Two years of sobriety: What I know now that I wish I had known then

Today, I’m celebrating my second sobrie-versary, and it just keeps getting better.

Year one was rough, to say the least. Work difficulties, relationship difficulties, big life changes all occurred just as I was struggling to maintain a newly serene and stable life.

Now, as I round the corner on year two, I’d like to share a few thoughts with ya that I wish I’d had when I started out.

1. Alcoholism may or may not be a disease, but sobriety is a choice.

Minute by minute, I’ve had to make the choice of whether or not to drink or use. Sometimes, I would be so upset or insecure that I could only make that choice for the next five minutes. As in, “Today sucks, life sucks, but I’m going to hold off on drinking/using for the next five minutes.”

Very slowly, that became an easier decision to make, and I didn’t have to make it as consciously as often. But even now — and I imagine for a long time to come — there will still be that choice in that moment when I have to decide.

And I will always, always decide to preserve my sobriety.

2. Not everyone will understand or support your choice.

The people who know me best are glad and relieved I made my choice to remain sober. Recently, over dinner with an ex-girlfriend, I learned that she had wondered when she’d be getting that middle-of-the-night call and learn that I had finally kicked the bucket under tragic circumstances. She, along with my family and my best and closest friends, are happy that I no longer give them such cause for concern.

However, not everyone has been so respectful. There are the “come on, just one drink” people, and the “yeah, but you’re not an alcoholic now, right?” people, the people who thought I could get the hang of moderation if I just tried a little harder. Those people have made my journey just a bit more difficult, because yes, I wish I was capable of enjoying myself in moderation, too.

With those who don’t understand or respect my choice, I have to be patient, and I also have to remember that not everyone has the hands-on experience with alcoholism that lends the necessary gravitas to the conversation.

3. Recovery is a gift that keeps giving.

Living in cycles of self-abuse and addiction was a harrowing experience. On the other side of that, though, I see it as a gift. A hard-won, unique gift.

When others who are still struggling with addiction (and all the drama that comes along with it) approach me with questions, I can give them real and honest answers. As much as the normal person might want to help or offer hope, there’s only so much you can say or do when you don’t have the ugly experience that alcoholism or addiction confers.

It’s not a distinction, and it’s not an honor, but I do feel blessed that I can reach out to, respond to, and actually help people in need.

That’s really the only reason I write posts like these: Not because I’m soooo proud of myself or because I want to “show off” my damage. I want you, dear reader, to know that your drinking or drug problem doesn’t have to hold you back forever. You can start making those little choices, and you can break your own cycles. And when you do, I swear to God, your life will change in the most beautiful, gratifying, and mind-blowing ways. I am living proof of that; these aren’t just hollow words. And for me, that proof is the best thing about recovery.

4. Your life will change forever and for better.

Two years ago, I was overweight, barely hanging onto my job, running very low on genuine friends, and in a dead-end relationship.

And it wasn’t just my circumstances: It was me. I was angry, bitter, depressed, and pretty near hopeless. My self-esteem had dwindled dangerously low, and my self-preservation skills were nonexistent.

Today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m in great physical shape, I have a small group of trustworthy true friends, I freaking love my job (and they mostly tell me I’m doing great at it), I’m in the best relationship of my life, and overall, I am amazed at how much my quality of life has improved.

No kidding: I look around just about every day and think, “Really? All this is mine? I get to live this life?.” I’m lucky, no doubt, but I also know I wouldn’t have this if I had continued to drink and use.

Questions? Go ahead; ask me anything.

If you are struggling, know someone who is, or have any questions about addiction, I’m happy to chat with you. I’m not a counselor, and I don’t have any professional experience in coaching people out of addiction, but I can give you some honesty and some encouragement if you need it.

Hit me up on Formspring, where you can ask me anything you want anonymously.

I wish you a full and fulfilling life overflowing with happiness, blessings, and love for yourself and everyone around you.

46 thoughts on “Two years of sobriety: What I know now that I wish I had known then

  1. I will be at my two years in August, and sobriety is the best gift I have ever given anyone ever. I wish I get let those just thinking of doing this know how great it can be.

  2. and while you are at it please encourage folks to NOT tease non-drinkers or try to ‘coach’ them into drinking-it is most UNfriendly…..yea-like Matt.

