Basking…

Day 382 Alcohol Free, I am floating in the ineffable JOY of my life these days.

Here I sit, reflecting on this past year-plus with its many unexpected twists and turns, with the myriad of challenges and struggles, a mix of excruciatingly painful days and nights and episodes of explosive joy, plenty of solitude (more than I ever wished for), immersion with The Divine no matter what, celebration and happiness beyond my imaginings, my dream life unfolding.

I believe the true key to success in making a major life change is trust, trust with a capital “T”, and commitment, with a capital “C”. I made the powerful and courageous decision to bring my life fully in alignment with my values of impeccability and authenticity, something I had wanted to be brave enough to do for a very long time. Since the day I decided booze would no longer fit inside the vision I had of “Ideal /Best ME”, everything has transformed. My life is bright and shiny and although I still have tough times, still get angry and self righteous at times, still do things I want to smack myself upside the head for doing, I am happier than I have ever been. It all started with the decision to say “F You!” to The Booze Bitch.

Now as I look over my Fiercely Sober life and write my seventieth blog post(!), I feel filled to the brim with gratitude and awe. My life is a fountain, soaring with goodness in all directions. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow are full of purpose. I did the HARD stuff! I can do lots more HARD stuff. I trust myself completely now, I proved myself reliable and worthy of my trust. I believe with all my heart we live in a loving, benevolent Universe, and I receive validation of that constantly. I believe Karma is REAL. I believe so many things we obsess over are petty and insignificant, and letting go feels amazing. I have no interest in drama or being with toxic people. I am not here to argue that my opinion is more right than anyone else’s. I

want to inspire, to heal, to never stop growing and learning. I love my life and I know how immensely blessed I am, I revel in the tenderness of all the love I feel. I wish for every creature, human and other, to live their very best life. Somehow I got to win the grand prize, the biggest treasure there is, a life of meaning, and purpose, and joy. I stand strong and tall. I give thanks for all I have endured, all I am fortunate enough to receive. I am resilient. I am madly in love with Mother Nature. I forgive easily. I love ferociously. I am one very lucky Active Chick.

Sadie, my Dream Dog

I decided to count, the other day, all the dogs I have had in my life since I was a baby. There were fifteen memorable canines, ranging from cocker spaniel to beagle, a black lab, a collie, then lots of awesome rescue dogs during my ten years of ranch care taking, and then a series of dachshunds when my second hubby and I united, and ultimately, the final, the queen of all my canine loves, a yellow lab.

At the time Sadie came into my life, I had just lost (horrifically due to a Vet’s mistake), the dachshund that was my soulmate, Mystic. We had her daughter, the pick of her litter from two years earlier, but it was Mystic that I had bonded with so deeply. She was only five years old, and suffered with severe back pain issues. We had agreed to emergency surgery to try to soothe her pain. Mystic was having back surgery and the “worst case scenario” was that she would be paralyzed and would need to use one of those adorable carts to get around, plus lots of human assistance for emptying her bowels and bladder. We were completely prepared for all of that. What we were not prepared for, was a phone call starting with “We are so sorry, but…” I wailed like someone burning to death. I remember it well when the call came in, I was outraged and incredulous. I screamed at the top of my lungs, I could not accept it for awhile. My worst nightmare.

After Mystic’s passing, her daughter (Rita) and I had the time and opportunity to fall in love. Rita got to see her mother in death, something I feel is super important as animals are fully accepting of death, no fear, no avoidance. We brought Mystic home from the Vet’s office to bury her in our yard. Rita excitedly ran up to Mystic when she saw her body lying on the dog bed on the floor. Rita wagged her tail, sniffed Mystic several times, then was completely accepting of the circumstances. There was no mourning, no grief, no sadness. If anything, Rita seemed to be delighted that now she would be able to get all the attention from me that I had been pouring into her mother. We had a delightful time falling more deeply in love with one another.

Then one day, at my favorite coffee shop in San Luis Obispo, a lovely South African woman walked in with a flyer and posted it on the bulletin board. It had several photographs, including one of two gorgeous adult yellow labs with their twelve precious puppies in front of them. My heart was bursting. It was a weak moment. Yellow labs had always been my dream dogs. I have been a swimmer my entire life, since age 4, and the thought of having a dog who loved to swim was enchanting. I instinctively knew I would end up with a yellow lab puppy. My then husband was amazingly supportive even though he really wasn’t fully behind the idea of another puppy with all the challenges and havoc they bring. We had barely survived three dachshund puppies over the years. The damage to our house was substantial from the chewing and other antics caused by rambunctious puppies. He has a big heart though, and he knew he likely was not going to be able to stop me, so we went together to meet the mom and pop dogs and see all the puppies. Conveniently enough, they lived about 5 minutes from us.

I knew I wanted a very mellow dog. I am an easy going person, and I am not happy being with dogs who are hyper or overly needy. A lot of that can be worked through in training, I knew, but still it was important to me that my new puppy be mellow. I was the first person to view the puppies and I was able to take my pick of all twelve of them. I knew I wanted a female, and to my delight, there were six females. Sadie was super mellow and sweet. I fell in love immediately. She was only six weeks old and they could not let me have her for two more weeks, so I had to be patient. I also needed to come up with the finances to purchase her! A side note to all ‘rescue’ and ‘adopt from a shelter’ advocates, please know I whole-heartedly believe in rescuing and have adopted many, many, many dogs and cats over the years and will do so in the future as well. This was all meant to be, as life always proves to be. I decided to sell my kayak and a few other things, making it super easy to buy my new pup.

