Into The Desert?
Is weed addictive? That’s the question Walter Hendrickson asked himself as he began a thirty-day quest to stop smoking cannabis after nine years of daily use. Walter chronicled his journey daily on his TikTok account and first joined us on day six. We catch up with him here after 51 days to see how it all went. Walter talks about the discoveries, the temptations, the revelations, and the joy of the quest. Walter’s TikTok can be followed here, https://www.tiktok.com/@walterooski?_t=8gI2xTdG4vz&_r=1. His YouTube channel is at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=walterooski
[Jaunty Guitar Music]
Mike: Welcome, everybody. This is Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, brought to you by Westwords Consulting and the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan.
Mike: A while back, I had a conversation with Walter Hendrickson, who was chronicling his quest to stop using marijuana on TikTok. I spoke to him on day six of that quest and asked him to come back, and Walter has been generous enough to join us again to let us know how it all went down.
Mike: Welcome, Walter.
Walter: Man, I am so happy to be back.
Mike: Well, I can't tell you how many people have asked me about you, and anybody who hasn't followed you on TikTok can go back and watch all of the time, but I gotta start. How's it going? How'd it go?
Walter: Man, honestly, I feel like a different person. I don't know another way to say it.
Walter: I went into it, like I said, throughout the video is kind of on a whim wondering, you know, would things change? And sure enough, they did. I kind of say that a little excitedly. But even just the stark contrast between sitting here talking to you on day six versus now There's just not a comparison for the difference.
Walter: It's still going, I've decided I'm going to continue to not smoke and pursue a clean and sober lifestyle. Which that came through a lot of introspection, a lot of thinking and I suppose a lot of revelation that kind of happened along the way. I mean, it was not it was not an easy month to endure. For more than just the, the reasons of stepping away from, from daily use, but I, there was a tremendous amount of pride that came with having finished and then there was this kind of, "well, how much more can I do with this kind of mindset?" And, and that has been a particularly fun, if challenging avenue to walk down. But yeah, as far as how it went, I think I grew as a person and I think that's all we can really ask for.
Mike: Well, how many days has it been now, or have you stopped keeping track?
Walter: Honestly, I commented, I want to say I'm trying to remember, it was 45 days ago, that was the last day I really counted.
Walter: Let me, well...
Mike: But we're 50 some into this, right?
Walter: Yeah. How many days ago was October 1st, 2023? 51 days.
Mike: 51 days, okay. I'm not going to be the first one to tell you this, but and that's part of what I want to ask you. You look great. How many times have you heard that?
Walter: Unbelievable amounts. But whether it was from the comment section where I, you know, in the beginning, I kind of thought like, yeah, yeah, you're just trying to trip me up to keep me motivated.
Walter: But then more and more when I would see like my family members in person, some of them didn't know I was on the journey I was on, cause it wasn't like I was advertising to everybody that I was getting lit every day of my life. But it started by me kind of noticing like, wow, the flakes on my face are not really there anymore and I don't have this like redness all throughout here. I had psoriasis and then all of the psoriasis on my body went away and I didn't do anything different, but stop smoking. So I don't want to say that like smoking weed perpetuated me having psoriasis or anything.
Walter: But I'm starting to wonder if it did because I've not had any kind of breakouts. I've not taken any kind of lotion or medicine or topical care. Literally the only change in my life I've made has been the one where I stopped smoking. So.
Mike: Well, let's talk about the physical part first, talk about sleep and appetite and exercise.
Mike: And let's talk about the physical body first.
Walter: Yeah, so sleep was kind of a fickle B word there for a little while. I, I just insomnia in the beginning. It was nothing. And then there was this feeling of like living like a zombie and being like, I know if I smoked, I could sleep. And then it kind of evolved to where I would get sleep.
Walter: But that sleep I was getting was plagued by some crazy dreams. And I want to say really after the third week, I finally got what I would say was like a full, comfortable night of sleep where I woke up and I was like, "Hey, I like that!" And now dreams don't seem as intense, still vivid, but not nearly on the scale that they were there in the beginning.
Walter: And I definitely think that that alone, just getting good sleep changed my attitude, helped me kind of feel more motivated. My appetite also kind of disappeared. My roommate was very insistent because I've, I've battled my really, since I was like 14 years old with anorexia. And so on the eating thing, I had a lot of people that support me.
