The Bustache

Sober Sierra and The Phoenix

When I was getting sober in early 2019, I used to pretend to be somebody else.  Her name was “Sober Sierra,” and she did all sorts of things Regular Sierra was too afraid to do.

This was actually a legitimate coping mechanism suggested by a therapist and reinforced by a 12-Step idiom – Act ‘as if.’  They call it a “positive form of pretending.”  Act ‘as if’ you want to stay sober.  Act ‘as if’ you love and respect yourself.  Act ‘as if’ you deserve happiness.  

In my mind, Sober Sierra became a character unto herself.  I imagined the things a person in recovery would do, and then I gave her those attributes.  Some things were a given – Sober Sierra went to meetings 5 days a week.  She repeated things like “Feelings aren’t facts.”  She cried in her car and ate cupcakes instead of drinking vodka.

But other things were less obvious.  Sober Sierra liked to bake because she could be patient and follow directions.  Sober Sierra wore sparkly press-on nails because she took time to take care of herself in silly and sometimes extravagant ways.  Sober Sierra wore sunscreen everyday because skin cancer runs in her family, and she cared about her future.  And Sober Sierra *gasp* exercised… because she wanted to live an active and healthy lifestyle.

Regular Sierra?  Well, I hated baking, could care less about my appearance, didn’t go outside anymore (so why spend money on sunscreen?), and loathed the thought of exercising.  Honestly, Sober Sierra seemed kind of ridiculous, but I had tried every other possible way to stop drinking, and NOTHING else was working.  I was out of ideas.  

So, one day, shortly after getting out of rehab, I just took a deep breath and started playing the damn part.  I talked about Sober Sierra constantly.  She became such an actor in my day to day life, my roommate at the time, who had a penchant for talking in her sleep, blurted out one night, clear as day, “Sober Roommate gets sh*t done.”

That’s right!  Sober Sierra gets sh*t done, but some of these qualities were easier to embody than others.   Nails? Simple.   Baking?  Frustrating, but rewarding.  Sunscreen? Goodbye paycheck.  But exercise?  Ugh… it was the worst.

Long ago, Regular Sierra enjoyed exercising.  She ran and danced and even lifted weights at a (*whispers*) Crossfit gym.  But when my addiction grew deeper, my commitment to physical activity grew more and more shallow.  Until, eventually, it just completely dried up.

I gained an upwards of 60 lbs, was diagnosed with hypertension and regularly suffered from shortness of breath.  I was out of shape and, in the end, I really didn’t care.   Everytime I tried to do something active, I was just reminding myself of how far I had fallen.  It really didn’t seem worth making the effort to get back up.

But you know what? Sober Sierra cared.  Sober Sierra wanted to love hiking again.  She wanted to dance.  She wanted to feel the camaraderie of doing a really hard workout and surviving it together.

Enter (stage left), The Phoenix.  

When I was in rehab, I heard whispers about a gym that was free as long as you hadn’t had a drink or drug in 48 hours.  It was in Orange County… Costa Mesa, actually.  Less than 2 miles from my house!  It seemed too good to be true.  But when Sober Sierra made me get serious about physical health, I googled it, and nervously downloaded a schedule.

At 64 days sober, I drove to The Phoenix – Orange County.  Housed on the industrial side of Westside Costa Mesa, it looked similar to that Crossfit gym I had once attended in another lifetime?  It *almost* felt familiar, but it also seemed like I was seeing a distant memory.  It was slightly out of focus, not quite real. 

But then, as I sat in my car gaining up the courage to go in, I saw a familiar figure in my rearview mirror.  Wait… was that…?  My favorite coach…?  From that Crossfit Gym all those years ago?  It couldn’t be….  But maybe….?

And guess what?  It was!  I hadn’t seen him in over 6 years, but he was there leading that first workout.  I truly believe it was a sign from the Universe, letting me know it was going to be OK.

This long-lost coach and the other high-on-life, enthusiastic attendees that day, welcomed me with open arms.  They encouraged and cheered me on in my workout and congratulated me on my 2+ months in sobriety.  And then they said, “See you tomorrow?”  And Sober Sierra said, “You bet.”

That first picture below was taken in my car right after that initial workout.  I am red-faced and spent.  And I am so so so proud of Sober Sierra.  That second picture is me from yesterday after a virtual workout with that same coach.  I am sweaty and grateful.  And I am so so so proud of MYSELF.

I have a lot of people and organizations to be thankful for in my Recovery, but The Phoenix is pretty close to the top.  They are a nationwide nonprofit and provide 100% FREE sober activity communities for ANYONE with 48-hours without a drink or a drug.   They have been invaluable to me and thousands of others on our journey to become our best sober-selves.

September is National Recovery Month, and I am participating in The Phoenix’s #Sweatember Challenge.  This includes 23 days of physical activities in honor of the 23 Million people who suffer from addiction in the United States today.  It also includes fundraising for The Phoenix so others can access the same FREE life-saving and life-improving resources I continue to benefit from.  

In honor of this special month, I’ll be sharing a little bit more about Sober Sierra, and I’ll be raising funds for this incredible organization.  If you feel moved or inspired, please consider making a tax-deductible donation here:

Much love and thanks, 

  • Sober Sierra – still getting sh*t done.

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