Being Sober on Remote Year

I know, I know, not a title you immediately want to open and dive in to. It’s not a sexy topic, it’s not comfortable, or glamorous, but it’s something that I’ve been dealing and struggling with since I started Remote Year. In May I celebrated, quietly and alone, my 2 years of sobriety. I’m not saying it so people will feel sorry for me, or reach out to me, it’s not a cry for help. But it’s important I say it, because a lot of dealing with being sober is done behind closed doors. It’s hard. Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable talking to others about being sober, even though I really shouldn’t, because I’m so proud of who I am today, but still, society has told us that drinking is cool, and that if you don’t, well then, you’re a wet blanket.

Back in 2010, I went to TedxHouston and saw a speaker who planted a tiny nugget in my consciousness that would change my life forever. I remember I showed up late and extremely hung over, probably still drunk from the night before. I got lost on my way up to UofH and was fuming with irritation by the time I finally sat down. The first speaker I saw was Brene Brown. If you haven’t heard of this incredible woman, watch the TedTalk below.

The one part that has stuck with me for 7 years was this:

(Paraphrasing) “You cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff; here’s vulnerability, grief, shame, fear, disappointment, I don’t want to feel these. So you go and have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb hard feelings without numbing the other effects of emotions. So when we numb those, we numb joy, gratitude, happiness, and then we are miserable and looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so we numb it, and it becomes a dangerous cycle.”

At that time in my life, I was three years out of college, still living with my parents, working part time at a gym, and wasting my life away in the bars. I felt hopeless, useless, worthless, it was a dark time. When I heard Brene’s talk on vulnerability and how we numb our emotions, a flicker of a lightbulb went off. I didn’t get sober until almost exactly 5 years later, but little by little, I started to listen to that small voice deep down in my gut that said, “this is not the life you’re supposed to live.”

This year, we started in Mexico City, Tequila capital, then went to Colombia, home of Aguardiente (which I’m still not entirely sure what that is), then to Lima, Pisco Sour heaven, and now Argentina, basically the birthplace of red wine, and next we’ll be heading to Prague, where beer flows like water. I won’t lie, it’s a real struggle. Every event or outing includes alcohol, every dinner starts with the cheers of wine glasses, every celebration, or end of a bad work day, is made better by going out for a drink. Most of the time I avoid these social outings, which I’m sure makes me appear snobby and anti-social, but willpower is finite, and I don’t plan on testing it. Everyone in the program has been supportive and understanding of my stance. It’s as if I’m a vegetarian, it’s just my preference to not drink alcohol, no one bats an eye. I look forward to the active events we get to do as a group. The long hikes, the crazy adventures we embark on, the races we sign up for. This month we did a Charity Miles race and a bunch of us went out running for two hours together. It was one of the coolest memories because we were all present, joyous, and active, running and getting lost in Buenos Aires together. I was so proud that our group won the contest and ran over 200 miles. This Meraki group is really special and I don’t think I could be surrounded by a better group of people. We are all from completely different walks of life, each with our own strengths and weaknesses, each with strong convictions and opinions. We came on Remote Year so that we could learn to become more vulnerable with ourselves and each other. We’ve done so many extraordinary things together and this year has been a big year of growth for all of us, and I have enjoyed getting to know and opening up to each and every one of them. I may not get to make memories with them at concerts and late night outings, but I have other ways. I have especially been touched by those who have reached out wanting to run or workout with me. For me, that is where I bond and connect with people, and it means the world to me that they can see that.

I was extremely fearful of coming on Remote Year in fear of taking up drinking again. I wanted to experience this year full out, with no regrets, but for me, I have to remember that getting sober is what got me here in the first place, and that living this year presently in the moment, with zero hang overs, remembering everything I’ve done, is far more important to me than getting wasted for a fun night out. No judgement to those that do, I’m the last person who can judge anyone, but I wanted to put it out there and share my experience in case anyone is struggling like me. There is a GREAT life out there in sobriety, you can still have a fun and happy life, you can achieve all the things you thought you could not. I’m proof and I’m always available to talk.

Thanks for listening.

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