Surviving a shitty day in sobriety

Yesterday was a shitty day. The kind that will surely stick in my memory for the rest of my life. The details don’t matter – everyone has their own problems. All I want to say is that I made it through a gutting and painful day without taking a drink – and if I can do it anyone can. This girl so desperately wanted a drink – 5 or 6 glasses of wine, actually. I even caught myself licking my lips, fantasizing about that first full-bodied grapey gulp. I imagined that pre-passed-out drunken state of nothingness…and I desperately wanted to be there. To feel my body and brain let go in that old familiar, reckless way that only alcohol could sufficiently lend. I intensely craved that feeling from my long-lost steady friend.

While I have some of the right tools in my belt, I also have many important reasons for not drinking, but the “fuck it” voice in my head wanted to raise some serious hell. I obsessed about booze so profusely I began to shame myself. Somehow through the dark my heart overruled my brain and for that I am grateful. I’m grateful I’m not nursing a hangover and regret while I deal with how shitty I still feel.

Moral of the story is that when life gets shitty you don’t have to relapse. Take care of yourself as best you can and just don’t drink today. Just don’t drink. If you can get sober you can stay sober. Hard times always pass. Feel your heart beating and hear its truth. “If light is in your heart you will find your way home”.

Your sobriety is that light and it will always take you home.

 

 

 

Thanks,

Chrystal

 

7 reasons to get excited about Spring – and tips for enduring the transition

In the wise words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Enough is enough!” I don’t know about you, but it’s the first day of Spring and I could squirt some tears of joy now! The winter doldrums have long overstayed their welcome and I’m done. Although it’s the first day of Spring and gloriously beautiful outside, this is Seattle, so the gray days aren’t just going to peace out right away. I figured I could use a little pep talk, so here are 7 reasons to get excited about Spring and 7 ways to endure the transition.SpringIsHere

7 reasons to get excited about Spring

  1. More daylight – emerging from the dungeon of winter is pure bliss! Going to work and coming home, both in the daylight, is magical.
  2. Warmer weather – the warm embrace of a Spring breeze is just so darn pleasant.
  3. Color – whether in your wardrobe, blooming nearby, or on your toenails, color is back!
  4. Birds singing – as long as they stay the hell away from me, I love their beautiful songs!
  5. Grilling – simply an American favorite that’s morphed into a fine art! Bring on the beef, chicken skewers, pizza, corn on the cob, peaches – you name it, we grill it!
  6. New motivation – the new season puts a little spring in our step and rebirth to our goals, prompting us to de-clutter our homes, hit the gym, and start planning vacations.
  7. We’re one step closer to summer!!!

Enduring the transition…

  1. Make sure you are meeting your basic needs. Sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and drink lots of water, which is imperative for our brain health and functioning, and can help us tolerate the effects of stress and those lingering winter blues.
  2. Use a “happy” light. I don’t know if they work, but I think mine helps me, therefore it does, ya know?
  3. Stay connected. We tend to hibernate throughout the winter months and this isolation contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety. Reach out to the people in your life whom you feel your best around. Stay away from the assholes.
  4. Be patient with yourself. When you beat yourself up for feeling out of sorts, it adds a whole new level of distress. Easier said than done, but take some deep breaths and visualize the things you want.
  5. Talk about it. If you give yourself permission to talk about the effect seasonal change is having on you, you will most likely find that others understand and validate how you feel.
  6. Be aware. Now that we are out of the cold-weather drinking season, we arrive upon the most challenging and tempting period for me – with beer gardens and wine tastings at every turn. Being aware of your weaknesses and surroundings is critical to your sobriety. Always be ready.
  7. Buy some Kleenex, eye drops, and Claritin! Get ready for the scratchy-eyed sneeze fest…it’ll totally be worth it!

Luck o’ the sober! – sober on Saint Patrick’s Day

The vast majority of Americans who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day don’t give a shit about the Irish culture or Catholic background of this unofficial holiday, and that’s totally fine. They wear ridiculous green t-shirts that tell the rest of us how great it is to have another excuse to get belligerent. I’ve been one of those drunks.Irish I was drunk - NOT!

I’m happy to report that I no longer navigate this day with such scorn for those drunks out there, who still get to drink. Because for a long time I was furious about it. I don’t want to drink today. Tomorrow I’ll wake up refreshed, without regret. I feel pretty lucky about that and I’m damn proud of it.

Congrats to all my sober friends out there, and for the rest of you I have one plea: Go out with your green selves and have some fun, but

PLEASE DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.

 

 

Thank you,

SoberChrystal

 

 

 

HOPE is not a four-letter word

I’ve felt pretty defeated lately – can’t seem to get a handle on this depression and anxiety. My frustration is growing and I’m tired. I’m tired of being so wound up. I’m tired of being dragged down. I’m tired of making the same mistakes. I’m tired of disappointing myself. I’m tired of feeling like a shitty wife. I’m tired of missing out. I’m just really tired. All of my energy goes toward being a mom. It’s the only thing I feel like I do right these days. My heart soars with countless moments of joy as I get swept up – it makes me so grateful for the love in my life.  I have it really goddamn good. But, those other moments are breaking me down and I wonder how much longer I can keep this up.

This is a scary place – I can’t imagine that many people manage to sustain their sobriety once they get here. I can see the potential for suicidal thoughts, too. Don’t get your panties in a wad, I’m not going to drink and the ONLY thing that is clear to me about suicide is that people don’t really want to DIE, they just want their PAIN TO END. I’ve always known that things will swing back up, but this time around has certainly been the most challenging.

stand in the light

Last week I found the mother of all sparks  – things were definitely looking up. I’d found a glowing light in the form of a handsome 2-year-old malamute mix. We were gaining a new family member who was offering me a legit way out of my hell. I don’t mean to get all dramatic here, but in saving his life, he was truly saving mine. Dogs love us more than we love ourselves and they make our lives so much better. They make us better people. The week leading up to the adoption was full of excitement, planning, and a blossoming love. That sweet fuzzy boy owned my heart and I felt lighter and brighter already. Just hours after we got him shit hit the fan. Although he was an amazing dog, he clearly needed a family without kids and it wasn’t going to work. My heart broke into tiny pieces and I cried harder than I can ever remember. I’d lost my new love and I’d lost my way out. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself and felt heavy with despair.

A few days later I went to a meeting and saw what appeared to be a broken man. After spending the past 5 years in a battle with relapse, his wife had decided to leave him. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, she just couldn’t trust him and needed to move on. Prior to this five-year battle, he’d been sober for 21 years.

He stood before a room full of his peers with slumped shoulders and defeated tone, and announced his 23rd day of sobriety. He went on to tell us more about how his life had fallen apart and I couldn’t help but notice the attention he commanded. The room was his. I don’t know how else to describe it – the confusion, embarrassment, agony, and support – we were all in it with him. The compassion surrounding him was palpable as we all became one beating heart.

This shattered man then declared how grateful he was to be in the room with us. I suddenly realized that even though his life may be broken, he in fact, was not. Although he was practically breathless with pain, there was something that brought him to us that night, into his 23rd day of sobriety, and to a place of gratitude. He wasn’t broken at all. He had found a spark – hope. And in that moment we all had hope.

Until then, I’d felt quite conflicted with the term, hope. I’d always thought hope was for religious people – hoping to escape eternal damnation by being just righteous enough – but that’s not hope, that’s fear. And I’m not saying that’s how all religious people are, so just chill. I thought of hope as a form of denial, clinging to something unsubstantial, or an excuse for not taking action. You know, like when dreams die because they turn into wishes instead of goals. Hope is what turns into change IF/WHEN you act on it. If you don’t act on hope, it also turns into a wish and then you turn into a pussy. I ain’t no pussy. Hope is the spark in a tunnel of darkness. Hope is exactly what I needed.

SO, I decided that this guy is pretty amazing – and if he can do it, I can too. I found hope and now I can set it on fire! The only thing that gets in the way is me. The only limitations set upon me are the ones I entertain in my freaky little brain. I can change how I feel inside and out. I can turn the voices around. I don’t need an excuse to get off my ass, I can just do it. And I’ve already begun.

THIS must be what people in the rooms refer to as spiritual awakenings. I never wanted or expected to have one. I look back in awe – I was hard when I walked in and soft when I walked out. I was overflowing with hope and felt that glow from within.

So there it is. A new chapter, now that there’s a fire under my ass. I will find my peace, I know it. With hard work I will turn my life around for the better. Depression and anxiety are gonna suck it. If something else tries to knock me down (and dude, that’s life) it will get bitch slapped. There’s no more time left for weak bullshit; it’s time to wake up and ACT. I am responsible for my life. I’m going to rediscover my badass.

If I can do it, you can too.

hope is everything

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much for reading.

Thanks for your support,

Chrystal

 

Seasonal Depression – 7 ways to help yourself through

FuckWinter

Winter has always been like a big black hole for me, but this year is far worse than any I can remember. Having struggled with year-round depression and anxiety for most of my life, I’ve navigated through some dark shit. But, this recent spiral into seasonal depression has got me by the throat. I hope to help someone else to not feel so alone and to send a message of hope and inspiration because it will get better.

Waking up

An uncomfortable discussion with my husband (I’m being polite, don’t get used to it) is what woke me up – “THAT’S why I’m feeling and acting like THIS!” Something similar occurs almost every month when I finally realize that PMS is responsible for my current misery, but THIS was way more intense. I was a deer-in-the-headlights for a few days, stunned at the realization that depression had taken hold of me in this way. I was shocked that I hadn’t consciously seen it coming. I knew I had no energy and felt like an irritable, negative piece of shit, but that cloud of doom held me tight in its shadow, forcing me into straight-up survival mode. It’s called seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or what I like to call the winter blues. It sounds a little lighter to me that way and isn’t technically accurate for my situation, but I don’t give a fiery deuce. Whatever you call it, it’s emotionally defeating and negatively impacting my life in a very real and frustrating way.

Maybe this current episode is due to the added stresses of the recent holidays or having the huge responsibility of molding my kids into highly functioning, well-adjusted, self-reliant adults. Maybe it’s because the only exercise I get is putting the dishes away, making vacuum marks, and sneezing on occasion. Maybe it’s caused by the lack of sunshine (I still love you, Seattle), a chemical shift in my noggin, or maybe it just IS. Sometimes I get caught up in the “why” and that’s not where I need to be.  All I know is that if there were an award up for grabs for Most Miserable Negative Wretch, I’d probably win 3rd runner-up (because I suck that much) and then insist on a digital copy, so I wouldn’t have to go pick it up.

