My interview & podcast w/ Demi: Growing Up in a Small Town, Using Alcohol to Cope w/ Pain & Trauma
**Listen to the Mindful Times Podcast Episode with Sam Here: https://www.mindfultimes.co/podcast-1/episode/21b22d08/18-sam-gegen-growing-up-in-a-small-town-using-alcohol-to-cope-with-pain-and-trauma-and-life-since-sobriety also available on iTunes & Spotify.
Tell us a little bit about you! Where do you live, what do you like to do for fun?
Hi everyone! Where to start – My name is Sam and I grew up in a small, very religious town of about 1,000 in Kansas. I’m 33 years old have been sober for over 3 years and wouldn’t have it any other way. I live in Kansas City and have a successful full time gig in sales and full time blogging gig as well. For fun I love to explore new wellness hacks, workout, and spread my knowledge and experience in wellness, sobriety, grit and mindset.
When did you first notice that you had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol?
Well, I noticed this several times. As early as high school I felt shame and depression for things I’ve done when I was drunk but into college I realized more that this behavior wasn’t normal. By age 22, I had 2 DUIs and 2 MIPS (minor in possession). I was still in the closet and dating girls and my coping mechanism became alcohol. I became very reliant on this to have fun. It was a crutch and I built in some nasty habits with alcohol, my drug of choice, that took a huge toll on my body mentally and physically. I remember one specific day, yes day, not night, when I was 21 and had the house to myself on a Sunday. I went to the liquor store in which they knew me by name and got a bottle of vodka and got smashed at the house by myself. I then got in my car to drive to a friend’s pool and YES this was after my 2 DUIs and 2 MIPs. This was at a time when I was almost done with college and that’s when I started thinking – was this behavior good? After college will I tame down and will this stop? The answer to that was no and as we all know alcoholism, it just got worse. I had several eye-opening experiences that made me think this wasn’t normal. It got to a point where I had to lie about how much I was drinking, cover up how much I was drinking and constantly mend hurt relationships that were damaged via alcohol.
When and how did you decide that you wanted to quit?
Oh Lord! Which time? I’ve tried and failed so many times! So. Many. Damn. Times. Let’s just talk about the final time. At this point, I was blacking out every weekend, drinking often at work and in the morning, missing work, drinking alone and doing things that didn’t align with my morals or goals for that matter. It put me through major depression and such a roller coaster of emotions I couldn’t take it anymore. I was 29 years old! This means that after college I drug this process out for 8 more years of torture. Never getting better. Never being able to manage my intake. I was someone who either had 0 drinks or 1000 drinks. There was no way for me to land in between- ever. It just wasn’t possible. I struggled so hard with my identity of being gay and alcohol became my escape that turned into a requirement to live. The easiest way to describe why I quit was I was tired. Drinking became more work than anything. I was tired of cleaning up messes. I was exhausted from covering up my drinking from others. I couldn’t bare for anyone to know how much I was drinking and most of that being alone by myself. I was tired of having 5 shitty days out of the week. 3 being wasted and the rest being hungover. That means 71% of my week is CRAP! I was tired of it all and decided that being sober, happy, healthy, and selective with the people in my life was worth more than 1 or 1000 drinks. My sober date is 11.14.2016. which is also my mom’s birthday! From that point on, I felt like for once I was living in Sam’s skin comfortably and unapologetically.
What have been some of your biggest obstacles and how did you overcome them?
Obstacles – so many to pick from. Obstacle 1: being okay with being alone. Obstacle 2: changing how I thought about alcohol. I feel so at peace right now. I haven’t always felt like that but my outlet is my blog and helping others and that keeps me going. At first, it was a challenge. I did things unconventionally and did not use an AA program and still have not been to AA. AA is great! It works for most but I haven’t felt the need to attend and figured out other ways to cope. When I got sober, I made the decision to only be around supportive people. I had some terrible experiences deviating away from this but you live and you learn. I had hundreds of lonely nights, lonely weekends and when you are alone with yourself you learn much more about yourself. With time, I met the most amazing guy! Looking back at all those lonely nights and figuring out myself, I knew it was because I was meant to be with this person. You have to trust in the process and trust in the universe and let things unfold at the pace it needs to. I used to think that I needed alcohol to have fun. Now, I look at it as if I were to start drinking again, it would kill me. I have come too far to give that up or revert back to my old ways. Thinking about that alone is enough to keep me sober. I refuse to take a step backwards and start over again.
How has your life changed since becoming sober?
Sobriety has given me freedom in all aspects of life. Financial freedom (paid off $75,000 in college debt in a few years), a couple promotions at work, clear thoughts and drive to help others, better sleep, better physical, mental and spiritual health and better clarity of amazing people who I choose to have in my life. It’s literally given me everything. I challenge everyone to not think about what you are losing by quitting drinking but think about all the sh*t you will gain!
What do you love most about yourself?
I love my passion and my desire for growth. I am fortunate to have a full-time job and an amazing team that I am super passionate about and also have the ability to have a blog with knowledge to help others. It takes a ton of time and a ton of work, but if you know me, I’m willing to put in the time and the work to do an exceptional job on whatever I choose to do. On the second one, I love feedback and I love growing. We call that the growth mindset. I can always improve. I can always get better and I’m always open to feedback or critiques.
How did alcohol affect your spirituality? How is your spirituality now that you are sober?
Spirituality to me means something a little different – I hope that’s okay! It’s really how I see and react to the world. I love manifestation and mediation. Your most powerful asset ever is your mind. If you can control it or calm it down and use it to your advantage, powerful things will happen in your life. One wellness influencer I love is Gabby Bernstein and, in her words, – “Ask the universe if you are moving in the right direction…’ and then wait for the signs, you have to be listening and watching for them but you will get them!” I’ve tried that once when I was asking the universe about creating my blog addictionofchoice.com and I received 7 signs that all said YES!! So clearly, I knew I was on the right path!
What tools have you used in our recovery? (Books, podcasts, groups etc.)
Love podcasts! They are my go-to! I like ones that calm me down but also ones that jack me up and motivate me. Oprah Super Soul Conversations, Andry Frisella MFCEO, Anything Gary Vee, and Tom Bilyeu and Impact theory are some of my favorites.
I am always driven and ready to rock, as I like to call it, JACKED (team, you know what I’m talking about! ☺) so the ones that soothe me and bring me back down to earth compliment my personality well. Namaste.
Describe sobriety in three words.
Freedom. Peace. Clarity.
What else do people need to know about addiction & recovery?
It’s not easy but it’s worth it. I’ve tried and failed several times. Failing is inevitable but what matters most is how many times do you stand up? I wanted sobriety more than anything. More than being liked, more than having my ‘party friends’, more than being social, more than avoiding loneliness and once you get through the first part as with anything it truly gets better. I can honestly say sobriety has given me everything I could ask for in life and I wouldn’t have it any other way or go back to the old life. I’m to a point, where I don’t miss alcohol or any of the negative repercussions it comes with (not even a little bit!). If you want to get sober, you can and don’t conform to a box. Explore ways that work for you because sober isn’t black or white. Accountability for sobriety is huge and should be a part of your path to ensure success. Sobriety isn’t the only way but it is an option and it can be a beautiful way. One regret I have is casting judgment when I first got sober on those that chose to drink because I wanted to project my problems on everyone but it’s just that, it’s my problem and no one else’s.
Be kind to others. Be supportive. Most importantly, be f*!%king courageous!