sober lifestyle


When I was struck with childlike whimsy on Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t come with a side of foresight. So, I found myself ankle-deep in heavy, wet snow out on my deck, staring at three semi-round blobs stacked on top of one another, with nothing nearby to bring my spontaneous snowperson to life.

I had to traipse down to ground level, my hubby’s ancient duck boots filling with slush, and wrestle a few scrawny twigs off the shrubbery in order to fashion some arms. And I had to remove the soaked boots completely to go hunting through the house for everything else.

Even then, the best I could do was a swath of old T-shirt, a baby carrot and two de-stemmed chocolate Tootsie pops (you think that looks creepy; imagine if I’d chosen cherry!) If not for the souvenir Anthony Rizzo Cubs cap gifted to me by a local American Legion coach back in my reporting days…well, you could argue this accessory adds little cache to my creation here in 2021, given the team’s fire sale of an offseason. 🤕

“Can he pitch?” my dad shot back when I sent the above pictures to the family group text.

It’s easier to laugh, remembering how our wildest dreams came true in the fall of 2016, and seeing those annual “Spring Training bound!” posts start to pop up on Twitter. There’s something about photos of trucks loaded with baseball equipment that inspires blind — maybe delusional — hope in the dead of winter. You could have the worst team in pro sports, and until that first pitch is actually thrown, you can believe anything you want to believe. You can create your own reality in the moment.

That’s the amazing power of imagination.

Where would we be without it?

I, of course, can only speak for myself. And I’m pretty sure the ability to imagine a better future is the reason I’m sitting here today, a snowman-building sober woman with something approaching a lust for life. I’m not, like, floating on a cloud or anything, but I feel better equipped to cope with whatever comes my way than I can ever remember feeling.

Imagination made it possible for me to quit drinking a little over 19 months ago. Without that tiny glimmer of what could be, if I chose change, why bother embarking on the long uphill climb of recovery? Why not just continue running my shit straight into the ground? I had gotten used to living in that deep, dark hole, completely nose-blind to the stench of my rotting soul.

That sounds overdramatic…unless you know — or have been — an active addict.

For nearly half my life, I convinced myself that alcohol was imagination. It was a magic potion that transported me to a different dimension, without any effort, without any struggle, and (temporarily) made me feel like whatever I was going through — be it anxiety, depression, or just plain boredom — either didn’t exist or didn’t matter.

If you know an addict, you know how this story goes. Drink/use enough for long enough, and eventually, no amount is ever enough. That euphoria you used to feel after your first two/three “hits” gets more and more elusive. You chase it with escalating desperation, stretching and straining to grab it until you get so tired you give up. The joy is gone.

Imagine that! Pump yourself full of a depressant in an attempt to improve your outlook on life, or to attain some higher consciousness, and you end up losing all hope instead. 🤔

Pre-blizzard morning walk in my neighborhood

And now comes the part where I tell you, sober life is better than I imagined. It’s true, but then again, I had no idea what to expect when I set out on this journey. No concept of what a life without my favorite crutch would look like. No guarantee I’d stop the rot, heal, grow, and/or live better.

All those unknowns are what make change so scary.

Speaking of scary, if I could’ve foreseen what would happen when I stuck Tootsie pops in an anthropomorphic snowball, I would have hunted harder and found our bucket of charcoal briquettes in the basement. Suckers melted right through the head, creating huge empty craters that took the creepiness quotient to a whole new level. You’ll have to trust me; I don’t want to look at that monstrosity, much less photograph it.

So, my snowman might end up being a really apt symbol of the Cubs’ season, after all. 😏

But hey, hope springs eternal, right? Recovery is a lot like baseball fandom in that way. I mean, I went most of my life unable to imagine my favorite team ever winning the World Series, and I spent more than 20 years unable to imagine my life without alcohol. And here I am today, feeling like a born-again little kid and believing in miracles.

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