People who are trying to stay sober don’t stay sober. It’s not all doom and gloom. Sobriety can also be fun. You’ve chosen to be sober because you want to be a better and happier person. Look at the bright side of things, learn new hobbies, and connect with healthier people. These are all the things sober lifestyle coach Courtney Andersen does with her clients. Courtney is a lifestyle coach and the host of her podcast, Sober Vibes. Join your host, Tim Westbrook as he talks to Courtney Andersen about having fun in sobriety. Learn how Courtney transformed herself, from alcoholic to life coach. Listen to what she does to enjoy life being sober. Also, learn why safe sober sex is key to all good relationships.
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Having Fun In Sobriety! With Courtney Andersen
We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction treatment, mental illness and recovery in general. There’s so much more to recovery than going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist and twelve-step meetings. All of those things are important and AA saved my life. However, to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous and free, there’s a lot more to it than stopping the drinking, drugs, sex addiction or any addictive behavior for that matter. To live a new life, a person needs to develop new healthy lifestyle habits and figure out how to have fun while in sobriety and recovery. Typically, this includes new eating habits, exercise habits, sleeping habits, hobbies and interests. Those are some of the things that we’re going to talk about on the show with Courtney. New friends, self-care becomes a priority, healthy boundaries and the list goes on and on.
I’m here with Courtney Andersen. She is a Sober Coach, Podcast Host and the Founder of National Sober Day and Sober Vibes. Sober Vibes is an online support community for recovery and sober-curious women of all ages. We’re going to talk about Courtney’s journey, getting sober at 29 years old, how to have sober sex, fun in sobriety and avoid relapse. If you’re not sober, never been sober and all you know is drinking and drugging, you have no clue what life is going to be like on the other side of it. Courtney, it’s so good to have you. Welcome to the show.
Thanks, Tim. I’m excited to be here.
I’ve heard about you and seen your show. I know that your community is focused more towards women, which we’re going to talk about your community as well. Sober sex is a topic in and of itself because I’m sure you, myself and lots of other people out there are like, “How am I going to have sex?” Sex pretty much 100% of the time included drugs and/or alcohol.
Especially if that’s all you were used to and didn’t know how to have sex sober because it goes into intimacy, that is a hard thing to have when you’ve never had those boundaries within yourself.
Let’s get into it. Courtney, tell me about your younger years. When did you start drinking and drugging? What happened?
I started my love affair with alcohol at nineteen. Alcohol was always my drug of choice, even though it led me down the road of loving cocaine at one point in time and then eventually trying crack, but it was alcohol that always led me to the choices I’ve made. I live out in the suburbs of Detroit. To go to Windsor, Canada, the drinking age over in Canada is nineteen years old. We used to go over to Windsor. I remember that first time we went over there, I was nineteen. I’ve fallen in love with the atmosphere and the bar scene. I loved the way that alcohol made me feel.
Prior to that, before I was nineteen, I drank a couple of times. It wasn’t something that I loved because alcoholism and mental health issues have run in my family. I always said, “I would never turn into one of those.” I fell in love with alcohol. It progressed into something dark by the age of 24 and 25, where I knew I was going to have to get sober one day. At 29 years old, I had the millionth rock-bottom. Rock-bottom looks and feels different for everybody. For me, at this point, I had already woken up in jail and hospitals plenty of times and in men’s beds who I had no idea what their first name was, but I could tell you what bar I met them at. I lost opportunities, car repossession but I was still functioning. I know it sounds silly to say but people don’t understand that. I was still functioning, keeping a job, paying some of the bills that I paid and kept a roof over my head. That is functioning when you’re able to still do that but I was hurting myself to the people around me.
[bctt tweet=”Everybody has their own form of trauma and you cannot play that down.” username=””]
At 29 years old, I was making a transition from the restaurant business to go into the medical field full-time and it was my last shift. My boyfriend at that time was like, “Please don’t get messed up tonight.” I was like, “I’m good. I won’t do shots as soon as I get there.” That was all a lie. I woke up the next morning to my best friend saying to me, “The cat is lost.” My cat, which at this point, I had already lost twice due to my drinking. This is a cat we saved from the streets. Matt was upset because I picked a fight with him, stood over a bed and told him I wanted to kill him. What man or woman wants to be in a relationship with that?
