having the dark side. And so this could be true, this could not be true. It could resolve itself in five years or 10 years ago on this-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You reserve the right to change your mind.

Dave P:

Sure. But at this point and what it appears is that to have like some of that darkness, makes me, it like fills that part of me. Then if it's not destructive, like motorcycles, I got really into guns and so go shooting all the time and ride motorcycles in that stuff. Like it fills up that part of it. And it's not destructive.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I really relate to that. I was talking to a friend about that just the other day. And especially for me as I've gotten older, the difficulty of aging and for me like driving a minivan and having the car seats and the weight and the aging and the, you just like the whole thing is really hard. Like it doesn't satisfy that dark piece of my personality. And yet I've become this person who, that doesn't have a really good place in my life, particularly in this chapter. And it's a real part, like that real piece of the neat, I was talking to a friend of mine so like, "Sometimes you just want to go like tattoo my whole face." Like I totally... Mike Tyson, like I don't get it. But then at the same time I kind of do get it. Like sometimes you just... It's kind of those intrusive thoughts. Like sometimes I just want to go streaking through the streets just like whatever.

Dave P:

Often my thing that I visualize without even thinking about it, it's almost like a subconscious like little tape that plays. It's like doing like 130 on my Harley out in the desert and shooting my gun off of my Hartley and it's just like a fire inside that I feel like I need to do it. And it's usually when I'm at the gym working out or I'm feeling good, but I just feel like I want to just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You just rage. You want to rage. I used to go to... Like I love heavy metal, like love, love, love. I'm crazy '90s heavy metal and I'll be in the minivan blasting Metallica and like just visualizing a whole other scenarios. You know, my life when I used to go to Marsh fist and get in fist fights and it was just like, sometimes you just want to... If someone was... There was like a teacher that was mean to one of my boys and I was like, "Let's go, we're going to find this [inaudible 00:54:45]." That piece of you just comes out. And that was the piece of me that ran my life, but when I was using and now I have to find new ways to interact with it and still say like that's a piece of me that's like, oh, you're so uncool, look at this. You're life, oh my God, this is where sexy went to die.

Dave P:

Yeah, and at the same time, the other half of that is like appreciating the calm and the mellow because that part... I remember I had this Jeep Wrangler and I had this tire cover and I painted on the back (beep) on a tire cover big. And I think, hell oh offensive. I'm listening to punk rock music, super loud, pulling them next to people are like... I think, what if I pulled up next to somebody and my fricking daughter was in the car and some dude, I'd probably say something to him like, what an idiot. And at the time I was like (beep). But I can appreciate now... If I'm listening to music and my windows down and I have it loud and I pull next to somebody, I'm like, "Ooh, I don't want to offend them." And so I turn it down a little bit. Like I also enjoy that part, but I just don't want to get to the point where it's-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. You too good.

Dave P:

Yeah. I really don't. I mean-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I get that.

Dave P:

Makes it so more exciting.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Totally, I think you're safe. I think you're good. I don't think it's going to happen. But it's... You're right, like the peace, this, I can slow down my mind, you know that mind going 150 miles an hour, I relate to that. One of my, when there's like one thing my Harley equivalent is, you're going to laugh, it's kind of embarrassing because it's not really Harley equivalent but Bikram yoga. So Bikram yoga it's a carpeted room. They turn the heat up to like 110, 105 depending. Carpeted. It's 90 minutes and like heaters, the full thing and you're doing these poses and you sweat like a... You're drenched when you go out there like drowned rat satis and when I'm in there, I honestly can only think about surviving.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I can't think about anything else. I can only think about, okay, I have four more poses and then I can get out of this hot room or whatever it is. And as weird and like medieval torture as that sounds with the piece for me is not having to engage in the psychotic massive babble that's going around in my head. It's just loud in there and it quiets it. And that's what drugs and alcohol did too. Except maybe some of the uppers maybe turned that shit up. It just quiet... Particularly alcohol and downers for me made that quiet and learning how to find that in sobriety has been a whole other realm of things. And sometimes I have to learn to live with it being loud.

Dave P:

Yeah. I can only imagine drinking now how different it would be as an adult, like as a grown man, the set of problems that would come with that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh yeah. Because you and I both got sober really young. I was 19 you were 22.

Dave P:

Right. And so the-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'd be unimaginable with kids and-

Dave P:

Oh yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... just credit.

