14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 1

14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 1

I’ve been sober 10 years now. I turned 10 on 7/1/13 and spent about 6 weeks writing this blog. It took so long that I decided to hold it for September—Recovery Month. The previous “What I learned from being sober” blogs are pretty short in comparison.

You can read those here:

This blog you’re about to read was supposed to be “10 Things I Learned from 10 Years of Sobriety.” I’m just as surprised as you that I have so much to say.

Before you read on, please be objective in your thinking. I’m not a licensed addiction counselor. I’m not here to assess, diagnose, or prescribe. Please see a licensed professional for help with addiction and PLEASE seek a medical detox if you wish to stop using alcohol and/or benzodiazepines, as detoxing from those two drugs can be dangerous and even deadly.

This blog is so long, it’s in three different parts. This is part one.

You Gotta Get Sober Your Way

Working in a detox, I’d see it a lot. The families. The wives. The kids. The parents. Always, they were so full of hope. This would be the time it would click. Their loved one would get sober. They’d get the person back.

Sometimes, there would be fighting, tears, and drama. There would be ultimatums. Sometimes, it didn’t come from anyone that loved them. Sometimes it was just a benevolent cop dropping them off with us rather than jail. Once in a while, a supportive employer would give an employee a second chance.

There were times it took and times it didn’t. But when it took, it was because the person chose to do sobriety their own way. Maybe it was the lucky 13th try or maybe they’d stopped counting. (I “practiced” quitting booze for ~8 years before it took).

I have found when people get to chart their own course and make their own choices without others breathing down their necks—it’s because they’re ready. They’re choosing to do it their own way. That’s when someone becomes the architect of their own destiny.

I mean, an angry judge helps. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get sober any day of your life. It’s not a race to the bottom.

Helping people chart their own path of change by working in the addiction field as a recovery coach was one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s where I found my passion for coaching. Nothing I have today would be possible without sobriety. (More on that below).

Finding Sober Friends is Hard

The “recovery community” is something I had to leave due to my desire for the functional relationships I deserved—and for safety. I say this as someone who worked at the aforementioned detox and in the county jail. That should tell you how bad some of the people I met at AA meetings were.

Worse, when I raised concerns over dangerous people who displayed frightening behavior, I was told everyone had a “right” to attend a meeting and I could go elsewhere. So welcoming for women! (Oh, but the AA women can be far worse to their fellow women, so there’s not much help there). For these reasons, I never recommend the 12 steps to women anymore.

Today, I have plenty of quality friends. Some came from jobs, hobbies, or other interests. It may be hard to find safe, sober people. But it’s not impossible. If you expect making sober, healthy friends to come without time and effort, you’ll be disappointed.

3. The World Has Changed So Much Since I Stopped Drinking 10 Years Ago

Much of the world is now very 420-friendly and I’m still very much not that; I haven’t done that drug since 2001. This is for good reason. No matter how legal that thing gets, I know it’s not for me. It doesn’t help me or motivate me. It’s like another form of steroids for me; I’m just going to eat a lot of pizza and get fat on it.

I have a spine with a C-curve thanks to scoliosis my parents didn’t take care of when I was a kid. The pain involved in that can be managed—and must be, constantly. I manage pain through diet, exercise, and weekly chiropractic visits.

My spine cannot be fixed, so I manage its condition. I take care of myself. You can’t take care of yourself if you’re abusing substances.

My whole lifestyle revolves around pain relief. I don’t take narcotics and choose a more natural route. I keep ice packs, a heating pad, massagers, and a TENS unit on hand. I practice yoga. I’m a Reiki Master. I meditate. I work on my mindset.

Are the lengths I’ve gone to practical for everyone? No. But can everyone use marijuana responsibly? No. I know I’m not one who can. Me? Use a mind-altering substance responsibly? I think I’ve proven since 1994 that I can’t do that.

This is the definitive thing with using mind-altering substances. Can you use them recreationally and not suffer consequences? If your life is good and together, you can keep a job, handle beyond basic needs, and basically exist at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, then cool. Do you. The problem comes in when you exist at the bottom of that pyramid and you use these substances. That’s what things fall apart.

4. The World Has Also Changed in Supportive Ways

I’ve seen more interest from people who want to quit drinking but who also don’t want to tell the world in big letters, “HEY! I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM!” As often as there are new alcohols like Fireball or White Claw, I’m also seeing the prevalence of dry events and restaurants serving mocktails.

If we had zero-proof beverages 10 years ago, I was unaware. It never dawned on me that I could celebrate with anything other than Martinelli’s cider or grape juice or whatever.

I’m all for the advent of mocktails and alcohol alternatives. I haven’t tried any as I can’t taste artificial sweeteners and I have no idea where to buy these things. Since I’m not sure I can taste them, I haven’t looked too hard. I admit I love the idea of sober bars, like Austin’s famous Sans Bar. I would love to get into zero-proof mocktails for dry yoga events—rather than all these ridiculous “yoga & wine” events that drive people like me away. Yoga + alcohol is hardly inclusive.

5. You Have No Idea What Your Potential Is While You’re Still Drinking and/or Using

While drinking/using, you’re so disconnected from who you are. You’re disconnected from your mind, body, energy body, hopes, dreams, health—everything. You’re not able to be grounded or centered. You’re just existing as a dry, soulless husk who can get it together in between drinks/hits long enough to obtain the next high. The pendulum of your life swings so widely, that you cannot possibly fathom what a mood or feeling is. You simply kill those off and stuff them.

During that time, every single one of us was a great liar and actor. I think the kids call it “masking” now.

When the game comes to an end, you have to start reconnecting your own wires in abject terror. It’s neither fun or easy. It’s also something most people don’t talk about. But this is why it’s called “recovery,” because you begin to recover a sense of self. If you started so young that you don’t have one, you build from scratch.

This is also why I call myself “recovered” and a “former addict.” I believe that, at some point, you’ve done the work to recover or rebuild.

I don’t buy that we are permanent pieces of crap who must always atone.

With that attitude from society and the “recovery community,” who the hell is going to want to get sober? Are we making it look any good? No! (The same people who perpetuate this line of thinking love to preach “attraction rather than promotion” as they promote nothing appealing).

I read an NPR article last year that shared the statistic saying 75% DO RECOVER. The majority of us do get well. The majority does move on to live productive lives. Most of us don’t return to substance use and abuse. We build rather than destroy.

What have I accomplished in 10 years of sobriety?

  • Earned my RYT-200—I’m a yoga teacher now!
  • Found careers I enjoy
  • Pivoted to remote work and freelancing after surviving Covid
  • Learned to stand up for myself medically
  • Became a 100-hour certified transformational life coach
  • Started a coaching business, a newsletter, a meditation podcast, and the Destiny Architecture® podcast
  • Became a 100-hour certified meditation teacher
  • Earned oodles of marketing certificates through Hubspot, Google, and USF
  • Estranged myself from all the toxic people in my life—especially “family”
  • Completed 10 years of talk therapy (I can always go back as needed!)
  • Created a life filled with healthy, positive relationships
  • Found new hobbies & interests
  • Bought an awesome car after years of riding the bus

None of the above would have been possible if I’d remained an out-of-touch substance user.