Episode 7: Meet Ben

In this episode, John introduces Ben the co-host for this podcast. Ben briefly discusses his addiction and recovery and a conversation flows from there. Topics covered include: twelve step culture, atheism and agnosticism, growing up with an alcoholic, and the dangers of labeling oneself as an addict.

Transcript

00:00 John: My Secular Sobriety is an addiction recovery podcast giving voice to the secular person in recovery.

[music]

00:23 John: So yes, I’m John, and I am your host. And I’m here with Ben, our co-host for My Secular Sobriety. It’s a fairly new podcast. We just got started. Oh, well, this is episode seven. So for a couple of months anyway. And the whole idea of this podcast was to really highlight options for people in recovery who identify as atheist, agnostic, or just in any way, secular. In fact, they don’t even have to identify as secular. They might very well be religious, but not necessarily want their religion to do with their recovery. And there are options available for people beyond the 12 steps and AA. And I was really hoping that we could highlight those options for people.

01:20 John: And Ben, I’ve known for quite a while. I guess we met back in 2014, and he has participated with me in a lot of podcasts, on the other podcasts that I do. And it’s just been… It’s always fun to talk with him, and so I asked him to co-host this with me because I knew there would be episodes like this where we wouldn’t have a guest, and I need someone else to talk to. So Ben, how you doing? 

01:50 Ben: Pretty good, John. Been enjoying the nice weather here. I’m sure it’s been probably even a little bit warmer down there.

01:57 John: Yeah, it is nice. I was actually up in Chicago last week and it was cold as hell, and so it’s nice to be back here. And yeah, it was really nice. Just like sweater weather, like in the 60s yesterday anyway, and so nice weather for taking the dog for a walk.

02:15 Ben: Yeah, for sure.

02:17 John: Anyway, why don’t we get started here? I thought maybe it might be good, Ben, just to kinda introduce you. I had an introductory episode where I talked a little bit about myself. So let’s introduce you, and I’ll let you begin.

02:36 Ben: Sounds good. Well, I’ve been sober for, coming up on 13 years. Let’s see, I don’t know. I’ll give a just brief little recap of it. I drank in high school a little bit, nothing to where it was problematic, but I can look back and say that I really always enjoyed it a lot. And then probably right about early college is when it really became pretty obvious problem. And like many people had a little bit of legal problems because of it, life problems as well, just not moving forward career-wise, and just emotional issues.

03:17 Ben: And then I finally got a second DUI in 2007, and that prompted me to take a harder look, and I’ve been sober since then actually. So yeah, like we talked about on this podcast, some time went to AA, courts asked me to go there, and took a liking to it, and developed a sense of community there. And yeah, probably I wasn’t super active in service in 12 step communities, but I was definitely active in my home group, big time. And I enjoyed my time in AA, and I still go from time to time. And you and I met at a secular conference for people that go to 12 step meetings. And at that time I was growing just very tired of a lot of the things I heard in meetings, and just questioning a lot of what was going on. And it was really nice to touch base with people who thought like you and, yeah. And have gone to secular meetings pretty much since then, off and on, and I don’t really go to too many meetings anymore at all. I’ve got two young kids, keeps me busy. So yeah, I stay home with the kids right now, and have some other business interests as well that I can do from home. But yeah, keeps me busy.

04:39 John: Were you… I know that you went through a religious phase. But was that before you started going to these AA meetings or was that during that when you first started going? 

04:50 Ben: It was before. I grew up going to church, but I never really believed for myself. It was a pretty laid-back church and in my, like my mid-20s, just a crisis of, “What the hell do I wanna do with my life?” finally struck me, and I look at it as an offshoot of my drinking problem too, just looking for some direction. And I definitely got very, very religious. I would have told you I was a born again Christian, and whatnot, and but still drinking. And I think I’ve said it on other podcasts, it was a dangerous combo, I can…

05:25 John: Were you actually going to a church and everything? 

05:28 Ben: Yeah, I was off and on. I wasn’t a hardcore church-going member. We grew up Methodists, and I went to a United Methodist Church. It’s pretty…

05:36 John: That’s pretty mainstream.

05:37 Ben: Yeah, pretty mainstream, pretty laid back. But yeah, I definitely, I delved hard into the Bible and read it.

