Category Archives: Recovery

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.

Ben Affleck: addiction superhero

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I have to confess I am not a Ben Affleck fan. I tend to avoid movies that have him in it. However, right now I am giving him a standing ovation.

You may have seen his brief, but poignant Facebook statement about his recent stay in rehab. In case you missed it, here it is:

“I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do. This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery”.

This may seem trivial, but what is amazing about his post, is how positive and how lacking in shame it is.

I’m so tired of the celebrity rock bottom/rehab/trite confession to Opera cycle. Addiction is a medical issue, a disease of the brain and a mental health problem. It is not a moral issue and we really need to stop treating it like one. This is not unlike other celebrities issuing statements to let people know have sought treatment for Lupus/breast cancer/Diabetes. But when it comes to addiction, celebrities are usually hounded and shamed into admitting they have an alcohol/drug problem. This has not been helpful to ordinary people who suffer from the same illness. Shame stops people seeking treatment when they need it. Hiding our disease in the myth of anonymity/secrecy keeps everyone sick. His honesty, straightforwardness and lack of shame, gives everyone else permission to do the same.
Ben Affleck has treated addiction like the disease it is, may others follow.

Recovery Rocks – Esther Nagle

Esther Nagle found her sobriety in yoga, and her life purpose in sobriety. She is the author of Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, host of the Sober Living Rocks podcast, and teacher of Yoga for recovery. Esther loves to dance, adores the Beatles and particularly George Harrison, loves walking in the mountains, reading to herself and her little boy, and is still catching up on the sleep she didn’t get in 20 years of alcohol dependence! She believes that we can and must all work together to create a better future for us all, and knows that helping break the stigma around addiction is a big part of that work.

Esther Nagle in Om Studio CArdiff

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My rock bottom was a very slow process, which spanned many years. The moment when I realized that I had a problem, however, was when I was listening to a song I was totally addicted to, ‘I Appear Missing’ from Queens of The Stone Age’s ‘…Like Clockwork’ album. I had been utterly obsessed with the song for months, and one night, after a training course with my new job, as I sat on the doorstep to my house, smoking and drinking furiously when I should have been asleep, I was listening to this album on repeat. When I listened to the words to ‘I appear missing’ this one time, I suddenly realized that they spoke of exactly how I felt. I was utterly lost to myself, and had been for a very long time. I was going through one of the most traumatic 8 months of my life, with job insecurity, serious family health problems (including the discovery of a long hidden addiction in a close family member, a rather painful mirror for me to look into), and a very acrimonious battle with my ex over arrangements for our son. I was fragmenting more and more with every day that passed, and the realization of just how bad I felt (isn’t it strange how we can be in such a mess and not even have the faintest idea?) sent ripples through me that turned into a tsunami just a few weeks later. 4 weeks after this moment, I sat on the M5 after a festival, in floods of uncontrollable tears, knowing that I couldn’t go on. I had already decided that I needed to quit my job, and now I knew for sure. I emailed my family when I got home, told them that I was really struggling to cope with every aspect of my life (not recognising my addiction at this time, alcohol was my friend that got me through it all) and quit my job.

This was my lowest moment, or at least, the one that was particularly significant. This breakdown led to my disintegrating completely for a few months, but then I started to take the reins of my life and grab back control.

A few months later I started Yoga teacher training, expecting that I would learn to teach postures. I did, but I also learned a whole lot more. I met myself properly for the first time, started to unravel the tight knots I had in myself, to break down the many walls I had built between me and myself, and learned to relax, to breathe, to feel gratitude, to see myself without judgement, to forgive. Slowly, through the work I did on this course, I began to heal the wounds that had kept me tied to alcohol for so many years, and, for the first time in my life, to begin to acknowledge that I did indeed have a very dangerous dependence on alcohol. I could only see this once I was able to live more and more without it, and once I started to develop other coping strategies. I started to recognize situations which would have previously led me to drink, but the desperate need was no longer there, I was still binge drinking at weekends, but it was for ‘fun’, not to hide.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
On October 12, 2014, I woke up with the mother of all hangovers, and vowed never to feel this way again. I know I preferred waking up with memories of the night before, energy, clear-headed, and able to open my eyes without searing pain in my head! I decided that I wouldn’t drink the following weekend, and for the next 6 weeks, I kept telling myself ‘not today’. I had no plan at this time to quit for good, I just enjoyed getting through each day sober. When I went to my brother’s wedding and shunned the champagne and red wine in favour of elderflower cordial, and had a wonderful time, I knew I had turned a corner.

