Good Time Charlies, Codependency and Shame; a Conversation with Award Winning Journalist Rob Koebel
Award winning Journalist, writer, actor and producer Rob Koebel has been one of my most lighthearted, fun and interesting conversations since I began writing work in the Recovery realm.
Rob has quite an inspiring story, as much as he has led an interesting life (bio below).
After experiencing a very public downward spiral, Rob has been making a climb upward and onward, helping others to see what is behind the face of the “Good Time Charlie” drinkers. He gives sharp insight for those who know and love (or might be) someone known as the life of the party.
One thing you catch quickly is Rob’s ease in conversation, which puts others at ease themselves. It did not surprise me that our conversation led to the pitfalls of being likeable when it comes to drugs and alcohol misuse.
Rob opened with a very honest stroll through his early years, from common middle school insecurities, wanting to blend in, win over the girls and “be the fun.” Like many of us, he joined in on underage social drinking to feel confident and included. Yet for some that becomes more of a pattern than for others.
Rob’s journey led him through high school and college antics that were overlooked due to the “boys will be boys” attitude of those in authority who gave him somewhat of a pass. He went onto become a television news reporter/anchor, taking his drinking habit, which didn’t appear to be a problem, with him.
There were however, warning signs and red flags along the way that drinking was becoming a go to friend for Rob. Spending late nights blowing off steam at the bar had developed into a coping skill, impacting his relationships with his wife and family.
Good Time Charlie drinkers are usually different when the lights go down. After the last call for alcohol, they have to go home and wake up to reality. Many times there is someone who has been home waiting, feeling the pain from the other side of the night.
Those who love a charmer know the pain of life alongside them and that the reality at home is different once the party ends. Likeable alcoholics may not look like they’re in trouble or their lives are being affected, because the truth behind the scenes doesn’t rise to meet the eye.
It can be easier to excuse substance abusive behavior if it seems funny, wild and crazy. Or when the one in question is friendly, fun and easy to like. Yet eventually it catches up in relationships, if not other areas of life.
“It’s very hard to have relationships when you’re doing drugs and drinking, I find, for me personally…you become closed off, unreceptive, insensitive” ~David Bowie
As much fun as an excessive drinking lifestyle can initially be, I posed a question to several folks who also opted out of the binge drinking cycle:
“What did it eventually lead to?”
Their answers were extremely realistic:
Alcohol abuse led to: relationships we couldn’t see the truth about, a marriage that fell apart. Friendships that were surface only and sometimes very toxic. A drunk driving charge. Arguments. Conflicts. Hangovers. Job loss or attendance issues. Harder drugs. Embarrassment. Health issues. Weight gain. Lack of goals outside of the next social gathering. And so on.
The truth is, eventually habitual and excessive alcohol use catches up. Even if you are the life of the party, eventually the party ends and someone gets hurt. The party tends to destroy a family.
The habitual lifestyle of excessive drinking caught up to Rob with a tidal wave of consequences, as it does for most. After a series of events; a divorce, a tell all book and country song written about his marriage, drama within the workplace etc., Rob had an embarrassing encounter with an Apple Store that served as his wakeup call.
Harsh consequences may not be the outcome for every person who engages in a lifestyle of frequent drinking, but one or more of the above has certainly occurred for most. Alcoholism is as damaging, deadly and dangerous as drug abuse.
While drug abuse is viewed as shameful, criminal and deadly, excessive drinking is just as dangerous yet is still largely viewed (and advertised) as socially acceptable.
But what is excessive drinking? There are two types:
- Heavy drinking – For men under age 65, heavy drinking means having four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week. For women and men over age 65, heavy drinking is more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks in a week.
- Binge drinking – Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time. For men, it’s defined as five or more drinks within two hours. For women, it’s four or more drinks in that same time frame.
Signs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism
Heavy drinking or binge drinking once in a blue moon might not be a problem for you. But some behaviors are indicators that things are getting serious. Signs to look out for include:
This might look like low performance at work or in school, not paying attention to your kids, or skipping commitments because you’re drunk or hung over.
Taking risks and encountering legal problems
Driving while intoxicated, mixing alcohol with medication, and putting your life and others’ lives in danger is a sign that something is seriously wrong.
Drinking to de-stress
American culture makes it seem normal to drink after a long workday or after an argument with a loved one. But this can turn alcohol into a need.
