The 12 Steps of Self-Care
A lot of people, when they decide they are going to quit something – pigging out, cigarettes, drinking, etc. – make a calculated decision to have a final binge, sort of like a person on Death Row has their Last Supper on the eve of their execution. (At least, according to movies they do). That’s sort of how this time of year feels to me in some ways. We are all so busy getting stuff done, with the final deadline of Last Day of School/Christmas Eve/New Year’s Eve looming over us. Gotta get all the shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning, Elf-moving, card-sending done, while at the same time keeping commitments to holiday parties, Nutcracker performances, religious services, charitable causes. It’s exhausting. And the first thing to go is our self-care. Who has time for yoga, decent bedtime, 10 minute meditations, preparing meals from real food? So, we are running around like wild turkeys with our heads cut off and eating all kinds of sugary treats and sipping on (or gulping down) “well-deserved” cocktails, and then, when we get sick, we blame it on the fact that the flu shot doesn’t work this year, or “it’s that time of year” so obviously, it was inevitable.
And then January 1 hits us and we say, I need to detox. I need to get healthy.
Hopefully, I am preaching to the choir here and this post will be a validation of everything you are doing. Most of us, though, are probably not quite choir material, at least not in action. We may know something needs to change, but either it’s too overwhelming, or we really don’t know what to do.
These are the 12 steps I recommend following – as part of a solid self-care plan. And if you are too busy to do them, then you need to REALLY do them. Someone asked the Dalai Lama once, “How long do you recommend I meditate each day?” He answered, “20 minutes is good.” So then the person said, “But I am too busy for that.” And the Dalai Lama said, “Well, then you need to meditate for 2 hours.”
Today is the beginning of the rest of your life. Not January 1. Today. Right now, this very breath. Why wait until you have hit your version of rock bottom? A heart attack, a panic attack, a horrible hangover, an affair, a breast lump, a blood sugar level, a financial meltdown, 30 pounds of overweight, a child in crisis (because they are our best mirrors, but their little bodies and brains aren’t able to absorb as much – so pay attention!) – these are all signs that we are living an unbalanced life. Follow these 12 steps and chances are, things will fall into place.
We Need New Words
One of the highlights of my week is the Spanyoga classes I teach at a local preschool, to 3-5 year-olds. For about half an hour a pop, I lead these adorable little sponges through yoga movements, often cueing in Spanish (arriba, abajo, toca los pies, vaca, gato, perro, respire por la naríz…), as well as songs and conversation in Spanish. Playing – I mean, working – with kids is one of my favorite things to do, in large part because they haven’t yet become stuck in their ideas, stories, beliefs about the world and themselves. When I hang out with them, I get a front seat to observing real, live child-like wonder. So awesome.
Yesterday, I mentioned to them that sometimes, I don’t know a word in Spanish because at least during my time in Mexico (from ages 7-17), it was not a word that was relevant, either to my life paradigm, or maybe even the geography of where we were. Every class, I read a book to the adorable tykes, but most of the books I have access to are in English, so I basically have to translate them on the fly. There have been a few times that I didn’t know the word, and had to look it up. A few times, there was no translation. So, yesterday, after practicing the word for snow (nieve) and snowing (nevando), I shared with them that the Eskimo actually have about 50 words for snow. Cue: eyes open wide in childlike wonder. I explained that in places around the world where snow is prevalent, stays a long time, and has all kinds of uses, the cultures have adapted a vocabulary to differentiate between the different kinds of snow.
Lately, I have been thinking about this in terms of where I am on my health and wellness journey. For a while, I have been mulling over this belief I hold that as humans, our brains, and our intellectual grasp on life, are currently incredibly limited. As a coach, I am fascinated by the concept of self-limiting beliefs, and I think a lot of it starts with vocabulary. We grow up, as young, impressionable kids, being told what and who and how we are, and that becomes our language. It becomes the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world, and who and what we may become. I am an athlete. I am not a runner. I suck at art. I have no focus. I am good at math but suck at writing. I am a talented pianist. I can’t dance to save my life. I am lucky. I am poor. I am diabetic. I am clumsy. I am a hard worker. I am adventurous. I am a Christian. I am a victim. I have a learning disability. I am special. I am a girl. I am lazy. I am a leader.
