Telling the Story of Sobriety
Featured Guest: Shane Ramer
Today’s guest, Shane Ramer, is the creator of That Sober Guy, a podcast with over 150 episodes that focus on living a healthy, sober lifestyle. Shane sat down with me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville to explain how his journey led him from addiction to a renewed connection with God, family and his own true self. He also shares his view on the role that sober podcasting can play within the overarching process of finding and maintaining recovery.
David Condos: Hey guys. Welcome to this of episode Recovery Unscripted. I’m David Condos and this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network. Glad to be back with you all this week and excited to bring you a conversation with the host of another great recovery-focused podcast. Shane Ramer is the creator of That Sober Guy, a podcast with over 150 episodes that focus on living a healthy, sober lifestyle.
Shane sat down with me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville to explain how his journey led him from addiction to a renewed connection with God, family and his own true self. He also shares his view on the role that sober podcasting can play within the overarching process of finding and maintaining recovery. Now, here’s Shane. Thanks for being with us today, man.
Shane Ramer: Yes, David, thanks for having me, man. It’s nice to be on the other side today and get a little podcasting on the other end. Thanks for having me.
David: Absolutely, good to have you. Let’s start off with you telling us some about your personal story and the journey that you’ve taken through addiction and recovery.
Shane: It’s definitely been a journey, that’s for sure. Right now, I’m blessed with a beautiful wife, Jess. She’s a big part of my recovery, and known each other a long time. We have two kids, Cash and Lucy, and live in Northern California and East Bay Area about 40 minutes east of San Francisco in a town called Vacaville.
Life as a kid, it was madness sometimes. It could get crazy. My father, he’s not in recovery, struggles with his own battles and I saw that a lot growing up. It made for a pretty unpredictable living environment I guess, as a kid. I was like, to say it’s funny because as I grew I tend to look at that mentality almost as a victim mentality of where I came from. Why me, that kind of poor me type of thing. What really wasn’t until I got into recovery that I realized that my parents are human too. They didn’t always have all the answers and they had their own issues they were dealing with and stuff and it wasn’t necessarily my thing to take on.
But to backtrack a little bit into my teens, I always looked at drugs or alcohol as something that I wasn’t interested in. I played sports growing up as a kid. I don’t really know what happened if it was a rebellious type of thing, but I started smoking pot and then drinking when I was 15, just for fun thing. It was like a party thing. Then later on into my ’20s, it got like an everyday thing.
I guess what I’m getting at when they say that alcoholism addiction is very progressive, it was very progressive for me. I was still holding on to a job, and so I guess that was my way of justifying that I didn’t have a problem for a while was that I was well, I’m still somewhat hanging on I guess. I never had a whole bunch of court issues. I don’t know how but I never got a DUI out of all the times I drove drunk or high. I guess I just was lucky and I never got caught or unlucky because maybe that made my experience go longer.
David: Kept you going. Yes.
Shane: It’s been a journey. That’s for sure, and I’m just super thankful that I’m sober today and I get to actually experience a new day. Like when I was active in my addiction, I knew what was coming the next day. It was the same old thing every day. Today in recovery and being sober and somewhat clear mind that I guess it’s a new day every day. I don’t know what God has in store for me. It’s very exciting to me to wake up. Every day is crazy.
My wife hates it because I’m an early morning person and she’d rather sleep a little bit longer and I’m like, “Yeah, what’s up? Let’s go, let’s get ready to rock and roll.” I genuinely get excited to wake up and see what’s ahead. So It’s been crazy, man.
David: If you want to get into your life now, what are some things that you do in your sobriety that work for you?
Shane: For me, it was coming to terms with the fact that I did have a problem, and that there was an issue with drugs and alcohol that needed to be addressed. Once I figured that out, I went to rehab myself. That really put me in a spot where I knew that there was no looking back because I wanted it. I was so tired. I was tired of living that life. You know what I mean. I’d been tired of it for a while but I never taken that step to get there.
And then, of course, I have such a strong family, like my mom, my dad– even though my dad and I have our own issues still until this day. He has his own issues, which is fine. But I love both my parents and I understand that they’re human, like I alluded to before. So that was always a big issue, was family for me.
I’ve only been able to do that through a program, and through talking to other people who’ve been through it, and through working with my sponsor. And then, of course, the podcast. You and I have talked about this. I know you’re a musician too. And so I love music and I put a couple of albums together and played a lot of shows. But I always associated music with drugs and alcohol because that’s how I always wrote and I played music when I was intoxicated.
So that transition, when I got clean, to go back to try to do that again was a completely different experience. I felt like I had lost that creative art. Somehow I found it this podcast idea that I had. I’m gonna start a podcast and now I can talk about my recovery, and I can still fulfill this creative aspect that I love, and do it through something that’s positive. And that’s another super important component for me is finding passion in something that I enjoy to do.
