Episode 54: 15 experts share “The one thing I wish I knew in early sobriety.”

image of atheistsinrecovery podcast Episode 54

Episode 54: 15 experts share “The one thing I wish I knew in early sobriety.”

(Disclaimer: This transcript was made using AI technology. Please excuse any errors.)

Music 0:00
Welcome to the Atheisst in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery

And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri,

Adina Silvestri 0:09
Hi guys and welcome to Episode 54 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today is a special mashup episode. You know, I've been thinking for a while now if I made it to 12 months of the show that I wanted to do something special, and I thought of this mashup episode. And I thought, yes, you know, I have to do this I have to invite many of the previous guests on and ones that we've learned from we've learned from everybody, but ones that I felt would really hit this, this question out of the park, and I think we did a really good job. Or I should say, I think they did a really Good job I had very little to do with it. But today's episode is really special because this episode is a celebration of the completion of year one of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And after this episode, I'm taking a break. I am taking a month off so August I will be focusing on self care and doing a lot of nothing, which I'm pretty excited about my first break in 12 months of the podcast so So anyway, I had so much fun with this episode. This episode is like being inside a room full of interesting people. You know, when you when you go to a party and you see some people that you know, some people you don't know, but you want to get to know better. And at the end of the party, you just can't wait to see them again. That's what this felt like. It was so much fun. In my private practice, I come across many individuals who are interested in recovery. Maybe they know it would be a good thing for them. But they're just scared. They're frightened and scared, and I get it. You know, this has been their constant companion. You know, this is the one thing that's never let them down in their life. The drugs, the alcohol, it's always there for them. And it's scary. So they know that this thing this drinking is wrecking their life, but it's also their best friend. And so how do you? How do you give that up? And so that's what today's episode is all about. Today's episode is titled The one thing you wish you knew in early recovery. So we had 15 guests come on, create an audio message answering the question and then I come on after each clip and I share a little bit a little reflection. Okay, guys, here we go.

Joe C. 2:59
Adina, Happy one year anniversary. I was delighted to hear you're starting a new recovery podcast. It's such a great medium for sharing recovery and finding others in need. So Way to go, it was glad to participate. I'm Joe C. of rebellion dogs radio. I'm the author of beyond belief agnostic musings for 12 step life. If I could go back in time and have coffee with the new me, what would I want to tell them? I tell them that recovery is mostly an act of slight adjustments. It's not starting all over again. It's not a course to be completed or a journey to be completed. When an airplane leaves LAX on its way to LaGuardia somewhere along the way, it's going to be off course, and the pilot doesn't fly all the way back and start over again. They make a slight adjustment. And so many times I felt like I had to start all over again and Recovery were really I was too chaotic. I needed to get to the middle. I was too rigid. I had to get to the middle too focused on the past to the present. Back to the middle. Anyway, look forward to another year. I've never missed an episode.

Adina Silvestri 4:15
Joe C. Thanks so much for the kind words. And I love your example of the airplane flying and how it relates to recovery, and that you don't have to start all over that you can just make slight adjustments. I love that analogy. And I think that's so true, especially for the guys that I work with. It's so disheartening to think that if you slip up or something doesn't, isn't working well in your recovery that you have to start over and it's just not true. So thank you so much for that and I hope you're well. I

Tom Bannard 4:56
I think the thing that I would have liked to know in early recovery was how much the work that I was doing, which was really hard and not always enjoyable, was gonna pay off as I move forward in my recovery journey, and how much that was going to mean for my relationships with family and friends, and all of the new relationships I was going to have, because of that work that I did early recovery.

Adina Silvestri 5:29
Tom bannard, thank you so much for coming on. And that's a great, that's a great tip knowing wishing that you knew that all your hard work would pay off. Yeah, I guess that is sort of akin to having hope. You know, it's hard to have hope when you are so far from the quote unquote, finish line, you know, when the work is too tough and you just want it to be over with and so you Love that. Love that tip. And then, you know, knowing that once you are on your way on the recovery journey, have a foothold, or two. And knowing that it's going to just pay off in dividends to your to the other arenas in your life with the family and friends that you mentioned. So all right. I hope you're well.

Hello, Bari Cohen, how are you?

