Fear, Mad Men and Cowboy Boots: Leading a Sober Life

Cowboy boots are empowering. At the very least, they are somewhat symbolic of my acceptance into the realm of sobriety. It wasn’t until I was surrounded by a group of strong, happy women in Texas that I began to change my concept of what long-term sobriety could look like. Until that point, my resistance and fear could be attributed to an image I had of sitting in a 12-step meeting while the rest of the world had fun.

The very idea that I was having fun toward the end of my drinking is ridiculous enough, but even conceding that, the alternative didn’t have much pull either, at least at first. It took many tries of setting aside my old conceptions of self, sobriety and success until I could reframe that picture. It required not only a new experience with the twelve steps but also being simultaneously deconstructed by a group of women in treatment I wasn’t even sure I liked. Add to that a living demonstration of recovered men and women all around me who seemed to take life’s ups and down with grace and humor. This had moxy. This I could go for.

Recently I was able to enjoy a boozy episode of Mad Men without lingering thoughts of nostalgia. Perhaps not a giant accomplishment, but it meant something to me. I was able to look from the outside in and want to stay exactly where I was: in a state of contentment, not chaos. Addicts and alcoholics may be the only people so attached to their own pain and misery, but so it was with me. I was afraid if I got too deep into recovery, I’d look into the recycling bin one day and see my personality in there ready to be hauled away forever.

When the solution to an internal condition comes from a bottle, the prospect of permanent sobriety is scary. Fear of the unknown, self-doubt and disappointments are suddenly exposed. To treat them with something as ephemeral as spirituality seemed, at best, a risk to me. Perhaps that is why I walked so cautiously down this road. No doubt I would have not continued my path, indirect as it may be, were it not for those who went before me as testimony to the journey. Cowboy boots and all.

-Nina James

Nina James is a recent alumna of BRC Recovery. Previously an amateur blogger from Washington, D.C., Nina now lives in a sober house in Austin, TX and currently works part-time as a fundraiser for BRC Recovery.