That happened a couple of times in the period of the 1.5-year with him and I being together. He comes down the next day and tells me, “You can continue drinking but I’m not sticking around for this and our cat is missing.” For three days, I sat there with one of the worst hangovers in my life, the guilt, shame and cycle that went on with my drinking. I made a pact to the universe and said, “If I find this cat, I will give up drinking because I can no longer continue to live this way.” I was tired. You get to a point where you’re tired and it’s more exhausting living that way than not. I haven’t had a drink since August 18th, 2012. Matt is now my husband and we’re expecting our first child in September 2021. Fiona, the cat, was found.
Your rock-bottom was that you lost the cat. Would you say that was your lowest rock-bottom?
It wasn’t my lowest rock-bottom. One of my lowest rock-bottoms was waking up in a hospital bed or in jail in the drunk tank, not knowing how I got there. This was the rock-bottom that I needed somebody because I know people are not huge on the whole ultimatum thing but some people need it. I’ve lost some friendships but I cared for this man and Fiona where it was like, “Enough is enough.” This opportunity was presented to me that had never been presented to me before.
I can relate to that. I look at my last shenanigans and I wouldn’t say that was my lowest rock-bottoms. I had lots of bottoms that were much lower. That’s the thing about recovery. You never know. Your rock-bottom can be not very big, small or low, it’s like whatever. When you’re ready to make the decision and making the decision means that all of your decisions support that decision. That has been my experience.
From 25 to 29, I tried the whole moderation game. I tried to do that dance, controlling it, put all these boundaries on my relationship with alcohol and drinking and it led me back to the same spot. A lot of people have asked me like, “How did you stop drinking?” It was like, “We need to back this up.” I had four years of trying to make something work that no longer worked because it had taken over.
You talked about trauma being the root of addiction and many people feel that same way. Tell me about the trauma that led to your drinking and drug use.
Fun Sobriety: When you drink too much, it gets to a point where you’re tired. It’s more exhausting living that way than not.
My trauma was in my childhood with emotional needs not being met. I’ve been a product of divorce. That too was in 1992 and 1993. At that point, divorce wasn’t like it was nowadays. It’s silly because it’s like the ‘90s was not that long ago.
When did you say divorce wasn’t like it is nowadays?
It wasn’t common. I was the first kid on the street with divorced parents where that shame was wrapped around that. Emotional needs not being met, some neglect going on, and it was then a series of events that happened with family trauma. It was eventually leading to being in middle school and teased and then escaping into what then became my drinking issue and how I found peace in drinking. I have said this before when it comes to trauma. Everybody has their own form of trauma and you cannot play that down because this didn’t happen to you. It’s the same thing with the rock-bottom. Just because the extreme load didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean that it still didn’t happen.
What did your life look like before you got clean and sober?
The evolution with my drinking in that ten-year span was fun and then there was not fun. It was drinking every day and doing drugs when I was in that three-year little relationship with cocaine that I loved. Towards the end, I was not drinking every day. I was a binge drinker. On a Friday, I would go for it and drink as much as possible. There was no off-switch when it came to alcohol. I couldn’t just have 1 or 2 and be complete with that. It had to be more. Towards the end of my drinking career, those last couple of years was once or twice a week of that.
You had a nickname during your drinking and drugging years. Tell me about your nickname.
My friends call me Cornado. That’s the thing. I had friends who wanted to go out with me but then after midnight, they didn’t want to deal with the fallout of what I was going to do. Cornado is Courtney and tornado combined.
I have a friend. His name is Brian and we used to call him Blackout Brian. If he turns into Blackout Brian, you’re like, “We don’t want to have anything to do with Blackout Brian anymore.”
I had a couple of guy friends too who used to call me boozehound, which I found was funny. I can look back and laugh at this stuff. My good guy friend still texts me from time to time. He was like, “How are you doing, Cornado?”
