In the world of CrossFit, the name Mat Fraser is revered. Having been crowned the Fittest Man on Earth five times, Fraser cemented his dominance in the sport with what seemed like ease. Competitions came and challengers descended from the ranks, but none were a match for Fraser’s unwavering dedication to furthering his own physical strength and endurance. With diligence and discipline, Fraser worked tirelessly in the gym to continue his reign at the top. Despite only taking up CrossFit at the age of 22 after breaking his L5 vertebrae in two places from a heavy lift while training for the Olympics in weight lifting, in just a few years he ascended the ranks to surpass Rich Froning’s four-consecutive wins.
While so much of Fraser’s success in CrossFit is well known, rarely does mention of his sobriety come up into conversation. And yet, as Fraser will be the first to tell you, it’s played a significant part in his success. Fraser hasn’t drunk alcohol since the night before his senior year of high school when he was just 17-years-old.
In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Fraser gets incredibly candid about his struggles with drinking and making the decision to go sober. Speaking to his countless followers, the 32-year-old describes trying alcohol and drugs as early as the fourth grade, only for it to eventually lead to him developing habits in his teens that presented an unsustainable path for his future.
Ultimately, the wake-up call for Fraser came when he received another drinking citation at 17, bringing it home to his father who was so used to the summons that he didn’t even react. Fraser recalls 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,’” says Fraser.
As the CrossFit star suggests, sobriety was made easier when he developed safe, productive habits to replace the excessive drinking. In doing so, Fraser was able to carve out an identity separate from that of alcohol. No longer was he beholden to the image of the “Party Guy” that he’d crafted years before. Instead, he was intent on giving his all to CrossFit and his 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.”
As well as finding a sense of identity and purpose within the world of CrossFit, Fraser admits that it also gave him an 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,” says Fraser. “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 sharing his story with his countless followers, Fraser wants others to see the positive impact sobriety can have on one’s life. It’s particularly important to Fraser who, when navigating that stage of his life himself, struggled to see role models and others reflecting the ideals he was so intently striving for in sobriety. “At this point, I would like to go to meetings for the sake of other people,” says Fraser.
“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.”