We first met Christy after reading her post, My Grace is Gone (A Climb Out of Alcoholism). The sheer honesty and emotional intensity of the piece resonated with us — so much so — we not only bumped it to Freshly Pressed, we included it in our year-end Editors’ Picks — a collection of our favorite, most powerful posts from 2013. Christy sat down with us to tell us how she got started at Running on Sober, what blogging has meant to her in recovery, and a little about some new blogging projects she recently started.
Tell us the story of how you started your blog, runningonsober.com.
One of my best friends actually pissed me off, that’s how. It’s actually kind of funny. See, I had my last alcoholic drink in May 2011, just two months after my mom died. (No, that’s not the funny part.) But I had all this time on my hands, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I did what many newly-sober people do — I threw myself into other activities: jelly bean eating, running, and blog reading.
My friend is pretty patient with me, but eventually she said, “I want you to strive to be less and less like her over time. And more and more like yourself.” –Christy
Most of the blogs I was reading were about getting sober and about running — and my favorite blog was the perfect trifecta: a blog about a newly sober woman and her “act of returning to normal.” She wrote about the ups and downs of early sobriety, about the mountains of sugar our bodies crave, and about training for a half marathon. It was like she was in my head. I would email her blog posts to my friend and say, “I can relate, as usual!” Or, “This sounds exactly like me!”
My friend is pretty patient with me, but eventually she said, “I want you to strive to be less and less like her over time. And more and more like yourself.”
What my friend so wisely saw was that I needed to learn how to define myself, for myself. I needed to learn who I was — not to identify with or emulate somebody else. I was enough. I just had to find me again. After years of drinking and loss and grief, I had lost myself.
I was scared, and a little angry. But she was right, and I knew it. Less than a month later, and scared out of my mind, I published my first blog post.
How did you come up for the name of your blog, Running on Sober?
Much of that first month I contemplated a blog name. I was not blog-savvy. All I knew was what I was reading — a handful of running and sobriety blogs. So I thought…running…sobriety…sober…running…sober. And then the light bulb went on. I’m a music lover and a Jackson Browne fan, and one of my favorite songs is Running on Empty. But I’m not empty, I thought, I’m just sober. And not only did I have a name, I had a tagline too, and didn’t even know it at the time. Most of my friends and readers either call me Christy or RoS, though there are times I wish I would have named my blog Blitzed and Mixed Female so that I could be called BAMF. Hmmmm… maybe my next blogging project!
How (if at all) has blogging about alcoholism and recovery helped you along?
I haven’t had a drink since I began blogging. So while blogging is not the sole reason I have remained sober, it is no doubt one of the biggest reasons. Like many people first getting sober or clean, I battled with anxiety, being honest with others, feeling like no one else can possibly understand me, and issues of shame and anger and regret.
As I blogged and met other bloggers with similar backgrounds, I started feeling more comfortable sharing with others. Especially in the comment sections, because you can have a relaxed dialogue and get to know your fellow bloggers. So I began opening up and learned I wasn’t as unique as I’d believed. We all shared so many things in common.
I found if I was having a bad day, it helped to write about it — totally out of character for me, because I was not a complainer — and people just listened. They didn’t tell me what to do, they didn’t try to fix me, they just let me vent, and I found that so liberating! Now I vent and rant with the best of them… which is great, because I’m not keeping it in, and I’m not letting it poison my personal relationships or my health. I’m sure my husband is very grateful too!
Blogging plays a huge role in my sobriety, and is looped in with all the other tools in my sobriety toolbox; I like to say that sugar — lots of sugar — and recovery meetings helped me get sober, but that blogging, running, honesty, and not drinking are all current tools that help me stay sober. Okay, and sugar. Lots of sugar. We all have to pick our battles.
How have readers responded to your writing?
Bloggers can feel needlessly isolated — all you have to do is say, “Hi, I like you.” And nine times out of ten, you have formed an instant connection. –Christy
Can I just go on the record here and say that the WordPress community freaking rocks? Seriously, they do. From the very first day I hit that first publish button I have had nothing but positive reactions. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I am not shy. I’ll talk to anyone. If someone visits my blog and leaves a comment, I’m going to say thank you in some way, usually via a direct response and often a visit. If I read an interesting post or visit a fun blog, I’m going to say “Hey, I like your style, thank you for this post — do you like Fritos?”
What, (if anything) has surprised you about the responses you’ve received?
One of the surprising reactions I’ve received is how open non-recovery (or “normal”) bloggers are to my personal stories. I’ve made many friends outside of the so-called sober blogs, and they have been some of my strongest supporters. I’m far from an addiction specialist or expert, so I don’t know the latest statistics, but I feel pretty confident saying that addiction touches more lives than not. Either via personal experience with substance abuse or even food, gambling, shopping, exercise, dieting, sex, smart phones…you name it, most of us are addicted to something. And if we’re not addicted, chances are someone in our family or close friends is, or chances are we grew up with it in our homes.
I wrote about losing my mom while I was struggling to quit drinking. My Grace is Gone (a Climb Out of Alcoholism) is hands-down the most brutal piece of writing I’ve done to date. I don’t know where the words came from. I sat down to write a post on running, and out poured my deepest regret and shame like someone had turned a fire hydrant on full blast inside of me. It was time. Apparently, the story was ready to be told.
People get it, they know conquering your demons is tough — even if they don’t always understand the complexities involved — they know it’s not easy. I’ve heard from so many people that have lost family members to their addictions. Someone told me, “I wish my brother had known about your blog. I wish he knew there was support out there. Maybe it would have made the difference. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt that suicide was his only way out.” Man… that knocked the breath out of me. And one of my loyal readers found me by chance when she was looking to better understand her daughter’s addiction struggles and wanted to support her daughter, because she was proud of her. That took my breath away too, because I lost my mom to cancer before she could see me thrive in sobriety, and one of my biggest hopes is that she is somewhere where she can see me and be proud of me.
