About SoberChrystal

Sobriety is exhausting…

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

 

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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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.

 

SoberChrystal – Top @Mentioned on Twitter! #sobriety

It’s been a while since I’ve made any noise – I’ve been a bit out of the recovery loop (don’t worry, I’m still dry as dust). BUT apparently, because of the amazing people who support me and my blog, I’ve still had my voice! So, slap my ass and call me Sally!

I was playing around with this free tool called Twitter Analytics. You can discover trends and insights through Twitter, while Excel does all the work. I decided to plug-in #sobriety and look at what I found! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that I, SoberChrystal, am the top @mentioned (#Sobriety) on Twitter this week!

SoberChrystal - Top Mentioned May 14 - 21, 2013

SoberChrystal – Top Mentioned #Sobriety May 14 – 21, 2013

And you know who has mentioned me the most? Recovery SI, my favorite group of peeps who have supported me from the very beginning of my blogging recovery journey!

RecoverySI Mentions SoberChrystal the most!

RecoverySI Mentions SoberChrystal the most!

I can’t describe how awesome I feel, especially since my last blog post was over 3 months ago. I’ll tell you what, I’m damn inspired now, so you can expect some more from me in the very near future. This truly makes me feel like I’ve made at least a small difference in the world of sobriety and I’m fired up!

To all my people out there who read my words, struggle and learn along with me and who have reached out and supported me – thank you. My voice is sober and strong. This is hard work – every damn day. I’m amazed at myself and anyone else who stays sober for another day. Keep it up. I would like to be there for you – to lend an ear, a shoulder, an opinion or just to connect – please contact me by replying to this blog or by e-mailing me at soberchrystal@gmail.com.

A quick random thought to leave you with – I’ve always been under the impression that it’s BAD to burn a bridge. Not always. It’s embarrassing to say, but lately I’ve practiced having my very own thoughts and challenged what I think I’ve known all these years because of outside influences. Screw those people and situations that suck – there are things I never want to go back to. And so I repeat this to myself:

“May the bridges I burn light the way…”

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

Rock bottom – it’s just a story

rock_bottomDoes an alcoholic have to hit rock bottom to get sober? The answer is no. Is it true that alcoholism doesn’t stay in one place? Why yes, yes it is. It doesn’t hit a certain stage and then level off. Gradually things progress and get worse, in the course of many years for some of us. The general consensus from our loved ones seems – if we haven’t “seen the light” or continue to relapse, then we simply haven’t “hit rock bottom” yet.

Put the shovel down, people, not every alcoholic has a rock bottom to hit – a place where we finally admit that our lives have become unmanageable, where things could not get any worse. News flash: every situation could always be worse. And the worst possible scenario I can think of is being dead. THAT’S rock bottom. The dramatics of this misconception were surely conjured-up by an alcoholic. Only people like us feel the need to embrace our painted pictures of utter despair and destruction – a “woe is me” predicament for the self-tortured and tormented.

An excuseDrunk-passed-out-dude

This rock bottom ideal of the stereotypical alcoholic lying in a pool of their own shit and vomit – jobless, loveless, and damn-near lifeless – is exactly what allows most of us to justify our continued drinking. Because we haven’t yet reached that negative ideal. Your neighbor down the street might miss work here and there, have raging hangovers on the weekends and start fights with his wife when he’s wasted, but he’s not THAT bad. He’s not experiencing the level of pain he’s been programmed to watch out for. I remember knowing I had a drinking problem, but relying on the excuse that I wasn’t that bad, so I didn’t yet need to quit. I’m sure that’s why none of my friends or family were too concerned either, because I was just a crazy party girl who had a lot of fun and didn’t get into too much trouble.

boozer girlNot every story of recovery has to be a juicy one. We all have different levels of tolerance for pain in our lives. Alcoholism wraps its hideous grip around every race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, and financial status. You wouldn’t notice the majority of them if you saw them at the grocery store or in the classroom teaching your kids. While it’s true that many of our major life decisions are prompted by some amount of discomfort before we decide to change, there’s no rule that they have to get worse before they can get better. There is no magical moment we are destined for, as alcoholics.

