The last night Mat Fraser drank alcohol was the night before his senior year of high school. Hey what 17
Now, the retired CrossFit pro athlete and five-time CrossFit Games champ is sharing his story of sobriety in a vulnerable YouTube video. In the video, the 32-year-old athlete recalls trying alcohol and drugs as early as fourth grade, eventually developing habits in his teens that lead him down an unsustainable path.
His wake up call came when he got yet another drinking citation at 17, bringing it home to his father who was so used to the summons that he didn’t react. Fraser remembers thinking, “I can’t keep up these habits and call myself an elite athlete.”
“I just said right then and there, ‘Alright, I won’t touch alcohol again,'” he says.
Fraser says sobriety became easier once he developed safe, productive habits to replace excessive drinking, carving out an identity and personality not affiliated with alcohol. He was no longer “The Party Guy,” but rather the guy set on giving his all to his CrossFit and lifting career.
“Having this addictive personality can be a benefit if I’m addicted to things that have a positive outcome,” he says in the video. “I’m not just an alcoholic. I’m a -holic. Anything I do, I’m going to do to the extreme.”
But CrossFit not only created a positive outlet for Fraser — it also gave him a ready-made excuse not to drink without having to explain his sobriety.
“It’s so normal for so many competitors just to not drink because the data is out there about how much that effects your recovery and your training the next day,” he says. “So people just assume you are doing it for health reasons, and I don’t want to explain to every single person that I cross paths with that, no, I actually quit drinking when I was 17 years old.”
In the video, which documents recovery as a part of Fraser’s everyday life, the athlete visits Athletic Brewing Co., a craft brewery which creates non-alcoholic beer. There, Fraser tries a flight of (non-alcoholic) beer for the first time.
Fraser also attends a fitness recovery group called The Phoenix, which is a “safe, sober active community of peers who support each other every day on the journey to recovery.” During his time with the group, Fraser says he doesn’t go to meetings for his substance use disorder as often as he should but keeps in touch with a sober community in Vermont where he first addressed his relationship with alcohol.
“At this point, I would like to go to meetings for the sake of other people,” he says in the group. “I remember being newly sober and looking around a meeting and being like, ‘What’s the point of being sober? No one in here seems happy, seems accomplished. They don’t have any personality traits I want to work toward.’ For me, I have no desire to drink. I’m very comfortable there. But I can be there to help somebody else.”
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