For the past month of my life I have been traveling from state to state connecting with music lovers, corporate America, foreigners, homeless individuals, the elite in our social economy, sports fans, nature lovers, religious and often times non-religious individuals. When I left Kentucky this past month I stepped away from my personal comfort zone, my home, family and friends in search of inspiration, hope, and a common thread created between two individuals that have been touched by addiction issues. On a personal note, what I have actually found during my first month of travels, is a greater sense of humility.
This new chapter of my life, traveling to 50 states in 50 weeks wouldn’t be possible without the help and constant love, support, and motivation from my family and friends. For so many individuals that knew me prior to my last drink, and even for those people who have been on this journey during my sobriety, knows that I am not the most frugal individual, or better put, I have a high (FOMO) Fear of Missing Out. For this reason, and this reason only, my self-reflecting morning stroll through Redwood National Park in California, marking off #46 on my bucket-list, did much more for me than words can ever express.
2,000 years of steady growth, straight and narrow, more than 300 feet tall, wide enough to build a tunnel through its massive base, the Redwood is the most mighty of its tree family. Like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, I could barely sleep waiting for the break of daylight. “She’s big isn’t she” yelled a park ranger in passing. I found myself alone on the trail this early in the morning. It was only the sounds of the wind blowing through the tree tops, the morning stir of the forest, and the sound of own heart beating. My morning stroll, a five-mile hike through a maze of memories, reminders, stories that have been running through my head for years. Walking through the Redwood National Park I couldn’t help but transform myself into the six-year-old kid that climbed in my backyard tree for hours. My inner curiosity was running wild wondering what the views would be like from the top of these natural wonders. I felt like Peter Pan, sitting there at the dinner table, business clothes on, trying to make it back to never never land. I could almost hear small chants in my head screaming at me, believe, just believe Jesse.
My last drink was at a small bar just north of Cincinnati on the night of April 15, 2014. Like so many nights prior I showed up with my co-worker, a normal happy hour just like I had done so many times in the past. “Jesse, I am heading back to the hotel, it’s getting late, are you joining?” - D. I’m ok, I am going to order just one more, and then head back. I yelled, I just want to play one more game of pool. “You sure?” –D. Yea, just one more, like always, one more, and then one more. My life, prior to my last drink, was consumed by my inability to cope with my own FOMO. I was a crusader in search of filling an emptiness that was taken from me as kid.
As I continued on my morning hike I couldn’t help but realize that my own fear, my own FOMO, was actually my own guilt, escaping away from reality and back to that innocent kid, climbing in my backyard tree, free of any shame, lie, or chaos I had created in my own life. My drinking, and inability to control my drinking, was a failure to realize that what I was trying to fill could never be filled, only accepted. As a young child I was sexually abused by an extended family member. I never had the courage to tell anyone in my family, a friend, counselor or teacher, a memory I held tight to my inner soul for years. I was ashamed of who it made me become. A pathological liar. An individual never living up to my own potential. It was when I found alcohol that I found my escape into darkness, an escape of who I thought I was, that person that I thought I never could become, but certainly not the person I actually am.
This company, the Sober Voyager, isn’t about being perfect, it is about moving forward, progress in your own life.
To start this company I had to make the difficult decision to walk away from a job that provided me the means to do everything that I wanted in my life. For nearly three years I traveled the world, tried tasty food, enjoyed great music, and made great memories with my friends and family. I am the Sober Voyager, one man, one van, on a mission to help the 25 year old me that was lost his marbles. I had to cash in my retirement, for the second time, my first was to pay off my third DUI. I sold all of my nice clothes, got rid of my ties, watches are gone, and no longer do I have a cool sock collection. I ended my lease and I purchased a van. I didn’t ever think I would be sleeping in a parking lot in the back of a vana at the age of 28, but then again, I didn’t ever think I would have created a company based around sobriety.
My stroll through the Redwood National Forest made me realize that everything I thought I was giving up, the real things in my life, family and friends, life experiences, I not only still have, but I am actually living amongst those experiences on a daily basis.
My addiction was based around trying to fill a hole that could never be filled. A hole that was created when I was just a kid. It is only now that I am finally filling that hole through new experiences, newly found self-confidence, sharing my story, connecting with others who have walked down the same path as myself, and ultimately helping others. I set out on this journey to share my own story, but on this morning, it was a walk through #46 on my bucket-list that I realized just how far my story has evolved over the years. Standing at the base of a Redwood Tree you can’t help but become humbled. Something so mighty, an object that grew slow and steady, planted its roots, and has withstood the test of time.
I don’t believe all addictions are created at the barstool of a bar, or in the parking lot of school, about to take your first hit. My disease was an empty hole trying to be filled by a substance that couldn’t filled. You don’t need to look far to find a friend or loved one that is trying to fill an empty hole on a daily basis. If you have ever been touched by an addition issue I encourage you to the join Sober Voyager in an effort to support those who are currently lost. I ask that you wear your support, inspire the un-inspirable, and encourage your friends and family on a daily basis that stories can be re-written. We must do more to honor and remember the individuals who started down a path in search of the unattainable and never came back. We can’t do this alone, but through the help of you, the help of my friends sitting around the table chanting, believe, just believe, I’ve transformed into that kid, free from my addiction and insecurities, free from my own guilt and I know that it is possible for other individuals to become free as well.