Get real

drunk-passed-out-spooning-the-toiletStop comparing yourselves to others and just get real. Do you have a problem? I didn’t make the decision on my own, I was waiting for an ultimatum. I got one. Not everyone is lucky enough to receive an ultimatum or an intervention. It blows me away when I hear of people deciding on their own to get sober. My brother did it. I want to learn from these people. Their stories and achievements are no less impressive or important, in fact, they fascinate and inspire me.

What now?

I look back and wonder if I would have ever gotten there on my own, without an ultimatum. I had that picture in my head of what rock bottom looked like and I certainly wasn’t anywhere near it. So, how do we help each other to truly appreciate our own worth and realize how important today’s decisions really are? Maybe if there wasn’t that stigma forcing shame on us. Maybe if our society wasn’t so focussed on alcohol, it’d be easier to let go of it. It seems like alcohol is engrained in all of our lives with movies, tv shows, commercials, magazines, holidays, red-blooded American football, celebrations, events, non-events – it’s everywhere. Granted, I’m speaking from my perspective, but come on. I’m not far off . Where does it start to seem worth it to completely alter our lives and alienate ourselves from the norm? I don’t know. I do know this: the people who love us have a lot of power – they need to educate themselves, stop enabling us by helping us avoid our falls and nutt up and intervene. It’s not a solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. And this is what I propose. When an alcoholic can’t get out of their own way, our loved ones have a very powerful resource at their fingertips.

No matter what your story is, if you are sober, you’re absolutely amazing. To my friends out there who are still drinking and need to quit (whether you know it, or not) – I wish I could help you. I wish I could tell your friends and family that it’s not “mean” to do an intervention; in fact, it’s the ultimate act of love. I wish I could beat it into you (that’s my unresolved anger talking) that you can change now. Life is so short. Just don’t drink. Sound simple? It can be. How we get there is still the mystery. Getting sober isn’t easy and it’s not pleasant, but it’s worth it. But then, it’s the living sober is part that isn’t so simple.

Resources:

From my friends at Recovery Systems Institute:

 

Awkward moment – PEER PRESSURE and its impact on me…

peerpressureI have been sitting on this awkward moment of peer pressure for two months now, having to continuously brush it off. Apparently, I need to write about it. So here it goes.

The scene:

It was a picture-perfect holiday gathering of friends. A gorgeous home on the lake, with a crackling fire and glowing x-mas tree. You could hear laughter from all corners, as we stuffed our bellies with warm, homemade lasagna and watched the children play with exciting toys they had never seen before. A few of the sticky-fingered rascals were repeatedly sneaking colorfully frosted sugar cookies from the table, devouring them one by one. One of the little bastards was licking just about every item and then putting it back on the table for unsuspecting fools to enjoy. Vowing to avoid the gooey bounty and stick with my water, my husband and I were sitting at the table, enjoying the night.

Before:

I will admit that although this was a party thrown by a close friend, I was still a little nervous to confront the whole “alcohol thing” once again. Shit, you would think I was a newbie. At six years sober, I would expect it to be a little easier. I’m not sure that ever completely goes away, though. I was also nervous to talk to some of her friends because I can never remember who I know from where, what their names are or what “memories” we might share. I used to see most of them when I was drunk, I think. Nevertheless, that is a challenge I continuously have to deal with in many situations.

My anxiety was on the mid-scale this evening, which I considered to be definitely doable. I was excited to see my friends, so I rose to the challenge.

The moment:

My friend’s husband was the catalyst for the awkwardness. And it went something like this…

Friend: “Hey, Chrystal, do you want some champagne?”

Me: “No. Thanks.”

Wtf?! Did he forget that I am sober? Awkward…oh well.

Friend: “I’ve got lots of champagne here.”

Me: “No, really, I’m good. Thanks.”

Is he for real? Ahhhhh….he must be drunk. That explains it. I think.

My husband:(intervening) “She’s good.”

Friend: “Oh, come on. I can get you a different drink. What do you like?”

My husband: “No, she’s fine. Thanks.”

Am I seriously being peer pressured right now? I’m officially offended. How does he not remember? I’m defined by my sobriety! Heart rate elevating…

Friend: “I can make a blah, blah, blah, we have this and that… Have a drink.”

Damage control. Need damage control. Fight or flight initiating in one…two…

My husband: “No, she’s fine.” (Trying to change the subject somehow…)

Friend: “You sure you don’t want some champagne?”