Words are so powerful, as they reflect the way we see ourselves and the way we interact with our environment. So, I think it makes total sense that one of the reasons we don’t experience the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual growth we are capable of, is because maybe we lack the vocabulary needed to explore further growth. Words and language are designed to help us understand our world, but they can also create misunderstandings (like when we had just moved to Mexico, and I was in my ballet class with the other seven-year-olds, and the teacher asked me to do something and I said no, because I was “embarazada” – which means pregnant. Oops!)
Those of you who are kind (or bored?) enough to subscribe to and read my blog, know that last week I celebrated one year of being completely alcohol-free. I announced this with a blog entry, and I quickly followed that entry with something I am convinced is lacking in the mental and physical health world, surrounding the discussion and exploration of substance use disorders, especially alcohol. I spoke of how many opportunities are lost, to prevent more advanced stages of addiction, simply because there is no official framework where people can assess or be assessed, in their alcohol use, before they hit the obvious bottoms. Check it out here: stages of alcoholism.
Today, as I think about the Eskimo words for snow, the power of language, the lies we tell ourselves because of what parents, teachers, coaches, babysitters, family, friends, media, society have told us and we have believed are true – it strikes me that there needs to be a new way to talk about what we now refer to in the very loaded, stigmatized term alcoholic.
As I stated in my previous blog mentioned above, although I am not a mental health or medical professional, I believe that alcoholism can be broken down into four stages (with some overlap between them). Going further, what I would like to suggest, is that the word alcoholic could be nuanced. Why? Well, I know for me, if I had known sooner about the concept of High Functioning Alcoholic, I may have been less likely to justify my socially-accepted, but soul-destructive behavior. I could not relate to the stories out there of complete destruction or extreme alcoholic behavior, but if I had heard the stories of women who were concerned that their alcohol consumption was eating away at their integrity and completely at odds with their breast cancer awareness pink ribbons (because alcohol DOES cause cancer- read THIS), I may have quit sooner. Maybe not. Who knows? But in my quest to help others avoid going further down the slippery slope, I would like to suggest we entertain the idea of adding some new words to our vocabulary about alcoholism and alcoholics:
In my conversations with other women in recovery, we have all experienced that once we share with someone that we are abstaining from drinking, the first reaction is often, “Is this forever?” and the next statement is, “but I never saw you drink any more than most people – surely you aren’t an alcoholic!” This is well-intentioned, but unfortunately, far from helpful. This is exactly why we ended up where we did – because we were telling ourselves that same story of denial for so long. In our minds, there was only one definition of an alcoholic, and it was an ugly label that definitely did not describe our current behavior, or the state of our lives. Being unable to identify with this loaded term – alcoholic – kept us from understanding our behavior, our health, the slippery slope progression. It kept us from seeking the help we needed, be it through self-help programs or professional treatment. How many of us have said, “I don’t believe I am an alcoholic, because I never xyz and I only drank xyz, so I am not going to go to a 12 step meeting, because I feel like I won’t belong” - ?
If we return to the staging framework I jotted down in my previous blog entry, similar to cancer staging – it would be like me feeling a lump in my breast (perhaps stage 1) and then having as my only option, as far as I am concerned, getting on the bus with the patients with stage 4 cancer and getting full-blown chemo. If that were the case with cancer, I would probably be so terrified, and consider the treatment so extreme and overdone for my stage 1 diagnosis, that I would stay in my denial and not do much. Kind of the same way people do with their problematic drinking – until it hits a low enough bottom that they can start to identify with the word “alcoholic.” In the meetings, we are urged to find the similarities rather than the differences, but this can be a tall order for someone who already feels uncomfortable, self-conscious, and may be looking for any reason to run out the door and never return. However, if I know about the staging in alcoholism, and can identify as a Problematic Alcohol User (Stage 2), and I am aware that if I don't control my dis-ease with a structured program that is open to anyone in all stages, whose shared goal is to abstain from drinking, I am probably going to be more likely to explore the program before my dis-ease progresses to a more advanced stage.