My early recovery wasn’t a struggle in any way. Because of the work I was doing on my course, I had processed a lot of the difficult emotions people often experience in early recovery, and had cleansed my body effectively as well, so I had no physical symptoms. I didn’t really acknowledge that I had quit until 6 weeks had passed, so the first 30 days were easy, I was just doing ‘not today’ and working on myself through my coursework. By the time I realized that I really could quit, I was totally ready for it, and knew that I was much happier sober then I ever was when I was drinking, and that I had the coping strategies that would help me get through the tough times.

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

• I have achieved a lifetime dream of becoming a writer, when I wrote ‘Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga!
• I travelled to India last year to speak about my experiences at the Women Economic Forum conference.
• I have become a podcast host, and have interviewed some amazing people, including Veronica Valli! (http://www.soberliving.rocks/episode-4-veronica-valli-recovery-rocks/)
• My children and those I love have more respect for me than they did before
• I have discovered self-respect, which I NEVER had before.
• My youngest son, who was 3 when I stopped drinking, has no recollection of seeing my drink or smoke (I quit smoking on the same day!)
• I feel that I have a purpose in life now, rather than simply drifting from one catastrophe to the next.
• I experience life in all its richness now, and can deal with problems instead of hiding from them
• I NEVER have to lie in bed trying to remember how I got there or what chaos I may have created before I got there!

Stop trying to fit in, you aren’t meant to fit in, you are meant to inhabit your own place in the world. Don’t worry about what they think of you, let it go, and love you. And BREATHE!

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5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
• That I can write – I had always suspected this, and been told I am a good writer in the past, but I never really believed it. Having received emails from people who tell me that my blogs and book really help them is an amazing experience, I love that in helping myself (I find writing very cathartic sometimes) I can help others as well.
• I have learned that I created a lot of the problems that I was trying to escape from, that I have far more control and power over my life than I ever realized, and that I can do anything that I put my mind to
• That I love sleep – when I was drinking, I feared going to bed, because that was when the demons would wake up and tell me what a scumbag I was, but now, when I go to bed, I sleep, it is wonderful!

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
A friend of mine is trying to have a few months off drinking to give his body a break. He was given a bottle of wine by a colleague just after he decided to have this break. Rather than have the temptation of having it in his house, he gave it to me to look after, safe in the knowledge that it will still be there when he wants it. It is in my cupboard, and I see it everyday, but I barely actually see it. When I was drinking that would never have happened, I would have been the last person to be trusted with a bottle of wine, and if it was in my house, well, it wouldn’t have lasted very long. This really shows me how much I have grown and changed in recovery and is a wonderful constant reminder of the way we can change so much.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
My biggest one is a motto I was given in my yoga teacher training, three ‘rules’ of yoga – don’t judge, don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
To take full responsibility for your life, to live life on your own terms, not at the whim of an addiction, to have clarity, good sleep, self-respect, to let go of shame and judgement, to be fully present, to be a good role model for my children rather than a great example of how not to do life, to inspire and help others, to know who I am, to know that fun and enjoyment of life doesn’t require a bottle and oblivion, to fully feel all my emotions, and to know that all will pass…all this and so much more makes life in recovery a far richer, fuller experience than I could have ever imagined. I used to think that you needed excess to be ‘rock n roll’, but recovery rocks so much better (plus, you can dance so much better when you can be coordinated!)

You can follow Esther on Twitter here.

The SHAIR Podcast- my story

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I was delighted to be a guest on Omar Pinto’s The SHAIR Podcast recently. If you haven’t checked out a sober podcast yet then you must. The SHAIR website has over 50 different downloads available for you to listen to. Stories from addicts and alcoholics that are moving, funny, bold, brave and inspiring.

Omar is a terrific host and I loved talking to him about my story; how I got sober and what my life is like now. I lay everything out, I discuss my panic attacks, suicide attempt, my loneliness and isolation and how I got in recovery. I didn’t hold back (and there is some swearing!) I also talk about the emotional and spiritual aspects of recovery and how vital they are to sustainable recovery.
You can download and listen to the podcast here.