OK. I need to get the F#@k out of here.

My husband: “How many hints do I have to give you, man? (With a light-hearted chuckle) She’s not drinking.”

He dropped it and carried on his merry way. And the night continued on without a hitch.

After:

That moment seemed like an eternity to me. The way I felt inside, I would assume would compare to how a kid in highschool would feel to be pressured to do drugs with the cool kids. I can’t totally relate here, because I would just do the drugs and didn’t really care, but the amount of humility I felt is what I’m trying to identify with here. My words had completely failed me. Why didn’t I joke with him, “No thanks, you don’t have enough” or say, “No dude, I’m a recovering alcoholic.”? Why did I feel so awkward and where were my words?? I had so much going on inside, I failed at simple communication. Why did I freeze? Wtf?!

My friend did nothing wrong. He was drunk, but he wasn’t belligerent. A little dense, but that comes with drinking booze. Trust me, I know. I’m 35 years old, so I’m quite capable of acting like a responsible, confident adult. Why did I feel like crawling into a hole?

I’m confused by the way I’ve reacted because most of the time I cannot wait to tell or remind people of the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic. I’m so damn proud of myself. And I love opening doors, increasing awareness and finding others like me. Apparently, there are other times when I act like a timid, insecure schoolgirl. None of my resulting internal turmoil has had anything to do with my friend, who was mortified and apologetic as hell, by the way. But, my resounding question is, what the hell happened to me?

What now?:

I guess I thought I had it all figured out. I guess I thought I had rehearsed enough responses to potential scenarios. Apparently, I was wrong.

Is this a simple thing, or totally complex? Why am I such a freak? Am I that insecure? Is it my social anxiety? Why did I feel so harassed and offended? Why couldn’t I just take it in stride? Why has this been bothering me so much?

The answer:

I don’t have a clue. And I don’t know where to look. My bewilderment has not subsided, as I had hoped would result from writing this.

My request:

I need your help.

First of all, don’t tell me I should see a counselor, I’m done interviewing and exhausting myself with them – I have the skills and resources to find my own way at this point. I think. Second, don’t tell me to go to AA. I have zero patience for listening to people going on and on about how their higher power saved them…where was it when they were half dead, slowly killing themselves and their relationships? I’m not meaning to totally bash “believers,” but I need to relate to rational people who are accountable to themselves and to society.

So here I am, reaching out, simply asking for someone to tell me they can relate to my experience and that I’m not completely off my rocker.

Thanks for listening, friends.

A simple complement and how it has touched me…

Mark Twain nailed it when he said, “I can live for two months on a good complement.”

I’d like to share a quick message an old drinking pal sent to me recently. Here is what this thoughtful and amazing individual told me:

“I’ve never said as much, but this felt like the time. Watching your strength in choosing sobriety inspired me to confront my own alcoholism 3 years ago. It’s probably a bit ironic that my bar friends should be the ones to help me up onto the wagon, but there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Your latest blog post just reminded me that I’ve never really thanked you for that.”

HOLY SHIT. It probably took him 2 minutes to write that message and I’ve been speechless for almost a month. Even now I’m finding it difficult to put into words just how big of an effect this has had on my daily life.

In sobriety there seems to be so much self-doubt, self-loathing, pain and fear – especially when you’re new to it or contemplating it. To even consider that I’ve in some small way been an inspiration toward someone’s life-altering choice to get sober seems preposterous. Let this be proof that kind and thoughtful words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

We're all in this togetherBecause of his words I continue to feel validated, appreciated, needed, loved and inspired. I’m proud of myself. I’m so proud of my friend. And I’m proud of all of us in recovery. I’m proud of the people who’ve dealt with our drunk asses. I’m proud of the ones who’ve supported and grown with us along the way. This is some seriously powerful shit – all because someone took the time to tell me they were thankful. Thankful for ME!

So, there are two main messages I want to send here:

  1. Be true to yourself and work hard at what you want in life – I guarantee someone is paying attention.
  2. Express your gratitude – no matter how big or small. Tell someone how they’ve inspired or helped you or how they’ve made your day just a little brighter. It’s human nature to feel the need to be appreciated. And it feels amazing. AMAZING.

We’re all in this thing together – let’s be grateful for each other.