Being depressed

Prepare yourself, this section is pretty depressing. I want to paint a picture of what depression looks like. It’s different for everyone, of course, but the theme is there. It doesn’t ever go away, but there are times when it’s much worse. This is a bad time for me, as you’ll clearly see. If you could hear some of my thoughts, you’d probably have tears in your eyes, but I won’t go into many of those.DrowninginDepression

I look around and see gray skies, barren tree limbs, bare streets, and death. Yes, death. Everywhere. People, animals, garden flowers, dry skin, my will to shave or get out of bed – all dead. I’m reminded of those I’ve lost along the way. I think of our pup who left us almost 2 years ago…it was so traumatic, I don’t know if I’ll ever get past the horror of losing him the way that we did. I miss his loving heart, protective nature, and his big fuzzy ears. Then there’s my grandma. I long to be in my happy place – in her green, 70’s-inspired kitchen eating a peanut butter and butter sandwich on Wonder bread, having her tell me I have a “cute shape” and how talented and special I am. It makes me so sad to think of these things that I’ll never have again, these bonds that have been broken. That’s a never-ending road if I let those memories drive. Of course I’m grateful for those memories – but being grateful doesn’t take away the pain. Depression feeds on the dark stuff and sucks out the light.

Depression is feeling like you’ve been ironed out by a steamroller, like when you get the flu, only there’s no phlegm and the zap just doesn’t go away. I feel weak, tired, emotionally detached, tense, and heavy. I visualize myself wearing flannel, drowning in a murky, cold, stagnant pond of goo. Occasionally I manage to break free from the darkness and gasp for air, but my limbs are too weak and I slip back under. This time of year it’s dark when I leave the house and dark when I get home. All I want to do is sleep. I know extra sleep won’t help, but I desperately fantasize about sleeping for a month. Just a month to check out, and then maybe I’d wake up feeling refreshed. Just want to check out.

My worries tend to haunt me – futuristic crap like having to go find my next job, having to talk to someone when I’m not ready, my loved ones dying, getting into a car wreck, or the Seahawks not making it to the Super Bowl. I’m extremely irritable, indifferent, foggy-brained, and self-critical to the point that I’d classify as my own relentless bully.

JustTiredDepression

I don’t want to do anything or see anyone and would rather spend all day locked up in my bedroom with chocolate cake and booze (don’t worry, I’m not going there). My instinct is to isolate for a few reasons; I’m too busy spending time in my head, I don’t want to depress anyone, I don’t want anyone to see how miserable I feel, and most people either irritate me or stress me out for some reason. Often times I’m a raging, ball-breaking hag because I just can’t handle how I feel. My husband gets the brunt of it, the sorry sack.

If I could have a superpower, I’d either want the ability to fly (fly away FAST) or become invisible. I want to be invisible more often than I want to admit. Depression is an overwhelming experience and frankly, when I’m in the throes of it, it makes me not want to be me. This is a big problem because I’m actually happy, I’m pretty cool, and I have an amazing life!!! I have it all – in fact, I think that makes me even more depressed about being depressed. As a recovering alcoholic, it’s especially important that I fight through. Hopelessness and desperation is a recipe for relapse or worse.

“The most powerful words you can say to someone with an invisible illness is…I believe you.”

 

Finding the light

Depression is dark, so we must seek the light, whatever that means to you. There are things we can do to help make it through. Here’s how I find light:

1. Be with people

  • Supportive people. Luckily, I have people who lift me up. My husband steps up continuously and I depend on his optimism, strength, persistence, and mind-blowing amount of energy, even though it annoys the shit out of me. My kids help me appreciate the simple, most valuable parts of life, pulling me back into the moment. My mom has always been my key to staying grounded and my dad relates with me because we experience a lot of the same struggles AND we can laugh about them. My brother and sister-in-law inspire me and love me for who I am. I even have a close friend or two. A girl couldn’t really ask for more.
  • Set boundaries. I set internal boundaries with everyone. One might call them walls – whatever works. I don’t hang out with assholes and I limit my time with people who trigger negative emotions in me. I don’t care about the reasons why at this point, I just keep my distance as much as possible.
  • Spend time with an animal. Animals are far better than most people. Pets offer unconditional, uncomplicated love and acceptance. They distract us, bring us into the moment, promote touch, get us outside, ease anxiety…need I say more?

2. Be aware of moments

  • Be grateful. You know that feeling when you go on vacation and the stresses of your everyday life disappear and your partner doesn’t annoy the holy living hell out of you? I know that a similar state of being is achievable. It’s probably called peace. I experience peace every night when I kiss my 5-year-old before bed (I love the other kid just the same, but I can’t risk waking the beautiful little freak up at this point) – he’s sleeping so soundly and he’s so damn amazing, I take a big whiff of his neck, give him a few pecks and walk out of his room with a pure, whole, glowing white heart. That’s peace. Sometimes that’s the only peace I get all day and I’m grateful for it.
  • Slow down. Take a deep breath. One deep breath does wonders, you just have to actually remember to do it.
  • Set small goals. I found some pro-longed peace the other day (better than I’ve felt in months) – I’d completed all 3 tasks on my to-do list, sat in front of my “happy light” for a few hours, AND did yoga! While I still felt like a constipated asshole, I felt much lighter, accomplished, and optimistic. Optimistic?! Yes, optimistic! Now that I’m awake to this current depressive episode, I am able to do more about it bit by bit. Some days brushing your damn teeth is an accomplishment…celebrate the fact that your teeth are no longer wearing wool sweaters.

3. Go outside

  • Get some sun. I’ve always been a sun worshipper, probably because I’ve always been depressed. The benefits I get from the sun far outweigh any potential risk of skin cancer. My husband doesn’t get that. He sings a melanoma song sometimes when he finds me sitting in the sun, but I’m not a pasty white English boy with a history of bad sunburns. Now that I’ve entered mid-life (WTF?!), I can only handle 10-20 minutes in sun before I’m spent anyway. But that’s all I need. The feeling I get when I’m sitting in the warm sun is amazing. Drink it up with your eye balls and soak in the warmth on your skin. (I don’t want to get sued, so I’ll just say, please don’t look directly AT the sun. Sun rays can enter your eye balls if you’re simply looking in its direction. If you look directly at the sun, you’re an idiot and you need more help than I can lend.)
  • Try light therapy. I’ve used my new “happy light” 5 or 6 times within the past few weeks or so and I do believe it is helping my mood. It gives me a bit of a headache at first, but then I’m good.
  • Remember that Spring is coming. It helps to be reminded that winter won’t last forever. If we could remove January, February, and March from our calendars, I’d be stoked. Living in Seattle during wintertime is a real pisser.

4. Eat OK

  • Make better choices. I’m not asking you to change it all and emulate Dr. Oz. You don’t have to get all freaky about it and go organic or vegan, just make small improvements. Instead of a candy bar, choose a juicy sweet apple. Instead of white bread, try a loaf of wheat or sourdough. Have 2 scoops of ice cream instead of 5.
  • Give yourself a break. I have the tendency to eat my emotions or attempt to fill voids with food. Rather than fight that urge to binge, I just let it be and make sure it’s food that isn’t completely useless. I take down a seriously large bowl of popcorn with coconut oil regularly. Popcorn = whole grain, fiber, antioxidants. Coconut oil = saturated fat (it’s good, y’all), vitamins and minerals, digestive benefits.
  • Drink water. Water is important for so many reasons. Flush those toxins out. If you’re like me, dealing with constipation, water is essential. Having a large, compacted piece of shit crammed in your intestines doesn’t feel good and certainly adds to irritability, at least for me.
  • Eat less sugar. Sugar is evil.
  • Don’t eat fast food. The only thing you score with a $4 lunch combo is fake shit full of chemicals, sugar, and fat. McDonald’s is a twisted joke. Fast food is an energy suck. Please don’t put that shit into your body!

5. Get into a routine

  • Get up early. I started getting up at the same time everyday about 2 weeks ago. When I hear my alarm go off I want to scream and thrash about like a 2 year-old, maybe even poke my husband in the eye, but I do feel more prepared for the day, once I’m ready to go.
  • Get enough sleep. This isn’t news. It’s hard to feel human, let alone like a good one when you’re tired.
  • Challenge your negative self-talk. This shit is exhausting. But, if you just try to be more aware of it and do what you can to redirect your thoughts or tell yourself to shut the hell up, it will help. Every little effort counts.
  • Take meds if you need to. This here a controversial one, but I’m going to set it right. First of all, see a mental health professional, not your regular doctor. Regular doctors aren’t trained in mental health and don’t know shit. If you’re anti-meds, just hear this – no one is going to give you a medal for toughing it out on your own. If you’re miserable and can’t break free on your own, get some god damned help. Give it a whirl. If you’re afraid of becoming dependent on it, you should probably let that shit go – if it makes life easier, so be it. Life is too short to feel like shit all the time. I’ll pop a pill till the day I’m dead if it helps. Educate yourself.

6. Move more

Exercise is a tough one for me. It used to come naturally, but not anymore. I see people running on the street and I want to open my car door and clip ’em. I’m jealous as hell that I don’t have that drive or will to be able to commit to something so challenging and rewarding. I don’t like committing to things like gyms or workout routines now because I end up losing money and feeling like a worthless dumbass. I am careful not to set myself up for failure. “Well, just DO it then” you say? How about that doesn’t work for me and we’ll just leave it at that.

  • Make small changes. Instead of organized fitness, I’ve been making small efforts throughout my day. Parking farther away from the grocery store is a good one (no, I’m not 80 years old, but all it takes is a little shift of intention sometimes). I’ve taken a few flights of stairs at work for the hell of it (or maybe it was to get away from some idiot crop dusting my area). No matter how I get there, I am making an effort to move more. I’ve taken a few yoga classes and managed to hold my fart in, so those were HUGE encouraging wins. None of this is routine and certainly won’t get me bathing suit ready, but now this is all I can handle. At least it’s something. Plus, I don’t know if I even care if I’m bathing suit ready anymore…I just want to FEEL good.

7. Laugh

LaughterHelpsDepressionLaughing makes us feel better instantly. It is a natural pain reducer, lowers your blood pressure, and lowers stress hormone levels. It relaxes our bodies and gives us an overall feeling of well-being.

  • Find something that makes you laugh every day. Sitcoms are great. Check out some YouTube videos of people falling down or look at pictures of animals cuddling or being cute. Find a goofy morning radio show that makes you chuckle. Whatever makes you laugh, find more of it. And don’t forget about the power of farts. Thinking about, talking about, and ripping farts is funny. And not just to me…you know you can’t help but laugh when someone in the stall next to you rips a long, raspy toilet bow fart. Those echo chambers are there for your entertainment! Smelling someone else’s fart is highly offensive and instantly turns me violent, but everything else about farts is hilarious. Enjoy them!

I’m still pretty deep in that pond of goo, but I can see a ladder to grab and my legs are kicking. This too shall pass and life will go on. I’ll take my moments of peace and keep trying for more, by taking small mindful steps.

