Interview with Chris Aguirre
This week, Liv interviewed Chris Aguirre. Chris, a person in recovery from alcohol and drugs since 1997, knows first hand that it may be simple but it's not always easy. With that in mind he founded KLĒN + SŌBR in 2014 with a mission of simply supporting those persons who have found recovery but are looking for a supplement to whatever organization or program got them there. The support can and will take a variety of forms; from the cornerstone, Since Right Now Podcast, to well-designed merchandise being sold to generate charitable donations, KLĒN + SŌBR is committed to helping persons in recovery from alcohol and drugs stay in recovery.
Awarded Best Recovery Blog of 2015, one of 20, by After Party Magazine, despite not being a blog, or competing to win it.
Website: The Recovery Revolution
Interview with Chris Aguirre
Liv: First off, the most important question: What have you had for breakfast?
"My appetite indiscriminate and adaptable. And my means of acquiring and indulging adapted as well."
Liv: In your story, you said that you do not celebrate nor condemn nor long for or disavow the periods of using. You’ve said that you embrace them, despite your story leading you ‘down some very shady paths doing very stupid things’. I am curious about your statement that whilst you wouldn’t want to ‘…wish I could do anything over again but given the chance to be an observer of an alternate sober history, I think I might.’ What does an alternate sober history look like? And what is it that motivates that desire?
Chris: I think the desire is simply voyeuristic curiosity on my part. I imagine there were many alternate, branching sober histories to be had at one time. I can’t begin to imagine what single path would look like. I have thought about it in very broad terms and I’m not entirely sure that the majority would have been objectively ”better” in any specific way. I’m okay with being where I am having had the experiences I’ve had and doing my best to process the past in the interest of a future.
Liv: You move on to describe that you moved to many different schools and countries and that the use of drugs evolved to the circumstances in which you were faced with. How so?
Chris: I began drinking and smoking weed in earnest on the night of my HS graduation. I went to college and almost immediately added cocaine and mushrooms to my repertoire. I moved again and began doing acid, I moved yet again and added ecstasy. I stayed where I was and found freebasing. My appetite indiscriminate and adaptable. And my means of acquiring and indulging adapted as well; i.e.: acting as a small-time campus coke and weed “broker” to pay for mine, etc. To borrow a phase I’ve heard somewhere, I took what I could and left the rest.
Reaching Rock Bottom
"If there were one hundred dots, I don’t think I realized what I was drawing until I was connecting 99 and 100. 'Oh, look! It’s an alcoholic!'."
Liv: Leading on from the previous question, you described that part as the beginning of the end - what do you mean by that? Had you connected the dots at that point?
Chris: Well, “the beginning of the end” was simply the inevitable end to the beginning. I never stopped adapting my usage to my circumstances with that usage ultimately leading my circumstances to the bottom. If there were one hundred dots, I don’t think I realized what I was drawing until I was connecting 99 and 100. “Oh, look! It’s an alcoholic!”
Liv: Your using rapidly escalated in proportion to your consequences, and you reached that point of change. You said that you made a deal with yourself - that if you got home from a precarious situation, without killing yourself or others, then you’d stop - what came to you in that moment of clarity?
Chris: Nothing came to me. That wasn’t clarity. It was selfish desperation. I was negotiating my self-interests with others’ lives.
"I was hovering in a holding pattern in the depths. So, the feeling was one of relief. Relief mixed with a bit of exasperation because now I couldn’t deny that I had some work to do. I now had the irritating piece of sand that would grow into my sobriety pearl."
Liv: In the early days of your recovery journey, you read Caroline Knapp’s book, Drinking: A Love Story, and said it really resonated with you — so much so, that by the end of the book, you identified as an alcoholic. How did it feel to move from a place of denial to one of awareness and eventual acceptance? And what propelled you to continue reading?