Words matter. Where I live, we may not need 50 words for “snow.” THANK GOD for that. We may not need 50 different words for the various landing points on the alcoholism slippery slope, but we definitely need a better way to talk about it, if we are going to be serious about prevention and treatment. As much as I dislike labels because of how confining and self-limiting they can be, I do appreciate how they provide a way to communicate, especially to ourselves, what it is we need to do, to take better care of ourselves and grow to our potential.
To humans, words are more than a means of communication, they can shape our beliefs, behaviors, feelings and ultimately our actions. Although swords can coerce us, and threaten, nothing is more powerful than a tool which can shape our opinions.
You Do NOT Have to Hit Rock Bottom
"The lubricant became a crutch that became a habit that became an addiction."
- L, a grateful alcoholic in recovery
When I shared in this blogpost, two days ago, that I had reached the one-year milestone of living in sobriety, I was showered with love and support. THANK YOU! I received several messages from people that really got me thinking, and validated my decision to be open to the public about my journey. These messages, both in the virtual world and in the real world, were some iteration of, “I thought I just needed to take a few days off of drinking, but your blog made me realize I need to make this a long-term commitment, maybe even a forever goal.”
During my year of recovery, I dove head-first into books and podcasts and documentaries on recovery. I tried on different types of recovery meetings. I saw it as a mission, to learn more about myself, and to learn more about the human condition. I thought, if I pay attention, and do the work, I will (hopefully) become a better person, and be better equipped to help others. In the way that I am eager for all my friends to hear about the latest and greatest shoes, song, restaurant, supplement, podcast I have discovered, I wanted to know what was available in the world of recovery tools, so I may share them.
I started to notice something in this world of addiction and recovery, that as far as I can tell so far, is really missing. This is what is missing: the discussion about the in-between period, between the period of "I drink socially, but I think maybe I should cut down," and the period of "I definitely am not drinking today" - only to pick it up and do it all over again, obsessively and compulsively. I think the fact it is missing is one of the reasons so many people are continuing to live lives of increasingly quiet desperation – unnecessarily. I think it’s one of the reasons that there is stigma, which really boils down to ignorance and fear. I think the lack of this discussion means we are missing out on a really important opportunity to intervene before things get really messy. We can prevent needless suffering if we would only recognize that we can actually be proactive way before the Rock Bottom.
When I first gave up drinking a year ago (after a few years of “controlled drinking” experiments), and started looking into different recovery programs, even going to some meetings, my Imposter Syndrome kicked in, as well as my typical “I don’t fit in here” feeling. I knew that alcohol was sabotaging my efforts to become the human I am meant to be. And yet, I could not relate to many of the stories I heard of complete disaster. I would hear of women who drank gallons every day, or who didn’t drink in social settings but started pounding as soon as they got home, or who drank in the morning, just to be able to function at work. It was easy to say “That’s not me.” And it would have been easy to say, “I don’t belong here. If I think I do, I am just being a fraud.” Many people on a solid recovery path will point out that that is my alcoholic voice trying to convince me that I am different, I am better, and I don’t belong in a recovery program, I just need to try harder at controlling my drinking, or, I can abstain from alcohol without any sort of program or structured support program. It didn't help that several well-meaning friends and family, upon learning of my abstention, would say stuff like, "But you didn't drink that much, did you?" And then I would find myself explaining that it may not seem like I merited AA membership, but I had made the decision to quit BEFORE their reaction could be, "it's about time."
Luckily, I told the voice in my head that doubted my "alcoholic qualifications" to f-off and I kept showing up. I kept reading the memoirs and listening to the podcasts. And, gradually, the labels, and all of the baggage attached to them (“alcoholic,” “addict”) while important as a reminder to practice humility and to be grateful to exit the elevator down, before sinking further – no longer became a loaded, stark definition that created separation between me and “those who really are.” As I learned more about the deadly power of alcohol, I learned about the progression of its grip on our organs, especially our brain, and on its dissolution of our soul. I realized that while I had not, by the grace of God, experienced calamity due to my drinking, it was very likely a statement that needed the word “yet” on the end: I had not experienced calamity – YET.