Walter: Well, I, three people that I continuously talk to about whether or not I'm eating. And I did that even when I was smoking every day. But eating in the beginning was kind of nauseating which it was something I just did as obligation. And because I knew I'd have to answer to people that constantly talked to me about whether or not I'm eating.
Walter: And so there was a level where eventually that kind of shifted to where I was able to eat food and not feel like it was just a chore. I want to say that probably, I mean, sometimes eating still feels like a chore. I'm not going to lie about that, but I will absolutely say that the ease of eating got better.
Walter: I mean, my roommate would make me make food like a big mess of food and then be like, you know, you're going to eat today, right? And I'd be like, yeah, I will. And so as with a lot of things, I, you know, I kind of got into it with this mentality that like, all right, I'm going to stop smoking for me.
Walter: And then when I, for example, when my grandma passed away, a lot of people were like, keep up with this sobriety thing for your grandma. And I can remember having this distinct realization at the time, like, no, I need to do this for me. She would hate the idea that I got sober because of her. She would want me to do it for me.
Walter: And I started... learning, I guess, in my own ways and really is just through thinking it out that I needed to continue to do things that were good for me, for me and for nobody else, but for me and, and doing those things for me, my relationships with other people would benefit and my relationship with myself would benefit and that's still a, you know, a path I'm having to walk along, but I'd say one of the biggest lessons I, you know, as a constant people pleaser, doing something for myself has always been really difficult.
Walter: And this has really kind of shaped my inner dialogue to where I recognize the things I do need to be for me first, otherwise they're, they're likely not going to sustain.
Mike: You know, I dropped you a note, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one when you went on TikTok and talked about your grandma passing. Saying that's a high risk time, right, to go back to using.
Mike: And I think I said something about relatives and friends, and you emailed me back and said, already happened. So, not everybody was supportive of your quest, but I bet people were. There were so many people who were, right?
Walter: Yeah, I mean, 100%. And honestly, the more my family members found out about what it was I was doing, the more they kind of passed it around.
Walter: And yeah, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't offered to me a good chunk of times. I mean, when you're a stoner and you see your stoner people it's just gonna come up. And when it did, there was that element where I kind of, I had this worry that perhaps my relationships with people would change because I wasn't doing what I was doing.
Walter: And what I found was that once I just told them this is where I was, it didn't go into like a nagging. "Will you smoke with me thing?" It went into a, "Oh, we'll go smoke outside." And there was never this moment of judgment from me to them. I mean, you know, it's, it's legal. Not everybody had the same issues with it that I do.
Walter: But I think when I just approached it honestly and I kind of got away from the, I'm afraid my relationships are going to be affected. I found that none of them really were it was just a matter of being honest with them. And, you know, if they did it, they didn't rub it in my face or try to goad me into doing it with them.
Walter: I mean, when it happened, it was always the first day that they were like, "Are you sure you don't want to smoke?" And I'd be like, "Yeah, I am sure, but I should probably go elsewhere."
Mike: (chuckle) Yeah, right. I don't want to be around it, right?
Walter: Right, right.
Mike: Well, speaking of relationships, you took a road trip with your ma.
Walter: Mm, I did.
Mike: Talk about that a minute.
Walter: So I found out in February of 2021 that my ex-wife had been having an affair with my friend. And that kinda started this huge shift in my life and I would call it a pilgrimage that started in July of 2021. That's when I packed up everything I had and trekked west from Tennessee to Arizona.
Walter: And that's, I think really when a lot of the dark ages (chuckle) in my life escalated. And my dad, I flew my dad from Michigan to Tennessee to make that drive with me and I had always kind of considered going to that place. I went to Bixby Canyon Bridge. My ex and I had this affinity for Death Cab for Cutie.
Walter: I have an affinity for Jack Kerouac. He's my favorite author and his book, Big Sur, he talks about going to the Bixby. It's, it's actually called the Bixby Creek Bridge. But this artist and this band Death Cab for Cutie wrote a song called the Bixby Canyon Bridge about this bridge and about this book, and it moved both my ex and I, and I didn't... that ring I had my wedding band was the last item I had from a life that I would look back at kind of shamefully. Not that I'm condoning or condemning an affair, but when I really started looking at my life in context of the man I was a guy that was drunk and high and on Adderall all of the time. I recognized I had nothing left and to do with that guy.
Walter: And that ring had really always been kind of this relic of, you know, my self disdain. I knew I wanted to throw that ring off of that bridge in particular. And when I was actually stood right next to my mom, when we watched my grandmother breathe for the very last time, and it's a moment I've never had, I'd never seen in my whole life, somebody breathed for the last time.
