The phenomenon has revealed itself over time. In the beginning, traveling was nail-bitingly stressful and not fun at all. For a while—like a couple years—I equated new places with the uprush of intoxication. It felt sad, boring, and incomplete to even imagine a vacation unpunctuated with cocktails, let alone actually do it.
Since November 2015, I have completely changed my life. I’m nearly 3.5 years sober, I made the leap from my career in advertising to write and teach, I live in my dream location (basically, as close to the ocean as I can get without actually living on a boat), and I’m publishing my first book this September. My life is by no means perfect, but it is mine. It makes sense. It feels like home.
Holly and I started HOME in July of 2015 when I was just a shaky few months sober. I knew nothing about podcasting (other than I loved Radiolab and WTF and On Being and that there was something special about the way we can experience this medium privately), but I did know I wanted to talk about this thing.
I mean, you know that commercial with the staples button that says "that was easy.” Getting sober is the hardest-best thing ever, but is there ever a time when you can hit cruise control and sit back and enjoy it? I know I'll never get to push that staples button, but can I at least get one that says, "It's getting easier?”
This is basically the reason I started to drink in the first place, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason people have drank since the beginning of time: to feel more comfortable in their skin. Now, they probably didn’t quite use that language while sitting around the fire or dinner table or watering hole (I’m sorry, I have to pause here: imagine Jesus saying to Luke, I don’t know, I just feel so…uncomfortable in my own skin sometimes, man.) but that’s why. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and smooths the chatter of our minds and some of our minds are really, really loud and mean.
Today marks 1,000 days since September 28, 2014. The day before, I drank. Again. On that day, I was also the Vice President of Marketing at a PR agency in Boston, a not-yet-divorced-but-newly-separated single mom of a five-year-old girl, 37 years old, running and doing yoga regularly, and outwardly doing just fine.
The answers to the big questions are always both complicated and simple. There was a tipping point and there were countless things that nudged me toward it. I needed every person, every conversation, every book, poem, and word, every mistake. I needed the hands of thousands of others who'd gone before me, pressing gently on my back, lifting my feet, catching my falls.
No doubt there are some big, obvious benefits to being sober that just about anyone can appreciate, even those of us who don’t fall into the dreaded “problem” zone. No hangovers, check. No “oops” texts to your ex-lover(s), awesome. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about the benefits I never expected. The things I wouldn’t have imagined or predicted—the more subtle but profound shifts that have really changed my life.