Charlie Levoir is the host and creator of the Way Out Podcast, a 12-Step Drug and Alcohol Recovery show which aims to demonstrate how lifelong recovery is possible and that we can recover out loud!
Charlie is one of the most entertaining and enlightening storytellers we’ve ever had on SHAIR. Listen as he shares his experience with alcoholism, denial, and long-term recovery through maximum service.
CLEAN DATE: Dec 6th 2014
Listen to Charlie’s story now!
Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Charlie’s day looks normal to most people. First thing in the morning, he hits his knees and prays to a god he admits he only understands a little bit. He asks to be able to do His will for him and to be of service.
Charlie doesn’t leave his bedroom until he’s done with his daily readings and meditations. This has been his routine for the past 3 years, which also happens to be the same amount of time he’s been sober. He doesn’t plan on changing anything.
Charlie is a technology consultant manager and his day job keeps him very busy. He coaches and mentors a team to help develop them into confident and competent individuals. He knows he improves their lives and he finds his work very rewarding.
Charlie has two kids at the ages of 13 and 16 whom he likes to spend time with. Exercise is also a really important facet of his recovery. He walks his dog every day. He considers his dog to be his ‘recovery dog’ and he doesn’t miss his walk unless he is physically unable to go or when it gets so cold in Minnesota that going outside is unthinkable.
On a daily basis, there is a saying Charlie likes to remember that he learned early on:
I can’t be quicker than God.
What this means is that if he decides to react before checking in with God, he’ll probably jump the gun and act out of self will. He makes an effort to pause and check in with God throughout the day to make sure he is not getting ahead of Him.
The 12-Steps are also a big part of Charlie’s spiritual life. Not only does he maintain a personal connection with the god of his understanding, he believes God speaks to him through the other people he meets in the fellowship.
The First Time
Charlie invites us to take a ride in his “Way Back” machine to the year 1997 when he was in high school. He was at a party at his friend’s house whose parents were out of town. This was when Zima was popular, and at the first sip of it, Charlie was in love. He immediately felt comfort and ease. All the things he battled floated away.
I could immediately be the person I wanted to be. It was my superpower.
He proceeded to drink so much he blacked out. He was peeing in sinks, acting crazy, and fighting people for more alcohol who were trying to cut him off. He was so out of control that his friends stuck him in the dog kennel outside. Luckily, Charlie doesn’t remember any of it, especially the moment he stopped breathing and his heart ceased to beat. He was dying of alcohol poisoning.
The kids didn’t want to call the cops because they knew they’d get in trouble, so Charlie’s friend pounded on his chest repeatedly until he regained consciousness and threw up. Afterward, he drank an entire bottle of ipecac syrup and vomited for the next 12 hours. That was his first experience with alcohol. You think it’d be his last.
He drank again the very next day.
Charlie’s mom died of cancer when he was 11. During his traumatic loss, he made a fateful conclusion. He was extremely angry that his mother was taken away and decided he didn’t need that kind of god. He’d just do life on his own. He also realized other people might go away too – they might die – so he wouldn’t connect with others either. Charlie became isolated.
At 15 it was hard to get booze. It was easier to get marijuana and his next door neighbor happened to be a weed dealer. Pot became his substitute for alcohol. It took all the anxiety and fear away and allowed him to feel okay.
But alcohol was his first love and he went into treatment for the first time at 16. He was great at it, but it was only because he bullshitted his whole way through it.
I really just tried to be the treatment ninja. I wanted to get a black belt in treatment.
One woman in his group wasn’t buying it. She called him out and told him he would use again and that he would die. She was right about the first part and could’ve been right about the second if he hadn’t stopped.
Charlie got a DUI at 16 for marijuana. Then he got a DWI when he was 21. He had to work harder and harder to find ways to keep alcohol in his life. When he got married and had his first kid, he tried to keep his problem under wraps. His wife didn’t know about his stints in treatment and his DWIs. He attempted to moderate and hide how much he was actually drinking.
That began this Jekyll and Hyde type life.
His first marriage ended, and his drinking took off after his divorce. He wasn’t accountable to anybody anymore and he made up for lost time by binging on the weekends when he didn’t have his kids.
He’d maintain sobriety when the kids were with him and try to be super dad before getting them to bed as soon as possible so he could get drunk. He thought he had it under control, but his double-life began to feel like it was not authentic. This started to wear on him.
When Charlie was on his third wife, she noticed how much he drank. He denied he had a problem and tried to downplay it, but she was on to him and started counting his drinks. When she realized that he was having way more than a few a day, she asked him to quit for a month.
He had to pretend it was no big deal, but it was hell on earth for him. He knew he had to act happy. If he was miserable it would be a tell that he was an alcoholic. It was incredibly difficult to pull off and he poured his addiction into nicotine and food. He made it to the 30 days, and his wife was off his case for a little while.
Then Thanksgiving and his son’s birthday were coming up and it was the perfect excuse to go out and buy alcohol. Charlie knew he could not get drunk or he’d get divorced, but he did. He got drunk even though he didn’t want to because he couldn’t stop.
His wife asked him what was wrong. Then his son said, “Dad’s just drunk again.” This hit Charlie like a 2×4. His wife told him he had to go to treatment. There was no getting out of it.
Charlie went to an evaluation at Hazelden. He wasn’t expecting anything to happen but once he was there, he just surrendered. He broke down and cried like a baby. His counselor told him he was making a mistake trying to figure out why he was the way he was. What he needed to do is focus on solving the problem.
Why is the wrong question. It’s how. How to get better.
From then on, Charlie was willing to do whatever it took. Even though he hated AA when he had to go to meetings for his DWIs, this time he felt like he was home. He wiped away his concept of a god and started brand new. He prayed and discovered his purpose was to be of maximum service to the god of his understanding and the people around him. That’s when and why he started his podcast.
What kept Charlie from getting clean?
Charlie didn’t think he was like “those people” in the meetings. He was looking at the differences, not the similarities.
That Aha moment
Charlie recalls the moment in his treatment evaluation when he surrendered and cried. He had always thought he was defected and flawed. He thought he was broken, but once he realized that alcoholism was a disease, it removed a tremendous amount of shame and guilt, and he had the hope that he could get better. He knew he could recover from a disease.
Drop the Rock.
Charlie says this book is about character defects, how to identify them, and what to do with them.
Charlie had the most difficult time with Steps 2 and 3 because he gave up on God in his childhood. They are:
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Charlie thought this was ridiculous. He could not invent a god to save him. Then his sponsor made him list the things he thought a god should be. Charlie came up with a long list of amazing attributes, especially unconditional love.
Next, his sponsor told him to list all the things he didn’t like about himself – resentment, anger, fear, etc. His sponsor explained to him that the list of good things was the god of his understanding. Charlie had to move toward the good things and away from the bad things on the other list.
Charlie followed his sponsors advice and started praying. He started changing, and he didn’t know why, but that didn’t matter.
Somehow, I got better. And I can’t explain it.
Don’t judge the process. Be the judge of the result.
In the beginning, Charlie thought the 12 Steps were ridiculous. He thought, I’m smarter than this, and these steps aren’t going to work. But he was wrong. He found people who had what he wanted and followed them. He got the results he wanted – lasting sobriety!
See you then!
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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 promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.