05:45 John: I did that.

05:46 Ben: Yeah, I was super…

05:47 John: See, I was like that too. So when I was 19, I first started having really serious problems with alcohol, and so I had to leave school, KU, and so my life was just a mess, I mean it was just a mess. And so I also started getting into the… I read the Bible and I really thought that religion was gonna be my answer. I thought, I guess I must have thought that that was what I… I guess I knew, my older brother had kind of, had problems drinking and drugging when he was younger. And he became really super religious and straightened himself out and had a decent life, and I thought, “I don’t know.” Anyway, I tried it and it wasn’t for me.

06:34 Ben: I was pretty hard-core into it for probably two or three years. But it was very self-centered looking back at it, it was just about making myself feel like I was doing the right thing and then holding that over other people in a really judgmental asshole way.

[chuckle]

06:53 Ben: It kinda went along with having a drinking problem really well actually, but it also created a lot of guilt ’cause I’ve said it on other podcasts too, I never felt okay about my drinking. My whole life, it was never like, “Oh, this is what you should do. And people are cool who drink.” I always had really conflicted feelings about my drinking and I think getting religious didn’t necessarily help that.

07:18 John: I did too, I almost always had some measure of guilt after I drank because normally most of the time, I think most of the time, I would just get trashed and sometimes more trashed than other people were getting trashed. And yeah, I just always felt a little bit of shame and that got worse over time, as I went out into the work world and I was trying to get on my own two feet and didn’t seem to be able to do it mainly because drinking away my paycheck and not being able to function at work, and it’s just on and on.

07:57 Ben: I was super enabled by my parents. My dad was a physician, and he had his own issues, too, so I think it was easy for him to just dole out the cash to me and not wanna…

08:10 John: See, that’s one thing that you had that I didn’t had. You grew up with an alcoholic so you saw the worst of alcoholism through your father. You saw him passed out and all kinds of…

08:26 Ben: Yeah, yeah. And it’s most people don’t think that a physician could really hold their life together that way. I don’t think he was drinking 24/7, but yeah, it was… I definitely, I’ve gone to some Al-Anon meetings and meetings for family and that stuff definitely works for me better than 12-step for the alcoholic. Maybe somebody that would be hardcore in 12-Step would say I’m not a real alcoholic because of that, but I definitely know that I’m somebody who shouldn’t drink. But the family stuff definitely works better for me and that’s the side that I’m naturally drawn to. And I think even I went back and got my counseling certification too. And I was trained as an alcohol counselor for approximately four years and I enjoyed working with the family, a great deal… Excuse me, that’s my bread and butter.

09:18 John: Well, I can understand that. I know in my family, I grew up with this mental illness of my family, but that was kind of hidden away and it was easy to hide from us whereas…

09:34 Ben: I never seen the effect really.

09:34 John: Really? 

09:35 Ben: No, I mean, it’s kind of a family secret where people don’t talk about it, and you’re not really supposed to ask about it, or talk about it or may keep quiet about it.

09:44 John: Yeah. Anyway, I thought about that, ’cause I was talking to Angela last week, and I was telling her about my early time in AA when we’d go out on these 12-Step calls and I would see people in various stages of detox and I told her I said, “It was good for me to see that so I could understand the seriousness of alcoholism just how bad it really was,” and she said, some of us don’t need to see that we didn’t need to be reminded, ’cause we grew up with it, and that was a real kind of a wake-up for me because I didn’t grow up with that, and I was like the only alcoholic I knew [chuckle] so it was kinda good to… For me, I didn’t go that far, so when I was out there watching people go through some really serious withdraw, and I saw how painful and horrible it was. It just solidified into my brain that this is definitely… There’s definitely a physiological component to it, whether you wanna call it a disease or whatever. And I did not wanna go there.

10:50 Ben: Yeah. Well, my co-dependence would kick in when I’d go to those things. I had this one guy that was always on and off again drunk sober and I’d go and clean his house up and fold his clothes up and pick up all the piece old clothes and stuff. I look back at that now and I’m like, Man… But yeah, and this is some of the beef I have with 12 step everybody comes at this from a different place. All of us had alcoholic family, some of us didn’t. Some of us were to the point of such physical dependence, we went through DTs, all the time, and some of us didn’t. And the stupid purity test, like the one in the room sometimes about who’s a pure alcoholic or the worst alcoholic or this or that, it’s just annoying.