Walter: And my mom just hugged me. And everybody around me is crying, and I'm just kind of stood there, staring into space, not knowing what to do and in my brain I, I equal parts, I need to get to the bridge and I really want to get baked and as I'm holding my mom, I kind of have this realization that like my dad made the first part of this pilgrimage with me to get to Arizona and I really wanted her to join me on that trip.
Walter: If only to just get her away from everything. So I talked to her and I was like, "Hey, after the funeral, do you want to take this road trip up the Pacific coast highway?" She's coming up on 50 next year. I have a wonderful and young mother who is trulY... Sorry, I'm getting a little emotional talking about my mom, but she's really been my, she is, she's, she's been my best friend and one of the biggest supporters I could ever ask for.
Walter: And she saw a lot of darkness in my life. And she never loved me any differently. She expressed concern at times, but she never loved me any differently. And I always knew that throughout everything I went through And so she knew how big a deal it was for me to go to that bridge. Cause she'd heard me talk about going to that bridge for about two years before, but I could never bring myself to go.
Walter: And so when I asked her to join me it was the first time she and I had ever taken a trip, just the two of us and she'd never been to the Pacific. So we made sure to get our feet into the Pacific. And when I got to that bridge and like we parked off to the side, I just started balling. It was like the whole journey over the last three years. It really hit me. And I'd never felt an emotion like that. The journey of just recovering from grief in a few different ways, you know, there was the grief I had been working on kind of overcoming in the last couple of years with the divorce. And then there was this newly fresh grief with grandma.
Walter: The fact that my mom was there and had literally seen every moment of it. And just having that support with me, but then, you know, kind of like a, like a life flash before your eyes kind of scene, I just recognize like, wow, look how far I've come it, you know, I made it to the coast of California. I'm standing here sober with my mom and I've spent so much imagined time at this bridge and I'm here, it's like a real thing.
Walter: And I'm seeing this beautiful coast. I'm seeing these amazing mountains and I'm on the Pacific coast highway. Literally in Big Sur, this place I've thought about, but it never really existed to me cause I'd never been to it. And I had to literally run out onto the bridge and there's all these people taking pictures and stuff, but nobody's going onto the bridge and I'm waiting for traffic and I just book it whenever I get an opening in traffic onto the middle of the bridge and there's this huge crowd of people like, what is this crazy man doing?
Walter: And so I find that where the supports of this bridge are, there's this little bench area and I just go sit in that bench area and I have this moment of the years washing over me and I told myself I was going to make this symbolic gesture of throwing this ring over the bridge and leaving it in a place that would have been relevant to both my ex and I, and not in a angry way, just in a way of I was letting go.
Walter: I was, I was willing to forgive the past to both you know, them and to me and I was going to enable myself to walk forward without this, this baggage represented by this little black circle of tungsten. And so when I threw the ring There was this tremendous feeling of liberation. I mean, it wasn't a full 30 days at that point that I had been sober, but I'd committed at that point that I was going to continue on with my journey.
Walter: And so it felt like I was throwing away a lot more than just the grief of that particular event. It felt like I was throwing away a life I no longer wanted to be a part of you know, And I think I embodied this persona of the sad guy, you know, this guy who'd been left and hung out to dry and this guy that, you know, fixed his problems by getting baked and, and, you know, just blinding himself to the people that love him.
Walter: And I think in a lot of ways, I, I'd kind of hidden myself away from people that loved me because it's... to love is to be vulnerable. And there's not an easy way to love somebody without also giving those people the keys to hurt you. And I think I didn't necessarily recognize I was doing it, but I think I really ran away from people that loved me because I'd been hurt and to have my mom there you know, just with me to give me a hug when I started crying, when I saw the bridge and just having her say like, you know, you, you did make it here. Like you made it here and it was a, it was a surreal moment. And it's something I think I'll get to cherish forever.
Mike: Well, and you felt it, you felt it. clean headed.
Walter: Yeah, I and like I experienced all of all of that emotion, which is perhaps one of the most vivid experiences of emotion I'd ever had in my life.
Walter: You know, I've just the sight of that bridge again, brought me to tears. And when I parked, I lost it. And I, you know, there was there was sorrows for the way I had been and, and more than just my relationship with my ex, but and my family relationships. In my you know, and just in my life in general, in the way I had treated me and this felt like something I was finally doing for myself and something that I knew I was ready to let go of.
