What led you to get sober?
There was a series of thoughts. The first was I was starting my medical transition, and part of getting on hormones is having a psych evaluation. I did the psych eval and they identified that I had an alcohol abuse problem. By the time I saw my therapist for the first time, I was a week sober. I didn’t want to wait until I started therapy; it seemed dumb to keep giving myself excuses to drink.
The secondary thought was, “You have to take better care of yourself, and you can’t because you drink too much.” I started thinking about what I wanted for my future, and I was like, “I want to be a dad; I want to be a husband; I don’t want to be somebody’s drunkass dad or drunkass husband.” That’s how you end up losing your family or fucking them up. I didn’t want to do that.
So I decided I was going to be sober for 30 days, and if that made any difference, I would stick to it; if it didn’t, I would try something else. That was probably the most difficult 30 days of my life. It was the first time in like a decade that I hadn’t had a drink for days at a time. It felt like I had a hangover for 30 days.
Yeah, that’s kind of how mine was.
Yeah, it sucks because you know that if you drink it’ll go away. I would make myself sit in the apartment and watch the clock until 2 [in the morning]. Then I could go on a walk, because 2 is when all the bars close. I got a Planet Fitness membership because it was 24 hours. I started working a lot, then making sure that when I wasn’t at work, I had things to do to fill that space.
Then day 31, I didn’t feel like shit anymore. I felt a lot of emotions, but I didn’t feel sick. I was going to therapy to sort through those emotions three times a week at that point; it was a good way to hold myself accountable.
I was realizing, since I started drinking when I was 12, I didn’t know who I was sober. Getting to know myself sober while I was medically transitioning really linked those two experiences for me. I was able to get to know myself as I was becoming the man I knew I wanted to be.
Early in my transition, my best friend said, “I wish people thought less about what it meant to be a good man or a good woman and focused more on being a good person. What kind of person do you want to be?” I thought a lot about that, and I want to be the kind of person that is dependable; I want to be the kind of person that is consistent; I want to be the kind of person that keeps his word. Those are things you can’t do when you’re drinking, or when you’re succumbing to whatever your substance of choice is.
I also started experiencing gender euphoria for the first time in my life. Feeling handsome, secure, and confident in my appearance made being sober easier, because I wasn’t so stressed about hating myself all the time. I started practicing what I think of as radical self-love. I had sticky notes all over my apartment, little reminders like, “You’re amazing; you’re doing a great job.” I was overcharging everything with as much love as I could, because I had never done that before.
Then three months in, I started working at the GLCCB and had more access to community than I’d ever had in my entire life. Not only did I know trans people—these trans people knew and loved and respected me. I never felt like I was somebody worth giving a fuck about, which is probably why I spent so long not taking care of myself. But once I started taking care of myself, I discovered somebody who really does deserve better than I was giving me for a long time.
That’s a really beautiful way of putting it.
Yeah, you know? I have learned that it’s none of our faults how we got fucked up—and even how we learned to cope with being fucked up—but at a certain point you have to take responsibility for healing yourself. If you don’t do it, nobody else is going to and you’re just going to be fucked up for the rest of your life.
Yeah, and you’ll take it out on other people.
And not have nice things. I wanted nice things. I wanted a partner who loved and cared about me. I wanted better than what I had, and I finally had the clarity to realize that part of why I didn’t have what I wanted was because I was getting in my way. As soon as I allowed myself to heal, everything started getting better. Then six months in, I was so scared I was going to lose all the nice things I got that I was like, “I’ll never drink again.”
You kind of answered the next question, but I was going to ask about the biggest internal changes you’ve noticed since you got sober.
I know myself to be a good person, and I know I’m a good person because I do my best to be. I’m never half-there, I’m never half-present, I’m never half-stepping—not anymore. I’m able to make decisions I can stand behind and be proud of. I’m able to create genuine connections with people and show up for people the way I know they deserve.
I also am much more protective of myself. I don’t let people treat me any kind of way, because I don’t treat me any kind of way anymore. I love and respect myself, and those are things that weren’t true before.
Getting sober also left space for dealing with other things, like I was too drunk to be on antidepressants; I was too drunk to be on anxiety medication. Now I’m aware of the work that I need to do and I’m doing it.
I know you said you go to therapy. What does your recovery program look like?
I go to therapy once a week. I also see a psychiatrist once a month, so that’s a big part of my recovery plan. Doing things like going to the doctor regularly. Making sure I’m taking care of myself, because I only ever get tempted to drink when I’m super stressed, and I only get super stressed if I’m not taking care of myself.
Also, learning how to be gentle in communication and the things I need, and not be an asshole or selfish. I think a lot of my recovery is unlearning those bad habits. Some things are easier to stop doing than others. It was very easy for me to stop lying. It was very easy for me to stop saying I was going to do some shit and not do it. It wasn’t easy for me to stop impulse spending—that’s something I’m consistently working on.
At one point, I got kind of complacent. I had to remind myself that you get two states as an addict: you’re either active or in recovery. If you’re in recovery, that is a consistent, everyday decision. Even if it’s more subconscious on some days than others, it’s still a decision every single day.
That’s all my questions. Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you want to add?
For anybody who’s considering getting sober, or maybe you have a problem, three things: one, that’s okay; you’re not the only person in the world who has unhealthy coping skills. We all do. Two, you deserve better, and you have to be the first person to know that. Three, there is a community of people waiting with open arms to support and love you throughout this process.
Sobriety is something you do for yourself, but I don’t believe it’s something you can do by yourself. Just know that as soon as you make that decision, there’s a community of people who will be there for you—and I promise, you will be very delighted with the person you see on the other side.