We have a podcast…..

I’m so excited to tell you about my new podcast. The Real Deal: Recovery talk with Julie Maida and Veronica Valli
You guys have asked me for a long time if I have a podcast, while finally, I do. If you don’t know Julie, you totally should. Julie is the founder of Sober Mommies, a non-profit dedicated to helping mothers in recovery.
I always liked Julie’s vibe and when we connected at She Recovers it confirmed everything that I hoped was true. She was my kind of girl.
Julie and I are also sober twins. We got sober at exactly the same moment. We share the sobriety date May 2nd, 2000. We both bring 17 years of continuous sobriety to the table and between us have experience in just about everything that can happen in long-term recovery.
We intend our podcast to be real, honest talk about life in sobriety. The challenges, the joys and everything in-between. We take requests, so if there’s something you want to be discussed then get in contact.
You can subscribe to the podcast here.

Relationships and drinking

I am over 17 years sober and have been with my husband for 11 years. I cannot emphasize how astounding it is for me to write those words. Because whilst drinking, my relationship history was a spectacular disaster. I really wasn’t capable of a healthy relationship until I got sober, and even then it took a bit of work.
Relationships don’t come easily to a lot of people, but it’s even harder for people who drink. Add some alcohol abuse to a relationship and stand back and wait for the explosion.
Dating and drinking
For me, relationships and alcohol were inextricably linked. I drank so I could meet ‘someone.’ I drank to get over being dumped; I drank because I was scared of being alone. I always drank the first time I slept with someone. I drank on all of my dates. I drank because I had no idea how to have a relationship sober.
My relationships whilst drinking were complete and utter disasters. In hindsight, all of my relationships were based on my misguided belief that the right person would ‘fix me’. If I had the right relationship, the right man, then everything would be perfect.
I was still focusing on external fixes at this point and it really didn’t cross my mind that I was an insecure, manipulative, dishonest, frightened, needy, shallow, unmanageable, screwed-up mess, and that no right minded, decent, emotionally intelligent man would come within a hundred paces of me.
Instead of attracting the right man, I attracted a lot of wrong men. Because you see, emotionally healthy people are just not attracted to the kind of person I was. Unhealthy men, however, found me very attractive and I had endless pointless, insincere relationships, because frankly it was better than being on my own.

Relationships as a ‘fix’
However, a relationship is never going to work when two love-starved and needy individuals demand the other person ‘fix them’. I just had nothing to give.
As I wasn’t capable of having a healthy functioning relationship, I took ‘hostages’. I grabbed on to someone and didn’t let go, no matter what I thought or felt. I was just desperate not to be alone. I ‘engineered’ all of my relationships. I was controlling and manipulative. Some of the men I had relationships with I cared for, but the truth was that they were never based on love. They were based on fear.
Fear of:
• not being loved
• being ‘left on the shelf’.

And once in the relationship, the fear was of:
not being good enough,
• being rejected,
• having them discover who I really was.

I used sex to get love and attracted men who used love to get sex.

Relationships in recovery can be equally hazardous because without the security blanket of alcohol we are laid bare. We are exposed and we are most definitely frightened as hell. Romantic relationships key into our deepest fears of not being worthy of love. We are frightened of the other person getting too close, seeing who we really are and rejecting us, thus confirming what we believed in the first place – a faulty belief, by the way. So from the start we are unconsciously pushing the other person away and acting on this faulty belief and, in this way, we create this as our experience again and again. And thus the faulty belief is reinforced.

It’s the constant illusion that love from another person will make all the bad stuff go away. But the truth is that when you don’t love yourself, or even like yourself, it’s impossible to receive love from another person. We either destroy that love under the weight of our insecurities and fear, or we settle for second best because we are so scared of rejection or being alone, or worse, because we believe we don’t deserve better. If we indulge in those feelings for too long then we will eventually drink again, because we use alcohol as an anesthetic.
A new love
But there is a way out of this pattern. And God knows if I can do it you can too. The first step is to have a close look at your patterns. Look at where you make decisions based on fear instead of love. Then acknowledge your fears. Your fears limit you. Pick them apart, bit by bit. It’s a process and it’s hard work but I’ve seen lots of people break these chains. If you can practice self-honesty. Then you are on the road.