Dave P:

Yeah. Everything honestly and the way that I drink, it's so bizarre, but it's so super, super clear is that when alcohol hits me, like the physical allergy sets in where I like feel it, any decision, it doesn't matter... I used to drive pretty much every single day when I would drink. I didn't want to drive and then I would start drinking and I would just grab my keys and go drive around. And you know what else is kind of odd is, so when I'm drinking I'm not thinking things through. And so I would think I'm going to go drive around. But if a cop gets behind me, as soon as I see him, I'll just turn. That was a whole solution. Just turn. It's like-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'm pulled over.

Dave P:

Yeah. But with that whole drinking, like liking to drive and all of that stuff. And I think about even now, like I was drinking and driving all the time and blackouts, I'd get up in the morning and I had to go find my car and I had no idea how I got home. And then my car's there and somehow I parked it. And then I think my daughters are out driving on the road and I'll find out about somebody drinking and driving or-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, it's scary.

Dave P:

Yeah. Or in mission Viejo they'll have like on Facebook they'll say like, "Hey, watch out. There's this sobriety checkpoint over on the street." And I'll usually comment and say, "Well that's nice, take a different street so you can murder my daughters when you're driving drunk." You know what I mean? Like I'll get like very protective of them.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, they're your daughters.

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But we are experiencing what other people experienced when we were out there doing our thing. So what I like take me from, so that... How did you see... The sober relationship, two sober people that didn't work out. The dating, the normie who turns an alcoholic that didn't work out. So kind of what was the recipe... I know today you have a beautiful relationship and a beautiful life. What was the recipe that got it right this time or what did you find out that you needed to look at?

Dave P:

I dated for a couple years after that and a lot, like went out with a lot of people. One of the interesting thing that started happening was like, because of my ex that was drinking, I would get to the point where if we're going somewhere, I would have anxiety about even wanting to go anywhere because I didn't know it was going to happen. And as if she's going to drink too much, what's she going to do? Is she going to act different? Is she going to be talking to some guy and like any of that stuff. And so when I was dating people after that situation, I was open to dating somebody who drank because in that other relationship for a period of time, I was fine with it. I would even sit at a bar and she'd order a martini and I'd ordered a red bull, no problem.

Dave P:

After that, I would go out and I would just notice like a little change in their voice or maybe they would like become a little bit argumentative and I just could not do it. Like it became crystal clear that I needed today somebody who was sober. Dating somebody who's sober when you're sober can be amazing. If you're both pursuing a spiritual life, you have that in common and you know. So that's kind of where that went. So what happened was when I was in my marriage, and I think this is common for a lot of people, is that right after I got out of that marriage, I got into something that was some of the things that I didn't like about my marriage. The next person was the opposite.

Dave P:

And in my mind I was like, wow! This is perfect. Really, I thought that. So when I got out of that relationship and I started dating a lot, I was finally in a place where I could say, well... And I had a bunch of like little one month, two month, three month little things that would go on and I would just say, no. I can't do this. That's not what I'm looking for in a person. What are the ideals that I want? And like I was very clear on what things I was willing to deal with and what things I wasn't looking for. And the other thing is I realized... We did a lot of marriage counseling and relationship counseling during those time periods. And I realized that however those people are, there's nothing wrong with that. I just have to make the decision if it's something that I'm looking for-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, whether it's right for you.

Dave P:

Right. And so it wasn't like I would just end something with somebody because they weren't how I thought they should be. I just became very calm and clear about what I wasn't looking for... What I was looking for, sorry.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, you realize that you're not going to change people. When you enter into that relationship, you have to figure out whether or not you're okay with the person come as they are. And my sponsor used to say like, would you marry this person as they are today? And if not, then no, because in my mind I was always interested in the person they were going to be in five years.

Dave P:

With their potential-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right their potential, oh God, I am queen potential.

Dave P:

But I think for the most part that is a great way to like go into a situation. I think it's okay to have some expectations because you don't... If you start dating somebody, you don't know them. Like really know them. So over a period of one, two, three, five years, you start finding out more of who they are, you figure out what works and what doesn't. At that point I think that it's very natural to voice like some needs that you're looking for that maybe aren't being met or something that you don't like but that doesn't mean that the person has to change it either. Then you can make the decision to say, well, I either have to accept it or maybe this isn't right for me. So it's nice to have like more of a passive approach to it instead of trying to strangle it in the direction that you wanted to do. It's like exhausting.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It is exhausting.

Dave P:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What is your life like today?

Dave P:

I'm engaged. Getting married in five weeks roughly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Congratulation.

Dave P:

Thank you. I'm in the best relationship I've ever been in. And it's interesting because one of my biggest defects was, and I didn't really, I was told this, but I didn't really recognize it, but when there was a situation that would come up, there was an argument or something or a disagreement, I wanted to talk about it. It's in my nature to like, let's talk about it and the feedback that I would get when I say feedback, their complaint.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When I say feedback.

