LAF Life (Living Alcohol Free)

Ben "Swim Tuff": How I swam my way out of the bottle. Season 2 Ep. 18

April 02, 2023 Ben Tuff Season 2 Episode 18
LAF Life (Living Alcohol Free)
Ben "Swim Tuff": How I swam my way out of the bottle. Season 2 Ep. 18
Show Notes Transcript

Our guest in episode 18 Ben Tuff, is a life long educator who has set out to inspire not only his students but now others in the recovery space. Ben is a record holding  ultramarathon swimmer who only learned how to swim in his thirties as part of his recovery from alcohol addiction. In his upcoming documentary "Swim Tuff: How I swam my way out of the bottle" Ben has taken an unconventional approach to sharing his recovery journey in a way that has never been done before. With the goal of destigmatizing addiction, Ben is encouraging others to pursue their passion one stroke at a time. We can't wait to check out this amazing documentary when it is released later this spring!

to find out more about Ben connect with him on Instagram at:  https://www.instagram.com/ben.tuff/?next=%2F
or you can send him an email at bentuff@gmail.com
Check out the trailer for Ben's documentary "Swim Tuff": How I swam my way out of the bottle on YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ieaYrqYuIFc

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Kelly:
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**Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this episode are not professional or medical opinions. If you are struggling with an addiction please contact a medical professional for help.

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Wellness Togethe...

Kelly:

welcome to the LAF life podcast, a lifestyle podcast based on living alcohol free and a booze soaked world. My name is Kelly Evans and together with my friends, Tracey Djordjevic, Mike Sutton and Lindsay Harik. We share uncensored. Unscripted real conversations about what our lives have been like since we ditched alcohol and how we got here by sharing our individual stories. We'll show you that there isn't just one way to do this, no matter where you are on your journey from sober, curious to years in recovery and everyone in between, you are welcome here, no judgment and a ton of support.

Tracey:

Hello everyone and welcome back to the LAF Life podcast. This is season two and episode 18. Tonight we have a guest joining us, Ben Tuff and Ben actually got introduced to us by another guest Kim Kerns, which is awesome. We love when we get to connect with people in our sober community and we are thankful that Kim made this connection for us. A little bit of what I've learned about Ben so far. Ben is a lifelong educator and he is had the privilege of working with boarding students across the world. He is here tonight to share with us an exciting project he's been working on. He has a documentary called Swim Tuff, how I swam my way out of the bottle that is going to be releasing the spring. And one of the things I found interesting about some of the information Ben shared with me was the fact that he has this documentary around swimming and how that helped him with his sobriety. Meanwhile, he grew up around the ocean and has an appreciation and love for it, but didn't know how to swim. So I'm very excited to learn more and find out how he came about that and what this documentary is all about. Welcome Ben. Thank you for joining us.

Ben:

Thank you very much for having me. Let's start with your relationship with alcohol. Ben, tell us a little bit about that how it started and how it led you to where you are. Yeah, so it was pretty early in my life I didn't start in vibing in alcohol, but I was surrounded by it since pretty much birth, I'm the youngest of six kids. I grew up in a very traditional European family. And it was if you want to try it, go for it. And both my parents prescribed to the idea of, if it's in our house and we're aware of it, then, not to worry about it. So I was I think it was age 13, I had a lot of anxiety growing up and. I was a big hypochondriac. I was always worried that I had a malady of some sort, and it was like musical illnesses for me and I was convinced I was gonna die of cancer. I think this might have stemmed from when I was in second grade, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had to have his bladder removed. And thankfully he recovered from that, but there were times that we didn't think he was gonna make it. And I remember vividly after that thinking that I had bladder cancer or then I had a brain tumor or I had something else. So I would take the anxieties and the pieces of my life that were most difficult and I would internalize it and put it somewhere in my body. I was 13 when I found out I was having what were panic attacks, right? And I went downstairs and it was near bedtime, probably eight 30 or nine at night. And I said to my mom, I said, mom, I'm like sweating. I'm gonna throw up. You go to the hospital. And she was like, no, you don't. You're being silly. This is all in your head. She went into the other room and she came out with a small little shot of vodka and she said, just take this and this'll calm your inner turmoil and your nerves and you'll be able to sleep fine. And I never really drank much until starting like 16. 17 when we reached our junior year of high. High school and then it was on yes, I just wanted to ask, when you had that shot of vodka, what was of your reaction to it, or what were your thoughts around it? I thought it was disgusting. But it worked.

