(Disclaimer: This transcript was made using AI technology. Please excuse any errors.)
Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery.
And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Adina Silvestri 0:11
Hello Atheists in Recovery land and welcome to Episode 47 of the atheists in recovery podcast. And I'm excited to introduce you to my next guest. We are talking with the author of Cold Turkey: How to Quit Drinking by Not Drinking. And before I get into the show, I just want to let you know that I always condone safely quitting drinking, right? So always get professional help talk to your medical provider. I don't want you to ever quit without talking to to your support system and to medical professionals. Okay, so we got that out of the way. Let's talk about our episode today. How to quit drinking by not drink. And so we have on today Mishka Shubaly. And he is going to talk to us about how to quit drinking without AA, the tools he has cultivated along his 10 year road to sobriety and why being a dick, aka telling himself some hard truths helped him to find the courage to begin a path to sobriety. And he does it on his own terms. And you guys know that I am all about individualized recovery. And so, sort of stress testing the swear words, Alrighty, but this episode contains language that is not suitable for children and those offended by swear words. I encourage you though to, if possible, merely filter it out, because I do believe that this content is really valid. And I really like what he has to say. Onto our guest. Mishka Shubaly Mishka is the author of seven best selling Kindle singles and a memoir. I swear I'll make it up to you. He has traveled the world as a songwriter, storyteller and comedian, sharing the stage with artists like Doug Stanhope, Richard price, Ron White and Lydia lunch. In 2001. He survived a shipwreck. And in 2017 he was a clue on Jeopardy, which we talked about. We're not writing, recording or touring. He teaches nonfiction at the Yale Writers Workshop. In the spring of 2020. he celebrated 11 years sober. Alright guys, let's get this party started. Mishka Shubaly, Welcome to the show.
Mishka Shubaly 2:34
Thanks for having me.
Adina Silvestri 2:36
So I am really excited that you are here with us today. And I thought we would start with this random fact that I found about you that you were a clue on Jeopardy in 2017. Let's start there.
Mishka Shubaly 2:50
Yeah, it caught me by as much surprise as it probably caught you. I was living in Atlanta at the time and my phone. You know, somebody texted me and they were like, dude, I'm The gym and I swear I'm not imagining this, I think you were a clue on Jeopardy. And I was like, Nah, that's no, you know, like, you should probably drink more, maybe get some, you know, electrolytes and you know, that's not happening. And then maybe an hour later, my phone went so nuts that I thought that, like, I'd gotten it wet and the battery was melting down or something because I just got so many messages, but I never got to see it live. So I don't think I had a TV at the time. But yeah, I was I was a clue on Jeopardy. And it was $1,000 question and the and the person got it right, too.
Adina Silvestri 3:35
Mishka Shubaly 3:36
It had to do with so I had a string of, you know, successful stories published with Amazon. And I was running with my editor one day, and he was, you know, I was like, Oh, you know, we should do a collection and I would love for you to write the foreword. And he was like, I'll do it. But you know, you should shoot for the moon. You should. You should email Jeff Bezos and see if he'll write it.
Adina Silvestri 3:56
Mishka Shubaly 3:57
And then you know when my next article went out for a run a couple months later. And my next story like went to number one and I came in and I had that, like runner's high. And I was like, fuck it. I'm gonna, yeah, I'm gonna email Jeff Bezos, and I emailed him. And it was just one of those things that I, you know, you send out in the universe and that you'd have no expect of, you know, expectation of hearing back. And he emailed back like an hour later and was like, hey, big fan. Yeah, I'd love to do it. Wow. So that was a that was a bizarre experience. And and the foreword, they wrote is totally beautiful. It was like really touching. It was super cool.
Adina Silvestri 4:36
And where do I find that forward?
Mishka Shubaly 4:37
The it's in the digital collection that's available on Amazon.
Adina Silvestri 4:43
That is so cool. All right. Well, let's talk a little bit about your spiritual background. From childhood.