At the time we brought Sadie home, Rita was two years old and basking in all the attention she was getting from me. Sadie and Rita were about the same size in the beginning, which was adorable. They met at a park, and got along pretty well. I imagine Rita hoped Sadie was going home somewhere else, but that was not the case. Rita was snippy and growling at first, but it took less than a week before they were snuggling together in their kennel at night and became fast friends. I am an avid hiker, and all my dogs get to hike or walk or swim or get some sort of exercise daily. Rita and Sadie were delighted to accompany me. I will never forget Sadie’s exuberance at flying straight up the hills of the fire road that is East Cuesta Ridge, and straight down, like a lunatic. She was so happy, she could not contain herself. Both dogs also enjoyed the beach immensely. Well, maybe Rita didn’t enjoy the beach so much as tolerate it. Sadie would be IN the water chasing a frisbee or a stick or a ball, with Rita about twenty feet from the surface of the water. So cute. Sadie and I eventually swam together and Rita would keep her distance, never once taking an eye off of us.

It was hysterical to watch Sadie grow. We swore she grew several inches every night. There is something about labs, they grow enormously their first year, and they are amazing athletes. Sadie quickly towered over Rita, and the two were quite the pair. I had the best of both worlds, the large and small of it. They became best buddies, always together, always playing and cuddling and adoring each other. Sadie was Alfa dog when it came to food, Rita was Alfa dog when it came to attention. Rita did not like me to give more attention to Sadie, she would growl and threaten Sadie with a viscous voice. I always corrected her aggressive behavior immediately, but it was clear Rita had no desire for Sadie to get the majority of my attention. Fair enough.

The very sad day came last December when it was time to let Rita go. At sixteen and a half, she had a lot of discomfort from several different ailments, and as stoic as she always was, she was obviously suffering. I had Hospice Vets come to the house and do the euthanasia with Sadie fully present. Sadie was funny, practically placing herself in the laps of the two wonderful women, acting as though she never received love or attention and was starving for it. Rita was her sweet self, inwardly aware, I think, that she was going to get the relief she needed. It was incredibly loving, sweet, peaceful, and perfect. Sadie knew what was coming from the first injection of anesthesia, she backed off and distanced herself. We buried Rita in a beautiful grave in the backyard and Sadie and I finally had the love fest we had been awaiting, for four solid months.

Sadie was my spirit dog. Throughout my entire first year of sobriety, Sadie was my guardian angel, always there for me, always keeping an eye on me, always giving me her unconditional love. During my phases of COVID anxiety and depression, then later during my sober depression, Sadie was my best girl. I always called her “Beautiful Girl”, which shortened to “Boo-foo Girl” and I absolutely adored her. We had four months of deep connection with no sharing my love with another beast. It was just me and Sadie, and we were connected at the hip, so to speak. I always imagined that if I were a dog, I would be a Yellow Lab. The athleticism, the love of water, the happy spirit, the joie de vivre – I would be a yellow lab for sure. Sadie was me in canine wrapping. And she knew me so well.

When I awoke last Friday to see Sadie’s enormous tumor under her throat, which had very suddenly appeared overnight, I wanted to die. I knew this was the day. I had just celebrated my one year of sobriety the night before with a dear friend at a delightful restaurant, and somehow, as attuned as she always was to my sensitive soul, Sadie knew she could move on now. No doubt she missed her Bestie Rita, and after fourteen and a half years of life on Planet Earth she had experienced all she needed to experience. She had given her heart to me and now it was her time to say goodbye. I was a basket case. As hard as I had tried to prepare for this day, this action, I was devastated despite knowing it was inevitable. This was my dream dog, my best friend in the world, my shadow. Oh my God, I could not imagine life without Sadie.

The morning was chaotic with five phone calls attempting to find a Hospice Vet who would come out. Sadie’s mobility was limited, she weighed about one hundred pounds, and I did not want her to go through any trauma, so to me it was essential she ‘cross over’ at home. But that wasn’t going to happen. Hours of phone calls and panic and sorrow were setting in and Sadie could hardly breathe, she was bleeding slightly and drooling mucus, in severe discomfort. But, low and behold, she still ate every morsel of her final breakfast. That was a real bond between Sadie and me, we LOVED to eat! Foodies through and through.

I finally was able to secure a Vet who would euthanize Sadie at their clinic nearby, a clinic that had treated Sadie numerous times. They assured me she could lie on her doggy bed in the sunshine on their patio outside, and that it would be quiet and peaceful. What other choice did I have? So I made some phone calls to get help lifting her into my car, cleared out everything in the back of my Subaru Outback but her favorite orthopedic doggy bed, was able to get help loading her in my car, grabbed a box of Kleenex and a big bag of her favorite jerky dog treats, and off we went.

Sadie’s passing was a beautiful experience. The Vets were Angels, incredibly compassionate, kind, and caring. I sat next to Sadie and poured my love out to her, assuring her that she had been the BEST DOG EVER, and that I loved her so very, very much. My tears were a fountain pouring down on her. She ate constantly until she could no longer chew, and she passed over to the Rainbow Bridge with the last treat still in her mouth. That made me laugh, my chowhound dog taking her last breath with food in her mouth. Maybe I will do the same when my time comes. Ha.

Thank you, dear Sadie, for fourteen and a half years of love, travel (Sadie LOVED the snow, I wish I had taken her more often!), all sorts of fun, plenty of trauma (twice she barely lived through Sadie-initiated ordeals totaling around fifteen grand in Vet bills), endless adventures, nature outings, and quiet times shared. You truly were my number one favorite dog, and you have a huge piece of my heart. Someday these tears will stop flowing, but I know with each tear, comes gratitude for all the sweetness we shared. You were my Angel dog, my precious soulmate, my ME in disguise. I love you so much. I always will. Have a blast with Rita and all my other doggy darlings, and I will see you again someday.

Kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope is a compilation of broken, bright-colored glass pieces and tiny mirrors, which, when combined in precisely the right sequence, create unparalleled beauty. I have always loved kaleidoscopes. I find them stunning in their beauty and fascinating in their endless possibilities of spectacular images. I must pick up and gaze through any kaleidoscope I see in a store or at a friend’s place. They are, perhaps, my favorite toy. What a metaphor for healing!