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, yelling.

Dave P:

Right. Their complaint is that I'm badgering them. And I'm like dominating the situation by getting louder and like needing to-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Bigger.

Dave P:

Right. And to me I was like, well, let's just, because I can't whisper at that moment. Like I'm full of energy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 01:04:48] big guy.

Dave P:

Right. So what I realized very quickly in this relationship was, she needs time to process it. And for whatever reason, maybe I hit a bottom with doing that before. Maybe it's because I have a lot of respect for her, so I want... It just feels good to try something different. And so I remember... We don't argue hardly at all, but there was a couple little arguments or whatever that, at that moment I could tell that she needed some time and every single bit of my DNA was like I need to talk about it. But I just said, okay, can you just do me a favor and can we circle back and talk about it when you're ready to. And that like feeds on itself. Like it felt so good to try something different and have a calm approach and then I get good results and it like builds respect for each other.

Dave P:

And so that's kind of how our relationship has gone and we were best friends. We do everything together, we have similar interests, we have similar dislikes. It's just amazing. And the interesting thing is that there's people that... We've only been together for a couple of years, but I knew her before that. But you get people that are unhappy in a marriage or relationship longterm. And like I'll be talking about something and they'll say, "Well, you'll see. You've only been together a couple of years. Give it 10 years." And basically they're saying give it 10 years, you'll be miserable. I've done long term relationships and they didn't start out this way. And they don't have the nurturing and respect and the intimacy and the friendship and all of those things that this has. So who knows. But I feel like the foundation is great.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you're using the skills you learned. It was funny, I was talking to Christiana actually just before you got here. We were talking about one of the skills, tools that I use, which is there's science behind that when you get upset past a certain point, they use a one to 10 scale. And if you get past a seven that your brain actually changes, your inner ear gets smaller. It's an evolutionary mechanism and your eyes change. You can only focus, your periphery changes which is like really crazy. You read about it and you're like, "Oh my God, this makes so much sense." So basically you cannot hear the same way when you get past this certain point when you're elevated. And I have learned that I say not so nice things when I make it to seven, and things they can't take back and things I'm going to have to make amends for and things get messy at a seven for me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because I'm like you, I like to get in your face and I want to talk about it and I'm intense about it and you're not going to walk away from this conversation. And what I learned was to say, okay, I'm feeling like I'm at a seven. That's the language that I use, because my husband knows what that means. I can't talk about this right now. Can we circle back in 45 minutes or in... I set a period of time, and if he has to do the same thing I ask for a period of time because my fear was always that if we walk away from a conversation that it'll never come back. Or if he says we'll circle back, when will we circle back? I need to know. I'm very excited about this topic. I need resolution.

Dave P:

You know what happens when you don't resolve it?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Dave P:

That any time it comes up again, you're at like a level eight immediately.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Immediately and I tend to be the kind of... I kind of have to resolve things a few times, talk about it, whatever. That's how I process. So we use that language of let's circle back and kind of set a timeframe so that he knows I'm not blowing off or I know he's not blowing me off. And those simple things, and I think you're sharing that is it changes the relationship. I mean it's unbelievable how much it changes. Like when you just acknowledge that someone has to process a disagreement or an idea differently and you respect that instead of trying to force them. And you give them that space to be themselves. It's amazing. It's better the relationship.

Dave P:

It can make me feel good for doing it because it is contrary action. It makes them feel like you're respecting them. Like there's a lot of-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's compromise, it's... If people talk about work and relationships and this is the type of thing like, okay, I'm going to do something differently. I'm going to not try to change you. So-

Dave P:

There was another interesting tool that I had heard at some point and then I started practicing where if I feel elevated at all inside pause no matter what.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So when you say pause, do you mean pause voice and physically like do you just literally stop moving and talking?

Dave P:

Well talking.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Stop talking.

Dave P:

Yeah. Or when I want to say something and I'm feeling that elevation, just don't, just wait.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wait.

Dave P:

And I would do that over and over and over. And what it does is I say very different things when I've calmed down. So it just gave me this tool and anytime it's just like getting sober. Like those tools come with just beating it into my mind over and over and over. I have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And after the 100th time it becomes somewhat instinctual to do that. And so just like practicing those things allow me to like wait and then... Because I get... The other thing that happens is I get quiet. So if I'm bothered by something or my feelings get hurt, if we get into discussion is where I would like become excited and my voice would raise.