Mishka Shubaly 4:52
My family is all sort of staunch Roman Catholic and most of them are pretty conservative. My mom comes from a family of 17 Children, Northern Saskatchewan. She was the second of 17. And you know, most of my family still lives in like rural Canada. And they're roughnecks. They're rednecks. They're hillbillies, you know, farmers, ranchers, they work on oil rigs work in the oil fields, and I love them all terribly. Hmm. However, my mom was sort of the black sheep of her family. So, you know, though her family and sort of most of my extended family is deeply Catholic, we only got the sort of, like the secondhand smoke of religion, which is to say that I feel guilty about fucking everything. But there's no there's no belief system tied to it, you know, and, you know, we would go to church like once a year ago to midnight mass or whatever, and, and I grew up in a pretty Christian, pretty Catholic community. But I remember distinctly, we left Canada when I was eight. And it was, it was quite a bit before that. So I was probably like five or six. Remember, it was summertime I was wearing my little green running shorts. And like nothing else, I think I have my soccer ball or maybe my skateboard with me. I walked out into the driveway, I looked up into the sky. And I thought, now, there's nothing up there. It's just clouds, you know? And that's it. You know, so I guess I'm not really I'm not really atheist anymore. I'm anti theist. But you know, for, I guess it's an important distinction to me that there was no like, crisis of conscience, you know, I didn't see like, see a family member die in a horrible way or something like that. And then I was like, there is no God. It was just, you know, there's no exclamation point for for me there was just there. There's no God, you know, and, yes, and, you know, and and what after that,
Adina Silvestri 6:45
and we will adjust all of that in the podcast today. I'm kidding. We don't have time. Yeah, so, so you're anti theists and I'm sure that that had an impact on your recovery. And so I'm wondering if you can can now talk a little about the book. So finding sobriety without AA
Mishka Shubaly 7:06
Yeah, I drank hard for a long time I quit drinking when I was 32. Yesterday was actually my 11 year sobriety anniversary. And thank you. One of the things that I struggled with was that growing up there was, you know, there was this dichotomy, that there was like, the bad people who drank and partied and listened to Guns and Roses and like, had a good fun time with their lives. And then there were like, the good people who didn't drink and went to church, and were uptight and didn't curse and like, went to bed at 8pm and, you know, had these sort of like boring, constricted lives, you know? So, I understood very early on that at some point in my life, I was gonna have to quit drinking forever. I mean, I think I was 17 when I identify I was an alcoholic and quit drinking a short 15 years later. But part of you know, I mean, and I'm, you know, I'm honest about this in cold turkey, you know, where I said I was willing to endure the worsening horrors of my own alcoholism, just to avoid going to AA and part of why I didn't want to go to AA was was the god shit, you know? And to me it felt like door to door salesmen techniques, you know that they're going to like, get the door open with this higher power shit and that but then it's very quickly turns into God and God being a man, a straight man, a white man, and you know, you know, sort of like dick cheney with a long flowing beard, you know, and if I had a God that is not who it would be. I knew that when I got sober it had to be without AA because I just, I'd lived a godless life for a long time and I knew that that was that was the way forward for me that the problem in my life was not the absence of God, it was the presence of alcohol. And so I just, I just did it my own way I did it, you know, the only way that I knew how to to get sober and to stay sober, you know, and then being sober outside of AA, without any kind of theistic belief has sort of helped me evolve over the years and, you know, interrogating my beliefs has, you know, has actually helped me a lot to develop, I guess my relationship with the world in the absence of God or spirituality or anything like that.
Adina Silvestri 9:37
Mm hmm. Yeah, thank you for that.
Mishka Shubaly 9:40
I just as a being 100% honest, I have I have to reluctantly identify now as agnostic and no longer atheist. I'm like, anti theist agnostic, because a couple of years ago, I smoked DMT and I thought it was you I went into it with no preparation and saw some things there that I can't explain.