Having fun in sobriety is one of the things we want to talk about. You wrote a guide, things you can do while sober, which is important. Someone new in recovery has no clue. I don’t know about you but when I first got clean and sober, it was, “Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps or go to therapy.” What do you do to have fun? Drinking is everywhere. That was how I lived my life. That was what I attracted and that was what I was around. Even the first couple of years, I was trying to learn how to live life differently and that includes having fun. Tell me about this guide.
The Ultimate Guide to Sobriety breaks down that first year. There are ten topics that are chosen there and sober sex being one of them, so you have an understanding of what it’s going to be like because that’s the whole thing. As much as I love books and reading, sometimes a lot of these memoirs that we read don’t tell you what to expect. It’s what they did and went through. That’s where this book came to me. From my experience at gaining, I was a couple of weeks shy of turning 30. I was supposed to be in Vegas whooping it up on my 30th birthday. I was thanking Jesus I did not go because I probably would have died. I’ve still never been to Vegas.
When I got sober, I had to Google hobbies because I had no other hobbies besides going to work and drinking. It’s important for people to realize too how much time is spent on drinking and discover what is fun for you now, you can always look back to your childhood. This is what I tell people that I work with. “Look back to your childhood of what brought you joy because that will bring you joy again when you’re an adult.” You can connect with them and that gives you something to do. The book is basing these couple of topics down on what you can expect and what you can do to change it for yourself.
Is there a process in finding the things that you might enjoy while sober?
Going back to your childhood. One thing that I always enjoyed doing in my childhood when my parents got divorced is I would go over to my dad’s house on the weekend because my dad did not have a lot of money, he had to entertain for kids. He would buy a box of brownies or cupcakes and I would make that. That was fun for me. That’s something you have to look at. I used to play soccer when I was young and that brought me a lot of joy. When we become adults and you get addiction in the case, you become a jaded person, where you don’t think that anything is fun anymore but that’s where you have to tap into your inner child of like, “What did I use to do? Did bike rides used to bring me joy when I was a kid?”
In that process, you have to go there and figure out what you want to do. Even if you cannot think of back to your childhood, Google hobbies like I did and picked something that has always made you curious. Were yoga classes made you curious? Have you always wanted to try that? Drama classes? Whatever the case may be because there is continuing adult education or you can find classes at the YMCA. Tap into who you once were pre-adulthood in addiction.
[bctt tweet=”Look back to your childhood of what brought you joy, because that will bring you joy again.” username=””]
I’m thinking about myself. When I was young, I was super active. I love playing team sports, being outside and active. When I first got clean and sober, I started doing yoga. Most of my activities now revolve mostly around health, fitness, wellness and recovery. That includes yoga. I went through a CrossFit stage for a little while, spin and triathlons. I’ve done a bunch of cool things. The thing that I found is that there are communities associated with all of these different hobbies and interests. To get plugged into those different communities is how you’re going to connect with people that are not focused on drinking and drugs. Also, my experience is the people that are focused on trying to stay sober don’t stay sober. You got to focus on living life differently and having fun.
That’s why in the first 90 days of my sobriety, I didn’t have the rehab. I tried AA in that first week. Something did not connect with me within the program. During that time, I did go back to year 3 or 4 and participated but it did not connect with me. I sat at home after I Googled hobbies. Besides the baking, then I Mod-Podge picture frames. I binge-watched Friday Night Lights, which I will forever love that show because that’s a period of my life that I had to sit there and get uncomfortable with myself but it made me focus on something other than alcohol.
You got to get in touch with your feelings which we were not. I don’t know about you. I would imagine you’re the same way. I was not in touch with my feelings. I was not aware of my feelings. Any time I felt uncomfortable, that was a time when I reached for the solution and the solution being the drinking or drugs.
For me, I was always fine sitting by myself but my thing was self-sabotage. I would go for a couple of days. I would have my drinking cycle because it doesn’t start with you having that first drink. It starts with the thought process of like, “It’s 11:00 on a Friday. A couple more hours and I can start drinking.” That’s the whole cycle, which is exhausting. Being hungover for a couple of days and then I would participate in life. I would start feeling good, level out and feel normal. I’m like, “This doesn’t feel normal.” It was time to party, “Let me binge-drink and be a little piglet for the night.” That’s what I was. It was who did I piss off and then come back down. You do have to sit there and get comfortable with yourself and your skin, especially now with how alcohol is everywhere. That was something I learned in those first two years of sobriety.
