Ray of Light Interview No. 38 :: Andrea Krussel

Every Friday for the entire 2017 calendar year, I release a new interview + a newly created mixed media piece of art as part of my weekly Ray of Light Interview Series: Women in Recovery. This series features brave, kickass, beautiful women who have chosen to embrace an alcohol-free lifestyle. The light was dimmed for these women when they were struggling with alcohol (either a little or a lot).  I wish to honor them for their brave choice to ditch alcohol, rediscover themselves through sobriety + shine bright in the process.  You can access links to the entire series by clicking here.

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Andrea Krussel
Higher Education Administrator
Arts Advocate, Mom, Runner, Yogi + Occasional Actress
Instagram handle: @andem_k

Do you remember how we first met or came to know one another?
I remember seeing your posts in our HOME Podcast Facebook group about your return to school and how that played a role in your recovery. I work with students, ranging from undergraduates to adult learners, in higher education. I have a lot of respect for them and their stories. Likewise, I wanted to learn more about your story.

What is your sobriety date? January 1, 2016

Do you count days, months or years connected to your sobriety?
In the beginning, I counted days because it seemed so miraculous that I could connect so many days in a row without a drink. Once I hit a year, I didn’t focus as much on counting. It helps that my date is on the first of the month, so I am able to give my sobriety a little recognition as I move from one month to the next.

Do you use an app or some other method to do this counting? If so, please share.
I have the NOMO app. I check it every now and again because I like the instant gratification of seeing all of those days!

What recovery modality do you use in your recovery from alcohol?
I don’t subscribe to a particular program, but I maintain my sobriety through therapy, meditation, yoga, running, essential oils, journaling, reading blogs and memoirs, listening to podcasts, conversations with other sober friends. I also am a big fan of the HOME and The Unruffled Podcast Facebook groups.

Do you identify yourself as an alcoholic? No.

If you do not identify with the word alcoholic, what do you identify with?
I say I’m sober or that I don’t drink. Sometimes I refer to alcohol like an ex. We had a lot of good times, but then we settled into an unhealthy routine that wasn’t doing me any favors, so I had to end it.

What are your top four tools in your sobriety toolbox?

  1. Sweat. I run, lift weights, swim and practice yoga. It is vital for me to move almost every day. When I was drinking, I ran and practiced yoga. The running, especially my long run on Sunday, was partially to keep me in check, while the yoga was for healing. I spent a lot of time on my mat shaky and in tears. When I gave up alcohol, my running and yoga became more important as it helped me to set up a routine and goals while managing my anxiety.
  2. Beginning my day with intention. I wake up at 5:00 am almost every morning. If I am not running or going to yoga, my dog follows me into the living room and sits at my feet, while I enjoy the stillness and drink coffee, meditate and write for an hour.
  3. Allowing myself to have small and large treats without guilt. My skin is so much better since I stopped drinking on account of being so hydrated, so to celebrate, I now have a spreadsheet-worthy 10-step Korean skincare routine. I also use handmade soaps with essential oils, grind my own fancy coffee and purchase and arrange flowers every week. I used to think flowers were a waste of money because they died.
  4. Fiction. My friend calls fiction the best form of self-help and I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes I still need an escape; reading a piece of fun, juicy fiction provides that. I just finished reading Kevin Kwan’s third book in the Crazy Rich Asian Series, Rich People Problems. So. Fun.

Why or how did you know or decide that you had to quit drinking?  
My yoga teacher shared this essay by Becky Vollmer, in March of 2015. The warnings Becky listed were right on par with my own buried concerns about my relationship to alcohol and I started to experience shifts in my attitude. That following Halloween, my kids were three and five and it was the first time they were both old enough to be excited about trick-or-treating. That night I was way more focused on the whereabouts of my cabernet and it hit me hard how much time I was devoting to thinking about drinking and how much I was missing. My mind was constantly consumed with thoughts like: “Does anyone notice how much I have drank?” “Am I drinking too much?”  “Did I say something stupid?” “I’ll only drink on the weekends.” By the time New Year's Eve 2015 rolled around, I was tired and wished my midnight toast (bottle) of Prosecco was a Pellegrino. That was my last drink.