– SoberChrystal

‘Tis the season to get shit-faced – staying sober through the holidays

‘Tis the season to get shit-faced! The holidays – between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in the US – can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for those of us who are trying to maintain sobriety. It can be a time of happiness and celebration, a time of pain and desperation or a little bit of both – all of which are equally good reasons to get drunk. This is also a time where drinking is not only more accepted, it almost seems to be expected. It’s hardly surprising that so many people indulge in seasonal binge-drinking. Throw us sober folks into the mix and it’s a perfect storm.

The good stuff

This time of year makes me feel warm and fuzzy for so many reasons – the warmth I feel from within, the twinkling lights that surround me, the gratefulness I feel toward the people who touch my heart and the giving-ness I feel toward complete strangers – that’s powerful stuff! Every time I hear the song, O holy night, I get serious goose bumps and a feeling I can’t quite explain – and I’m a “non-believer!” My point is, for many reasons this season tends to make the world around us seem a bit brighter, warmer, more magical, giving, and hopeful.

The other stuff

For many of us, this isn’t necessarily a happy-go-lucky time of year. It’s a time to reflect on our lives and what’s missing from them – lost loves, lost money, lost dreams.

If you’re anything like me though, you may tend to get depressed no matter how wonderful life may be. I do believe that you can’t truly know one extreme without the other; stars can’t shine without the darkness. I’ve been low. I’ve experienced devastating losses. I’ve been lonely, scared, dark and broken. I’m grateful for those experiences now because I’d never known joy could be so peaceful, passionate, warm, uplifting and all-encompassing. Having said that, often when I’m in those moments of joy, I’m suddenly reminded of the people I’ve lost, with whom I’d love to share those moments. The awareness of those losses is the ickiest part for me.

Also at the tip of our minds may be money, or lack thereof – this is the time of giving. There’s so much pressure on us to buy shit, it’s ridiculous.

It’s easy to lose hope without a supportive family and/or environment. A bad attitude will bring you down, too. Isolation is a common theme for many of us sober folks and this time of year it seems to have a magnetic effect. I am so happy to report that MY ENTIRE FAMILY IS SOBER! How awesome is that?! (My husband and mom don’t count, as they can have just one or two drinks and call it a day – non-alcoholic freaks!) I feel such a tight bond with my dad and my brother, especially this year. Even my sister-in-law is sober! We are not only family, but it feels like we are part of an elite club. A club so many won’t ever understand and that so many could only imagine having the balls to join. If you’re in our club, you know what I mean and you should be damn proud of yourself.

Just don’t do it

Succumb to these seasonal feelings of darkness – isolation, pressure, loss – and you’re lurking in the danger zone. But would the world really end if you had just one? Sometimes I entertain the idea of having just one White Russian to honor my grandma’s memory. She too, was a boozer after all. And we sure do have good memories from our drinking days, don’t we? That general feeling of togetherness is what I miss the most. But we must remember where it ultimately led us – one drink and we’d be there, only worse this time. It’d be the end of life as we know it. At least that’s how I see it.

Please consider the following advice to help keep your hard-earned sobriety intact throughout the remainder of this season:

  1. Focus on your health. Get enough sleep, eat well and relax.
  2. Remember, you’re not alone. Don’t isolate yourself with the hopes of staying sober – loneliness is a HUGE trigger. Reach out if you need the help. If you’re worried about your pride or looking like a pussy, it’s too late – you’re already an alcoholic, so just get over it. Must. Stay. Sober.
  3. Let the pressure go. Do what you can and want to do. Set aside an evening to shop online instead of venturing out into the madness; Amazon rocks. Leave the cookie making to someone else this year. Don’t make that grueling 5 hour drive just to see people you’d rather see on Skype. Making others happy is certainly one thing, but when you’re compromising your own happiness, it’s just not worth it. Do something different. Or don’t do anything at all. Just let it go and do your own thing this year.
  4. Keep your distance from any annoying relatives, if you can. If you can’t, just be grateful there’s no chance you’ll get wasted and try to beat their face in or tell them how you really feel. Don’t let their idiocy ruin your cool, sober vibe.
  5. Plan ahead. Don’t get into those situations that you can avoid, but if you have to go to an office party, for instance, have an escape route. Or go late and leave early, no one notices or cares how long you’re there.
  6. Make it count. If you’re like me, a bit of an anxious introvert, and you’re feeling nervous or awkward about attending an event, just don’t go. It’s better to be sober and at home, than to be uncomfortable, on-edge and potentially tempted. Only you can protect your sobriety.
  7. Remember – No one cares if you’re drinking or not. If they DO care, they’re obviously retarded and you can feel free to junk punch them. Screw what people think about you – you get to decide who matters.
  8. Believe – It’s not what’s in the glass that’s important; it’s what’s in your heart.
  9. Realize – Taking one drink is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. It will cost you everything, my friend.
  10. Remind yourself and be very proud of just how far you’ve come. Your sobriety is everything! You are worth it.

