• Austin F. Cooper

Living Sober AF!

When I decided to start my road of recovery in 2013 at the age of 25, my biggest fear was that I would end up having a boring and unexciting life. For most of my life up until that point, the only thing that seemed to make me feel 'good' was alcohol and various other drugs. My typical scene was either out at a bar, at a party or by myself, locked in a room. I felt comfortable in those places for years.

But I knew that I could no longer hang out in those places if I was going to remain sober. So what was I going to do? Sit on the couch, forcing myself not to drink for the rest of my life? That scared the hell out of me...

The first 22 days of my recovery was spent in a rehab facility in Columbus, Ohio. This of course was out of my normal element. It was an uncomfortable place compared to what I was used to. But I really didn't have any other choice because my parents would kick me out of their house, take my car and my cell phone away and they would refuse any contact with me until I got my life together. Plus, I was miserable due to my addictions. So I figured, I would suck it up and allow myself to reach outside of my comfort zone to see what I could learn.

The amazing thing was that I was learning more within that three week stint in rehab than I had in the previous ten years of my life. Since, I was already in an uncomfortable place, I started doing other things that were uncomfortable too. I started speaking out during meetings, I started working out and eating healthy, i even began taking notes from the educational meetings we had in rehab and studying them. All of those things I hated doing before.

After stretching my comfort zone, I started growing as a person and I realized how much I was changing. My thought process began to change, my philosophies, my outlooks, my gratitude and my attitude followed as well. Things started getting a lot better for me. I wondered where I could be, say six months from then if I continued the progress I had made in just three weeks. In that moment, I became goal oriented and craved the next big thing. I was so focused on the next big thing, that I didn't have enough room to think about drinking or using.

I had always wanted to become a real estate agent, so as soon as I got home from rehab, I looked for the best route to take towards reaching that goal. I worked hard over the summer, I studied and I went way outside of my comfort zone by networking with local real estate agents. I eventually found a multi-million dollar real estate agent who saw my drive and decided to take me under her wing.

I began working for her as an assistant and went to the local college of business for three weeks in order to receive my certificates. It was then time for me to take the state and local exams. I was hit with a ton of bricks with how difficult those exams were. I failed both of them miserably. But along the way throughout my sobriety, the most valuable lesson I learned was to never give up. I took the exams again and passed the state exam! I failed the national exam, but decided to take that again. Third time was a charm! I was officially an Ohio Real Estate agent! Besides getting sober, this was my life's biggest accomplishment. I proved to myself that whatever I put my mind to, I could accomplish. Something my mother told me throughout my life, but never listened to up until that point.

I then thought to myself, "What next?"

2014 rolled around and I wanted to see what else I could do to improve my life. I was smoking cigarettes and desperately wanted to quit. When I decided that now was the time, I also wondered if I could get into the best shape of my life as well. I saw an ad for something called "Tough Mudder". It was this 13 mile long, mud and obstacle course that was filled with obstacles such as a 20 foot long ice bath, a 10,000 volt shock course, 30 foot high walls and knee deep mud throughout the entire length of a half marathon. I figured, what a better way of motivating me to start running and working out until I reached an athletic shape. I had also always dreamt of winning a legitimate trophy for something athletic and thought that a "Tough Mudder" would be a good step towards making that goal happen.

I started working out about 5 days a week and running just about every day. I hated every minute of it at first, but as Muhammad Ali said, "I hated every minute of training, but I said 'Don't quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion!'" So I pushed harder than ever. I went through the withdrawals from nicotine like a boss, with my head down and mind focused on the greater goal, just like I had done in the beginning of my recovery.

A few months later, I stepped knee deep in the mud, while it was freezing cold and sleet started raining down on my head. I was almost glad that the weather conditions were terrible. I was excited to face something so challenging. But the thing is, I trained so well for this event, that it was a walk in the park. I ended up being the one who went ahead of the pack and had to run backwards in order to help my teammates. After crossing the finish line covered from head to toe in mud, blood and bruises, I felt completely invigorated. I wanted more of that feeling! I immediately signed up for the "Savage Race" which was another obstacle event that was only a couple of months later.

Again, that was a walk in the park. My next step was signing up for an annual 5 mile road race. That race was one in which some of the best athletes participated in. High school and college track athletes came out, marathon and triathlon competitors came to compete too! This was by far the most intimidating of them all. But I wanted to win a trophy.

On the hot summer day, I was ready to win something, or die trying. I was literally sprinting for five miles straight. I knew there were people ahead of me so I made the last mile my best. I was able to pass nearly everyone in front of me. Once I crossed the finish line, I saw that others finished before me. I was still happy with my efforts as I was gasping for air for what seemed like an eternity. One of the judges came up to me and to my surprise handed me a trophy! I was surprised and actually said, "are you sure?" He said, "Yep, you won third place for the age range of 24-29 years old." Although it wasn't third place overall, that for me was a huge accomplishment. I had won something for athletics for the first time in my life.

Again, I though to myself, "What next?"

When 2015 rolled around, I realized that I wasn't a huge fan of selling real estate. I loved real estate as a whole, but I would rather invest in it opposed to selling it. I also wasn't selling enough to make a livable income. My heart just wasn't in it enough to succeed as a real estate agent at the time. I decided to try something else for a while and worked in an office building in the call center. I knew that it would be good experience to have and that I could save some money up in order to support my next adventure. I worked my way up quickly in the company but worked myself into a position with managers who were ruthless and honestly disgusting people.

