Chris Rosburg spent a lot of time in treatment memorizing and repeating sober slogans. You know the ones: Live and let live. Just don’t drink. First things first. More will be revealed. Stick with the winners.
“They really helped me understand the program,” Rosburg says. “As cheesy as those slogans can be, they’re imperative to my sobriety and my peace of mind.”
Another one that really hit home with Rosburg is, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.”
When Rosburg got out of treatment, he was inspired to create a resource to support the recovery community — and something that would keep him occupied while reflecting on the inspirational sayings.
Rosburg developed Sober Cards, a deck of playing cards that each feature a different motivational slogan or inspirational reminder. The cards can be used by an individual, treatment center or 12-step support group.
Carolyn, a licensed psychologist and certified substance abuse counselor, uses the cards in her clinical practice.
“When I was introduced to these new inspirational playing cards for those in recovery, I became very excited about their potential therapeutic use,” she says. “They will make great ice breakers for a therapy group by passing them out to each person and having them explain what their understanding of the phrase or what the phrase means to them. I could also see them being useful in the sponsor/sponsee relationship or perhaps as a reward or gift for hard work as those in recovery work the 12 steps or toward achieving their goals.”
Rosburg sat down with Renew to talk about Sober Cards; his website, Sober City USA; and his road to recovery. Sober Cards are sold at sobercityusa.com. Bulk discounts are offered for treatment centers and 12-step programs across the country.
Renew: Who are you, and what do you do?
Chris Rosburg: I come from a small town in Iowa. I made my way to Kansas City, Missouri. I went to Valley Hope to get treatment. I came out alive, survived 30 days and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been in recovery for a little more than six years now.
Renew: What is Sober City USA?
CR: Sober City USA is my way of building a community for people to come learn about recovery or hear other inspiring stories of recovery. I started blogging and realized it was an awesome outlet. If I couldn’t make a meeting, it was a great opportunity for me to voice what was on my mind and share my inspiration and hope. I created Sober City to help other people and give other people a place to come to find a little refuge.
I feel like there is this big enthusiasm for young sobriety. I believe that there’s this trend. It’s cool to be sober now. It’s cool to say no. I’ve been in the program for six years. My life has been incredible these past six years. I owe everything to sobriety. I will share my message and tell people all day long about the greatness of being sober. There’s this trend to live a clean life. I started Sober City for all those reasons.
Then I started to think that it would be great to have T-shirts, too. There are a lot of sober communities that sell T-shirts, but I don’t want to wear a T-shirt that brands me as sober. I wanted to create a T-shirt with the slogans on theme or a reference to being sober that is more subtle. I wanted to create this movement of people wearing T-shirts that subtly referenced being sober. We could create this underground movement.
Renew: Where did you get the idea for the Sober Cards?
CR: I got out of treatment and wanted to find a way to give back and create something that would help others. But I was also worried about staying sober on Friday and Saturday nights. Before treatment, I would go out and wouldn’t look back. Sometimes my Fridays and Saturdays would turn into Mondays and Tuesdays. I was really worried about what it would be like it not be socially active on the weekends. Everyone in treatment told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” So I spent a lot of time playing cards or doing things to stay away from that crowd. With the combination of the sober slogans and trying to keep my hands busy, I created Sober Cards.
Renew: What is your favorite slogan?
CR: My favorite sober slogan is, “This, too, shall pass.” Honestly, I’m still super crazy. I’m six years sober, and I’m crazy. My mind races a million miles a minute. I can go to a place in my mind that’s not good. I can have a bad day. I can think, “This is awful.” All I have to do is remember that this, too, shall pass. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Sometimes I have to take my days hour by hour.
Another of my favorite slogans is, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” I still try to control everything in my life, and when I can take a deep breath and recite that slogan, there is always a relief that comes from it.
Renew: Beyond the inspirational quotes, are the cards part of a game? Or do people just use them instead of another deck of cards?
CR: My family plays cards all the time. When we get together for Thanksgiving, we play cards. It’s what we do. I have a ton of family members who are in recovery who have been through what I’ve been through. It was a natural fit. My family loves cards. My family is in recovery. Let’s build something to incorporate that. There’s no game. I’ll tell you what I do: The daily reflections book is great. But I also pull out my deck of cards every morning. I use them as a tool to meditate. The cards are intended to get people engaged with their sobriety.
Renew: What do you hope they bring to people?
CR: The thing that I love so much about them is everybody tells me, “What a great tool to stay sober.” That’s why I created it: to get people excited about sobriety and interacting with their feelings and emotions for the day. It’s amazing when I hear that a clinical psychologist uses those cards to start group therapy or someone I see at a meeting tells me they’re working with their sponsee using the cards. If I can help somebody stay sober on a Friday night, then I’m doing my part to give back. My hope is that everyone struggling to find sobriety and everyone in recovery gets their hands on these Sober Cards. They work. They keep people sober, and they are a great tool in recovery.