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It’s the Time of Year to Sober Up… Don’t Ask Why, Just Accept It and Get Started


December 2019

The demoralization in abusing drugs and alcohol comes with the hope that someday, somehow, things will be normal and we’ll figure out how to properly use our drug or drink to properly escape the feelings and life that is so unpalatable to begin with.  This is where use turns into abuse, and the train eventually falls off the track.  Fighting that last part is like fighting gravity… with slippers and a magic wand.

It only works in a Disney movie, though sadly that’s enough to keep one’s hopes up.

The reality is this; it never gets better.  We just get worse.  No matter how hard we search for that magic combination of drunk/high and responsible, there’s just no such thing for the alcoholic or addict.  Eventually, it will come down to a choice between three options:

  • prison
  • death
  • recovery

Choose one.  Sadly, the first two are a lot more popular because for us, it’s simply too hard to fathom how we could possibly dig ourselves out of the hole we dug in the first place.  That sentence was written with the desperation we have in mind – we try to dig ourselves out of a hole we dug, by digging a little more.  If we just use the side of the shovel, not the point.  Maybe the other side?  How about if we turn the shovel upside down and scrape at the side of the hole?  Maybe use the handle as a lever to dislodge dirt, then we can just use the proper end to throw the dirt out the hole?  Hey, lets dig with our hands for a change!

If that seems nuts, and it should, welcome to my world before I quit drinking.  Most normal folk would have simply stopped digging before the hole was ever ankle-deep.  As a drunk, I think I was close to 20′ deep before it occurred to me the trouble was getting real and I might want to stop digging.

I had to accept the reality that is addiction; if I keep digging, the hole only gets deeper.  There is no such thing as tunneling out.  That only worked for Bugs Bunny, never Wile E. Coyote.

Here’s something they won’t tell you when you first sober up:  Recovery, at least at first, is almost as painful as using.  This is why so many people relapse.  Not only are you still lugging a trainload of shit behind you, your reason for continually trying to escape it through using, your emotions are raw, exposed, and hyper-sensitive.  The draw to numb that is scary enough to make me shudder typing this, 27 years on in recovery.

There is light at the end of that tunnel, and it isn’t a train.  In my case, casting aside my fire and brimstone “Catholic” notion of God for something that more resembled my father’s love was a turning point, but that came long after I asked the fire and brimstone God to help me get over the mental anguish.  “They” said you need a Higher Power, I said okay, and I just let it happen.  That’s when the small dot of light appeared at the end of that really long tunnel.  From that moment, I started toward the light and I picked up speed as I went.  Within a month, the pain of quitting was bearable.  Within a few months, I was thoroughly wrapped in the “program”.  I was a member.  I was in the middle of the wagon, because it’s a lot harder to fall off than dangling your feet off the edge.  Within a year I understood why they say the first year is a gift.

It sure as hell doesn’t feel like that when you’re going through it, but if you’ve done the work of cleaning up the wreckage of your past, as you’re supposed to, you’ll come to realize that just being sober isn’t enough.  You’ll want more growth – you’ll want more happiness, and you’ll know what you have to do to get it.

Friends, the key to sobering up is to stop digging.  The key to staying sober is don’t pick up the f***in’ shovel.

Let me welcome you to a new world and a new way of life.  If you let it, it’ll bring you happiness you’ve only dreamt of.


  1. I’m grateful for every day that I wake up sober, over 6 years of one day at a time. Your post is 💯. Thank you

  2. limetwiste says:

    ‘When you get sober you realise that the baggage is still with you’ Yes paraphrasing what you said. The growth begins. The letting go of all the clutter in the brain. It’s a lot.
    Ready to face it regardless.

  3. Brent says:

    Your description of the trajectory early on in sobriety matches what I experienced. 7 years as of the day after Thanksgiving this year…

    Best quote: “The key to staying sober is don’t pick up the f***in’ shovel.”

    Exactly. Somebody brought a trifle to Christmas dinner. Took me a while after walking by it a bunch of times to remember that trifle often has raw booze poured in it. I’m usually OK with wine that’s been cooked, like bourgignon sauce for a steak. I thought for a second that it wouldn’t be any significant amount of alcohol and the person who brought it would be offended if I didn’t enjoy. But then I remembered the thing about the shovel and realized that the 1/4 ounce of brandy in my slice would be like picking up a kiddie shovel, but I would change that out in minutes for the big honkin’ steam shovel and start digging myself into an even bigger hole. Of course, nobody noticed that I didn’t have any of the trifle. I later made a few phone calls and made sure I was in good shape. Funny how the thoughts even after all of these good years can start up in a second.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Brent, thank you for commenting. I love what you did with the kiddie shovel and the steam shovel. That is an apt description and it made me chuckle. I can relate, as you might imagine.

      As for those thoughts, it’s a great mystery, man. You’d think they’d… I don’t know, your body would get used to the new way of life and stop reverting back to the old way… those thoughts are definitely fewer and further between, but they’re still there to be battled. Anyway, thanks, brother.

  4. Sue Slaght says:

    Jim the digging analogy is a powerful one. Reading the comments above I see it resonates with those who have lived it first hand. For those of us lucky enough to not have the experience, it provides a glimpse into the pain and challenge. May your words touch many.

    • bgddyjim says:

      In the comments above, what I wrote touched one and helped keep Brent on the path in a tough time… if my writing does nothing else, it’s all worth it. That said, your keyboard to God’s eyes! LOL…

  5. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had discussions with individuals about my recovery and how it was either get clean and sober or prison or death. The conversations were a refreshing reminder of God’s grace in my life in delivering me from my life that had become unmanageable, to put it mildly. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with others. Blessings in 2020.

  6. So moving, a wonderful post, thank you 😊

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