Recovery Rocks – Rosemary O’Connor

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I’m so happy to have Rosemary O’Connor’s Recovery Rocks interview this week. I meet so many mothers who struggle with enormous shame and guilt in relation to their drinking and I think they will be inspired by her story. Rosemary has been sober since 1999 and understands the challenges of staying sober as a single mom. An experienced life coach, since 2004 she has helped hundreds of people brings about positive changes in their lives. She has a degree in psychology, is a Certified Professional Coach and a Certified Addiction Recovery Coach. Rosemary is the founder of ROC Recovery Services, which offers comprehensive care for women suffering from addictions. In 2015 Hazelden Publishing released Rosemary’s book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery. For more about Rosemary visit her website rocrecoveryservices.com


Rosemary is also giving away 2 FREE copies of her book to Recovery Rocks readers. To win you just need to complete a recovery rocks interview! Send me an email via my CONTACT page, I will send you the interview to complete. The first two back will get a free copy of: A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

(Below are a few paragraphs from Chapter 1 – “Hitting Bottom” from my book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery.)

I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I told the eleven-year-old babysitter I’d be home in a couple of hours—no later than nine. I walked out the door on my way to a fancy charity event, the Fireman’s Ball at the San Francisco Yacht Club. I was all dressed up in a long, sequined gown, high heels, hair and makeup to the nines (for me it was all about looking good on the outside). At the event, with drink in hand, I started chatting up a guy. I was doing straight shots of tequila and quickly spent $200 buying drinks from the bar—what every classy lady does. Mr. Not-So-Prince-Charming invited me to continue the party at his place. I remember following in my car, gripping the steering wheel, trying to steer in a straight line. The next thing I remember is waking up in Mr. Not-So- Prince-Charming’s bed at ten the next morning, thirteen hours after I’d told the babysitter I’d be back.

I drove home overcome with dread, silently promising never to drink again. The scene that met me there was Dickensian: my three children were lined up on the sofa in their pajamas, eyes wide with horror, staring at me. On either side of them were my best friend, Lori, whose daughter had been babysitting, and my estranged husband. They didn’t look too friendly, either. And no wonder—I was still wearing the sequined gown from the night before, which I’d thrown up on, and my hair and makeup were in shambles.

Lori looked me straight in the eye. “You’d better get hold of yourself,” she said, and stormed out. My husband looked at me with utter disgust. I got the message in his glare: If you don’t get your act together, I’ll take these kids away.

As he gathered the kids to go upstairs for their stuff, my five-year-old son asked me, “Mommy, are you okay?”

I was not. For the first time in the twenty-one years I’d been drinking, I acknowledged there was something really wrong with me. I said, “No, Mommy is not okay.” He grabbed me and hugged me. Then he ran upstairs crying.

My soon-to-be ex-husband left with my children and went to his house. I was alone, an empty shell, physically, spiritually, and emotionally bankrupt. What I feared most was that I would continue to do the same thing over and over and lose my children. This was not the mother I intended to be. That was my bottom. And I knew in that moment that if I didn’t get help, five o’clock would roll around and I’d be drunk once again.

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

I got sober in November 1999. My kids were two, five, and eight, and my husband filed for divorced in my first 30 days. I also had to face my daughter’s birthday, my son’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the New Millennium. I was in a complete fog, full of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and utter fear. I thought my life was over and I was going to live a life of misery.

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

Oh wow, so many great things have happened, and most of them I had no idea they were possible or was not aware they existed. I think the number one thing I am grateful for is I have learned to love and forgive myself. In doing this, I have been able to love and forgive others. I have a wonderful relationship with my former husband and his wife. They have two young children I love and adore. We all celebrate our children’s birthdays, Christmas, and special events together. I have the most amazing friends who I have so much fun with and would be there for me at any given moment. I have a close relationship with a Higher Power who guides me daily. Most recently a dream came true when Hazelden published my first book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery.

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

That someday I will be grateful I am an alcoholic.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
“I am more than enough.”

unknown6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

Definitely my book being published by Hazelden.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Easy Does It

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

Because it gives me the most amazing life I could ever have imagined.

