6 tips for staying sober during social distancing

Staying sober amid social distancing and uncertainty

Big Foot, the social distancing world champ!The world is CLOSED. We live in the age of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic now. It’s a shocking, scary, annoying, sketchy, and fucked up roller coaster, to say the least. The open-ended-ness of it is what’s getting to me most right now. If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone. This situation won’t last forever and may be hell to climb out of, but for the time being, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with all this stress, uncertainty, and the ever-growing temptation to “check out.”

What gives me the audacity to offer advice? Free speech, I suppose. I don’t know shit but writing about how I want to stay healthy and not relapse helps. It’s giving me something to do, anyway. At the very least, reading this blog entry will fill the next 5 minutes of your quarantine. You’re welcome.

Before I go any further, my heart and good vibes go out to all the business owners, people in the service industry, people in situations and hardships I’m not even aware of, and so on. The challenges many of you face are scary, ever evolving, and totally fucked. To the nurses, first responders, hospital workers, and Costco (+ grocery/pharmacy) crew, you’re working your asses off and it’s amazing, thank you. No matter who you are or what you do, times are tough. All I know is that I want to feel “normal” and that’s where alcohol used to come into play. Now, more than ever, is the time to stay sober.

1. Limit news and social media

The news breeds anxiety. It always has. There are countless dickheads out there with misinformation, intending to feed the fear and chaos. Most of it is just noise – they need to have a headline. It’s hard to decipher everyone’s opinion and determine what’s the best source of truth. Perhaps limit checking the news to once a day. Don’t read or watch things that aren’t making you feel better. I rely on my husband to let me know the most important stuff.

I’ve un-followed most of my Facebook friends and rarely look at my feed these days. Why? Because it’s too much meaningless information. Chronically negative and stupid people make my head hurt. Facebook, etc. offers a distorted version of reality and superficial nonsense and distracts us from the moment. You can also mute or unfollow anything that triggers you – like posts about animal abuse and disturbing shit like that. I just can’t handle it, can’t process it, and frankly I don’t want to know. Knowledge isn’t always power for me.

If I’m a being a totally naive Sensitive Sally or whatever, I don’t give a shit. I’ve made some boundaries to protect my heart and mind, so I can get out of bed in the morning. Only you know what you can and can’t handle and no one else is going to do it for you.

2. Get social support

Maintaining social support amid social distancing is a matter of survival for people like us. Finding peeps in situations like ours is super easy online, where you have access to the millions of people who are engaged in or seeking recovery. I’m talking online meetings, addiction/recovery discussion forums, sobriety apps, YouTube channels, podcasts, and so much more. Go here for more recovery resources.

I went to my first online meeting this week at In The Rooms. I quickly discovered that I’m not at all alone! There were 250 people in the “room,” who all wanted the same thing: to feel connected. It was powerful and I’m grateful this option exists at any hour of the day! If you’re like me and not an AA fan, you’ll have to wade through some of the bullshit, but what’s new? Take what you want from it, there’s always something.

For those peeps who’ve been considering going dry, could this be your time??? Who knows?! Try an online meeting. You can be totally anonymous and have absolutely nothing to lose. And hey, it’s something you can control!

3. Keep moving and eat well

It’s so easy to slip into couch potato mode. But, eating salty, sugary, fatty processed foods and only getting up to take a piss is a recipe for a mental health disaster. Don’t eat like shit. You’ll feel like shit.

Keep moving or you’ll feel like an even bigger shit. Everyone knows that exercising can boost your mood, reduce anxiety, lower stress levels, improve your immune system, and so much more. This is a time like no other – an opportunity to invest in yourself with very little effort. You don’t need to enter a fitness contest or take before and after photos, just use your body, nourish it, and carry on.

4. Don’t do it all

Should you really be optimizing this “new” time to get hundreds of things done on your never-ending list? I’m down for a shift in perspective or reevaluation or priorities, but I’m talking about the mindset of our classic American hustle culture, where every second of our lives must be aimed toward profit and self-improvement. More work and needless productivity isn’t the answer. This is a time to find a little ease and peace where we can in this chaotic world. Our culture doesn’t really see self-care as productive, but we should. The world is slowing down to a halt and it’s ok to not be productive and to leave the guilt behind.

No need to write a book, reorganize your closet, paint the bathroom, or bury yourself in mindless busy work. Just chill. Even the most stressed out mother fuckers can find 10 minutes in their day to do something nice for themselves, like just sit and breathe. It could make the difference in your world. Just breathe.

Having said that, if you’re inspired to get some small projects done or get rid of some stuff, go for it. The health benefits from decluttering have become increasingly recognized. Clutter steals your joy and the best things in life aren’t things after all. Except for paper towels and toilet paper, apparently. I’ve been sluggishly working my way through a drawer here and there and I feel a little lighter.

5. Practice gratitude

If you have a hard time feeling grateful and recognizing the positive shit, it’s all about practice. Funny how it doesn’t seem to come naturally, at first (Why is gratitude so hard for some people?). Write in a journal. It sunk in for me a few years ago with lots of practice and focus and has significantly changed my instinctive outlook. I’m grateful to have lots of room for improvement, though. See what I did there? 😉

6. Make yourself laugh

The benefits of laughter go way beyond entertainment. Laughing boosts endorphins, decreases pain, boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, fights disease, clears your head, helps with depression and memory loss, reduces inflammation and anxiety, and more. It sounds so trite, but laughter really is the best medicine. So, let’s get to it!

Check out Laughter Yoga on YouTube, if you haven’t. It’s hella silly, but a total gas! I’ve only just discovered it and can’t wait to do it with my kids.

You can find countless funny videos on YouTube. My favorites are of people slipping on ice, people falling, old people falling (yes, I LOL every time), funny animals and pets, laughing babies, and TV news bloopers, but the sky’s the limit. Ask your friends and family what makes them laugh and get on it!

So, what are your plans tonight? I’ll be hitting the living room couch around 8pm or so. If you’re doing the same, check out some of my favorite mindless funny movies, which can also supply you with endless one-liners:

  • Tommy Boy
  • Happy Gilmore
  • Liar Liar
  • We’re the Millers
  • What Women Want
  • DodgeBall
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Bridesmaids
  • Meet the Fockers

And my 5 minutes are up! Back to social distancing and quarantine-style life. Sending love, hugs, and non-drinking vibes your way! Stay strong, you’re worth it!

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Go here for more recovery resources.

 

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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

 

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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

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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

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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

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