Episode 91: One man’s journey to sobriety and the joy that followed
Dr. Stephan Neff, anesthesiologist, bestselling author, speaker, and podcast host, is passionate about demystifying mental health problems, including alcoholism, and helping the people around him live a life so full of joy that yesterday is jealous of today.
For him this means a life free from alcoholism as well as the other “aholisms” we can find ourselves trapped in. Like workaholism or sexaholism.
Stephan told me, “I have gone through dark times myself and have experienced depression, anxiety and PTSD. I did not have good coping skills and relied on alcohol to numb my pain. As you guessed, that did not end well.”
Listen to the podcast here:
Prefer reading? Get the episode transcript here:
Our conversation focuses on his journey into alcoholism and back out. He says it was a beautiful time of his life. Until I spoke with him I could not imagine that viewpoint.
And about the ubiquity of alcohol in every corner of our culture. Years ago cigarette smoking was banned from television. Booze? Not so much. You could argue that a cigarette is more dangerous to ones health than a drink but that depends on the person’s genetics.
Oh, and lest I sound like I’m advocating abstaining, let me correct the record. I am a fan of you do you and if that includes some form of adult beverage and you are not hurting yourself or others by drinking then enjoy.
Back to Stephan.
He was always able to work. He was a functioning alcoholic. (I dated one of those when I was young. I wouldn’t advise it)
“Working far too hard, drinking far too hard. Um, there were times when I tried to stop drinking like so many of us. Um, but ultimately because I didn’t replace it with anything sensible, um, it was too easy for me to fall back onto it until I was really so down and out, that I couldn’t go on any longer like that.”
Then he got the gift of an intervention, and the true Stephan was rediscovered.
“The first transformation is that you stopped drinking, but then thereafter the other transformation waiting to happen, that you’re going out there and actually change maybe your moral beliefs, your core beliefs, you learn about integrity, you learn about humility, you learn about your own anger, about a hothead in you. The lessons are endless.”
“His parting words for us were: There’s so much darkness. I wanna be the candle or maybe the torch or the lighthouse in the storm of others to actually say, Hey, it’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay quiet. It’s not okay to numb.”
Stephan wrote a book about his journey, My Steps to Sobriety. You can get it in paperback or as a Kindle book.
His other book is a children’s book, Esmee the Mindful Mouse.