I’m finding it harder to find the time to write these last couple weeks, with spring having sprung and wedding season upon us (as a wedding photographer, every day begins to feel like Black Friday in a mall about 30 minutes from closing time, starting now until the end of November). And that’s the thing with time…it isn’t simply laying around, waiting to be found. In each moment, we have all the time we will ever have, until the next moment arrives.

So, it’s about choosing, not finding.

I love the feeling I get when I click the publish button on this blog; like I’ve raised a small little bird made up of my thoughts and curiosities, and sent it free to fly from the nest at last. I always feel like I have more space after I’m done writing, when all that’s cluttered in my head gets translated onto the screen and the page, making room for more to fall in their place like a never ending game of mental Tetris.

I’m always trying to align my thoughts and beliefs so they somehow fit together, and in turn, disappear and leave me.

I love the therapy of writing, but I really love the rush of the publish button. Of setting whatever I wrote free, like each bit of writing is time spent confessing my transgressions to the blog and in turn, the rest of the world. I get a sense of lightness and freedom each time all the thoughts I’ve been holding in get a chance to come out and speak for themselves. We are creatures motivated by rewards, and it’s that bait and return that keeps us hooked. Hooked on eating, on writing, on the gym, on drinking and hooked on the drugs.

It’s always about the reward and so very rarely about the process.

We always want the fruit with little love reserved for the vine that made it possible.

When I decided to stop drinking, I was motivated by what felt like the hidden riches of a kingdom everyone else was enjoying finally, one day, being mine as well. I was motivated by the results that were promised: better health, clarity of mind, more money, less calories, the ability to drive when I needed to and the miracle of waking up guilt-free, rested, and no longer drenched in regret and missing pieces of my yesterday.

And yes, of course, these are just a few of the very real benefits that have generously washed over my sober life. 

But one I didn’t anticipate, and I absolutely love the most, is what I’m learning and who I’m meeting in the process, from whole-hearted strangers in recovery on the other side of the globe, to getting reacquainted with my true self at long last. Without sobriety, all of those benefits – the fruit – could never grow. Without sobriety in this very moment, I’d still be dying in bed and nursing a harrowing hangover, or awake at all hours of the night, sleepless and trying to sort out all the drunken voices in my head. All those fruits – the rewards – would be nothing without the vine.

They can’t grow without something to grow from.

Rushing results and being impatient for rewards only creates anxiety about the future. It creates restlessness and makes you question both the process, your ability, and your intentions. What am I doing wrong? and Why is this taking so long? Why haven’t I lost ten pounds when I was drinking my weight in wine every night? Or thoughts like I’ve spent two weeks sober and my energy is still low and things like Why am I still so cranky and short-tempered, I haven’t had a drink in weeks!

We always want it all and so often aren’t willing to nurture and care for the process that yields the rewards, that with patience and care, will certainly arrive in due time. If all of these things were fruits that grew on trees, you’d water and feed the plant to ensure the sweetest crop. You’d enjoy the shade it provides in the meantime. And you’d be patient, knowing the more care you give the plant, the better your yield will one day be.

Without a healthy plant, there will never be delicious fruit to enjoy.

You know how when you bake something, it always tastes sweeter than something store bought? And you’ve heard the old adage that when you chop your own wood, it’ll warm you twice?

That’s how sobriety works, too.

Some of the most wonderful and unexpected rewards are ones I have stumbled across while feeling my way through the thick of recovery, because the real perks are in the process. They’re in the day to day mustering of strengths I didn’t know I had, and the quiet personal moments of triumph when I overcome a craving or outthink a trigger that seemingly fell from the sky. They’re in the out-of-the-blue moments where I remember that I haven’t had a drink in months, or the times when I notice that what once would have made me sick with anxiety breezed past me like no big thing.

It’s in the process of holding hands with my ghosts and making peace with my past, and getting to know the new brightness that is slowly creeping through and lighting up my days. It’s been through the process of nourishing and celebrating my sobriety every day that I’m in turn helping the original rewards I set out to claim as my own, to grow.

For once in my life, my actions are not simply feeding my desires for this result or that reward. My actions are focused on continuing to cultivate my sobriety in this moment – and this moment of sobriety is the vine that all the branches and fruits eventually come from.

If I stopped taking care of my sobriety and giving gentle attention to my struggles, I’d miss out on the opportunity to ask myself questions. I’d miss the chance to try and understand why I was compelled to drink at the first sign of discomfort or unsavoury feelings, and I’d miss the priceless and unexpected benefits of coming to know myself, vulnerability, shame and all. If I kept rushing headlong with impatience for the rewards that aren’t mine just yet, I’d only end up questioning what the hell I was doing wrong instead of seeing it as an opportunity to pause and appreciate that delays are actually gifts.

Delays give you the chance to take it all in. You can sit angry and stewing in your car in the heart of a traffic jam, or you can (for what will likely be the first time ever) see it as an opportunity to notice what you normally fly past at a hundred miles an hour.

The destination will always be there.
The chance to breathe and take in the journey and all it’s hidden lessons as you go along won’t be.

The mill cannot grind with water that is past.
– Anon, 17th century

So be patient and embrace the process as a reward in itself, because without it the fruits you’re waiting for will never, ever grow. Find a way to be honestly and gratefully fulfilled by the journey itself, and not what you’ll receive when you get where it is you think you’re heading.

Because you’re already there.

So it’s fair to say I’ll be writing a little bit less these days as I soberly dive forward into wedding season and my work – but I’ll still be here, watering my vines every day and growing more fruit to write about. And even though hitting that publish button on this blog sets my belly aflutter, it’s in the process of getting it all out that I grow. It’s in all the living that happens in between the lines and the words that I unearth my ideas of what I feel is worth writing about and setting free.

Because there is no arriving.

There is only a series of moments and steps, and if you can learn to see each as a destination unto itself, then you have already arrived and the fruit is already yours.

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


  1. I have really enjoyed your blog. I binge read it over the weekend and found it very insightful and encouraging in my own journey without alcohol which is nearing nine months. Patience and perserverance have helped me get through the cravings, urges and “not so rapid” weight loss. I constantly have to check in and remind myself that the benefits of being af far outweigh my drinking days. I am quite certain I would have lost my family if I kept drinking myself into a daily stupor. Anyway, many thanks for your colorful writings. I look forward to more when you are ready. Enjoy the spring! Congratulations on you freedom and I wish you continued success, happiness and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Matt, and congrats on 9 months!!! Patience is a huge one – with yourself, everyone around you, your circumstances, environments, time…and more with yourself again LOL.


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