Adina Silvestri 10:06
You can't unsee?
Mishka Shubaly 10:06
Yeah. And so I like came out of this trip, you know, feeling like I've been turned reluctantly against my will into some like, you know 50 year old white dude with a ponytail and Arrowhead, you know pendant and mariachi sandals that like, oh, we're all connected by this life force man. And I don't want to believe that at all. But I can no longer say comfortably that I'm an atheist. And I just have to say, I recognize how puny I am in the universe and that I can't. I can't say there is there is a God or there is no God. However, I am anti theist in that I don't think that the concept of God serves humanity. I don't think it helps us. I think it hurts us.
Adina Silvestri 10:48
Yeah, yeah, I think that we could probably have a whole other episode about smoking DMT let's talk now about the book cold turkey. So you're narrating it? And I love how you in the beginning sort of give us the Mishka Smackdown where you tell us to Stop bullshitting. So, so then if that doesn't turn you off and you keep listening in which you should, you're like this, this roommate that is walking alongside us, you're like this good Angel on our shoulder, and the hardness softens a bit. So, so you don't take a prescriptive approach at all. which is which is important to note.
Mishka Shubaly 11:29
Yeah, I mean, I think part of being you know, being atheist or being agnostic is recognizing how little you know, and I fucking hate Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz and and Dr. Drew any doctor on TV unless they're just an actor playing a doctor in a sitcom. I think it's bullshit. You know, it's like this cult of personality, you know, and it's in no way are they serving people are they serving the greater good, you know, I mean, it's, you know, done. Dr. Phil has has lost his license to give, I guess he's lost. He had some, I can't remember exactly what it was, but he had been given a degree from some school and then they sort of took it away from him. So now guests on his show have to sign a waiver saying that they're not receiving input from a doctor, but just advice from a TV personality. And it's been proven that Dr. Oz regularly like tells people to do things that go against medical advice where he's just lining his pockets, you know, so I wanted to say you want one to come to it clearly and say listen, I the only authority that I have here is my own my sole source of authority on this subject is my own journey you know, and I don't have any certificate from any school or anything like that to say why you should listen to me there's no money back guarantee I'm it's just I just care about this. I just give a shit you know that like quitting drinking radically transformed my life and That has been the thing that's made the new life that I have possible. And if people don't want to quit drinking, then fucking game on, you know, have a good time. But if you're miserable with your drinking, I want to give to give you all the tools that I've developed from over 10 years of sobriety, to give you the means of controlling your life of getting better on your own and on your own terms. And part of that is, yeah, it's been a dick. You know, I had to like really be a dick to myself, and just say, you know, you, you got to fucking knock this off. You got it, you have to change your mind. So hopefully, it's helpful to have that externalized and that it's not a huge turnoff for people to have some stranger who doesn't know you and doesn't know your life and your problems to tell you to like, stop the bullshit, but I think that's the part that that's the one part that no one has objected to. People have objected to everything else but not the drop the bullshit part.
Adina Silvestri 14:01
I like the drop the bullshit part. I do that in therapy only in a much nicer way.
Mishka Shubaly 14:07
Look. The other thing is I think therapists want to say that probably every session and you can't. And I, I can. So I did.
Adina Silvestri 14:18
So I want to, there are a couple steps in the book, I think there are four steps, and we won't be going over them in the podcast. But I do want to talk about some of the key takeaways that I really liked. One is you tell the listeners, and this is an audio book, by the way, and you tell the listeners to stay sober for 30 days. Tell me about that. Why 30 days and then what happens after 30 days?