Sign up for more posts on relationships in the next few weeks.

Exhaustion, sobriety and motherhood

pexels-photo-269141Most of us realize pretty soon after we get sober that alcohol was never really the true problem. That in fact, it was life that was the problem. Newly sober, we have the challenge of living life without the crutch of alcohol.

We need tools and the instructions on how to use those tools, but most of all we need each other. This path cannot be walked alone. Ask around, many have tried, it never ends well.
Healthy sobriety is about connection and living our truth.
Eventually, if we stick with it, sobriety becomes our ‘new normal’ and our old life seems like it belonged to a different person.
The challenges don’t stop when we get sober, in fact, most of us have lots of learning and growth opportunities to grapple with that we postponed because of our drinking. Like developing emotional intelligence for instance and responding to our feelings in a healthy manner, not a destructive one. Creating balance in our lives where we used to have chaos.

Yep, balance is essential to healthy recovery.
Just because I have balance today does not mean I will have it tomorrow.

I have to work at balance in my life especially now that I’m a mother.
I wouldn’t say that my recovery was easy, it wasn’t, but it was certainly easier than drinking and using. I had a major crisis at about 3 years sober because of a relationship (dating disaster hell) and a few more speed bumps along the way. But I found that as long as I continued to stay connected and use the tools I was given I was able to learn and grow through each challenge.
I was 12 years sober when I had a baby, so I had some solid sobriety under my belt. However becoming a mother was an enormous learning curve. I didn’t sleep for a year. My son is now 5 and I have another son who is 2. I can’t remember what it’s like to feel properly rested. I look back at my old life and actually feel embarrassed at ever complaining I was tired before.
Exhaustion became my ‘new normal’.
All I did for the first year of motherhood was look after my darling one whilst trying to remember to shower occasionally. I didn’t use any of my recovery tools because I didn’t think I needed to. I wasn’t doing a whole lot, I certainly wasn’t getting resentments and I adored my baby beyond anything so I just cruised for a while.
Then came a speed bump. It was a big one.

My son was about 15 months old when I realized I just didn’t feel right in myself. People were starting to annoy me and I was withdrawing from my husband. I was exhausted, nothing else mattered except sleeping and taking care of my son.

Despite my exhaustion, I had to find some internal strength to do what I’ve always done; to take care of myself spiritually and emotionally. Even bone crunching exhaustion wasn’t a good enough excuse.
My mind is insidious like that, it will still look for reasons to not do the things that are good for me. It will always try and find the easier option.
But there is not easier option for someone like me.

I wasn’t close to taking a drink, but I know the pathway to drinking and I had stepped on it. Maybe I’d have stayed a dry drunk for years, who knows?
But there’s no way I want to find out.
My sons deserve a sober mother, but they also deserve an emotionally healthy and spiritually fit mother too. Becasue there’s so much more to staying sober than just not drinking.

“Yes, I’m definitely a virgin, thanks.’

Twice this week I went to a fundraising gala that had an open bar. And at each event, I ordered my signature cocktail; a Shirley Temple.
And each time the bartender said to me ‘are you sure you don’t want me to put some vodka in that?’

I have to admit I struggle a bit with open bars. Not that they tempt me to drink, I just think it’s incredibly ironic that when drinking alcohol, I never seemed to end up in an open bar situation. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing, lifesaving even. My mother is from the post-war generation (bear with me) who grew up with rationing, so she installed me the belief that it was sinful to waste food…. or drink. Along with growing up fairly poor, it was equally sinful to waste free food or drink. So, there is an internal struggle within me when I am at these events to not waste anything. Which is why I always order a Shirley Temple. As I at least feel like I’m going someway to getting my money’s worth….

