By Kahlil Ellis, Laurisa Sastoque, Jace Chen

Northwestern students share their thoughts on being sober.

Illustration by Emma Estberg

My name is Kahlil, and I am weed-dependent. I have always been one to seek more in life, from grades to money to relationships. I am always itching to achieve the next best thing, my mind racing toward the best idea. My methods of dealing with this inner sprint have never been healthy, and are even toxic at times. It wasn’t until the beginning of my freshman year, when I was introduced to the North Campus social scene, that my coping methods progressed beyond my control.

I stand by drugs, given the setting, as a way to expedite your self-exploration. They can give you the push to investigate your surroundings and what makes you tick.

It took me until midway through job hunting this past November to figure out how weed affected me. I suffered an anxiety attack while smoking weed, triggered by the weight of pressure from my upcoming application deadlines and interviews.

Since then, I have limited my intake. I have been on an active journey of tending to my health, and while it has been a challenging path, it is one I hope to stick to. As a senior, I’m fortunate to be learning to love and be gentle with myself, to roll with the punches and embrace life for what it is: full of changes and surprises. Sobriety is one of the mechanisms that has led me in this marathon. I find myself spending less time running from my problems and challenges and more time actively tending to them. I’m done sprinting.

-- Kahlil Ellis

Grandpa’s glasses are sprinkled with whiskey.
It used to be his best friend.
At the town bar his afternoons he spent,
coming home past midnight to a tired wife,
to her kids she devoted her life.

Now Grandpa’s legs tremble when he climbs upstairs,
and his saggy eyes with the dog he shares.
When he falls, only Grandma can lift him from the floor,
and she says the smell of whiskey brings her back to before.

Now he walks the clouds of sobriety,
and I walk the tombstones of truth,
because I can’t deny the liquid fatality,
that smeared the joy of my mother’s youth.

The thumps and hums coming out of a door
leaking light at midnight remind me of you,
but I must stay away to stay true.

Grandpa, are you different without whiskey?
I guess I never knew you.
Nice to meet you, fellow victim of sobriety.

-- Laurisa Sastoque

It’s not my place to challenge whether they were dealing with obstacles, whether drinking filled a void nothing else could, whether inebriation would produce feeling where there wasn’t any.

I’ll never understand my exclusive disinvitation to parties, why I was the one who picked up the broken pieces in their aftermath, why I used those pieces as mirrors for self-reflection, why I chose not to partake while my friends were out drinking their pains away.

I can only imagine that I have yet to see the worst of me — being under the influence would bring that out.

I’ve seen it already — using alleviation of our own pain as justification for inflicting pain on someone else. We’re all too wrapped up in our own suffering to clearly see that of the people around us. That fact corrupts our perceptions more than the bottom of a brown glass bottle ever will.

-- Jace Chen