I’m sure you also learned. I learned this. I thought that everybody that went to the football game got shit-faced. I thought that everybody got shit-faced at the concert, festival, every bar, club and get-together. Now, being sober, I realized there are only 1 or 2 people that are shit-faced. That was Cornado and me.
I didn’t know that, too. I did not realize that until about 3 to 4 months in. Matt and I went on a Friday night to this town where we used to live. We sat outside on a bench with coffees. I was looking around and watching people walk around this town. I was like, “This is what people do.” Nobody is shit-faced. Matt and I had a great conversation. That was the night he asked me to marry him. He goes back to that night in that situation where he was like, “I knew I wanted to marry you that night.” Not everybody is being animals all the time because then you have to look around yourself and then it’s like, “Who am I attracting? What am I attracting in my life?” You’re in the circle where you’re in your thoughts because addiction is a huge thinking disease. You think that’s normal and it’s not.
Let’s talk about sober sex. You had a boyfriend. How long were you with Matt before you got clean and sober?
A year and a half.
Fun Sobriety: The hangover cycle doesn’t start with the first drink. It actually starts with the thought process of drinking.
All of the sex up until you got sober was not sober?
Yes, 95% of the time.
Was it uncomfortable when you first got sober? You already had a significant other. You were already living together and having sex. Tell me about the transition?
The transition was awkward AF because this is the thing of what I was doing with sex. I use sex almost as a weapon. I use sex to make up with him or previous boyfriends after I would have a night of me being an animal, MF and a person threatening lives and throwing chairs. I would make that be the center of like, “We have sex. Everything is okay and normal now.” Also, you get to a point where going back to the intimacy thing, it is hard to do that 100% sober when you are not comfortable with yourself, your own body and your skin. For the first year there, there were times where I was like, “Lights off.” I would only have sex at nighttime because I was like, “It’s too much. I’m not comfortable with this yet.”
It’s sometimes hard going back when I was saying emotional needs are not being met and not being met with some stuff from my parents. It’s almost like I used from my childhood of those needs not being met when I had sex for the first time and then went on, that it was for seeking male attention. It’s a hard transition. There’s a lot of work to do on yourself to be able to come to that point. You also have to sometimes rip off the Band-Aid and do it. I talked about that in The Ultimate Guide too. The further you keep things off, the more uncomfortable and anxiety that you are going to give yourself for not taking the plunge and doing it.
Sex is a way of seeking fulfillment. It’s a Band-Aid. It’s temporary fulfillment and pleasure. You get to forget about your feelings and the fight you had. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re truly connecting. It’s physical when sex should be much more than physical. It should also be emotional, mental and spiritual.
That’s what it has become for me. Also, in my active addiction, I was a dick to my body and the way that I allowed people to treat it. When you give that so freely, you have the story in your head of like, “That’s all people want from you.” That’s more work that you have to do in your sobriety and recovery journey. I had to work on that of being, “I’m more than just sex.” A lot of men and women can relate to that, especially to getting out of that where you feel like that’s how your self-worth is validated.
This is a good time to start talking about boundaries. How did you learn boundaries? How did your boundaries change?
My boundaries have changed 100%. Your boundaries change when you start having self-worth. I have to give a lot of that credit of my own self-worth and self-esteem issues with personal development. Not drinking but personal development and working on rebuilding myself. When you get sober and you’re in recovery, you are a brand-new little baby. You get to build this new life. I’ve said it before like, “How lucky are we that we get to live two lives in one.” When you get sober and you’re in recovery, you then get to start creating this life that you want.
Personal development has helped me set and learn boundaries because I never knew boundaries before. When you come from a family that has their dysfunction, there are no boundaries in that. I am comfortable with saying no now and not explaining myself. I am comfortable with not putting myself into uncomfortable situations that I don’t want to attend. For the first couple of years, this took me a long time and different stages of my recovery where I see boundaries being crossed, where I’m like, “This is how it has always been,” where I didn’t see this before in year one because I was trying not to drink.