If you’re really struggling, this list looks like a piece of shit. I know. It’s so hard to imagine feeling better sometimes. In that case I’ll tell you to do this: put your hand on your heart. Do it. I’m not going to move on until you do it…….OK….Do you feel your heart beating? I couldn’t either and it almost freaked me out…try your pulse. Feel that? That’s your heart pumping blood. That’s love in there. That’s your strength to get you through another day. If I can do it, you can do it. Please don’t give up. Every effort counts, no matter how small it seems to you or others. Your story doesn’t end here and neither does mine.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise on your brain. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.”

10 tips for staying sober through the holidays (and enjoying it)

Staying Sober throught the HolidaysThe holidays are hard. Sobriety is harder. Throw ’em together and get ready for a potential shit show.

Whether you’re anticipating a family gathering at the nut house, experiencing feelings of loss, dealing with holiday pressures, or all the above, you’ve got this. I am navigating my way through these emotions with my sobriety intact and am even enjoying myself. Sometimes I’m not sure how I’m doing this, but here’s what I think I know…

If I succumb to these feelings for too long – stress, darkness, temptation, isolation, pressure, loss – I’m lurking in the danger zone. If I push them away, I slowly dig myself a hole.  So, it’s a balancing act.

Consider the following advice to help keep your hard-earned sobriety unscathed, and actually enjoy the season.

 

 

10 tips for staying sober through the holidays (and enjoying it)

  1. Pay attention to your health.

    Get enough sleep, don’t eat like shit, move your body, and relax your mind. Instead of sitting on the couch to watch TV, lay on the floor and stretch. Park your car further away. Write in a journal. If you don’t like to journal, write FUCK 20 times. Helps me, but I’m a little twisted. Stay away from too much sugar. Sugar is the devil. Be nice to yourself. Be nice to others. Do shit that makes you feel more alive. Every bit of intention helps you take care of you, physically and mentally, and it all adds up.

  2. Don’t isolate.

    Loneliness sucks and is a HUGE trigger. Remember, you don’t have to feel alone. Reach out if you need some help. It doesn’t have to be intense, either – simply ask your checker at the grocery store how their day is going, or smile at a stranger – they might need it and in turn you’ll feel a bit more connected. If you must go into a cave, be productive with it – read, do a hobby, take a bath, put on an inspirational flick like 28 days with Sandra Bullock – she’s hot AND sober. Reach out to sober friends, trusted family members, or me (soberchrystal@gmail.com). Resist the urge to pull away and shut down.

  3. Let the pressure go.

    Do what you can and do what you want. Don’t worry if you’re broke. Screw the crowds – Amazon rocks. It’s ok if you aren’t feeling creative. Don’t give what you don’t have. All anyone, who matters, really wants is your time. And if you don’t have that, write them an I Owe You! Happy holidays! Deep breath.

  4. Keep your distance from triggering relatives.

    If you can’t keep your distance, just be grateful you won’t get wasted and cause trouble this year. Be thankful that you are you. Take deep breaths. Take a time out. Because, YOU are most important and you need to do whatever it takes to protect your sobriety. Your sobriety is everything. No apologies.

  5. Realize – no one cares what’s in your cup.

    If someone DOES care what’s in your cup, they’re obviously an idiot and quite possibly a drunk. There are grown adults who act like peer-pressuring knuckleheads, therefore making life a little more interesting for us. But, screw what people think about you – you get to decide who and what matters. If you’re around people who are drinking, stay away from opened containers and make your own secret game out of it. Experiment with an exciting new non-alcoholic concoction. It’s not what’s in the glass that’s important. But, you already knew that.

  6. Plan ahead.

    Don’t get into situations you can avoid. But, if you have to go to an office party, for instance, have an escape route. Go late and leave early. Take a sober friend. Or skip it altogether. A party will not make or break you. If your family is the type that begins their Xmas with mimosas, either make your own bubbly goodness (San Pellegrino and pomegranate juice is bomb), put a “magic” coin or rock in your pocket and stroke the hell out of that shit, or get the hell out of there. Do whatever it takes, but have a few scenarios planned out and ready to roll. Have some inspirational quotes saved on your phone for reference.

  7. Keep your head held high .

    During those “in-genuine” moments – when drunks, with glowing auras and booze breath, tell you how impressive you are with that sobriety you’ve got going on. When you find yourself chatting with people who are lit up like old Vegas. I tend to lose my grounding and sense of security, perpetuating my isolation. I struggle with remaining true, honest, and transparent, while protecting myself from a potential threat. This remains one of my largest challenges. But, I hold my head high because I know who I am and I don’t compromise myself. I used to approach those conversations as a waste of time, but they’re actually quite liberating.

  8. Hold your memories close.

    The holidays always remind me more of the people I’ve lost along the way. A wrinkly old woman with dangly earrings looking for presents to buy her loved ones in Fred Meyer equals breakdown material. I’m flooded with memories of Grandma at almost every turn. Grandma loved  watching me decorate her house for Christmas and singing along while I played music on the piano. She loved making sure EVERYONE had presents to open. My grandma was my biggest source of self-esteem as a child – she embodied the spirit of the season of giving, hope, and love all year. So, I allow myself a few good tears and then I move on. She’s not here and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m lucky to have had those precious moments with her. As a result, I feel that glowing warmth in my heart that she left with me.

  9. Harness that good ‘ol holiday spirit.

    Find gratitude in every moment that you can, even the crazy ones. Keep a list of your blessings in your pocket to read in those tough situations. Spread the love spending time with people who inspire, encourage, and support you. Go through your closet and give the homeless some new duds. Send $20 to your local animal shelter. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you’re giving back, do it.

  10. See how far you’ve come.

    If you need to write this on the inside of your wrist, do it – I am worth it. Your sobriety is everything. You are incredibly brave, strong, and inspirational. Protect all that you’ve achieved. You are kind of a big deal. You continue to make the choice to be a better you every second of every hour of every damn day. And while it may seem like others might not get it, I sure as hell do. We are fucking amazing.

Happy holidays my sober friends. May you stay strong and sober this holiday season and be reminded of just how amazing and special you truly are. The new year with its abundance of opportunities and challenges is quickly approaching!

Wishing all of my non-sober friends happy holidays, too! Please please PLEASE don’t drink and drive.

With love,

Chrystal

You are not alone

DamagedPeopleAreDangerousIf you’ve ever felt alone, misunderstood, insignificant, scared, weak, furious, guilty, or just plain baffled about your addiction or someone else’s, you’re in the right place. YOU are not alone.

We all have a story to tell. We all need inspiration in our lives. Whether you decide to reach out and tell your story or choose to keep that shit locked up, it helps to hear about others’ struggles. There’s a new book out there, Hearts and Scars – 10 Human Stories of Addiction (FREE on Amazon), that I’m slap-my-ass-and-call-me-Sally thrilled about! It’s a collection of non-anonymous, open and honest stories from real people in recovery. A super bonus – my story is in the book! You know what this means, right? I have arrived, people. Yes. I’m totally legit. But enough about me. This book is a project working toward awareness and healing. Here’s a bit of what the mastermind/dude in recovery (Jake D. Parent) has to say about it…

We lose more than 350 people every day in the United States to addiction. This collection of stories shows how the deadly disease is a conflicted struggle, not simply of broken people, but one that encompasses the human condition that affects us all.

For those directly affected by this horrible affliction, these stories will help you make sense of your journey, both where you came from as well as where you are going.

For advocates, policy makers, and others with the power to help, this collection will help humanize the issue. Because, while addiction may be a cunning, baffling disease, it is ultimately one that affects real people.

Only by understanding the humanity within those who suffer from it – as buried as it may sometimes seem to be – can we as a society find the courage and will to finally do what needs to be done to end the suffering.

– Jake D. Parent

Did I mention it’s FREE forever on Amazon? That means you have no excuse not to read it. If you’re reading THIS, you’ll want to read THAT. We all need awareness and a little inspiration once in a while – this book is it – do yourself a favor.

That is all for now, my friends. Stay tuned though…the release of this book has lit a fire under my ass…

Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen everyday.

-Chrystal

10 things you should know about people with anxiety

Anxiety makes daily life a real pain in the ass for everyone involved. We all feel anxious from time to time, but people with anxiety disorders have a hard time controlling it. There are at least 40 million American adults living with an anxiety disorder (source: National Institute of Mental Health). It might be helpful to know a few things about us anxious folks, since we are everywhere. My assumption is that you want to help someone you love if you are reading this – if you’ve never experienced it, you will probably never understand anxiety and that’s okay. You can still be helpful through the unfolding of it. Keep in mind that no experience is the same. I’m not speaking for everyone with anxiety, just doing my part to increase awareness. If I scare the shit out of you, you’re welcome.

1. It has nothing to do with you

Our anxiety has nothing to do with you, however directed at you it may seem. Anxiety is a constant mental battle that manifests physically, or does it start in our bodies? Either way, being miserable in our own skin makes it hard to be pleasant sometimes – and we might not even realize what’s happening. Irritability is a near constant in my world, so while it’s possible I’m annoyed with YOU, don’t take it too personally. Hopefully I don’t seem like a complete asshole, but if I do, just be happy you’re not me.

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2. We know we’re irrational

The epitome of anxiety is this: Knowing, as you’re freaking out, that there’s no reason to be freaked out, but you can’t shut it down. Some of the emotions we entertain are like the fruit flies currently invading my kitchen – they’re tiny, annoying, and useless, yet we can’t seem to take our focus off of them until they’re all dead and gone. Sometimes a worry can start being legit, but we take it to an epic and destructive level.

3. Anxiety hurts

Physically

The physical toll anxiety takes on my body is the most frustrating aspect of anxiety for me. Anxiety is really physically uncomfortable – it doesn’t hurt the same way for everyone.

  • Hot and cold flashes – When I was working in customer service, I ran into my favorite teacher from 3rd grade! Rather than act like a normal person, my body flushed over in a cold wave of terror and then I was instantly a hot mess of dripping, beastly sweat, a stuttering fool with horrific red blotches on my chest. Awkward. That was bullshit – I experience similar moments regularly.
  • Racing heartbeat, palpitations – Heart palpitations feel like having a goldfish flopping around in my chest. I even visualize the scaly thing in there and start to wig out even more. There have been several times when I’ve been close to dialing 911, but instead I sit in paranoid silence, waiting it out, realizing I’m not ready to die.
  • Feeling restless or on edge – If you see me in the same spot for more than 20 minutes and I don’t look like I’m in agony, consider it a small miracle.
  • Easily tired – I’m always spent. There are multiple reasons for this, but anxiety is one of them. Fighting anxiety is like being in a constant state of fight or flight and takes its toll daily. I rarely get to take naps with two small kids all up in my grill, but when the opportunity knocks, I indulge and it feels so luxurious.
  • Muscle tension and pain – My jaw is so buff from clenching my teeth, I’d put a pit bull to shame. My chest, shoulders, and neck are always tense. Massages can be helpful, but I’m so paranoid about letting one fly, I don’t get very relaxed.
  • Intestinal shit – Speaking of letting one fly, I can be  a gassy gal. 1 part genes, 1 part anxiety. I probably have IBS. This is a overshare, but my husband can tell when I am constipated. Isn’t that nice? Sometimes, if I’m a bit unruly, he’ll ask, “Have you pooped lately?” At least he pays attention.
  • Knots and stomach butterflies – I eat to cover them up and then I don’t shit them out. Good stuff.
  • Dizzy, light-headed – Makes me feel incapable at times.
  • Numb or tingly – Usually my arms or legs get pins and needles and that’s when I recognize I need to sit down for a few minutes and chill.