I began to think of my alcoholism the way we think of cancer. In stages. I had learned enough to know that problematic behavior around alcohol is a progression, and at some point, if not dealt with, takes a serious turn and can (does) lead to horrible crap, including death. I thought of it like cancer, in that, if we are diagnosed with cancer stage 1, we do not say, “well, it’s not really cancer, it’s just stage 1. I don’t really need to treat it or make any major changes.” That would be beyond stupid, I think we all agree on that. Problematic drinking is the same thing. It is not a problem that takes care of itself. Someone who read my blog from two days ago said, “I was going to take a few days off of drinking, but reading your blog made me realize this is more serious than I wanted to admit.”
If I go to my OB-GYN and she does a PAP Smear and it reveals I have cancerous cells, I am not going to say, “well, I will just carry on and see what happens.” No! I will listen to the doctor, do whatever follow-up I need to do, and make any necessary life changes. I will ask my closest loved ones for support and prayers. Same goes for if I learn that my blood sugar levels are at a point that I am pre-diabetic. I will adjust my exercise and diet and do what I need to do, because I now have this important information and I am empowered to make changes before my health worsens.
This is what we need to do with alcoholism. I really believe that we need to have a way to self-assess, and for our medical and mental health practitioners to assess, where we fall on the alcohol consumption spectrum. Because I am absolutely certain that millions of people are not doing what they need to do, because they do not identify with the label “alcoholic” as they know they aren’t “as bad as that.” And when they do this, they are missing an amazing opportunity to stop the progression, to be more connected and self-aware and healthy.
Roughly, I would suggest a framework like this:
If we have this type of framework, we can then, I think, have a better understanding of where we are, if we need to take steps, and then start the process of recovery before we get any further down. It’s sort of like when we weigh ourselves (actually, I don’t weigh myself – but I do know how my jeans fit me). If we realize we are ten pounds over where we know we feel our best, we then have the power to decide to do something about it before we continue down the path and perhaps end up 50 pounds overweight. It is harder to lose 50 pounds than ten pounds.
The other thing is that if we recognize stages this way, it makes it easier to discuss our problem with others. If we have more clarity, we are better at communicating what we feel and need. Our doctors no longer need to be completely misguided with their off-base questions like, “do you consider yourself a moderate drinker?” I know I always wanted an A on my physical so I always answered, YES! Put a check in the moderation column! If, on the other hand, he had asked me to fill out a questionnaire based on the stages, even if I had lied, it would have, I think, alerted me earlier to the need to speak honestly. As stated above, alcoholism is a progressive disease - and I do believe that whether we are in Stage 1 or Stage 2, if we don't make some major changes to figure out the root of this behavior, we will ride that elevator further down.
Finally, I really believe that when we are faced with a situation that gives us the chance to be honest, starting with ourselves, about our need to let go of perfection, to be truly seen and heard by others, to simplify our lives and connect with our spiritual side, whatever that means to us – only good things can happen. During this year of recovery, I have often had these moments of “omigosh, everyone could benefit from following this program! So much unnecessary unhappiness, anger, resentment, and shame could be resolved if more people did this!” If my writing, my message of “you do not need to be in Stage 3 or 4 of alcoholism to step into the wonderful world of sobriety and recovery” reaches just one person’s heart and plants a seed, it will all be worth it, for me.
A Year Ago Today, I Started Over.
My dog, Penny, will go to the front door, scratch it and then sit expectantly, waiting for someone to reluctantly stop the very important stuff they are doing, to go and let her out. We will open the door for her and she will sit there, sniffing, but not go out. And then, she will trot to the door to the garage and scratch there, and sit again. And we will go to that door and let her out the garage, and this time, she will go out. Both doors lead to the front yard – so no matter which door she goes through, she will end up in the same spot. And yet, she does this every day. For the last 6-7 years. If you think about it, it is rather insane. Frustrating, a cute idiosyncrasy, and absurd.