11:33 John: Yeah, that happens more and more it seems, and there’s… Well, there’s a string of thought and I think I find it online more often, because I don’t really go to any kind of meetings outside of a secular meeting, but there’s this line of thought where you’re, to be a pure alcoholic, you have to be the alcoholic as defined in the Big Book, and only a spiritual experience can help you, and if you can get sober without a spiritual experience, you must not be a real alcoholic. It’s kind of crazy.

12:10 Ben: Oh yeah, it’s 100% if you combine that logic. You can rule out anybody who doesn’t need that. And whomever…

12:18 John: So that’s kinda weird. I guess, well, those people exist, if they’re online, they’re in a meeting somewhere right? Out there in the real world. I just don’t happen to encounter them because I choose not to. I kinda got to the point where I couldn’t stand it anymore, and so I can only tolerate this, my secular group. And I know that you started having problems with it too, just to the hardcore religious nature of the program.

12:32 Ben: Yeah, well… And I think this isn’t even grandiose. I think my presence at certain meetings, people knew how I felt and that I would speak up about how I felt, and again, I feel like I did so in a respectful manner. I would say this is just how it works for me, but it would change the tone of the meetings sometimes to where everybody would go on the attack about that pure alcoholic or real alcoholics stuff all the time and…

12:32 John: That’s kinda weird.

12:32 Ben: It was annoying, and I do think that that’s part of the call like nature of certain meetings, I think where they’re gonna chase out or push out anything that doesn’t meet the agenda and I don’t think any of that is conscious. I think a lot of it subconscious.

12:32 John: I do too, I truly do. It’s like you… From my experience, you just kind of adapt the norms of the group, and you… And it’s probably a survival mechanism that we just have ingrained in us that, “I need these people if I’m going to make it. So I’m going to think and do, and say, like they think and do and say.” And when I start hearing something contrary to what the norm of the group is, that to me is threatening, and therefore I see it as negative or something along those lines, because I was that way. I’m looking back many, many years ago, even when someone would just question some of the basic tenets that I believed in, I just was more than just uncomfortable with it, I just thought that person was wrong and crazy to think that way, it’s just anyway.

14:27 Ben: It’s very tribal, it is very tribal, or it’s like, somebody with corona virus enters your community and you gotta get that out of here, it’s like get that disease thinking out of here, we gotta worry about ourselves, so it makes sense.

14:38 John: But you know, I was also thinking about that also on the other side of it. So you’ve got the people who are in 12-step programs who are like that, where they think that their way is the only true way. But then you’ve got this other side where the people are so anti-12-step that they won’t… You can’t even have a conversation with them. I mean it’s just, I was thinking about that today because I wanted to reach out to some of these people for the podcast. And I think some of them just don’t, probably just don’t like me period, if I have anything at all to do with 12 steps at all, but… And I’m not even that big into it even, I could take it or leave it, I don’t really care. In fact, I’ve kind of grown away from the 12 steps themselves. I see them as just kind of a nice little framework of experiences that we’ve had that just laid out in that weird language. And most of them just kind of are things that you just naturally do like we talked about before. And I don’t think they’re like magic, where you gotta do them to get sober. I’m very laid back about it, and I don’t care what people do.

15:51 John: In fact, that’s one reason I wanna do this podcast is, I wanted to kinda highlight all the different options that are available to people. So…

16:02 Ben: Yeah, and I’m with you too, but I’ll even catch myself wondering like, “Am I just being an AA apologist, or is that part of having gone to AA meetings…

16:11 John: Oh yeah.

16:11 Ben: So I feel like I was have to defend it but…

16:13 John: I know.

16:13 Ben: As you know, I’m always even… I’ll ask you, after a podcast, I’ll be like, “Oh was I too hard on it, or am I being too much… Too bashing?” and everybody will be like, “No, you weren’t at all.” But…

16:23 John: Yeah, I know, we’re afraid to bash. We call it bashing, but it’s not really, it’s honest criticism based upon our experience. And I don’t hate anything, I’m not really anti-anything… Well, I am anti-crazy cultish people, but for the most part, I really support anything that anyone can do to get sober.

