eBulletin Original – Courtney Friel

The Addiction/Recovery eBulletin Interview with Courtney Friel

Interviewed by John Lavitt

As a news anchor and reporter on television, Courtney Friel currently works for KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. She previously reported on entertainment news for the Fox News Channel. Sober for over a decade, Friel gives an uncensored look at her life of partying and eventual recovery in her new memoir, Tonight At 10: Kicking Booze and Breaking News. Her struggle to succeed in the news business paled in comparison to the battle against alcoholism and drug addiction she was secretly fighting. Courtney Friel also hosts the podcast Keeping It Friel: Conversations On Recovery

The Addiction/Recovery eBulletin is honored to interview her.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

Would you compare being sober to freedom from a self-inflicted form of slavery? 

Courtney Friel:

I have never heard it compared that way, but I would say, yes, absolutely. I never realized how handcuffed I was to alcohol, cocaine, and pills until I got sober. The freedom that comes along with recovery is what I love most about being sober. You don’t have to have that glass of wine, and thus you’re not committed to that whole night of closing down a bar or creating unnecessary drama. You can show up for the people in your life at their parties or art openings or whatever the event happens to be. You can be there for a couple of hours, then say goodbye with a smile and go home to get a good night’s sleep. You wake up feeling refreshed, and you can work out in the morning.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

What does your daily recovery feel like and look like at this point?

Courtney Friel:

Every day, I start on my knees, thanking God for all the blessings of my life, and I know it begins with my sobriety. I then meditate for twenty-two minutes every single day, and that practice is a huge tool in my recovery. I also try to be physically active every day, whether it’s yoga or power walking or working out with a trainer. I’m also in the 12-Step community, so I go to meetings and take part. I also think staying busy is helpful to me. My life is very busy with two kids, a relationship, and a full-time job. By focusing on keeping it all in balance, it helps to keep me sober. It’s a definite priority for me because I take it so seriously.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

Is it harder to get sober when you have a career in the public eye?

Courtney Friel:

It’s challenging for anyone to get sober. When you’re in the spotlight, a lot more people wonder about what is happening when you go to rehab, and suddenly, you’re not there like you were before. When I was at Fox News, and I disappeared from the air for six weeks, there were blogs written about me, asking questions like, “Where’s Courtney Friel?” When I came back, I lost a lot of my airtime because I got out of the groove of being on TV, and I was never able to recover that time fully. I think that’s why people in my industry choose not to get help. They fear the time that rehab takes, but, of course, they also can do outpatient or just go to 12-Step meetings. Not everyone has to go to rehab, but if you do decide to go to rehab, it can bring up other challenges.

Also, I have been suffering from horrible headaches for a while now. I had to take two months off last summer. When that happened, some jerky viewers made nasty comments like, “Oh, is she off the wagon and back in rehab?” or “I bet she relapsed and is drinking again.” Luckily, I just don’t care about what people think of me at this point, and I know the number one priority is to take care of my health. If I am not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of the other people in my life.   

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

Writers In Treatment and The Reel Recovery Film Festival focuses on combining recovery with cultural forms of expression, thus raising awareness. As the writer of a recovery-oriented memoir, what is your perspective on such efforts?

Courtney Friel:

I wish everyone who had a public persona would talk and write openly about their recovery. It would help to lift the stigma; it would help the many people who are struggling out there. It was a challenging process for me to go public, but it was worth it if I managed to help another person in need of access to recovery.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

Considering the toll that alcoholism and addiction are taking on our country, the stigma still associated with sobriety is tragic. As you write in your memoir, “Here’s the deal: we live in a tell-all culture, but there’s still a taboo around addiction and sobriety.” What do you believe is the best way to overcome this stigma and anachronistic taboo?

Courtney Friel:

I’m not sure why there are so many people out there that are very open about their lives in the spotlight, but they still keep their recovery to themselves. It’s a personal decision to maintain anonymity, and I understand it’s a tradition of 12-Step programs. However, when going public can save lives, doesn’t it make sense to save lives?