Tracey:

Okay. Okay. You did have that sense of, oh, this made me feel better, At the same time, it was something that I was really fearful of, given my. Propensity to overanalyze my health and such. And because I was playing competitive soccer, I was like, I don't need alcohol. I'm gonna steer away from this. I don't care what my brothers and sisters do, I'm not quite ready for this. But again, once I was 16 or 17, it became a mainstay and I had a lower self-esteem. It's never easy to be an identical twin, that presents a different kind of self-image issue. You're always trying to not be compared with your twin brother, but inevitably it happens every day and every second of every day. And I hated it. I hated every bit of it, but, Come the weekend time, I was the partying one and I was the one who was being social and I was organizing all the get togethers. Even though it wasn't so much of a problem of me abusing it, I was definitely a binge drinker. And all my friends that hung out with me, we were all binge drinkers and we continued that all the way through college. It wasn't until, about 14 years ago that I really went down that steep road of alcoholism and alcohol abuse I was self-medicating for every excuse and every feeling that I had, including the panic attacks and all that. I knew that I would at least have a short respite from the inner anguish that I felt. I would go to the liquor store and I would have already had the$20 bill that I had gotten in cash back from the supermarket, because I didn't want my wife to find out I was getting all this cash. And so I'd get the$20 bill, I'd put it in there. I'd buy pine of vodka, I'd buy two vitamin waters, and then I'd drink the vitamin waters down to the labels. I'd fill it up with the vodka, and then I would convince myself very easily, surprisingly easy that it was just, Vitamin water. I was drinking on the way home. Then I'd get home and I'd try to cover up the smell of alcohol by drinking, a few more beers. By that time I was pretty intoxicated and I'd just go to bed and the daily kind of repertoire of all of that started to take its toll mentally and physically. And I just couldn't keep it together much, the hangovers and the shakes, for three years I pretty much was leading this secret double life where I was hiding all of this drinking. Then that whole thing came humbling down in a 24 hour period of time. Wow. That's very interesting. You've said a lot of things there actually that are interesting to me. I am curious about the anxiety and even the hypochondriac. Have you dolled into that a little more? Were those two things directly related? Like the anxiety was due to the fact that you were always worried about your health and.

Ben:

Yeah, it wasn't until I went to rehab and I went to Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut, I had, and currently have a wonderful psychiatrist who explained it all to me. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so no one ever, I'd never been to a psychiatrist before. Or seen anybody or a therapist or anything like that. So the anxieties I felt was actually a cause of, or the result of depression and the way that my brain manifested the low feelings, I, in turn just internalized all that as a malady of some sort. And was just a habit for me, fixate on those little things in myself that might have been a bigger issue.

Tracey:

Wow. That must have been so hard growing up with that your whole life and not realizing what it was. Not only that I found what you said about your twin really interesting I don't know a lot of people that are twins and I've never heard that kind of perspective on it. But I can understand that must have been challenging. When you're an identical twin and you pretty much have, the exact identical of you and the comparison and everything else. I can see how that could cause a lot of internal struggle. Chris and I we got along great. It was just in the eyes of everyone else. It was a constant struggle to try to find our own identities. It's difficult enough. And after doing this for teaching for 21 years I've learned that it's so difficult for middle schoolers and young high schoolers to figure out who they really are and how they show that. If you throw in someone who looks exactly like you and you both are trying to go on the same path and you're very similar, but at the same time you're struggling to separate it makes it that much more difficult. Yeah, definitely to be individuals. Or feel like you're individuals. Yeah. That's really interesting, right? As far as the drinking went, maybe go back to that. Sorry, I interrupted, but you touched on a few things that I thought were pretty important and interesting there. Yeah, so it was a panic attack that brought me to the Torrington Hospital, which was not a nice hospital by any means. I arrived there and I was in the triage room my wife had taken me there, it was 1130 in the morning and we're literally waiting in there for an hour and a half, two hours. And I'm like, what's going on? Why is this taking so long? And I said to the nurse, what's taking so long? And she said we have to wait for your blood alcohol. Limit or, blood alcohol content to get below the legal limit for us to admit you here. And so I looked over at my wife and, my heart hit my stomach and I was like, I'm dis like it's all up. Everything is out there now. I'm done. And I said, okay, let's go. I'm gonna rehab. I'm ready to go. I have a problem. This is a serious issue. I know that you have lots of questions, but I'm ready for rehab. And that afternoon I ended up going into detox. I did like a seven or eight day detox in Torrington Hospital as we waited for a bed to open up down at the, rehab. And I went in there like ready to. Go. I was like, let's do this. in the beginning there were a few people who came up. They were like, what are you so happy about? I was like, I'm so happy to be finally figuring out my life and to getting to the bottom of all these problems. So was your wife shocked? Was she in shock or did she know what was going on and, so I didn't know that she had my primary care physician call ahead and order all those tests just to see what was up. And, once they saw the liver function and the blood alcohol content, it was like, okay, that's definitely what it's been. You. There's no way that I could go against what the doctors are saying. And if they needed that as ammunition. I'd been caught before with little things like having alcohol or having beers hidden or trying to hide them in the past. So it wasn't a great surprise but me being inebriated after 12 hours, more than 12 hours, 14 hours I think that was still a little bit of a shock as it was to me, because I definitely didn't feel it, and I felt awful. When you went into detox, did you have a lot of withdrawal symptoms?