16:47 Ben: I suppose it should be no surprise, but it’s very much the response of an alcoholic family system for people to respond that way, to be like, “No, no outside voices. No, don’t question how things work here. You don’t bring that up.” It very much fits with that pattern of growing up in an alcoholic home. And so it’s no shock that a 12-step community kind of responds in that manner too, because everybody’s been conditioned… Most people that go there have been conditioned to react that way.

17:15 John: Yep, that makes sense. So, anyway, so back in 2015, I started that website AA Beyond Belief about all that, and then we did the… I started a podcast there, and that podcast is actually doing really well. That was my first introduction to podcasting, and what was so unique about that is like we had an audience right from the beginning, we had that little niche. And the podcast really took off and I never have any problem getting guests, there’s plenty of people who download it from all over the world, it’s really something else. So I assumed that this podcast would be almost just as easy, I’m finding it a little more difficult. We’ve had some guests, but it’s hard… It’s not easy to get these guests. I think I can reach out to some of the people that, like some of the authors and so forth that I had on the other podcasts that might like to join us, but I don’t know. What are your thoughts about this podcast and what we can… What direction we can take it? 

18:24 Ben: Well, I’m willing to be along for the ride wherever you wanna go. But I understand that too, that not as many I think the word secular most people are not even sure what it means sometimes. And I think sometimes it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bath water, if you go away from the 12-step community, you just wanna get away as far away from it as possible, but… It can be tough that way, but… And then the AA too and 12 Step community has that built-in obligation of service. So if you’re sharing your story or talking about it, you feel like you’re being of service. So yeah, I don’t know, it can be tough, you know me, I was… That’s another thing about me, I love films, and the way you can use those to discuss a topic. I think that wouldn’t be bad to bring one of those in here or there, but I know our audience is gonna be limited for a while until we can get some people going. But no matter what, this is the movement of society, society is becoming more secular good, bad, worse otherwise, whatnot. And I believe, I can’t speak for you, but we both still wanna do this because it does help people, it helps us and it can help other people, to let you know that you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water, you can still be sober and not wanna have anything to do with 12 stuff.

19:31 John: Well, I have learned so much from podcasting not just about… I love everything about it, I love the technology, I love learning how to do all the audio editing, and now I’m really getting into YouTube-ing and doing the live streaming. I love that component of it. But I also like what I learn from people who I talk to, and having the opportunity to talk to them, that’s… That has really changed me really, that and also you do learn some basic communication skills as well. It’s just been very helpful to me. It’s something I really enjoy. I think if I wasn’t able to podcast about this, I would find something to podcast about. I don’t know, [chuckle] but…

20:19 Ben: I have some people I could reach out to too and be a little bit more assertive about that as well.

20:24 John: Well, I did reach out to a YouTuber, her name is Katie Lain, and she’s a really incredible spokesperson for the Sinclair Method. She’s got a website called and Embody Daily. And you can just check her out on YouTube, Katie Lain, Embody Daily. And I haven’t heard back from her. She said that she’d come on the podcast and that we’re trying to set up a date and just haven’t firmed up the date with her. I’m hoping it’ll be next week, next weekend, if not, then maybe it’ll have to be later on in the month. But she has quite an audience. So if the people who visit her YouTube channel learn about us, then that’ll might help us too. But yeah, I’m not too hung up about all that. As long as we enjoy it and we can find some things to talk about, just let things go where they will go. I was gonna ask you. You talked about how most people don’t know what secular means. A lot of people don’t know what secular means. David Bohl, who we had on, the author of Parallel Universes, he gave me some advice early on. He said, “Stay away from the words ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic.'” He says, “They’re too politically charged.” Do you think that they really are? Do you think atheist is a bad word or it has a negative connotation? 

21:45 Ben: Yeah, around here, I for sure do. But I think amongst people who are atheists or agnostics, it doesn’t so much. So maybe if that’s our target market, for lack of a better word, maybe there’s nothing wrong with using those words. But around here for sure, even if I would say to somebody… I try to be honest about what I believe or not believe if it comes up when I’m talking with people. Like the other day, I was talking with someone and I was asking him about… He had moved to town here and I was asking him about… I could tell by what he was saying and being service-minded that he was probably a religious gentleman. And I said, “Well, how have you found the faith community around here? It’s been difficult to find a church and whatnot.” And he said, “No, it hasn’t at all.” I was just using good listening and people skills and trying to… And then he said, “Oh, why? What church do you attend?” And I said, “Well, I don’t. I’m a non-believer, I guess some people would say atheist.”