I began working with business mentors outside of work and started reading personal development books. This is when I became excited about creating my own business. 2015 ended and I decided that 2016 would be my year to learn how to start a business.

2016 is when I started Sober Evolution. I initially didn't think that I would ever turn into a business, but I wanted to figure out how to share my experience, strength and hope from my recovery to a wider audience. I started an Instagram account and used it as a blog to tell my story and share quotes that changed the way I thought and acted.

Early on, my Instagram account exploded with interaction! That is where I found my passion. I was able to witness peoples lives being changed for the better. It began gaining the attention of sober celebrities, business owners and even major news networks within that first year. I couldn't believe how powerful words could be.

In the spring of 2016, I decided to start an LLC. Sober Evolution LLC. to be exact. I always loved being outspoken about my recovery and it actually has helped me in my recovery process too. I decided to start selling sober t-shirts to help others experience the same benefits. People from around the country were ordering them like hot cakes and it became apparent that it wasn't only helping the people who wore them loud and proud, but it was impacting those who saw them wearing their sobriety shirts. It was changing the stigmas surrounding addiction and recovery. The shirts and Sober Evolution were later featured on ABC's 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer and Elizabeth Vargas. Millions of people from around the world tuned in to watch that.

So what next?

I had always wanted to live close to the ocean. I remember that ever since I was young, I would sit there and imagine that the ocean was right past the tree line of my parents house in Columbus. I would imagine it so well that I could almost taste the salt in the air. It was a dream, and it became time for me to manifest that dream of mine.

A friend of mine who I once worked with reached out to me and simply asked, "Do you want to move to Florida?" Without even thinking about everything I would have to do to make that happen, I said, "YES!" So with the money I was saving from my job, I put down a deposit on an apartment in Orlando, Florida and a couple of months later, we were on the road. It was the scariest but most exciting thing I had ever done. I had no job and just a little money left in my savings, but I was so excited to be living in a new place for once and the fact that I had accomplished something so scary.

I networked my way towards becoming the Director of Business Development for a new startup tech company. The problem was, none of us knew if anyone would be willing to spend the high price for the piece of tech that we were trying to sell. My savings were dwindling down while we were still building the marketing material without pay. But we got to go on some exciting business meetings with NASA, Military personnel and different law enforcement agencies across Florida, but again, this became a failure for me.

The good side of every failure though, is being able to use it as a learning experience. I could go on and on about more failures, but there are so many that I can't count. I LOVE those failures today. They have taught me even more than my accomplishments.

What can I fail at next?

In 2017 I started getting into the treatment industry here in Florida. Treatment centers were contacting me left and right after seeing how big Sober Evolution had become. Although I was able to earn some money through my company, it wasn't nearly enough to live off of. I wanted to see if I could get back into the office space and earn a steady income. But right off the bat, I realized how treacherous the treatment industry is. The turn over rate, at least at the places I worked at was left and right. There was never any comfortability. It's as if each day someone would be laid off for no apparent reason. I would constantly wonder when my day would come. Talk about stressful...

Through a few different experiences, I realized that I was wanted for my large following on social media. I had zero interest however in using my following for brokering people into their treatment center. Am I glad to bring awareness to a good treatment center? Sure! But I will never sneakily coax someone into feeling like they only had one option. I despise body brokers and I refuse to become one. So, I left the industry and decided to focus on personal development coaching and business/Instagram consulting. I absolutely love those things and I get to see life saving results because of it.

But what next?

So 2018 is here, and I want to try something new and exciting! For the past few years, I have been wanting to host a sober event. I have been wanting something that isn't tied to one path of recovery and I wanted something that wasn't filled with body brokers! I really have just wanted a care-free and alcohol-free place for those of us who are in recovery to hang out, enjoy some live music, eat good food and have some amazing alcohol-free drinks.

Well, that's what I am in the process of creating right now and I couldn't be more excited. The Sober AF Event will be just that! I have found the most amazing, funky and artsy place over in St. Petersburg, Florida called The Raw Studios. It is the perfect place to just chill, enjoy company, have a food truck and serve some mocktails. I just launched the tickets the other day before writing this and already, we are beginning to fill the venue. This will be such an amazing opportunity for me to get to meet some of my friends from Instagram too.

With my mind being filled with big dreams these days, I can see this turning into something much greater than just an event. I can see this happening all throughout the country and even the world. I have also decided to work with 10000beds.org where 100% of the proceeds goes towards helping people get to treatment. Right now I'm in the process of raising funds with ticket sales and other fun and inclusive means. Even if we can only afford to send one person to treatment, that could be one person's life changed.

It's easy for me to say that this is the most exciting time of my life. I am truly Sober AF! If this article can do anything good, I want it to be that piece of motivation for at least one person to change their life around for the better. If I can give any words of advice from my experience, it is to take risks, challenge yourself and focus on the greater goals. This mindset has allowed me to live the past five years without alcohol or drugs.

People often ask me, "Are you ever tempted to drink or use?" My answer is, that I am so focused on building the new, that I don't have time to entertain a drink. If I do have a rogue urge appear, I simply remind myself of how far I have come and how terrible things were before. It makes absolutely no sense to me to drink or use again. No matter how mad or frustrated or sad I get, even one drink isn't worth it.

Today, i am going to figure out how to start raising funds for an amazing cause, I'm going to invite as many people as I can to this event, I'm going to spread some experience, strength and hope to others, I'm going to take care of myself and I'm going to have some Sober AF Fun!!!

Peace & Love,


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