What led you to get sober?
I own my own business, and when I was drinking, I had severe anxiety about why I wasn’t getting more work. I blamed everything else and didn’t really look at my behavior.
It occurred to me how frequently I was coming into my shop very hungover. I’d have brain fog and make mistakes in calculations. Or when lacing a wheel, I’d forget to do one thing and have to start over. It was a total time suck of not having the mental clarity I needed.
I probably hit what the recovery industry would call a “rock bottom.” Thankfully I’ve never been homeless; I’ve never been hospitalized for withdrawal. But I’ve woken up in the rain during the day, passed out outside of a bar. I’ve slept in bushes with my bike locked to my ankle. Lots of things like that. I look back on it and think, “That’s funny, but it’s not normal.”
Then in 2018, I got Lyme’s Disease. I went to the doctor and was like, “I’m pretty sure I need a prophylactic dose of doxycycline.” I actually followed the doctor’s orders and didn’t drink while I was on the medication. As I started feeling better from Lyme’s symptoms, my mental clarity and sleep were also improving. I thought, “I’m going to see how long I can go without drinking.” I haven’t drank since.
It’s definitely a family thing for me. My mom has been sober for about 20 years. She runs an outpatient recovery and family therapy business.
That’s awesome. Did you reach out to her when you were thinking of getting sober?
Not until I realized how problematic my life still was. After like a year of sobriety, I reached out and said, “Look, I’ve been sober a year, but things are not getting better in my life.”
She was like, “You’ve gone clear; you see everything for what it is. You’ve managed to stay sober for an entire year, but you have a lot of baggage dragging you down. This is your last hurdle.”
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in yourself since you got sober?
I’ve accomplished more in almost three years of sobriety than I did throughout my 15 years of drinking. I’ve had to get used to dealing with my emotions—and the stresses of starting, running and building a business—in a sober state. When I have a bad day, I’m over the reaction of, “I need a f*cking beer; I need a whiskey.” That’s big, because there were countless times where it was like, “Well this sucks; time to go to the bar.”
I sleep better. I eat better. I feel a lot more balanced emotionally. I feel more prepared for unexpected emergencies. I’m in a lot less physical pain; alcohol is very inflammatory.
I feel like I’m a better friend, listener, and partner. I’m much more present, open, honest, and supportive. People might not be narcissistic by nature, but I do feel that alcohol is a pathway to narcissism.
That’s a really good way to put it. There’s a cultural idea that people with alcohol problems are narcissists, but I agree that becoming addicted to alcohol doesn’t inherently make you narcissistic. Alcohol can create it.
It’s a symptom. I was very narcissistic. I think a lot of my friends would say I’m not, but you become a narcissist when you’re defensive about your drinking habits.
Has the pandemic affected your sobriety?
Not really, I think because I work alone as is. I’m a very sociable person, but I’m adapted to being a loner.
Is there anything you do for recovery: therapy, exercise, meditation, things like that?
I’ve gotten back into fitness, or I’m at least focusing on it more. For a long time, I would ride my bike more out of obligation to my industry than actual enjoyment. Now that I’m sober and in less pain—and I wake up feeling relatively refreshed—I’m riding for pleasure. That’s really therapeutic for me.
Other than that, I haven’t really done structured recovery or therapy. It’s mostly checking in with friends and sharing my experience through social media. Being sober is not something I have to live with; it’s something that gives me life, joy and pleasure.