Bari Cohen 6:31
Hey, this is Bari Cohen. So the one thing I wish I knew early in sobriety is that to have the recovery I wanted, I needed to work all 12 steps as outlined in the big book with someone who had done the same could help me do the work. I didn't know that process would provide me an experience that gives me access to a power greater than myself. That would solve my problems. When drinking still work. For me. It was a spiritual experience. I didn't know that's what I was looking for. I fought spirituality when I came in and I thought I just needed to stop drinking. without alcohol and without connecting to our higher power, sobriety was a lonely scary place. The pain of my alcoholism started when the drinking stopped. I wanted to understand the steps before I did them but trying to analyze them and figure them out, only prolong my misery because my spiritual growth doesn't come from education, religion, lack of knowledge wasn't my issue, I lacked power, I couldn't access the power to heal myself. To begin to connect, I would need to lay aside my prejudices and just be willing, I don't need to understand God for this to happen. As a matter of fact, if God is small enough for me to understand, then he isn't big enough to help me. Working the steps is uncomfortable at times, but that passes I prolong my pain by not working them. I wish I knew that. I thought that being an addict was always going to be a weight to drag around, but the life I have in recovery continues to get better, more joyful and more peaceful.

Adina Silvestri 7:55
So I appreciate you coming on and answering this Question about what you wish you knew in early recovery. And I, and I do think that 12 steps work for a lot of people. And so, you know, being able to fully commit to the 12 steps, and also knowing that without alcohol, and without a higher power, you were really left with nothing. And needing that connection to a higher power. It really helps you and I think that's going to resonate with a lot of people who don't even want to try the 12 steps because of the God thing. Maybe that maybe now so they'll look at it differently or maybe they'll be more open to going to a meeting after listening to your message. Thanks again.

Liv Pennelle 8:52
My name is LIv from Liv's Recovery Kitchen. Gosh, this is a really difficult question. What's the one thing I wish I knew in early sobriety. There are multiple answers. But if I was to give one, it would be that recovery is fluid. What I mean by that is your needs change. So what you need in early recovery, for example, I needed structure, I needed guidelines, I needed an immediate community, I needed a program of recovery. And I found that in a 12 step program, but as I progressed, I needed less structure and rigidity. And I needed to be able to grow and not feel constrained in any way. So I had to find my own pathway. But I felt a lot of shame around that because you're often told that this is something you should do for a lifetime. So I would encourage anybody in recovery to know that your needs will change and that that's okay.

Adina Silvestri 9:49
Hey, Liv, good to hear from you. I love that you talk about recovery is being fluid, and that what you needed in the beginning was structure and guidelines. And as you progressed, you needed to find your own pathway, something that would work for you. And I've heard that from many people that you have to, you know, just be kind to yourself and in the end, you really do know what's best for you. And so, you know, if shame does come up, if you are being told that you have to stay in a certain program for your lifetime, you know, really question that, you know, maybe even talk to people that you love and that love you and be very gentle with yourself and question, Is this true? Is this really true? Okay, thanks again.

Bill Greer 10:41
This is Bill Greer, president of smart recovery USA. First, congratulations Adina on the one year anniversary of your blog Atheists in Recovery. The question you're asking really stumped me, until I first thought that the single thing for me might have been known My wife of 35 years would die three years into my recovery. And then I thought about that, and I said, Boy, it's a good thing that I didn't know that because if I had, it would have made my recovery, so much harder, if not impossible. And that led me to conclude the single thing to me was learning how not to be overwhelmed how not to see the forest for the trees. Lifelong sobriety seems overwhelming at the very start for most people, we have to focus on the trees, the small steps of progress at the beginning. And a day becomes a week, a week becomes a month, and momentum builds toward a goal that begins to look attainable. For me, I found I had to nourish the small trees and uproot the dead ones. And you will over time find a pathway through the forest of addiction.

Adina Silvestri 11:55
Hey Bill, thanks so much for coming on. And for the kind words. Yes. I mean, I think it's so true that in the beginning, recovery can seem so overwhelming this, this idea of lifelong sobriety. And, I mean, I've heard from many people that you really do need to just go day by day. And then before you know it, you have a week, and then a week turns into a month. And so I love that. And then also, you mentioned trees and trees are just such a life giving force and I use them a lot in my meditation. And so I love that you talked about having to nourish the small trees and uproot the dead trees and such a powerful visualization as to how to go about making a clearing for your recovery. Okay, thanks again. hope you're well.

Duane Osterlind 12:52
Hello, my name is Duane Osterlind. And I'm the host of the Addicted Mind podcast. So the question is why What's the one thing you wish you knew in early sobriety? So thinking about that question, I think my answer would be, don't let fear stop you from asking for help, or asking for support. If there was one thing I'd want anybody to know is that there's nothing to be afraid of when asking for support, and there's nothing to be ashamed of, of getting support and getting help. So if you had any lesson to learn in this journey that I would want to pass along, or that I've gotten from my own experience, is that there are so many people out there who want to help you. Don't be afraid to ask for that help. And don't be ashamed to get it and take it and use it and then thrive in your life?

