32 years clean and sober – Empty Nest


I’ve been clean and sober for longer than I drank.  It just dawned on me the other day.  I figure I drank for a good (bad) 25 years.  So, 32 years sober puts me well into the category of living a sober life, rather than drunk.

For anyone out there considering life without alcohol and drugs I want to say this: there was never a day in this 32 years that I woke up in the morning and said, “Dang, I wish I’d gotten drunk last night.”  Nope, never happened.  So, yes, sobriety is more than worth it—no more car wrecks, no more D.U.I.’s, no more waking up in a jail cell and wondering how I got there.

To celebrate 32 years of sobriety, I ran a 5k (3.1 miles) in West Burlington at a benefit for Southeast Iowa Regional Hospice called “Miles and Memories.”  Considering how close to death I was a couple of times, I consider the Hospice race apropos.  I like to do something of this nature every year on my sobriety birthday as a celebration of a healthy body and mind.  Last year we did a half-marathon (13.1 miles) right here at the Empty Nest Farm.  The year before it was a 5k at a pumpkin farm in North Liberty.  And the year before that, it was my first Miles and Memories 5k. 

 I find that training for a physically strenuous event such as this is challenging and good for my body.  Leading up to the 5k, I was having some major issues—namely shooting pains in my right ankle.  I’m 73 and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to run the Miles and Memories 5k.  So I purposely registered early as motivation to get in running shape.  I tried several combinations of shoes (including high-top hiking boots), ankle supports, and different speeds and inclines on the treadmill.  Finally, I hit upon the right combo of wearing a copper laced ankle support in a good pair of running shoes with orthotics.  Voila, I ran the event with nary an ankle pain.  Only after it was over, when I was headed for the porta-potty, did my ankle let me know it was still boss.  Interesting how that works. 

Joining me in the celebration of sobriety was my wife Ginnie, and friends, Gail and Lonnie Cale.  Gail and Ginnie walked the 5k, Lonnie and I ran.  I use the term “ran” loosely because some of the walkers were faster than us, talking the whole way.  Lonnie was being very considerate staying back with me.  One lady, walking and pushing a baby stroller, passed us.  Criminy!  I think we were the last of the runners.  Oh, well.  The last shall be first and the first last.  It was a nice, brisk, sunny, fall day to be out and about, alive and sober.

Lonnie is quite a runner.  In the morning, before coming to the Miles and Memories 5k, he ran six miles on his own.  I’m not kidding.  He took off from his house in New Boston, Iowa, running on the shoulder of the highway, and Gail picked him up on the way to West Burlington.  Now that’s hard-core running!  If you’re wondering where New Boston is, it’s right beside Charleston, on Highway 218 in Lee County, where years ago, in the Roaring Twenties, a wild and crazy dance was invented that some people said was inspired by Satan.             

All joking aside, I wouldn’t trade my worst day of sobriety for my best day drinking, if there was such a day.  A couple of big things I learned in Recovery (and I use a capital R for a reason), is that I can’t take the first drink.  It’s not the 10th or 25th drink that gets me in trouble, it’s the first, because it sets up the desire for the second, third, and so on.  And, drugs and alcohol were not the problem.  They were a symptom of the problem.  What I had, and most addicts have, is a living problem.  When I took steps to address the living problem, the desire to use drugs and alcohol slipped away, like a nightmare on a bright sunny morning.  God bless the alcoholic who still suffers.

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, find him on Facebook, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.     

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