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Stories Restoring Hope: Inked and Sober

Issue 28

Chris Bastey’s Journey from Punk Rock to Recovery, An Artist’s Transformation

Chris Bastey has become something of a legend in Rockland, Maine. Working at the famed Atlantic Studios, he’s dedicated nearly two decades of his life to the art of tattooing. His unique, bold, and colorful style is highly coveted, with eager clients scheduling appointments years in advance. But today, we celebrate another of Chris’ major achievements: five years of sobriety.

Raised in Hallowell during the pulsing 90s, Chris found solace in the worlds of art, music, and punk rock. The extreme edges of this culture shaped his youth, while cannabis and LSD helped him navigate the struggles of depression and low self-esteem.

In 2000, Boston’s vibrant city life beckoned, pulling Chris into its swirl as he joined a friend’s band. Soon, he found himself immersed in a social scene centered around alcohol. This pattern of heavy drinking would follow him for two long decades. Upon his return to Maine in 2003, Chris discovered a new outlet for his creativity: tattooing. But as his passion for this art form took flight, so did his dependency on alcohol.

Chris loved the thrill of extremes, a trait punk rock culture celebrated. Despite concerned warnings from friends and girlfriends, he felt his downward spirals validated his authenticity. “In my head, drinking cooking wine in my kitchen in the morning was hilarious,” Chris confesses. That was until alcohol, his trusted crutch, started failing him. The solace he once found at the bottom of a bottle began to fade. His coping mechanism shattered, and Chris knew he needed to reclaim control from the grip of substances.

In 2018, a recovery meeting with a friend sparked a profound transformation in Chris. Despite initial discomfort and skepticism, he clung to the hope that his commitment to sobriety just had to last long enough for him to develop a new way to navigate life.

Chris filled the vacuum left by alcohol with the study of esotericism, initiatory systems, meditation, and spirituality. His thirst for self-understanding led him down paths of self-discipline and higher consciousness. Through these practices, he learned to interact with his own mind, a vital step towards self-knowledge.

During his journey, Chris found a steadfast friend and mentor in Michael, whom he met in recovery meetings. Michael’s fervor and authenticity provided a touchstone during those challenging early months. Even as meetings took a back seat in Chris’ recovery journey, Michael remained a loyal ally.

In time, Chris built his own tailored approach to recovery, a blend of research, mentorship, and spirituality. He views our culture’s propensity for escapism, evident in our entertainment, consumerism, technology, and substance use, with a clear, sober perspective. He now chooses self-improvement over intoxication, using his time and energy to “sharpen the knife and hone my skills.”

Today, Chris’s artistry shines brighter than ever, his work now marked by a clarity and purpose that was missing before. He continues to explore the complexities of his mind and the universe, forever committed to the pursuit of self-discovery.

As Chris observes, there’s a wealth of wisdom to be gleaned from those in recovery. “People who have gone through the process of getting sober are very lucky. We have lived through having to give up something very near and dear to us, and learned to understand the value of life after the fact.”

If you’re embarking on your own recovery journey, Chris has one piece of hard-earned advice: seek self-understanding. “The more you know about yourself, the more power you have over yourself. The more power you have over yourself, the more agency you have in the world around you. And when you have the ability to choose what your life is like, you really feel like you’re living.”

Jamie Lovley
Jamie Lovley
Jamie Lovley, a graduate social work student in the Midcoast and working at a residential treatment facility, is the Substance Use Prevention Specialist at Knox County Community Health Coalition. She’s passionate about writing recovery stories that fight stigma and inspire hope.
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