A year ago today, I started on my own journey to quit doing the same stuff, expecting, or at least hoping for, different results. After a couple of years of trying different routes, only to end up in the same place, I realized, on December 6, 2015, that I had exhausted all options and it was time to get off the hamster wheel before the nonstop insanity took me closer to disaster, or at the very least, to becoming more of who I wasn’t.
Today marks one year of an alcohol-free lifestyle. I did not set out to be a long-term teetotaler. I had simply reached the end of my rope, physically, mentally and emotionally, and I knew that my alcohol consumption was the greatest and most toxic symptom of my dis-ease. Deep-down I had known this for awhile, and as I delved deeper into mindfulness, meditation, yoga, authenticity – the cognitive dissonance became more and more apparent. In mindfulness, we practice tuning into our body, noticing stuff like fatigue, sleeplessness, restlessness, bloating, immunity issues, skin irregularities, aches, cravings, etc. We also pay attention to our emotions, with an intention to practice curious, non-judgmental, compassionate observance. Physically, my commitment to regular exercise and whole foods and high quality supplements, helped me, I guess, because there wasn’t much deterioration that I was aware of. Of course, one can only assume that on a cellular level, drinking several drinks a week starts processes only visible once the compound effect takes place. But mentally and emotionally, I knew that what I was doing, even though in many circles is considered normal and even deserved (hey, work hard, play hard, right?) was not something I could continue, without eroding my own sense of integrity, honesty, authenticity and self-compassion.
So, after having the worst momtrum of my life, which was a result of my being completely exhausted in every way – although I was completely sober when this happened, I knew that alcohol was a major factor in my exhaustion- I decided I needed to give my body, mind and soul a break. I quietly decided to “detox” by avoiding alcohol for a week or two. Not even a sip. Bill came home from his business trip, it was Friday a few days after my decision, and I declined the glass of wine he offered. I explained I didn’t want to drink for awhile, because the ugliness of five days ago still haunted me. I still didn’t know where I was going with this “detox” – how long – but I knew I would know the plan when the time was right, so in the meantime, I would abstain.
Now, keep in mind that most people who decide to abstain from alcohol (or sugar, another big source of addiction) regard starting during the holidays as impossible if not terrifying. But that is exactly what I did. That is how sick I was of myself – or rather, of the person I had become. I did at times wonder if this was the right time to start this abstaining thing, but at some point it hit me – this is the perfect time. Alcohol, which is celebrated for its ability to take off the edge, ease our stress, enhance a festive occasion, reduce inhibitions and facilitate connection – well, at this point I knew that all of this was a bunch of crap. Alcohol wants me to believe all of the above. But I was no longer believing it. I knew that to be the mom and wife and human that I want, and need to be – I need to have a clear mind, and a clear conscience. I need to be available for my loved ones. And ESPECIALLY during an important time of year such as Christmas.
About three weeks into my little detox experiment, I decided to come clean, so to speak, publicly, because of the role I play as a coach and mentor to many adults and kids. I was done with feeling like a hypocrite, wearing a running shirt that says “Kale Queen” and feeling like people were misled into believing I lead a totally healthy, balanced existence. I figured, if I share my own realization and experience, the pedestal people may have placed me upon will hopefully be knocked down, because it turns out, it’s pretty scary when you think people know you as being a certain way, they hold you to a certain standard, when you know you are not worthy of that standard. It was my way of staying authentic. Even more so, I suspected that there were (are) a lot of people just like me out there, and maybe my story will help someone else feel less alone, and perhaps even nudge them toward creating change, and getting help if they need it.
My revelation led to some pretty amazing stuff, which I guess happens when you are willing to be vulnerable, with the intention of being truthful and of service. So many of you reached out in support – so many of you said “me too! Welcome to this awesome journey!” – so many of you said “me too – I think I need help.” I created a private group on Facebook that has grown to a number I would never have expected (please let me know if you would like to join us). I started to realize that this was much more than a “detox” for me. I loved the mental clarity, I loved being available to my family. I started to explore recovery beyond simply abstaining from alcohol. Online resources such as blogs, recovery communities, as well as local meetings, and podcasts (see list below). I now have a whole shelf dedicated to books on recovery. I am in a text thread with five other women all over the country, who are on the same journey as me, and we have become like sisters.