When we have an addiction, it is likely because parts of us are broken. We turn to our chosen addiction (gambling, work, pornography, shopping, cigarettes, drugs, sex, high -risk sports, speed racing fast cars, road rage, exercise, dysfunctional relationships) because we feel it will soothe some broken part of us, fill an empty space inside. Addictions happen when we turn to something, whether it is a substance or an action, and consequently find that we like how it makes us feel, and (perhaps unconsciously) over time, create a habit of doing “the thing”. The continuous and repeated engagement in performing said behavior forms an addiction to that very thing. These behaviors teach our brains to become dependent on the stimulus, altering our brain chemistry as we force it to produce unnatural levels of neurotransmitters and hormones/ brain chemicals in its attempt to bring back homeostasis to our systems, needed for our survival. The adrenaline rush we feel when risk-taking (in whatever form) ultimately depletes our nervous system over time. Our tolerance rises continually as our brains adjust to the level of stimulus (in whatever form it takes), causing us to need more and more of our “thing” to feel the relief. We fall deeply into the abyss of our addiction. We are sprinting on a hamster wheel non-stop. We are convinced we must partake in said addiction to ease our discomfort, to feel better. This, in turn, forces our brain (and ultimately our entire biology) to work overtime, exhausting itself as it must produce higher and higher levels of the natural chemicals it needs to detox, struggling to process the toxins we imbibe. We force our bodies to levels of depletion when we pour toxins in it on a continual basis, year after year. Our bodies are magnificent machines, but when we burden them with high levels of toxins, we exhaust their ability to return us to an optimal level of health. With time, our systems become completely depleted, causing disease, depression, malaise on many different levels, and certainly a whole boatload of emotional pain.

It takes a mountain of commitment and determination to overcome addiction. It takes wanting to feel amazing more than wanting that cigarette, drug of choice, rush of adrenaline in whichever form it takes. We have to believe in ourselves and trust. Trust is key- to trust in ourselves we must believe we are capable of doing the hard things. We ARE capable of doing hard things, sometimes it just takes time to prove it to ourselves. We have to start small and find our tribe of kindred spirits, a vast pool of support, humans who have been through the war and came out winners. That’s what worked for me.

Perhaps my greatest allies in my alcohol-free journey these past 367 days has been all the magnificent authors of the books on sobriety, lovingly referred to in the ‘sobersphere’ as “Quit Lit”. Reading a lot of various Quit Lit was incredibly validating. The fact that so many others had been through Hell and found their way to Nirvana with all the difficulties, challenges, obstacles, temptations, was incredibly inspiring and reassuring. It takes truly becoming a REBEL in our alcohol-crazed culture to succeed in landing on the island of freedom from alcohol. All the brave, vulnerable, honest, loving, ecstatically happy souls who shared their journeys buoyed me up on my own journey and showed me it could be done. Now I want to be that for others.

As I reflect (often!) on my last year of discovery, I feel incredibly blessed. Although there were many times when the pain of isolation and depression felt unbearable, the repeated listening (through books on tape during my commute and last thing at night as I fell into slumber) to the scope of brilliant authors (at least a dozen or more!) touched my heart very deeply. They are raw, real, humble, authentic, funny, enlightening, so incredibly honest, and overall wonderful. I have yet to meet any long-time “sober” person on the other side of the nearly impossible boot camp called “recovery”, who is capable of telling a lie. Addiction can cause so much covering up, so much guilt, shame, unhappiness, and self loathing (and dishonesty!!), this population of humans has put false behaviors in their past. It is refreshing and delightful to be in the company of groups of recovered “addicts” because they have a spring in their step, a brightness that shines through their eyes, a heart filled with pride and self love, and it shows. They have won the battle. I, and they, have all slayed the bitch, whether it be The Booze Bitch (my demon of choice), or pornography, codependent/abusive relations, workaholism-or any of a vast number of other crutches. We did it!! I am so very proud, and happy, and bursting with gratitude. My most sincere hope is that by sharing my very personal journey, I, too, can make a difference in someone’s life, give the leg-up they desperately need. I am available to anyone questioning whether their life might be better without alcohol. If you find yourself struggling with the Booze Bitch and her negative consequences, please take it from me, that’s a great big, deafening roar of a YES to an alcohol-free life! The kaleidoscope of the soul created on the journey of healing (truly healing, not just spiritual bypassing!) an addiction is the most beautiful you can imagine. Truly breathtaking!

Thank you all for being with me on this truly amazing journey. The book is in the works and I thank you, every single one of you, for your phenomenal support and encouragement. If you have been inspired by my writing, please stay tuned for the “Fiercely Sober” book to come. “Thank you” feels inadequate, but please know you are immensely appreciated. Be well.

Love, Judes

WOW

One week away from ONE YEAR SOBER! Awemazing. The word that comes up for me the most, is “WOW”. Interestingly, I am in the process of creating a hospitality side business I call “How to WOW” , the art of delighting customers. After 20+ years in hospitality (mainly restaurants) and 15 years of owning businesses (two that I successfully turned around), which included (required!) a whole lot of WOWing customers, I feel quite qualified. “WOW” is my cherished word these days. Powerful!

WOW, I never, ever, ever thought I could be a non drinker. I probably gave it a small amount of head space over the past decade, but I couldn’t really imagine it. I had no idea who I would be as a tea totaler. Now I know – it is amazing. It is amazing to be so incredibly healthy, and vibrant, and happy. Not drinking alcohol is the single best thing I have ever done for my body and soul. I was never a “problem drinker”. I hear ALL the time “But I never saw you as someone who had issues with drinking”. However, the difference in how I feel as an abstainer compared to my years of having a solid and steady “drinking habit” is ineffable. WOW! I hardly need any sleep these days. In addition to the detox my body went through in the first 40 days, I tried a fortune’s worth of supplements to feel better, and several different “diets” to shake my extra COVID weight. The best solution for me and my body has been the “Whole Foods Plant Based” WFPB way of eating, which I am fully and completely loving: the cooking, the recipes, the EATING! I am bursting with energy, putting zero toxins in my system, treating my body, mind, and soul like temples, with adoration, appreciation, and respect.