Mishka Shubaly 14:44
Yeah, you know, maybe the spoiler alert here. I tried to do the same thing in the audio book that I found to be so reprehensible in AA with the higher power God switch, you know, which is to tell somebody You're gonna stop drinking now and forever. They're like, Fuck that. No, no way. But if you just get the thin edge of the wedge in there to just say, listen, you're just you're gonna promise to me now you're going to do 30 days, anyone can do 30 days everyone can do 30 days, you're, it's just you're just taking a month off, you know, and that's something that exists that that's like sort of fairly, like even celebrated in the drinking world is, you know, dry January or sober October or you basically taking a month off and if you love drinking, if you want to drink happily for the rest of your life, you should take a month off every year, you know, that is I think that's a great way to to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. You know, I try to just tell people listen, you're just going to take a month off. So it's sort of like making it bite size sobriety. But I think 30 days is long enough, where people whether the worst physical withdrawals It's long enough that they see a reversal, where after 30 days, your nausea goes away your headaches go away. You're sleeping better, you feel physically stronger, your brain is clearer. And a lot of people went, you know, when we quit drinking, you find like, Oh, I just lost 15 pounds by doing nothing, you know? Or, oh, my face looks better for some reason. Or, you know, when I quit drinking, I got younger. Like, you know, and you're people's eyes seem to get bigger because their faces are less inflamed, you know? Yeah. So in that first 30 days, I feel like you see you get a real good look at what it staying sober long enough to get a good look at what living sober looks like. And then you just keep going. You just keep doing it. You just, just okay. I've had you know a month have good days. And now I'm just going to have another month, you know, if the opportunity is provided, I would like to do another audio book like this, that's, I don't know, colder Turkey, cold turkey er, you know, which is to say how to manage the first six months how to manage the first year, how to manage it after the pink cloud days are gone, you know, after you've been sober for 18 months, and then you're like, Oh, well, I'm fucking to sober all the time now, because your body does sort of reset and recalibrate and it becomes a you know, the new normal to you. Yeah, you know, and there's still challenges 11 years sober. Like, I still every once in a while, just you just wake up and you're like, Oh my god, I just want to drink a gallon of the worst tequila. And like, I never drank tequila. I hated tequila. But for some reason, you just wake up and you just wait, and it goes away. And then you just wait and then you get up and you fucking go Running and like clean out the cat box and do what you have to do you know?
Adina Silvestri 18:05
Yeah, yeah. So we wait the 30 days, and we see what a life without booze is like. And for some people this is our love of this is the love of our life. Right? It's it's the one thing that's been this this constant in our world and so it's, you know, the people that that see me in my private practice Tell me like it's, I can't imagine a life without it, you know, and so we get some distance from it.
Mishka Shubaly 18:31
I wept. When I quit drinking. I just cried and cried and cried. I grieved for alcohol, you know, it was like losing the, you know, the love of my life. It was like losing my best friend. It was like losing. It was sort of like losing my mother. And then it was like, I felt like I had only ever gotten unconditional love from alcohol. You know, it was always there to listen to me and to comfort me and It helped me like keep myself company. So yeah, I mean that shit is absolutely real I grieved for it. I still do sometimes you know i mean and also my life is you know 110% unquestionably better without it. You know, we talked about toxic relationships alcohol is the fucking OG toxic toxic relation.
Adina Silvestri 19:22
I like that. Yes OG toxic relationship. And so we get some space from alcohol during these 30 days. What are some things that we should be looking for after the 30 days? You know what happens next? In the book you talk about which this is I love this. You talk about paying your damn taxes. Yeah.