Walter: And there was a lot that came with that little black circle. I mean, that little black circle came to represent to me much more than my divorce. You know, it meant all of the ways I had despised myself and really abused myself by my use you know, and I had hidden myself away in a lot of ways and feel like there was this period of life where I wasn't necessarily in first person controlling my vessel. I was just kind of operating and going through things and doing things that were just things I did. But when I really started asking myself the questions of why is this stuff happening? I really found answers that I don't think I would have expected to find at the beginning of that journey.
Walter: And I think that laying down the grief of my divorce and my sobriety went hand in hand. Just, in me, I think everybody's journey's different, but for me, I felt like that's what the case was. And so, again, to have my mom on that trip with me, who's walked through, you know, this journey of grief with me, who's walked through this journey of sobriety with me. It was a big thing.
Mike: She's so cute too, Walter, because, you know, I read all the comments under your TikToks, and she would post every now and then, and sometimes she was the first one to post, "I'm so proud of you." Or when you got your hair cut, she says "You look great." (laugh) I'm like, Oh, you know, everybody needs a mom, right?
Walter: Yeah. Oh my gosh.
Walter: And even just things like a haircut, you know what I mean? When I really like when she cut my hair, I really felt like...
Mike: Oh your mom cut it?
Walter: Yeah. Yeah. My mom cut my hair the night before my grandmother's funeral. I knew that I wanted, I had her cut it into a mullet first. Cause I think we all wonder what we look like with mullets, but we had this big gathering at my grandmother's house the night before her funeral.
Walter: And I'd made the decision that I wanted to cut it because they'd asked me to play and sing at her funeral. And so I just kind of had this thought that like this long hair is, really kind of depression hair. And you know, I always told myself I wanted to grow a man bun, but once I was able to wear a man bun, I hated myself with the man bun.
Walter: And so, I mean, sometimes you got to grow a man bun to realize you don't like man buns. And (chuckle) I think that's what happened. And when she cut my hair, I put a video up on, on TikTok, just talking about that experience and how special that is because she's always been the one that cut my hair when she was around.
Walter: And I would go longer without getting haircut if I knew I'd see her and even if, you know, a couple of weeks. So when she cut my hair, there was just this kind of. I don't know if that alone felt like a step forward and so, and we knew we were going to the bridge together at that point. And even just when I cut my hair, you know she had commented along with a lot of my aunts and uncles that it just seemed that my countenance was, was different.
Walter: You know, like I looked different as a person, yes, but the, the big difference in my appearance didn't come from a haircut and it came from the way I was carrying myself.
Mike: Well, and you also, for me, passed another hurdle a couple of weeks ago, I was cruising your stuff and you posted on a Saturday night, "I'm bored." (chuckle) And I'm like, okay.
Walter: That's still a problem.
Mike: Yeah, well, that is a problem for people who are recovering because at that period of time, you could have just, right?
Walter: Yeah, it crossed my mind.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So what have you discovered about boredom and keeping your mind active and on track?
Walter: Well with boredom, I think you have to get a little creative and you have to kind of get past the lacking desire to do something. I think in that video, I commented that if you're bored, then you're boring.
Walter: And I had this thought that, like, I don't want to be a boring person. But at the same time, I recognize that if I just keep sitting here spinning my wheels, I'm gonna go to a bar, I'm gonna go to a dispensary, and I don't want that either. And I had the presence of mind to recognize that. So when I started thinking, I need to find other things to do. That really kind of led me down the idea of getting back into doing my music reactions on YouTube that led me down into what are things I really enjoyed that I don't do anymore.
Walter: So I started hiking again. You know, there are just different things. I started calling people when I was bored just to say hello. And so I have kind of like a bored meter, I guess, in my brain when it goes off, I'm like, okay, this isn't good. I don't do well with idle time. So I need to find either some way productive, even just cooking myself meals if I got bored.
Walter: Different things, but you have to go out of your way to do something. And I think that's the hurdle that you have to jump over is there's only so much TV a person can watch before they go crazy or just get bored of that too. And so finding ways to occupy my time that weren't just about being mindless was important to me.
Walter: And honestly, I've gone on quite a few hikes and I've found that like at the end of the day, well, whenever I get to the top of a mountain, whatever mountain I'm hiking on, I, I'll typically journal and, you know, kind of reflect on what that's been like while I've got this endorphin rush, cause I pick grueling hikes to go on, like I really try to try to hurt myself going up those mountains.