Mental

Many thoughts, emotions, and behaviors revolve around anxiety. I’m too exhausted from listing the physical symptoms to delve into these much, but here are some common symptoms:

  • Obsessive thinking
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating – I don’t play cards or board games because I just can’t focus.
  • Memory problems – Sometimes I have a hard time forming thoughts because my brain and body are so concentrated on the sustained anxiety. This is why I can’t tell a story to save my life, turn into an inarticulate moron during job interviews, and repeatedly ask if anyone has seen my phone. I go blank during any type of confrontation and could never EVER be in a debate club, no matter how passionate I am.
  • Irritable

4. Social situations can be torture

I'm leaving early!

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Although avoidance can lessen anxiety in the short-term, it doesn’t work for actually living life.  I’d probably be a hermit most of the time if I could. I’d just sit in my house, back out of plans, and be happy as a clam doing so. Back in my drinking days I’d “pre-funk” before every type of social event so I was loose, less self-conscious, and more outgoing. Now that I’m sober, my pre-funks consist of mostly internal freak-out sessions over shit that will never happen. I secretly hope shit gets cancelled all the time and would even welcome a hearty cold if it meant I could stay home.

Because interacting with people can be so anxiety-inducing, we are picky about who we let close. We put up walls for those who don’t make the cut to keep ourselves safe.

5. Don’t try to talk us out of it

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The worst feeling in the world is when someone tells me to “get over it” or “just relax.” These statements make me feel like I’m broken and alone, and show a blatant misunderstanding of the nature of anxiety. Believe me, if it was that simple, I would have done it already. More often than not, there is no logical reason for my anxiety, it just is. There’s a fine line between talking me out of it and helping me. “Let’s get down to the bottom of this, why are you anxious?” That’s what my well-intentioned husband says, trying to get me to put it into words so he can help. It has helped a few times, but most often my mind goes blank, my body gets tighter, and I feel even more like a freak, especially since I was trying to hide my anxiety in the first place and got called out on it.

6. Panic attacks are real

I remember when I thought that people who had panic attacks were legitimately crazy. How can you be so whacked-out that you lose bodily control in a terrorized panic over nothing?! This is where there’s a huge disconnect – it can make sufferers and their loved ones really frustrated. It’s really hard to understand and even harder to describe. A panic attack can come out of nowhere or it can be fear-induced. You can maybe feel it coming or suddenly it’s happening, taking your breath away. Either way, once you’ve experienced one of these bad boys, it’s like a mission in life to never ever have another. Panic attacks are so scary! To me, it feels like my body is completely out of control – sweating, fuzzy headed, pounding heart, blurred vision, shaking, gonna shit myself – sheer terror. I had my first panic attack at a grocery store in my early 20s and it was so unexpected and terrifying, I felt like I’d lost a bit of my sanity, never to be found again.

7. We have moments of brilliance

When we are aware of our anxiety and working on it, we experience glowing moments of perfection. These moments come and go and sometimes we shock the hell out of ourselves with our amazingness. I’m not always a total freak. Especially since I’m getting older and caring a little less about what people think of me. I’ve managed to reduce the frequency of some of my more useless agonies, like the torture of walking through the cafeteria at work to get some damn food. Sometimes I can actually get in and out of there without feeling a thousand eyes upon me, waiting for me to trip or shoot a boogie out of my nose… I consider these moments huge successes for me. Don’t always assume we are having anxiety. The last thing we want is for you to approach us like wigged-out weaklings, plus it could totally deter a brilliant moment or just piss us off. If we have shared some triggers with you, then it’s cool to be mindful of them, otherwise, let us be. And don’t push us to get better. We are handling it and always trying to be better.

8. We are grateful people

We are grateful for our moments of brilliance  – for every time we overcome a situation – we experience intense relief and these moments accumulate. We are also grateful for those people in our lives who try to understand and work with us. I never take for granted those who are there for me and are genuinely interested in my well-being and happiness. My circle may be tiny, but it’s solid. I’m most grateful for my mom’s unwavering support and for my husband’s patience and commitment to me.

9. We know living with us is hard

My anxiety is our anxiety, sorry

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As long as you know that we know, and we’re working on it constantly, you need to allow the process. We know how much of a burden our anxiety is, and we do not need a reminder. I know the consequences of my anxiety are annoying, frustrating, and sometimes hurtful. Try being me. There may never come a day when I’m fully composed or uninhibited – that ship sunk when I got sober. I consider myself a positive person, but anxiety breeds negativity – it just does. Again, take a step back and be grateful you aren’t me. Your patience and compassion are appreciated. Remember we are always working on it and we are worth it.

10. We want you to learn more

Whatever you can do to learn more about what anxiety looks and feels like in someone’s everyday life, the better. You don’t have to be able to relate to us, in fact I’d rather not subject you to that – a general understanding will do. Compassion goes a long way.

 

 

Here are some ways you could potentially help someone with anxiety:

  • Be mindful – Knowing some of their triggers may be helpful. When we’re dining at a restaurant, my husband takes the seat that’s facing the crowd, so I can either look at a wall or fewer people. It makes me nervous seeing people and eating in front of them, so he shuts it down every time. I appreciate it every time.
  • Be proactive – Take steps to help mitigate the anxiety or lighten the load. My husband does a lot of the talking in social situations and helps me out when I’m fumbling for words (except for when Roger Goodell asked me how I liked the NFL and I froze like a fool, LIKE A FOOL! – I’ll agonize about that until the day I die!). Actually, he talks more than anyone I’ve ever known and rarely shuts up – I’m almost always grateful for it.
  • Find compassion – If you can’t find compassion, keep your thoughts to yourself. I don’t like to hear negative shit about people who struggle with this shit like I do. When people like us hear you judging so-and-so for not wanting to hang out or for being weird or socially retarded, we’re subconsciously understanding that it’s not okay that we’re that way. So, no matter how whacked someone may seem, maybe if you just let it go and move on with your life, we’ll all be a little lighter. It’s sometimes second nature to make fun of shit we don’t understand, just consider your audience. If we do it, it’s okay though. 😉
  • Compromise – We aren’t as social as my husband would like to be and he doesn’t complain about it – having said that, he’s a social freak and that shit needs to get locked down anyway. I need my down time and he knows that’s important to me. I can’t always be “up”. It’s not in my nature and doesn’t serve me.
  • Touch us – My husband often rubs my hand while we are driving around in the car, knowing the extreme effect it has on my well-being. Ahhhh. It can change who I am in a moment. Touch is powerful. Touch is survival. I need more of it.
  • Remind us to breathe – “Take a deep breath” – My mom is so good at reminding me to do this. One deep breath can completely turn a moment around. I need this reminder more often.
  • Laughter is the best medicine –  We are always winning when we’re laughing! I find it soothing to watch mindless comedy on TV. Being gassy comes in handy, too. Sometimes I act a fool, like a giggling, immature school girl…you might not get it, but I do, so let me have it! Sit down with your anxious friend and watch some good ‘ol Tommy Boy or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Light moments are fun.

There are no cures for anxiety disorders, but there are many ways to find some relief. No one disorder or management of it looks the same as another. I hope you learned something new about people with anxiety, I know I did by putting it into words for the first time. If you struggle, I hope you find the help you’re looking for. If you suffer from knowing one of us, don’t be a dick and try harder to understand. If you question something, ask me. I’ll tell you what I know after I’ve obsessed about it and rehearsed my answer for a few months, then spell-checked it and re-rehearsed and then contemplated if it was too late to answer. 😉

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Shame, SHAME, go away! I’m coming out AGAIN today!

maskI’m going to kick shame’s ass today. I hate shame. Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of BEING something wrong. It’s ugly. And private. It’s silent on the outside, while it burns hot and loud on the inside, a soul-sucking black hole. Shame, associated with addiction and mental illness, is created by our own imaginations, fed by ignorance and self-stigma.

Did you know that many addictions are caused by underlying mental illnesses? That shouldn’t surprise you – the information is out there and it makes sense. So, here’s my truth – I live with mental illness. Not just one, but two of ’em bad boys – depression and an anxiety disorder. There you have it. Mental illness. Oh boy, I’m really OUT now! Here we go! Weeeeeeeee!

You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle. – Julian Seifte

The thing about these two words, “mental illness”, is they cause so much judgment and fear. This is, perhaps, the ultimate example of a stigma. Society probably spends more time trying to ignore mental illness than to understand it. And that’s not easy to do, given almost half of American adults will develop at least one form of mental illness during their lifetime (according to the CDC ). I would bet this statistic is far from correct and that it’s closer to 75%, but I’m just a girl with a laptop. Sometimes stigma and uneducated discriminatory attitudes are worse than the addictions and illnesses themselves – often leading to SILENT SUFFERING and people who never recover. People who never recover! We have to do something about this.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage – Anais Nin

Until recently, I’ve been consumed with shame. Not about having alcoholism – I’ve come a long way in that realm. I’ve been ashamed that I can’t “handle” depression and anxiety on my own. Ashamed I even have to deal with it in the first place. Ashamed that I am weak. Ashamed that I need help. Ashamed that I’m ashamed. But not anymore. Shame doesn’t motivate me. Shame doesn’t do shit, but hold me down. I’m owning this shit, so I can soar above my old self, high up in the glorious free sky where I belong. I am an eagle and shame is my prey. I’m gonna chew it up and spit it out, over and over again until I’ve had my say.

Where we are at is where the cancer community and HIV community were 25 years ago – NFL Player Brandon Marshall (in reference to mental illness)

I’ll probably write more about my experiences with mental illness in the future, but for now I focus on beating the shit out of the shame. It really doesn’t matter why or how the mental illness got there.  I likely made mine worse with the drinking thing, but I’m over it. Right now I don’t feel the need to describe my struggles. They are there, trust me. The worst thing you can do to a person with an invisible illness is make them feel like they need to prove how sick they are. I think we are all crazy in one way or another, just some are better at coping. But people are afraid of labels. They don’t like “crazy”. I’m not easily offended when “crazy” gets thrown around at my house. It’s a survival tool. I can get pretty “out there” and am not easy to live with. Not that my husband is a cake walk, but referring to my craziness helps him keep his own sanity. Being able to laugh about our struggles is important and “crazy” talk brings us onto the same page. It’s not a label, it’s an explanation. Crazy people aren’t weak, we are resilient. And we are deep sons of bitches.