Mishka Shubaly 19:45
For me, I don't think that alcoholism was my sort of was my original problem. Drinking was an expression of my problems and the problems were that, you know, I'd lived through a lot of trauma and I, you know, and I struggle and even without the trauma I struggle with, you know, depression and anxiety and self loathing and loathing of other people. So, you know, there was a lot there, and when you remove that, or you know, so drinking was sort of a, like a pressure valve for me, you know, where I was able to sort of release that pressure and then when I, you know, that was taken away, I had to find other ways of dealing with that. I I'm an outspoken proponent for crying. You know, I lost a friend last week, ultra runner David Clark, who was like, probably 48 and he was he was huge, you know, sobriety recovery success story the dude lost 150 pounds and became, you know, an elite ultra runner. It was a dear friend. I love him. I love him for the rest of my life, you know, and I saw I just I put my shades on and I go run and I go cry on the road. And you got to run super early in the morning and Phoenix before it gets too hot and you got dark sunglasses people can't tell you're crying so then you can just run around and cry in public and I feel so much fucking better from just feeling my damn feelings, you know and crying about Dave, you know, it's the, you know, you try to bottle that shit up, but why would you? You know, it's like nature has provided us with up with a perfect and it's not even like a head trick or something. It's energy made matter, right you take that negative energy that grief, that sadness, that frustration and you turn it into a physical thing, you know?
Adina Silvestri 21:45
Mishka Shubaly 21:46
So it's tears are miraculous, man. Just, you know, cry as much as you can just get the shit out, you know?
Adina Silvestri 21:54
Get the shit out.
Mishka Shubaly 21:55
And you know and for me too, you know with you know, with anger. With the anger that I feel, you know, I feel like part of the times it feels like the cost of admission for living in, you know, sort of contemporary society is that no one's allowed to get angry. You know, there's the you know, public freakout you know, subreddit on Reddit, you know, if people like losing their shit in public and it's like, we're not allowed to get angry, but, but everyone gets angry. We all get Angry for for reasons good and bad. And man, when cops are murdering unarmed black people in the streets, a lot of shit to be angry about, you know, so you can poison yourself with anger, or you can use that to fuel something positive, you know, and for me, you know, again, that's, that's running, you know, if I'm running and I feel like I'm out of gas, then I just think about like, what am I angry about this week? What's bothering me, you know, and, you know, you'll find you can crank out a couple extra miles or you know, I have a heavy bag out in the yard. So I you know, I try not to To get angry with my friends and family and people like that, but then I want to put my gloves on, that's when I feel it. That's when I allow myself to process it, and you turn it into a great workout. You know, I mean, that's the that's the best, most productive thing I think you can do with it.
Adina Silvestri 23:16
Yeah, I'm a big proponent of feelings, as you probably already know. But yeah, you have to feel the feelings. And so after these 30 days, they're probably going to be some feelings that are coming up that might seem like you should bury them. But you're saying, No, get them out. Yeah, go for a run,
Mishka Shubaly 23:36
do the exact opposite of bury them, you know. And one of the things too is the largest part of the word emotion is motion, which is to say that feelings are temporary. They're transitory by nature. Happiness is fleeting, sadness is fleeting. Anger is fleeting. So if something happens, you stub your toe or something like that, or somebody, somebody keys your car, right? Don't try not to get angry. Instead, just sit there and get as angry as possible and try to hold on to it for as long as you can. And those two things have feeling the feeling and then trying to hold on to it trying to preserve it. It's impossible. The only way to hold on to anger forever is to bury it. But if you try to feel it and try, you know, after after 15, 20 minutes, you know, Max, you know, you'll be like, fuck it. They just keyed my car It doesn't matter. You know, it's a $200 deductible through insurance or how fucking lucky am I to even have a car worth keying? Or, you know what I did? I did park in a handicapped spot. So maybe that's on me. All right, yeah, that's a lesson you know? Yeah. So yeah, I, you know, I try to just feel it, you know?
Adina Silvestri 25:07
Yeah. Yeah. I like that. And then I'll say you can ask yourself is this feeling needed? Like, should I be feeling this way? You know, like, yeah, emotions, especially anger, you know, they're they're there for a reason. They're, we need to know what what's going on beneath it. So,
Mishka Shubaly 25:25
one, one of the things that I didn't put in the book that I wish I had put in the book, and if there's another version I will put in there
Adina Silvestri 25:34
Mishka Shubaly 25:35
Yes, colder Turkey.