Mike: [inaudible] like an old cross country runner.
Walter: Yep, that's it. That's exactly me. (chuckle)
Walter: But I've, I don't know, I found that if I find ways to occupy myself during the day, the evenings are a bit easier to endure. Also trying to plan ahead has, has been tremendously helpful. Like, so if I know, like this might be an evening I'm alone, I might call my parents and be like, what are you guys doing tonight? I might come over.
Walter: I've spent a lot more time with people just in an effort to avoid boredom. And part of that is like, you got to put yourself out there and sometimes you swing and miss. And sometimes you still have to find a way to occupy your own time without people, because there's going to be times when people aren't available to. You know, entertain your boredom. But yeah, I think just finding different ways and having a few different backup plans for if things don't work out is hugely important. And if you're in a scenario where you want to smoke, like talk to people about that. Like, somebody that knows what's going on.
Walter: Like, dang, I'm really bored. And, you know, it's not like, it's not their responsibility to keep you from smoking. I also think it's very important to comment on that because I think it's easy to point blame at people when they're not there for you if, but if that's all perspective, they would have been there for you if they didn't have their own life and God forbid them for having their own life.
Walter: I think it's important that, you know, to me, it's been important that I take responsibility for the way I feel as I feel it and recognizing that you're allowed to have emotions, but it's also equally your responsibility to overcome those.
Mike: Speaking of taking responsibility. Somewhere about three quarters away through the first month, somebody posted and numerous people said this, but somebody posted "Because of you, I'm going to quit too."
Mike: And you immediately commented underneath. No, no, no, no, no. And do you remember what you said?
Walter: Yeah I said that they were quitting because of them, not because of me. I recognized... Well, A, I never started to do any of this thinking I was going to become some sort of inspirational thing. I was just trying something on a whim.
Walter: I never, and I did not set out on a quest to get people to be prohibitive on marijuana. I set out on a quest of personal discovery. And I think if people say I'm doing this because of you, they're doomed to go back to what they were doing. And I recognize that very quickly for me, when I decided to make this decision, I did that for myself and I hadn't at that time decided if I was going to go back or not, but I think it's very important that if people, and you know, you can say I'm doing it for my kids, I'm doing it for X, Y, or Z. But at the end of the day, if you don't do it for yourself, it's easy to let people down. And I think that as a result of you making a choice for yourself, your kid's life is going to be better, whatever the case may be, but that decision has to be for you because otherwise it's just not going to have any stopping power.
Walter: And I could be wrong, but that's just where my perspective is. I didn't do this to be an inspiration. I did this to benefit me.
Mike: I think that's when people are most inspirational is when they don't do things to be inspirational.
Walter: And that's not to take away from how honored I am that people would say that like that sentiment is so beautiful and honestly, it's really touching.
Walter: But I think it's super important to comment that it, it needs to be for the individual and not, you know, that's what the because needs to be.
Mike: Yeah. I want to ask you some more questions about your current TikToks, but and quest for lack of a better word, but I want to give you a chance to wrap the marijuana part in a bow because you did a really nice job day 30 of saying, is weed addictive and answering the question.
Mike: So I'll ask it. Is weed addictive?
Walter: I think that weed can be addictive. I think that it's all down to the individual. I would say that if you are making decisions in your life that aren't that great to be able to smoke marijuana, it's likely an addictive thing to you. I think that only introspection can tell from person to person, and you have to be willing to be honest with yourself.
Walter: I think to me, weed was absolutely addictive. When I looked at my life, when I looked at how I was self medicating when I looked at the way I allowed it to affect my relationships with people I'd be a fool to say it wasn't. I also see a completely different narrative as possible where, yeah, it can be beneficial for people that have chronic pain and don't want to use opiates.
Walter: So you know, if you want to play, you know, devil's advocate or argue the lesser of the two evils, a lot of people seem to want to do that. But I think that marijuana can absolutely be addictive. If you are a person with an addictive personality, if you are a person that self medicates, if you're a person that has previously had substance abuse problems but I think it all boils down to each individual.
Walter: For me. Absolutely. Yes. Weed was addictive and, you know, I would be, I would be a fool not to admit that.
Mike: And that's the way you answered it on your day 30, which is it's an individual thing. And for you, you're liking life a little bit more, but so now you have a new bunch of videos instead of Is Weed Addictive?. Yeah.
