Editor's Letter • Summer 2023 • Vol 2 | Iss 2 • pg 7
There’s an expression I often repeat when I’m feeling stuck: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always get.” It’s a truth I don’t always want to hear but is a reality when trying to move forward from where you currently are. Being “stuck” often has as much to do with your mental attitude and willingness to grow as it does with circumstances. I find it’s easy to convince myself I’ve done all the things required to get to the next level, but when I look deeper and more objectively, I usually see the same old patterns and fears in motion under the surface.
Creating actual change requires bigger shifts—both internal and external—that push me a bit off my axis and into a new orbit. When I dig deep, I almost always discover that I already know the right thing to do (even if I’ve been avoiding facing it).
I find this pattern to be present in sobriety as well. People in the alcohol-free community frequently observe that quitting drinking is the first step in getting sober, not the last. This came very much as a surprise after I succeeded in giving up alcohol. Let’s face it, giving up drinking is an impressive feat—and one that is worthy of our praise all day long. So I didn’t expect to discover that abstinence was only the step one in building the foundation for lasting sobriety. This was where the radical work began—the inner and outer work that created a real shift and led to joyful sobriety, to gratitude, and to becoming a new person.
To me, there are two parts to the process of creating lasting change, both are ever ongoing and equally important. First is the radical process of self-reflection to understand old wounds, history, and patterns (for more, see The Sobriety Paradox pg. 36). Second is the process of getting outside of yourself. Stepping outside your normal thought patterns, environment, and comfort zone allows you to gain perspective, gratitude, and joy. Focusing on others, or on stillness, puts things into perspective and gives you purpose and meaning. Looking outside of yourself leads to adventure, new neural pathways, and increased happiness. For me, these were the things that led to lasting sobriety. Once I looked inside to know myself better and then outside to find a bigger purpose—specifically one that involved helping other people—I started to feel gratitude for where I am.
This issue of AFTER Magazine focuses on ways to get “outside.” It’s summer so, of course, we mean outside of the house, but we also mean outside your head (Meditation pg. 14), outside your comfort zone (Expanding Beyond Your Comfort Zone pg. 16), and outside your community (Travel for Good pg. 18). We hear from Jake Barron who shifted his perspective on his favorite outdoor activity, running, after sobriety (The Run pg. 12), and interview Chris Marshall of Sans Bar who pushes the envelope with mission-driven purpose and has learned to revel in the uncertainty of what comes next (pg.30).
This is an ever-evolving process. Personal growth, both inward and outward, has no finish line. We hope you’ll take some time this summer to see where you can step outside a little more. I’ll be joining you there.
Happy summer, with love,
Nicole Pietrandrea Hough