With the beautiful sights and sounds that Forecastle offers, there I was, the Sober Voyager, celebrating 90 days of sharing my story, my own message, that life is to be lived, one day at a time. It was April 16th of this year celebrating three years of recovery, three years of finally living and being comfortable in my own skin that I finally took the leap of faith to publicly share my own story, launching the Sober Voyager. Forecastle was just as much of a celebration of my first 90 days as it was a celebration of being back home to see my family and friends while reconnecting with my community, the city I became sober in, the city I have so many memories, both good and bad. Little did I know that Forecastle would be the first place that I found strangers wearing our brand, our message, showing their support without ever knowing that I would even be at Forecastle, a special moment as a company, but a much more special moment because of the two individuals that I met at while vending at Forecastle.
Over the course of three days of music and fun it was in the small moments of me sharing the Sober Voyagers ethos to fellow festers that I truly understood the why, the social importance and impact of what the Sober Voyagers message can have on someone else’s life. It was in those brief conversations that I had with complete strangers that I was teleported right back to my last drink, the internal struggle that I personally had attending my first social outing. Now 90 days into my voyage, it was Forecastle, a music festival, a setting that I have used countless times as a personal outlet to stay sober that I could finally answer a very important question that I had been avoiding, not intently, but simply because I didn’t yet know the answer.
Over the past three years I have personally inserted music and travel as an alternative way to escape, trying to distance myself from my own daily battles. The truth is, at some point during my sobriety I had to give up on the idea that I would ever fully get over my own daily struggles. I slowly but quickly came to realize and understand that regardless of how much I tried to distance myself from my own daily battles there would never be enough music festivals to attend, new places to travel and see, or new people to meet that would allow me to fully escape from my thought process about addiction. My addiction, and the way my brain works, is simply engrained into my DNA. Thankfully, today I have embraced the slogan that stories were meant to be re-written, and I am the author, not my addiction. Nothing reminded me more about that slogan than the conversations that I had this weekend at Forecastle.
It wasn’t until this weekend while participating in a social setting such as a music festival, a setting that I personally us to escape, but never as the Sober Voyager, that I started to listen to other stories that were like mine. I have always selfishly used music as my own escape without wanting to realize that there may be a (me) in the crowd that is struggling with their own story. Over the past 90 days I have participated in several events, walked into many diverse social settings, talked with all walks of life, but it was this weekend that I was approached not once, but twice, by different individuals that explained to me that they were attending Forecastle for the first time Sober. A feat they were both completely unsure about, sharing that they were early in their own sobriety, both completely nervous in different ways, but both honest about the fact that they didn’t know if they would be able to live a life that they wanted to live without starting to do the things they once enjoyed while using their own vices. Different words were used but they were both asking the same questions that I too once asked myself prior to having my last drink. The fear of the unknown is often much scarier than the fear of the known, at least it was for me. The thought of ever attending a music festival without having a drink in my hand was so outlandish prior to my last drink that I never actually asked myself why I wanted to attend a music festival in the first place.
My life, at least for 10 plus years was built around seeking out places and events that I could socially not be judged for drinking. I had convinced myself that if I attended places such as sporting events, music concerts, bars known for drinking, that I wouldn’t be judged for using my addiction of alcohol to escape behind my own insecurities and guilt. I continuously sought out events that I could escape into darkness and hopefully not be judged as harshly. I sought out places that I could have a drink first, and then enjoy the event and the people that were there secondly. It is only now looking on the outside in that I realize just how shitty of a life that was to live. It is only now that I realize how many great people and conversations that I missed out on because I was there to escape, not to live. It is only now that I realize just how many people are walking around those same types of events that are feeling those exact same emotions that I once felt.
There is a great line in one of my all-time favorite movies, (White Men Can’t Jump) when Sidney Deane turns to Billy and says: “Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him.”
When I started this idea of the Sober Voyager I chose the name because I am the sober voyager, an adventurous, thrill seeking individual who uses travel to stay sober. If you have ever read any of my blog post, or spent a few moments chatting with me about the Sober Voyager, you will find scattered throughout my message that I started this company to help the 25-year-old me that was lost and hopeless; I will call that listening, not hearing.
I truly believe that there is no one single best way to deal with, or manage addiction issues. I would argue that the best combination is a perfect storm of daily practices and support systems that helps us best manage our lives to the best of our abilities. Like those who struggle, being a friend, brother, co-worker, or a mother and trying to understand what the best course of action to approach the topic of addiction is a daunting task. In my opinion, there is no one single best way to approach this topic, it truly is a combination of love, support, faith, and time. Each one of our stories, situational to the time in our own personal lives, we will all struggle in different ways. Now 90 days into this voyage it was at Forecastle that my ears opened up to the stories that were incredibly similar to mine, forcing me to start to hear, not just listen.
When I finally launched the Sober Voyager, I didn’t fully understand the social impact that I may have on a complete stranger’s life, only what the message meant to myself. I had a concept of what A.A, N.A, or other groups similar in thought because I understood the impact that they had on my life. The reason I believe they work so well is because they stay anonymous. They work because you are in a room filled with like-minded individuals all there for the same reason. The only problem with that concept is that it doesn’t impact the other 23 hours a day, or the person that hasn’t yet taken their first step into one of those rooms. Although many questions have been answered throughout the first 90 days in my voyage it wasn’t until this weekend that my biggest question of all would be answered. I didn’t yet know how people would react to an individual wearing a support bracelet while also holding a beer in their other hand. My leap of faith, creating a movement based around being comfortable with your own story. The idea that everyone doesn’t struggle, but everyone can show their support. The idea that regardless if you don’t know what or how to talk about addiction the Sober Voyager provides you the choice to wear your support in silence.
I mentioned that two separate individuals, both attempting to enjoy their first sober concert, openly shared with me what S.V meant to them. In conclusion, they both said that the moment that they realized that they were not alone, but rather amongst like-minded supportive individuals that their fears and insecurities simply went away. To my surprise, they went on to share that not only did they enjoy their weekend while being able to managing their addiction, but they felt more comfortable living in the moment, not worrying about their past, nor what would happen the next day, just simply enjoying what the day offered them. They expressed that it was because a stranger was willing to acknowledge their struggle, letting them know that someone was there for them, regardless if that person had drink in their hand. They said that they understood it was their own stories that they were trying to manage, not the strangers. In the end, they simply felt that everything would be ok, and that was a feeling they hadn’t felt in a very long time.
My weekend at Forecastle forced me to not only listen to my own thoughts about sobriety, or addiction issues in general, it forced me to hear it from others just like myself. They both openly expressed how much it meant to them that a stranger would be willing to acknowledge our struggle, to wear their support, to show that we are not alone to fight this battle by ourselves. Whether it is to honor a loved one that has passed away, or to show support for a co-worker, maybe it is to wear your own journey, or just putting on a tangle item that reminds us that life should be lived, because it is short, addiction is real, and no matter how much we run from it you will never outrun your own shadow, even Peter Pan had to learn that.
The Sober Voyager and our ethos is a lifestyle. We aim to create a choice through wearable tangle items that will create a common bond between individuals like myself who suffer with addiction issues on a daily basis, and individuals who are willing to wear their support for addiction issues across the board.