I’m not sure I was ready to tell it, but sometimes you just have to jump. I was physically ill afterward and I cried non-stop for nearly a week, but I knew I had recorded something special. I knew this was the rickety fraying rope bridge I had to maneuver before I could move forward in my healing. I don’t know if you’re ever ready for that, but I also didn’t want to stay stuck in that pain and grief either. At least writing about it, I was owning it. I was shining a light on the darkest corner of my skeleton closet and telling those demons, “you don’t control me anymore.”
And a funny thing happened, once I took the power away from that shame and darkness, it slipped away on its own. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. And it happened with the love and support of the blogging community. I am forever grateful to WordPress for supporting me as I strive to reclaim my lost grace, and I am grateful for the chance to help others along the way.
This support and validation has encouraged me to put my face out there in my post This Face of Alcoholism and to pursue writing as a craft, just for the sheer joy of writing and storytelling. You’ve given me confidence to spread my wings, to get out of my comfort zone, to be “brave” (my theme word for 2014), and as my friend encouraged almost two years ago, to act more and more like myself. And to join Twitter (@Christys_Words) — finally! (Yeah, sorry about the frigid temperatures, that’s just hell freezing over.)
Which blogs in the recovery community do you feel a particular connection with, and why?
There are so many wonderful recovery bloggers out there — and just like all bloggers, recovery bloggers all have their own styles and voices too. The key is finding a few that click with you and complement your goals and personality. I’m still one of the old-fashioned bloggers with a blogroll; I find them to be extremely popular with recovery blogs, because when you’re thinking about getting sober, you don’t always know who to turn to. That’s why I keep my blogrolls and my resources page — so people can find the help they need.
I was lucky to meet a kindred spirit within the first month I began blogging: Kristen from ByeByeBeer. I don’t have a sister, but if I could choose one, it would be Kristen. I had only been blogging for two weeks when she found me, and we clicked instantly. We both share a love for running and sugar, we have about the same length of sobriety (just over 2.5 years), we both enjoy picking on Journey (the band and the word), we both fell madly in love with Darwin the Sherpa-coated IKEA monkey and immediately began plotting how we could extradite Darwin to the States. Plus Kristen inspires me to be a better writer.
Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Very early on, I also connected with Lisa from Sober Identity for her pragmatic and cognitive approach to sobriety, and also for her love of running and cookies. I owe so much to Michele of Mished-Up for helping me process the grief of losing my mom, for helping me call bullshit on my inner voice who, still, wants to hold me back from recovery and retreat to isolation.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning fellow blogger El Guapo from Guapola who has embraced many of us from the recovery circles. He is a strong advocate of Mental Health issues, and his musical library far exceeds even mine! Plus, Guapola is where I first went public with a personal photograph — granted it was from twenty years ago and I was wearing a prom dress and channeling Madonna, which now that I think about it, was a pretty damn gutsy thing to do. Or crazy. But I’m going to stick with gutsy.
You’ve recently started two new blogs. What inspired you to take your writing in a new direction?
I was the kid always highlighting passages in my books and tape recording songs from the radio so I could sit and transcribe the lyrics into a notebook. Instead of catching butterflies, I was catching words. –Christy
Words for the Weekend (or just Words as we often call it), actually started as a lark soon after I began blogging. Like most readers and writers, I love words, I love the feelings words can inspire, I love how a timely quote or poem can comfort or motivate, but mostly I love finding the undercurrent that connects those feelings — those words — and I love recording those words for later inspiration.
I began sharing some of these collections over the weekend on my blog, because things seemed a little slower-paced, a little more quiet and reflective, and I wanted a place to share the words I had captured, initially for myself, but then others starting sharing and commenting, until eventually Words became a regular weekend feature with a life and readership of its own. Each weekend it matured and came more into its own, and I knew eventually it was going to need its own apartment, but I also knew it needed and deserved more attention than I could devote solely, so I waited and I kept that idea on the back burner.
At the same time, I was getting to know a fellow blogger, a talented writer and one of the best WordPress poets I’ve discovered, C.K. Hope (Jennie) of Daisies From Dust. I began sharing her poems in various volumes of Words, and in doing so, learned she too was a kindred word lover and collector.
We collaborate so well, we decided to take on an even bigger challenge — daily words. We launched a new WordPress site on January 1, a single daily Words selection, and the response has been very receptive and positive.
The new year also brings new blogging goals and plans for Running On Sober. Running, music, sobriety… it’s all continuing. But I’m also planning to share more of my creative writing and poetry, I’ve already joined in some of The Daily Post‘s Prompts and Writing Challenges and hope to encourage more to join me.
A few members of Christy’s local “community.” She has a cat, two dogs, three donkeys, and nine cows.
I also plan to open the doors up to new voices and perspectives. With Jennie, I plan to host a monthly “addiction in the family” feature, and with my friend Michelle Terry of MamaMickTerry, I hope to host a monthly “brave” feature. In both features, I’d like to invite others to share their stories of bravery or addiction from a family stand-point.
I chose the word Brave for my 2014 theme word to inspire me to act even if I was afraid, and to share even if I was scared. I was a little scared to do this piece, but brave is being scared and doing it anyway.
My goal this year is to let my words be anything but empty. And maybe a bit more concise. WordPress.com will help me accomplish that. I’m excited, 2014 is going to be a great year! Let’s get running.
Thank you, Christy!
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