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. 2013 and its abundance of opportunities and challenges is quickly approaching!

A special note to my friends who DO drink, please Please PLEASE remember the following:

  • Plan ahead – designate a sober driver THAT YOU CAN TRUST
  • Buzzed driving is drunk driving and you know I’m right, so just nutt up and leave your stupid car while you take a cab home. Choose inconvenience over jail or death. You started it anyway, by either being unprepared or by being a lush, you jackass.
  • Don’t EVER tell me how proud of me you are when you’ve been drinking…it makes me want to poke your eyes out and dropkick your head…just had to throw that one out there…

Dangerously Close to Relapse

Last week it presented itself. That moment you look back on and think, “What the hell just happened? How could I let myself even THINK of going down that road? Who AM I?” It was the closest I’ve ever been to relapse. But I’m still sober.

The Moment

It seems surreal to me as I replay the scenario backward and forward in my head. I wasn’t in any particular mood and I hadn’t had a bad day. I have been living a joyful structured life with a fairly simple routine. I was getting ready for dinner on a work night at home with my husband, kid and two dogs. As I poured a glass of wine for my husband I had a light-bulb-moment – “Wait a tick, I think I could handle a glass of wine,” said my suddenly inspired and disillusioned mind. I was so very hopeful and optimistic that this revelation could work; I actually started trying to convince my husband of it OUTLOUD! I had freaking butterflies of nervousness and excitement as I tried to exploit his perceived ignorance, to get him to buy-in. Did I truly believe I could do it in that moment? Well, I had a heaping bag of hope that I could “handle” it, so it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?

“You know you would regret it,” is all he had to say. BAM! Reality quickly took hold and there I was; my bubble burst and ego bruised. Having experienced and exposed such an irrational and crazy train of thoughts made me feel so foolish and unsteady – oddly, like I hadn’t been the one in the driver’s seat for those fleeting moments.

I’ve since realized that ridiculous and scary moment is now just a story. It’s SO last week! It has absolutely no power over me, as long as I don’t let it. I’m still shaking my head in shock and bewilderment however, so in the interest of transparency and further understanding I write this blog today.

What I Think I Know

We recovering alcoholics most certainly are not doomed; we have the power to make healthy choices for ourselves. I do think it’s important to be aware of the forces we’re up against however, so we can proactively arm ourselves for any future episodes that may slap us in the face.

Stress

Science has taught us that stress is a common trigger for relapse. I thought I had managed my “bad” stress well, until I wrote down a list of a few of my current stressors. Duh! I think managing stress is somewhat of an illusion, anyway. Life will always be stressful. I don’t care who you are, attempting to achieve balance 100% of the time is almost impossible and unrealistic if you ask me. Stress isn’t all bad; it helps us to meet goals and alerts us of when it’s necessary to make changes in our lives. Relaxation is just another tool we can throw into our ammunition belts! We’re never “too busy”, it’s all about priorities. Put this at the top of your list. Just slow down and breathe.

The Brain

Science also tells us that alcoholism is not a psychological disorder, a spiritual illness, weak will or character defect. Even though it affects seemingly all areas of your life, it is a brain disease. Over time, continuous use has changed my brain structure and function. Essentially, alcohol will always be on the “good list” inside of the “rewards center” in my brain; it has saved a permanent spot for my dear friend, Alcohol. I can do the hard work to reprioritize and fill this rewards center with healthy, rewarding acts and things, but as far as science has proven, the memory of the pleasurable effects of alcohol is engrained in my brain and will attempt to trick me. No matter how intelligent I think I am, or how life-or-death the decision to drink is for me, I’m always going to have to work against this tricky shit. I dumbed this down to the point that I’ve amazed myself; if you’d like to know more about the alcoholic brain you should look it up. There’s fascinating information out there and they’re learning more and more every day.

