THE BLOG
10/22/2014 12:35 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

What Sobriety Means to Me

Tim Teebken via Getty Images

I rarely discuss my sobriety, yet alone, write about it. It's not because I'm embarrassed by the admission of being a reformed drunk. No, I made the public declarations about the road to recovery when I first gave up drinking last year. I even wrote a blog entry about the first 30 days. However, what I quickly found out is that those who were nearest and dearest to me had a difficult time understanding the latest development in my life.

The conversations I had with friends and family became rather predictable. "You don't look like someone who has a problem with alcohol." should have been printed on t-shirts for every person I spoke to. As time went on, I had friends attempt to give watered down and dismissive explanations of my sobriety to their friends. I've even had some suggest ways that I should discuss my refusal to drink. A part of me was disappointed by these reactions, but I also knew they were trying to make an effort to understand. Furthermore, I realized I didn't fully understand my dependency on alcohol. It's tough having dialogue about something you're still in the process of figuring out, so I decided to dissect my dependency before I made further attempts at speaking about it.

There's no right or wrong approach to sobriety. Everyone has to decide what works best for him or her. Having stated that, I'm not in AA. I have no issue with the 12-step program. I just had no interest in becoming one of those guys who starts out his sentences with "My sponsor says..." It's a poor generalization, since not everyone in the program is like that, however, I've met a fair share of people who speak that way.

So I opted not to go the 12-step route, and sure enough, the program guys I encountered told me I was setting myself up for failure if I didn't get to a meeting and seek out a sponsor. I believe most people will fail at something because they blindly follow a universal blueprint that others in a similar situation are using. It wasn't enough for me to do AA. I wanted to figure out what triggered my addiction. What made me want to disengage from my friends and lock myself in my apartment with a bottle? That's the side that my friends never saw: the guy who sidestepped invitations or found an excuse to leave early because he wanted to go home, sulk, and kill the bottle that was sitting in the fridge.

Understanding my addiction has been the most beneficial aspect of sobriety. I had to come to the realization that my dark passenger tries to take over the driver's seat when I believe I'm not worthy of happiness. When I feel that the joys and successes of life elude me, that's when the bottle calls. That's when I close off from people and seek solace in booze. Reminding myself of this is a never-ending process. Every morning I tell myself that I am making the choice to be happy and present in the moment no matter what unfolds throughout the day. I have to remember that setbacks are a part of life, but the realm of positive possibilities is always within my reach.

I arrived at this outlook through meditation and reflection. I am constantly learning and embracing spiritual growth. I'm pretty fortunate to have been introduced to someone within the past year who helped steer me on this path of enlightenment. We've never spoken about addiction or sobriety. It just so happened that I've learned much from hearing about his journey, and he has recommended books and teachings that have helped me tremendously. He's not my sponsor. He's just a great friend who I am extremely thankful for.

I'm aware, but I'm still not perfect. Most days are great, some not so much. Then there are those days when the dark passenger actually wins. Addictive personalities tend to swap out one addiction for another. So if you see me tweeting about a cupcake-eating marathon, you know what I'm really dealing with. I'd rather be fat than deal with the hangovers, which I do not miss.

Life is not a made-for-TV movie where former drunks get the shakes or break out into cold sweats when they see an alcoholic beverage. I don't mind being with my friends in social settings where alcohol is being served. I find these situations more entertaining because I'm not drinking. Ironic, huh? As a matter of fact, sometimes I take note of the awkward insecurities my friends are working hard at covering up while they are clutching those cocktails (sobriety has made me very observant), but that's another story.

Most of us are predisposed to the belief that addiction only wears one face. Unless you are seen passed out in a pool of your own vomit, people will have a hard time accepting that you have a drinking problem. Addiction wears many faces. We don't all have to look like we are heading toward skid row to admit we need to put the bottle down. I'm grateful for the events that led me to my turning point, and I'm proud of the spiritual growth and clarity that has come from my sobriety. That's what matters most. It's not about the opinions of my peers. It's about what I think... what I feel... how I'm doing. I finally have the fundamental belief that mine is the only voice that matters.

I'm not less than anyone else. I'm enough. And I arrived at this place thanks to sobriety.