Chris: Many (all?) of us alcoholics and addicts are familiar with the absolute exhaustion—both physical and mental—when we’re near bottom. I was hovering in a holding pattern in the depths. So, the feeling was one of relief. Relief mixed with a bit of exasperation because now I couldn’t deny that I had some work to do. I now had the irritating piece of sand that would grow into my sobriety pearl.
Liv: Whilst you had planned to get sober, your decision was somewhat taken out of your hands by acute pancreatitis and you were advised by your doctor that should you drink, you’d suffer serious health consequences. What had changed at that point whereby the scales had swung from using despite the consequences to respecting your body enough that you had to stop?
Chris: I had planned on stopping months before the pancreatitis. In fact, the attack came during the night of my final drink. I saw it less as a forcing my decision to get sober than a confirmation of its absolute necessity.
17 Years Sober: lessons
Liv: Skip forward, you're now 17 years sober. Congratulations. What are the top three lessons you’ve learned in recovery?
Chris: Thank you, Liv. What? Are these for me? You shouldn’t have. They’re lovely. So, lessons? I’m terrible at learning lessons. I love to learn my problem is I don’t like to be taught. Let’s see…
- Keep a loose grip on your recovery but try not to let go; I forgot to recover for a middle bit in there.
- Don’t disparage other’s recovery.
- There is no wrong way to recover.
Liv: How have you navigated recovery? Are you an advocate of any particular recovery program?
Chris: I am an advocate for qualified inclusiveness. The qualification being that the program isn’t simply a load of bullshit. Have you met AntiGuru™?
The Recovery Revolution
A creative life to me means pursuing what you do with the full weight of your energy and talents behind it and producing something that couldn’t exist without the sober, recovering you."
Liv: Moving on to your site, you’ve described it as not a blog and its purpose as shunning stereotypes and shattering stigma of being in recovery from alcohol and other drugs. How do you go about achieving that?
Chris: Going into our third year I’m thinking of it more in terms of a magazine. I’m not sure either I or the site have been successful on a large scale in shattering stigma but I like to think there are those out there who find the agnostic (in all senses) tone and slightly irreverent openness a comforting show of confident solidarity. The site is not there…yet. And it may not get there—I’m constantly forcing its evolution in an effort to turn it into a place that I want to spend time.
Liv: Lets move on to the podcast, Since Right Now. You’ve talked of your mission as supporting persons in recovery from alcohol and other drugs in living a full, creative life. What does a creative life look like?
Chris: A creative life to me means pursuing what you do with the full weight of your energy and talents behind it and producing something that couldn’t exist without the sober, recovering you.
Food & Recovery
Liv: How does food and good nutrition feature in your recovery?
Chris: I try to enjoy in moderation. Early on I made some drastic dietary changes (no butter, no cheese, only carrots as night time snack, etc.) but have since found a happy balance that requires only that I’m aware of how I feel about my health, my body, my self.
Liv: What is your favourite meal?
Chris: Of the day? Lunch. It seems to be when I enjoy eating the most. As for type of meal…Indian, Mexican, Thai would be top 3.
Writing as a means to Recover
" In most aspects of my life I covet simplicity. I’m easily overwhelmed. But I’ve found that I embrace the complexity of how I communicate what recovery is to me..."
Liv: A passion close to my heart - just how important is writing in recovery?
Chris: Communicating our recovery realities whether it be through writing, blogging, tweeting, podcasting, etc. is immensely important in recovery; as much for the creator as for the audience. We’re each going to help someone; we just don’t know who, how or when.
Liv: Last, and I know you don’t like to use ‘tools’, what would you describe as your top five outlets of expression in your recovery?
Chris: In most aspects of my life I covet simplicity. I’m easily overwhelmed. But I’ve found that I embrace the complexity of how I communicate what recovery is to me. To that end I literally express it through different voices; Ol’ Dirty Blue Eyes, AntiGuru™, the lesser known nonAnon™, etc. And with each of those voices (faces?) using a variety of means whether it be video, quotes, graphic design I try to add dimension to my expression of recovery by not communicating the same thing, or the same way depending on who, where, why and when I’m sharing. Make sense?