Adina Silvestri 14:08
Hey, Duane, so good to hear from you. I love that you talk about not being afraid to ask for support. And then also, on the flip side, not being ashamed for getting it. And I think that when you ask for support, there's a level of vulnerability in that, and I talk a lot about this in the podcast. That vulnerability, to me, equals courage. And so it's not something that we're taught, unfortunately, but I'm hoping that that's something that that we could share more often true for each other. You know, because we all need support every now and then. Okay. Thank you.

Nicole Burgess 14:57
Hi, this is Nicole Burgess Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy. And leadership coach Athena's question is what's the one thing you wish you knew early in sobriety, and my conversation with her was actually about trauma work. So I'm going to talk about the one thing I tell clients early on when they start their trauma recovery work. So it's making sure you're gentle with yourself, have a lot of self compassion when you're doing this healing work. You have the right to tell your therapist to pause to stop if you're in a session and you're feeling really flooded with emotions or intense emotions, and let them know that and have them help you get re centered or re grounded again, during the session. Also, talk with your therapist about having some coping skills at the very beginning before you do this deep recovery work. So that when intense emotions come up or intense memories come up. You have a way that you can truly self regulate. I think the biggest thing is just recognize that you're doing This work and that you're very strong and that you're courageous and doing this work so that it doesn't run your life anymore, that you're getting reconnected to your more higher self to herself, and that you're able to master this and move through it so that you can live life in a more healthy and thriving way versus just existing. Take care.

Adina Silvestri 16:25
Hey, Nicole, thanks so much for coming on and for sharing your wisdom. I feel like trauma and addiction, more often than not go hand in hand. And so, you know, I love the part about talking to your therapist, about intense emotions that you might be having. And, you know, we don't always have to work through intense emotions. You know, we can stop and learn coping skills first we can stop and learn to self correct First. And that's sometimes the safer thing to do than just going, sort of headfirst into this black rookie hole without any survival gear on. Right. So I love that. And then yeah, knowing that you have a support team, making sure that you utilize that support team, and not being afraid to to ask for help. Thanks again.

Peter Finger 17:29
Hi, this is Pete Finger from Smart Recovery. And I think the thing that I wish I knew early in sobriety is that it gets easier and easier as you go. I didn't realize that when I first got sober or the first three weeks of getting sober, that that would be the most difficult time and I've come to know that because I've been teaching groups for about five years now. And I know that I used alcohol You know, other people use drugs, but I use alcohol to cope with things in my life. And once I started learning new coping skills, such as gardening or walking or working out or whatever I'm doing, and I started to kind of exercise that muscle, then the urges to drink got less and less. And now I really don't even think of it too much anymore. So if you are new in recovery, know that it gets so much easier. You just have to keep marching forward, and all will come on even. Thanks so much, and everyone have a great day.

Adina Silvestri 18:40
Hey, Peter, so good to hear from you. Yeah, I love that you talk about just knowing it gets easier as you go. And then also having new coping skills to replace the old coping skills so that alcohol was one of yours, and so Now you're doing gardening and all these other things to replace that old coping skill. That's I think that's so important. And I appreciate you coming on. Thanks.

Dr. Liz Bonet 19:12
Hi, Dr. Liz here. The one thing I wish I knew in early sobriety is that the promises are real. Please stick with it. If you work steps, you get a sponsor. Their promises Really do come true. I wish I had really known that because I would hear them and I would think oh my gosh, this is impossible, right? Like these people are not they're crazy, but hey, I'm here. I need it. So I wish I knew they were real. Yeah. And that things are gonna get so much better. So so much better, that you cannot imagine how much bad things are gonna get. Your whole life feels good. It changes. Your children will change if you have children, your marriage or you'll find them Make an amazing partner. Once you're sober and have been through recovery and get healthier and healthier, your whole life is going to get better. Peace.

Adina Silvestri 20:09
Hey, Liz, so good to hear from you. I love how you say that the promises are real. He know and that is that that everyone was pretty crazy. How could they be living such a great life? Is it really this great? No, I can't be true. Right? And then I love how you talk about your whole life is going to get better. You know, once you're sober, you're going to just be this model for your kids. And your relationships are going to be better. You know, all these things are going to improve as a result of your recovery. You won't have to feel any more shame. You know, that's like totally taken out of the equation at least shame related to recovery, or shame related to that. And so not that I want to be there, but inevitably, it is there. So I love that. Right. Well, thanks for coming on. Bye.

