On Having A Friend Who Got Sober

My friend got sober, and it wasn’t one of those deals where he got fired or got divorced and swore off the poison. This is a man who loses his ability to stop himself after the first cold sip. He will drink himself comatose. There have been a handful of occasions on which he nearly killed himself — by accident, on purpose, or a cocktail of the two. This is a guy I’ve known since he was six.

For him, as for most addicts, sobriety is a matter of life and death. Since he got sober a year and a half ago, my friend’s transformation has been borderline miraculous. He gave up cigarettes too. Now it’s all coffee, working out, family, and Jesus — 110 proof. He hasn’t seemed so happy, mature and alive since he was 20. Until the last year, when he turned 30, he hadn’t strung together this much success since he was a freshman in college. He is thriving more than I would have thought possible the last time I saw him, which was two falls ago, right before his last collapse.

He got married over the weekend, and it was interesting at the wedding to hear him tell some old drinking stories. There was no regret in his voice, no awkwardness in his manner. They were still fond memories for him, times shared with his friends and brothers where everybody was completely there, in the moment, together, going through something, and coming out the other side. All good drinking stories are about men overcoming long odds or getting away with something in the face of profound intoxication. We have our share of those, and the thing is, those memories haven’t all turned dark, even though as we tell them now we all know the darkness that lies ahead, in the middle of his story.

The drinking period of my friend’s life was, for him, a life of its own. It stopped him cold, pushed him down, and held him there for all his 20s. He was unbelievably good at partying, but he wasn’t accomplishing much else. The last few years, of course, it wasn’t much of a party.

As someone who drank with him a lot over the years, who didn’t see the signs of addiction, who gave him drinks when I was 21 and he was 18, it was nice to see him talk about those times with a free mind. He remembers them the same way I do.

They’re part of a story about a man who overcame long odds in the face of profound intoxication.