While a fair number of folks are nursing hangovers on New Year’s Day, I will be waking up to my 366th consecutive day without a drink. It will be, as they say, the first day of the rest of my life; the beginning of my second year of sobriety. For some of you, my faithful friends and readers, going a full year without drinking alcohol is probably not a big deal. But for a man whose mother (rest her soul) once said to her oldest child after finding him blackout drunk in her favorite recliner, “I love you, son, but I think you pissed in my chair,” a year of sobriety is quite remarkable.
It is perhaps even more remarkable that my father, a lifelong alcoholic himself, quit drinking two days before I did, completely unaware of my plan to do so. He, too, has managed to remain sober for a full year, a tremendous accomplishment for a man who struggled with his addiction for five decades. (Dad, I love you, and I am proud of you.)
My father’s story of addiction and recovery is his to tell, and if you ever get a chance to sit down and visit with him, I’m sure he will be happy to share his tale. He is a natural story teller. (Perhaps an addictive personality isn’t the only thing I inherited from him.)
I’ve said many times before, “Everyone has a story to tell.” From embarrassing to hilarious and from harrowing to tragic, the stories of recovering alcoholics are always worth listening to. I’ve got no shortage of such tales myself, of course. But the Boone County Journal is a family newspaper, so I’ll spare you any further tales of my debauchery/stupidity for now.
Instead, I will tell you a story of what has transpired in the months since I decided to make my battle with alcohol public.
Immediately after my column about getting sober arrived in Journal subscribers’ mailboxes last January, I started receiving messages of encouragement and support from friends, family members, and readers. I heard from old chums who made their alcoholic spouses read my column in hopes that it would serve as a wake-up call. Long-time acquaintances revealed that they had also been secretly wrestling with the decision to stop drinking for a while. Complete strangers wrote to me to thank me for being honest about my issues because it forced them to be honest about their own.
Most recently, a person I respect very much wrote to me to let me know that she started paying closer attention to her own habits after reading about my journey. She realized that her relationship with alcohol nearly mirrored mine. After consulting with several other people she trusted, she decided it was time to stop drinking. I am thrilled to report that she has been sober for nine months now.
I have learned a lot over the last year. I’ve learned that it is possible to watch sporting events without a beer in my hand. I’ve learned that I can attend holiday parties with my wife’s co-workers and not need the help of “liquid courage” to loosen me up in a room full of strangers. I’ve learned that I do not need to drink three martinis per night to help me unwind after a long day at school. I’ve learned that it is not solely my wife’s job to help our kids with their homework. And I’ve learned that I like Sober Travis a lot more than Drunk Travis.
My sole New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to get sober. My resolution for 2018, and every year after that, is to stay that way. I also hope that I can continue to inspire others to change their lives for the better, too.
As I stood before a room full of kindergarteners in the primary school art room the other day, I cautioned the kids against sloppily hurrying to get their work done. “Anything less than your best effort is a complete waste of time,” I told the children. “You are all great kids, and I absolutely love being your teacher. You can be great at anything you set your minds to, so don’t settle for just being ‘okay’. Be great. Do your best all the time.”
That sentiment could also be applied to adults; especially those who are struggling with addiction.
The speech I gave those kindergartners stood in stark contrast to a speech I gave to a room full of second graders earlier that day in which I cautioned the kids against licking the art room floor. That’s a speech I never thought I’d have to give and a story I’ll save for another time. Until then; be great, and have a happy new year!