Before I got sober, I was VERY unkind to myself, and probably not that great to others either. For 15 years, I poisoned my body with drugs, pills, and alcohol. I was proud when my doctor told me that his tests showed I had liver damage- at age 21.
I would black out all the time, and have horrible anxiety, headaches, and heartburn from crappy vodka and cocaine. I would get waif-like thin after not eating for two days while high, then chow down on an entire pizza while suffering a massive hangover. I was also completely self-centered and not thinking about anyone else. I would flake on people, gossip, and create drama.
After hitting rock bottom, I decided to go to rehab in September 2009. I knew it was time to learn to be kind to myself, but it was not going to be easy. In the first few years of sobriety, I had to get used to being truly present with myself 24/7. I was tired and slept a lot in the beginning, but eventually I found ways to cope and create a fulfilling life for myself as a mother, award-winning journalist, and sober female.
Recognize Stress & Get Physical
I turned to exercise (without getting crazy about it) as a form of stress control. Over the years, I have learned to realize when stress is coming on. Instead of turning to a substance, I replace that with fitness like yoga, or I take a long power walk on the beach. It always resets my mood and makes me feel better. I also work out with my physical trainer Bob 2-3 times a week. He is a longtime friend, so our hour doubles as a therapy session, when needed.
I eventually became a better daughter, friend, employee, wife, and after my divorce, a better girlfriend. I did it by showing up for the people in my life again. I followed through on my commitments, and to my surprise, even planned gift giving ahead of time. Before, I was always forgetting birthdays, flaking out on events that I rsvp’d to, and was not that great at keeping in touch. I was the definition of “loose lips sink ships”. Now, I am a trustworthy person that people confide in. I try to always keep my side of the street clean.
Five years into my sobriety, I discovered meditation. It changed my life. I have been doing it almost daily for the past three years. It is truly a total game changer. Meditation has made me more compassionate and patient to deal with any frustrating scenario that pops up. I go to group classes at Unplug Meditation Studio, practice at home, or at work in between shows (In a small dressing room)! I believe we could all get along in this world if everyone learned how to meditate. My favorite mantra is “breathe in love and kindness, breathe out anger and resentment”.
Don’t Be So Tough On Yourself
I now know nothing will get better by taking a mind altering substance, so sometimes I have to carbo-load and go to sleep after a stressful situation, and say to myself “Oh well- this is still the healthier option for staying sober.” I also have to make a conscious effort to not get carried away with my negative thoughts. I remind myself they are not real, and I try to imagine them as if they’re being acted out on screen in a movie and I’m just a viewer. I look at it this way- We are a mountain and our thoughts are just weather patterns swirling around us. When stuff gets tough, I think “This too shall pass.”
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
I also am more aware these days of not spreading myself too thin when it comes to my schedule. I cannot say yes to every invite. Instead, I’ll say “let me get back to you.” If I’ve got too much to do, I just focus on where I am at that moment. What is the most important thing that needs to be done. Pre-rehab, I was very lazy, disorganized, and scatterbrained. Now I have so much to do, and thanks to meditation, the day feels longer and I am able to manage and accomplish tasks more efficiently.
Booking vacations and taking mini breaks from my busy career truly helps me unplug. I have taken quick trips to Iceland, South Korea, Japan, Hungary, Italy, Columbia, Mexico, and up next- Portugal. I make them quick, like three to four days. Every time I go away, I feel even more grateful for my job. If you are not working hard, how can you appreciate the time off as much? I love traveling sober too, because I am 100 percent present to take in our world’s beauty and remember it!
About Courtney Friel
Courtney Friel is a news anchor and reporter at KTLA in Los Angeles, CA. She joined the station in 2013 after reporting for six years at Fox News Channel. Before that, she worked at Fox 11 in LA, CBS in Palm Springs, and ABC in Jackson, TN. Her other TV stints included hosting the “World Poker Tour” and as a corresponded for E! News, “America’s Most Wanted”, and Court TV’s “Saturday Night Solution. Courtney enjoys living a healthy sober lifestyle with her two kids Cash and Cameron.