Keep Moving Forward

Don’t assume you’re ever “safe,” no matter how focused you are. It’s also one thing STAYING sober, but only through personal growth, will you be successful in LIVING sober. You want to LIVE, don’t you? Be loving. Be patient. Be tough. Be you. Be kind. Be thankful. There is always something to be thankful for. Happiness is living every moment with love and gratitude; it cannot be traveled to, owned, worn, consumed or earned. It just is. Be prepared to protect your happiness and sobriety. Keep moving forward, be in this moment and take it one day at a time. Living sober is just living.

Grow Up

In order to be all we can be we need to join the army. Just kidding, we need to start by growing up a bit. Most of us alcoholics feel some degree of shame – it’s damn near unavoidable – especially in our society where there is still so much stigma attached to alcoholism. We can’t control what anyone thinks about a given situation and we’re not ever going to be aware of the half of it, so we just have to let it go; not learn to let it go, just let the shit go. Life is too precious to let such an icky emotion fester when the shame affects nothing but our own beating hearts. In addition to the shame we often torture ourselves with are a number of psychological immaturities we must recognize and work through. Most of us started drinking in our teens or early twenties, when the frontal lobes of our brains were still maturing – responsible for our reasoning and problem solving capabilities. This is a huge one, people…I don’t know that many people realize this. Be accountable and apply the principles of logic to given situations.

Self-talk

If I had a friend who spoke to me the way that I speak to myself, I would have said, “good bye forever, you evil bitch” in an instant. I may have even pulled her hair out and poked her eyeballs a few times, but that’s just the angry drunk in me. It’s really ridiculous how vicious I am to my self when I consider how truly amazing I am. It has been a lot of work, but very rewarding as I am learning to recognize the bullshit things I say to myself about my worth on a damn near moment to moment basis, replacing every destructive thought or emotion with an opposing, positive one that’s more powerful. Start listening to your thoughts.

If you take a few steps back and dissect your reactions to things, they’ll most likely come back to a few key “truths” we subconsciously tell ourselves. My resonating theme seems to be that I’m not good enough. It breaks my heart to admit this to the world, but I have to to work it out. It can be a moment as simple as catching someone’s eye at the grocery store. I instantly get irritated. What’s behind the irritation is insecurity – I assume they are thinking that I look tired, or my hair is freakishly long, or I’m just plain ugly; I’m not good enough. Once I walk through this in my head I replace the thought with, “I AM good enough. I am beautiful in my way,” or whatever makes sense for the instance. I don’t believe it a lot of the time, but practice makes perfect, right? It’s really disappointing when my husband has to tell me how immature I’m being sometimes. Not everything is about me, but I sure do react that way more often than I’d like to. The person I made eye contact with could have thought about a joke they heard, wondering what to make for dinner, or trying to decide whether they should fart or go to the bathroom. No matter what, feeling defensive is certainly in my control. I’ve learned to recognize that when I’m defensive or angry, it’s usually because I’m being irrational. Slow down and walk through it, however exhausting it is! This will also help me to think before I speak, which is SO important – Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true? Will it hurt anyone? I sometimes try to accept that I’m one of those people who just sticks their foot in their mouth on a regular basis, but it doesn’t have to be that way. My self-talk controls the way I feel and act.

Attitude

A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t get very far until you change it. My mom used to always say, “Bite yourself and get it over with.” If you’re feeling icky, just suck it up and stop. Realize the positive in every situation, everything and every person. The power of your thoughts can open any door.

Be You

With all the social conditioning out there, it’s easy to forget that this is MY life and I don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. I will never fully believe in myself if I compare myself to everyone else. Instead, I’ll compare myself to who I was yesterday.

