SHOW NOTES: Today on The SHAIR Podcast our featured guest is Eric Zimmer the Host and the Founder of the The One you Feed a very successful Podcast based on the parable about the battle between two wolves, a good wolf and a bad wolf inside all of us. It’s a Podcast featuring conversations about creating a life worth living.
However, prior to launching this Podcast Eric battled drugs and alcohol for many years. He started his drinking career getting drunk on mouthwash as a teenager and though he did not like the taste of alcohol he did love the effects. Shortly thereafter Eric begins experimenting with heroin and quickly evolves into a full blown drug addict living in the streets.
To support his drug habit Eric resorts to stealing check books and credit cards out of cars and soon had outstanding warrants for forgery and grand theft. Due to the severe consequences of his addiction and criminal behavior Eric seeks recovery and manages to stay clean and sober for 8 years. When his wife cheats on him with a friend who is also in recovery Eric develops resentment with recovery and relapses. Over the next few years Eric hits even harder rock bottoms and ultimately is forced to seek recovery again. Today Eric has over 8 years clean and has found his purpose in life through his podcast.
Join us now as Eric takes us through 20 years of drug addiction, alcoholism, relapse and his remarkable journey into recovery.
Here are Eric’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer:
Eric: Yeah, so my life today is a great life. It’s very, very full, which I try not to complain about. Every once in a while I find myself complaining and I’m like “wait a minute. I’m choosing this”. All of the things in my life are great. So my life is really good. My routine is kind of I don’t have as much routine as I would like, particularly with the travel schedule I’ve been keeping lately. So every day looks a little bit different, but usually has some form of working on the show, working on the podcast, doing some other consulting work that I do and then recovery related events, which are for me are a little bit more like internal how am I taking care of myself inside myself. That’s kind of the basics. It’s hard to say exactly what one day looks like. I wish they were a little bit more standard now.
O: So Eric, tell me then what is it that you do to maintain your spiritual condition?
Eric: Yeah and I think that’s the key for me. As long as we’re in spiritual condition, alcohol or drugs are not a problem for us and so the show that I do is my primary way of staying in fit spiritual condition and that’s why I started. It really was, I figured that if I’m interviewing somebody, the show is about feeding your good wolf, it’s about making the right choices and so I figured if I’m interviewing somebody every week for that, that I’m reading their book or material to get ready for that so I’m kind of immersed in that and then I’ve got the community that’s grown up around the show of people that I’m talking to and working with. So those are really the ways that I feed my good wolf, the way I keep in good fit spiritual condition. Also I meditate every day. That’s a big piece for me. I’m a daily meditator, which I’ve been doing pretty much every day for the last several years. So those are the main components of it for me.
O: Now your show “The One You Feed” is based on a parable. Tell us what that parable is.
Eric: Yeah, it goes sort of like this. There’s a grandparent who is talking with his grandson and he says “in life there are two wolves inside of us that are always at battle. One’s a good wolf, which represents things like kindness and bravery and love and the other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed and hatred and fear” and the context of the show I would say addiction. The grandson stops and he thinks about it for a second, looks up at his grandfather and says “well grandfather, which one wins” and the grandfather says “the one you feed”. I got that parable. I mean I heard that parable the first time in recovery and I think for anybody in recovery, you hear that and it’s just an instant like ‘whoa’ you get it instantly.
That is kind of what this whole thing is about. I would say this goes for everybody given the culture we live in, but if you’re kind of on auto pilot, particularly if you’re an addict, you’re going to feed that addiction wolf. No question about it. It takes a conscious effort to feed the good wolf, which is why recovery is as action focused in my mind as it is. It’s about taking the actions to feed that good wolf or to strengthen our recovery. This show is not a recovery show. We have a lot of people on who are not in recovery, but the themes are absolutely woven through it and my perspective of the world has been extremely shaped by my recovery, so yeah, it’s very focused in that way and I agree that I think the Serenity Prayer is probably the most powerful piece of wisdom I’ve ever gotten.
How old were you the first time you drank or used drugs and more importantly how did that make you feel?
Eric: Yeah, I think the first time I was probably 15 years old and I got drunk on mouthwash, which is an odd way to start, but it was not the last time for the mouthwash. I think it made me feel really good. Yeah, it definitely made me, I don’t think the switch flipped immediately, but I remember thinking it felt pretty good.
O: So mouthwash was the first thing you drank! Did you actually drink the mouthwash?
Eric: Oh yeah. It happens. Somebody said “I heard you can get drunk on mouthwash” and I was like, I don’t even know what drunk is. I’ve never been drunk, but I was young and stupid and I said “I’ll drink a bottle of mouthwash” and sure enough, it will work. I wouldn’t recommend, and then the crazy part is that I went on to do it a bunch more times, except I learned that I don’t know why I just didn’t try to get alcohol elsewhere. Maybe I thought it was funny, but I would start by drinking a bottle of Pepto-Bismol and then drink the mouthwash. I did not drink normally from the start. I remember a church trip to Florida where I had the whole group drunk on mouthwash one night and everyone was throwing up. It was just a mess. I recommend Scope. Listerine is a hard way to go.