Recovery Rocks – Victoria Davies

This week’s Recovery Rocks is a dear a friend of mine. I’ve known her since she first got sober and I am in awe of her tenacity and courage. She has faced challenges in her recovery that would have capsized other people. But she is one of the strongest and most determined people I have ever met. She just keeps going, no matter what. She’s been an incredible support to me as a mother and I cherish her friendship dearly. She is celebrating 10 years of sobriety so there is no better way to celebrate than telling the world her incredible story.
Victoria you rock!

Victoria Davies

Victoria Davies

1. Describe your rock bottom
This is really hard. My drinking rock bottom, as in, my worst drinking behaviour and the most serious consequences of drinking, didn’t get me sober. When I drank I would be fine up to a point… then would absolutely lose it, screaming at my husband, frequently leaving or threatening to leave, always crawling back with my tail between my legs. I had no knowledge or warning of when this would happen; it didn’t happen every time I drank. The event that sticks in my memory most was locking my husband out of our house, lining up all the pills we had in the house and threatening to take them all, before throwing a cast iron cooking pot at the door, with him locked out on the other side of the glass. Luckily the pot was too heavy to throw far, and when it hit the floor I was shocked out of my rage. There were lots of threats and many times he or someone else had to bail me out.

I tried various means of cutting down, controlling and stopping for about 2 years, before I got to the point where I was sick of feeling suicidal, on the same old merry go round every day of remorse, self hatred, self denial and then giving in to drink and starting all over again. Somehow I found 12 step recovery and was able to stop. After 5 weeks I chose to drink again, for one night, and the events of that evening and the hangover the next morning convinced me and my husband I needed recovery and sobriety.

2. What were your first thirty days of recovery like?

Before I relapsed, it was really, really hard. We still hung out with the same people and even stored a case of booze in the garage for a friend who was trying to stop! After I relapsed it was easier because both me and my husband saw I really had a problem and I needed help.

3. What are best things that have happened since you got sober?
Me and my husband have stayed together and grown so much in our relationship, and now have two amazing children. I’ve been able to support them and also had my own business until last year. None of that would not have happened if I’d kept on drinking.

4. If you could go back in time to when you were drinking/using, what would you tell yourself?
To wake up and admit to myself I wasn’t having fun, and do something about it. I’ve always known I am strong but I always needed permission to do things, I’d give myself that permission. (I wouldn’t have listened though!)

5. What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned about yourself since you got clean/sober?
I don’t need other people to tell me how to live. I am stronger and more resilient than I ever think. I can trust my instincts and make my own decisions. I can take responsibility for my life and it will be ok.

6. Tell me about something wonderful that happened recently that would never have happened if you’d been drinking?
I recently went to a recovery convention in the Canary Islands. I was surrounded by 600 other people all in recovery, and met in person a wonderful woman who I’d gotten to know through facebook. At the final meeting there was a sobriety count down, from the longest sobriety (49 years) to the shortest (4 days). The sum of everyone’s sobriety was more than 6000 years! The atmosphere was amazing and something I’ll never forget.

7. What are your favourite recovery slogans?
Live and let live
Life on life’s terms
Give time time

8. And finally, why does recovery rock?
I am a part of a world-wide organisation which reaches so many people who are so desperate and have had terrible, tragic lives, and enables them to become good men and women who can live sane, happy, sober lives. I know I can go anywhere in the world and walk into a room of those people and feel instantly at home, and have an identification and a connection with those people which I cant get anywhere else. My best friends are those I’ve met in recovery and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Recovery Rocks – Shane Watson

Shane Watson

Shane Watson

Shane Watson is a father, husband, public speaker, and recovery and prevention advocate. He currently serves as a Prevention Specialist for Scottsdale-based prevention education 501(c)(3) nonprofit notMYkid. He loves music, fitness, nutrition, psychology, camping, writing, hiking, mountain climbing, wandering, spoken word, boxer dogs, black coffee, documentaries, nonfiction books, the surreal, the cryptic, the supernatural, art, rain (especially in the desert), laughter, experience, possibility, and love. You can check out Shane’s Facebook page here.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

After having been caught up in substance abuse for several years, I reached the pinnacle of the madness. Unemployed, in significant debt, and quickly becoming hopeless, I had lost my self-respect, burned too many bridges to count, and was enslaved to addiction. I came to a point where I hated myself and consciously thought, “I’ve thrown my life away. There’s no coming back from this. I’ve done too much damage to ever repair, so I’m just going to ride this train until it crashes, which will probably be soon. I’m done.” I believed that.