Sometimes it’s the crazy people who turn out to be not so crazy. – Kevin Spacey

Here’s the thing about anxiety that sucks – it’s a prime contributor to poor decision-making, which gets tricky in sobriety. The more anxious you feel, the more likely you are to act on impulse, without considering the consequences. Your brain focusses on relieving the anxiety, not on the rational processes needed to exercise good judgment. Throw depression into the mix and you’ve got a shit storm of daily battles – one hell of a challenge of staying sober. This is not an intelligence thing, or lack thereof. This is illness. And this is a reason why we see good people relapse, time after time, if they aren’t addressing their needs.

Shame is a soul eating emotion. – C. G. Jung

What you hide controls you and what you don’t say owns you. Getting mental help should feel more common. If you tell someone you’re going to a counseling appointment, they really shouldn’t bat an eye, just as if you’d said you’re going to your regular doctor for a checkup. Mental health is as important as physical health.  My approach to recovery from mental illness is personal and completely mine. It’s ongoing, just like my recovery from addiction. It took me a while to realize my anxiety wasn’t normal. It took me even longer to realize I could do something about it. We don’t talk about it enough as a society, or I may have recognized it sooner. I recently started seeing a psychiatric nurse practitioner, which was a big, scary step because I’ve never known someone who’s done this and didn’t know what to expect. Because of this step, I have found a way to take the edge off of my anxiety and depression. I wasted 10+ years on ineffective antidepressants, unaware that my primary care physician wasn’t properly trained to offer this service. Now I am on the right meds. They have a very subtle effect, to the point I didn’t think they were working until we dove deeper into my day-to-day. I do my part too, dappling in cognitive behavioral counseling here and there, and practicing self-care in various forms. I’m not cured by any means, but I have tools that make my life manageable now.

Far too often, I hear of a friend or family member who is effectively taking antidepressants, intending to get off of them in the near future. Why?! This is stigma and shame at work. This decision doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve never been a pill-popper – I suffer through most headaches and pain because I just feel better “muscling” through it. But, when it came to the chemical imbalance in my brain, I decided to suck it up and get the help I needed. Antidepressants aren’t for everyone, but there is no shame for those who can benefit from them. I have no intention of ever getting off of my meds. They are helping me and I am not ashamed.

Some ignorant assholes might tell me I’m not sober if I’m on antidepressants, so I’ll just say this to them – go read a different blog because I don’t care what you think. This is my life and I’m in charge of it. I’m all about compassion, understanding, hope, and empowerment – for myself and for others who struggle. Mental illness is a flaw in chemistry, not character. It’s not a label, it’s an explanation. Medication doesn’t alter my personality, it helps me LIVE MY LIFE better. There’s no shame in that. No shame.

It doesn’t matter how this looks to other people. If this is something you gotta do, then you do it. Fighters fight. – Rocky Balboa

I’m grateful to tell my story and shed more light on mental illness because I know many who are reading this are struggling at varying degrees or know people who are. It is what it is, people. Life is such a beautiful journey, and we are learning all the time – let’s learn a little compassion and patience for those who struggle for whatever reasons. At the end of the day, all that really matters is if we were kind to ourselves and each other. I’m doing my best today and I hope you are too.

Shame, consider your ass kicked. Shame is an illusion – it’s not real. We are all important and we are all worthy. If you’re struggling right now, for whatever reason, please know that you are not alone. You matter. Don’t give up!

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Sleeping with the “normie” – recovery with a spouse who drinks

My husband still drinks. I haven’t asked him to stop drinking because of my situation – that wouldn’t seem fair – he doesn’t have a drinking problem. We have a shit load of alcohol in the house, but I don’t freak out about it because we keep it out of sight. Our lifestyle has changed tremendously since I quit drinking and, for the most part, we are both happy with how we compromise in that respect. I do struggle when he’s having a drink or two at home, though. I don’t know what the hell he gets out of just a few drinks, but that’s a mystery I’ll never solve. On these evenings when he drinks, I often have to remind myself that he doesn’t have the same kind of relationship as I do with alcohol. A few seconds of reflection are tolerable, but some nights aren’t as smooth.

DISCLAIMER: YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SOME OF MY PRIVATE, NOT-SO-PRIVATE-ANYMORE THOUGHTS. I’M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THEM. IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING SUPPORTIVE TO SAY, I’M GAME. ALSO, I’M TERRIFIED TO CLICK “PUBLISH”, BUT WHATEVER.

Sitting at the counter, rests a water-stained stem-less wine glass, ravenously filling with rich, grapey, smooth perfection. Hints of oak and mild tobacco pillage my fluttering nostrils – and it all smells like home. As the vino gurgles through the aerator, it taunts me, “Neener, neener, neener! I’m sophisticated and delicious and you can’t have me!” My internal dialog gets a wild hair up its ass and goes to town. Come along on the crazy train for a minute and sample my secret, not-so-secret-anymore hell:

God damn wine. Screw him. Why the hell can’t I drink it? I’m a grown woman, I can make my own choices. Who does he think he is, giving me an ultimatum and then flaunting it in front of me?! That gurgling makes me want to shove that aerator up his ass. Why does he have to invite the booze, can’t it just be me and him? Hmm…Maybe this is just my perspective and not reality – if I had one or two drinks, that’s all I’d be focused on. He probably doesn’t focus on it one bit, he just has a drink and lives his life – he’s so weird. This isn’t fair. I bet I could have just one glass now. It’s been so long. Maybe I’m cured! Maybe I’m not actually an alcoholic – I was never THAT bad, anyway. I functioned well in all aspects of my life still. Well, except for verbally abusing the shit out of him – yeah, I guess that was pretty bad. Glad I don’t remember any of it. Would it hurt anything to try again though? I miss wine tasting with him. I miss our happy hours and funny adventures. I miss the relaxation. I miss the buzz. I miss getting wasted. I miss feeling normal. But I’m not normal, am I? I’m such a loser. I could never stop at just one or two, all I’d want to do is get shitty drunk. But what would that really accomplish? A glowing buzz, a moment to just let go and be wasted. Shit…I’m totally obsessed! The next day I’d be hung over AND be required to be a good mom, no thanks. I’d regret the shit out of losing my 8 years’ status and have to start back at day one…hour one…that’d be enough of a disappointment and reason to drink myself into oblivion. I don’t want to lose my life. I will not disappoint my family or myself. Plus, I have two kids I am responsible for! I want them to look up to me and know that because Mommy can do anything, they can too. Shit. Once again, I’ve talked myself out of this shit. Good. Like it was ever really touch-and-go. This is still annoying, though. Why can’t he just not drink? Would that be a fair ask? What if I did ask him to not drink? Would he be willing to? That’s a scary thought…I wouldn’t want him resenting me anyway, so it’s not an option. I’m the one who is strong enough to overcome resentment, I’ll take this on. I’m so much stronger than anyone knows. I’m actually the shit. He’s so lucky to have me. OK, now I feel a little better and actually hope he enjoys his wine…but not too much. If he gets a buzz on, I’m going to go through this all over again and want nothing to do with him. Maybe I should get out of here and head for the hills. Ok, ok. Simmer down, cray cray. All is good in my world. And both worlds can still meet for now. He’s totally fine. Stop watching him. Don’t count his drinks…STOP! Deep breath. Everything’s ok. I’m ok. One day at a time and I’m still sober. Damn, I think too much. I’m so strong, though. Look how I just worked through that shit. I really AM the shit…

Yep. Pretty intense for a gal on any given evening, huh? Sometimes I honestly wonder if I could be considered clinically insane in these moments. Why is it so hard to remember that I choose sobriety for myself?

Face it and conquer it!Why does it take a few grueling minutes of inner torture to bring myself back to a place of peace? Sometimes I envy those who have significant others who are also in recovery, versus being with a “normie”. What a huge and instant support system, plus, they’d understand you on that level that only addicts could. But the grass is only greener where you water it. And I love my man. If I didn’t have challenges, I wouldn’t be human. And I’ve learned how strong I am. I’m not willing to give that up for anything.

So, here’s my takeaway: Boundaries are essential. In early sobriety, I had a rule that I wouldn’t open or pour drinks for anyone. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the way I started to slack. I think I wanted more normalcy and to be useful and less of a burden. My husband and I recently discovered that this boundary must be reset. Holding or pouring a drink is too dangerous for me. It’s death in a cup and could easily slide down my throat, poisoning everything beautiful in my life. This telling conversation sparked after I’d snapped at him – he was innocently pouring wine and I heard gurgling – “Go into the friggin’ pantry and shut the door when you’re pouring that gurgling shit, mother fucker!” For now, I am going to keep being real with myself about what sets me up for success. I’m grateful to have a partner who wants me happy and will agree to pour his wine in the pantry, so I can’t hear it. He’s pretty incredible and boy, has he learned more than he ever wanted to about alcoholism! I’m not a big fan of “rules”, but they are necessary in my life, at least right now. I’m hoping someone out there knows what it’s like to go through this. I always come out on the bright side, sure, but why does it feel so traumatic every damn time?! It’s draining and infuriating, but in the end I’m grateful that I can coach myself back to my peace. I always reach my peace, and that’s what matters most.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

3,000 Days Sober! No more stigma…

No more shame!On this 3,000th day of my sobriety, I sit here amazed. I’m amazed at myself, of the life I’ve created, and at how damn difficult this journey has been. I’m even more amazed that so many people out there are still suffering in silence. My heart is troubled lately, as I’ve realized how big of an epidemic this really is. Alcoholism isn’t what I’m referring to – it’s the stigma. This stigma is a salivating beast and a force to be reckoned with. I’ve joined the mission to kick its dirty little ass.

Off the top of my head, I can think of about 20 people who I know personally, struggling with alcoholism and problem-drinking. A handful is in the closet, dealing with their spouse’s drinking, some are getting divorced, and the others live in their own private drinking hells. People have confided in me – it’s awesome and a little scary – but mostly it’s a kick in my ass to get louder. So many are miserable, but very few are talking about it. Shame is all around us. I hate shame. This silence feeds the stigma, which, in turn, enables denial. Maybe more of us would have turned our lives around sooner, had we known more about this shit and the real people going through it. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate like stigma does – it takes idiots and scholars, assholes and saints, wealthy and poor, good-looking and fugly, strong and weak, and everything in-between. We are no more flawed than anyone, we are not a disgrace. It’s addiction, not a plague. We, in recovery, are not victims, we are warriors. Sometimes we fall – we get right back up. We are brave and amazing sons of bitches. And we must help others get out of the dark.