Then, of course, doing it, getting to hear other people’s experiences, relate to those experiences and then share them with other people. It’s been a super cool ride. I hope it keeps on going. I’m gonna keep riding the wave as long as I can.
David: Yes. I know you got into this a little. But could tell us a story of how Sober Guy radio came to be, like you just got this idea and then what was the next step?
Shane: Yes. I literally woke up in bed one night, and I said, “I’m going to start a podcast.” My wife looked to me like, “Okay”. I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I don’t even really know podcast operates.” But what I did know is I knew how to operate a board and I knew general production stuff. I said, “I’ll figure the rest out.” I think what was important was when I was drinking and using drugs I dreamed a lot, but I never took action. And when I got sober it was time to take action.
When those dreams didn’t work out, it was always somebody else’s fault or circumstances fault. You know what I mean? It was never my own fault. So I jumped into this new world of self-responsibility and so it’s time to get up and just do it and I am going to have to fail along the way and just embrace that. The pain that we go through and the things in life we run and we hide from.
I did that for a long time, just like many of us. Once I stepped out of that and just dove in and went for it, I really found my true self. It’s such a huge thing of importance to me is finding my true self, finding who I am. I still continue to do that. I actually have somewhat of an understanding of who that is today versus for 31 years before. I really didn’t have any clue and that’s what brought on the anxiety, the depression, the fear, the substance abuse. Not dealing with past issues, all that stuff. Today, I don’t have to do that. It’s pretty neat.
David: Yes. What do you love about podcasting as a medium for doing what you’re doing, sharing stories supporting, encouraging the community?
Shane: I think there’s a couple of things. One, I really love that it bridges that gap between some of the programs, some of the treatment centers and the person out there who’s suffering. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma, not only behind addiction and alcoholism, but also behind recovery and treatment and going to a 12-step program. I feel like podcast help bridge that gap in letting somebody in their own personal space, their own personal time, sit back and listen to something and find out that they’re not alone.
My hope, which I do get a lot of feedback that it does help, is that those people who find podcast like Recovery Unscripted, Sober Guy. They may go on to that next level now, and maybe go find another community. Is it a 12-step program, is it a church? And who knows now their turning around helping other people. So it’s just like that domino effect of me being helped, me getting to help people. And hopefully, those people get need to help people and so on. I mean that’s really what it’s about. It’s that fellowship. I think that part of the podcast is awesome.
David: Yes, it seems like a really personal. A little bit vulnerable. We’re all really close to the mic. Right now it’s just me and Shane and somebody listening in their car.
Shane: Yes, totally. I’m glad you brought up vulnerable David, because there’s such power and vulnerability. I always looked at being vulnerable like a weakness. I don’t have anything against being a tough guy, and being strong and projecting strength, but at the same time, I have to have a good balance of being able to be open and find out who I am, and share who I am, and be honest about– if there’s something on my mind, if there’s something bothering me, past experiences. Just finding that has been a huge piece of the puzzle, I guess.
David: Another thing I wanted to get into – I was reading on your bio, this quote that you had in your bio, that your addiction was merely a symptom of a boy trying to be a man in God’s world. That’s powerful imagery. Not just for addiction recovery but for every journey, everything we go through in life. Could you unpack that a little what that means to you?
Shane: In my opinion, I think God uses all of us for certain things as vessels to send messages and to relate to other people and to talk to people, puts us in certain circumstances, good or bad or that kind of stuff. I think with relating to that quote, number one, I didn’t realize for a long time that it’s not Shayne’s world. It’s not all about me. Everything doesn’t go my way all the time and as I worked a recovery program I started to learn about myself and started to learn more or less a spiritual relationship with God versus religion.
I was raised Catholic so nothing at all against Catholicism and being Catholic. I’m actually very proud of that. As a kid had a lot of great experiences. My family, they’re active in the Catholic Church. For me, there was something missing there. The spiritual part I drew away from it and it wasn’t until I went into recovery that I started finding that again, I guess. To get to the point, the world is bigger than me and it is God’s world and God leads the way. When I allow God to lead the way, and I don’t have to carry that weight on my shoulders anymore, man, I’m free. I’m literally free.
I can navigate through life on faith alone and I don’t know what he has in store for me. I can only imagine that there’s going to be some great times in my life and there’s probably going to be some tough times moving ahead, but one thing I know is that my faith is strong and that I have that as my anchor. So I got a tattoo on my hand. That’s the really important piece of it. The other piece about being a boy just like trapped in this man’s body is, I just didn’t know who I was. I was so confused and so insecure and so lost. I just didn’t know how to navigate through life in a healthy manner.
