sober lifestyle


One way I tried to feel close to home this holiday season was to tune in to “The Score,” my go-to Chicago sports radio station, via an app on my phone. I listened on my daily walks through the neighborhood, gritting my teeth through the copious commercials — has replaced its ear-wormy Kars4Kids ads with repetitive plugs for some Astros scandal podcast 🙉 — in order to hear host Dan Bernstein and guests break down the Bears’ big make-or-break matchup with the Packers in today’s regular-season finale.

They touched on other topics, but the resident NFL football team and its many flaws, particularly its beleaguered GM, coaching staff and quarterback, dominated the discussion.

I’ve been thinking about something that was said for the past several days.

A guy wrote in to Bernstein’s show, taking to task all the Bears fans who actively root for failure in this Packers game because they want to blow up the team and start over. The thinking is, by getting beat and thus missing the playoffs, Bears ownership will have no choice but to make a change — fire Ryan Pace, axe Matt Nagy, end the Mitch Trubisky era once and for all…in other words, get rid of everyone responsible for these past two subpar seasons. You know how this stuff goes. It’s par for the pro sports course.

So, this guy wrote in to “The Score” to scold all the city’s Negative Nellies. His letter said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “If you can’t enjoy what you have in the moment, with your team in a position to beat a hated rival (at least in theory) and extend its season/get one step closer to the Super Bowl, simply because the team/franchise is imperfect, you need to turn in your sports fan card and find another hobby.”

Such wisdom! From a sports radio listener! 😳

I couldn’t help relating his thoughts, not just to my recovery, but to my entire life.

I’m one of “those people.” No, not in the sense that I specifically root for my team to lose so coaches can get fired or whatever, but I absolutely have failed to enjoy what I had and/or appreciate where I was in the moment because my situation wasn’t exactly what I thought it “should” be. I wasn’t thin enough, or in good enough shape, or satisfied enough with my job, or successful enough in my career…whatever I deemed was “wrong” would always overshadow what was actually happening to me, and blind me to everything around me that was actually “right.”

How can I have fun at this gathering when my pants feel too tight? How can I laugh at your joke when I have this stressful project hanging over my head at work? How can I relax on a Sunday evening when I have a meeting on Monday that I dread?

That kind of shit.

Perfectionism has always prevented me from living in the moment, which, in turn, fueled my dependence on alcohol. Booze was a way to escape the imperfect reality I couldn’t bear to face. It softened the edges of the moment so I was capable of enjoying it — for a little while.

Of course, the more you drink, the more it takes to “work,” as the window of enjoyment gets shorter and shorter over time.

Before I got sober, my tendency to, I guess you could say, “throw out the baby with the bath water” used to result in prolonged bouts of depression marked by steadily escalating self-destruction. Once I said “f*ck it” and started to slide, I wouldn’t stop until I hit some kind of bottom. Instead of responding to one bad day by hitting “reset” in the morning, I would just keep binging on food and drink, pull away from favorite activities and people, and basically hide in my house until weeks had gone by and I was so disgusted with myself that I felt I had no choice but to pull up the bootstraps and start digging out of the hole.

That doesn’t really happen anymore, after 18 months of abstaining from alcohol and going to therapy and working a 12-step program and writing this blog.

I’ve still got imperfection issues, no doubt. I still struggle to “be present” from moment to moment, and open myself up to what the here and now has to offer, without always looking for some kind of distraction. It’s very difficult for me to accept that I’m “right where I need to be,” when the spot I’m sitting in feels even the slightest bit uncomfortable.

But at the same time, I’m so much more stable and balanced than I used to be.

I actually think recovery from alcohol addiction will make me a better sports fan. Or, maybe I should say, get me my sports fan card back. I mean, without help from alcohol, I was often too anxious over the outcome of a game, too afraid my team would lose, that I would avoid watching them play altogether. My dad would text me “Northwestern is on national TV!” on a Saturday afternoon, and I’d pretend to be too busy folding laundry.

What would that Bernstein show guy think of me? Fear of what might happen preventing enjoyment of what’s actually happening. Forget sports. That’s just an unfortunate way to live.

Well, like I said, I’m making progress. I actually sat down on New Year’s Day and watched all four hours of Northwestern’s Citrus Bowl win over Auburn, without alcohol to calm my nerves (obviously), and I only switched over to “The Godfather” movies on AMC every five minutes because that’s how many 🤬-ing commercial breaks/media timeouts there are in a typical network football broadcast! 😩

Seriously, there might be no better test for a person’s ability to stay present than a televised sporting event. Am I right?

Today, another test, and a doozy, at that. The Bears are on FOX here in Philly, and with a 4:25 start, this game is guaranteed to intrude upon my 7 o’clock bedtime 👵🏻, and (sigh of resignation) I have to go back to work tomorrow after a 10-day break. I guess the good news is…well, it’s also the bad news: They’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and a Packers team that hung 41 points on them a month ago, and odds are, we’ll only have to gut out, like, 5-10 commercial breaks before the game is out of hand. 😐

Oh well! Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It’s our last free day of the holiday season, y’all! Let’s do ourselves a favor and ENJOY!

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