Mike: So what is your tagline now?
Walter: Let's be introspective.
Mike: Now, the first one I got to ask you, Walter, is do you think you would have been in... A lot of people say weed makes them introspective, but you're coming out of this the other way, and your introspections are really deep.
Walter: Man, you know, it's funny because I...
Walter: I think, yes, weed can absolutely make you introspective, it can give you funny thoughts, whatever, but when you smoke so much weed that you don't have that feeling anymore, and you're just... existing. That goes away and I think it's the way it's used. For me, I wasn't getting introspective. I was just trying to deal (chuckle) and there's a big difference there, and I found that I wasn't asking myself tremendously deep questions.
Walter: I mean, I had plenty of high ideas along the way, but that's not to say that it wasn't you know, it wasn't layered in introspection whatsoever. It was, it was just... Whoa, it's crazy to think I'm a speck and, you know (chuckle)
Mike: (laugh) That sounded like collegeollege to me. Yeah, right there.
Walter: Yeah. And now I think being introspective. Even just asking myself questions, you know, I, I've worked in finance for a long time and it's what I know, but it's not necessarily what.
Walter: It doesn't always feel like meaningful work. And I think for the first time I started thinking like, you know, what meaning does my life have? And I'd never really asked myself that question before. I think some people have an easy answer like, oh, it's to be a good parent or, you know, oh, it's to, it's to help people.
Walter: I've always wanted to live a meaningful life. But then I started when I started kind of going down the philosophical rabbit trail. I just kept finding deep questions. And I think that when you ask yourself questions, when you're really willing to ask yourself hard questions, questions that you can't just come up with an easy answer to.
Walter: You find out a lot about yourself and then you may also find ways that you want to change. So as far as introspection, I mean, that's really where I recognize that boredom was probably going to be the thing that bites my sobriety in the butt. That's kind of where I recognize that. Like. I want to do something that I see as intrinsically meaningful.
Walter: And so how do I find that? And so much of that started with like, well, find ways to feel joyful. For me I found that I hated running, but I really loved time and nature. And that's what I found I loved about running. I hated the pressure competition put on me that I put on me because of competition, but time out in nature where I was just.
Walter: I was either around people that I didn't have to talk to because we were all tired from running, but I was near to people and I was in nature and I could talk if I wanted to, but didn't have to. But then I found that I, you know, I really loved the smell of the desert and the dust, and I really loved, you know, the views of the mountains and catching, you know, catching golden hour on a hike was, was moving to me and I connected throughout my quest into sobriety that I was moved by nature. I was moved by the sun. And so when I put myself out into nature and started hiking and feeling accomplished because I had gone out of my way to do something, there was a whole different level to me of what joy was. And I'd experienced it in a different way. And then, you know, you have the physical accomplishment of having made it to the top.
Walter: And You know, even just in my journaling, when I get to the top, I find that like, I've found ways in my life to be proud and those are, I want to continue to find ways to make me proud. And I think all of that came through just being introspective and trying, you know, being willing to try different things.
Walter: And yeah, I think as far as being introspective goes nothing bad is going to come of it. (chuckle)
Mike: No. No. Are you, are, when you say journaling, you mean video journaling or are you writing too?
Walter: I'm writing. So I have a, like a journal it's literally just a Mead notebook that I when I get to the top, I, I just commit to writing one page in that journal.
Walter: I don't share that with anybody. That's just me writing down the way I feel at that moment. And you know, I've found that the themes in there have been like, wow, the first time I did this, I really found that I was tremendously proud of myself. And, you know, the hike had kind of served as this representation of the last couple of years and like.
Walter: I was all of a sudden on top of this mountain looking down and I could see helicopters flying below and I can remember thinking, like, just looking around, being able to see the entire valley of Phoenix, thinking like, man, this is wonderful. I have done so much today, more than just hike a mountain. And I was able to feel that accomplishment over the last several months.
Walter: And I went on a hike on day 45 of my sobriety. And when I got to the top there, I recognized like maybe it's only significant because it's a number divisible by five, but to me it felt very, very real. And when I got up there, I can remember commenting in my journal, like I never expected, I would be able to say I went 45 days without using anything.
Walter: That was just never even a thought. And, you know the, the feelings of happiness were, were very much in my face. And that doesn't take away from the fact that life still happens around you. And there's always going to be things to deal with. But focusing on the,feelings that were good has become very important.
