Anybody who has ever had a drug or alcohol problem knows it’s far from pretty. I mean, being wasted can have glamorous moments, but usually they are really only attractive in the mind of the drunk person. Under the façade of fun times are bloodshot eyes, smeared lipstick, tiny cigarette burns and a deep, burning need for just one more—always one more. The reality of life as a drunk is typically much more Monet than Manet.
Recently I stumbled upon a fun article on Indy100 that illustrates this point perfectly. It shows before and after sobriety pictures of recovering alcoholics with various lengths of sobriety. I’m super burnt out on bad news and the disgusting pics and videos of addicts on social media lately, so this was a welcome diversion. Usually the substance abuse before and after pictures I run across are more of the meth-makes-people-look-like-they-belong-on-The-Walking-Dead variety, so this hopeful little blurb was just what I needed.
Before and After
The article was inspired by a couple of pictures posted recently on Reddit by a guy named Keith Urbowicz, who is a former alcoholic (current viral image). He posted two selfies side by side, showing his physical transformation after seven months sober. The pics were accompanied by his story. He called it “My Sobriety.” Urbowicz’s metamorphosis is so profound, it’s no big surprise that his post got close to 6,000 likes in a matter of four days.
At first it looks like the major change in Urbowicz is due to the early sobriety weight loss (which we know a little bit about around here). We also know alcoholism brings on late nights, poor nutrition and lack of exercise or personal hygiene. In Urbowicz’s before pic, he’s puffy, sallow and his eyes look glassy and unfocused. In the image from seven months sober, he is a completely different guy. His face has slimmed down, his eyes are clear and sharp and he has a slight smile on his face. He looks about 10 years younger! So, it’s pretty obvious that sobriety and looking better will go hand in hand. But beyond that, recovery brings about a renewed sense of self-respect and confidence that shines from the inside out.
A Thousand Words
As powerful as his picture is, Urbowicz’s story is even better. He recounts his alcoholism: “It’s never going to be fun again if I choose to pick up that first drink. I don’t want that first drink. I want that 12th or 16th or 20th drink. I never have and never will want to be a social drinker or a moderate drinker. From the first time I got drunk at 14, blacked out, split my nose open on a boulder, woke up, felt like shit but wanted to do it all over again ASAP I have been an alcoholic.” I don’t know about you, but it seems like this guy has been reading my diary.
Yet what’s so great about this little slice of his life that Urbowicz chose to share with the world is how truly hopeful he is about his sobriety. He goes on to open up about facing his mother’s serious illness sober. “Bad things can happen yet I am now able to deal with them in a responsible and clear-headed way,” he writes. This is a guy who hasn’t even been sober a year and he’s rocking it!
Urbowicz’s picture and story inspired more than just comments. Tons of other Redditors started posting before and after sobriety pictures. The article includes some of these, showing others at various stages of recovery. They are really fun to look at, but it takes close inspection to really see some of the changes. The people range from several months sober to five years. As time passes, the faces look more defined, the mouths look like they may actually laugh again and the eyes come alive a little more with each picture.
Keith Urbowicz probably had no idea what he was starting when he posted his pics and essay on Reddit. It’s easy to understand the people rallying around him and sharing their own stories. There’s something infectious (in a good way, for a change) about early recovery when the fog clears, the feelings come back and you realize you have a choice about how to live your life again. Urbowicz shared this experience with the world and probably touched more people than he will ever know.
He certainly made my week a little better.