Drinking in spite of relationship problems
If you find yourself drinking even though you know it upsets your spouse, or if you find yourself fighting with family who criticize your drinking habits, there may be a bigger problem at hand.
Alcohol related divorce rates and statistics don’t lie. An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).
“Codependency is driven by the agreement that I will work harder on your problems and your life than you do. This is not love.” ~Danny Silk
The flip side of this issue is the family and loved ones at home. Many are deeply affected and codependent to alcoholic behavior issues. Yet as painful and often unfair as the cycle becomes, affected Loved Ones also play a part. Just because the one with the substance related behavior is presenting the loudest, doesn’t mean those close to them are healthy and well. Or right.
If not managed, everyone around the issue becomes deadlocked in arguments and patterns.
In times of crisis with a Loved One who is actively in use, significant others (along with by standing friends and family) get looped into bottomless, tug of war arguments;
“Why can’t you just stop!”
“Why can’t you understand?”
Back and forth, push and pull. New issue, same argument, stuck on repeat.
We become fearful, nagging, self-righteous and unglued.
They become insensitive, inconsiderate and hurtful. And eventually deceptive and brash.
We often think “F*** this!”
They often think “F*** it.”
We hear with our fears, they speak with their frustration.
We lash out of pain, they react with shame.
Funny how we all have our survival techniques when in crisis. Each becomes dead locked in their position and the back and forth ensues, neither able to breakthrough or hear, much less understand the other. Fear, pain and shame are terrible communicators. Life seems to unravel and relationships are damaged.
It’s a sickening cycle. Someone drinks (or gets high), someone shames, no one copes.
I personally come from a background of religious dysfunction and condemnation (detailed in my book Unhooked). Shaming was a constant in my life for many years. Along with having been through the rollercoaster of prescription drug dependency with very close family members, I have been on both the giver and the taker sides of shame.
I know this to be fact; shaming someone into anything, let alone sobriety, does not work. It doesn’t even help.
Questions posed to anyone whose life has been affected by someone’s drinking or substance abuse is “Does shaming them work? Did the person get better? Has life improved?”
We have to stop and ask, does it work? The answer is no, it does not work. It doesn’t even help.
There is a world of difference between shame and accountability.
Accountability and consequences alongside a healthy, loving plan to manage the issues (such as professional direction from a family substance abuse counselor, Al Anon support groups and literature and the CRAFT method) are profoundly better, much more effective methods.
I also strongly encourage research. There is a mountain of knowledge to discover when it comes to the disease of dependency. The more you read, search online, attend a class or support meeting, search your local library or bookstores for literature or meet with a professional specializing in family dynamics of dependency; the better chance you have of working through the madness, confusion and pain of it. And possibly restoring peace to relationships that are worn down.
There’s a need for all involved with someone struggling with drugs or alcohol issues to become educated on facts and positive methods of coping and contributing.
We all have a perspective and play a role in the family when it comes to SUD. The more willing we are to understand the struggle in the mind of one who is dependent (and vice versa), the better.
Alcoholism and addiction are family illnesses, we all play a part. The healthier family and friends become, the more chance there is to move our impacted relationships forward toward healing and wellness with our struggling Loved One.
But first, let’s drop the shame. Shaming is part of the cycle of sickness. We need to realize it’s also a toxic part of the problem. When we learn and work together, people recover, relationships mend and families heal. Knowledge is power. Safe, honest communication leads to peace.
There’s always hope, but we all have work to do to get there.
Thank you Rob, for being open, honest, likeable and for doing the work to inspire others to make a comeback,
These days Rob Koebel can be found writing, acting and producing documentaries including Story Junkie and Chasing Evel; Official Selection of the Nashville Film Festival and Big Sky Film Festival, based on the life and career of Evel Knievel’s son Robbie Knievel
Rob Koebel is an award-winning journalist, actor, writer, host and voice over artist. His journalism work has earned him Emmy’s, Associated Press and an Edward R Murrow award. His career as a journalist spans nearly two decades. Rob covered Presidential elections from the campaign trail; tracked one of the FBI’s most-wanted killers in a huge manhunt through rural Arizona; exposed corruption in the government at state, local and federal levels; and busted a nationwide sports memorabilia company selling fake autographs in stadium team shops across the country.
Book link for: Unhooked
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