Ben:

Yeah. I didn't have any of the dts, but they put me on a pretty hefty dose of benzos to taper me down. I think I was on a six day taper and I still had, weird voices and not visions, but just so restless, couldn't sleep. I remember how excited I was the fourth day we finally had my appetite back cuz it had been so long since I was properly hungry. Something. Wow. It was like chicken parmesan or something really gross chicken Parmesan and was just like, wow. Like I'm actually really excited about eating this and I ate the whole thing. And prior to that, it wasn't really much, much eating. And I was 163 pounds when I was admitted to Torrington. And now after the swimming and after everything, I'm usually about two 10 to two 15. That was, I was sick. I looked sick and my body was telling me I was sick, but I didn't know how to listen to it.

Kelly:

How old were you at this point, Ben? So that was 11 years ago. So 32 no wait. 31. If you don't mind me asking, between you and your wife, did it ever come up like you need to. Get yourself together. I want you to quit drinking, like all that. Okay. Yeah, I was just curious about that. Oh yeah. I would do sober January and Right. I would take a month off here, take a month off there and be like, yeah, see, I don't need it. I'm good. Yeah. And it was always a pretty slow downfall. Like it would just go, and then those last two weeks, it would always a precipitous fall.

Tracey:

So you went from detox into a rehab? Yes. So I went to a 28 day rehab. I ended up staying there for just over that. I did 35 days because I just needed one more week to get ready. And also since I was, I lived at a boarding school and I lived with all the students. It was too much for me to go back and answer all these questions. About, what I was going through and what I discovered about myself. So I waited until right after graduation to return. So did the kids know, like at the end of the day, I'm sure your coworkers knew something obviously, cuz he had to be, where's Ben? Did it come out and did it come out in the context of I'm gonna do something with this in a positive.

Ben:

Yeah. So all the teachers knew and I told my wife, I said just tell them like I don't have anything to hide. For the kids, I wasn't sure of where to go. On my fourth day, it was a rainy day and I'm getting off the bus for dinner. And as I'm walking down, I hear someone yell, Mr Tuff, and I look, I'm like, Caroline. She's Mr. Tuff. What are you doing here? And I was like I'm probably here for the same reason you're here. And literally, I taught her for the last two and a half years. And we're talking about when you ran into, Treatment at, so yeah, at treatment. Oh, wow. But it was actually quite cool because we would have meals together and hang out and we were very open and we said to each other let's just keep this between us. And no one has to know you're here and they don't have to know that I'm here. But over that summer, it's nice being a teacher in recovery because I had three months to just concentrate on myself. And Right. I did my 90 and 90 and I was very religious about my recovery. And in that process I started to think about who I wanted to be. And I said, you know what? I never in my whole life had anybody in recovery that I knew that was normal and that was fun, that could do really cool things. So I'm gonna let these kids know. They need to know that I'm in recovery. This is my experience, this is my journey, so that if something does come up, they'll at least have me to go to. As I say this I took one of my former students who I taught seventh through ninth grade. I took him to rehab. Grab him from rehab on Tuesday and bring him to another three month program in Arizona. Yeah. And he said, I don't want anyone else taking me. I don't wanna see my mom. I don't wanna see my dad. I just want Ben to take me. I trust him. I talked to him three times a day and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. So let's just make that journey together. And I was like, let's do it. Let's go. Wow. It'll be a fun experience doing that together.