Julie Cole 21:11
Hey, this is Julie Cole and I am a person in long term recovery. One thing I wish I had known in early sobriety was that this thing really is a marathon rather than a sprint. When I got here, I felt like I had lost so much. And I really worked hard to clamor to try to get all back at one time. When I ended up learning along the way is that it works better if I slow down. I stay with my feet or with my breath. I focus on right what's right in front of me in the rest of it really honestly does work itself out.

Adina Silvestri 21:50
Hey, Julie. So I love that you talk about slowing down and staying with your breath. I feel like I talk a lot about this in my private practice, in order to not think about the future and not think about the past, we really have to ground ourselves in the moment and you talk about noticing, you know your feet and noticing your breath. And I think that's a great coping skill in order for us to detach from the pain. And maybe the tap is the wrong word, but to separate from the pain, acknowledge it, you know, but don't let that become you. And, you know, just to focus on the now. And those are great tips. So I hope you're well. My name is Ed Weinstein, and I'm 61 years old.

Edie Weinstein 22:45
What I wish I knew in early sobriety was that it was a process, not a one and done event. But just to be clear, my addiction is not to a substance, but rather to a series of behaviors. I consider myself a recovering type A plus workaholic codependent, which means that I always thought that it was my job to fix, save, heal, or take care of everybody, but myself, and it took a heart attack in 2014, to have me realize that I was nowhere near ready to acknowledge that I had an addiction. And people have been telling me for years that I needed to slow down. So paying attention to other people. I wish I had known that. I'm also an addictions counselor, which means you think I would know that I could handle this, but I'm just as much immersed in recovery processes any lay person.

Adina Silvestri 23:40
Hey, Edie, thanks so much for coming on. Yeah, I love that you. You also, like some of the other guests that we've heard from today, in the episode, say that it's a process. This recovery journey is a process. It's not a one and done event. It's not linear. And it's just Okay, if you have some hiccups, and I also love that you talk about being a therapist, I think it's interesting that people will talk to me. And they'll say, we have therapists on your podcast and they have addiction issues. We didn't think that that, you know, we never thought that that would be true, or, you know, so yeah, therapists are real people. And we have, we have real problems just like everyone else. And so really appreciate you coming on and being vulnerable and talking about your struggles because we all have them and needs to get at.

Matt Markowicz 24:41
The one thing I wish I knew in early recovery, was that my real problem was loneliness. And I wish I had someone to help me not only just recognize how disconnected I was from other people, Which I kind of already knew. But how the disconnection with my own self and parts of self was is and always was going to be an impediment to my connecting with ability to connect with other people. So yeah, that's my story.

Adina Silvestri 25:14
Thanks. He match. Yeah, I love that you talk about loneliness and how loneliness was a big issue for you, and that you really were disconnected from other people, but also you're disconnected from yourself. And so really learning how to mend that relationship. And that's, that's just so true. You know, I think even addiction aside, we all have to learn how to have that self compassion and that self love before we could ever give it to anyone else. And so I appreciate you. Thanks, Matt.

Diane Diaz Rodriguez 25:53
The one thing I wish could be known in early sobriety is how loss and grief can show up in early recovery, and how unresolved grief has been at the foundation of being stuck. unresolved grief leads to wanting to stay numb or escape the cycle social, physiological pain that hasn't been identified or attended to. The grief is complicated because it requires the full attention of working through physical symptoms manifesting in the body, with psychological pain coming through as persistent thoughts and emotional pain that comes through as overwhelming feelings. Add to that the social distancing of people who we want to be connected with, and the dysfunctional coping of who we are in meshed with and recovery becomes a disenfranchised grief that is recognized and understood only by those who have lived it and supported the growth into sobriety in a healthy, consistent and productive manner. When anticipatory grief is recognized. The secondary losses address can then reveal the foundation of what lies Beneath and gives us the insight we need to help heal the unresolved grief that perpetuates the struggle in sobriety.

Adina Silvestri 27:09
Hey Dee Dee, the resident grief educator, I have learned so much from you. And I love how you talk about loss in grief and how it can show up in early sobriety. I find too that individuals that especially smokers individuals that have been nicotine addiction, I find that there is a lot of unresolved grief that we have to tackle before their nicotine addiction will be, quote unquote, resolved, or we can or we could at least get to the to the root cause. And so I really appreciate you talking about this important topic and Hopefully individuals will be more aware of these persistent thoughts and overwhelming feelings and know that it's all a normal part of sobriety. We're not numbing the pain anymore. And so we have to now acknowledge and investigate what's really going on. Thanks.

