Living Out Loud

What it Feels Like to Be 15 Years Sober (Hint - Pretty Damn Good)


Not Cut Out For This

I should have known from an early age that I was not cut out for the drinking life. I got my first DUI before I got my driver's license at the age of 15, the very first time I ever got behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. This followed the occasion of the first joint I ever bought which resulted in me getting kicked out of junior high school in Jacksonville, NC. By the time I got my second DUI at age 21 I was already on the road to an alcohol aided divorce. 

Luckily for me, I didn't lose my job over that arrest and kept my health insurance which allowed me to go to an outpatient rehab (located in what is now a funeral home). My insurance company spent a lot of money so the folks at the rehab center could teach me to go to AA meetings, which is what rehab centers actually do. With the help of AA, I got sober and stayed that way for the rest of my twenties. (Side note - I also married someone I met in that rehab center. Do not do that. Not recommended)


Unfortunately, eight years later I neglected to tell a doctor that I was in recovery and he prescribed me narcotic painkillers, which led me quickly back to pot and just as quickly back to alcohol. I was 30. For the next 13 years I struggled on and off with trying to get sober again. the urge to drink was without a doubt, the most powerful force in my life. It is what i thought about as soon as i woke up in the morning. Something horrible would happen and  I'd go a year or more at times on the wagon, sometimes attending AA, often not. I'd invariably get drunk again. The people in my home group did what AA folks all over the world do. They told me to keep coming back. And, although I very firmly believed myself to be just a bad person, they didn't. 

A Moment of Clarity 

Finally, in a moment of clarity, I realized several facts to be true - that I wasn't a lost cause, that I needed to follow directions and that I could not blame anyone else for my alcoholism. I asked a Wild Bill Hickcock lookalike ex-con named Sam to be my sponsor and I felt a smidgen of humility and a smidgen of hope. That was on December 28, 2008. I haven't had a drink since. In the interim. I followed a path that's almost a stereotype. I got heavily involved in endurance sports. I lost nearly 100 lbs. In the two years following my sobriety date, I averaged over 10,000 miles on my bicycle. I rode over 70 century (100-mile) rides. I rode across the state of NC from the mountains to the coast four times. 

The Happy Aftermath

Life kept on happening. I got divorced (again). I got remarried (again). My new wife, who I met cycling, and I hiked the Appalachian Trail on an epic 156-day honeymoon. We're still married, by the way. I was able to finish my career as an IT specialist in the public school system and retire.

I haven't had so much as a speeding ticket in years. My relationships with my grown kids and family members have been repaired. None of my 13 grandkids have ever seen me drunk. I do not miss drinking. I don't even have any curiosity about the craft beer industry that sprung up after I got sober. The same goes for legalized weed. It's just not for me. I never, ever, ever want to have to struggle with anything like the overwhelming urge to drink that once consumed my every waking moment. I don't go to many meetings any more, although I will always consider myself a member of AA. I feel not one bit a shame for being an addict, believing 100% that alcoholism is an illness, but a treatable one.

I don’t wear my sobriety as my identity. It’s part of who I am, sure, but like everyone, I have a lot of parts. I’m forever grateful to Sam and all the other old drunks from the Sandalwood Group of AA. Today, though, I’m just a regular old guy with white hair and a waist line. I’m pretty happy most of the time.