Seven Years Sober

Today is the day. I have officially been sober for seven years today.

One of the coolest things about being sober is probably the fact that once you get sober your sober date kind of becomes your second birthday. That part is pretty awesome to me.

It seemed like just a couple years ago that I decided that my life would be better off without alcohol in it. At the time, I wasn’t sure I would make it five years without alcohol, let alone seven. But I had faith that even if I came up short, my life would be better than it was with alcohol in it at the time. By the time I stopped drinking, I had ruined a couple of relationships, almost caught a few DUI’s, and was on my way towards ruining my artistic career. Thankfully I stopped when I did.

One of the wildest things that happened after I stopped drinking was the passing of my oldest brother in 2012 and father in 2014. I remember thinking to myself that the old me would have dealt with those losses by drinking until he passed out, just trying to escape the pain of losing loved ones. While that’s totally expected in many instances, going through that experience sober really let me know that I had made it over the hump. I was able to remain sober throughout and make it through what I know I couldn’t before. It also reminded me how important I am to my family. The last thing a family that is already dealing with one loss needs is to have another member destroying their life right in front of them. Being sober at that time helped me become an asset to my family and not a liability. I hate to think about how much worse things would have been had I been unreliable at that time.

After learning the importance of being an asset to my family instead of a liability, I started to evaluate this dynamic in my friendships. I didn’t want to be around people who were liabilities anymore. And I didn’t want to be a liability to any of my friends. I didn’t want anyone having to come to the rescue of a grown man who can’t handle his business anymore. So my social circle started to slowly change. As a result, I have way less people who I would call friends now, but those I do call friends are all on the same page. The stress I used to create and have to deal with in my life and friendships have become much more manageable now.

Over the years I’ve learned that there are people who I can kick it with and have fun with, but then there are people who I can actually invest in and become real friends with. When I was drinking everybody was in the same pot. That led to a lot of unrealistic expectations being set on both ends. Either I was disappointing them or they were disappointing me. Things are much easier now without all that baggage. I get to enjoy people for who they are, not who I expect them to be.

My advice to anyone out there still struggling with alcohol, try not to look at it in terms of whether your drinking is good or bad for you, and maybe try to look at it through the lens of either being an asset or a liability to those around you. The more of an asset you can become, the happier everyone will be, especially you. The more of a liability you are, the less people will want to deal with you or be around you–even your family.

So what’s next?

I’ve spoken to so many people who have been through what I’ve been through with alcohol that I’m strongly considering writing a book about becoming and staying sober. In fact, I actually wrote an outline for a book a few months ago and think I might sit down and work on it later this year when things slow down a bit. I’ve wanted to share this information and experience for many years, but I also wanted to have a good amount of years under my belt as a sober person before I did it. But now I feel a little more confident.

Anyways, just wanted to share a few thoughts on this topic since today is my seventh year. If any of you reading this would like to talk offline about this, please feel free to email me using the contact page. I will help out as much as I can.

Have a great day!

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  • Tyler Buys

    Beautifully written. Doing my best to be an asset.

  • DJ Robzilla

    Thank you for writing this. I quit drinking two months ago and this was a much needed reminder.

  • printmatic

    You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind words!

  • printmatic

    Thank you. Same here bro.

  • Blake Lucas

    I really enjoyed reading this – congrats on overcoming your addiction!

    You’re absolutely right in identifying new ways to look at the world. Doing so through a lens of caring about others is always more powerful than simply doing it for ourselves.

    A wise man once gave me another lens that he referred to as ‘Finding your Neverland’. He talked about how alcohol and other mood-altering drugs are addicting because they strip away the social masks that we wear to shield our true selves from the world. Most of us don’t have the confidence to simply be ourselves in front of others so we wear these masks of fake personalities that we think others will like. However, these masks do the exact opposite of what we hope because others can detect the inauthenticity, ultimately repelling their trust and preventing us from making meaningful connections. Mood-altering substances, like alcohol, remove inhibition and allow us to just be whoever we are beneath those masks. It helps us bond with our friends and family without judgment, similar to a child before being conditioned by all of the ‘social norms’ our world thrusts upon us. This wise man concluded his point by saying that if we can become comfortable showing the world who we really are and throw away our masks, we will have no use for alcohol or any other drugs because we will be able to make meaningful connections without them. We simply need to find people that will love and accept us for who we are and begin to peel back the layers until we can find the confident, fun-living spirit that all humans are born with. This is what he referred to as ‘Finding your Neverland’.

  • Brandon Elam

    Been sober 4 years now, and my dad died 2 years ago. I know how you feel. My brother is 12 years younger than me, and he would have been awarded to the state of I hadn’t been sober. Unfortunately, this shit is in our genes, and I fear I might be planning his funeral, but I can’t control these things. Your words are real, they pretty much always are, thanks. I still struggle with being an asset rather than a liability, but I need reminders like this to keep me from getting complacent when things are going good. Happy birthday my dude, and write that book. It will be good for you to do it, and good for people like me to read it.