WOW. I had no idea the euphoria I would experience from about Day 41 to Day 130. Three months of feeling ecstatic, the “Pink Cloud” effect. Included in those three months of ecstasy was a huge supply of emotional fireworks. I was exploding in rage, crying tears of sadness or joy, bouncing from one intense emotion to another intense emotion at the drop of a hat, sobbing as I watched FaceBook videos about dogs being rescued, acting way too impulsively, being triggered endlessly well beyond my tolerance levels, wanting to strangle a person or two in my life on a regular basis…it was exhausting AND exhilarating to feel EVERYTHING. I didn’t realize how much I had been avoiding my feelings, how much I stuffed my emotions and just sucked it up. I knew I had been a “runner” in relationships, fleeing when the issues became too uncomfortable, not wanting to sit in the discomfort. But I honestly didn’t know how much I avoided feeling the extremes of the human emotional spectrum until they popped out of me like a popcorn popper gone wild. I didn’t have a lot of control in those days, and my work environment was extremely challenging with bullies and ego-centric, naive, inexperienced management, so I felt like I was trying to keep the lid on my internal pressure cooker ALL the time, and I wasn’t always successful. There were conflicts, confrontations, righteous outbursts. I was unable to contain my displeasure and sense of injustice at being treated unfairly when I did not deserve it. Those were exhausting, yet amazing days.

Wow. What the hell COVID, laid off again? This wasn’t how this was supposed to go. I left the job that was making my sensitive spirit cringe and joined an establishment that was filled with integrity and support and love. I thought everything was going to be sunshine and roses, but COVID brought more changes along with financial insecurity and unending uncertainty. The depression set in and it was intense. I was lost and sad and incredibly discouraged. I became a miserable couch potato, forcing myself to exercise but feeling absolutely depleted. For over three months! That was my COVID hell, from approximately months six through nine. It was the most bleak Christmas I can remember, I had ZERO Christmas spirit, desire, or joy. It was even worse than the two Christmases spent all alone with my beloved Sadie (yellow lab) at death’s door. Sadie had managed to ingest substances that sent her to the emergency room barely hanging on to life, two years in a row, just a day or two before Christmas. I was determined to get through the depression without drugs, not wanting to become dependent on anti-depressants. I had read a lot about how depression happens for many people in the first year after stopping drinking. I acknowledged my four plus decades of regular alcohol consumption and knew my body and brain needed time. Lots of time. Time to heal and re-remember their normal function, to re-establish normalcy, to adjust back to their ability to cleanse and heal and regulate. It was awful, but I stayed IN it, wrote a lot in my journal, was extremely active in my online sober groups, isolated myself and was very quiet. I did entertain the idea of getting rip roaring drunk just so I could get a break from feeling so rotten. Fortunately, the thought of drinking repulsed my better sense of self, and I never relapsed. It was helpful to read the sharing from so many wonderful, raw, honest, vulnerable humans who were lamenting, regretting, and agonizing over their return to drinking. They were despondent, incredibly sad, disappointed, full of self loathing, and disgusted. OH! I remember all those feelings. NO thank you.

WOW. I did it! I made it through the storm. I was in the heavy darkness, I breathed through all of it and I survived it. Now the sun is shining brighter than ever, ever, ever. COVID restrictions lightened up, the world opened up again, and I thought long and hard about where I wanted to work. I decided I was worth NOT settling for any less that my highest aspiration-I was going to find the perfect company, the perfect fit. I researched, I read, I wrote, I visioned. And I landed in my HAPPY PLACE, where I do work I love, meet beautiful people who come to visit, work with beautiful people, feel great about myself, love the management and owner, and feel I belong here. The rewards have been wonderful. I am making the kind of money I made at the “other” place, and am loving how much I enjoy what I do. I look forward to every day, whether a work day or a non-work day. I am in love with everyone because I am in love with ME. I am SO very proud of this decision to be alcohol free. I don’t feel any need to preach, I am just living in it and that is a great reward, full of magic and wonder and joy. It is everything. I am beyond blessed with incredible, supportive, loving friends who tell me how proud of me they are; authentic, full of integrity friends who listen and laugh with me, who understand me and love me just the way I am. Honestly, life feels magical these days. The Universe is showering me with so many fabulous perks, it is mind blowing. All because of one big decision. The decision to move closer to living a life fully in integrity with my values. A decision to be the best version of myself. I never need to say “I am an Alcoholic”. I am not. I am someone who is on a journey of discovery, making choices that empower me and further my growth. I am woman, Hear me roar.

“Aha!” Moments

I was thinking back the other day about what prompted me (last year) to finally decide it was time to give alcohol-FREE living a go. I vividly remember saying, and thinking, “If the man I am so enamored with decided to go sober, I would be willing to give up booze (gasp!) in order to support him.”

I have an illusionary but loving-intention “habit” of seeing the person I love more as the ultimate, ideal version of themselves rather than the reality of what is in front of me. This particular man and I had been dancing together for years, on again, off again, in and out of relationship that ultimately became quite dysfunctional. I did not realize (did not WANT to acknowledge) that he had a severe drinking problem until we were deeply heart connected, about three months into living together in my beautiful home. We had each come out of very long marriages, survived a divorce, and were magically healing for one another. The timing could not have been better. It was, early on, a sweet, deeply heart-connected love that included an incredible amount of date nights, romantic star gazing as we slept outside in the summer, and lots of lots of wine. He was a Sommelier and introduced me to a whole new world of little known and amazing varietals and bends of wine from all parts of the globe. I was already well versed in wine appreciation and even trained servers about wine and how to serve and share wine details, but this journey into lesser known and incredibly delicious wines was exciting and magical to me. With him I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

Over the years, this relationship went through many changes. There were break-ups and reunions, hurts, exchanges of anger, delusions, sweetness and ultimately, a whole lot of love. I had become hopelessly entangled by his powerful charm and manipulation without realizing it. I was delusional but I didn’t see myself that way. I forever defended his tendency to cancel our meetings and believed the excuses he gave me. Most likely, he was too hungover or still drunk from imbibing alcohol, or was with another of many women he was sleeping with, all the while making me believe I was his one true love. I was under a spell, and try as I might to shake him from my heart, I was ensnarled.