22:39 Ben: And then as soon as I mentioned the word “atheist”, you could just kind of see on his face, “Ah.” So sometimes I’ll be more careful and use the word “non-believer” but… I don’t know, like you and I have talked about, there’s so many ways to look at it. To me, it’s two different questions. Agnostic means I don’t believe it’s noble to know whether there’s God or not. An atheist means I don’t have a belief in a god. It doesn’t mean I know there’s no God, but I don’t have a belief in that.

23:05 John: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s not even dis-believing, it’s just that I don’t have that belief. And that fits me so perfectly. That’s always what I’ve been. I think there’ve been times in my life when I have tried to believe and found that I couldn’t. And I remember thinking, “Well, there must be something wrong with me because I can’t believe like other people believe,” and I thought, “Maybe it’s because I don’t have this background of going to church, I don’t know enough about religion.” But it just turns out there’s something about me that just finds it almost impossible to have a faith in some god. I just don’t… I can’t do that. So that’s me. I just lack any belief at that. Not that I… It’s like, how can you just believe in something that, I guess you can… I guess it’s disbelief too, I don’t know…

23:57 Ben: Well, and the truth is there are so many degrees of belief. You’ve got my father-in-law who’s a devout Catholic who believes in all the rites and rituals, and it’s almost like the rites and rituals are more his religion than the actual belief that is involved in the religion. And then you’ve got people like me who grew up Methodist who just think, “Oh, yeah, we’re just nice people and we go, and we shake hands, we have coffee and donuts. We also do church and sing these old hymns,” and then you’ve got… So there’s all degrees of belief. My wife was talking with one of our daughter’s friends’ parents and they were taking their daughter to a preschool that was at a church, but they didn’t think it was very religious, or they were told it wasn’t, and then their four-year-old is just getting told all these Bible stories all day long. They were told that it was more education than it was biblical stuff.

24:42 Ben: So now they’re bothered because it feels like it’s all Bible and no education. So yeah, there’s so many shades of belief, but there are so many people, there are quite a lot of people who are just not willing to… If I ask some questions and I talk a little bit further, I think one of the only difference between me and them is that they can’t jump over to there might not be a God, they have to think, “Well there’s some reason for all of this, there has to be, or why would this exist or that?” That’s the big leap. And I do find that people sometimes just assume that if I don’t believe in a god or an acting god or whatever you wanna call that, then it means that I think there’s no purpose or that there’s no way to find hope or purpose, but that’s not what I found in my walk.

25:27 John: Yeah. There’s also, I think, kind of a natural fear of death and what comes after it. I think nothing comes after it. [chuckle] And I’ve kind of gotten myself comfortable with that. But if you kind of grow up thinking that, “Okay, there’s a happy existence after this, and I’m gonna see everybody, and we’re gonna have a great time,” if you could kind of grow up with that thought in the back of your mind, and then you kind of realize, “No, it’s just gonna be nothing like it was before I was born,” it’s kind of unsettling, isn’t it? 

25:58 Ben: It sure can be, yeah.

26:00 John: It’s kind of nice to think that… That it never ends, we just go on with another existence.

26:08 Ben: Right. I probably could be accused of being pessimistic, but the world can be so hard and so tough, and can feel really brutal, and you get social media, and the media and stuff can just exacerbate a person’s feelings of dread, that it would be very nice to think that everything’s not like that after this is all over, it’s like… But then there’s a part of me that says too, this thought that paradise or happiness is to be somewhere in this netherworld later, it’s a way to cope with the fact that we don’t feel like we have the power to do what we can to change what we know exists for sure, the right here and right now. So on some level, just like alcohol, it can be a negative coping mechanism for people in the world. Here’s my judgmentalism against believers: Sometimes belief can be used as that, like a way to cope with the world and avoid the fact that we feel powerless to change the world that exists right here right now.