The last night I drank, I went on a rampage, hurting people in the process, and leaving a trail of destruction behind me. I went absolutely berserk. Once I realized just how badly I had messed up, I attempted to kill myself. When I walked out my front door, I was greeted by a swarm of Phoenix Police officers.

The next morning, I found myself in Durango Jail, part of the notorious Maricopa County jail system. I thought I had lost everything I had left, and realized that I had become everything I never wanted to be. As the possibility of a multi-year prison sentence loomed over me, I went through horrific withdrawals in a cell that, while designed for a single inmate, was packed with four people. I was in hell, and I had bought my ticket there.

For me, “Rock Bottom” was the perfect storm of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. I became willing to do whatever it took to change my situation, which meant that I needed to change myself, my behavior, and my way of thinking.

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

My first 30 days of recovery were a pressure cooker. They started with me thinking my family was done with me. They continued with a stay in Durango, specifically in Building 7, Pod D—a psych pod. Once I was out of jail, my recovery continued in The Phoenix Dream Center, a live-in “Life Recovery School” designed for ex-cons, former gang members, victims of human trafficking, the homeless, and people who have been struggling with drugs and alcohol.

In many ways, the Dream Center is harder than jail. Our days started at 4 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. Every moment of the day was scheduled for us and included intense morning workouts (run by a former pro rugby star), classes, janitorial work, maintenance work, labor, homeless outreach, church, etc. There were no days off. There was no sleeping in. The pace was intense, and I witnessed a handful of people who were unable or unwilling to deal with it. However, the PDC was where I first started to feel hopeful, where my mind first started to clear up a bit, and where my brain chemistry first started to recover some balance and stability.

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

A number of wonderful things have happened to me since I managed to get sober. Most importantly, my daughter was born, and is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. With her, none of my regrettable history exists. I’m not some ex-junkie, recovering alcoholic felon. I’m just dad. And “Dad” is the most awesome title I can think of having. I’m good at it, and I enjoy teaching her things, showing her how to love and respect other people, and laughing with her.

Another amazing thing that’s happened to me in sobriety is the opportunity that was given to me by notMYkid, a local prevention education nonprofit. Due to my felony, 99% of employers won’t give me the time of day. It doesn’t matter that I have a university degree, years of experience, passion, energy, and a good work ethic. Once I check the “yes” box on the criminal record/felony portion of an application, any opportunity I may have had at that company is over.

However, as soon as I reached a year clean and sober, nMk was willing to give me a chance as a part-time Peer Educator, speaking to students on substance abuse prevention. I did everything I was asked to do and took on additional duties. I was relentless and determined in my efforts. Within the first three months, they made me full time. Four months later, I was given a staff position, and became the organization’s first Communications Coordinator. A couple years later, I was promoted to Manager of Parent and Faculty Education for the organization and eventually became a Prevention Specialist.

I research several behavioral health topics and create presentations for parents, school faculty members, after school program mentors, and camp counselors. I recruit, hire, and train Parent and Faculty Educators, who are primarily behavioral health professionals and current or former law enforcement officers. I do parent, student, and school faculty presentations on substance abuse, and I do parent and faculty presentations on bullying, depression/self-injury/suicide, and Internet safety

I travel around Arizona doing speaking engagements, sharing my personal story intertwined with teaching healthy coping mechanisms, communication skills, and prevention techniques. I’ve had the opportunity to share my story with students and government officials in Boston. I’ve spoken to groups as small as two people and as large as 1,000. I’ve done as many as seven one-hour presentations back-to-back. I’ve had the chance to address the Pinal County Drug Court, sharing my story and thoughts on the way government and the courts view addiction. I’ve presented at Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University, Paradise Valley Community College, and a number of corporations, Including American Express, Cox, and Insight. As of January 30th, 2016, I’ve done 193 presentations to an audience of over 14,000 people. Approximately half of my presentations have been given to students, and the other half to adults.

I also do TV, radio, web, and print interviews as one of the organization’s representatives. I’ve done around 45 interviews in the last three years, and I still love doing them. I am grateful for all the opportunities notMYkid has given me.