  3. Congratulations and thanks for continuing to share your experiences. This is writing of honesty and real value to people struggling with this issue, not self aggrandizement at all.

  4. Jolie…Congratulations on your 2nd birthday. I am a “normie” and the two best times of the year are when I give a chip to one friend who has 48 years of sobriety and the other with 16 years. It is an honor to attend those AA meetings on the last Saturday of the month, twice a year.

  5. Learned something new about you today. Thanks for sharing, self control is the hardest thing especially when your friends coerce you or somehow influence you into letting your guard down just for that one instant. I follow you on social media knowing that you have a strong sense of character and incredible intelligence. Keep trucking!

  6. I’ve been following your work for a year or so (after finding an excellent blog post on women in tech) and the thing that always strikes me is how together you seem. In your panel discussions on TWiT you always come across as the one with thoughtful common sense. Your articles convey the same feeling.

    That sense of “having it together” may have been hard won, but it seems you’re accomplishing it.

    Hope you’re still working on your Computer Science studies. :)

  7. Hi Jolie,

    I truly appreciate that you shared this. I am struggling with alcoholism myself. On the rare occasion that someone comes out and says it (like you have), it stops me dead in my existential tracks. I am happy to hear that you had the strength to change your life. I hope to do the same for myself and my family.

    I have some questions for you, but I will save them for the appropriate forum.

    All good medicine.

    – AnonForNow

  8. It’s impossibly hard to imagine the person I saw on twit dealing with these issues! Guess we’re all human, huh. Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Great post and it just proved my recent changes I’m doing in my life.

    Although I’m only 22 and close to finish my MSc as everyone I was partying and enjoying my time at uni, I even used to be called a party animal. Then after roughly two years of that I actually got tired of it and made some kind of pros and cons list, well it turned out that even there some advantages i.e. meeting new people there are much more of disadvantages of partying, not gonna list them but will sum them up as time waste. I remember the times of going out 4 or 5 days a week, hangover goes away and I’m hangover the next morning.

    The first year without regular partying it was quite of a nightmare as I wasn’t used to staying at home and doing something productive. To be honest I was depressed and put on quite a lot of weight. But then the second year came and out of nowhere I started sorting myself out. I decided to do MSc and started going to the gym, everything of course with a moderation. And as a result I’m currently waking up every morning at 6AM, go to the gym and 10AM and have plenty of time for uni work and job hunt.

    I just go to the near pub for a pint with my friends but that’s I don’t feel like drinking more cause I don’t want to waste my time.

    I’m not sure if you can call it an addiction (probably not) but I felt like sharing these after reading your post.

    Thanks

  10. Weeell, congratulations @jolieodell!! I was thinking of you earlier today, wondering when the anniversary was. We are SO PROUD of you, of the person you have become by defeating all the cwap. Dadjy says you’re the bomb- when he grows up, he wants to be a cool cat like you.

  11. I know how hard this was for you. I know how hard you worked to get here. I’m glad you are on the path of your choice. Happiness is fleeting but you seem to have found it. My best to you, Jolie.

  12. Hi Jolie,

    This post is pretty amazing. The honesty is refreshing, unexpected, and inspiring. You have a unique writing style which is both principled and committed, but never contrived.

    I wish you well for the future.

  13. Great to see such strong convictions and healthy decisions, Jolie. Milestones like these are paramount in being truly fulfilled and it’s inspirational to see you use a hard-earned platform in such an honest, responsible and supportive way for so many others. I was really pleased to see you moderate a panel at SXSW this year with Ed Boches among others and it’s a delight to hear such authenticity and success! Bravo.

  14. Well done, you are helping me just by talking about it. Love hearing your voice when you are on TWIT, but love your point of view even better!

  15. Hi Jolie,

    Just wanted to say well done, good on you, and thanks for sharing all your good things… I will certainly drink to that. (joke)

    You’re one of the best tech journalist out there (for sure), and you got there through your perseverance and determination…

    I keep telling myself to quit drinking, but never quite get that far, although I’ve quit smoking and also, never take drugs (‘cept weed now and again! :P ). Which means I’ve come some way too, along this dusty ol’ road called *being in your twenties*. :)

    Genuinely inspirational stuff.

