Five years later, I’ve finally found some perspective.

Five years ago I flew from Phuket to Bangkok, wrapping up a month of solo travel in Thailand.

I set out on that adventure to spend time with myself and to force some deep reflection — to break away from the stresses and uncertainties at home.

To figure out what I really want out of life.

To articulate the things that move me to face the day.

To re-ignite that joie de vivre that seemed to fade with age.

I don’t like these memes. They strike my ears hard and threaten tinnitus. But I can’t run from this one…

I’m sure I read it when I was still ringing and shaking from that violent heartbreak. I’m sure it circled back and, again, it was too loud to ingest. So, I spat it back out into the world and scrolled through my feed faster. To get away from its aftertaste.

Here it is again. It still frosts and burns my ears. But this time? This time I can feel the space left…

And my branches and leaves are reaching out…

It gave me the chance to really see how I was failing. And it’s giving me the chance to strive to become a better person.

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Getting sober was the hardest thing I’ve done to date. Not just because my body had grown physically dependent on the stuff. Not just because I had been living in a party town. Not just because I was working at a restaurant and bar. But also because I relied on booze to socialize. …

For those who don’t know if there can be smoke with no fire.

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The bar was small and noticeably unpretentious. Nothing about the place was inviting: the beige particleboard furniture, the cheap casino carpeting, the generic one-coat paint job on the walls — it was as if the place had been furnished precisely so that tourists would feel neither welcome nor put-off. This was important, of course. In a small resort town that saw thousands of visitors each week — just for the day, or to celebrate engagements, weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays, it’s important that people leave their money behind…

What if I don’t ascribe to “the god of your understanding” or spirituality demanded by AA?

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Getting sober engenders existential angst almost as surely as drinking leads to hangovers. While detox was marked mostly by patients waking to clearer minds, rehab saw many waking to religious and spiritual literacy. And the program anticipates this, quickly offering solutions to existential questions with God-isms and answers of faith-based clichés. But I don’t buy it.

So where does that leave me? If I’m definitely not religious, am I even spiritual?

I started to lose touch with my inner philosopher while in the throes…

Pursuing sober sex for the first time after rehab, and figuring out how to feel comfortable and enjoy it.

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Recovery from substance abuse is devastatingly personal. Its branches curl and tangle in all facets of our lives, leaving few nooks untouched. While much can be said about the benefits of touch — of physical human contact — in any kind of recovery, when it’s sexual, it’s much more complicated. It’s easy enough to put it off. But eventually, we want to get off with some company. And I was getting close to that point.

The programs and professionals tend to…

How feeling stuck helped turned me into an alcoholic, and how I realized it was happening again while living in a sober house.

One of the most important things I learned in rehab is that when I get complacent or feel stuck, I can drink a whole lot of vodka. I become a real mess. Getting clean and sober just wasn’t going to be enough for me. I had to learn how to live a life without substances. Luckily, I started this process in a great place. A sober house.

Living in a sober house was not part of my…

Rehab and recovery from alcoholism is riddled with cliches and sayings. Here’s what I think of them.

I knew something changed when all the cliches started ringing true. Life in active addiction saw me stumble through the world a bitter, cynical heathen rolling his eyes over a glass of scotch or through the smoke from an overpriced cigarette. I thought I was impervious to cutesy phrases feigning wisdom. But when I was in rehab and began to truly check my pretenses to give sober life a shot, I started hearing things.

First of all, let me make it clear that…

On figuring out how to be a sober person after going to rehab for alcoholism.

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“I don’t drink.” The words stick to my molars like toffee. I know it’s good, but it’s still uncomfortable. I would have thought four months of sobriety would make it more palatable. But it’s not.

My memory of the year leading up to my admittance to detox and rehab is a cloudy slish-slosh of dangerous depressive episodes, blacked-out days in bed, confusing emotional outbursts, and blurry moments of disappointment as I thought of how much vodka I wasted by puking in (or near) the toilet. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t pretty. And yet, for a while, I was pretty sure…

Branden Pacheco

Marketing Consultant. Writer. Foodie. Plant lover. Budding entrepreneur. Philosopher. Virgo. INTP.

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