Finally, through my work with notMYkid, I was also able to take a very intensive weeklong training last fall to become a provisional ASIST suicide intervention trainer. I’m looking forward to facilitating some ASIST workshops in the future, and equipping as many community members as possible with the tools and knowledge to help individuals who are considering suicide.

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

I’d let myself know that it genuinely can and will get better, and that all is not lost. I’d tell myself to save a lot of time, trouble, and heartache, and put the brakes on immediately. I’d explain that there is indeed a career and a purpose for me out there after all. I’d tell myself that all those thoughts I’d been having about how worthless I was were all lies and to not believe them.

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

I’ve learned that all my experiences, even the horrible ones, have some kind of value and purpose. What I went through equipped me with a whole lot more wisdom and empathy, both which have been incredibly important in helping others. I’ve learned that I can indeed be very dependable, professional, and effective if I’m doing something about which I am truly passionate.

Finally, I learned that I wasted a whole lot of time, not only with drugs and alcohol, but by doing things that I did solely because I thought others expected me to do them. No one can live your life but you, and if you make decisions primarily to please others, you’re likely to end up miserable. Find what you love and do it, or make it happen.


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

I’ve been able to do a ton of traveling, and have it all be very positive, productive, and memorable. Back when I was drinking and using, all these trips would have been unproductive, chaotic, destructive, costly, and I would have likely remembered only bits and pieces of them. Life is more fun when you don’t have to have it filled in for you after the fact by asking other people what happened.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

“To keep what you have, you have to give it away.”
I live it daily, and it has been, and continues to be, an amazing blessing.

“Progress, not perfection”
This one is so important to me. A big part of what kept me drinking and using was an “all or nothing” mentality and perfectionism when it came to myself. If I made a mistake, my mindset would be, “Well, I messed up again, so it’s all lost. Why try?” Nothing is ever truly going to be perfect, so I decided to stop driving myself insane attempting to achieve perfection. Make today better than yesterday. Don’t worry about tomorrow.

“Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”
Had I ended my life that night, I would have missed out on the most happiness I’ve had since childhood. I would have missed out on meeting the most amazing person I’ve ever known (my daughter). I would have missed out on finding my place and my purpose, and working my dream career.


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

In a word: humility. The people I’ve met in recovery know they’re flawed. They know they’re not perfect. And they know that’s okay. They can admit when they’ve made a mistake. They have no problem saying “I’m sorry,” or owning their mistakes.

They also have no issue forgiving or welcoming someone else who has made mistakes as well, even huge ones. People in recovery, at least the majority I have encountered and chose to be around, generally try to avoid judgment, taking someone else’s inventory, or being focused on trying to keep someone else’s side of the street clean. They realize that a person’s past is exactly that: the past. They know that people can, and do, change. They accept you for who you are.

I wish I saw more of that in the rest of the world.

Check out Shane’s cool Youtube channel.

Recovery Rocks – Marilyn Boehm

IMG_0592 (2)Marilyn Boehm is a retired probation officer who has now been fortunate enough to focus on her other life’s passions. Most recently her most significant accomplishment has been to write and publish her memoir, “Starting at Goodbye.” It is her story of alcoholism, recovery, and the crazy love affair she had with her now deceased husband. She worked on it for ten years, and it helped her deal with the grief of losing her life partner.

1) Describe your “rock bottom.”

There were a series of events that conspired to beat me into submission as I struck “rock bottom.” One of the most damaging memories I recall happened when I was in a drunken stupor, angry at my family for not helping to clean the house. I threw my four-year-old daughter’s toys and possessions off the second story level of our townhouse. Watching her scream in terror as her things went crashing onto the floor of our living room should have assured me a rapid end to my drinking. It helped, but it didn’t end there.

When my husband, a nonfunctional drunk, went into treatment, I was forced to look at the extent of my own drinking. Because I appeared more functional, maintaining a career while drinking myself to death on a daily basis, it took moving the focus off him and onto me. I noticed that those wine bottles in the trash can were mine, and I couldn’t blame it on him anymore.

Lastly, I participated in a personal growth seminar in which I realized how numb I’d gotten from my drinking. The feedback I got from the other participants was that they saw “a dead woman.” I made an appointment for outpatient treatment the following week. I realized I needed help.