Kelly:

Just for the listeners who may not know what 90 and 90 is

Ben:

Oh yeah. So it's, it's 90 meetings and 90 days I am a big fan of whatever works for you. I'm not, you have to do aa. That's the only way to go cuz there are so many other approaches to sobriety that can be successful. For me, AA has worked unbelievably well and I'm also a little bit more of a traditionalist. So for that student I was talking about, he could not stand aa, so we're of like shopping around a little bit and he enjoyed two visits to smart recovery and we're looking at maybe going that route, but in the end as I talk to people who are either seeking recovery or in recovery, it's all about just finding people like you. You need to have Absolutely. You need to have that support network and that support network can't be your buddies from high school or college or of random people who you think understand you really well or a therapist. Yeah. That's part of the whole puzzle that we have to put together. But at the center of it are the people that you surround yourself with in recovery? So true. That's come up on the podcast a few times with, friends and family can be supportive, but we can't expect them to understand what addiction is if they've never struggled with it themselves. So having that connection to other, like you said, other people just like us is what's important. Yeah. And it's so easy now yes, I do enjoy an in-person meeting a lot better than an online meeting, but there's sometimes that we're just limited and we just need a meeting right away of some sort where, whatever that might be. And it's just a click away. Even I still use my sponsor from. Silver Hill that I had 11 years ago that was supposed to be my temporary sponsor for my time there. And he's actually the one who got me into swimming to begin with. I still talk to him on a weekly basis not to sound like I have it all together, but because now I'm working with so many students, parents, friends who are either in recovery or looking for recovery, sometimes I just need a sounding board and saying is, am I doing the right thing here? Ken, can I do this? Or is this really bad? And I think I actually lean on him the most for unbiased view of my family. And I'm one of eight, including my parents and now there are only two drinkers left. Oh, wow. Wow. I I was curious about that. Yeah. I was the first one to get what I needed, and then soon after the others fell in line. Yeah. Because they were struggling with addiction or just because it wasn't serving them or various Yes. Anyone who says addiction is not a genetic disorder should study our family because I think we're a pretty good testament to it. To the whole idea that, we do carry whatever gene that is. And maybe it's nature, maybe it's nurture, who knows. But there were, all of us needed that help.

Tracey:

I can relate to that, Ben. I had a lot of alcoholism in my family, and actually after I quit, my mom quit and then my brother and his partner quit too. So we only have two drinkers left in our family too, and they have healthy relationships with alcohol, so that's okay so far. Yeah, it's interesting how that happens, but it's a wonderful thing.

Ben:

And that one took me by surprise because I knew that I was always leading by example in my life as a teacher and as a coach and as an advisor and all that. But I never thought that I would be leading by example for my family members. Oh, that's cool. I thought I was an outcast and I thought I was an exception. And yeah, they said, congratulations, I'm so proud of you. But the way they really showed how proud they were of me, Was the day that they gave up alcohol.

Kelly:

That's cool. So what are your family get togethers like now? I'm sure very different. It's so funny, we used to have to get extra blue recycling bins that went out the back door. Because it was just mayhem and between wine and beer and everything. And now we have two blue recycling bins and they're all full of seltzer water. All of them. And it's sure that the recycling guy who comes by was like, there's been a drastic change in this household over the last few years. Oh, that's funny. That's awesome. I remember when we changed where I live, we changed to the taller bins with the lids. The ones that you roll out on wheels. And I remember when we changed being like, oh, thank God nobody can see all my wine bottles anymore because I hated putting those bins. Yeah. We had extra bins lots of times.

Ben:

Yeah. It is the kind of walk of shame. Yeah. When I used to run a lot on the pickup days, I used to be like problem. Okay. They're okay. They might have a problem or they had a party. But I try not to judge as much as I can.

Tracey:

Yeah. Yeah. Mike, you had a question for Ben?