An example of this unwillingness is that I have been doing a podcast called “Keeping It Friel: Conversations On Recovery” with well-known sober people. Many people will come on the podcast, but then they won’t post the details about it on social media to their fans. They’ll mention being on the show, but that’s about it. They’ll post about being inspiring, but not about their actual drinking and using. They say that they don’t want to be the poster child for getting sober. It’s frustrating because that’s the essence of the whole show. If you’re proud of your sobriety, why not share the message? The best way to fight the stigma is by having more people be open about it. That’s why I started the podcast, but it’s not easy to find celebrities willing to take that step.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

In your memoir, you write, “Cheesy as that may sound, I do feel like I’ve stumbled upon an awesome secret, and now is the right time to share it with you.” Can you share this secret with us?

Courtney Friel:

(Laughing) When I said the right time, I meant that ten years of recovery was enough to allow me to be credible when writing about sobriety. I never planned on getting sober. Initially, I thought that I’d do this for a year, then go back to drinking. The biggest surprise to me was how much I liked being sober. It surprised me in such a lovely way how wonderful my life became. It feels like I’ve been given this gift, and I wanted to write the book to share that with the world. It’s so nice to be able to remember everything and to have meaningful interactions with other people. I have been able to have two beautiful children in sobriety; my daughter is eight and my son is nine. There is no unnecessary drama in my life, and I’m able to focus on how to give back to other people. Before, it was all about myself all the time. Now, I can feel good about my who I am without being so focused on myself. Ultimately, I am so grateful for this amazing life that has been given to me.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

In the introduction to your memoir, you write, “The truth was, I just wasn’t a fan of feeling feelings. If I could numb them out, I did.” Once you have physical sobriety, meaning you are no longer drinking or drugging, how hard is it to obtain emotional sobriety? Is it a process of progress as opposed to perfection?

Courtney Friel:

You have to allow yourself to feel the feelings that come up. In the past, I didn’t want to feel anything. I would brag about how shallow I was (laughing). I didn’t want to be a deep person, and I wanted to sweep everything under the rug. If anything was icky, I didn’t have the time to deal with it. It wasn’t for me, but when you get sober, your feelings come back like a storm. You ask yourself, “Why am I crying because of that stupid commercial?” You have to allow yourself to get through the tough stuff. If I’m sad, I put on sad music, and I cry it out. Once you allow yourself to feel the feelings, then they tend to lift. They pass, and you can move forward with your life. During those times when feelings come up, meditation truly helps me. It gives me the assurance to know that whatever I am feeling, it will pass eventually, and everything’s going to be okay.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

Can you tell us about your alter ego, “Reporter Friel”?

Courtney Friel:

(Laughing) Reporter Friel would come out the second I would start drinking. From third grade on, I always wanted to be a journalist. Growing up in school, I would ask questions of kids in my high school. When I would drink, however, it would become obnoxious. My Zima bottle would be my microphone, and I would go around and ask questions of everyone at a party. I’m sure it was funny, at first, but it quickly got really annoying. I am curious by nature, sober, as well as being drunk apparently.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

As a reporter, you dealt with the trauma of mass shootings, murders, and catastrophes on a regular basis? Did the use of alcohol and drugs help you manage the pain of what you experienced?

Courtney Friel:

I think I have covered more horrible stories in sobriety. In the new business, however, particularly when everyone’s starting out, you just go out and drink after work to drown it all out. When stressful things happened, our reaction was always, “Alright, let’s go to the bar.”

My first job was as a main anchor in Jackson, Tennessee. Every night, after the news, I would go to this bar that was within walking distance from my apartment. I would have my vodka soda with lemon and my hot wings with celery. What I worried about was low carbing. I never worried about drinking. I drank every single day, and alcohol helped me numb everything.

Addiction/Recovery eBulletin:

You have created the hashtag, #KeepingItFriel, to represent your new perspective. Can you tell us what it means to you and what you hope the book can come to mean for other people that read your book and follow you on Twitter and listen to your podcast?

Courtney Friel:

Keeping It Friel is a play on Keeping It Real. Anyone can do this by being your authentic self. Whether you are playful or open about your life, you are just comfortable in your own skin. You are happy to share whatever you’re feeling because you have nothing to hide. I am open about the bad things that have happened in my life, and this includes unflattering stories about myself. I don’t care what people think because that’s what happened, and this is my truth. I am Keeping It Friel in sobriety by letting people know how to have sober fun and how to cope with horrible challenges like the headaches that I’ve had for the past three years. By Keeping It Friel, I express the honesty of what’s really happening in my life, hoping that such an effort can help other people who might be facing the same difficulties.


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