  • printmatic

    Thanks for the encouraging words about the book Brandon. I will definitely be trying to write that book later this year. You’re absolutely right about it being something that not only will help others, but help me too. I hadn’t really thought much about that part of it yet, but you’re totally on point.

    That is so awesome you were able to step in a be there for your brother like that. Your family appreciates you more than you may ever know bro.

  • printmatic

    That is a really amazing perspective. I love this part “if we can become comfortable showing the world who we really are and throw away our masks, we will have no use for alcohol or any other drugs because we will be able to make meaningful connections without them.” I can confirm that this is 100% correct. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Merrill Lance

    How do you feel about other substances like marijuana? Do you put it in the category as alcohol? Do you believe that it also makes you a liability to yourself or others?

  • printmatic

    Personally, I don’t have much experience with marijuana. I’ve smoked weed less than ten times in my life so it was never really my thing. In fact, I’ve smoked weed so rarely that I’ve never even bought weed before in my life.

    Now, as far as whether weed is a liability or an asset, I don’t think the substance really matters as much as the effect it has on you. I was an alcohol guy, but I don’t think weed is any different if it makes you unproductive or a liability to the people around you. That could be said for any substance: weed, alcohol, pills, etc. I think every person has to do an inventory on their life and how it’s impacted by that substance and answer that question for themselves.

  • Congratulations on maintaining your sobriety. I would say I wish I was there with you, but I suppose I’ve reached a different type of understanding with my relationship with substances. Actually, maybe it’s not as different as yours. I guess I have at least decided that certain of my habits can’t be indulged if they are detrimental to my wallet (except for music), or will lead to me becoming a liability to myself or my relationships with others. I just try to adhere to the concept of “Moderation”. But I have had some silly, embarrassing, moments from overindulging in alcohol. Mostly, I grew out of it since I started drinking for fun later on in life. My “Bad” times were mostly in my early 20’s-to mid 30’s. But I can’t knock your path, because it DID make you so much more productive and creative. Keep it up, bro.

  • printmatic

    Thanks Art! Appreciate the comment bro

  • Merrill Lance

    Having so little experience with the substance in question how do you justify writing raps and more or less glorifying the substance to begin with? Specifically referring to “no half smoking”. I am realizing that may artists ride the drug/alcohol/party hype but don’t participate in any of those things themselves? For example lil yachty has many songs about drugs and alcohol but has stated explicitly in interviews that he does not use any substances (not that he hasnt, but that doesnt continue to).

  • Merrill Lance

    Is it simply business? just trying to get big or gain momentum?

  • printmatic

    To my knowledge, there are a lot of rappers that don’t currently smoke or drink or quit who have music about it. 50 cent, to my knowledge, has never had alcohol or smoked weed in his life and has always been a super healthy dude. I hear the same thing about Future, that he lives clean as well. There are times when this seems weird to me, but then there are times when it makes perfect sense to me as a writer. A visual artist will make a movie or paint a picture of something that may speak to the experiences of everybody around them, but may be something that they have never personally experienced. You can write a murder mystery but have solved one or killed anybody for example. The person writing it looks at it as if its their job to capture the experience, but not that they had to be living that experience. The more you’re around it the better you can articulate it, but I think rap has the same element. Some artists view it as them articulating the stories of people around them. There’s a story i told on the last soul position record about a girl being sexually abused that was something that was told to me by a girl, but it wasn’t my experience. When she shared it to me, I felt like it needed to be told. Hip-hop is unlike other genres in that it is pretty much implied that anything you talk about you have experienced. That’s not always the case. Many writers are capturing the stories of those around them, which is pretty much what I did for Neighborhood Weed man.

    Its always been a weird song to me. The main reason it was done was as a writing exercise, to see if I could do it as a writer (take a classic song about one thing a rewrite it to be about something completely different and funny). This is why the song wasn’t put on my 1988 album. I was concerned, like you were saying, that it would be seen as glorifying smoking weed and I wasn’t really a smoker to that extent.

    The only reason the song actually came out was because RSE needed an extra song to do an exclusive 45 record with to promote my 1988 preorders. No Half Smoking and Going Off (also a classic song that I also rewrote to be about something completely different) were pretty much the only extra songs I had and since they were remakes I didn’t care about them only being on a 45. Since they were going to be on a limited 500 pressing 45 I figured they would be special for the people who got them. Next thing you know youtube came along, people started putting songs on youtube, and the No Half Smoking song took off on it’s own from people sharing it. For the first year or two I had no idea people even knew about the song, until people would yell it out at shows or tell me they were disappointed I didn’t play it.

    Now I’ve got a song I wrote for the fun of it about selling weed that I only intended for 500 people to hear that’s super popular in my catalog. The weird thing about me and weed is that even though I’ve never been into it as far as smoking it, my roommates in college used to sell it almost the entire time we were in school. We would literally have pounds of weed all over the house and people coming over all hours. So I feel like I understood a lot more about being a weed seller than a weed smoker, which is why the song is written from the perspective of a weed-seller and not a smoker. There’s a line in “No Half Smoking” where I say “so upset that I might even try it…” which is basically me saying that it would take me getting upset about something before I smoked weed because it wasn’t a regular thing.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • printmatic

    see above reply