Sober Chronicles with Marc Lee Shannon

Sober Chronicles | Hope is not a plan

by Marc Lee Shannon

Wanting something to be true. A desire that you anticipate. The outcome that you dream about and set your daily compass towards to achieve. 


If you ask most recovering alcoholics and addicts, you will often hear this anguished riff running in their stories: “I just kept hoping that somehow, someday, some way…” It’s a common theme. We all knew that something needed to happen to get us off that wrong-turn, deep-in-the-woods, lost dirt road. We all knew that no amount of pleading from our loved ones could change us. We all knew that to continue on our ways of destruction was going to lead us to the inevitable ending. We all knew. But we hoped…

In my “suit” days, as an executive in the corporate world, I had a really interesting and tough friend who was a big-league manufacturers rep in New York. If you know NYC folk then you know they have no problem with speaking plainly and being direct. In fact, it’s a contact sport.  One day were having a tough discussion about some planning and I mentioned that I hoped for a certain outcome for a marketing initiative. Big mistake! He unleashed his wisdom in a fast and less-than-delicate fashion: “Kid! Hope? Ha, hope is NOT a plan!”

I never forgot that moment. 

Later, I related to it in my recovery. Just waiting, wanting, or desiring to live sober was not ever going to get it done. I needed a plan. So, on that day in 2014, I made a choice to get treatment. I did not know how it would end, but at least this beginning was the start of something. Hoping was not enough any longer. Hoping, for me, was not a plan. 

Living this life is different in so many ways. Being more present in my daily life is a gift and a natural byproduct of being sober, but it does not make me less immune to the jabs, pinpricks, punches and full-blown body slams that life serves up. Being sober is not like having a Zen soundtrack playing in your head like a day spa. Hardly. It takes preparation and planning. 

Here are some suggestions that seem to work for me:

Start each day with intention. I get up, sometimes really stupid early, and read something inspiring. We are all drawn to our own muse, so I’ll leave it at that. You know what makes you think, you know what touches your heart, you know what sets the day off. Do it. Every day, or at least as much as possible. Turn off the damn morning network news. There will be more unfortunate tragedy tomorrow. Trust me. 

Do a little better today. Being a perfectly flawed human being is a lot of work. I make incredibly detailed lists of all the things that are going to get done in my Moleskin every day, highlight them with multiple colors and check them off. It feels so good to do that. I feel so productive. But really… just get stuff done and do what you can do. Know that all we can do is try, and remember that when your head hits the pillow.

Press pause. Find your time to stop your mind and think about where you are. I am sure that we can all find a perspective that will shine some gratitude and goodness. No matter where I sit with morning coffee, I will always be able to say, “I’m alive.” I’m breathing, and even though (insert your own version of life’s funny shitshow moment here) is happening, I’m gonna stand up again today. I’m still in the game.

Hope is a wonderful thing and I am a reluctant fan. I don’t talk too much about the “higher power” aspect of sobriety — I have heard that this is a topic I should discuss more in this column from some readers; that’s down the road, personal, and will take some pondering to get out and correct — but,I will say that my personal sense is that whatever is the master of this universe, that force most likely wants us to take responsibility and build the world we need to live in with our own hands. Hope can only be the beginning, a blueprint for the hardhats on this earth to use as a guide. 

Still, no matter what I say, hope is a faithful friend of mine, a comforting wish and colleague that walks with grace and shines light on the dark times. I think it can be a swiss knife in times of difficulty with my sober life. A must for the front pocket.

But hope is not a plan. So, every day I have to go to work and work on this second chance I have been given and lean in.

We are all just walking home in the end, right? So, hang in and steady on.