Today I Have 20 Years Sober, Thank You

It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 21-years old at the time and it was my third or fourth attempt at stopping. Today I am living on grace, and though I don’t speak publicly of this very often, I want everyone to know how proud I am of being sober for two decades and to thank those who have helped me along the way.  This is a day to remember the goodness in suffering.

For some, drinking alcohol is not an issue. You may be one that can go out with friends, have a few drinks (or even get drunk), and not have it negatively impact your thinking, your relationships, and your way of life. You may be one that has a beer or glass of wine from time to time. But for me alcohol was an all consuming obsession. When not drinking, I was thinking about when I would be drinking. In addition, there were many times I would take anything (pot, LSD, mushrooms, cocaine, etc.) to provide me with relief from my thinking and my feelings. I was a miserable person doing things to myself and others that I could not imagine doing today. I risked my life, the life of others, and should have been in jail on more than one occasion. Hard to believe.

I remember June 8, 1989 very well. The night before I had shared a few drinks with strangers and the morning of the eighth I smoked the last of my pot alone. My mom, and her partner Pat, invited me to move out  (aka, kicked me out) of their house and to get help for my drinking. They drove me from Fallbrook to Scripps McDonald Center in La Jolla for a 28-day treatment program. Along the way we stopped at Miracles for lunch (in Cardiff by the Sea).  That day started me on a path to recovery and so much more. I stayed in La Jolla after my hospital stay, attended UCSD, and met Leslie (my partner of 18-years!). I don’t regret that day in 1989 for one minute.

It took a few more years but I mended my relationship with my mom before she died, encountered the Dharma and the path of the Bodhichitta, reconnected with God, and carry a deep respect for my Mennonite roots. I live a religious and spiritual life today that allows me to be the person I dreamed of being as a young man. I can be present for my family, our society, and for our environment.  These are important to me.

There are far too many people to thank by name but I would like to mention a few who have been with me for most of my twenty years and have had a lasting impact on the person I am today. Thank my mom for kicking me out. Pat for being a dear confidant and mentor. Dad for being steady and present. Leslie for being my best friend and lover. Rob for teaching me about recovery and lasting friendship. Thich Nhat Hanh for gentleness and openness. Finally, to my newest teachers, Mazzy and Jasper, for being children and helping me see the world around me with fresh eyes.

Most people know me as a non drinker. My children have never seen me drink. I have the freedom to be with those who do choose to drink. Life is good.



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28 responses to “Today I Have 20 Years Sober, Thank You”

  1. kira Avatar

    thank you kenley.

  2. Tyler Avatar

    What a wonderful, inspirational way to start a Monday morning.

  3. Robert Avatar

    Huge congratulations. This brightened my day.

  4. Cindi Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your story, Kenley. You are an amazing person! I'm so glad our paths crossed.

  5. Declan Avatar


  6. Pat Avatar

    Thank you Kenley. Your mom would be so proud. As she already was many years ago. I treasure our relationship and am so glad you honor the content of your life the way you do.
    Heres to the choices you have made in these 20 years and to the grace of your life Rejoice!

  7. tadawes Avatar

    Kenley, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is indeed inspirational, and I agree with Tyler that this is a great way to start a Monday morning.

  8. viviane in colorado  Avatar
    viviane in colorado

    What a wonderful milestone. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story Kenley. Big smiles.

  9. karen hilsberg Avatar
    karen hilsberg

    ditto to everything already said. i feel so grateful to be on this path of parenthood, mindfulness and sangha with you and your family. thank you for your daily example of being a real human being and shining your light all around this corner of the world. happy continuation day and congratulations.

  10. Soulfulheart Avatar

    dear Kenley, thank you for sharing such beauty!
    i am so inspired by your practice and your path, i really hope to meet you again soon.

    with love,
    sr. Hoodie.

  11. Kenley Neufeld Avatar

    It's good to have friends.

  12. Kenley Neufeld Avatar

    Any chance you are on the US Tour this year? I hope the 21-Day is going well.

  13. Kenley Neufeld Avatar

    The feeling is mutual Cindi. Thank you.

  14. Jenn Mueller Avatar


    Congratulations on your milestone! You should be proud of yourself. As a non-drinker myself, with much the same history as you – I understand what an accomplishment this is.

    Thank you for being my friend, and mentor. Thank you for your presence in my daily life, and your smile. Happy 20 years, Kenley!

  15. Kenley Neufeld Avatar

    Thanks Jenn. I too am happy to know you and work together.

  16. fredila Avatar

    Congratulations Kenley. You are indeed a fortunate man.


  17. Jeremy Hofer Avatar
    Jeremy Hofer

    this is awesome… thanks for sharing this. You introduced me to AA and the sober way years ago – I'll never forget our breakfast together at Irene's. Thank you. I still struggle with it but I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for you walking alongside me those early days!

    Your friend, Jeremy Hofer

  18. Jeanmarie Avatar

    Congratulations! I am so proud of you! Love, Jeanmarie

  19. Katherine Hope Avatar
    Katherine Hope

    Congratulations Kenley thanks for sharing this

    Katherine Hope

  20. Katherine Hope Avatar
    Katherine Hope

    Congratulations Kenley thanks for sharing this

    Katherine Hope

  21. Dawn Avatar

    Today (4-12-2010) is my 20th sober anniversary… thank you for sharing your joy!

  22. sherri Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. Struggling with drinking myself at a very young age (im only 23) has been a tremendous challenge. I came upon this posting looking for other people who have gone through recovery. Seeing that you were also very young has made me realize im not the only one my age who has dealt with this. This gives me hope. Thank you.

  23. Eric Avatar

    My 20th anniversary of sobriety is comeing up in 6 days. It’s a good life!

  24. Kenley Neufeld Avatar

    Great job Eric! Thanks for touching base.

  25. Omar Hamouda Avatar

    Congratulations, there’s nothing wrong with not drinking alcohol ! I never did ! 😉

  26. Rose Avatar

    Congratulations, you are truly inspirational! Amazing that you started this journey at 21, what a gift to yourself!  
    Today, at 39, I personally have reached 2 years & 4 months of sobriety. Every day I am learning & learning & learning, becoming stronger & saner (some days more than others!) with each passing minute.  
    Your anniversary & this post, stands as a  beautifully shiny beacon of inspiration & can do…thank you Kenley!!