There have been very few situations in my life where I’ve jumped into a commitment without a plan. My commitment to sobriety is one of them. There’s a reason the 12-step program is so popular (and effective): It gives you a plan, an outline, a step-by-step guide to take you out of your rock bottom and walk you down the road to a healthier and happier life. 

If you’re like me, however, you woke up on one random morning (June 1, 2018, to be exact), had your then-boyfriend pour your vodka down the sink and went out to lunch at Silly’s in Portland. I got through that day. I woke up the next morning with a plan: not to have a drink of alcohol that day. Flawless in its simplicity.

You might think “don’t have a drink today” is a goal, not a plan. This is where mindset comes in. If you think of “don’t drink” as a goal, well, sometimes we don’t hit goals, right? A goal is more optional. Thinking of “don’t drink” as a plan made it non-negotiable for me. And to quote my dad’s favorite TV show, I love it when a plan comes together.

June 1, 2023, marked 1,825 days of sobriety. Or to use a different count: five years. I have five years of sobriety. A whole hand’s worth! High fives all around, everybody! 

Right now, I’m writing this column on my back deck of the little house I own. It’s sunny, and just the right temperature. My dog, Janey, is snoozing in the sun. (I’m in the shade, because of a family history of skin cancer.) A friend’s puppy, who I’m baby-sitting, is chewing on a stick. I have some friends coming over later. And I’ve had this one line from a song by SZA stuck in my head. The song itself is called “Kill Bill,” it’s mostly about revenge and murder (which are not particularly relatable for me, thank goodness), but at one point in the bridge, SZA belts: “I did all of this sober!” And that’s what I think when I look at all of my blessings and accomplishments: I did all of this sober.  

I’m very open about being a recovering alcoholic, so sometimes people see me as a resource or an understanding ear for their own recovery journey. (It’s one of the greatest honors of my life thus far.) One of the things I hear frequently is that people getting sober keep feeling a desire to drink. And obviously, I’m not a medical professional, this is just my own opinion, but: It’s fine if you want a drink. I want a drink right now! You can want all you want, as long as you just don’t drink. That’s the trick, don’t drink. It’s a deceptively simple trick. 


One of my favorite web cartoonists, Jeph Jacques (also in recovery!), has a story arc in his ongoing comic “Questionable Content.” Watching one of his characters, Faye, struggle with (and, spoiler alert, eventually through) alcoholism was one of the first times I’d seen alcoholism like mine – a young woman’s – depicted in media. And as she points out, sobriety is a muscle. It gets strong the more you work it out. No days off.  

And if you’re looking to support the sobriety of others, especially as we head into the summer season of barbecues and backyard parties, I’ve got two tips for you.

First, never ask why someone isn’t drinking. I personally don’t mind answering honestly (“No thanks, I’m a recovering alcoholic, I’ll die.”) and then relishing the look on their face as they realize they’ve made a social faux pas, but then again not everyone minds making the situation awkward. And second, if you’ll be offering alcohol, make sure you have something else equally appetizing and non-alcoholic on hand. I’m a big fan of fancy seltzers. This advice will also serve you well in case of friends who are hiding a pregnancy or a recent religious conversion.

I hate using clichés in my writing, but the road to recovery is paved with clichés for a reason. It’s been five years, but it all comes down to one day at a time; one hour, one minute, one breath at a time. Trust me, they add up. 

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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