Walter: And I recognized in just a moment of introspection on a hike that I have spent a tremendous amount of time of my life thinking about how sad I was and all of the things that made me sad and really duping myself and, you know, indulging in these feelings of sadness. But I had done tremendously less or spent tremendously less time indulging in the feelings of happiness and thinking about the things that made me happy and thinking about how happy I was.
Walter: And so when I saw that there was this stark difference between the amount of time I'd invested in both thoughts, I started thinking maybe I can invest equal parts, you know, like it's going to be easy to focus on how unhappy I am. I've done this my whole life. I'm trained. I'm good to go at this. But what if I tried doing it on the other side of the spectrum, and really considering my joy?
Walter: I've practiced stoicism for a while, and when I started thinking about things in my life that I invested feeling unhappy and that were outside of my control completely, None of that benefited me. It just made me feel worse, and If you're a person that deals with depression or anxiety or a self medicating person, so you don't feel those things, I think it's easy, you know, it's an easy poison to drink.
Walter: And when I found that, wow, I have this family that loves me. I'm out and nature is beautiful and, and look at, look at the desert. And, you know, I think that there's wisdom in the desert, but I. When I started thinking, wow, I'm happy, how, you know, I like this feeling. I like how this feels. How do I continue to do that?
Walter: It made it easier that when bad things happen, like my car getting broken into, I was, you know, that was a bummer. Yeah. Nobody wants to deal with insurance, you know, police, nobody wants to get their car window fixed or their steering column adjusted. But I tell you. My skateboards were still there. And so when I started focusing on, like, I can't control that somebody broke into my car.
Walter: I can control the way I feel about it. And you know, I had my dad there to listen to me lament for a little while and, and to actually ask me like, does feeling bad help you right now? Well, no, thanks. You're right. It doesn't. And we ate at Denny's and (chuckle) I, you know, it was a great breakfast and I had a good conversation with my dad.
Walter: So when I think about bad things that happen there are silver linings, no matter how hard, how sucky the situation is. Silver lining to getting my car broken into. I had a wonderful breakfast with my dad. I got a lot off of my chest. We had a good conversation about how me going back to smoking wasn't gonna fix it, even though in that moment I really wanted to and admitted that to him.
Walter: You know, silver lining of my divorce, I walked away with my ability to love and be loved still intact. And I have the ability to move forward and potentially find another suitor. Potentially, you know, find out that that's not for me. But I have a whole new adventure I get to walk along. And I've found in this period, sobriety.
Walter: I've found in this period, ways to make myself happy and not just... Have my happiness be dependent upon another person. And so I think you can, if you really look, you can find silver linings to any circumstance. And again when my car got broken into silver lining, my skateboards were not taken. So I, you know, it's not easy to do always.
Walter: And sometimes you have to convince yourself that that's just what needs to be done. But I think, I think life's a lot more manageable when you learn how to do that. And the more you do that, the more your brain just kind of instinctively does it for you. The longer, yeah, the longer I've invested in, in considering my joy, the more things I find to be joyous about.
Mike: Wow. Okay. I'm going to let, I'm going to make that be your last sentence. That's just a great bow to wrap the present in. Walter, this has been just first of all, it was so nice of you, day six in the middle of, I know bad dreams and you know, physical, not sleeping and feeling like crap to come on and do a podcast and then to come back later.
Mike: And so many people are supporting you and have followed the quest, which puts some pressure on, but you've handled it very well. And there's so many people rooting for you. And I hope you don't won't mind if I ask you to come back on and tell me in a couple months, what the new introspections look like.
Walter: I would absolutely love to honestly, this is, I think, good for me too. It's nice to be able to talk about it and I can, you know, a controlled environment and you know, knowing that there's not judgment there, but also I do feel like maybe this is my way I get to help people and part of, and a lot of it came from the comments section of people just being like, maybe this is what you were supposed to do is just be an honest person.
Walter: And I really appreciate being given the opportunity to do that.
Mike: Well, I'll tell you what, Walter, it is about as honest of a daily look on what it's like to spend the first month in recovery as I've experienced in a long time, and I've experienced a lot. So thanks for bringing us along on the journey.
Mike: And for those of you who are listening, You know, not every week is going to be as good as this, but this is about as good as it gets. So please listen in next time. You never know what you're going to hear. We invite you to listen to Walter's TikToks and watch them as well as there'll be links to his YouTube channel as well. Follow along.
Mike: Until next time, please stay safe and, as Walter would say, get introspective.
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