It may be easier for most recovering alcoholics to NOT be around alcohol, have it in the house or pour it for someone, but avoiding it like the plague won’t work for me. This “all or nothing” girl now has shades of gray! Woo hoo! There’s no rule book when it comes to recovery and my decisions are just that, mine. I want to function on my own in the society we live in now, without trying to change anyone or anything. I’m certainly strong enough to do so. You may think I’m silly for wanting to be able to pour someone’s drink, but I don’t really give a shit what you think. How do you like them apples?! I’m excited to report that my husband has recently come to understand that all I really wanted was for him to acknowledge how inappropriate it was to assume I’d be okay to serve alcohol. Now that he’s validated my feelings, I feel respected and better understood and free to make my own decisions about it. Now it doesn’t feel like a compromise to pour him a glass of wine. To be clear, I AM still hot or cold about putting my hands on an alcoholic beverage at any given moment – one moment I can’t stand being near it and the next I’m enjoying a good sniff. It’s the respect and understanding I now have that gives me this freedom to choose, though. Naturally, my hubby thinks I’ve lost my marbles, but I don’t care! I reserve the right to be bat-shit crazy; I think I’ve earned it.

Remember that no matter how much progress you make, some people will insist that whatever you’re trying to do is impossible – and these people are a waste of your time. Do what you want to do because other peoples’ boundaries are not your own. No matter how much work I put into this on a daily basis, nor how proud I am that I’m different, there may always be a part of me that comes from deep inside that just wants to fit in and be “normal.” I think that’s a human instinct, but I believe that the more I accept me for me this urge will dwindle. The more proud I become of my choices, the less others’ opinions about them will matter. Don’t ever judge yourself through someone else’s eyes.

Be Nice

I’ve always been under the impression, if you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you, but that’s kind of lame; there have been a few times lately that people have come off a little rude to me, but I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and have actually responded MATURELY by STILL being nice. I do believe I helped to turn their days around because of it! Smile at people. Say hello to strangers, ask how they are doing. Listen, help, be courteous, be humble and be sincere. Forget about the mean people, it doesn’t matter why they’re mean, they have a long way to go and they’ll only bring you down.

Be Present

For me, being present means letting the past and future be. Some forces are simply out of our control but our attitude is what affects our overall potential. Anticipating or stressing over something that could happen is such a waste of the present. My scenario driven anxiety sets me back on a regular basis still, but when I concentrate, stop, breathe and let go, it’s really a powerful and uplifting feeling.

I’m not proud of many things I’ve said and done, but that’s okay. The past can’t be erased or changed; only my attitude about it can be. I am not my mistakes and I have learned from them all. I might eventually apologize to a few people, but for the rest of it all, I’m now banking on the past is never where I left it, so move on!

Be Prepared

It all comes down to being prepared. No matter where you are on your journey always be ready for the unexpected. I wasn’t ready to ever be in the place where I’d consider taking another drink, because I thought I was better than that. I’ve considered myself pretty savvy having saved a collection of inspiring quotes in my phone, but in the midst of that impulse was I really going to have the gumption to go searching for some positive affirmations? Negative, Ghost rider. To be prepared, we must be proactive. I might be special, but I’m not invincible or superior on any level. I’m just as susceptible to relapse as anyone else out there. I can’t tell you how huge of a revelation this has been for me. Relapse can happen to anyone. Anyone.

Aside from the growing up I have to do, I have determined that to be better prepared for something like this in the future, I must carry something meaningful to me on my person, at all times; something that supports and celebrates my sobriety. A symbol representing my life, why I want to be here, where I want to be and the struggles I’ve overcome will “hold the power” for me. I have an AA coin in mind – I endured an AA meeting just so I could get my 9 month coin. I will make it into a necklace or bracelet. A tattoo would be easier, but that’s not my style – would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?! 😉 Now that I’ve determined how I will best be prepared for a future slap in the face like this, I’m not afraid, like I was a few days ago. I strongly suggest having something like this for all of my friends who are in recovery out there, if you don’t already. This challenge will likely always exist for us – carry a physical reminder with you everywhere.

Everyone is Susceptible to Relapse

It used to just blow me away that my dad would relapse, especially after going through treatment and basically having everything to lose. Now I get it. This is monumental, people. I wasn’t even going down a slippery slope; I was high on the mountaintop, enjoying the view when this unexpectedness occurred. I was lucky to have my husband right there as my voice of reason, but what if I had been alone? Now I get it.

It’s not about weakness. It’s not about willpower. It’s not about focus. It’s not about support. It’s not about intelligence. It’s not about love. It’s about YOU having the right tools to help you make the right decisions. It’s about taking care of you, being a good person and continuously growing. It’s about having that physical reminder handy to ward off those demons! The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. Be prepared and be amazing.