Do you feel you are more or less creative since you have stopped drinking? If yes, please expound on this and cite examples for my readers.
I do feel more creative. I have been an actress and a teaching artist for a living. I traveled the first few years out of college and lived in Los Angeles for five. I felt that in order to lead a successful life, I had to monetize my creativity by “making it” as an actress. In reality I was piecing together waitressing, teaching and occasional acting gigs and I felt unsettled. It was difficult for me to accept that an acting career wasn’t working out and I grew bitter and left the field completely. Since I have stopped drinking, I am finding that to live creatively I don’t have to make my art work for me. I am much happier integrating it into my everyday life through work in education, writing, reading to my kids, gardening, a strong yoga practice, etc. My general attitude in sobriety is much more positive, so that bitterness is easing, and I am once again seeing live theatre, singing, reading Shakespeare out loud, filing away interesting monologues from new plays, and most importantly, enjoying the opportunity to share the experience of theatre with my kids.

Do you feel you are more productive since you have stopped drinking? If yes, how so?
It’s not that I am more productive, I am more organized and realistic about what I can accomplish. I used to come up with these huge schemes and they wouldn’t go anywhere. I am also trying to trust myself and let go of the need to control everything. This is a work in progress, but when I don’t force, things tend to fall into place.

What has delighted you most since you quit drinking alcohol?
I am more present, especially with my kids and I think they are hilarious. Also, I’m not sure if this would be considered delightful, but I am am more comfortable being uncomfortable.

Do you have any advice for those in still suffering or those in early recovery?
I think it is really important to stress that one doesn’t have to hit rock bottom to look at their drinking habits. I didn’t hit a bottom, per se, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t coming for me some day. Choosing sobriety has been one of the most empowering and potentially life-saving decisions I have ever made. There is a really great community on Instagram called @drybeclub that author Aidan Donnelley Rowley has curated for people who want a change and are curious about a life without alcohol.

Can you recommend three books, bloggers or teachers that have helped you on this path to sobriety?

  1. Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety and Laura McKowen- Home Podcast
    Laura and Holly were the very first bloggers I came across regarding sobriety. Their HOME Podcast kept me company when I felt alone and connected me with some of the best people I know. They each have a different approach to recovery, but I can relate to Holly’s holistic path (her Hip Sobriety Manifesto was the final push I needed to quit drinking) and Laura’s path as a mother (Having Run is one of my favorites).  They also have great lists of books, resources and teachers on their blogs as well on the podcast, such as their episode, Teachers .

  2. Enjoli by Kristi Coulter. I read this now viral essay for the first time when I was about six months sober. I nodded my head emphatically throughout. Her writing both fired me up and made me feel extremely grateful.

  3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I was assigned this book about five years ago for a writing class and I use it for marathon training. I can get really overwhelmed by the miles ahead of me on long runs, so I have to take it mile by mile, bird by bird. I used the same analogy for my early days of sobriety. Day by day, bird by bird.

Are you part of a tribe or a recovery community that supports your sobriety?  If so, how did you figure out how to find that tribe/community.  What was your path to discovering it?
I am part of the HOME Podcast Facebook group created by Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker. I started listening to the podcast early on in my recovery and was able to join the group not too long after they started it. I have met some of the best, strongest, funniest women ever there. It is a space where we can be totally honest and open, which has led me to be more open and authentic outside the safety of our group. I am also a part of The Unruffled Podcast group you run with Sondra Primeaux. I love your mission; the exploration of creativity in sobriety.

What are you most proud of now that you live an alcohol-free life?
I can be a little guarded and this is actually the first time I have spoken publicly about my sobriety. I have read every single one of the honest testimonies by the women in this series and thought: I want that. I am proud to share their company and to own my own story.