Shane Coolbaugh: Finding himself, sober

At 23, Shane Coolbaugh realized drinking would take over his life if he didn’t quit. Getting sober gave him a new outlook on life.

Presented by: Our York Media
Shane Coolbaugh (Our York Media)

It was a Wednesday morning in August almost two years ago when Shane Coolbaugh decided to change his life.

The night before he’d gotten blackout drunk, again. He’d argued with his fiancé, again.

That morning, he realized he had two options: he could let the drinking be his whole story, or he could stop and make it just a chapter of his life.

“I made up my mind that it was not worth it,” he says.

At the age of 23, Shane started a new chapter.


That first month he laid low. The thought of going to his old hangouts and not drinking was too much.

But eventually, he started venturing back out.

“You can’t just stop living,” he says.

His now-husband and a close group of friends were his safety net — supporting him, making him feel safe.

Once I eliminated alcohol, I kind of figured out who I am.

Shane Coolbaugh

And he found that he was still himself with one change — it’s just club soda now, no vodka.

When he’s out, he doesn’t think of it as, “I can’t drink.” He sees it as an option he chooses not to take anymore. That distinction makes it easier for him.


But it’s not just about when Shane quit drinking. He needed something else to focus on, so he got involved with the Democratic Party of York County, and then founded the York County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Young Democrats – a place where he can make sure his generation has a voice, he says. He uses social media to create a space where people can discuss the issues in a civilized way.

For Shane, it’s not just about building days of sobriety; it’s about what he does with those days.

“Once I eliminated alcohol, I kind of figured out who I am,” he says.

Now, almost two years sober, Shane likes who that is.

He’s fulfilled, he’s optimistic, and, he says, he’s living his best life.

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