What led you to get sober?
For years, I had a feeling about the person I could be. If the person you want to be is always in front of you, I found that after so many years of drinking, I was literally looking backwards. Who I felt I actually was—who I aspired to be—I had totally lost.
I’d gone to New York City to try to be a comedian and actor. I met so many really cool people; I hob-knobbed with movie stars and stuff like that. You’re this close, but you find yourself drinking and letting opportunities slip away from you.
I couldn’t stay employed and my health was very bad. Being an alcoholic kept me from working; it kept me from having a place to live; it kept me from having sex. It kept me from everything a human being aspires to. It kept me from being Scott. I had to get sober to find myself again.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed internally since you got sober, to become Scott?
First off, my health. It was in a bad spot. Alcohol’s a poison and it was poisoning me.
Since I’ve gotten sober, I’ve had a whole other lifetime. I’m 54 years old and I got sober when I was 35. I recreated myself a couple times in different ways.
I was single most of my life, and then I met someone who wanted to marry me. That’s mind-blowing. It never would have happened if I’d kept drinking, or if it had happened it would have been with someone as diseased as I was. But I had an amazing partner, and the fact that we’re not together anymore does not mitigate that whatsoever. My former partner is one of the most amazing human beings I have had the pleasure of meeting, knowing, and loving.
I know what you mean. I wasn’t perpetually single, but most of my relationships before the one I’m in now, from when I was drinking, were so toxic and messed up. There’s a lot of healing I’ve been doing from that in the past 6 years. So yeah, that’s a huge thing—being able to cultivate loving relationships.
And being vulnerable, being honest. It’s a big deal, because so much of being an addict is a certain amount of falsity. You’re hiding behind masks.
There’s another big element I find keeps people from getting sober—and it’s often one of the same things that got them using in the first place—and it’s fear. People are afraid to get sober often. The first thing that goes through so many people’s minds is “What if my best friend gets married and I can’t have a drink at their wedding?”
We’re afraid to get sober because we’re afraid to never be normal. It’s like, “What if I get sober and I’m still alone? What if I get sober and I’m still unhappy?”
What do you do for your recovery—for example AA, therapy, meditation?
I went to AA for the first couple of months, and then I just didn’t feel the need to do it anymore. That said, I love AA; I think it’s a beautiful gift. It says to people who are in fear of sobriety that they are not alone.
When people talk about getting sober, I say they should go to AA at least to start with. I tell them, “Whatever keeps you sober, do. If doing taxidermy and needle-point keeps you sober, do taxidermy and needle-point.” Staying sober is the thing. How you stay sober is you.
Yeah, I totally agree. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing this project actually. There are so many different things people do. I think it’s important for people to know that going in, so they can have the biggest chance of success in sobriety. If they’re just doing something they thought they’re supposed to do, it’s not going to be that helpful.
That’s a perfect way of putting it. It shouldn’t be a chore; it should be a choice.
I’m an atheist, so people ask, “How do you reconcile that with the whole spiritual component of AA?” They do say god, but they say higher power. Higher power is a great way of saying needle-point, taxidermy, going to punk rock shows, having 36 cats. Whatever keeps you sober is your higher power.
Yeah, so what is yours?
The arts community in Baltimore is part of my higher power. I go to shows all the time. Also poetry. The other night I was sitting on my porch—me and cicadas and ice coffee—and I was reading Mary Oliver. I’d read a poem, stop, think, find some peace, and then read the next poem.
I live for moments like that. I live for moments like this; this is meaningful and powerful for me. Even when I have my worst days of work, I can still find moments like this.
Being sober means I’m alive to have work—to be pretty good at my job I think—to keep my house post-divorce. Not only did being sober help me get married, it helped me navigate my divorce. If you’re using, you’re never addressing your feelings.
So reading poetry is a higher power, the desire for affection and love is one, having a friend reach out to me about sobriety.
I am grateful for the love that was expressed to me when I got sober. That’s another thing about fear: people are afraid they won’t have community. It’s maybe hard to express to people, but you have more community than you realize. If nothing else, that’s why you go to AA—so you can have community in the rooms.
That was all my questions, but is there anything we didn’t talk about that you want to add?
In summation, it is okay if your higher power is stuff that may seem trivial. Your sobriety is yours; your addiction was yours; how you navigate both is yours. There’s a community of people that can help you. There are medical professionals that can help you.
My advice is to not let the fear of being sober the rest of your life get in the way. That’s the reason Bill W. or AA came up with “one day at a time.” Just don’t drink or use today. It sounds simplistic, but that’s the root. It’s hard to tell people, “Don’t let fear take over your life,” but you have to acknowledge your fear. There’s so much life to live.