In case you need it spelled out; Shirley Temple is a virgin cocktail i.e. it contains no liquor. NO LIQUOR. If I wanted liquor I would order liquor. I’m really just good with the sugar rush thanks.

I’ve had years and years of experience of turning down drinks, I’m very skilled and a polite but firm ‘no thanks,’ that makes it clear to not keep pushing me. Because it can sometimes be a little wearing. Not to mention, that this insistence one day could come on a really, really bad day, when I’m low on resources and a ‘yes’ just pops out of my mouth. And then my innocent Shirley Temple turns into a weapon of mass destruction in my hands.

So, do me a favor. If you drink that’s great but please don’t push it on people who don’t. If someone orders a soda or water respect the fact they are a grown up and if they wanted alcohol they would DAMN WELL ORDER ALCOHOL.
Because if someone was gluten free you wouldn’t keep insisting they eat bread, would you?
And leave me to my Shirley Temple’s. Because it seems after all, that it is possible to become a virgin again.

Recovery Rocks – Liv Pennelle

FullSizeRenderI met Olivia on Facebook, there was something about her posts and humor that I really liked. Plus, like me, she is a Brit who now lives in the USA. When she needed somewhere to stay so she could attend SheRecoversNYC I didn’t hesitate. I just knew we would get on. Luckily for me, we more than hit it off and it was so great to have someone to share the traveling and experience with. The wonderful thing about the online sober community is so many people I’ve met online have become real life friends. Liv is now a friend and I’m so happy I can share her story with you.
About Liv
Writer and wellness advocate, Olivia Pennelle (Liv), is in long-term recovery. Liv passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Her popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen is a resource for the journey toward health and wellness in recovery. For Liv, the kitchen represents the heart of the home: to eat, share, and love. You will find Liv featured amongst top recovery writers and bloggers, published on websites such as: Recovery.Org, The Fix, Intervene, Workit Health, iExhale, Sapling, Addiction Unscripted, Transformation is Real, Sanford House, Winward Way & Casa Capri.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

I ended up in my apartment having left my job, completely alone, with few friendships left. I’d drank 14 bottles of wine and taken a packet of codeine over three days. I was covered in blood and my apartment was a chaotic mess. I had zero recollection of what had happened. I reached a point of surrender: I had utterly had enough, to the very core of my being. Something had shifted and I was faced with two choices: either to die, or to get help. Emotionally I was shattered into a million pieces; thoroughly broken. Mentally, I was acutely depressed. I had a breakdown. I chose to get help.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Hell and enlightening at the same time. I might have made it through the acute effects of alcohol poisoning, but what I was left with was a shell of a person. I had gained 150 pounds by drinking, using, and binge-eating.

Mentally, I felt utterly broken. I had zero comprehension of who I was, or how I had ended up there. The best description I have heard of the first few weeks of recovery, was like someone turned the volume right up and put the lights on full blast. I felt like I was on stage for all to see—completely exposed, with nothing to hide behind. Yet, I was compelled to walk this new path and am so glad that I did.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

I got clean and sober, and have maintained that for over five years.

I have no desire to use.

When I stop living in fear and start living in faith everything has been provided for me. For example, I moved to America and have acquired work each week since I arrived. I have been through some pretty traumatic times (the death of my brother, breaking my arm) and have been able to stay sober.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

That I was worthy of so much more than survival, and that a life of my dreams was waiting just as soon as I put down the bottle.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I realized what a strong and incredible human I am; who is able to overcome trauma, turmoil, and her demons, and triumph over them.

I discovered that I have an incredible entrepreneurial spirit, which
enabled me to start a side hustle which turned into a career. I carved out a niche in the online recovery community, in the area of the journey toward health and wellness in recovery. I was able to quit a job I hated and move across the world to pursue a full-time freelance position as a writer and entrepreneur.