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

I absolutely hated being sober! I had to learn to live my life without any drugs or alcohol, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I liked the fellowship—the laughter and the crazy stories—but I thought those who were enjoying sober lives were lying! Ironically, I’ve stayed sober since my first meeting 28 years ago, and now it’s me who shares about enjoying life.

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

My husband relapsed during my first two weeks of recovery, asking me why he should stay sober when it was obvious I wouldn’t last one more day. Because I knew I couldn’t stay sober around my drinking “buddy,” I divorced him. Alcohol had destroyed us both. I still loved him, but I knew I couldn’t live in that madness anymore.

When he came into the program six months later and joined me at some of my meetings, we remarried! Our family life grew healthy for the first time, and we became responsible and stable parents for the first time. My husband eventually took his contractors exam and became a licensed contractor. We experienced financial security for the first time in our marriage.

Those were the most joyous days of my life. I still needed a little “edge” of excitement in sobriety, so we started adventure travel. We enjoyed seeing four kinds of monkeys and sloths in the rainforests of Costa Rica. We saw a tiger in the jungles of Nepal while riding on the back of an elephant. We saw a pack of lions hunt and kill a buffalo in Botswana.

When my husband got diagnosed with brain cancer, I was able to be his caregiver for five years, while working full time. While that experience was far from being the “best thing,” I learned the true meaning of love. It’s not a feeling, it’s an action.

I also got to see my daughter graduate from college after which she found and married a great guy. My son, who got the worst of my drinking, found a solid career in the railroad industry in Spokane, Washington. He and his ex-wife also gifted me with my grandson, who is now 11 years old. Seeing both of my kids grow up to become productive, responsible, and loving adults is HUGE.

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

I would tell myself that I didn’t need to anesthetize myself and numb out my feelings in order to live a good life and to be okay with myself. I would tell myself that I could have MORE fun in sobriety than I ever could find in the lowlife bars and with the lower companionship I considered as friends.

I would tell myself I am a funny person! In sobriety, I learned that I made people laugh when I shared. So I took a Stand-Up Comedy class and, for my final exam, I performed in a comedy club. I continued to perform a couple more times, but I realized it was too much pressure and that I shouldn’t give up my day job!

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

I have learned that it’s an inside job. When I was drinking and using, I focused on looking and sounding good. I believed I was ugly and needed attention and validation from men to have any worth. I wore a mask, hiding my true self from the world.

I have learned that one of the most important things is to walk in integrity, to clean up my act if I make a mistake and hurt someone, to live an authentic life that I choose. I have found that the innermost me is a good person who is living her dreams and is grateful for what I have. I no longer want someone else’s life.

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

In June of last year, I challenged myself to do something for a cause dear to my heart: helping to save the life of elephants. I flew to Sacramento to learn to lobby for a bill that would prohibit the sales of ivory in our state. The bill passed in the legislature! In my drinking days, I would have complained that there was nothing I could do to help fix anything I found wrong in the world. In sobriety, I know that my voice matters and that I am not powerless.

Also, I had always wanted to be a writer but never believed I was good enough. When I was in college, I had signed up to be a journalism major. Because of one conversation with someone who walked me between classes and whom I didn’t even know, I changed my major and the direction of my life.

It was only in sobriety that I finally had the courage to tell my truth and to face my demons by publishing my memoir in November, 2015. The reactions from people who have read my memoir have given me the confidence to call myself an author and to believe I really am a good writer!

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

“Live and let live.”
“To thine own self be true.”
“A day at a time.”

8) And lastly, why does “recovery rock?”

By the time I got to the rooms of AA, I wanted to die. I have realized that, in sobriety, I am learning to live life on life’s terms. Now, I want more than ever to live a sober life as long as I can last. I want to feel all of my feelings, good and bad. My life rocks…and it’s all because I’m in recovery!

Recovery Rocks – Emily

Emily lives in the woods, by the ocean in a small Maine town. Her job is an office at home so she is always interested in keeping busy, learning and being active in a positive way. She’s a big gym person and loves lifting heavy weights.

She is also passionate about nature, fresh air and really enjoy solitude. Her husband is a huge part of her life and is very supportive of her (again positive) pursuits, like self-help, recovery, and refinishing furniture – whatever has a purpose. Emily has a great blog: first lap sobriety where she is chronicling her journey into sobriety.

