Profiles in Recovery

Kristen Rybandt

Early in her recovery, Rybandt took up running and found support online through her popular blog, “Bye Bye Beer.” Both activities help keep her sobriety on track.

“I used to be terrified of relapse for about the first year of sobriety,” Rybandt says. “I’d have a drinking dream and think it meant I was on my way out . . .” Gradually, with more sober time, Rybandt stopped worrying about relapse and remembered the wisdom of a therapist, who told her “if I wasn’t sure about something, I should ask myself if it felt like a step closer to relapse, or a step away from it.”

Today, the recovering alcoholic and working mother of two is grateful for the clarity that recovery brings. “I feel like I notice so much more than I ever did before. I love that my daughters know me as a Mom who cares and who is there for them. I love being up for the sunrise and not feeling hungover and filled with self-loathing.”

Day Job:
Administrative work for an insurance company; some freelance writing

What I lost to addiction:
I lost big chunks of time, literally, when I was drinking or thinking about when I could drink or how I could hide it. I missed events where I knew I couldn’t drink, but most of all I missed out on the joy of living an ordinary life. I didn’t have the energy or desire to do anything after work but come home and drink. I wasted a lot of years that way.

At my worst, I was:
Secretive and filled with self-loathing and regret but unable to change because I hadn’t put it together that drinking was the problem. As long as I kept drinking, I got that temporary relief but then the hellish cycle started all over again the next morning.

What worked for me:
I started seeing a counselor and went to 12 step meetings for my first year and a half sober. I had also started a sober blog in my first year and over time found that a better fit as a working mom. I also love to write, so looking back I realize how perfect it all was. There are some really great support networks online.

Advice to my younger self:
I would tell myself to worry less what others think because no one is paying that much attention. I would encourage myself to write more and join the cross country team and choose wisely when it comes to friends and who I spend time with. I like to think if I had a stronger sense of myself back then, I wouldn’t have been so drawn to alcohol.

Rules I live by:
Sleep is very important to me and I exercise at least a few times a week. I love running but walking is good too. I still remind myself at least weekly to look for the next right thing to do. I try to treat others with compassion and kindness, especially when I find myself irritated and negative.

My rock bottom moment:
I used to get terrible hangovers with nausea, palpitations, and panic. I think they were really withdrawal symptoms, but one time I had to travel to another state with my kids and had a hangover-induced panic attack while driving over a really long bridge. I thought I was dying and my kids were in the back seat. I still drank for a few more months, but I’ll never forget that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

When cravings come:
I eat something and drink a big glass of water. I lay down in my bed and read. I lace up and go out for a run or walk. I email a friend. I spend time with my kids, who always get me out of my own head.

Best advice for newbies:
Try meetings, whether in your town or online. Buy or check out some sober memoirs (Dry by Augusten Burroughs and Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp are two of my favorites). Check out a few sober blogs and forums online (and leave comments – that’s how I made sober friends that I still have). Stock up on some of your favorite treats for the early days. I used to make myself these super sweet iced coffees when I got home from work, my own little happy hour. A few months in, I started working out after work so I’d have something else to look forward to instead of just coming home and feeling that void.

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