Knowledge nugget: You don’t have to join AA or get anywhere near the 12 steps to recover. I am proof of that with 3,000 days, dude! This misconception is driven by AA, and has ultimately fed fear and stigma. There’s no right or wrong way to recover. Recovery is yours. You don’t have to have a plan – the only plan I’ve had is: don’t drink. You don’t have to claim powerlessness. You don’t have to be anonymous! You don’t have to go to meetings. I’ve done just fine without meetings and some would even argue that I’m better off. Support is essential, whatever that means for you. I started off with a few close family members’ support. My greatest source of support these days has been from social media. More about that later. For now, as I revel in the last hour of my 3,000th day in recovery, I leave you with this…To my friends in recovery – you are never alone and I’m so proud of you. I’m here if you need anything. To those who are struggling, afraid to reach out for help – you can find your strength, it’s there, and we can help you. To all the sorry sacks out there that support this stigma – suck it and stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Debunking the Dry Drunk

Somebody called me a “dry drunk” behind my back. That was over a year ago, but I’ve carried it with me ever since. It’s probably time to let this shit out because I’m getting pissed about still being pissed. I had to do some research, as I’d never heard of a dry drunk before. Turns out, I have a BIG problem with this label, so I want to raise awareness of its absurdity and potential for damage. It’s not helpful to anyone and needs to go away.

You can Google the shit out of “dry drunk” – it’s everywhere. It might seem like a simple term, but it’s riddled with bullshit. As I understand it, a dry drunk is someone who is abstaining from alcohol or drugs, but still hasn’t found inner-peace or happiness in life because they’re stuck in their old ways of thinking. The original term referred to a rare condition that can occur during the first few months of recovery — you stumble around like a sloppy drunk, even though you’re stone-cold sober. In reality, it’s an imaginary disease invented by A.A. and has evolved into a condescending slur, suggesting that the sober person is angry, resentful, and emotionally stagnant – surely on the verge of relapse. If you don’t do the twelve steps, you will likely suffer from this “condition”, according to many members of A.A. Legitimate recovery sites play into this fear and nonsense. They advise about “how to avoid dry drunk syndrome”, “signs you’re a dry drunk”, and “treatment for dry drunk syndrome”.

soberchrystal.comI take my sobriety seriously and no one is going to scoff at it on my watch.

Labeling someone in recovery as a “dry drunk” only feeds the stigma we are all trying so desperately to annihilate. It’s insulting and shameful, and sows the seeds of fear. Everyone judges; it’s human nature. But this is taking it too far. It’s a display of ignorance and makes my name-caller look like an evil piece of shit.

Hell yes, I call people names. But it’s usually contained within my vehicle, aimed at other drivers, and more than likely true. I never said I was perfect. If you’re on my ass, slowing down to merge, honking at a traffic light (wtf?!), not waving after I let you in, or performing a 10-point parking job at Costco, you’re a “dumb ass” (totally censored) and I would like you to eat shit. I get that I should probably tone it down, especially with kids in tow, but I consider my road rage a survival tool. This way my head doesn’t explode and we don’t have a parking lot derby on our hands. And let’s be real – there are a lot of stupid and rude people. You can't fix stupid. But, you can beat the shit out of it.When someone else’s lack of awareness slows me down, I release my fury in a Tourette-like fashion – quick, loud, and vulgar. After that, it’s out and I’m done. When assholes dare to speculate about MY sobriety, it simply isn’t overcome with an epic tongue lashing. We need change.

I am privileged to be part of an amazing, brave, remarkable community of recovering addicts. We must support and celebrate each other on all paths, whether we understand.

I’ve compiled the following list of “symptoms” that dry drunks tend to portray. NOTE: I’m over 8 years into my recovery and still experience most of this stuff regularly. I don’t believe we should focus on trying to avoid it; we need to live it and learn. It’s absurd to assume that any sort of combination of these “symptoms” will inevitably lead to relapse.

“Symptom” Logic
Old patterns remain. This shit takes time. And some things never change. Patterns are hard to break and recovery requires patience. This does not mean you are on the verge of relapse.
Struggling in sobriety. If you’re struggling, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing anything wrong. If it’s not a struggle, you’re probably a robot. I struggle often, which is the purpose of this blog and my Twitter account. For those in recovery there are endless resources, such as treatment centers, websites, books, and counselors – proving that everyone struggles in recovery.
Romancing the drink. This is when we remember all the good things about our drinking past. We push the pains we experienced as a result of our booze binges aside and daydreams dance through our heads like happily drunken rainbows and booze-soaked cotton candy. Who the hell doesn’t reminisce?! It’s totally normal to get caught up in these “enhanced” memories. They are moments that we all must work through and I don’t expect them to ever go away completely. Plus, I had some damn good times. I always get back around to embracing the reasons for and benefits of my sobriety.
Anxiety. If you don’t have anxiety about shit, how do you know if it’s important to you? I think anxiety is a necessary natural force that has alerted me of potential dangers, especially in early recovery. NOTE: There are a ton of alcoholics that have other shit going on, like other mental health issues they struggle with, as well as their addiction. Describing these people as dry drunks is stupid and makes me want to punch someone in the face.
Angry and resentful. Clearly, this is me. Often. Sometimes when my husband is drinking, talking about drinking or spending money on drinking, I want to chop his egg-shaped head off. Sure, anger and resentment blow, but they’re a work in progress and are stepping-stones. I’m not on the verge of relapse because I have domestic fits of rage. I may drive my husband to drink, but that’s a different story!
Jealousy. You can bet your sweet ass I’m jealous of the “normies”. It’s ugly, but it’s part of the deal. In some ways, I think jealousy has helped push me in the direction I want to move toward my own goals. In other ways, it makes me want to shove a half-drunken beer bottle up someone’s ass.
Being impatient or pursuing whims. I tend to exaggerate the importance and urgency of things to the point that I’m hostile. If I miss out on something because of someone else’s stupidity, it pisses me off. It’s not going to make me polish off a fifth of vodka, though. And I consider the ability to pursue a whim a beautiful thing.
Inability to make decisions. The only things I truly know are how I like my coffee and that I’m always hungry. I couldn’t decide on whether or not to comment further on this.
Detachment and self-absorption. These are survival skills! I think self-absorption is necessary while we’re relearning how to approach just about every single thought and feeling in our lives. Sobriety is an intense personal journey. I have to detach at times to keep my sanity.
Mood swings, trouble with expressing emotions, feeling unsatisfied. I’ve been a moody son of a bitch all my life – it is part of my charming personality. I have trouble expressing my emotions to others because I am socially retarded. And any time I feel unsatisfied, I see it as a kick in the ass to change something, no matter how long it takes me to realize. None of these are going to send me crawling into a liquor store.
Less participation in a 12-step program, or withdrawal from it completely. Suck it! Suck it right now!

We have the right to judge and say whatever we want, but I expect a healthy heart and mind in recovery to be a little more accepting and a little less spiteful. Maybe this name-calling is a coping mechanism because she (my name-caller) is scared to consider another path. The freedom of my 12-step-free journey requires self-awareness, self-empowerment, and accountability that she may not have the balls to explore. It’s natural to try to make sense of things that we don’t understand. She has been sober for over a year and still goes to two A.A. meetings per day. That shit boggles my damn mind. I’d be whacked to keep that up – my knuckles would probably glow in the dark! But I don’t know what it’s like to live in her world and I don’t need to understand. I am still proud as hell of her for staying sober all this time and support her journey moving forward. I expect more compassion and flexibility of my recovering peers. I expect more accountability.No one understands and that's ok

We all work really hard in sobriety. One more day sober is another amazing feat. We don’t know what anyone goes through every day. We don’t know how anyone feels. We don’t see the work people are doing on the inside. And we are not psychics or mind readers. Sometimes just staying sober is ok. It has to be – we’ve all been there. Recovery is likely the hardest thing we will ever have to live through. Can we please be a little gentler with each other and lose this label? There are lots of mysteries in recovery – focus on your own. If you don’t have something nice or supportive to say about someone else’s recovery, please keep your mouth shut. And maybe I’ll work on my road rage.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

8 Years Sober!

infinity

As of today, I’ve been sober for 8 years. That’s 2,922 days!

These yearly milestones have become increasingly exciting and significant to me, but number 8 is extra special. The symbolism and theme I’m going with here is my limitless potential and commitment to continuous personal growth. Yeah, that’s right. I’m motivated and it’s awesome. So, “what’s new this year?” you ask…

I’ve been practicing an attitude of gratitude. This frame of mind hasn’t come naturally to me, but it has begun to pay off. It IS possible to change our thoughts! It’s also exhausting. I’m not insinuating that I was a negative Nancy and an ungrateful Ursula, but it has taken an obscene amount of conscious effort to get this process kicked off and into a rhythm. gratitudeThis attitude of gratitude makes me more awake. It also slows me down and puts me into the moment more often. “One day at a time” no longer seems like a coping strategy – it’s a result of being grounded. Every day I am thankful for the love in my life and goals that I’ve reached. I’m making even more goals and feeling optimistic about them. That’s huge for me. I am so grateful for my life and for the people I hold dear. I’m aware of this abundance daily.

These great strides I’m making would all be squashed like road kill if I weren’t also focused on shutting up this bully that lives in my head. bullyThis is where my internal bullshit gets scary. I call it bullshit because it is self-inflicted and ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to admit that I pick myself apart all day long. I’m never good enough and these thoughts feel real. If some bitch walked up to me and told me that I was a loser, ugly, fat, hairy, a shitty dresser, a shitty mom, a shitty wife, a lame daughter, terrible at my job, or a worthless steaming pile of cow dung, I’d beat the shit out of her. I’d even throw in my signature drunk move and pull her hair while poking her eyes. I was proud of that move. Constantly judging me like this hurts. It hurts a lot. Realistically, I know how special and unique I am and that I’m a good person. So, why do I need to remind myself of it? Whatever the reasons, I’m locking it down. It feels so unnatural to be confident, but I’m practicing. And during these fleeting moments of confidence, I almost feel guilty. It’s weird and I don’t totally get it, but I will. This is the biggest and most important challenge of my life and I have no choice but to go for it. My kids WILL have self-esteem and they’ll learn how to nurture their own souls with my example. I don’t feel like a good person when I judge anyone else either, and I do it all the time, so that is changing. When I judge them, I judge me. Let’s stay real though; I’m not going to turn into a hippy, sport some rose-colored glasses, and try to love everyone. There are a lot of idiots out there. But I can appreciate how different we all are and learn from others’ stupidity.

So, the gist of it is, I’m feeling pretty raw. But I am happier, healthier, and empowered because of it. With 8 years of sobriety, I can confidently rely on my unclouded intuition and proudly declare that my relationships are whole. I have a lot more work to do and I’m going to be amazing. Today I make another choice to live sober and some days that’s all I need. Life is incredible.