One of the reasons I delayed facing the truth about what I needed to do to clean up my act and be the person I really am, is I was really scared that by not drinking, I was going to close off many areas of my life. I was going to reject certain parts of myself – the fun, wild, spontaneous parts. Alcohol is a huge part of our culture, and I was afraid that I was now going to be a boring teetotaler who was surely going to be a social outcast, even more of a square peg in a round hole than I already often felt. I was afraid that living in suburbia sober was about as tedious as life could get, and I would go nuts.
As I think over the past 365 days, and now, as I write the paragraph I just wrote, I cannot help but think, holy crap, Susanne, look how wrong you were! To say that my life has opened up is a gross understatement. I have met some amazing people. Every day, when I think of the people who only a year ago were not in my life, or who I knew but did not know at the time were also living in recovery – I am amazed. A lot of people who are susceptible to addiction or problematic drinking (it’s a spectrum), I am convinced, are extremely gifted – many are brilliant and have tons of energy – which when sober, will be channeled to starting businesses, non-profits, running marathons and finishing Ironman triathlons or longer. Many are extremely sensitive, so they are keenly aware of what’s going on around and within them – which when sober, can be expressed by reaching out to others through creative endeavors, and helping other lost souls find their mooring. There is something magical about being in a room, or at a table, with people who live every 24 hours with deep gratitude, and who really do their best to accept the things they cannot change, have the courage to change the things they can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The serenity is real.
I have heard there is a lot of stigma (certainly a huge amount of fear of stigma) out there about people in active addiction, as well as in recovery, which is a big reason many choose to remain anonymous. But I can tell you – if I hear that a doctor, therapist, lawyer, teacher, business person, or potential friend, is in recovery and actively working on recovery, in the way that works for them, I will probably choose them over someone else any day. I am a big fan of personal development, and I really believe that a recovery program is the best personal development program out there. A crisis is an opportunity to change, and when we embrace the opportunity, and work on recovery, which really is the less-traveled path, we are choosing to let go of mindless living, do the hard work, move through things instead of away or around them, while helping others do the same. When someone is judged, or stigmatized, for doing this, it is clearly out of lack of awareness of what it really takes to be in recovery. I don’t blame people for harboring fear (which basically is at the root of stigma). Most of what we know about addiction and recovery is the over-sensationalized trainwrecks in the media, or the relapses that end in tragedy. And, yes, those cases are real, and awful. And I hope that as more people are open about their recovery, people in general are less judgmental, and also, less afraid to ask for help. There is a lot of misinformation and misguided assumptions, regarding how to best support someone who needs or is asking for help. There also really is a huge lack of resources, and information. I have learned that when someone is ready to ask for help, the path is far from clear-cut. You can’t go into your doctor’s office and announce, “I am ready for rehab” and start the process of recovery. Well, unless you’re wealthy and/or a celebrity. For most people, it is a complicated, frustrating process, which I hope will begin to change as the awareness grows that alcohol is the most dangerous drug out there.
Something else I have learned this year, is how many shades of grey there are on the, shall we call it, problem drinking spectrum. Only about 10% of the people we would consider alcoholics are the ones you may think of as a typical alcoholic – drinking all day, life in a shambles, bankrupt or homeless, etc. The reality is that it can be much more subtle. I know of professionals, parents, in recovery, who drank maybe once a week, but often to excess and would hate themselves for the next few days. I know people who drank every day, be it one glass or five, sometimes more, sometimes less. I have come to the conclusion that since alcoholism is basically a self-diagnosed disease, and we all have such different lifestyles, biological makeup, values and priorities – if and when we decide to ask ourselves, “do I have a problem?” these are the real questions we need to ask:
When asking ourselves these questions, if we feel uncomfortable, this may be our gut telling us, look closer. I think if we try to evaluate our problem, or lack thereof, based solely or mostly on amount and frequency of consumption, we are missing the mark. We are enabling our justification to continue. The eating away at our soul is not something that can be measured in number of ounces of days of the week.