I felt like I was stuck. I felt like I was stuck as like this immature child almost. That’s a tough thing to do when you’ve got kids and a wife and a job and if that maturity level is not there to be responsible and take self-responsibility, man, how do you do life? It’s pretty tough. Then if you don’t have faith there involved in that, man, I don’t know how I did it that long.
David: The other thing that that imagery made me think of was back to the vulnerability discussion, how were brought into this world as a boy and then we had these ideas that are maybe now forced upon us but that kind of thing. Ideas of what a man should be and how you’re saying like, you got to be strong, you can’t try, this kind of thing. That’s tough. That’s a transition too, kind of discovering there’s more to being a man than Chuck Norris.
Shane: [laughs] Chuck Norris, yes. That’s a good description of like a man’s man, right? Yes, we don’t show emotion and we just put our heads down and we go to work and we just– we grind and you suck it up and you just get it done. Obviously, those traits and those things there’s a time and a place for them sure, like there’s times when we got to suck things up and just get it done like I get it. But if that’s all I’m focused on, how am I going to relate to my daughter? If I’m not in touch with my own emotions and self and know a little bit about myself and be comfortable with that too?
Be secure in my manhood and say, “Hey, daddy’s cried before.” I can cry and be okay with that. I can cry out of joy too, you know what it means. Sometimes there’s things that make me so happy that I just want to cry. You know what I’m saying on that. That’s cool, man, it doesn’t make me a wimp like I can handle it. It’s a good feeling being able to know that. I think that is the true sense of the man to me.
David: Yes, not being afraid of that. That means you’re secure in what you are. You feel like, “Well, if I cry, that doesn’t change who I am.”
Shane: Not at all. Yes.
David: That there’s more to me than that.
David: Another thing I want to bring up with you is this distinct memory of when you finally sat down and were telling your wife about your continued struggles with alcoholism and you said the words “I need help.” Just describing the feeling that you had a weight off your shoulders but bittersweet like that’s a hard place to get to. Why is that so hard and what did that mean for you in that moment?
Shane: Leading up to that, I had tried and I had wanted to quit for a long time. There is a lot of times I can remember going to parties or going to weddings or going to– just going out. I didn’t necessarily want to drink but at least I thought like I just I wanted to try to stop but I never could. You know what I mean. Maybe I think there was a component of being obsessive about it and also a component of just the social aspect of it of “That’s just what we do.” I would go back and forth. I would– because I smoked a lot of pot too. I was a really big pothead where the motto we used to use was “We don’t get high, we stay high.”
It was just like from the moment I woke up till the moment I would go to bed was big part of that. What I would do is I would try to trade off. I would say, “Okay, I’m not going to drink for a while. I would just smoke pot.” Then I’d just smoke pot. Then I would say, “Oh man, I’m going to cut back on the pot a little bit and I’ll just drink.”
David: Like you’re making a deal with yourself.
Shane: Yes, and just trying– it just stupid. It really its stums dumb even saying it like I just going back and forth like that. The mindset is just ludicrous but I would try. I think I’d given it up for about three weeks all of it at one point because I got in some trouble and I wasn’t in any type of recovery. I didn’t even admit I had a problem. I was just saying that “Oh, I’m going to stop for a while. I think it’s a good thing or whatever.” We’re at a Raider game and they were passing the blunt around and I told my wife “Weed’s not my problem, it’s alcohol. I’m just going to smoke a little bit of weed I’ll be fine.”
Well, like within a week I was drinking again. Fast forward a year ahead we get to that moment that you had talked about sitting in the restaurant and admitting to my wife I have a problem because in that year, from that time that I hit that blunt in Oakland at the Raider game to sitting down a year later roughly, it had progressed so, so fast. Like where I had so much to live for but I didn’t really care about any of it. When I admitted that those words “I need help,” man, it was so crazy because it felt like the weight just was lifted off from me. I always say it was kind of a bittersweet moment because it was like I puked everything. “Blur, I need help.” Not literally but-
David: You’d been holding it in for so long and all of a sudden-
Shane: All that toxic just trying to hold it in and it was just like, finally, I can just say, “I don’t even care anymore. I don’t care who knows. I don’t care. I just am so hungry to stop this lifestyle and to get sober and live the life that God intended me to live.” I think in saying that there was that part there was relief, and then there was the part of absolute fear too because like, “Wow. I just admitted this to my wife, now the cat’s out of the bag. She knows I need to go to rehab,” but I didn’t care. Let’s go for it.
Thankfully, like I said before, I have the most amazing wife ever. She was like, “You need help?” She didn’t know anything that was going on. I was hiding all of this. She knew I was drinking and stuff and she knows I smoke sometimes. She didn’t know I was hiding bottles, she didn’t know I was drinking and driving all the time. She didn’t know I was getting cocaine in the middle of the night and so to come clean with it, it was tough and I felt like a jerk because I am a stone on her.