I uncovered creative talent. In fact, creative expression is a cornerstone of my program of recovery—as much as exercise.

I know who I am today, and am not ashamed to stand tall and declare it.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

I moved continent to pursue a dream and it came true.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

All it takes is faith, trust and pixie dust.

You are so much stronger than you think.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

What is great about recovery is that:
• it gives me the space to process what is happening and how I choose to respond—life is no longer reactionary (most of the time)
• I no longer have to spend my life consumed and obsessed with getting my next hit to avoid life
• Life today is something I actively want to experience rather than exist in
• I experience great joy in my life
• I am able to have a relationship with myself—a person who I love today.

Liv and I on the train to SheRecoversNYC

Liv and I on the train to SheRecoversNYC

Recovery Rocks- Lisa Schmidt (aka The Sober Hipster)

The Sober Hipster (Lisa Schmidt) is another lovely lady I met at She Recovers. She is such a great example of someone living their truth. She is a great believer in the power of story and valuing our stories. Please check out her website and what she does here.

The Sober Hipster

The Sober Hipster

Describe your rock bottom.
My rock bottom came in the fall of 2013. I was suicidal for a second time. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to keep living with myself and the secrets, lies, shame and pain I was carrying. I didn’t love myself and I truly believed everyone would be better off without me. But morning came and I had a decision to make. I chose to get help.

What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
The first 30 days of recovery were overwhelming. I left my job and home, moved to a new town and sober living facility, and began an intensive outpatient program for trauma and addiction. I was going through individual and group therapy and detoxing from alcohol and opiates. I wasn’t sleeping and when I did it was filled with night terrors. I had emotions I didn’t have words for and I was told by therapists to sit in them. I was broken.

What are the best things that have happened to you since you got sober?

The best things that have happened in my life since getting sober include finding and marrying my wife, Lori; the birth of my grandson and being sober for every day of his life; and starting my own business to help other women in recovery.

If you go back in time to you when you were drinking, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to stop running… you can’t escape yourself. And numbing the pain won’t make it go away.

What have been the most useful things you have learned about yourself since getting sober?
I am worth loving. I am good enough. I matter. My life matters.

Tell me about something wonderful that has happened to you recently that would never have happened if you had been drinking.
If I was still drinking I never would have started my own business. Becoming an entrepreneur takes believing in yourself and what you’re doing more than anyone else. I didn’t have that kind of self-worth and self-value before recovery.

What are your favorite recovery slogans?
When I first got sober, I hated recovery slogans. I cringed every time I heard them. I didn’t need empty clichés when I was going through so much pain. Then one day something changed. “This too shall pass” calms me down instead of pissing me off. “Just for today” reminds me to stay in the moment and be present. “Do the next right thing” has become a mantra to live by.

Hanging out at #SheRecoversNYC

Hanging out at #SheRecoversNYC

And lastly, why does recovery rock?
Recovery rocks because authenticity rocks. The most authentic people I’ve met in my life have been in recovery and I am my most authentic self. It makes for a beautiful story.

Soul stamps: A temporary reminder – a permanent promise

I love soul stamps. I found them in the marketplace at #SheRecoversNYC. I thought they were such a good idea. I tracked down their creator Elizabeth Bruno and asked her why she created them…
1. Soul Stamps was started in October 2016. My inspiration was a permanent tattoo I have on my wrist that says Let Go. I got the tattoo when I graduated college as a reminder to let go of fear of the future. Since then its been a good reminder and I wanted to share temporary reminders with people. My vision for Soul Stamps was to remind people of their worth & value in a world where it is easy to forget.