Mike:

No, I was gonna say when you went back to work obviously it's a big change in your life. Were you met with any resistance from say superiors to say, Hey, don't share your story with the kids cuz we're not sure about how to do you understand what I'm getting at? They all said not to. I think the excuse in the beginning was, be sick. They're gonna see that you drank so much, but then you could be okay afterwards. Yeah. That's the message that you're sending them. And I said, no, it's it's not really that. Yeah. It's that if you have an issue with anything, you can ask for help and get that help and then end up leading a much better life as a result of it. What was the turnaround time for them to say, okay, do it your way. See, that's how I I roll a different way than most people. I just do it anyway. Alright. So I just for forgiveness type of approach, I did it anyway. It actually took, so about three months in, I had some students approach me about their mother who had just gone away to rehab and they didn't understand it and they beneficial. So I started taking those students to all meetings. Oh, Oh. So it was at that point that the headmaster said, Ben, keep it up. This is a really cool thing that you have. Oh, thank you. Great for waking up. Yeah. They employ you. As a person who's been educated in hair teach what we want you to teach these kids. But it's like the human element is I'm using my damn instincts to share myself, not only as a teacher, but as a human to say trust me that I'm gonna teach these kids the right thing. Good for you. I think that's amazing. For me, when I became a teacher, I became a teacher because my middle school teachers were horrible. They talked down on me all the time. I had no motivation. And I made a rule for myself that when I worked with kids, that I would always talk to them as grown human beings and I wouldn't never talk down on them. And that's why when I talk to kids and when I work with kids about issues like addiction, I can get a lot more feedback from them. I can get them more engaged than your parent or an average person trying to really talk about these tough subjects. Because you have to make it to the point, like having the birds and the bees talk. If you're gonna be awkward about it, it's going to be even more awkward for the kids. Yeah. But if you're able to be real, if you're able to really show what will protect the kids moving forward for the rest of their lives and get that message through, then it's all worthwhile, right? That's awesome. Sorry, trace, I know you're gonna get into the next episode of what he's doing with his life now, but my last question is there any contact or have you kept in touch with the student that you did treatment with? Did you say her name was Caroline Or Caroline? Caroline. Caroline. So I'm Facebook friends with her. She's sober and she lives in New York City. Just a product of a very wealthy household. And she's working in the fashion industry, making dresses and doing fashion shows. So she's doing great. She didn't go the traditional route of, she got her, I think she just got her diploma or the equivalent of Never went to fashion school, never went to college. And yet she has found great success. It's always reassuring to know that a 14 year old or a kid who goes to get help that early in their life Wow. That they can continue down a positive path. So she was 14 at that point. Wow. Yep.

Tracey:

And she stayed sober, so That's amazing. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. So yes, tell us about your sponsor. Who inspired the rest of your journey? I think

Ben:

It was funny because it was the third day we had our weekly or our daily assignments at Silver Hill and was like, read this much of the big book or read this and write in your journal. And on the third day I see that my assignment is you must go to the early aa, the early bird and you must come home with a sponsor that you're gonna talk to every day. And I was like, holy, I gotta find some complete stranger that I'm gonna just totally open up to. This is so awkward. So I walk into that meeting in New Canan and there are like 80 people in there, and I felt like I was going on a speed dating excursion of some sort. And I'm like, who am I gonna ask? It was mostly men. So it, it's not like I could narrow out the women. And then I heard this guy, Ken, start to speak and my roommate, who had already finished maybe three weeks at the rehab, he came to me and he said, are you gonna pick a sponsor? I said, yeah. I was like, how do I pick one? He said, you need to pick the person who's gonna really hold you accountable and is gonna get you through the steps and is gonna do everything possible to. Make sure that you build that foundation strong enough so that you never relapse or even think about it. And I said, okay, so I need to find someone serious and someone who I can get along with. And this guy Ken comes up and he had a rich Irish accent and he was in no nonsense. He then started to talk about a triathlon that he recently raced. And I'm like, cool. That's cool. He ended up doing a triathlon and he talked about how he learned how to swim and I was like, oh my gosh. Maybe I could be a triathlete when I'm done with this place. So I went up to him after a meeting and I said, Ken, can I Ask you a question would you be my sponsor while I'm here and just my temporary sponsor? And do you think that I could learn how to swim in a short period of time so that I could maybe do a triathlon, a short triathlon by the end of the summer? And he was like, yeah, I'll be your sponsor. I'd love to be your sponsor and you definitely can learn how to swim now at the time, I didn't realize that Ken I only found this out when I was talking in Ry New York to a group of individuals. Ken and I did a question and answer together, and I asked Ken what he first thought of me when I was in at, in rehab, and he thought I was, he said, I thought you were an obnoxious prick Who thought he knew everything. I was like, Oh, so that's who I was going up and approaching and asking to be my sponsor. Was this guy who didn't even like me, and yet he still said, yeah, he'll sponsor me, which is such a cool thing. And literally I jumped in the pool the day after I got back from Silver Hill, and I would go like half the length of the pool on doing crawl, sidestroke backstroke all together, breaststroke. And then I'd make it to the end and I'd do four lengths. And I was like, that's enough for the day. This is gonna be brutal. But by the end of the summer, about two months later, I could swim a good, I wouldn't call it fast, but I could do about a half mile at a time. And I did my first triathlon I think for me. And I was like, let's do this and that next summer I did 11 triathlons, and then the next summer I did 15. So it was just off and running. And I was a good triathlete I was in the top 10% in the US and I went to nationals, I wasn't the best. So just like with the alcoholism running in the family, so does competitiveness, and I know that growing up my parents loved the fact that the tough family never lost to anything. And so I took that into my individual pursuit of triathlon and I would go to the start line and I would look at everybody's calves and I would see who was in my age group. And I'd be like, I'm gonna beat you. I'm gonna beat you, I'm gonna beat you and it's gonna be done and I can't wait. And I said, At the end of one of these races when, I probably got second or third, that was usually where I ended up because some guy would just be so fast and I wouldn't have a chance, and I would be like, why am I doing this? I realized that I wasn't doing it for myself anymore. I wasn't doing it for the joy of it, I was just doing it for winning. It was at that point that I made the decision just to switch to swimming. I signed up for a two mile race and it was relatively easy and I did relatively well. And I was like, if I can do two miles, I can do anything. And then I did that next summer. I did a 12 and a half mile race around Key West and raised money for my school, the school that I worked at. And then I was like 12 and a half miles. That was a five hour swim. That wasn't bad. And then I did a swim around Jamestown, Rhode Island. And to bring in another kinda element, I decided to raise money for a nonprofit environmental group called Clean Ocean Access, which I'm now the president of. We raised money for cleanups and education and testing water quality and composting. When I first did it, I did it just because I didn't wanna back out. I had to hold myself accountable. If I had 450 people giving money and resources to my swim to help benefit clean ocean access, there's no way I was backing out. So I raised$55,000 that first year and did the 21 mile swim. Wow. Wow. Yeah. And then I was like, let's up the ante a little bit. And I did a swim. The next swim was from Block Island to Jamestown, that was 19 miles of open ocean. The tough part of that one was that it was through the biggest breeding ground of great white sharks in all of the East coast. I had to keep that into perspective and I was able to raise$102,000. And then the final one, which is what the movie Swim Tuff is about, was from Providence, Rhode Islands. All the way down to Jamestown, which was the whole length of Narragansett Bay. So I became the first person to do both of those swims and the only person to have done those two swims ever. And to me, I was like, that's cool. I'm doing that all by myself. I'm doing that on my own, and no one can really get in the way of that. I'm also doing it for a great cause. But more than that, my journey as I soon found out through this movie, my journey in and swimming has mirrored my journey in sobriety to a whole nother level. If you think of how much attention. We pay on ourselves during our own time, during the swimming process. There are some weeks that I will be in the water, 20 to 25 hours. All of