I think about The Four Agreements. I’m in the process of reading that book again for I don’t know how many times. We were all domesticated by our parents, people that we’re around, teachers and coaches. We grow up and we were domesticated like animals are domesticated. We learn from those people and that’s where we learn our boundaries from. Developing or learning new boundaries means, to your point, doing the personal development, doing the work, digging deep and learning from some people that have healthy boundaries.
I read that book every year. That’s my first book because I always try to do like, “In 2020, I’ll set a goal of how many books I want to read for the year.” It’s so phenomenal and those four agreements teach you so much. Even to setting boundaries, I don’t want to partake in these holiday family traditions that I was partaking in for so many years. This is no longer fun for me. I am a grown-ass adult. Why am I going to continue this because I always end up leaving uncomfortable? Nobody else is uncomfortable, but I’m uncomfortable. I had to stop that after a couple of years. I started creating my traditions with my husband. It’s baby steps you have to do. Also, therapy has helped me a lot with listening and creating new boundaries.
[bctt tweet=”The people you date are a reflection of how you are doing.” username=””]
That speaks to not being able to do this on your own. I see people trying to get clean and sober on their own, people that try to develop personally on their own. You can read books and get a lot out of reading books but I feel like it’s necessary to have other people around you to give you feedback. Tim needs to listen to somebody else besides Tim.
That’s what I’ve learned. I’ve done it all. I’ve hired coaches in personal development. I’ve done workshops and partake in twelve steps therapy. I’m a huge advocate for therapy, and you do because anybody can stop drinking and try to do it on their own, but what are you learning on your own? There’s a lot of stuff inside where it can still go back to that type of dry drunk behavior or because you got sober doesn’t mean that the addict has left you.
Let’s talk about your family dynamics. How have you been able to break the unhealthy family dynamics that you were used to?
That was a hard one because this is the deal. When you start breaking family dynamics and generational traumas, you get looked at as the weirdo. You’re on the outside. I have continued to stay in my lane. This is for friends too, because you get into some toxic friendships as well.
You’re the average of the five people that you surround yourself with.
Once you start breaking that, there is a lot of awkwardness and uncomfortableness, but then eventually, people will come around and start adapting to your new schedule and who you now are. I have seen that some do and some don’t. That’s okay because it is what it is. With family, just because they’re blood, I don’t think that you need to buy into that like, “Family is everything,” because there are a lot of people who come from some shitty families. Who would want to keep that around? That’s also the generational thing of being burned into you of like, “Family is everything.” It’s like, “If they’re everything but they’re not supporting me in this way, how is that even fair?” That’s where your friends become your family.
I’ve heard you talk about attracting the same person over and over again. It’s like, “We keep on people. In general, we attract the same person and relationship. We’re in the same relationship with the same person, different name. They look different but it’s the same person.” You attracted Matt, which was different than all the other guys. How did that happen? Was that luck?
Fun Sobriety: Sex should be much more than physical. It should also be emotional, mental, and spiritual.
No. You can still start working on yourself even in active addiction because that’s what I started doing. It was funny because, during that time, I was seeing a therapist. I’ve been in a novel therapy for a lot of years. The therapist, when she recommends, she was like, “Do you ever think that you should quit drinking?” I was like, “This is over now.” I liked her but then when she recommended that, I was like, “I don’t have a problem.” During that time, I was working on myself and had gotten out of a relationship. That relationship was about a year. I started working on myself and he had come into my life.
It was one of those things that I do think that when you’re not looking, the person will appear. The situation will appear for what you need during that time. He came into my life and it was hard for me because Matt is not a prick. He did not have any addiction issues. He wasn’t sob. He was a nice guy and that’s something I had never gone for before. I had always gone for the emotionally unavailable addict because that’s what I knew for a long time. I think I was at that point.
I think about my journey and getting clean and sober. I didn’t date for about a year after I got clean and sober, which was what I needed and what’s recommended. Part of it is because we attract what we are. I attracted what I was. I needed to focus on myself and my recovery, learn how to have friends and how to have intimate relationships with people, with both men and women and then I look back. About 1.5-year clean and sober, I dated a girl for a couple of years. As I got farther down the recovery path, the women that I attracted got healthier and healthier, which was a reflection of how I was doing.
