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.
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. This 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 thisbully that lives in my head. This 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 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.
NEWS FLASH:My sobriety is the best thing about me! So, let’s just be ALL out with it.
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.
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!
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.
Summertime 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?
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…
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.
Be 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.
So 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.
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.