Dave P:

Otherwise, I'm like a seen enemy where I'm like back out, and many times I just did this inventory recently and it was... The resentments and some of the resentments, it made me feel really crappy afterwards. I haven't met with my sponsor yet to go over it. But some of the things that were on there that made me feel crappy is like my insecurity, my judgment towards other people. It was all stuff that I'm resentful at myself for it. Because what'll happen is I will voice some of those... Like in my relationship I'll say, "Hey listen, you didn't do anything wrong here. I just want to let you know. Well, let me back up." I try not to let her know sometimes, but I am super obvious-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right away. If there's like your face-

Dave P:

It's impossible. Like I cannot hide it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, like I'm not going to say anything, but my whole face is it all.

Dave P:

Totally, and I'm thinking like just process it, just process it, get over it, get past the process. You don't need to bring up every crazy thing that comes into your mind. But I just can't sometimes. And so then she's wondering like what's wrong? Because she's really detached with me. So I'll just say, listen, you didn't do anything wrong. I'm just feeling insecure about this situation. And by doing that, if I don't... If I'm like a seen enemy and I'm like pull away, it's because I'm trying to hurry up and process it. So I don't have... It's not that I don't want to talk about it, but honestly sometimes I don't need to bring everything up. I can be obsessive, compulsive, odd, weird thoughts. Tell me not to think of something, I'll think of it. It's just part of being alcoholic I think. And so I don't want to talk about every little thing and it's not because I'm not willing to, I don't think it's in her best interest for me to, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. I've learned that like, "Hey, guess what? Every single opinion or thought you have is not helpful."

Dave P:

No, right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. There's a level of honesty that is detrimental.

Dave P:

Right. So that's sort of just having those discussions and not like doing things differently and all of those things are just what I feel like is a foundation for a great relationship. And it's just... I don't know if it's getting older or if it's being sober for 24 years or if it's a combination of both, but it just is getting quieter and it was really, really, really loud. And like when I was 22 when I got sober, like really, really loud everything was.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I ask these questions to try to help maybe someone will relate or hear something. Why do you still do the inventory and what is that... Like why do you still write down your resentments and look for your part? What does that give you?

Dave P:

Well, somewhat self preservation. I don't want to continue being uncomfortable.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you found relief doing it?

Dave P:

Right. It used to be that it wasn't out of good virtue at all. It was really literally so I didn't feel crazy. And over time that's sort of changed into wanting to grow. The whole thing with regrets and looking... I regret some of the harm that was caused in my marriage. But I don't regret my decisions and all of those experiences because it's like that game Django. If I pull out those experiences, then maybe it all falls apart and I'm not the person that I am today. So I need to be grateful for those experiences.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And the beautiful thing is that you like that person that you are today, even in those moments where you're struggling to like that person, your life is dedicated to trying to like yourself, and for me that's also a big piece of my recovery is, just trying to love myself. Just trying to like... And there's some days I do really well and there are some days not so much and just starting over and you've been able to do that through all the things. And it's just remarkable to me that... And I know you... In our community and I know you do the work. And I know you've worked really hard to be able to quiet those tapes and change, pause and do all the things that you do. And what I love about recovery is that you take these... Viewers can't see you but you're tattooed up to your neck and like you take these macho, hardened guys and they do emotional work and they can have like amazing, vibrant, vulnerable conversations and you don't get that anywhere.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And especially for me as a sober woman, I expect that from men. So I have a hard time if I'm not getting that from somebody because I basically grew up in 12 steps. So that is just such an amazing piece of the journey for me is being around people who can connect and particularly being around men who can connect.

Dave P:

I noticed that when I was dating a lot and going out with non sober people, I think arrogance is like a really ugly character trait. So I'm always like hesitant to say anything that is like a compliment to myself because I feel like it's gross. But this is not... That's not what I mean by this. But I would be on these dates and there was several times where women would think we had like this amazing connection-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, yes.

Dave P:

I'd be on the date for like two hours knowing that I'm not going to go on another date with him, but I enjoyed the company. And it's because of being sober, and learning how to communicate and becoming transparent. And in the sober community, that becomes the norm. Really, like it's not that odd to be open and transparent, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Dave P:

But in-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The regular world.

Dave P:

... regular world they're like, wow, this is amazing. And I just want to be like, well, I got it. [crosstalk 01:16:39].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, totally. It was funny when we started the podcast and I was like, oh, I don't know how this will do. You know, we'll see. And people were just blown away by the conversations. And what's funny is I have these conversations every day. For us, I think you and I've had this conversation in the parking lot after a 12 step meeting, like we've just connected and that's a normal part of my life and it's one of my favorite parts of my life. But I didn't... I forget that it's remarkable and that people want to know or hear about it. And I have the same thing. Like, people will think that I'm like their best friend or there's this massive connection. I've had that exact experience actually more so with women. And I didn't feel anything. Not in a mean way, but just like it sounds like I'm just getting to know you.