Now, she had to deal with it but I knew if we could just hold on and get through this, that it was going to pay off in the end and we were really going to come back full circle and lead a good healthy lifestyle, not only for us as a husband and wife but for our kids too. The day there are two that I got to rehab, we’d already had Lucy and Jessie miscarried a couple of times with her trying to have another baby. Probably a couple of days after I got home she got pregnant again with cash and that’s God’s will.
For me, I think I was like say I think that he saw like these two are serious now. Like he’s cool almost some in love and let’s get him on that path now that I know I have for him.
David: I love that what you are saying about for your family and like we all have a chance to start our own legacy. It doesn’t matter about our parents or grandparents and how we grew up. We can start that now and that it can be for our kids going down and that’s a gift.
Shane: It’s for sure. It’s one of my biggest and most important things that I’m happy about is breaking that cycle from the environment that I grew up in and not having alcohol or drugs being a component of our family’s lifestyle. I always say that– like I have family that’s still drinking. It’s like what I said before. It’s not necessarily alcohol that’s the issue, it’s my own issue. You know what I mean. Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate you this is a lot of fun, man.
David: Absolutely, and thanks for being here. Wrap up with this final question. You put a lot of yourself into furthering your recovery cause with the blog, the podcast. Why is encouraging and providing those kinds of resources to help the sober community? Why is that important to you?
Shane: Like I said before, I think that God has a plan for us all. I genuinely feel in my heart and my soul that God wants us to help other people and that’s why we’re put here is to help other people. I’ll speak for myself. I lived in a very selfish aspect of my life for a long time and I don’t fault myself for that because I genuinely just didn’t know. I think once I accepted that and didn’t beat myself up for it is when really the healing and the growth started to take place. I’m still working through this on the daily because I still have selfish tendencies absolutely, man, I’m human, I’m a man.
It talks about that a lot in the Bible is that– I think it’s Paul that says, “I want to do the right thing but I don’t do it”, you know what it means? Like, “How do I do that?”, and so just helping other people and trying to be of service is something that makes me feel whole, I guess.
I think the pursuit of that is really where it’s at to, it’s not just like, “Okay, cool. I get to help people and that’s what I do and that’s it like, I help you”, it’s actually pursuing helping people and getting better at it as a person and letting go slowly each day of that selfishness attitude.
I hope you that I get a little bit better at it each day and that by sharing my story and having a platform that allows other people to share their story. It just spread like a wildfire, man, it just gets to help some other people out there.
David: Yes, man, and that’s the journey like it changes us when we are letting go of ourselves in that way.
Shane: Totally, man, totally.
David: Well, thanks for being with us today Shane. I appreciate it.
Shane: Thanks for having me.
David: Thanks again to Shane for joining us. Now we get to welcome Will Hart from the Life Challenge team. He joins us each month to give us an update from their community which is the aftercare support network for those who have gone through Foundation’s treatment programs and anyone else up for accepting the challenge of living life in recovery. Last month’s challenge was to be deliberate about spending some extra time with your family. Now, Will’s back to share the new challenge for this month, so welcome Will.
Will: Hey, how you doing?
David: All right, man. Good to see you today.
Will: Yes, good to see you too.
David: All right, so what do you got for us this month?
Will: Well, since September is National Recovery Month, we thought we’d go along the lines with that big component of what we’re focusing on at the LC this month is community. We figured that’d be a great challenge for everyone out there to focus on their community too. The community that helps you move forward through your recovery. If you’re not in recovery, you’re now supporting the people you know that are struggling.
David: You can still be part of someone else’s community.
David: What are some action points that you might recommend for people doing that?
Will: We were thinking to find some ways to pour into your sober community through service, find some ways to thank those that have supported you, go to a meeting, maybe haven’t been to one in a while, go to an extra meeting if you go regularly. We thought another really good one would be volunteers/donate with all the hurricanes and everything going on around the world right now, getting out there volunteering, donating especially if you’re one on the areas that have been affected, that would be huge.
David: Definitely a lot of ways to help your community out there. All right, and then as always they can share photos of what they’re doing with this challenge and share it on your website.
Will: Yes. Visit us at lcaccepted.com. We have a bragging rights page, anything you do we’d love to see it. Just upload a photo and we’ll send you a free t-shirt.
David: All right, man. Thanks again for being here.
Will: Yes, thanks for having me.
David: This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today we’ve heard from Shane Ramer of That Sober Guy. To check out his work visit thatsoberguy.com and thank you for listening today. If you have a second, please give us a rating on your favorite podcast app and subscribe, so you won’t miss out on any of our new episodes. See you next time.