At the height of our love affair, I thought I had found the love of my life with him. I have thought this with past loves too. Honestly, I think we all experience “love of our lives” that are meant for us at different stages. I have a philosophy that everyone comes to us at the most opportune time, for a period of time, to teach us what we need to learn. For me, that includes a twenty year relationship (and marriage) with a man who was a “Party Boy” and gave me two beautiful sons, directly followed by a man that was much more intellectually evolved and financially stable, who gave me an opportunity to be a stepmom with a blended family (what a rewarding and difficult situation that became!), and a life of financial security and ease. I still love these men with my whole heart, and see them often as we enjoy family time together. I am eternally grateful for our friendship and our unusual (who stays best friends with their former husbands? Not many women!) family which continues to bring us all everlasting joy. I do not have regrets about any part of my past. I believe every single encounter happens because we bring it to ourselves. We learn from everyone, some bring joy, and some bring wounds and enormous “opportunities for growth”. I cannot imagine my life without having experienced any of my five most significant relationships, this last one included.

During the years I went in and out of attachment to my Sommelier love, I came to acknowledge that he was deeply addicted to booze (it became painfully obvious!). He now has a business that enables him to purchase wine in enormous quantities as he shares his wine expertise with customers, and he drinks at that ‘enormous quantity’ level as well. As is my tendency, I envisioned what he would be like without imbibing alcohol. His ‘Mensa’ level brilliance would shine, he might decide to go back to teaching and mentoring young people (he is gifted in this arena), his health and appearance would improve greatly as he regained liver function, vitality, and inspiration to live a wholesome life, he would be present and joyful rather than dismissing and manipulative, and his life would become what I always imagined it could be. I told myself, and I truly believed it to be true, that I would be willing to stop drinking booze in order to support this man if he decided to go there, and that our lives would be amazing together if that occurred.

My “AHA!” happened when the light bulb finally went off. If I am willing to give up my beloved wine and all booze for this man, why not give it up to make my OWN life the best it could possibly be?! I had already been going downhill with whole body hangovers, anxiety, and depression, and the idea of not drinking was gaining steam in my mind. Once I realized that I didn’t need to do this for someone else, that my tendency to give myself up to make someone else happy was ridiculous and not serving me, once all that hit me like a ton of bricks thrown at my dense brain, I knew I was going to proceed. I laugh at myself thinking how foreign it felt to even give the thought of not drinking any consideration at all. “ME, a non drinker??- Not in my wheelhouse of imaginings, never gonna happen. Moderation, that’s it, I will just drink less.” Well, anyone who has become addicted to any substance that gets its hooks in you, knows that moderating is not doable. Addiction is a Mother F-er that hijacks the brain, the psyche, the entire human, and it takes a force of nature to break away. I am ineffably thankful for all the time spent in this past relationship, and every other past relationship with men who drank heavily, which is nearly all the men I loved. It all helps to show me how much happier and healthier I am without booze in my life. I can’t even express the joy that comes from sleeping well, waking up full of inspiration, health, and brightness, the energy that returns ever so slowly but surely, the transformation of physical and mental health. I have shared some of the benefits of going without alcohol on my blog, but if you are curious at all, just google “The perks of giving up booze” and you will find hundreds of testimonies.

As I slide into the home base of one year alcohol free (April 15) and hit the home run I have trained so diligently to achieve, I feel explosive pride, happiness, resolve, success, and JOY at what I have accomplished. If I had known how glorious a life without booze was going to be, I would have given up my dependence on booze many years ago. I know everything in my life would have been different. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. I don’t regret the difficult obstacles I have overcome, I give thanks for all the challenges, because along with all of those, I have also had the immense joy of truly beautiful love, growth(!), happiness, blessings I count every single day, wisdom beyond what I ever imagined, and a life filled with gratitude and purpose. If you are on the fence about giving up your drinking habit, take my word for it – do it because YOU are worth it, you deserve it, and the life on the other side of drinking is a life worth savoring. I am here if you ever need a shoulder, a mentor, or just someone who can relate to your struggles. Thank you for being in my life, for your support of my blog, for your love. I believe we are ALL Rock Stars, it just takes awhile sometimes to find the instrument we are meant to play in the concert of our lives. You CAN do this!

My Roadmap to Sober Success

As I quickly approach the milestone of one entire year sober, I want to share how I got here. Hard to believe I have made it nearly 365 days not drinking alcohol, 52 weeks of choosing not to imbibe, 8760 hours of saying NO to the Booze Bitch. I long to share what has worked for me. The incredible pride and joy I feel about the decision to be alcohol free is something I wish for anyone who is questioning their relationship with alcohol. Let go of questioning whether or not you are an “Alcoholic” (oh how I loathe that label and the stigma associated with it!). Instead, ask yourself, “Would my life be better without booze?” It was an instant answer for me when I honestly evaluated my own relationship with The Booze Bitch. I was averaging three glasses (big glasses) of first class wine about 4 nights a week (some weeks saw 5, 6, or even 7 nights), or 3 strong cocktails. I never drank in the morning, I rarely drank before a semi-acceptable 4 PM, but my body, my brain, my spirit, and my psyche were suffering in a multitude of ways.

I was incredibly lucky to not ever have had to deal with anxiety throughout my life. I have, for the most part, been easy going and free spirited, not anxious, not a worrier, always trusting the Universe because everything always works out for me. For the vast majority of my life, things have flowed pretty smoothly, even with lots of bumps (sometimes enormous pot holes!) along the path. In 2020, everything changed. My drinking habit combined with a worldwide pandemic, forced closure of my business due to canceling all the retreats and workshops I had scheduled, intermittent unemployment, isolation, financial lows, the single life, social distancing including the forbidden act of physical touch and hugging, lack of connection with others (what feeds my soul the most!), fear of losing everything, drowning in uncertainty caused by the circumstances of COVID – all those factors combined led to the most excruciating anxiety and subsequent depression I have ever experienced. It was time for me to make some changes.