2. Oh my gosh, the response has been unbelievable. Soul Stamps has given me the amazing gift of connecting with people and getting to know their hearts and stories. At the recovery conference I gave away free tattoos for people to try. It was eye opening to see how many of the women were requesting the I Am Enough tattoo. That affirmation is my favorite because feeling enough is something I struggle with and meeting these amazing women who feel the same way and being able to connect with them in that way was a gift I will never forget. We all come from different places with different stories and journeys but our hearts and the need to feel loved and enough and worthy are all the same. The response from people has shown me that!
3. With social media we are constantly saturated with who we should be, what we should look like, what we shouldn’t look like…it’s easy to forget who we are. Soul Stamps help people remember their worth and value by looking down and being reminded. One of the best moments in my business so far was when a friend went to her first wedding since becoming sober and wore the “I am fearless” tattoo and could look at it when she needed the help and feel the strength she always had. When I hear moments like that I know they are helping and it makes me so happy!
If you want to buy some soul stamps, you can do so here.

This is not a promotion, I did not get paid to write this, it’s just a recovery product I like.

Veronica’s story

Many people have asked me for my drinking story, I wrote this some time ago and decided to publish it. This is me, this is who I was and who I am now….

I think there’s two ways you can become an alcoholic. I think you’re either born that way or, you simply need to drink enough alcohol and become one.

Veronica Valli - always the party girl

Veronica Valli – always the party girl

I believe I was born an alcoholic.
I believe this, because I’ve always felt ‘different’. My earliest memories are of feeling ‘odd’, ‘uncomfortable in my own skin’. I felt like I was looking out at the world through a glass screen, I was on one side and everyone else was on the other.
I felt separate, alone, unconnected. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I never felt like I truly ‘fitted in’ or ‘belonged’ anywhere. These feelings began long before I ever tried alcohol.

When I finally tried alcohol at around 15 it felt like a light bulb went on. All of a sudden, I felt complete, I felt ‘right’, and I had confidence and self-belief.
Drink did something to me, it made me feel normal.
I never drank ‘normally’, whatever that is. I drank alcoholically from the word ‘go’. I could never get enough of this substance that made me feel so good.
Initially I was just your regular teenage binge drinker, I could get into bars and clubs when I was underage and the whole point was to get as drunk as possible. At the time, it was what my entire peer group was doing too. I certainly wasn’t doing anything that different to most teenagers, but whenever I compared myself to them, I knew I was different. I could tell they didn’t have the same feelings of desperation or disconnectedness that lived within me. As we grew up they naturally moderated their drinking and drank less, where as I found that inconceivable.

At 15 I also experimented with marijuana. I’m never quiet sure what happened with my drug education, I must have missed that bit at school. It never once occurred to me to ‘just say no to drugs’, or even question what they would do to me. I so desperately wanted to be liked and to feel normal, that I said ‘yes’ to any substance offered to me.
I met my first serious boyfriend when I was 16 and shortly after left home. He was a recreational drug user and through him I tried LSD, Magic Mushrooms and Amphetamines.
I loved them; I used drugs regularly and partied every weekend. I was struggling through college and I barely passed my exams but I didn’t care because I though I’d found this group of people I belonged too and a lifestyle I enjoyed. I felt like I was living life on the edge, it felt glamorous and sophisticated.
For 2 years I really, really enjoyed taking drugs and getting drunk.
I had a great time and then at 17 everything went horribly wrong.
I had taken some LSD and had a ‘bad trip’, this had never happened before and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt panicky and scared, I was seeing and hearing things and got very paranoid. The feeling of terror grew and even when I began to ‘come down’ the fear and panic didn’t leave, in fact it got worse. I now know I went into drug induced psychosis, but at the time I had no idea what was happening too me. The worse thing was I couldn’t tell anyone around me how I felt, I put on a ‘mask’ and pretended everything was ok. I was terrified of anyone finding out what was really happening I became imprisoned by my own fear.

This shattered my life
My whole life was shattered. I was terrified and paranoid all the time and having at least a dozen panic attacks a day. I couldn’t get on a bus, go into a supermarket or sit in my own living room without having a panic attack and making some kind of excuse to leave. I could barely go to college, I couldn’t cope, I was having a breakdown and was most definitely suicidal. I used to stand at the bus stop waiting for a bus I was too scared to get on, trying to summon the courage to jump in front of it.