Chris Marshall 28:24
Hi, my name is Chris Marshall from Austin, Texas. I'm the owner and founder of sans bar, a sober bar. And the one thing that I wish I knew when I was in early sobriety Is that fun is an essential part of sobriety that I have to learn to have fun again. I have to feel free to celebrate every single day that I'm alcohol free.

Adina Silvestri 28:46
Hey, Chris. Yeah, I love that you talked about the one thing you wish you knew was that you have to have fun in early sobriety. Yeah, your life has to be So much better sober than it was prior to being sober. You know, so that you will want to go back. And so I really appreciate that that insight there. Okay, hope Sans Bar is doing well, Thanks, Chris.

Mishka Shubaly 29:16
Hey, this is Mishka Shubaly. I wish that I knew that things would get better and how much better they would get. Specifically that I would be able to have fun again and not like boring. You know, boring sort of kids and adults fun have birthday cake and balloons in the park or something but real genuine fun laughing so hard that I can't breathe laughing till tears come out of my eyes laughing until I think I'm gonna pee my pants. You know, just having fun with my friends and having a fulfilling life that isn't dependent upon some sort of G rated fun because I'm not hammered. dick jokes are still available to you in sobriety, incredibly offensive humor is still available to you in sobriety. Take advantage of it. Have fun, make fun part of your recovery program.

Adina Silvestri 30:17
Hey, Mishka, So good to hear from you. Yes, I couldn't agree more. Make fun a part of your recovery program. And incredibly offensive jokes are still on the table and sobriety. I'm sure everyone will be happy to know so. So yeah, I think we'll probably wrap up then guys, and I really appreciate everybody taking the time to come on and share their wisdom and expertise and, and I and I had a lot of fun making this episode. If you liked this episode. And the previous 53 episodes, please do go to iTunes and leave us a rating and review. The more ratings we receive, the more This episode will be sent out to people that really need to hear it. And so I'd really appreciate if you would do that. Okay guys, thanks. Bye.

Music 31:26
Thank you for listening to the Atheists in Recovery podcast. For more great info and to stay up to date. Head over to

Welcome to today’s show!



This episode features 15 of our past guests. Each guest submitted an audio recording answering the question: “What’s the one thing you wish you knew in early sobriety.” This show was so much fun to work on. This episode is also a celebration of sorts as we mark the one year anniversary of the podcast! After this episode, I am taking a much needed break but will be back in September with brand new episodes.


  • Joe C. shares his message to his younger self and his analogy between recovery time and flying a plane is a good one!  Joe’s website is Rebellion Dogs Publishing
  • Tom Bannard discusses how the hard recovery work will pay off. Tom’s website is VCU’s Rams in Recovery
  • Bari Cohen shares what she wishes she knew about a connection to a higher power and fully committing to the 12 steps. Bari’s Facebook page is, Bari Cohen
  • Liv Pennelle’s experience is, recovery is fluid and your needs change as you progress. Liv’s website is: Liv’s Recovery Kitchen
  • Bill Greer discusses learning how not to be overwhelmed at the start. He uses great imagery to drive home his point. His website is:  Smart Recovery USA
  • Duane Osterlind shares there is nothing to be afraid of when asking for support and nothing to be ashamed of for getting support. His website is: Novus Mindful Life
  • Nicole Burgess talks about what she would tell clients who are starting their trauma recovery journey. Her website is: Nicole Burgess Coaching
  • Peter Finger shares that recovery gets easier as you go and having new coping skills to replace the old ones helps to exercise that recovery muscle. His website is:  Smart Recovery South Dakota
  • Dr. Liz discuses how your whole life is going to get better in recovery and your future self will thank you. Her website is: Dr. Liz Hypnosis
  • Julie Cole says she wishes she knew to slow down in early recovery and to treat it like a marathon and not a sprint. Her website is: Cole Wellness
  • Rev. Edie Weinstein shares recovery is a process and not a one and done event. Her website is: Opti Mystical
  • Matt Markowicz discusses loneliness and disconnection with self as being his primary battles in early sobriety. You can reach him on Linkedin: Matt’s Linkedin Page
  • Diane D Rodriguez (Dee Dee) discusses how loss and grief can show up in early sobriety and help to keep us stuck. Her website is: Live Life Changed
  • Chris Marshall-says that fun needs to be a focus in your sobriety. His website is: The Sans Bar
  • Mishka Shubaly says both laughing til it hurts and inappropriate jokes are still available to you in sobriety and to have fun! His website is: Mishka Shubaly

For more info, head over to and subscribe to our email list. And thank you for listening!


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