I will have to say that because a lot of people are like, “You’re lucky that you had him by your side.” Also, he and I had to do work on ourselves. We’ve done couples therapy and separate counseling. He had to work on issues too because he came from an alcoholic family. There were dynamics there. With any relationship, you have to be able to grow with somebody. Both parties change. We have come to the table with working on our issues and healing our stuff.
Relationships are work. The honeymoon period or the romantic love phase is over after 18 months to 2 years, is what they say. There are lots of things that are going to become issues or not issues for the first 18 to 24 months.
[bctt tweet=”People who are trying to stay sober don’t stay sober.” username=””]
For the first 18 months to 1.5-year there, we were working with my drinking. That was the main focus. Also, that’s why it’s nice to have a support system outside of your relationship because when one person has an issue and the other doesn’t because Matt never had a problem. Matt was “normal.” He could have a beer or two. He did give up drinking with me because he was at the point of his life where he was like, “I’m having two beers and I feel like garbage the next day.” He’s creative. He likes clarity. Even though he did that, he did not understand how I could sit there on a Friday in a busy restaurant having panic attacks because all I wanted to do was to drink. He didn’t get that side. That’s where you need help outside of your relationship because that one person cannot be at all for you.
Tell me about the Sober Vibes community.
Sober Vibes community is something I started when I went back and participated in an AA. I always sat at the woman’s table. I was listening to people and I was like, “There has got to be more to it than just this.” At that point, I had started a sober social club and out of that because I kept hearing women being like, “I want to be able to go socialize.” I was like, “All right.” It blossomed into that and then into Sober Vibes when I took it online. It’s for women who are sober and sober-curious, meeting you where you are. It’s an empowerment support community because that’s what we should be doing as women, empowering one another.
I stuck with women because I wanted them to feel safe. When it comes to talking about some issues, a lot of women have trauma from men and don’t feel safe in that situation. I didn’t want it to become some type of a predator thing with men and women because that happens a lot in the addiction space. I wanted these women to feel safe. It has blossomed into the Sober Vibes Podcast, National Sober Day and being supportive of women in their journey with where they’re at because relapse is huge. I do believe it’s part of the process for some people’s journey. It’s about growth and learning. I don’t ever want to shame people for that. It’s like, “Let’s meet you where you’re at and be there of support for you.” People need support. They don’t need you to be telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing.
How can people connect with the Sober Vibes community?
Fun Sobriety: When you get sober and are entering into recovery, you’re like a brand new little baby. You get to build this new life from scratch.
It’s a Facebook group, Sober Vibes. It’s private. If you come in there, it’s for women only and I do the admin on that. I make sure it’s women coming to that group. I have @Sober.Vibes on Instagram. That stuff is public, but more of that support is in that Sober Vibes Facebook group and then the podcast too.
Is there anything else that you would like to share, Courtney?
I’ve always said this. Wherever you’re struggling, know that you’re worth it and you’re worth the fight. Especially in early sobriety, it’s a fight. People need help in the addiction and recovery space. Not everybody has the same situation where it’s all scrunchies and rainbows for them. It’s hard. That’s why addiction is a disease.
How can people connect with you?
You can either visit my website, CourtneyRecovered.com. You can email me at SoberVibes@Gmail.com or reach out to me on Instagram. I’m heavy with Instagram. I always respond to messages and talk to people. On my website, I do have a 30-day Sober Not Boring Calendar, going back to the fun and sobriety. You can get it there. There’s an activity or thing to do each day to get a feel with. You can do the stuff sober.
Courtney, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you. I learned a lot and had fun. That’s it, everybody. I hope you all have a great day.
I’m a Sober Coach, podcast host and YOUR personal sober cheerleader. I’m the Founder of National Sober Day (9/14), and the Founder of Sober Vibes, an online support community for recovery and sober-curious women of all ages.
I’m a wife and cat mom to my little fur pants, Fiona. I’m a lover of all Bravo shows, personal development, being in the flow, fall time in Pure Michigan, travel, the F word, sweet treats, being kind, and laughing every single chance I can.
My favorite day of my life is August 18, 2012, because that is the day I finally stopped the madness of addiction and started to do some real LIVIN!