Dave P:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, yeah.

Dave P:

Which brings it back to like if you're sober and you're dating and you're married or beginning a relationship with another sober person, the level of satisfaction and commonality with like spiritual growth it just becomes-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Makes a big difference.

Dave P:

Right. And like when I was dating women who weren't sober, it was, you're only going to talk like so far, I'm not going to get deep into like spiritual conversations usually because it just isn't like a common thought for them. And that's okay. It's just, I really enjoy that. So if I'm dating somebody who is sober or soon to be married to somebody sober, it's like a huge plus for me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It makes a big difference.

Dave P:

Yeah, and I've done both sides. It was a disaster.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

With getting sober at 22 have you ever thought like maybe it was a phase or maybe I was young or any of those things creep back in for you?

Dave P:

That's a very common thing. Obviously that's why you would ask the question. It's super common for young people. Never, never, not one time.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's amazing.

Dave P:

Because of the struggle that I've had. With just doing normal things for a long time. It just reminds me that... I can tell you, we'll watch a movie, a show and it'll flash on a gun flash on it, literally a half a second and she'll say, "What kind of gun is that?" And I'm like, "Oh, I think that was a SIG P226, because I am just so obsessive about things. I get so into whatever I'm interested in. It's not normal. Like it's... It's good. I like it. And that's part of like funneling that stuff-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Into the positive.

Dave P:

... to something that fulfills that sort of darkness, but it's a positive thing. So the crazy has like-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's the-

Dave P:

... re enforces it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I really appreciate that because there's been a lot of the struggle and the pain in my life that keeps me in check with that this is still alive and well like that imaginary fight that I have yesterday is another, oh yeah, this is alive and well. This is something that I need to treat on a daily basis. Like, hey, if I'm having conversations like that, like what's that about? That's not actually a normal thing to go on for me anymore. What is... Where's my self esteem right now? What's going on with it? So it gives me that and over the years I can see in my behavior, how I need to build up my defenses so to speak, against a relapse. And I know a lot of people who've had more smooth sailing and I think it's easier to forget that this piece is still alive in us when you don't see it constantly.

Dave P:

Right. And being sober is one of those interesting things where we could list out all of the amazing things that it provides. This wonderful life. Like just on a spiritual level, good examples for our children. Like they did get to grow up in a sober home. All of those things and we don't really have a choice. We'll burn it to the ground. If you say, do you want to burn it to the ground or do you want to have this amazing life? But where the challenge is, is that if I don't regularly maintain that, then I slowly slip back into a place where I'm not pursuing spirituality and I'm not maintaining my sobriety and I'm not feeding that. And all of a sudden, and it's been... I've done it many times and now I've gotten to the point where I can recognize when it's happening-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, much faster

Dave P:

... restless, irritable, discontent. Like my kids are bothering me, my relationship bothers me. I'm uncomfortable at work, all of these things. And so you would think a normal person would say, "Oh, well I need to work on my kids and I need to work on my wife and I need to work on the job because I'm not happy with that. But what over and over and over and over and over for me, I need to focus on my program, pursue the things that raise myself esteem about myself, look at things like, why am I being judgemental? Why am I snapping? Why am I not able to like stay calm and respect the person that's talking to me?" Start looking at all of those things and I grow spiritually and all of a sudden all those things don't bother me or as much.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's a beautiful thing. I feel very grateful and for all of that and all those tools and grateful to see them working in your life. It's been awesome. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story and I just adore you and appreciate your vulnerability and I think that a lot of the stuff that you talked about, a lot of people are going to relate to and be able to take some of the tools that you talked about and actually apply them. Like from listening to this sake, maybe someone will practice pausing or some of the techniques that we use. So that's an added bonus.

Dave P:

Thanks for having me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely. The Courage To Change: A Recovery Podcast would like to thank our sponsor, Lionrock Recovery for their support. Lionrock Recovery provides online substance abuse counseling where you can get help from the privacy of your own home. For more information, visit www.lionrockrecovery.com\podcast. Subscribe and join our podcast community to hear amazing stories of courage and transformation. We are so grateful to our listeners and hope that you will engage with us. Please email us, comments, questions, anything you want to share with us, and how this podcast is effected you. Our email address is podcast@lionrockrecovery.com. We want to hear from you.