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Not Structurally Sound

Sobriety is Not a Remodel; It's a Rebuild

Originally posted April 11, 2023 On The Ultimate Mom Challenge

My husband and I are in the middle of an extensive remodel. We’ve been planning this remodel for years — maybe five or six? — longer than I’ve even been sober. We’ve gone through several iterations of what we wanted and needed and multiple architects before we finally agreed on a design and made a real game plan.

We finally decided to tear down the first half of the house, which was built in the 1950s, but keep the foundation and build off it. We would leave the newer part of the house (built in the 90’s) but move a few things around. It’s an extensive remodel; we knew it would be a huge endeavor.

But when we got the engineers involved, and they looked at the house and the design plans, they told us something we absolutely did not anticipate. The old foundation of the house wasn’t structurally sound. While we could keep the newer part of the house intact, as planned, we would need to rip up the old part of the house from the foundation. This wasn’t just a remodel, it was a rebuild.


Then Covid hit, and there was a lumber shortage, and finding construction workers became all but impossible, but finally, last November, we moved out of the house completely to start construction. It’s been an exasperating process. My family’s entire lives have been upended for the last six months, and we will probably be out of our home for another six. It’s a commitment, an inconvenience, and sometimes incredibly uncomfortable. But it’s what we need to do to create the life we desire in the long run. For me and my family. Because we are building a home that’s structurally sound. A house that can hold and honor the needs of me, my husband and two kids who are growing up faster than I can keep up.

This morning, I was thinking about that jarring news we’d received a few years ago, as I stood in front of the construction on the house. “Not structurally sound.” We need to remove the foundation on half the house and start over. I remembered that overwhelming fear of that news as I looked out today over the construction as they began putting on the roof trusses. The house is really starting to take its final shape now. We are still months out, but I can finally visualize what this will look and feel like in 3D, not just on paper.

I thought about how this entire rebuilding feels a lot like sobriety. I think I went into sobriety thinking it would be like a remodel, but it turned out to be a rebuild. I thought I was moving around some furniture and making a few rooms bigger and others smaller. But really, I was tearing out the foundation of the parts of me that weren’t structurally sound. I was starting pieces of me from scratch—the ground up.

I was keeping the good bones, the parts of me that make me uniquely who I am, and replacing the weaker parts — the temporary structures of coping mechanisms I needed to survive til now — with stronger bones that carry a lifetime warranty.

And it’s so utterly worth it. Every step of it. Every day. Every discomfort. From the bulldozing to the groundwork. From the paperwork and permitting to the roof trusses.

Now is the fun part, where I see the pieces coming together. I see the roof going up and the walls getting built. The whole family watched the concrete truck come and pour in sheer wonder and delight. But for months — years, in fact — we saw no progress. No visual changes. It was drawings on paper, conversations, calls to contractors, and back and forth with city permits. It was rigorous and slow. It was draining and frustrating. My husband and I would argue about the plans, the money, or if we should remodel! Sometimes I wondered if it was even worth it.

Now, though, I look back and say, “Thank God.” Thank God we did every step to get us here because we are building a structurally sound home.

I can’t help but laugh at the parallels of this home-building timeline to my sobriety. I am, after all, five years sober, and much of the early work that has gone on in this process has felt invisible, frustrating, and sometimes left me questioning the process altogether. But as I stood before our rapidly growing home this morning, I took a moment to bask in this structurally strong life I’m building inside me. My family is stronger through my sobriety. My friendships, my marriage, and my parenting are more secure. My career has taken me on a whole new trajectory. I’m creating a structurally sound life while holding on to the good bones of what is distinctively me.

Maybe you are sitting where I sat several years ago, wondering if you need a remodel or a rebuild. Or perhaps you are mid-rebuild and feeling the grueling frustration of feeling like nothing’s changing, or you expected faster progress. I’m on the other side saying I wish you could see the view from this angle. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. It’s empowering.

In your life transformation, you will keep some rooms and rebuild others, but together, they build the bones of a home you can live in for the rest of your life. More importantly? A home you’ll want to live in.

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