Everyday of living was agony for me and I didn’t know how to carry on.
This went on for months and I was too terrified to tell anyone what was happening. I didn’t know how too. I couldn’t even begin to articulate what I was experiencing, I was too scared to say it out loud because if I did, it meant what was happening to me was real, and I was still clinging on to the hope that one day I would I wake up and be normal again.
Close to a breakdown I eventually went to the doctors and told him everything. He wrote me a prescription for Valium and recommended some counselling. I never went to the counselling but I did like the idea of being prescribed drugs to make me feel better.
This was the worse possible thing to do.
It started off a 10-year prescription drug habit. For years I visited different doctors explaining my symptoms of fear and paranoia and they would write me prescriptions for Valium, Xanax, anti-depressants. They always worked for a bit, papered over the cracks, but they never dealt with the root of the problem.

Veronica Valli - this was taken about a year before I got sober

Veronica Valli – this was taken about a year before I got sober

Fear ruled my life

The next 10 years of my life from 17 to 27 were a living hell. I was never, ever free from fear; it was the overwhelming emotion I woke up to every morning. Some days I felt like I could hardly breath through the terror of having to get through the day and pretend to be normal.
After the incident with LSD I had stopped using illegal drugs completely and only drank alcohol, my drinking increased very quickly because it was the only thing that took away the fear. It took the edge off of my anxiety and I had a few hours of reprieve from the madness in my head and I could pretend to be ‘normal’.
At 17 my drinking shifted from ‘having fun,’ to using it to cope with how I felt. I knew there was something very wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I did try to get help, I looked everywhere, I went to doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, churches, anywhere that offered some kind of hope. I was treated for anxiety or depression but never my alcoholism. The truth is, I either lied about how much I drank or, I was simply never asked, no one ever picked up on my drinking as being the real problem. Whatever treatment I was offered only ever gave me a temporary reprieve and inevitably I would revert back to familiar feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair and discontent. Drinking always gave me a temporary relief from these feelings.

I tried every method known to alcoholics to try to ‘fix’ my life. It is amusing to me now, to see how unoriginal I was in my attempts to try to make things ‘better’. Every alcoholic or addict I’ve known has tried the same methods.
At 19 I went to America to travel, I did this a lot in my twenties, spending time travelling round the world trying to escape myself. But always ending up in the same place again (alone, confused, scared and a failure). What I was really doing was running away from myself.
I’ve been to some really incredible glamorous places and I hated all of them because of how I felt.
Somehow I always managed to hold down a job and got through university but I was always just ‘holding on.’ I tried to ‘loose myself’ in relationships, I almost got married to a man I didn’t love because I thought that marriage would ‘save me,’ and everything would then be ‘fixed’. However all my romantic relationships were based on dishonesty, fear and neediness. I couldn’t believe anyone would want to be with me, when they found out how disgusting I really was. I felt so unworthy of love that it was beyond my comprehension that anyone could really love me. So like a lot of alcoholics I just took ‘hostages’ because being alone scared me so much.

Cocaine brought me to my knees
I was constantly searching, looking for answers.
I have a massive thirst for life and this is what really saved me. Because I remained curious I eventually stumbled across the solution for my problem. When I was drinking I always felt discontented, I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential, I knew I wasn’t the person I knew I could be and I drank on these feelings because they were too painful to acknowledge to myself.

