Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Today I Have 20 Years Sober, Thank You

By on June 8, 2009

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.