For all of you out there who need a shoulder, an ear, a virtual hug, or a heart to tell you you’re worth it, here I am. If I’m worth it, you’re worth it. And we can do this together.

the wound is where light enters

Thanks for reading,
SoberChrystal

Anonymous Walls Crumblin’ Down – full disclosure in recovery

The other day, I was so thrilled to see an article about me and my husband in the Bleacher Report (GO SEAHAWKS!!!); I tweeted about my 15 minutes of fame from my anonymous Sober Chrystal account. Until then, I’d been so careful to make sure Sober Chrystal couldn’t be tied to the real me. Shedding my last name increased my chances of remaining anonymous to the public and lifted the weight of reality, just a bit, so I could pursue this social sober outlet via my blog and Twitter. I realize now that if anyone had given half of a shit, they could have easily figured out who I was (as if my half-faced profile pic is the epitome of anonymous). I’ve been a big, fat hypocrite. Is it such a bad thing if my cover’s blown, anyway? I’m about to find out.

No need to be anonymousNEWS FLASH: My sobriety is the best thing about me! So, let’s just be ALL out with it.

Anonymity

One of the biggest challenges going against all of us in sobriety is dealing with the social stigma. Nothing feeds that beast like anonymity. It’s part of my beef with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is the reason it’s so damn hard to connect with people in real life who are on a similar path. No matter the intention, anonymity is a concept that is self-defeating.

As alcoholics, we are part of a community that’s riddled in self-doubt. Being anonymous makes it easier to share our stories and to connect with others online, resulting in motivation and hope. But, what if there’s more to the healing than swapping confessions and inspiration from behind those walls? I certainly don’t have this thing “licked”, but I believe that connecting with others in recovery is what sets me free. I’ve had a number of readers tell me that I’ve inspired them to get and/or stay sober. How amazing is that?! It is the highest honor I could imagine and it has given me purpose, drive, and accountability to keep my shit together. My actions are my only true belongings, so if I can do my part to chisel away at this wall of stigma and increase awareness, I’m going to do it. Owning up to who I am is a good start. Done.

There is no halfway.Anonymous is half-assed

I live my life and portray myself as a “go big or go home” kind of gal. There really is no halfway. I don’t halfway get angry at idiot drivers that don’t know how to merge (speed UP, don’t slow down!) and I don’t halfway eat a double double animal style In-N-Out burger. Hell NO! No more hiding behind a social media identity. I’m not just Sober Chrystal. I’m not a half-faced half-ass. This is intense because I know people will judge me. I’m paranoid that if people know I’m in recovery, it may limit any future job opportunities or friendships. I’ve already been dinged by my life insurance underwriters because somewhere along the way I mentioned my self-diagnosed alcoholism and that I’d gotten sober to a doctor. This increased my premium. Yep. Things need to change.

I’ve always been a fan of simplicity. What you see is what you get and if you don’t like it, I suggest you quit looking. I’m on this journey to love and accept myself. Fear of rejection can suck it. I’m not morally corrupt or weak and I’m not ashamed of who I am. I should be just as loud and proud as someone who has beaten heart disease! Do you remember who you were before everyone else started telling you who you should be? Well, I’m getting there. I’m a badass, for one. 7 years of sobriety in a world that still celebrates binge drinking and frequently recites that hideous phrase, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”, is not for the faint of heart. It’s for badasses. I’m Chrystal Comley. I’m Sober Chrystal. I’m a sober badass. Hear me roar!

Self-love

Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month per the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) . In an effort to increase awareness, I’m finally getting my ass in gear with this blog!

InstantAssholeI’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, piss-poor decision-making, relationship dysfunction, liver disease, and some types of cancer. I’d like to think that alcoholics aren’t discriminated against, but that’s not always the case – even within families. Clearly, the risks of drinking too much aren’t enough to deter a lot of us. Life’s short, so party on, right?! It’s five o’clock somewhere (I LOATHE this saying!). Do you know someone who might have a problem? Do you consider yourself a “partier”? It’s time to take a look at what’s “normal” in our society. It’s time to learn. It’s time to talk.

DID YOU KNOW?

The following figures are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 79,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use.
  • Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.
  • Up to 40% of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption.

BRING IT ON

DrowningThis April during Alcohol Awareness Month, I urge you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much. My intention is to blog all month about whatever needs to be said. I have a specific ask of my readers – please send me your questions, curiosities, or concerns. Maybe we can learn a few things together. Maybe we can help somebody.

Please post a comment or send me an email – soberchrystal@gmail.com.

If I don’t get any feedback, I’ll be forced to bitch and moan about my pet peeves and annoying daily dramas, so please spare us all!

If you’re looking for more information on alcoholism, visit my favorite site dedicated to recovery, where they offer a ton of information, tools, and resources: http://treatmentandrecoverysystems.com/.

Recovery Runs in My Family

familyinrecovery

How many people can say that recovery runs in their family? Better yet, how many people can say it and be proud of it? I can! Let me introduce the three of us who are keeping it real every damn day: Me, my dad and my brother. We have a bond that is quite unique.

No matter how long we’ve each been sober, we make conscious decisions to not drink EVERY DAY. And just as many others in recovery have learned, it doesn’t get any easier, we just get a little bit better. What helps me be better is the connection I have with my dad and bro. I used to think I was a badass when I was wasted, but nothing compares to how powerful and awesome I feel having these two on my side and in my little “club.” Recovery posse up!

Today we celebrate my dad’s second year in recovery! Two years of sobriety is his longest stretch in over 40 years! That’s pretty amazing. I’ve never been more proud to be his daughter.

As I reflect upon my family in recovery, today especially, I bask in that powerful light that we’ve created together – healing ourselves, healing our family, and making our moments real. One day at a time, one panic attack at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time – we rock!

Happy SOBER New Year

Happy 2014!

My wish for all of my friends out there is for more peaceful and joyful moments in 2014. Only in sobriety can we genuinely experience these moments. Be proud of YOU and remember that with each sober breath you take, you are giving yourself the most precious gift.

An added bonus: remembering last night and starting the new year without a hangover!!!

My intentions are to judge less, look at the positive, take more deep breaths, trust my gut and STAY SOBER! Yeah baby!

Cheers to you with my grape raspberry spritzer!

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SEVEN YEARS OF SOBRIETY!

Seven Years – Still Sober!

7 years sober

Today I bask in the shock, awe and glory of having lived SEVEN years in sobriety. SEVEN??? Yes, I said SEVEN!!!

I don’t have much time (Newborn alert! Shit kid, give me a friggin minute!!!), but I will say this – I’m damn proud of myself for continuing to learn, heal, inspire and nurture the girl in me that deserves universal love. I will go forward with renewed dedication and focus, always aware that I’m just a drink away from losing it all. Shitty perspective, but it’s the truth and I feel even more powerful with every day that I chose not to have that drink.

Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me. I’ve never been more convinced that I really CAN do ANYTHING.

I can do anything

Passing it on – will I have alcoholic children?

My biggest fear in life is that my kids will become alcoholics. This potential strikes me to the core and nags at me constantly. I recall a “talk” my dad had with me and my brother one day in the backyard – I was in high school. He was crying, telling us how he didn’t want us to end up like him. It was a pretty intense moment that left a huge gouge on my heart. I remember thinking how bad I felt for him, that he was so worried, but was impervious to his degree of fear. I was pretty damn sure we could handle ourselves and weren’t going to follow in his footsteps.

I can now relate to him in a fierce way and it scares the hell out of me. I’m desperate to control this outcome, however I realize I have NO CONTROL over much of anything in this world – except for one thing for sure – my sobriety. What I must focus on is staying sober, and then positively influencing my kids without being a freak about it. I have to somehow let go of this paralyzing fear and change gears. Having a plan certainly won’t erode my fears, but maybe it’ll decrease some of my anxiety about it all and better prepare us as parents for the road ahead. How depressing is it that I have to do this? It’s also infuriating, but a reality I just have to accept.

Alcoholic Genes

Are my kids destined to become alcoholics? Not necessarily, but their genetic risk is increased considerably, according to research. I have some close friends and family who have somehow managed to break that chain, even though it’s “in their blood” and has been a part of their lives since childhood. Research hasn’t given us solid answers, but alcoholism “experts” are agreeing that genes are responsible for about half of the potential alcoholic equation*. So, as I understand it, genes influence how a person metabolizes alcohol, as well as their temperament – which can make them more vulnerable toward alcoholism. How one’s brain reacts to alcohol and their personality traits aren’t really things we can change, anyway. Alcoholism has been known to run in families and children of alcoholics could very well be genetically pre-disposed, more vulnerable. BUT all of this genetic talk is about RISK, not impending doom. (I must repeat this over and over and over…)

Environment

In my opinion, at least half of the RISK equation of addiction exists because of poor coping skills and learned behavior – and is where I can make a difference as a parent.

Role Models

My alcoholic family

Typical family gathering at my Grandma’s house

Kids subconsciously model their parents’ and adults’ behavior. If their parents or close adults are frequent drinkers/partiers, they learn to model that lifestyle. Simple as that. It’s what they know. My parents and their family and friends were always drinking at every occasion, so it was the norm to me.

My little brother sampling some red beer...

My little brother sampling some red beer…

I got to taste my dad’s beer a lot when I was little. I really liked it. Some say that the age alcoholics get exposed to booze is a cause. I don’t know if that’s true, but either way I am uncomfortable with my kids tasting it at this point. My son has no business trying Daddy’s beer at 2 ½ (the other kid is a bun in the oven). When I’m faced with that possibility, the alcohol takes on even more of a personality and taunts me like a poison. I don’t know what age would seem right to let them try a sip. I certainly don’t want to forbid it forever, that doesn’t seem like a healthy approach. Plus, if I take my emotion out of it, realistically a taste won’t kill them. But that’s impossible to take the emotion away when my relationship with alcohol has altered my world in such a way. Obviously my husband and I need to further discuss this and figure out our approach, since he does have a few beers or a glass of wine regularly at home. Currently, it’s off limits to the kid and my husband completely supports my wishes. See – I’m already protecting my children with a different environment to grow up in…

The relationship between my mom and dad growing up was not always loving and harmonious. At times our home life presented us with underlying tension, anger and sadness – you can bet we picked up on it. Don’t get me wrong, we were pretty happy kids – it wasn’t THAT bad and we knew our parents loved us to the moon and back. But for many years my dad hid his alcohol, which was even worse because we all knew about it, but didn’t say anything – the shit that goes on with an alcoholic isn’t easily hidden – it’s like a silent scream. I know I’ll screw my kids up in some way, but I rest easier at night knowing they won’t be at greater risk for emotional and coping problems because I am no longer a “practicing” alcoholic. Our home environment is positive, supportive and nurturing (most of the time, we ARE real people!). Self-esteem, self-reliance, communication and trust are what we practice. We are providing a secure and stable home where our kids will hopefully be more selective about the choices they make and who they invite into their lives as they grow. They will know that their opinions and decisions matter to us all.