27:06 John: Absolutely, it’s God’s will. So things are gonna happen and there’s nothing we can do about it, which is… Anyway…

27:14 Ben: And my mom is a prime example of that. She’s somebody who’s very much… She utilizes her religion to keep that distance from taking a hard look at that. And I totally get why people do that, ’cause like you said, it’s scary.

27:26 John: Yeah.

27:26 Ben: It can be very scary.

27:27 John: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting how, even in recovery from addiction, that religion has made its way. And it’s not just AA people, there’s this whole spiritual component behind recovery. If you look at like a Tommy Rosen in Recovery 2.0, he’s a very kind of a spiritual kind of a guy. He’s not anti-anything, but he’s very spiritual. And a lot of people in recovery, whether or not they’re in a 12-step program or not, they have that very important spiritual aspect. And I think the way that I understand that there’s a need for that is that the change that comes about from going from addict to not using is so dramatic, and it seems like it’s so… It’s very dramatic and you’re doing something that you didn’t think you could do, so it seems like it takes on this supernatural quality.

28:30 John: And it almost feels that way when you go… I remember when I first stopped drinking, it was like, I swear to God, I would be driving down the road and I was like, I noticed the grass was green, and the sky was blue, and colors. It just seemed like I’m amazing that just happened. And so I can understand where, if people are having that experience that they will attribute it to some sort of supernatural God thing.

28:54 Ben: Absolutely. And I think there’s a thing called an anhedonia, and it’s like when you first get sober, everything’s just very blah. And then I think once your brain starts to heal and all the more normal chemical reactions come to it, you do start noticing things like that. But then it’s also… So yeah, so a lot of people need to be reminded that when they first get sober, you’re gonna have this anhedonia state where it’s like…

29:18 John: Interesting. I never heard that before. So there’s something to that.

29:20 Ben: Yeah, everything seems very gray and black and obviously your body is adjusting to the fact you’re not giving it alcohol all the time too. But even on another level, like you said, it is a perspective change. It’s not just chemical, it is the fact you’re not so distracted by the fact you’re hungover and all you can think about is how crappy you feel. Your world goes from being like this to being just opening up to being more… 12-Step used a lot of lingo about people being self-centered and selfish. Well, when you’re hungover and/or drunk all the time, your world does kinda close in like this. So it would make sense that you seem very selfish and self-centered. So when that perspective opens up and you’re not feeling like crap all the time, and you’re not so focused on whatever you may perceive that you need as far as a chemical or not, all of a sudden you can have more empathy or more concern for another person and things like that, and you’re making connections with other people, and you’re feeling more connected your surroundings. That does… I can see how that does feel like a very spiritual experience.

30:23 John: I’m just kinda… I remember during that first year of sobriety, and I would be able to do things like you said, because I’m not hungover now, and I could read the paper in the morning. And just that something simple like that, I would think back to like, “Boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do this, since I did this.” ‘Cause when I was growing up as a kid, and it’s kind of weird, but I’ve always been kind of into the news and politics and stuff, and I mean from a little kid, and I would read the newspaper and I’d have conversations with my father, and it was something I always enjoyed. So all my life, I would always be reading The New York Times, or the Leavenworth Times or something, [chuckle] reading the paper, and then I stopped during my drinking years, that wasn’t going on. Sundays were horrible. I was hungry, I was sick, I was hungover. And so then I got sober and I was like, “Oh I’m reading the paper on a Sunday morning, how nice.”

31:19 Ben: One of those signs that you have a problem is when some of the activities that you used to enjoy kinda start to fall by the wayside.

31:25 John: Interesting, yeah, yeah. And I do.

31:29 Ben: Yeah, for sure. And you were talking earlier about growing up in a family with mental illness, and that’s why it is similar. Because with mental illness, if you’re raising kids and you have severe mental illness especially, your world kinda goes like this with your mental illness, so it’s hard for you to be attentive to your children’s needs and be attentive to their feelings. So, same thing if you’re, like I was describing earlier, if you’re drunk or hungover all the time, you’re not even able to tune in to what’s going on around you. So it tends to have the same result on children. So even my mom, she was addicted to cigarettes the whole time I was growing up, so I’m sure on level, it was hard for her to give me emotionally what I needed because she was always needing to go light another cigarette. All the pictures growing up, there’s a lot of pictures of me, like when I’m three or four clinging to my mom’s side while she’s sitting there, leaning against the counter smoking a cigarette.

