I wish that I had always lived my life as if I only had one life to live. In 1973 Secretariat set the track record at Churchill Downs winning the Kentucky Derby in a blistering time of 1:59 seconds. One minute and 59 seconds. In the amount of time that I spent my life living in complete darkness, powerless over my addiction, I could have enjoyed the Kentucky Derby 330,566 different times. 330,566 separate times that I could have raised my glass and stumbled through the words of “My old Kentucky Home.” 330,566 different times that I could have enjoyed picking out the perfect bow tie, had a laugh with a friend, talked to a southern bell, or in my case, 330,566 separate times that I convinced myself that I could never attend the Derby sober. Allowing my addiction to control my life caused me to regret yesterday, worry about tomorrow, and never live in the present. This year, now three years sober, I am going to go out and live in the moment as many times as I possibly can.
If you’re like me, and have ever used a vice to hide from your problems, felt the need to escape from reality, or simply didn’t feel comfortable in your own shoes, don’t worry, you haven’t always been alone. I took a lifetime of 1:59 second events and combined them together to convince myself that if I didn’t have a drink in my hand then I could never live the life I wanted to live.
The late great Robin Williams once said “Kid… If you need booze or drugs to enjoy your life to the fullest, then you’re doing it wrong.” As of May 6th, I officially started a new chapter in my life. From May of 2017, to May of 2018, I will be cruising around the United States in the Sober Voyager van. My goal, 50 states in 50 weeks marking off my own personal bucket list. I want to visit places and meet people that I never thought were possible to do without having a drink in my hand. I want to be inspired while inspiring other individuals who are living life in active recovery. I wanted to stop wishing, and just start doing. I believe the biggest poison within us is regret. I now want to inspire the 25-year-old me that was wrong. I didn’t always believe it was possible to live life happy, but now sober, I know that is the farthest thing from the truth.
On May 5th, 2017 I officially marked off my first state, my home state, Kentucky. I walked into Churchill Downs, no buzz, not high. Right next to my side was my brother, something three years ago simply was unfathomable. We cheered, we laughed, and then we cheered on our horses some more. Sadly, I believe a few of them are still running to this day. I embraced the fact that I could enjoy myself standing in the freezing cold rain, mud on my shoes, suit drenched. It was funny to watch what I once was, giddy smirk on my face, I watched the 25-year-old me stumble throughout the infield. I was able to enjoy standing in the paddock taking in the beauty of each horse as they walked on the track. In the end, I found myself watching the final few races from a corporate box, something that would have never been possible prior to my last drink. I’m finally comfortable enough with my own sobriety that I could buy few Mint Juleps for some old friends while toasting them with my own beverage of choice. I enjoyed the day as if nothing every changed prior to my last drink. I shared a few good horse stories with a stranger as we lit up a stogie in celebration of one of my favorite days of the year. I walked through a crowd of nearly 125,000 close friends, all true Kentuckians for one day. I did all of this with a virgin spicy bloody mary in my hand and the clarity of mind to not just remember the day, but why I enjoy the race tracks so much.
Growing up in Kentucky we are both blessed & cursed with the pleasure of being known for bourbon, horses, basketball, & tobacco. Thankfully, I never found a love for tobacco, other than an occasional stogy at a celebration. Outside of choosing which basketball team you are going to root for, Kentucky or Louisville, Kentuckians don’t really have the option if we are going to enjoy bourbon and horses, we just do. One would argue it’s just in our DNA, or maybe the water we drink, but one thing is for sure, there is something unique about Kentucky. The culture of this state, the backbone of our economy, it is built around fine spirits, gambling, and celebrations like the Kentucky Derby.
For the exact reasons why I love Kentucky so much it also made it extremely difficult to ever give up the notion of having my last drunk, much less my last drink. From the age of 18, until my last drink at the age 25, I found myself not only hiding all my fears and insecurities behind the bottle, I found myself utterly lost at times. In my early twenties I started becoming reckless without having the self-courage, will, or understanding on how to control my own actions. I found myself powerless to choose if whether or not if I wanted to have a drink or not. My insecurities, weaknesses, and eventually my own downfalls are now my greatest attributes in life.
My attitude towards life, happiness, and friendships are completely different now that I am sober. I honestly believe that with each new day we have the opportunity to re-write our own stories. A choice to live our life on how we want to be remembered. If you ever have the opportunity to visit my home state the first week of May I highly encourage you to jump at the chance. For anyone that has ever experienced the feeling that overcomes your body as you embrace a hundred thousand close friends, mint julep in hand, singing “My Old Kentucky Home,” it is only a thrill that I can now appreciate sober.
I am just one man with a van, but over the course of the next 50 weeks I am going to live out my own personal bucket-list. I’m going to focus on sharing my story less, while listening to others more. I’m going to be open minded about life, recovery, food, adventure, and music. I am going to take this adventure as I do my own recovery, one day at a time. if you have suggestions on where to go, places to eat, or just want to leave a few words of encouragement, please do so.