This month I had the opportunity to talk to the renowned designer, Christopher Schafer. He has been sober for eighteen years. Married with three sons, his favorite child is an 85 pound German Shepherd, Otto. “He does shed and is a filthy beast but I love him.” Schafer is the man, the myth, the legend of custom menswear. He designs everything - suits, shirts, tuxedos, sport coats, and accessories. When we asked him about his work with clients, his favorite memories involve the ones when a friendship ensued. “They trusted and allowed me to do my best work.” Throughout the interview I got a feel for his humor. For example, when reminiscing about his sobriety, he claimed that if there is a “quota of what you are allowed to drink in your lifetime, I condensed mine into 20 years.”
Schafer didn’t start out in menswear, he started out as a drummer. He has been a musician all life. He started drinking at age twelve, and the culture of rock and roll amplified his substance use. Overtime, playing gigs turned into opportunities to have a few drinks, and then became binge drinking. His moment of sobriety came when he was at an event and didn’t realize he was on the verge of a blackout. The show ended when he was carried off stage. Although Schafer had plenty of run-ins with the law, when it (the law) was brought on stage, he knew he had a choice to make. “I would have shook it off and said that's rock and roll man, but it hit me where it hurts.”
His first decision after recovering from what must have been the worst hangover was to pursue a health kick. The answer to his “what am I going to do” was “I am going to do yoga.” Ultimately, Schafer went to Sheppard Pratt as an intake patient. The doctor sat him down and gave him a valuable piece of advice. “If you do yoga, you are just going to be a limb-er addict.”
These wise words spurred him on a journey that changed his life. However, his journey, like most, was not smooth sailing. Early in addiction, he would roll out of bed each day and beg God to take addiction away from him because he “knew [he] was going to die.” Once he got through the initial stages and mustered his determination, he was off. Sobriety was better than he thought it could be, and while there were definitely hurdles, it was as easy as doing the next right thing: “If you are willing to put in the work, the sky's the limit.”
Now, he runs his own business, Christopher Schafer Clothing, and opened a non-profit to help dress men who are getting back on their feet. He doesn’t have alcohol in his life and doesn't regret it: “It didn't make me the best version of myself, and took me to a very dark spot. It opened the door to drugs and took away everything. When I took alcohol away, life gave me everything.” He accredits his success to “gifts from sobriety.”
However, it would not be a Sobar story without a connection to us. He met our founder, Beth Harbinson, through two models of his. Once he heard her idea for Sobar, he was sold: “Being sober is cool…I still have a social life. I just don’t drink.” Having the alternative as an option allows sober people to “feel normal, and lessens the stigma around alcohol as the social lubricant.”
The interview with Schafer opened my eyes to the power of the model for Sobar. We promote change in a society where alcohol is sought after even by pre-teens. We are more than a non-profit that offers and promotes tasty drinks, we are here to support a community that brings comfort to others.
My conversation with Christopher was filled with humor and insight but I’d like to leave the readers with this final thought. For him, having an interesting alternative to alcohol is a nice way for him to be involved. It allows him to be present and really appreciate life. Leaving alcohol behind made his grass greener. In his words, “It's called being wasted, because you are wasting a lot.”