32:02 Ben: And I suppose you could say the same for food for certain people, or just really any personality characteristic on some level as well, that the problem that it comes from, it is not being able to be open to literally the child near you and being open to their needs, and having a connection with them. So anything that gets in the way, that can cause a problem.

32:02 John: And speaking of food, that’s another topic I’d like to address on this podcast, I did on the other podcast, but… I look at myself, I’ve never been grossly obese or anything but I do… Like I’m overweight right now. I’d like to get back in shape and eat better, and I do find it hard to stay away from junk food and stuff like that. And I understand how there is an addiction going on there with sugar and so forth. It does the same kind of thing to your brain that drugs do, maybe not to the same degree, but it still affects you. But I struggle with that all the time. It’s like mentally I know that… Is what I’m eating is not good for me but boy, it’s really hard for me to stop and have some sort of control over that. Again, I don’t know if I would call myself an addict, overeating addict or not, but…

33:50 Ben: Well, what’s in a name, I guess? But I have found too, my wife and I are doing a low-carb thing right now, and I feel like a carb calls for more carbs like, if I was to eat… Like my wife will make these keto donuts and stuff and I don’t want more than one but if I was to eat that full sugar donut, one would ask for another, would ask for another, on some level. So it’s kind of like drinking for me that way, but I think that’s everybody’s different, I think, with their metabolism and how their body processes food. But I have found that now that I’m not eating as many carbs I don’t crave near as many carbs and when I start to eat a little bit of carbs, I want a whole lot more carbs. So it’s a mess.

34:28 John: So isn’t it interesting? I was just thinking last weekend, my wife and I bought some Girl Scout cookies. I could sit down in the entire box of those damn things without any problem. Could I eat an entire bag of carrots? No.

34:40 Ben: Right, right, no, yup. No.

34:44 John: But Girl Scout cookies, no problem.

34:46 Ben: Right. Well, it’s just like when I would go out to the bar, I could probably have 18 to 24 beers, but I couldn’t have drank 18 to 24 Cokes.

34:55 John: Right.

34:56 Ben: Well, but if there’s alcohol mixed in, I probably could, but… Yeah, there’s something about the blood sugar-spiking and then getting the insulin spike after that in the cycle that that creates… I think that all makes very good sense. I think whether this whole low-carb craze right now we’ll stick around or not, I think in general is… In this culture, we eat way too many cards. Just way too many.

35:16 John: Yep, yeah. And that turns straight into sugar.

35:20 Ben: Yeah, yeah, yup. Carb sugar, yup. Same effect.

35:23 John: So yeah, that’d be a nice topic to explore. And there’s some really… Oh, there’s some good people out there. I’m thinking, Dr. Vera Tarman. She has a Facebook group called Food Addiction Recovery or Food Addiction Support group. I’m sweet enough in a Vera Tarman. She’s a doctor up in Toronto. She is the director of one of the better known rehabs up there, and she treats all sorts of addictions, but her specialty is food addiction and sugar addiction. And she wrote a book called Food Junkies… Anyway, she’s a wonderful person, very nice, very interesting. It’d be good to have her on some time too, if she would be willing to…

36:06 Ben: I’ll say this about secular recovery too. It feels like everything so defined in especially 12-step communities, where either you have to be an addict or an alcoholic or this or that. And that definition can be good for a person early on, so that you identify something is an issue. But I found the longer I’m sober, and more in secular recovery it just becomes about healthy living. Right? Rather than just “Am I a food addict. Or am I not, or I’m I addicted to…

[overlapping conversation]

36:33 John: Yeah, why does it even matter? It’s like you know that “Hey Girl Scout cookies can’t be healthy for you, can’t be good.

36:38 Ben: Right.

36:38 John: It can’t be good to eat a whole box of Girl Scout cookies. And why does it matter if I’m an addict or not? In the way it’s like it almost makes it harder to do anything about, because you say… Oh, I’m an addict. So it’s something that’s so difficult to overcome. It’s beyond my control. I’ve got this thing that compels me to eat an entire box.”