O: I guess it’s a more minty flavor, right?
Eric: Right, exactly.
O: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Eric: I think still some degree of resistance to getting clean. I finally realized like I need the meetings. I need the social support. I need the steps. I need the spirituality. I need all of it and previous times I had taken bits and pieces of that so when I finally embraced it and said “I’m going to take all of it”, it worked.
O: Perfect and that is funny because at one point you were like “I don’t know what it was. I don’t know why it was so difficult coming back in the second time” and all I kept thinking to myself is it’s a giant ego that we have that is just constantly just screaming at us that we’re not good enough or that we don’t need this and more importantly there’s that feeling of perfectionism, at least for me. I know when I don’t do something right the first time, well moving on to the next thing and I think recovery is no different. You had this stretch going where you were doing well and eight years is a long time so coming off that stretch is like such an ego deflating issue. I can totally relate to you when you said “man I don’t want to start over again” or “I don’t want to
Eric: “I don’t want to have to get sober again”.
O: Yes. That’s great. I love it! I don’t want to get sober again.
Eric: I think for the newcomer that’s such an important point because being sober is a great thing. A life in recovery is a great thing. Getting there, that part of getting sober is often just hell and so if you’re new, you’re probably in that spot for a little while and if you can just hang on. I think the other thing that keeps people from getting clean, it did me, is that I’d get clean for 4-5 days and I would feel so awful and be like “this is what sobriety is? Forget it” and no, that is not what sobriety is. Sobriety is a whole different ball game. That’s the getting over process and that is no fun, but if you can stick through that, the good stuff is right on the other side.
At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ‘aha’ moment in recovery where you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed that hope that you could recover?
Eric: I think it was probably somewhere in that 28 day treatment program when I said I would be willing to go to the six month treatment program. I think somewhere in there I had that moment of “alright, I give up. You guys say this is what I should do. I’ll do it because I want to get sober and I believe I can and I believe it’s worth doing” so it was somewhere in there I think was the first big ‘aha’ moment.
Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
Spirituality of Imperfection – Ernest Kurtz
Eric: Wow that’s a great question! I certainly read all the AA approved stuff and I got a lot out of that. There’s a book called “The Spirituality of Imperfection”, which is a great book by Ernest Kurtz. He talks a lot about AA and so that book was really helpful to me in my recovery to frame things in a slightly different way, but I have always been, since I got into recovery, I mean I’ve just read a lot of spiritual stuff. I lean much more Buddhist so I read a lot of that kind of stuff, but I find reading spiritual things or inspiring things are really powerful and add on to my recovery. I think Bill Wilson said at one point today is kind of like spiritual kindergarten. We need to grow outside of that and lead our own spiritual lives so I read a lot, but that’s a great book to start with.
O: Perfect. You know what’s funny is my sponsor gave me that book years ago and I still have not read it because I’m not a reader and I usually listen to everything on audible and I don’t think it’s on audible because I think I would have already found it, but I’m glad you brought it up.
Eric: It’s not on audible and that’s funny because I keep a list of things I someday want to do and that one and one other AA related book that’s not AA, I can’t remember which one it is exactly, but is on my list to someday get those made into audio programs.
O: No kidding?
Eric: No kidding. I think some of that stuff is so powerful. I do think that audio provides something that’s really special for people. Particularly if they don’t love to read. I love to read, but I get that a lot of people don’t and I love audio books too.
O: Normally most of us have a commute to work, so you’re going to be in the car for half an hour to an hour, which was where our popularity comes in and that’s where I’ve digested so much of the books that I’ve heard recommended. I go to audible, if it’s on there, I download it and I’m off to work. I love those things so yeah man, that’s funny. If you get it transcribed or on audible. I want it. Hook me up!
Eric: I will. Trust me. It’s in the next couple of years plan. Someday maybe.
What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Eric: Whoa! Best suggestion I have ever received. Now I am stumped. I mean I’m trying to think of a specific suggestion and I think the best suggestion I’ve ever received is kind of what we get in the Serenity Prayer, which is look for what you can change and if you can’t change it, find a way to let it go. I think that’s the biggest one for me.
If you could give a newcomer only one suggestion, what would that be?
SUGGESTION’S FOR THE NEWCOMER!
“Keep coming back”
Eric: Yeah, it’s cliche, but keep coming back. We say that for a reason because if you do, you can get sober whoever you are. You can and it is worth the effort so just keep coming back. I know it sucks in the beginning sometimes, but that’s not the way it will remain, so keep doing it. Even when you fail.
O: It’s one of the most popular suggestions when I ask that question. Keep coming back is one of the top suggestions because it’s so true. Most of us and your story, it’s all riddled with that. If you would have just kept coming back. You bring the body. The mind follows. We’ve heard that before so if you just keep coming back, eventually it will marinate.
Eric: Yeah, I mean all the other suggestions will come to be if you just keep showing up and I mean it’s that way for a lot of people. I just know so many people who it didn’t take the first time so they come back. It didn’t take the second time and they come back, but sooner or later, for most of us it takes.
Thanks again for your SHAIR Eric!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not