Somebody asked me the other day, how have I done it? And have I faced a lot of challenges? From the get-go, I told myself, alcohol is not an option. Just like, selling my child on Craigslist or allowing my children to dock their iPhones in their bedrooms at night. Sometimes tempting (well except for the iPhone thing), but totally off the table. The other thing that I think has been really important for me, is not to compartmentalize sobriety. When I talk health in any way, be it running, fitness, mindfulness, nutrition – I urge people to avoid compartmentalizing. If we want to become fitter, we can’t assume that a one-hour workout class followed by sitting for eight hours will do much for us – we need to move throughout the day. And let’s look at your food & drink consumption. And how you manage stress. And your sleep habits. And so on. I see my sobriety the same way. I abstain from alcohol but that is just the jumping off point – I also need to do the work to get to the root of the problem, the dis-ease, and create a framework that stops it from happening again. Life is hard, we get thrown so many challenges through incidents, circumstances, and people – and a solid recovery program helps us learn tools such as recognizing triggers, planning for known challenges, being connected with a tribe that gets us, and having the humility to accept that we are not always in control, and it’s a very courageous thing to ask for help. Alcohol is a powerful, highly addictive drug, and consuming it problematically (which, by the way, 51 million Americans do) is a symptom. When we truly live a life of recovery, which to a great degree means, prioritizing self-care, we start to move away from the person we had become, and toward the person we, deep down, really are.
Several years ago, an acquaintance on Facebook posted a status that said something like, “By the grace of God, five years today.” I suspected that must mean, sobriety. I was intrigued. A beautiful woman, a mom, always so put-together, as far as I was concerned, had it all. I thought – her??? That opened up something in me, some new level of self-awareness and inquiry. A couple of other people I know who have been sober for a few decades, would also post on their soberversaries. I was in awe, envious. Further self-awareness. A mom blogger whose theme was something like the “3 Martini Playdate” announced she was getting sober, Elizabeth Vargas came out as an alcoholic… all of these seeds were being planted and my journey of self-discovery in this area was starting to gain traction.
I am using this occasion of my first soberversary, to hopefully plant a seed in someone else’s journey. I know our culture glamorizes alcohol, and the current normal is to flaunt our alcohol consumption on social media. At the risk of being the biggest buzz kill in people’s newsfeed today, I urge you to consider that alcohol is the most addictive drug there is, and the main reason it is allowed so much freedom and publicity and legality is because it is a huge industry that makes a fortune off of people’s habits and addictions. More often than you probably realize, alcohol use leads to poor parenting, accidental deaths, diabetes, cancer, domestic abuse, violence against loved ones and against strangers, problems with the law, obesity, anxiety, depression, opiate and cocaine and other illegal drug use disorders, and all sorts of other personal and public dis-ease. I am hopeful that the tide will start to change, and more and more of the cool kids and adults will start to embrace a sober lifestyle. Many of them are – in fact, my relatively short time so far in the recovery world has given me a glimpse into a fascinating, compassionate, loving and grateful - and totally cool - world I didn’t know existed.
Below, I am listing some of the resources I would recommend to anyone who is wondering if sobriety is something they should consider, or if you are currently in recovery and want to add more tools to your kit. Please feel free to suggest others I may have left off, or haven’t come across yet.
I am deeply grateful, to all of you (you know who you are), for being incredibly supportive and generous this year. I thought I was starting out on the road less-traveled, and it turns out that I have never felt more accompanied.
Finally – I have a request of you. I started a Go Fund Me page (www.gofundme.com/sobriety-healing-recovery) specifically to help two incredible sober warriors who are struggling financially, and I want to help them attend a recovery conference that I know will be an enormous source of support for them. If you can spare $5, $50, whatever you can do, that would be amazing.
Okay, time to let the dog out.
Thank you for staying with me this far.
Drink – The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (Ann Dowsett Johnston)
Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic: Breaking the Cycle and Finding Hope (Sarah Allen Benton)
Kick the Drink… Easily! (Jason Vale)
The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Websites & Some Favorite Blogs:
Women For Sobriety
Crying Out Now
The Bubble Hour
Tommy Rosen Recovery 2.0
The SHAIR Podcast
That Sober Guy Podcast
Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.