2020 has served up a serious bunch of lemons and I am determined to make lemonade out of this global pandemic situation. Early in July, months into the Covid-19 pandemic, I started slipping back into a dark place that over the years has become all too familiar.
In addition to being a recovered alcoholic for over 14 years, I also battle depression. Typically my depression will hit harder in the winter months, so when it starts creeping back in during the summertime, I know I need to level up my recovery game. After multiple calls to a very close friend of mine in recovery, she pointed out I had a lot of, let’s call it, “energy” and she asked what could I do to channel it into something positive. In that moment, as I wiped the salty tears off my plump cheeks, I knew exactly what needed to happen. I called up my boss and asked for a week off. “Is everything ok?” she asked. “It will be” was my response. No matter how many times in my life I get knocked down or I even just feel like I’ve been knocked down, I have always found a way to get back up.
Let me set the stage. Last fall, I was watching an episode of NBC’s hit show This is Us, where I witnessed what I thought was perhaps the most beautiful example of how people helping people plays out in the 12 step rooms of recovery. I have personally lived it many, many times. Vividly, I remember thinking, I wish there was a website that would tell me where all of the amazing content can be found for anyone wanting to live a life alcohol free could find content curated just for them. What TV shows are handling the storytelling of alcoholism and addiction really well? Which ones are triggering to watch? What sober books or memoirs should I be reading right now? Who are the coolest sober social influencers? What’s the latest zero proof beverage I should have in my fridge right now that isn’t a diet coke? You get the idea.
Kind of like a Yelp, but not really. One of the reasons I never used Yelp was because I don’t really care about reviews from people I don’t know or trust. That’s my lifestyle magazine background kicking in. I want to know what the best is from people I know have excellent taste. Give me a Vanity Fair for sober people and my heart would explode with joy. I searched and searched and never found anything like that. Then this little voice inside me said, “What’s stopping you from creating it yourself?”
In that moment, and after dropping $29.95 on GoDaddy for thesobercritic.com url, the idea was born. And then, like many of my good ideas, it just sat there simmering in my head. You see, when I got sober in 2006, there wasn’t much content out there that portrayed a life in sobriety as fun, fulfilling, and rewarding. Naturally, I found a few books in the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble. Nothing compared to what is there now. There were no sober bloggers, or sober podcasts, or cute sober merchandise. It was rough people.
Over the years, I always thought I’d write a memoir about my life that showed what a disaster it was like when I was in active addiction, how I got sober, and most importantly what happened after I did. That’s the thing about thoughts though…they don’t change anything unless they are directly followed up with action.
From the get go of my sobriety, I’ve been pretty open about people knowing I’m in recovery. For me, I always thought it helped me with my accountability. What I found over the years was that my honesty with others was often memorable and over time often led to more. I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls I’ve received over the years about being sober. People asking me questions pertaining to their own drinking, people asking me if I’d talk to a friend or family member that was struggling, phone calls out of the blue asking if it was ok to share my phone number with someone that was in need. My answer was always (and will always be) yes.
Here’s the thing though…I got sober and my life got good. I mean, real good. My career took off. I started meeting the most incredible people. Relationships I had grew deeper with my friends and family. My life got very full, very fast. As years passed, I’d always think of starting a blog. I’d often joke about starting a podcast. I’d make lists of what titles of my book would be. Always thinking, but with no time for doing. To be clear, there was always time for “doing”, I just had a different set of priorities. Time marched on and I was so busy being in action in other areas of my life. I have no regrets on the things I was focused on, but after a decade blew by, I started to feel like I’d missed the sober boat when it came to having my voice on the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble or floating around in cyberspace in regards to living an alcohol free lifestyle.
“Hey, you know that thing we talked about last fall? The Sober Critic? Well, I’m taking a week off and I’m going to build it. You still in?”
My 10 days off in July started with two phone calls. One to a sober bestie in Dallas. “Hey, you know that thing we talked about last fall? The Sober Critic? Well, I’m taking a week off and I’m going to build it. You still in?” Followed by a call to my parents “I’m packing up the dogs and we’re coming to stay with you for a week, is that ok?” (Face it, sometimes you still need your parents, regardless of what age you are)
And here we are. A month later, The Sober Curator is live and we are going for it! (ironically because I accidentally published the website before it was ready and then couldn’t figure out how to un-publish it) While it started as The Sober Critic, the more I sat with that name the longer it didn’t work. My objective is not to critique anyone’s recovery or how they got sober. This concept isn’t really intended to help someone new get sober (although if it does, bonus!) The Sober Curator is where we landed and it feels right and in-line with our mission, which is to break the stigma that living an alcohol free life is boring and dull or only dark and sad. Alcoholism and addiction is heartbreaking and ruins lives. There are already countless places you can get content to back that up. What we want to show is how much joy and freedom comes with a zero proof life, living to your fullest potential without alcohol.
The Sober Curator website, not quite a month old and with little to no promotion, just hit 500+ unique visitors and over 3,500+ pageviews, with an average time spent on site of over 5+ minutes. Our Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts are up and growing. We’ve clocked a few interviews. We’re working on some fun collabs with like-minded businesses. We’re making lists of things and people we want to cover. I don’t remember the last time I felt this energized and this creative. We are working on a strategy plan for where we hope this will be in 3 months, a year, and beyond. Most importantly, we are having fun.
And those dark thoughts that were creeping in back in July? Yeah, they’ve backed off for now. I know they’ll be back and the next time, I know that I’ll be ready for them.