  16. Congrats Jolie! I think about this sometimes too. For me it’s all about living as long as I can, as healthy as I can, for my kids and Heather. Thanks for sharing this. Way to go!

  17. Congrats. I loved your daily delight – “Really? All this is mine? I get to live this life?.” We’ve got plenty of stories about the heartache and rubble that we’ve left behind and plenty of work needed to put things right. Stuff doesn’t get fixed by not doing something; we’ve got to live forward. It’s our best way of saying, “Thanks for this next chance.”

  18. hi, jolie– in prep for a project, a client asked me to read the book ‘the mastery of love.’ i think you’d relate to his message big time ( esp the part about being the only one sober at a party) and might want to share it with other people. speaking of resources, i love your warrior spirit; i’m going to send you a private e-mail about a work-related request… cheers!

  19. Inspiring words, I’m 25 and in a mess. I’m just now starting my journey of sobriety and it is a very difficult one. It’s nice to read the words of someone who was able to make it. Keep at it, stay strong.

  20. Very proud of you. Watched my dad die of cirrhosis a couple of years ago, did not want to go the same path and haven’t touched the stuff for over two years. Feels great to be in control. Brave post.

  21. Congratulations on your clarity. You are now seeing the world in full HD ! Keep up the good works. Love your writing at VB.

  22. So often we read articles written by bloggers and tech journalists and take only the facts (sometimes peppered with opinions) they give us, forgetting that a *real* person wrote those words. Thanks for sharing with your readers something private and personal. In a strange way, your transparency makes your professional work more real. Keep up the good work. I look forward to another entry on 4/18/12 about being sober for three years.

  23. Congratulations. I’ve never seen the results of alcoholism personally, but through friends I’ve heard how tough it can be. Best of luck in the future. Keep on doing the great job that you’re doing with this and what you share with us on the internets ;)

  24. I think Alcholosim is combination of a disease for some and a anesthetic others. As with most things it is a spectral thing.

    I stopped my very occasional drinking excess when I realized that I am very uncomfortable in large groups doing the social bee thing. I had to drink to be numb in that situation. I stopped going to large parties and I have not been drunk since.

    I still drink though. A glass of wine here or there.

    The point is that it is important to know what caused the excessive drinking to begin with. My dad became an alcoholic at age 62 when my older brother died. For him it was numbing a pain.

    Congradulations on being sober for two year. One dad I hope you find out what was the trigger to begin with :)

    • That would be “use drugs.”

      It’s a funny semantic difference I’ve noticed: Authority figures, parents, or people who haven’t been exposed to drugs will use the verb “to take.” Drug users will often choose the verb “to do.” People in recovery generally say “to use.”

      Example:

      Mom to kid, shouting up the stairs: “Are you and Sammy taking drugs up there?!”
      Kid at club: “Hey, wanna go do some coke with me in the ladies’?”
      Kid 20 years later at NA: “I haven’t used in 10 years.” *cheers from the group*

      I think the words you employ have a lot to do with how you relate to the substance, especially in the do/use difference. When you’re into drugs, you see them as an activity, something you *do*. When you realize the error of your ways, you realized the drugs were just a tool you were *using* to meet deeper emotional needs, albeit unsuccessfully.

  25. You have everything right here. You said it about as well as it can be said.

    In martial arts there is a ceremony called a shiai. Used to be a fight to the death, but it’s now a bit more civilized. A shiai is a test in which you are pushed beyond your limits. It’s different for everyone. But in that moment you realize the limits are in your mind. But more importantly as several attackers are bearing down on you and have nothing left physically or emotionally, you surrender. But not to the attackers. You surrender to whatever’s next. You embrace it. And you realize that the only thing you have left is that knowledge that you will never ever quit no matter what. And you know in that marvelous moment that there’s not as much to fear as you thought. And then whole new worlds open up. As I said, it’s different for everyone.

    Congratulations on your sobrie-versary. You figured it out and did it yourself. May you continue to know the blessings of your new journey and the lessons of the old one.

  26. One of the most touching things I have read lately. I just completed a year sober and void of addiction. On 2/19, it is like you wrote this from my mind.

    Congratulations in your Amazing accomplishment and life change.

  27. Congratulations on your 2 year sobriety, as a person who also has been sober for 4 years, I appreciate your commitment and hope you keep it up

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