that time I spend in my own mind and I know that a lot of people don't want to go there, but now I actually look forward to it cuz it's my time. I can process, I can connect with my higher power, I can be mindful of my surroundings and practice mindfulness and it's such a cool experience. At the same time, I'm not a great swimmer. my technique isn't perfect, it isn't that good, but in the end it doesn't matter. It's all about just staying in that moment and being able to, Process and push through the craziest mental and physical barriers that will ever get in your mind or on your body. Through that perseverance, you learn a lot about who you really are. Said. Yeah. Incredible. Do you have any kids, Ben? Yes. I have two. You can probably hear them in the background. I have a 16 year old son named Wyatt and a 13 year old named Maisie. So Wyatt would've been say under the age of six when you were going through those? Yes. Yeah. So it was, so we were down in Atlanta a few weeks ago they don't like cameras and they're not like on the DL and they didn't wanna get an interview, but they finally said they would get interview down in Atlanta with our producer. And I snuck around the corner and listened to what they were saying. And wouldn't, Wyatt was saying Maisie doesn't remember any of it. And why? I was like, I just remember going to see my dad at this place that like, was like a camp. It was like so cool that I wanted to go there. And I would say that the toughest phone call that I think probably ever had was about four days. I told my wife just to gimme a little bit of time to get settled and I didn't wanna get homesick, so gimme four days to talk and I ended up talking to her. I was so excited. I was like, I'm doing awesome. I got this new sponsor named Ken everything is going well. This is just so great. I'm concentrating on myself. And he was, she was like, oh, really? Everything's great here too. Your son Wyatt is finally not acting out and is calm and cool. And he no longer is having those little tantrums that he had. Yeah. And he's no longer affected by your crazy behavior. And of course like that burst my bubble and brought me down to earth and I just started crying and I couldn't even keep it together. I had to hang up and. That's the truth. And that's what I needed to hear because a lot of times we forget about the wreckage that we leave behind and I'm just thankful and fortunate to have been able to repair a lot of what went on and also earn back that trust. And earning back that trust was the hardest. I would say the two hardest things for me in sobriety was earning back trust and finding a social group and making friends again because I was just lost. And it actually wasn. Until I started triathlon and I got in this cool network of triathletes that I started to make friends again. And it's, those are the people who I surround myself on those crazy swims and they're the support people and the trust piece as Ken told me, he was like, trust has to come with time. Yeah. You have to prove it. You have to earn it. It was like six months into my sobriety and we had all signed up for a 5K run just for fun. I got the stomach bug and I was throwing up all night and my wife comes in so angry at me and. how can you do this? How can you do this to me again? And she thought I was drinking again. I was like, I'm not I really have a stomach bug. So I called Ken, I was like, Ken, what do I do? I'm like, I'm not doing anything wrong. He said, what are you gonna do? You did this to yourself, so that's just gonna take time. You're gonna have to earn it back. And you'll know when it's there, but it doesn't come overnight. I have to say Tracey she shared the clip what do you call it? Trailer. Trailer. The trailer. Thank you. Yeah. She shared the trailer for the documentary and I did watch it just the one time. And I thought your story was really cool. And now I have loved hearing more of it tonight, but one thing that really stuck out for me was how proud your wife is of you. And, she speaks of it in the trailer, but just also I think there's a clip or two of her watching you just where she's not speaking and just the pride it's beautiful. I noticed it. Yeah. No, I'm very lucky to have and I think for me it's so important to remind myself from family members to, my close knit family and friends. We have to rely on those people on a daily basis. And it is only through difficult times that you learn to create such. Unbelievable bonds. And I can very easily say that I wish I wasn't this way and I wish I could drink like a normal human being, or I wish I didn't have bipolar, or I wish this, but there isn't a second that goes by that I'm not thankful to be exactly who I am to have experienced everything that I have experienced. Because in my mind I now get to make this really cool film and make a mark on the world in a space that has been not ventured in too much. Most of the addiction films out there are like how addiction is taught in a school. And it's if you do this, you will die or you'll end up like this person. But you know what, you might just be like me and. As a result of your journey in sobriety, you might just found out that you can do some really cool stuff. That's awesome. That's so amazing. You have the uniqueness to impact a lot of people given what you do for your career with children and teaching it's truth be told, it's a lot different than, someone like me who's just a, not just a, but I have a business that I sell things, whereas you have this direct contact with people and one of the reasons why I do this with the ladies is that it helps me grow as a person. Just like you said, your experience has helped you grow as a person. Bravo to you and man I can't wait to watch that documentary cuz I don't watch movies, but I sure as hell watch documentaries. That's what I'm known for. So it's top of my list, So it's actually pretty funny that you say that cuz I can't wait to see it either. I've seen the rough draft, but I will see everything other than the music added tomorrow night and Oh, wow. I talked to the, yeah, I talked to the editor earlier today. She's I hope you don't mind, I'm not gonna get it to you on time. I was like, Jen, I usually go to bed at eight 30, so I have this podcast and then I'm going right to bed. Don't worry about it. No rush. We're all good.

