10 Years Sober and How Little I Know

10 Years Sober and How Little I Know

On February 16th, 2003, I had just completed a two week stint of having nowhere to sleep.

I had worn out my welcome with close friends.  It turns out people get sick of you taking their beer, eating their food, and sleeping on their couch without paying rent.

I was sleeping at the school library, in my theatre department's green room, or if lucky, at a newly found friend's residence (one of the few I hadn't alienated).

I had already been kicked out of my previous place after I missed two months of rent payments.  I had taken $1,400 in money meant for rent...and somehow drank it in a month.  After years of borrowing from many, I used the newly found cash to buy for friends and buy more for myself.

There are too many other factors to post here.  They all involve disintegrated trust. Friends, family, co-workers, co-actors.  By the time 2003 rolled around...telling the truth felt like a lie.  Telling a lie felt like the truth.  The line was so blurred that I was creating an alternate reality for myself.

Being an actor made sense.  The hours I spent on stage were the most comfortable for me; I was more at peace playing another human being than I was playing myself.

I hated myself.  I would look in the mirror and see a kid who was 22 going on 42.

The truth is, many nights I would have a ball from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.  If I was talking with others, living in discussion...if that was the case, I was fine. It was when people went to sleep...that was when the hell would start; the depression.

It was heavy.  Every night from about 2 a.m. - 6 a.m. 'the fear' would come over me.  I wouldn't talk to anybody about it.  Not even the people closest to me.  I probably spent 75% of my time with a couple good friends of mine that final year (they know who they are), and I'm not even sure I spoke to them about it.

On January 1st, 2003 I had a car, a phone, a place to stay, and three jobs.

By February 16th, I would have no car, no phone, nowhere to stay, and one job being held on by a thread.


I have not stayed sober for 10 years because of what I know.  It's been the opposite.  It's been the pure acknowledgement of what I don't know, what I'm not good at, and what I can't control.

When I began recovery, I was informed that I needed to listen more and talk less.  So, of course, I did the opposite.  I read all the recovery material I could, went to as many seminars as I could, talked to as many people in recovery as I could, etc.  I developed my own program for living.  However, when things went awry, I would flip.

'Why aren't things going my way?  I'm making all of these sacrifices and I keep getting f'd over!'

It turned out my grand theories on living sucked.  When life didn't match/adhere to the standards I set for myself, I'd become disgruntled.


I couldn't drink because of what I knew would follow.  I couldn't live the life that I wanted to live, that I was currently living, if I were to drink.

Within weeks of getting sober I found peace.  Those nights where I couldn't sleep?  Dead.  The money I continued to lose?  I didn't lose it anymore.

By 2010, I had seven years of sobriety but had lost significant focus.  Time is just a number in recovery.  You're only given 24 hours.  It turns out, I had lost focus on the simplest of principles.

At work, I was losing my mind.  My family, my sobriety, everything became secondary.  I was put on administrative leave from my job.  I said some regretful things to an employee, and I paid the price.

In the following months, I was granted a second opportunity.  I started going back to my recovery center, started reading more...and I started listening.  That advice I heard years before?  Turns out it was true.

The concept is simple: Listen more, talk less, remain teachable.

After my P.h.d in recovery, I had to come to terms with just how little I truly knew.  That I didn't have all the answers.  That maybe JoeBob who only had two months of sobriety and came from a trailer park in Round Lake Beach had something more profound to say than I did.  And that's the truth.  The more I started listening, the more I started hearing newcomers tell what worked for them...I started to hear what could work for me.  I can't tell you how many times it has happened.

When I started to listen, spirituality entered my heart.  Peace started to come back.  It made me a better husband, a better father, and a better person.


I got to know a lot of dead people.

Many were under 30.  Many would get months, even years of sobriety.  Then, just as suddenly, they would lose it.  You wouldn't hear from them for months.  You'd open up a paper, and you'd see an obituary.

I had a conversation with a man who had gotten out of jail, stayed sober for a year, and was working hard on finishing his bachelor's degree.  We talked about how amazing the progression could be.  He was a walking example of what could be.

Six months later he died from an overdose.  I think he was 34.

Even more sad are the people who have led meetings at recovery centers, given speeches at dinners, had many sponsors; these were people who knew everything about how to stay sober.  And even they relapsed.  Nobody is immune.


Last night, on the 1oth anniversary of my final bender, I had a father/son game night at my child's pre-school.

We played Candyland Bingo, smashed train sets, ate cupcakes, ran around, and completed a large construction site puzzle.

When Jack finished the construction site puzzle, we took a quick picture to send to our relatives.  Afterwards, we went home and sat on the sofa.  We watched the first period of the Sharks/Blackhawks game.  Jack told me that he loved me.  We read his Highlights book, and he went to sleep.

It was a good night.


I don't know if there's a God, and quite frankly I don't care.  I still go to church because it gives me something that I can't explain.  I don't know what passages of recovery are the best to read.  I just go to meetings and listen to people and keep an open mind.  I don't know how to be the best husband.  I just listen to my wife and try to give her what I can.  I don't know if Jesus is the answer.  But I do know that he can be a great role model at how to live with humility, peace, and charity.


I'm convinced that the only reason that I haven't drank is because of my spiritual condition, my need to stay teachable, and my want/need to listen to others in pain.  It's not anything that I do that keeps me sober.  It's what others give to me.

These 'others' know who they are.  They've seen the worst in me.  They've seen the best in me.  My faith in humanity is rooted in their kindness.


Life keeps changing.  Jobs change, kids get older, etc.  However, the resolutions that bring peace are still simple and pure.  Peace breeds beauty.  And nothing in life is as un-complicated as beauty.

Beauty is simple.  It looks like my wife, it looks like my kids, it looks like my parents.

Life is much more simple today than it was 10 years ago.  The depression is gone, the peace is here, and I sleep like a baby.

I'm living the dream today...and I'm not even sure how much I have much to do with it.

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