Veronica at 23 - I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

Veronica at 23 – I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

I moved jobs, countries, relationships, friendships, believing each time that this would be the thing that would make me feel ‘ok’. I blamed outside circumstances for how I felt and believed if I changed these circumstances (which I did often) I would be happy.
Throughout my twenties I drank heavily, more than I knew was good for me, I always sought a peer group who drank as much as I did. I drank before any social situation because I was too scared to face people; I drank before parties because I was scared there wouldn’t be enough booze for me to get the ‘buzz’ I needed. I drank anytime I felt scared and couldn’t cope. Towards the end of my drinking I began to sneak drinks and drink on my own, I preferred that to sharing my booze.
In my mid-twenties I started using cocaine whenever I drank because it enabled me to drink more. However cocaine gave me the worst ‘come down’s’ ever. I was suicidal. I would wake up the next day and felt like my soul had been scraped out and was lying on the floor next to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed let alone make it through the rest of my life.
My feelings of loneliness and despair intensified.
Without a doubt their were moments of happiness, peace and calm through this period. I would have moments when I felt everything was going to be ok, but they were always fleeting, I could never hold on to them, the same inevitable dark feelings would return. I was slowly dying on the inside, it wasn’t the alcohol that was necessarily killing me, it was the lies that I was telling my self.
I had to tell lies to myself as it was the only way I could deal with the fear inside of me. I believe fear is the defining characteristic of alcoholism, no one understands fear the way alcoholics do.

Finding freedom
I never became physically dependent on alcohol. I could always go for a period of time without it, usually I would switch to something else, prescription drugs, pot anything that helped me get through the day. I’ve known the shame and degradation of being a female alcoholic and sleeping with men I don’t like just to feel wanted. I’ve never been arrested, bankrupt, or fired, or many of the terrible things that have happened to alcoholics. At first, I thought I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ However, I learnt that it isn’t the drinking and consequences that makes you an alcoholic; it’s the thoughts and feelings that drive alcoholism. It was then that I finally understood what my problem really was.

As soon as I understood the problem I could then embark on the solution.

I got help from experts who understood alcoholism and joined a self-help group. For the first time in my life I realised I wasn’t alone.
Getting clean and sober was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was no choice for me, I couldn’t go back to how I was living. I wanted to live, to make my life count, to see what I was capable of. When I got sober, these things at last became possible.
I always knew something was very, very wrong with me but I thought it was a rare mental health condition, not alcoholism. Alcoholism can’t be measured by how much you drink; it is an internal condition and requires an internal fix, not an external one.

Today with my family

Today with my family

Finally, I became free of the prison I had made for my self; the only thing that had ever limited me was my own thinking. Recovery gave me a new perspective on life; it gave me back my self-belief and confidence. I am finally engaging in the process of reaching my full potential and becoming the woman I was meant to be. I no longer have a 50% life of just getting by, just coping. I am no longer scared, I am just the opposite, I am fearless in everything I do. I no longer worry whether you like me or not, because I love who I am. I wake up everyday and find something to be joyful about. Certainly my life has challenges in it, but none of them threaten to capsize me the way they used to, I relish challenges so I can learn and grow and become the best version of myself I’m capable of being.
Life is a wonderful adventure now instead of a scary threatening place. I live a life now beyond anything I could have dreamed off before. I am on fire with the possibilities there are in front of me.

My sobriety date is: 2nd of May 2000.

The importance of self care

You know self-care is important, right? I mean, it’s on your to-do list and just as soon as you get everything done, you’ll take care of yourself. So why does self-care always seem to be at the bottom of the list?

Self care in Spain with my bestie's.

Self care in Spain with my bestie’s.

I’m a therapist, so I totally get it, I know I need to take care of myself in order to serve others. But as a woman, I can also put my needs way down the list and the next thing I know I am running on empty. The first sign that I need to take care of myself, is when I start snarling at my husband. My husband is lovely, he really is. Incredibly supportive of me, he still thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the room and just an all round good guy. But when my tank is empty, I’m just mean to him and he doesn’t deserve it.

That’s a red flag. I’ve talked about red flags before. They are important, pay attention to them. The information contained in them could be vital. So after hitting a low point last year, the importance of self-care really came home to me and I’ve made it my top priority.