Everybody Else

At some point, all kids get exposed to drinking – as pre-teens or even earlier. If not at home, they’ll see it in commercials, movies, Web sites, phone apps, Facebook (half the shit on there is about partying) and hear about it in songs and at school, etc. – social media and entertainment are clearly targeting young people and doing a great job at it. So, how does one figure what’s real and what isn‘t – especially a kid? Is everyone really doing it? In elementary school, I somehow was under the impression that D.A.R.E wasn’t “cool” – WTF? This is where parenting steps in with consistent, positive, open communication. I don’t want to bad mouth alcohol, but I do want my kids to know their risks and to grow up knowing that what you see isn’t always what you get or what you should want.

PLEASE NOTE: I want to make it clear that my parents did the best with what they knew back then and I am grateful every day for my mom and dad. I don’t carry resentment toward either one of them for a damn thing – I have learned from some of their mistakes and will surely make my own.

The Hype

Is drinking fun? Hell yeah, it is! Why do you think so many people do it? Alcohol is amazing – it’s so easy to instantly bond with people, like you’re part of a cool club. It helps you relax and it takes you to a silly, warm place where inhibitions are low and the fun factor is high. What I wouldn’t give for a day of mental shut-down, sitting in a lawn chair in a river with the heat of the sun, a case of ice-cold beer and a bottle of my grandpa’s home-made “apple pie” (Everclear – like liquid apple pie – dangerous and oh, so delish). I get why it’s such a focal point, but I think that needs to change a bit – somehow. Along with the fun alcohol brings, there’s an even bigger dark side. The darkest of which is alcoholism, the number one drug problem in America with more than 20 million alcoholics**. It’s a HUGE issue in our society. We need more awareness and education out there so we can change the stigma and shame associated with it and be better able to recognize whether we are on that path – to make changes before things get a lot worse.

Bitter…party of one…

Whenever I hear people reminiscing together about their drunken moments or hangovers from hell, I become enraged inside. It no longer entertains or makes me laugh. There’s nothing funny about passing out on a germ-infested, pube-ridden bathroom floor after you’ve heaved for hours. There’s nothing funny about getting goofy, slurring, saying stupid shit or falling down in public, nor do I want to hear people brag about blacking out. Also, those Facebook and Instagram pictures showing friends taking shots, playing their 100th game of beer pong and getting shit-faced in general are really getting old – get over it and get back to freaking life, you idiots. I’m justified to feel that way now because I was one of them – my goal sometimes would actually be to blackout – and I thought I was cool because of it! My, how I’ve grown – still bitter, but I’ve grown. The general population of America is ignorant about the dangers of alcohol and alcoholism. I think a lot of it is because recovering alcoholics aren’t living out loud. By living out loud, I’m not necessarily telling people they can’t be “anonymous,” I’m just meaning to highlight that anyone can reach out, connect, learn, get sober and/or be effective on any level. And that’s my mission. I’m not claiming to know everything, but I’m dedicated to challenging the stigma, increasing awareness, and as always, connecting with people so I don’t feel so isolated all the time.

american-flag-drunkAmerican society

This country’s legislation approaches alcohol with fear, and the most destructive law in my opinion, seems to be the age requirement of 21. A man can defend and potentially die for his country, but we’ll go right ahead and arrest him for an MIP?! Woo! ‘merica! Something isn’t quite matching up there. Forbidding it isn’t the answer. I don’t know anyone that drinks, who didn’t drink before they turned 21. In fact, most of them drank well before I did around 13 or so! Yet, the 21-run is a major coming-of-age celebration. I remember the beginning of my 21-run…I spilled a shot on the table and sucked it up with a straw. Made it to 21 drinks, too. Only 3 were beers. That shit just isn’t necessary – where did we get the idea that it is? I know so many “problem drinkers” who are likely on alcoholism’s path and all I can do is watch. I think. They are as I was, programmed to believe that they don’t have a problem because they still have their jobs, family, friends – life is “normal.” Plus, everybody else is doing the same thing. This is where awareness about early stages of alcoholism needs to happen. And realistically, every person has the chance to become an alcoholic.

My husband insists that our kids partake in his “English heritage” and go to a pub for dinner, where they can have a beer when they’re 16 or so if they want. English pubs do feel completely different from American bars – families with kids and the general attitude give it a much more relaxed vibe. We went to the Matador (in America) the other night for some decent food and a beer for my husband, but they wouldn’t let our toddler in because technically the entire place was a bar. I don’t get it. Are we not trusted? Maybe we should pass a few more laws to control our people since they obviously can’t make decisions for themselves. Anyway, I get where my husband is coming from. I’m more concerned about my kids seeing either of our families drinking in excess and celebrating it – but I think we’ll be ok. I don’t think his family really “focusses” on drinking when they let loose, nor does mine (although I’ve had to decrease my exposure to much of my extended family to make that a possibility). We just can’t escape that societal push toward drinking to have fun. And it’s a myth that starting younger encourages moderation with alcohol. That said, a young person in a pub is exposed to that comfortable type of environment with a positive and healthy approach, I suppose. I’m curious about the “place” I’ll be in by the time that opportunity rolls around.

make better mistakes tomorrowMy Plan

My plan is to continuously communicate with my husband and come up with some rules for early childhood that we both feel comfortable with. We can graze over the pre-teen and teen years, but who knows how much that will change within the next 10-15 years within society, as well as research. The point is that we are both on the same page and focused on being better parents every day.

In the future I do intend to connect with my children’s friends and their friends’ parents and decide who I “trust,” never allow them to go to an unsupervised home or party and get them involved in extracurricular stuff – sports/music/whatever they want to do. It’s amazingly fulfilling being a parent, but it’s hard and I can bet it won’t get any easier.

I guess for now I’m ok. This cloud still follows me around, but I’ve got some great tools, a fab husband and a bright future in store for all of us. Day by day we shall go.

Thanks for your support, friends. I’m grateful to have this outlet and your ears.

* http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders/genetics-alcohol-use-disorders

** http://alcoholism.about.com/od/problem/a/blnih040802.htm (from 2004…I’m betting the # is much higher, as there are so many in denial)

Sober Again in Margaritaville – managing summertime sobriety

beachSummertime and sobriety may never sound like a glamorous combo to me. It’s always been my favorite time of the year. Ever since I’ve been sober though, it has become a season of pure torture for me. The days are long, the air is warm and more time is spent outdoors. It’s full of vacations, beaches, poolside action, boating trips, parties, and barbeques – these things present a series of triggers, making day-to-day happenings quite excruciating. I’m not trying to sound like a victim here – just being real.

Romancing the drink

I continuously slip into remembering the “good old drinking days,” especially when I watch others enjoying drinks or even feel the heat of the sun on my shoulders. People call it “romancing the drink,” and coupled with the “romance” of summer, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a hot mess of intense cravings and powerful self-sabotaging mind games.

I wonder if I will always miss those warm, carefree days where I could go wine tasting or sample new summer ales at a brewery – emerging with that powerful glow that rivaled the sun. Those day-long binges where I passed out in the sun and woke up with a raging headache, cotton mouth and sunburn – just in time to start over for the evening. Will I always long for an ice-cold beer or a smoky grapey glass of wine when I get home from a long day at work? Will a pitcher of sangria or a mojito always sound more refreshing to me than a glass of pure, mountain spring water? What about that warm feeling in my belly after a shot, the fuzzy brain, ease of social situations, instant courage and supreme relaxation?

Watch out

Who was I really hurting anyway? I had good jobs, paid my bills, took care of my responsibilities and spent time with my family and friends – and thoughts like these are what bring even more danger into my world. The negative aspects resulting from my past drinking start to slip away and seem more and more insignificant. Besides, my life and circumstances are different this time, right? I’m stronger and wiser now. Why is it so easy for us alcoholics to believe in our own bullshit?! Our twisted little brains get crafty on us and if we’re not on top of it at all times, relapse is just one thought away…Feelings

I’ve accepted the fact that I will never stop thinking like an addict. I’ll always have to deal with this. It’s exhausting going to war with myself everyday. When I start to ponder why I’m still doing this, I have to remember the pain I’ve caused the people I love – and more importantly the shit I put myself through. It has gotten a little easier with time, though. These thoughts still occur, just a bit less often and with less intensity. Although as I write this, it doesn’t feel any less intense, so maybe I just lied to myself. We’ll call it willful thinking.

Booze is here to stay

Alcohol is so out in the open, it’s difficult to avoid. There is seldom any event, private or public, that doesn’t offer alcohol. An alcoholic like me could manage to make anything into a booze-fest, though. Living sober in the real world means, at least for me, regularly coming into contact with alcohol and people who drink it. Some of these people need to hop right on that wagon with me, but it’s the others that piss me off even more – the ones that can get a nice buzz on if they want to and they still don’t have a problem. Freaks. When I start to feel bitter and left out, I also remind myself that I’ve completely changed my life and I’ve broken up with alcohol on my terms. It works, for the most part, but the frequency of this self-talk is almost mind-numbing.

feetBe where your feet are

Of course, I’m a grown up and I’m allowed to do whatever the hell I want, right? Damn right. But here’s the thing: authentic Chrystal made this terrifying and earth-shattering choice for me. To get sober. And then to stay sober. If I’m true and honest to myself, I must support what I know deep-down is the best for me. Getting out of my head is a near impossible feat, but I actively shut that manipulative boozer in me up. I love myself and I love my life more than any drink – it isn’t worth it. The idea of having limits of where I can and can’t go is kind of anti the point of being sober. The idea is to have a bigger, fuller life. That’s what it’s all about, really. Living sober is a very special process. A process that you can easily let yourself get tired of, or one that can lift you higher than any beverage could.

just breatheSo I go everywhere – armed with wisdom and love. I feel the ground beneath me, take a deep breath, look up at the summer sky and am grateful for this reality. I’m sober and that’s absolutely amazing. I don’t want to go back. I want to keep making myself proud and prove to the world that I am incredible. My head is clear (clearer, anyway), my priorities are straight, my choices are clean and time is on my side – it’s right now.

We are not alone

Millions of people are in recovery and they are going through similar experiences, I know they must be. When we are feeling weak or frustrated, we have to reach out. Whatever works, we need to do it. Writing works for me, sort of. A pill would be most convenient, though. I’ve decided that the best thing for me this summer is to plan. I have an exit plan in mind for just about every situation and I’m not going to push myself. Staying hydrated and well-rested are also top priorities, as a tired and thirsty Chrystal doesn’t always think straight, plus she’s not very pleasant. Sometimes I just need to go to that vulnerable and tender place, where I recognize just how strong I have been every day, let go, wrap myself up in ME and take a nap.

The things that make me me

As I enjoy this summertime with my friends and family, this psychotic mental circle will surely spin on. But to this moment I’ve always come out on top and I intend on continuing this trend. I’m strong. I’m real. I’m unique. I’m absolutely amazing! I’m also grateful to have a voice and be heard – it’s what I depend on these days. I will continue on this messed-up, excruciating, wonderful journey and I will live another day sober. Thank you for reading, friends.