In Episode 18 of The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, Tank Sinatra, author of “Happy is the New Rich” and Instagram Tank’s Good News and host Ashley Loeb Blassingame discussed Tank’s road to sobriety and how he fights today’s growing cultural negativity through good news stories. We’ve edited and condensed Tank’s story for a fast read. You can listen to the entire interview here

Tank Sinatra (born George Resch) was born and raised in Long Island, New York, and lives there with his wife and three kids. Tank is 39 years old and almost 17 years sober.

Blacking Out From A Young Age

Tank was 13 years old when he drank for the first time. About his first drink he says, “the first time I drank, I think I had 12 drinks – six shots, six beers and blacked out.” He added, “from day one, I had the mindset of if it’s there, it’s going in me. All of it, as fast as possible.”

Growing up, Tank recalls that his family drank around him and shared that his mom went to Al-Anon for “a little while.” He shared, “I’m not blaming them or holding them responsible. I’m the alcoholic.”

Tank played Center on his high school football team in Suffolk County, New York, starting at age 15, and made a big impact on the team. The team was not known as a strong football contender for the previous 10 years, but throughout his time on the team became stronger and stronger. When Tank was a senior, his team made it all the way to the championship game. 

But Tank quit the team during the season, because “[he] wanted to drink on Friday nights,” which he could only do if he didn’t have to play football games on Saturday mornings. “I quit playing football because I wanted to drink,” said Tank. His team lost in the championship and he realized that his decision to drink over play had a big influence on other people: “that was the first time I affected a large group of people with my drinking.” 

Fearing What His Life Would Come To

At 17 years old, Tank knew “something was wrong.” He approached his mother with his concern, saying, “I think something’s wrong. I think I have a problem.” His mother responded, “well when you drink, do you feel like you can’t stop?” He said, “yeah.” She asked, “when you drink, do you ever forget what happens? Do you blackout?” He said, “yeah, every time.” His mom responded with, “you’ll probably be fine. Just be careful.” 

So he kept drinking and started doing drugs and smoking pot every day.

Tank’s pattern of drinking was to drink a lot, fast. In 10 minutes, Tank would have three drinks and go from “sober to insanely intoxicated” fast, every time.

Tank had his last drink on May 19, 2002 after drinking and partying for 21 hours. During this binge, he made his sister, who was 19 years old, sit outside a bar for over five hours while he drank inside, because she was underage and couldn’t go into the bar. His sister wanted to go home but couldn’t without Tank, and kept asking her brother to go home with her. Tank got increasingly pissed off at his sister for hassling him to go home because “she was cutting into [his] drinking time.” Finally he put her in a cab home at 3:30 in the morning. Tank didn’t want to leave the bar until it closed at 4am. 

Tank left the bar when it closed, went home and passed out. When he woke up the next afternoon, his mother put an ultimatum to her son: “You need to stop drinking tonight or get out of the house. Those are your two choices.” Initially angry, Tank started thinking about the practicalities of leaving his home, and realized that he would “be homeless in a month. Oh my God! That’s how it happens.” Tank went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that night.

“I pictured myself running up a cliff and trying to stop right before the edge of the cliff. That’s how I made sense of it. In the end, I was like, “If I keep running up to that cliff, I’m going to fall off one day.” I just knew I wasn’t going to make it.” 

In his interview, Tank said to Ashley, “I’ve always wanted more for my life. I always knew that I was capable of doing great things if I was given the opportunities. AI knew that alcohol was going to either a) end my life completely or b) keep me from living the life that I really wanted to live. In the end I just wasn’t willing to see what would happen if I could pull it off with the drinking.”

“Everything in my life that’s been interesting or good has been a result of the program.”

Fighting Today’s Growing Cultural Negativity Through Good News Stories

As someone who “takes risks, tries new things, and follows what [he] loves,” Tank has had tremendous success since he got sober. In 2011, Tank created an Instagram account devoted to “fighting today’s growing cultural negativity through good news stories.” At the time, the social media landscape was still burgeoning. His popularity grew quickly, gaining 300,000 followers each year. Tank shared, “I knew that I was onto something because it grew so fast.” Today, Tank has millions of followers across his two channels Tank.Sinatra and TanksGoodNews.

Tank shared that he will be releasing a book as well as a movie in the near future. He was also recently featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Watch the full episode here.

When looking back at his journey and thinking ahead to his future, Tank shared, “I want to create a platform where people can become informed, inspired and entertained.” He added, “I want to put a major dent if not completely change the way news is reported.”

Quotes have been edited for clarity.