36:56 Ben: Which for some people, even in 12-step communities can become a scapegoat too. Or an excuse. “Well, I’m just an addict. I’m just an alcoholic.” Especially if you get in meetings where people talk about “Well, it was just a matter of time, I was born that way, I have the right genetic make-up. Since I took the first drink, that’s exactly what I was.” Again, it’s great to realize that about yourself, so that you could do something about it, but the label I’m not sure. Yeah, I don’t ever forget that I have an issue with it, but I don’t know. Labeling is… Labeling’s touchy.

37:25 John: Yeah, that’s a good point. And also, it’s also it’s that all or nothing kind of thinking about it. It’s like I’m really bad about that, especially when it comes to trying to get healthy and control my food it’s just I go into some crazy things but…

37:43 Ben: Oh, me too. Gonna eat good this week and then I eat bad on Thursday and then it’s like, “Well I might as well eat bad Friday through Sunday, and start again on Monday.” Well, what’s the magic about Monday? Those are all just… That’s some CBT work right there.

37:56 John: We’re talking about something that doesn’t really have to do with addiction per se, but it’s gonna be interesting to see what happens with this Coronavirus thing, and if it’s gonna keep people from going outdoors and so forth. Because I was thinking about that like, “Okay for work, it’s not a big deal ’cause we can work from home. And they’re already at work, they’re saying that they’ve stopped international travel, they’ve even stopped meetings, where large groups of people get together and so I could see us working from home and I was thinking, I do wanna go to the gym, again, but boy that’s a good place to get germs. That’s… Don’t know where this thing’s gonna go.

38:35 Ben: Well, it’s tricky. Again, it’s the all or nothing thinking. You hear some people in the media, talking about how it’s just a hoax, “A hoax.” I don’t know who might have said it. But…

38:44 John: I don’t think it’s a hoax.

38:46 Ben: But it’s… Again, everything gets overblown, but it already seems like it’s exceeded what all the other ones, the SARS in H-1-N-1, which again it is just from what I hear it’s more of a strain of the cold than a flu necessarily, but…

38:53 John: Yeah, and it’s dangerous… It’s most dangerous for older people in their 80s.

38:53 Ben: Yeah. Older or… I’ll tell you what though, I go to places where the kids where I take the kids, children’s museums and stuff like that. I definitely know there seems like there’s less people going than they were. So, I’m the way I’m made up. I’m not apt to worry about that stuff that much. But again, all or nothing thinking. It’s not nothing, but it’s not the end of the world either. It’s something in between. And we should do things we can to try and not… I think it’s good to quarantine people if it works, and trust scientists to do what they think is probably best for our communities. But it does that… That fear gets stoked up and you never know.

38:53 John: Yeah. I’m gonna try to just keep living my life as normal and just kind of be aware of things, and wash my hands and all that kind of stuff. But anyway, it’s kind of off topic, but it’s just something that’s been kind of on my mind thinking about a little bit ’cause like I said…

40:02 Ben: It’s a good example of that all-or-nothing thinking that it’s easy to slip in, and how we need to remind ourselves about the middle ground, plenty.

40:08 John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So anyway, we’ve gone for… We’ve gone for 40 minutes. That’s pretty good. We managed to find something to talk about. I hope that this has been interesting to listen to for anyone who might happen upon this. So I can imagine some day somebody is kind of bored. They’re sitting at home, they’re on YouTube, they’re searching for stuff, they’re saying secular… My secular sobriety. That looks interesting. And they come across this podcast and they listen to it. So if that’s you, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this. So anyway, here we go…

[music]

40:43 John: And that’s it for another episode of My Secular Sobriety. Thank you Ben very much. It’s been nice talking to you.

40:49 Ben: It’s been nice talking to you, John.

40:51 John: Hopefully we’re gonna be back next week and hopefully we’re gonna have a guest. Now Ben, you say you might not be on next week.

40:58 Ben: Yes, I may be going to Minnesota for the weekend. So it’ll be hard for me to jump on here.

41:02 John: Okay. So hopefully we will have Katie on next week. If not, then it’ll be later in the month. She said it, she said she might be able to do it next week and if not, she could do it sometime after March 24th. So I’ll stay in touch with her and see what happens, and if we don’t have a guest, I’ll just jump on to something. I’m kinda committed to doing something every week.

41:21 Ben: Nice.

41:22 John: Alright, well thanks, Ben, I appreciate it.

41:23 Ben: Yep.


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