Five Lessons in Eight Years of Sobriety

February 1, 2021, marked eight years of continuous sobriety. To celebrate, I went on a hike, ate cake, and wrote five lessons I’ve learned since 2013. Here they are:

I Need to Feel Safe in my Relationships

This past summer, I was in Montana, hiking up a couloir with a couple of friends. I came across the remnants of someone’s winter wipe out — mostly ski poles debris and bits of gear-garbage. As I was picking up the pieces (leave no trace!) I came across something less expected: Psychedelic mushrooms in a grody ziplock baggie…can’t have plastic in nature, so I stuck ’em in my pack with everything else.

Not All Alcoholism Looks the Same

According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are five different subtypes of alcoholics, ranging from Young Adult to Functional to Antisocial. However, most people are only familiar with one type: The Chronic Severe Alcoholic. This is the stereotypical drunk, you know — the one who has lost everything; she’s en route to jail, death, and rehab all at once. Society tends to use the Chronic Severe Subtype as the reference point for all alcoholism, which creates a few problems:

  • It causes non-alcoholics to say, “You weren’t that bad.”

Willpower Ain’t It

I’ve learned that people love to say, “Oh, all you need to get sober is willpower.” Let’s debunk that right now. Alcoholism is a disease, and suggesting willpower as a solution is akin to telling a cancer patient “just try harder to go into remission.”

AA is Not Religious

I know, I know, I thought it was religious, too. This segment will be short because AA ought never be dragged into public controversy. Alas, I tire of hearing, “Oh, you go to AA? Isn’t that a super religious organization?” as the person eyes me like I’m about to summon Jesus and blast an ash mark on everyone’s forehead. (For the record, I have no issue with religion when it’s not limiting the rights of human beings or operating out of straight hypocrisy.)

I Didn’t Love Drugs + Alcohol

I thought I loved substances, but I was just obsessed with the identity they had helped me create. Without ever knowing who I was (and being terrified of finding out), I let drugs and alcohol dictate my whole life: Who I would hang out with, who I would date, what I would do for work, when I would go home, when I would wake up in the morning, and on a more macro level: whether or not I lived or died.

I have no filter and lots of emotions. Sometimes this gets me in trouble.

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