I’ve just come off the most tremendous week of self care and I feel amazing. Inspired, connected, loved.
After my weekend in NYC at She Recovers I flew to Barcelona, Spain to spend three days with three of my oldest and dearest friends. It was tough. Finding a window in our schedules, arranging childcare, booking flights. Agreeing on where to go. But one of us had just been through a very serious health issue and all of those barriers just melted away. None of them were insurmountable challenges when you focus on what matters.
Friendship. The power of connection, supporting people you love by just being there for them. All of it filled my cups.

I spend most of my days with very small children so just being around adult people feels so enriching to me. And I just really, really needed that last week. I needed the joy and emotion of She Recovers and I needed the love and connection from my bestie’s. I really, really needed some self-care.

This will enrich me for a while, then at some point, if I let it, I’ll find myself running on empty again. But this time I’m not going to let myself get to that point. Self-care transforms me. I am a much better wife and mother when I take care of myself. By getting enough sleep, eating right and scratching out just a little bit of time each week for me. And making that time a priority. Top of the list. Everything flows from that.

What ever stage you are at in your recovery, whether you are early days or 17 years like me. What are you doing to take care of yourself? How high on your to-do list is self-care?

Cadaques, Spain 2017 - the perfect place to relax and unplug.

Cadaques, Spain 2017 – the perfect place to relax and unplug.

She Recovers Day 3 – and when I ugly-cried in front of 500 women

Marianne Williamson and me at She Recovers

Marianne Williamson and me at She Recovers

We have all been to a meeting, an event, to see an acclaimed speaker, and felt that they spoke only to you. That their words were already written on our souls, they just had to call them forth.
That’s what happened to me when I heard Marianne Williamson speak at She Recovers.

This wasn’t why I came. I came because I had the incredible honor of being invited onto the sober blogger team. I came to serve. I had no idea there was so much here that I needed. But my soul knew.

Marianne is the spiritual teacher I had been waiting for, for a long time. A Course in Miracles is my spiritual truth. This is the second time I had heard her and she delivers such a powerful and important message. I love how politically engaged she is. The personal is political, Marianne made that very clear. What we are doing to our planet, how women and children’s voices are silenced. She spoke to me today.

As I wrote yesterday, the theme of this whole event has been about ‘pain.’ Her quote ‘Let me not squander the hour of my pain’ pierced my soul.
I am in pain, but the enormity of it frightened me so much I have been holding it at bay. She Recovers showed me I could no longer do that.
I am a warrior. I have felt deep dark emotional pain before and I can get through anything. Anything. You can throw anything at me and I will get through it. I have done before. But just don’t throw it at my child, ok? Because that is a level of pain I am not prepared for. But it is here and it is mine. And. I. Will. Not. Squander. It.

Because Marianne spoke so passionately about the planet and the political situation we are currently in I wanted to ask her if she was going to run for Congress again. Like many of us, I have felt despair at our current political situation and I want a leader I can believe in.
I wasn’t expecting to full on ugly cry in front of y’all. I wasn’t expecting 500 women to surround me with unconditional love. I wasn’t expecting Marianne Williamson to lead the room in prayer for Luke’s healing from lead poisoning*.
I just wasn’t expecting that.
But my soul thanks you, for grace you extended to me.

This weekend has given me so much to think about. It has deepened my connections with you all. Every time I see you, I love you more. We are all in these incredible process’s, but what matters is we are all in it together.

I am still digesting what was said and how I feel. I know there is so much growth that will come from this. But for right now, I’m treasuring that Marianne Williamson came and said exactly what I needed to hear.

My son Luke. He likes mud.

My son Luke. He likes mud.

*If you are interested in learning more about lead poisoning in young children then please check out my friend Tamara Rubin’s website. Tamara is a mom whose children were lead poisoned by the house they were living in. She has since become an ‘unexpected lead expert’ and activist. She has worked tirelessly to help families and raise awareness of the situation and has been a great support to me. Her movie ‘Mislead’ is coming out soon and you can watch the trailer below.

She also has a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign where she is raising money to buy an XRF machine (the best way to test any object for lead) so she can help more families. If you are able to support her in any way I would be very grateful.