Sober date: 2/11/14. Five years ago today I woke up after a three day, rampant and self-destructive solo binge on whiskey and IPA’s. On the morning of February 11th, 2014, I felt both emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, physically destroyed, and mentally taxed at a level I had never witnessed in myself. Something needed to drastically change. On that morning I decided that I finally needed to address my long-lasting issues with drugs and alcohol. Gratefully, today I get the opportunity to celebrate five years of continuous sobriety.
A couple of weeks ago I was on a training ride. It was cold, 38 degrees, windy, and beginning to rain. I still had another hour left to go before the end of the workout. Normally, training in this kind of weather isn’t the smartest idea, mostly because you can catch a cold while riding in these conditions. However, I had motivation oozing through my veins brought on by the fact that this current situation is nothing compared to the challenges and hardships I’ve faced in the past. Bring on the rain! Without hesitating once to return to the car an hour early when the rain started I was reminded that in many regards, I am just lucky to be alive. I should’ve been found dead in a ditch somewhere a myriad of times because of my transgressions while being caught up in the perils of addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Today, I get to celebrate the astounding fact that I’ve not had one single drink or drug in 1,825 days. Honestly, it’s fucking amazing that I got to this day. If you had told me, five years ago, after waking up from a solo three-day binge, while locked in my apartment in Corvallis, that I’d be clean and sober for five years? I would’ve said that you were nuts.
During the first few years, sobriety birthdays were a big deal (don’t get me wrong, my sober birthday is still the most important holiday for me). Twice, to celebrate, I ran for twelve straight hours in Corvallis’ McDonald/Dunn Forest, honoring each month the previous year that I had stayed sober. This year, however, athletic priorities are a little different so there won’t be any insane physical aspect to the day. My focus this year will be to be around loved ones, head to a recovery meeting to pick up my five-year coin, and maybe include some puzzle time. I’m finding these days that simplicity has become a standard virtue that I try to consistently practice when my mind doesn’t get in the way. This virtue would not have meant a thing to me if I hadn’t got sober.
Since leaving Corvallis in May of 2018 I haven’t spent much time around the recovery community. I think that all of the excitement of returning to Bend led to me being distracted from a consistent focus on many virtues of recovery. That, however, is not an excuse. In fact, just the other day, I was reminded that I must always respect the fact that I have a problem with drugs and alcohol. A good friend of mine introduced me to her acquaintance that is in the grips of her own struggles in sobriety. This person, for the last five months, has been drunk every single day and has seriously contemplated suicide more than a dozen times. I reached out to her to offer an ear as someone just to talk to and who would listen to her story, without giving judgments or orders to what she must do. I’m afraid to say that over the last month she has gone completely silent, a troubling sign considering what I know about the situation. The trouble, sometimes, in helping other practicing alcoholics, is that until they are absolutely ready to make a change, there isn’t much you can do besides simply keeping your phone on.
Being in recovery means that I’m constantly trying to improve myself as a human being. Lately, my focus has been on relieving myself of the tendency to be in judgment of people, places, things, or situations. For years I would stew in a pot of judgment, which ultimately led to more self-inflicted abusive behavior. It used to be that having a negative interaction with even a coffee barista, much less family and friends, would send me into a tailspin. The energy I expended mentally beating up other people, that I didn’t even know in some cases, used to drive me to excessively imbibe in whatever numbing device I could conjure up at the local 7-11, among many other places. Today, my judgments towards others are much less prominent for one reason; I realized that if I’m in judgment of others then I’m ultimately lying in judgment of myself. This has been an enormously impactful shift in mental and mindful awareness.
Over the weekend here in Bend, OR, the weather was eerily similar to the conditions in Corvallis five years ago when I holed up in my apartment for three days to get one last hurrah of self-induced debauchery. Lots of snow with limited driving; perfect conditions to sit at home alone with a bottle of whiskey. Tracey, who is visiting for the weekend, asked me this past Friday night what I was doing five years ago. I hadn’t thought about that in a while. Remembering how unmanageable my life was back then struck a chord which is now wrapped in sheer humility.
So, so much has happened since I got sober. The persistent life-lessons that have been injected into my soul have taught me to live life in a state of gratefulness. Today, I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful for the up’s and down’s that I’ve experienced over the last five years because they’ve shown me what life really looks like without the lens that drugs and alcohol used to provide. All of that being said, it’s living in the day-to-day that truly keeps me alive because navigating through sobriety is, most certainly, one day at a time.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along with me on this journey. Here’s to another day of not having to pick up a drink!