Mike:

The blue bins are gonna be full of seltzers.

Ben:

Exactly.

Tracey:

When's it gonna be released? Ben, when do you think so? I'm hoping that it will the guys who are doing our music art phenomenal. One of them played in a band called The Mighty, mighty Bostons. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And then the other guy was the producer for Avril Levine and all this crazy stuff, and they have been waiting for the perfect documentary to come together and do something. Wow. So I sent them the rough draft and they're like, we found it. This is. We're gonna do this. And they're just as excited as I am about making the music to the movie. They're like, as soon as we get that next draft on Wednesday, it's back to the studio and we're gonna bang it out in two weeks. So it'll be done in about two weeks. Then we'll go to color, get that all done. And we're really looking at three weeks from now it being released, but it's like a soft release as I will be going around to different film festivals to of promote it, show it off, yeah. And promote it. Hopefully get some distribution going from, like a Netflix or Amazon or something like that. Get them to pick it up. So make sure you let us go so we can tell. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yes, I will. So I have a question. In your opinion, do you think that people have more success in sobriety when they find their swimming or whatever it is?

Ben:

Yes, without a doubt. I always tell people to find their passion if they haven't already, and if they have already found their passion in life, then they need to concentrate a little harder on it, cuz they're gonna have a heck of a lot more time to work on it. But again, there's so many other things that we can try new in our lives so I'm starting to work with people who are in sobriety and in recovery and are kind of stunt. So these are mostly long term, anywhere from 10 to 20 years of recovery, and they just feel like they're stuck in the mud. I help them find that missing piece, to jumpstart that recovery for themselves and to allow them to be excited about something again, because that's what it's all about. It's not always gonna be athletic although staying active and doing something for your body is also doing something for your mind and so important, and I did a talk down in Austin, Texas to a group of these gentlemen and they come in and they're just like drinking sodas the whole time and smoking cigarettes one after another. And they're like, I don't understand, why I feel so bad about myself. I was like, wait a minute, are you serious? There are three of them that I will text every other day and I'll say, okay, how's your workout going? How are you walking your two or three miles? Or have you jumped into a pool in the last couple days and done some laps? And if not, then what's holding you back? And they just need a little bit of an, accountability coach of sorts to get them rebooted. Love it. Yeah. That's great. So you do that on the side type of thing? Or is this part of you being a sponsor in theory? Yeah, so that was a Y P O group that I ended up speaking to in Texas. They flew me down to be a kind of resource and to tell my story and message. But I'm starting or will start to do more with rehab centers and by telling my story and helping individuals find what is gonna be my triathlon, what is going to be my swimming, what am I gonna do for myself? You're type stuff in the. Exactly. But yeah, so I'm actually going down to University of Georgia. I'm speaking at a few of the fraternities down there, and my twin brother was like, you're going into the belly of the beast. I hope you're ready for that. Those guys are crazy. And I was like, I know. And that's why I'm so excited. That's what I want. It's like my advisory groups used to always be like the island of misfits because I had the most ridiculous kids in there possible. I took all the kids that no one else really wanted and yet I knew that I would be able to find some front to connect with them and help them on their way. And if I just get through to one of those guys in those fraternities, then you know that word will pass on. I think for me, if I had a more positive figure in my life of someone who was in sobriety than I knew of, then it would've made that jump a little easier and maybe a little earlier in my life. But yeah.

Mike:

Now here you are and you're doing great things for not only you, but your family and many others. I hope so. And I love it. So it's about finding passion. Awesome. We love it too. Thanks for joining us. Yeah. No, thank you.

Kelly:

I was gonna say, your family's super lucky to have you, your extended family, your students. It's just amazing what you're doing, Ben. Thank you. No, thank you. And I'm just happy to spread the word and the one piece that I wanna make sure that people understand is that just because we have this thing called addiction, and just because we're in recovery doesn't mean we have to be boring. All the people in recovery that I hang out with, which is pretty much everyone, they are all awesome human beings. Yeah. And we're all a little crazy. And that's what makes us different. Yes. And that's what makes us awesome. So let's all embrace that. Everybody loves a good, crazy person. Yep.

Tracey:

Hey, if you're a normal, it's boring. Totally. Yeah. Anyways. You are a huge inspiration, Ben. We're so excited that we got to meet you and that you came on to share your story with us. You are a super cool dude and definitely are making sobriety cool for a lot of people. All right, thank you. Thank you so much. Tell everybody where they can find you where they can be pointed to when your documentary does come out.

Ben:

Yeah, so my revamped website will be going live in about a week. It's swimtuff.com you'll be able to get trailer and movie info and all of that where I'm gonna be, when I'm gonna be there for all the festivals. And if you do want to contact me, I'm more than happy to help out in any way that I can and you can always just reach out to me on my Instagram at ben.tuff, or you can email me at bentuff@gmail.com

Tracey:

amazing. So we'll put all that information in our show notes, and you can also find us at LAF Life Podcast on Instagram and in our LAF Life community on Facebook. Thanks again, Ben. It's been such a pleasure. Until next time, everybody keep laughing.

Kelly:

Thank you for listening. Please give us a five star rating like and subscribe, share on social media and tell your friends. We love getting your feedback and ideas of what you'd like to hear on upcoming episodes of the laugh life podcast. If you yourself are living alcohol free and want to share your story here, please reach out.