On June 20, 2020, I pushed myself to do something very, very far outside of my comfort zone—I published an article on LinkedIn (here) announcing to the world my 15-year journey of sobriety and 15 lessons I learned along the way.
This proclamation was a really big deal to me. For a long time, I feared being too open about my own sobriety. I was ashamed to talk about it, and I was scared of how holding the label "sober" might severely limit my career potential. It felt like a vulnerability that would only bite me in the ass if it was ever exposed. I tend to learn lessons the hard way, but a number of wonderful events in life lately made me finally decide to be open about it. What I started to realize was that hiding it meant that I was hiding a part of myself. It meant that I wasn’t being completely and authentically me in every moment. And most of all, it meant that I was not being of service to others.
Now, 15 years later with my sobriety all out in the open, I keep asking myself: What the hell took me so long?
The overwhelming response I got from my first post on June 20, 2020, was encouraging, inspiring and absolutely beautiful. It was also pretty concerning. So many people came forward sharing that they too have been silent and felt deep shame about their sobriety. In many cases, the silence meant not advancing and growing in life. Countless calls, emails, posts and text messages later, I feel validated that being open was not only the right decision for me personally, but also created space for others to share their stories. Most of all, the continued outreach from people asking for help in having their own tough conversations about sobriety has been my favorite part of this whole experience.
If my voice can help just one more person, then I know I am doing the right thing. I will no longer stay silent on this topic. End of story!
So, in an attempt to keep up the important dialogue around sobriety in our personal and professional lives, I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned in my 15 years of sobriety and expanding on each one.
#1: Sobriety is my SUPERPOWER.
"For the first time in my life, I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a 'have-to'—it’s a superpower." —Brené Brown
Discovering the invisible SUPERPOWER in me …
There is a well-known motivational story about the Chinese bamboo tree. If you don’t know the story, one version goes something like this: A farmer plants seeds for bamboo trees. He carefully waters the fertile ground where the seeds are nested but nothing happens after one year. He continues to care for the soil and carefully pulls weeds, but even after the second year, no bamboo trees appear. Nothing. They don’t appear during the third and fourth year either. Suddenly, in the fifth year, the bamboo trees burst through the soil and shoot up over 80 feet in six short weeks! The bamboo tree was actually growing every single day, expanding its roots and developing the strength to burst through the surface rapidly. Even though the growth wasn’t visible, the farmer was patient and knew it would pay off in the long run.
For almost my entire 15 years of sobriety I viewed drinking as a critical component of doing business and career advancement. Sales is well known for being a legendary culture of top performers in both the boardroom and the bar. To say, “I don’t drink,” was a scary and anxiety-provoking conversation to anticipate. I hid this aspect of myself often, thinking it would hinder my growth and prevent me from advancing or building strong business relationships. I believed it to my very core. However, I wasn’t stopping long enough to notice that I was advancing, I was growing, and I was even making an impact helping at least a few people.
It wasn’t until I ran across a blog post by Brené Brown when I realized the truth in what she wrote. “For the first time in my life, I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a 'have-to'—it’s a superpower."
I love that so much. Sobriety is NOT a limitation. It is a SUPERPOWER.
What sobriety has done for me for 15 years:
When I look up “superpower” in the dictionary it is defined as “a power or ability (such as the ability to fly) of the kind possessed by superheroes. Or a super human power.”
Now, as I look at my life through the lens of my superpower, I realize how many things I would not have now if I had kept drinking. Sobriety literally saved my life and my marriage. Every day, it helps me be a fully present (and hopefully a pretty cool) dad to two beautiful kids. It made sure I didn’t miss a single moment when my mom suddenly died from cancer. It helps me be a better friend, and it keeps me from killing someone by driving under the influence. It lets me learn from others and grow in my career. It allows me to be a high-performing executive at the fastest-growing technology company in the world. It lets me teach others what I know. It helps me stay active and healthy, and it gives me even more energy to pursue my dreams. It allows me to give back to the world and be of service to others. But mostly, sobriety lets me just be me—without any liquid courage.
I like to think that each of these items above are a little bit "super" in their own way. But when I mash all of them together I realize they become one giant SUPERPOWER. So yes, without a doubt, SOBRIETY IS MY SUPERPOWER, and it all started to amass 15 years ago when I decided to choose a different path in life that did not involve alcohol.
And finally ...
Back to the bamboo story. As the story goes, I feel like I’ve broken through the surface and grown not by 80 but rather 800 feet. The 15 years I waited to speak up was me building a root system of little "super" powers that gives me the SUPERPOWER to keep having these conversations, out in the open, reaching anyone who needs it. Wherever you are in your bamboo tree growth, your superpower is waiting for you.
I’m here to help. If you need it, please just ask.
The Sober Exec