The old saying goes, time flies when you're doing the things you love. This past week on October 16th marked six months to the date that I launched the Sober Voyager and THE MOCKTAIL PROJECT through my foundation. April 16th is a date in my life that has meant growth, self-empowerment, change and renewed faith in myself and my higher power.
Twice on that date, but in separate years, I decided to take control of the direction that I wanted my life to move in. The first was in 2014 when I chose to have my last drink and then again three years later when I decided to live the life I wanted to live in recovery. On April 16th, 2017 I decided to live out my life as the Sober Voyager, a recovering warrior traveling 50 states in 50 weeks sharing my story with the intent to inspire others who are currently suffering just a bit more than I am today.
It's difficult to put into words just how much I have grown personally, professionally, and spiritually over the past three years since I had my last drink. With that growth, I have realized other aspects of my life has changed as well. My relationship with my family has strengthened considerably. My ability to be recognized as a reliable employee is just one of the many perks of walking into work with a fresh mind and positive attitude. More than all, I have renewed my relationship with my higher power.
Throughout this process, the one area I couldn't have accounted for was the ever-evolving friendships I would have in my life. Before my last drink, I had two categories of friends, my drinking buddies and my life longers. Shortly after I gave up drinking one of those groups started to dissipate while the other felt as if it was under constant construction.
During my sobriety, I've felt my tribe grow, shrink, evolve, and for the first time in my life, I’ve accepted that my tribe is perfectly imperfect, just the right size, not too big, not too small, just the size it should be for today.
For a small-town kid that grew up in Kentucky, finding your tribe wasn’t necessarily an option, nor did I ever give much thought to the term; “your tribe”. I attended an elementary school less than four blocks from my home.
I later attended one of the two middle schools that our town had at the time and then graduated from our one high-school. When it came choosing my tribe, It was more of an afterthought; I lived among many tribes.
Now older, sober, and comfortable reflecting on my own story, I can admit just how lonely those tribes were. My tribes were my sports teams, after-school party kids, and the neighborhood kids I grew up with as a kid. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my friends I grew up with in my hometown. Still, to this day I am very close with several of them, but I don’t believe I ever belonged to one particular tribe. My tribe was my tribe because they were available. The only problem was, I never was.
Reflecting on your own story can be difficult. I don’t blame anyone for the fact that I’ve lost touch with most of the people I grew up with as a kid. I try and look at the positive side of things. Although I’ve lost touch with most of those friends it has allowed me to travel down a different path, a path that has led me to where I am today.
When I decided to attend Heidelberg University right after high school, it didn't take me long to find what I would consider my second tribe, or maybe third or fourth. I was one of only two students from the entire state of Kentucky to attend Heidelberg, a small university with just 1,300 students. The Berg had one cafeteria, small classrooms, and each party you would participate in I would find myself reconnected with the same familiar faces and stories.
I was a kicker for my university, a university that has prided itself on academics, athletics, and being progressive thinkers for more than 150 years. My college tribe, the jocks, frat boys and anyone who enjoyed having a drink in their hand. College was my first opportunity to escape my small-town bubble. College was my first opportunity to look after myself without anyone questioning me. College shaped me more into a honey badger more than it did a wolf. I become fiercely independent, a survivor on my own, or so I thought. Wolfs hunt in packs, but not me, I wanted to be a honey badger.
Although my four years of higher education became tarnished from self-inflicting wounds due to my drinking, my years spent at Heidelberg gave me my first glimpse into the fact that my tribe would forever be evolving. My four years in college offered me my first glimpse into the nasty realization that the evolution of my tribe was solely based on the person that I was at that time.
My college years were spent taking one step forward and three steps backward. My own personal habits and actions forced people both in and out of my life. Thankfully today, a few of my close college buddies have entered back into my life, but that was after years of recovery. My college years taught me a lesson that no textbook, professor or coach could ever teach you. I gained the knowledge that my tribe was a direct reflection of what I offered this world. When I was at my best in college so too was my tribe. The same can be said about when I was at my worst.
When I started this voyage nearly six months ago, I had no way of ever knowing who would come into my life. I have attended music festivals, sporting events, burning man, and even a few LGBTQ pride events. Through my company A.D.R, I have participated in art festivals, trade shows, yoga retreats, flea markets, and even had to pull over on the side of the road to sell out of my van because I needed a little gas money. (Big slice of humble pie)
I've expanded what I thought was my comfort zone to get off the main roads and find the roads less traveled. I've hike mountains, kayaked in the Pacific Ocean and biked down the trails of our national parks. I'm grateful to say that I have watched the sun rise and then set again in 34 states over the past six months.
The miles may be many on the voyager van when all of this is said and done, but it has allowed me to engage in conversations with people that otherwise I would have never met. I've attended recovery walks, meetings, and various meetings all over the country and if there's one constant in this world it's the love and respect you find in the recovery community.
What this journey has taught me is that my willingness to let others in on the best version of my life is a direct reflection of my ever-evolving tribe that I call my friends.
My tribe is my tribe based solely on the person I am today. I don’t have the perfect answer to help you grow the tribe; I can only share with you how my tribe works.
When I was powerless to my disease, abusing my relationship with alcohol, the people in that tribe didn’t push me to become healthier. My powerlessness to my disease was a direct reflection on who I let into my life. My powerlessness allowed me to accept that the person I was portraying to be in my life was acceptable. When I started becoming healthier, more mindful of my own actions, and chose to take the steps necessary to reclaim back the life I wanted from my disease, it didn’t take long for my tribe to change once more.
They say you can’t fully love someone until you thoroughly love yourself. I believe you could say the same thing about your tribe.
To learn more about my story, or my journey as the Sober Voyager, you can visit www.sobervoayger.com or join my tribe on Instagram @sobervoyager - Life is a short precious thing, don’t ever settle into a tribe that isn’t helping you live the life that you want to live.