4653_1131659782096_1545312501_30314982_7515650_n1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
I’ve had what seem like several “rock bottoms.” Being severely hard on myself, basically every time I got wasted (which at least was 3 out of every 5 times I drank) the next day I would think I wouldn’t drink anymore or as much or during the week or nothing ever more than wine or no more than 2 glasses or whatever. I would set out in the morning one way, then by the end of the day just drink and that would be it.

I’ve had so many horrible times drinking, it really would be hard to say. But I guess the last occasion, that wasn’t bad really at all, was the last time I had a drink. It was a night like any other, couple glasses of wine in rapid succession while making dinner, a couple more while eating, gulped down. And I looked over while eating and saw how the second wine bottle was almost empty. I’d already finished the half one from the previous night and this one I opened after that just a few minutes ago really. My husband had probably had 1 glass to I’d had like 3 and was already thinking about the next. I asked him, want me to open another bottle? And I felt such shame about it and he said no that’s ok. But I remember thinking, but I HAVE to open another one. And I just saw how I would never get enough and it was so shameful and embarrassing. I didn’t say anything to him at all further about it but I knew how I was going to put a stop to it once and for all. The next morning I was still thinking about it and knew what I had to do. I had to write down on a post-it note August 12, 2015 – first day of sobriety. I knew once I put it down I had to stick with it. I was really scared to write it.

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

I felt like I was going on a journey. Like I had to prepare and pack – getting alternative teas to drink, mixing them up, making sure I had plenty of iced ones for dinner time, mixed with bedtime tea to make me feel chilled out. Setting boundaries like that I wouldn’t go into a liquor store or a bar or eat food that had been cooked in wine for a while, at least 3 months.

I didn’t drop any pounds, so that was a disappointment. I mean, I wasn’t eating donuts instead of drinking 4 glasses of wine, so how come no auto weight loss? My senses did feel sharper and I did start to feel a lot of memories come back, which I have been having to deal with. That was really hard too. Sobriety was pretty much on my mind all the time and I felt good about it, but also a bit wary, like I hoped I didn’t mess it up or become a dry drunk as time went by. I worried. But also felt relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the mess of drinking anymore. I felt freed too.

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

I would often “realize” I was not drinking or hungover and be like wow…that’s good! I slept better and had to pee less; as a compulsive pee’er it was a relief. The irritation on my whole system was quickly obvious. Eyes much more white, skin got clearer. A lot less bloated. As a fitness person, that’s a big one. Also – it was pretty idiotic to care for fitness so much but drink like I was. Really stupid. I’ve made some strides in making sure I’m more accountable for myself and how I spend my time. I’ve been more organized, my memory is better, I feel more firm in my words.

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

Oh man…I would tell myself to stop right that second, so that all those bad things wouldn’t happen. Like making a FOOL out of myself, hurting myself, being furious, hanging out with bad people for me, gaining weight, not being all I could be, and ruining my brain. I would tell myself to cut the crap, stop drinking and that it would never do me any good whatsoever, while not drinking would be such a better choice. Plus save that money you idiot and stop trying to buy drinks for people. Stop trying to consume and push everything into yourself. You must product good, you cannot buy or ingest it. Also – all those nips you are drinking, plus the wine, every Sunday night in particular, then driving an hour to work at 5 am? Those are so so bad and you could have been still drunk in the morning. You can’t take those chances. Always had a hangover, every day.

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

That I actually can finish things I set my mind to, that I can be patient, compassionate, laugh, converse, and be present, in a fuller way.

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

I went for a drive to the water after dinner. I was feeling anxious and wanting to see the moon, it was a huge moon. So I got into my Jeep and went to see it, then came back to the house and got my husband to go see it with me. If it had been before I never would have gone as once I started drinking I was a prisoner of wherever I was.


7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Let go so you can let God.
I would rather go through life sober believing I was an alcoholic than go through life drunk believing I am not.
It works if you work it.

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

Recovery rocks – especially in today’s world – because there is a lot of support and opportunity to share and hear our stories and learn from others. I know being in recovery still has a stigma to some people/businesses, but there’s also so much support and options out there. Recovery rocks because without it we’re just one drink or drug away from being unable to handle anything at all. The thing we’re running from never goes away no matter how hard we try to run. If we deal with whatever it is it makes it easier and we can appreciate the good things more.