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MY sobriety journey

As Written by Lauren Traut.

ORLAND PARK, IL — Orland Park native Brandon Mahoney knew nothing about woodworking six months ago. But he knew he had a lot of time on his hands, and those hands could not be idle.

Now living in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just over a year ago Mahoney realized he needed to make a major life change—his drinking was out of hand, and the stakes were high. Mahoney, 30, decided to go sober, and it led him to a woodworking passion he eventually hopes will become his full-time business.

Carl Sandburg High School and District 135 alum Mahoney was staring at a piece of paper one day, where he'd challenged himself to write down anything positive alcohol brought to his life.

He couldn't.

"I couldn’t think of one thing," Mahoney told Patch. "It was all negative things. I’m losing money, risking my life, ruining relationships with people, ruining my work ethic.

"The problem with an alcoholic is, I don’t drink just a couple beers, I drank all of them."

After graduation from high school, Mahoney had pursued several different career paths. He was a correctional officer in Indiana and Colorado. He was a mail carrier. He worked in warehouse logistics. Eventually, he became an electrician and relocated to Wisconsin. That move set in motion a lifestyle that spun out of his control, he said. He was unhappy in his work, and it spilled over into his downtime.

"I was killing my body," Mahoney said. "My health was going down the drain, I was extremely overweight. All I did was drink, my life revolved around it.

"I would come home from work and drink myself to sleep."

Mahoney would go through a case of 24 beers in a night. He'd go to bars and black out. He wouldn't remember his nights, and his days were spent in hungover misery. Weekdays and weekends blurred together, often spent recovering from the night before just to do it all again. His personal life was starting to suffer, too.

"I was ruining relationships with people," Mahoney said. "It just was getting out of hand. Somehow, I avoided a DUI."

Still, his decision-making was slipping.

"I started noticing myself doing reckless things," he said. "I got a ticket at the bar for refusing to leave—I don’t even remember the night. I woke up with a $400 ticket.

"I was just spiraling out of control."

Just over a month before deciding to go sober, he lost his apartment due to noise complaints. With no place to live, he contacted a woman advertising garage space, and asked if he could store his possessions there. He slept in his car in her driveway for two weeks.

The drinking needed to stop, he realized on July 7, 2022.

He reached out to a teacher he was still in contact with, and confided in him about sobriety. It stirred Mahoney to action.

"I just stopped," he said. "It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, definitely, but it’s very rewarding."

Reclaiming the time he would spend drinking, Mahoney also found himself more content in his work at a metal fabrication company. His schedule of three, 12-hour days each week also left him with free time. Knowing how fragile his sobriety was, he sought out hobbies. Woodworking, he said, seemed like something he could do.

In early 2023, he started dabbling. The woman whose space he was renting, spotted him the money for his first tool. He promised to work it off. He does her yard work, snow removal and other odd jobs. One tool turned into several, turned into Mahoney needing the space in her garage to store them.

Mahoney—who comes from a family of mostly businesspeople who aren't necessarily handy—had found something that fulfilled him. He called it Sober Cuts Woodworking, and started getting the word out.

His work is all custom, by request. He works with customers to take their vision or their idea and bring it into creation. The guy who had never even tried woodworking now builds custom furniture and tables—including epoxy tables—and decks, railings. He also now offers custom engraving and CNC signage.

He's learning on the fly, and he's loving every minute.

"One lady asked me to build her a deck, I told her I had no idea how," Mahoney said, laughing. "Next thing ya know, she had a deck built, and up to code."

His work takes him back home to Illinois often—he has custom projects scheduled in Tinley Park, and Frankfort—as does his family, who live in Orland Park and Mokena. He will consult with clients on their ideas, taking them step-by-step through the process—everything down to the stain—to guarantee satisfaction.

He shines in communication, he said. He aspires to build enough of a base that he'll be able to call this passion project his full-time employment. He outgrew the space he was renting, and recently moved into a larger one.

"I really enjoy it, I really love it," Mahoney said. "I love building new things, custom things, and working with customers."

His work is priced by project, and more info can be found on the Sober Cuts Woodworking Facebook page.

It started as a way to keep himself on track in the early stages of his sobriety, and it's grown into much more than a glimmer of a business. Still, he says, he never loses sight of where he was a year ago. His inbox is always open, he says, "because most won’t talk about being an addict.

"It’s a constant struggle," Mahoney said, of sobriety. "You gotta remind yourself, 'I’m in it for the long run.'"

Mahoney can be reached via Sober Cuts Woodworking on Facebook, via email at SoberCutsWoodworking@gmail.com, or via phone at (708)603-9283.

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