Coldest Turkey is fun. Should be an integral part of every recovery program.
Adina Silvestri 25:45
Mishka Shubaly 25:46
You know, my cat in the morning when I let her out into the yard. You know, I open the door so she can go out and she won't go out. She looks at me because she's like, No, I'm not going out. We're going out. And she's right. You know, let's So what she wants is she wants us to go out in the yard together and she wants me to chase her around. And to let her chase me a little bit. And she wants to have fun. So it's it's a really important I mean, I I think I would be mortally embarrassed if I saw you know, if people were, there was some live feed of like a grown ass man 43 years old chasing his cat around the yard. But that's an integral part of not just a recovery but like a being a fucking human being man. You know, like, God forbid we enjoy this ride a little bit, you know, and it doesn't have to be getting hammered. It doesn't have to be hookers and blow it doesn't have to be tailgating, you know, some sporting event. It doesn't have to be all capital letters screaming fun. It can just be a little bit of fun. It can just be chasing cat around the yard, but I try to do I have that on my job list every day. Have fun.
Adina Silvestri 27:00
So Mishka as we kind of wrap up here, I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what parts of yourself Do you feel like are different before sobriety. And now,
Mishka Shubaly 27:10
I like to think that I'm more patient now, with myself and with other people. It's funny now because I feel like you know, sober, I require less forgiveness from other people in my life. But I have a better relationship with forgiveness, I'm able to, I'm able to forgive myself more and able to forgive other people more. You know, when I was a kid, I was always like the punks versus the hippies. And I was firmly in the in the, you know, in the punk category, but I'm finding out later in life that I love, love that love is super important. And you should tell people when you love them,
Adina Silvestri 27:47
Mishka Shubaly 27:48
I did. I did a podcast with a guy about art the other day. And you know, we were talking about is there something in the universe or is it just nothing, you know? And I said, Well, I'm I'm sort of A nihilist, which you know, which is to say that I don't think there's any intrinsic order or purpose to the universe, I think the only meaning that we get out of our lives is the meaning that we stitch into it. And the only meaning that I've been able to find the or the best way to bring meaning to my own life, is to feel loved, to express love to make shit to write songs, to build guitars, to, you know, to just to write dick jokes to make stuff to create stuff, and to connect with other people. And I think if I said that 12 years ago, 2008 Mischka would have been like, get the fuck out of here with that stuff. Yeah.
Adina Silvestri 28:45
Yeah. 2008 Mischka wouldn't be buying it.
Mishka Shubaly 28:47
Yeah, not at all.
Adina Silvestri 28:49
Yeah. Okay. Any final words for the atheist in recovery community as we wrap up today?
Mishka Shubaly 28:57
I would say just Embrace, don't fight the duality of human nature but embrace the duality of human nature, you know that there is a lot in recovery. That feels hypocritical. But I think there's actually truth there, you know, which is to say that when you're trying to get better, you have to be hard on yourself. You have to be that own internal voice saying drop the bullshit, you know, so you do have to be hard on yourself. You also have to be gentle to yourself. You have to be generous towards yourself, you know, so it's, it's balancing those two things. They don't cancel each other out. They work in tandem, you know?
Adina Silvestri 29:36
Thank you for that. How can we best find you and the awesome book cold turkey on Audible?
Mishka Shubaly 29:42
The best thing about being Mishka Shubaly is that I'm like, I'm like the Highlander there. There can be only one. I'm the only Mishka Shubaly out there. So if you plug my name into audible that will call up cold turkey and all the other audio books so I have there and if you search money on Amazon that will kick up all my other writing there. My music. I'm @ MishkaSchubaly on Twitter and Instagram. I think I'm facebook.com/MishkaShubaly. I'm the only one out there. I'm really easy to find on the platform of your choice.
Adina Silvestri 30:18
Great. All right, Mishka. Well, thank you so much for being on today.
Mishka Shubaly 30:23
Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure.
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