I drank for four decades, maybe slightly more, but I never really felt I had a problem with drinking. I was the life of the party most of the time. I was the one initiating the inclusion of wine or cocktails to ensure everyone would get loose and laugh a lot, relax, open up, get silly, have fun. I associated booze with a good time. In the last decade, I started noticing how many times I pushed the limits of safe driving, made bad decisions while intoxicated, purchased items impulsively, sent texts I later regretted, said things that were hurtful or inappropriate, and most of all, how I started feeling physically and emotionally drained after a night of drinking. I thought about taking breaks from alcohol, I really tried hard to moderate ( told myself I’d only drink weekends, take the month of January off), and I was successful sometimes. But the break from alcohol would be filled with anticipation of how great that first glass of wine was going to taste. I was impatient waiting for the weekend to arrive so I could escape into inebriated numbness. I became dependent on alcohol without realizing it was happening. I have no genetic tendencies toward addiction, no one in my family lineage ever became addicted to drugs(alcohol IS a drug), so I felt immune.

When I worked at a world class winery and was able to bring multiple open bottles (partial bottles were married together making them nearly full) of incredible wine home at the end of the work day, my wine habit became an addiction. I noticed that no matter how many positive ways I fed my body try to make up for poisoning it with booze (lemon water first thing, green smoothies every morning, super healthy salads every day for lunch), I still felt tired. I dragged. My head felt heavy, my eyes were puffy, I was bloated, and I knew I wasn’t treating my body the way it deserved to be treated. I was putting toxins into my body temple that has served me so well all my years. I was depleting my system and expecting it to overcome the poison I so enthusiastically poured into it. I was not living by my personal creed of being IMPECCABLE. I was not “doing my best”. I had to be brutally honest with myself and vulnerable about the possibility that giving up drinking was a decision that would greatly enhance my life. I truly never imagined I could be a non-drinker, gasp! I needed to believe that I would still be able to feel happy without wine, cocktails, or booze of any type controlling my life.

Looking back on this almost-year of being alcohol free, I feel incredibly proud, blessed, thankful, and passionate about supporting and inspiring others to follow this beautiful path to alcohol-free living. I started writing this blog early in my journey. I was deeply inspired by others who had shared their journeys from addiction to freedom, and I knew writing about what I was going through would help keep me accountable. Let me be perfectly clear; tee-totaling is not for the faint of heart. It takes an enormous amount of courage to choose the road less traveled in a culture that worships alcohol. Booze is everywhere and we are brainwashed to believe that it enhances our lives. We are constantly influenced by the bombardment of advertisement (funded by the alcohol industry) to convince us that we will be sexier, funnier, more desirable, happier with booze. I have learned so much about how influential the alcohol industry is politically and socially. The profits gained from sales of alcohol have created an unbelievably powerful beast, and until enough brave souls step away from the hype, nothing will change. We have to want what we want (in my case vitality, alignment with my values, full integration of optimal health and happiness) more than we want booze, and we have to make the decision to stop drinking. No part of this is easy, but the rewards are immense, even beyond my ability to describe. I made it through withdrawal boot camp (40 days of exhaustion), three months of floating on blissful Cloud 9, and four months of excruciating depression, and I am here to say it was worth every minute. Here’s what helped me the most:

  1. Find a Mentor. You already know I am not a fan of AA, but I was fortunate in having someone I worked with, the Wine Advisor no less, who was a few years sober while working in the industry. She was the example I needed to see it was possible to work around wine and not drink it. She was outstanding at her job, highly accomplished, big hearted, super healthy and happy. She encouraged and congratulated me, and was my role model. It is crucial to find someone who can be your mentor, whether you know them personally or not.
  2. Quit Lit. I got my hands (ears actually) on all the books I could find about sobriety and the journey to get there. I started watching YouTube videos about quitting drinking. Immersing myself in this world was highly encouraging, supportive, and enjoyable. I quickly learned that sober folks are the most authentic, vulnerable, honest, real, loving people on the planet. They are supportive, empathic, understanding, and wonderful. Hearing about other people’s journeys from ‘addicted’ to ‘free’ was a constant inspiration. My favorite authors in the sober movement are Annie Grace (” This Naked Mind” as well as her fabulous “The Alcohol Experiment” ). “The Alcohol Experiment” is free online, and a great place to start!. I love Holly Whitaker and her passion and activism (“Quit Like a Woman”), Claire Pooley (“The Sober Diaries”), Catherine Gray (“The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”), Augustin Burroughs (“Dry”- which is arguably my absolute favorite book with tons of humour, wit, and entertainment), William Porter (“Alcohol Explained”-full of great advice and facts about what alcohol does to the brain and body), Craig Beck (“Alcohol Lied to Me”), Laura McKowen (“We are The Luckiest”), and lots more. This is a link to some great ones https://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/the-11-best-addiction-and-sobriety-books, and new ones pop up all the time. Mine is in the works: “Fiercely Sober, from Wine Lover Chick to Slaying the Booze Bitch'”. Quit Lit kept sobriety front and center, and encouraged me constantly. The stories of what these brave souls endured helped me believe that I could be courageous too.
  3. Community. It is essential to find a sober community that works for you. Mine was FaceBook groups, where I engaged daily and found endless support. I am still a member of about 5 groups, all started by sober authors building a following. For me, connecting with so many strangers experiencing, or having survived what I was currently going through, was the support and impetus needed to keep me steady on my path. I highly recommend checking out Annie Grace’s FaceBook community (The Alcohol Experiment), and William Porter’s group (Alcohol Explained). There are many, many groups including my own, “Fiercely Sober” on FaceBook, and Instagram has a huge number of sober Creators as well.. I would be delighted if you joined our growing community at Fiercely Sober. The success of my efforts will be greatly enhanced by community building, and I am here to encourage, support, inspire, and help. We are all supportive and loving in Fiercely Sober, and that’s what is needed to get past the desire to reach for the glass of booze.
  4. Play the reel fast forward. I learned early on that the solution to craving a drink was to instantly play it forward to how I would feel two to three drinks in, and after. Sedative sleepiness, procrastinating on anything and everything I should do, dozing in my chair by 8 PM, eating unhealthy snacks, feeling wide awake and full of shame, anxiety, self loathing, and regret at 3 AM, with the curse of depression the entire next day(s) to follow. Positively not worth the fleeting twenty minutes of temporary relief of numbing from the drink. The pleasure I found in feeling vitality return, in looking at myself in the mirror and seeing brightness instead of puffiness, the pride I felt in successfully committing to this decision, the wonderful, sound, peaceful sleep I was enjoying, were all rewards for deciding to treat my body well by forgoing booze, and that choice was giving me back to myself exponentially..
  5. Find your non-drinking passions. I have always loved nature, exercise, fitness, and cooking. I laugh about how much I love to eat, and how that is probably why I became so active. Sports and burning calories helps me to avoid becoming obese(okay, maybe an exaggeration), plus I love healthy foods. I honestly eat a lot, more than most women, and flavor is key. My palate is keen, which made me a natural for becoming adept in the world of wine. I can detect lots of subtle nuances and I can describe flavors. Most of all, I am a creative cook and love to make delicious, original dishes. Lately that passion has become my daily joy. I also hike on the days I don’t work, and I read a lot, listen to podcasts, watch amazing YouTube videos on all sorts of subjects that interest me, listen to music, dance whenever I feel like it, and connect with friends as much as possible.
  6. Self care. Every type of self care is critical when becoming alcohol free, or free from addiction of any kind. Drink tons of water (lemon water for me), exercise, get plenty of fresh air, eat healthy foods, nourish your spirit, connect with others, do what feeds your soul. Spirituality is my priority, and my spiritual journey started in 2000. I have a daily practice of meditation each morning. I cannot imagine my life without it anymore. Lately I arise at 5, and it gives me such a sense of harmony and joy. I love my morning hours and am productive because I have a lot of energy. Believing in something bigger than ourselves puts everything into perspective. Trusting ourselves comes slowly, and builds resilience.

I could likely write an entire book on all the things that help someone let go of addiction to harmful substances. I tend to avoid the word “sober” because it is so charged with stigma, and prefer to call my state of being “Alcohol Free”, because it truly does feel like freedom once the decision and the commitment is made to give up alcohol, to Slay that damn Booze Bitch. Once we make alcohol unimportant and insignificant in our lives, the rewards are indescribable. If you are inspired by anything I have written in this blog, I would be grateful for your support, which looks like following my blog and/or joining the Fiercely Sober FaceBook group. I love this Sobersphere world, and I think you will too. You will never know if you never try. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Thank you for being here! I wish you happiness beyond your wildest imaginings, as I am experiencing. You deserve it!

It all starts with Self Care

Self-Care Assessment- How are you doing? I still have some work to do. But I’m getting there! 🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️🤸‍♀️

I found this on FaceBook and had to share:


Rate the following areas according to how well you think you are doing: 3 = I do this well (e.g., frequently)
2 = I do this OK (e.g., occasionally)
1 = I barely or rarely do this
0 = I never do this
? = This never occurred to me
Physical Self-Care
_ Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch, and dinner) Eat healthily
Exercise Get regular medical care for prevention
Get medical care when needed Take time off when sick
Get massages Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other fun physical activity Take time to be sexual – with myself, with a partner Get enough sleep Wear clothes I like Take vacations Other: Psychological Self-Care Take day trips or mini-vacations
Make time away from telephones, email, and the Internet Make time for self-reflection
Notice my inner experience – listen to my thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings Have my own personal psychotherapy
Write in a journal Read literature that is unrelated to work
Do something at which I am not expert or in charge Attend to minimizing stress in my life
Engage my intelligence in a new area, e.g., go to an art show, sports event, theatre Be curious
Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes Other:
Emotional Self-Care
Spend time with others whose company I enjoy Stay in contact with important people in my life Give myself affirmations, praise myself _ Love myself

_ Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies Identify comforting activities, objects, people, places and seek them out Allow myself to cry Find things that make me laugh
Express my outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests Other:
Spiritual Self-Care
Make time for reflection Spend time in nature
Find a spiritual connection or community Be open to inspiration
Cherish my optimism and hope Be aware of non-material aspects of life
Try at times not to be in charge or the expert Be open to not knowing
Identify what is meaningful to me and notice its place in my life Meditate
Pray Sing
Have experiences of awe Contribute to causes in which I believe
Read inspirational literature or listen to inspirational talks, music Other:
Relationship Self-Care
Schedule regular dates with my partner or spouse Schedule regular activities with my children
Make time to see friends Call, check on, or see my relatives
Spend time with my companion animals Stay in contact with faraway friends
Make time to reply to personal emails and letters; send holiday cards Allow others to do things for me
Enlarge my social circle Ask for help when I need it
Share a fear, hope, or secret with someone I trust Other:
Workplace or Professional Self-Care
Take a break during the workday (e.g., lunch) Take time to chat with co-workers
Make quiet time to complete tasks Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding Set limits with clients and colleagues Balance my caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much” Arrange workspace so it is comfortable and comforting _ Get regular supervision or consultation

_ Negotiate for my needs (benefits, pay raise) Have a peer support group
___ (If relevant) Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest

_ Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies Identify comforting activities, objects, people, places and seek them out Allow myself to cry Find things that make me laugh
Express my outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests Other:
Spiritual Self-Care
Make time for reflection Spend time in nature
Find a spiritual connection or community Be open to inspiration
Cherish my optimism and hope Be aware of non-material aspects of life
Try at times not to be in charge or the expert Be open to not knowing
Identify what is meaningful to me and notice its place in my life Meditate
Pray Sing
Have experiences of awe Contribute to causes in which I believe
Read inspirational literature or listen to inspirational talks, music Other:
Relationship Self-Care
Schedule regular dates with my partner or spouse Schedule regular activities with my children
Make time to see friends Call, check on, or see my relatives
Spend time with my companion animals Stay in contact with faraway friends
Make time to reply to personal emails and letters; send holiday cards Allow others to do things for me
Enlarge my social circle Ask for help when I need it
Share a fear, hope, or secret with someone I trust Other:
Workplace or Professional Self-Care
Take a break during the workday (e.g., lunch) Take time to chat with co-workers
Make quiet time to complete tasks Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding Set limits with clients and colleagues Balance my caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much” Arrange workspace so it is comfortable and comforting _ Get regular supervision or consultation

_ Negotiate for my needs (benefits, pay raise) Have a peer support group
___ (If relevant) Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest

Overall Balance
_ Strive for balance within my work-life and work day _ Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play, and rest

Dementors

I am an enraptured fan of the Harry Potter book series. Each of my boys read the books, beginning with me reading to them when they were too young to read on their own. We were among the first to purchase each newly published work in the series as soon as it was available, even pre-ordering to get them as soon as possible. I was amazed and astonished at the story lines, the brilliance of the writing. The author, J.K.Rowling, is one of the most creative writers I have ever read- I am enamored with her ability to produce story, imagination, fantasy, and suspense. She keeps the reader holding on with bated breath for the next turn of events. I adore her style.

For anyone not familiar with the Harry Potter series (have you been living under a rock??), or not sure what Dementors are, here is a quote from one of the books, The Prisoner of Azkaban:

“The dementors are “soulless creatures … among the foulest beings on Earth”: a phantom species who, as their name suggests, gradually deprive human minds of happiness and intelligence. They are the guards of the wizard prison, Azkaban, until after the return of antagonist Lord Voldemort.”

And here’s a little more:

“There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…and then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it was trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings.”

That should be enough to give you the sense of what Dementors are, right? If you didn’t feel anything when reading those passages, well, you are much less sensitive/visual/ experiential than I am. Lord Voldemort is basically the most evil creature in the Universe, the Satan of Harry’s world. When I first read about Dementors, I felt a chill go down my spine. There is no doubt in my mind J.K.Rowling has been down the slippery slope, the terrifying slide, into a deep depression. The description of how dementors suck out happiness and steal the soul of a person is precisely how it feels to be hopelessly immersed in the quicksand of a severe depression. Anyone who has never been through a debilitating depression cannot know or fully understand how devastating it is to walk that path. It is similar to being in deep water and unable to come to the surface. I am a firm believer in the power of our thoughts, that we create our own reality, that we manifest what comes to us- but having survived multiple episodes of severe depression throughout my lifetime, I have the deepest compassion and understanding for anyone in the throws of it.

Someone I dearly love is currently drowning in depression, awaiting an appointment with a psychiatrist which has been prolonged multiple times due to COVID. It hurts my heart to see him suffer, knowing there is nothing I can or should do to rescue him. I am there for him, helping him with necessary tasks as I am able, being there and supporting, loving, encouraging, and holding him. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make his depression disappear. I have been in too many codependent relationships to believe I am able to rescue anyone, I am a “recovered codependent.” We all have to experience what we must throughout this journey, but I would not wish the agony of a deep depression on anyone, ever. Mental health is the foundation that must be treated and nurtured and prioritized if we are to live our best lives. Fortunately, our culture is SLOWLY letting go of the stigma attached to mental health and addiction, but we hav a very long way to go.

I believe in energy, that we are all (everything is) made up of energy. Sometimes we lack the energy necessary for producing or completing what is required of us throughout a “normal” day. During the worst days of a depressive episode, just getting out of bed may be all one can accomplish, and that is okay. I have learned to be gentle with myself, as the guilt and shame of not being on top of the world, knocking the “to-do list” down one task at a time, not showing up in all the ways our world expects us to show up, only worsens the self loathing, withdrawal, and low self esteem that comes with depression. It is crucial to have someone to talk to, someone who understands what the depressed person is feeling because they, too, have been there, been through it, and made it to the other side. It takes trust in knowing “This Too Shall Pass”, believing in the light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes getting help in the form of Holistic, Eastern or Western medicine, knowing everything, even the potent psychotropics, or pharmaceutical medicines, can possibly provide the boost we need to help lift us up if guided by a professional who is extremely knowledgeable about treatments. I am thankfully free of all prescription drugs after having been on one for a decade (it took me an entire year to withdraw slowly and carefully from it), and I know that my depression has been a gift in my life. I have more compassion than anyone never having experienced it. I am able to BE in my low-tide periods, able to write (journal) about it, pray about it, sit with it. Life is multi-faceted; beautiful and frightening, delightful and painful. I choose all of it, every single moment of every single day, knowing there isn’t any part of who I am that I would toss away. I am who I am today because of everything I have experienced, including the trauma, the growth, the pain, the misery AND the blessings and the joy. One thing about growing older is the wisdom that ensues with each passing year, the faith in the Universe, the deep trust in oneself. Youth is fleeting, looks are fleeting, but wisdom, experience, resilience, compassion, real-life education- all of it makes us who we are, the sum of all our parts.

If you are in the depth of a deep depression, please reach out. Covid has been a time when more people than ever in history have experienced addiction, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loss, and isolation. Please take good care of yourself, whatever that looks like. It’s okay to stay in bed for an entire day if you are depleted, just know that help is available if that one day turns into a week, if taking a shower and going out into the world feels like just too much. You are valuable, you are necessary, you are vital to our world, and your mental health matters, a whole lot. If I can be a sounding board or a pillow to cry on, please reach out to me, I am here to support. Sobriety has allowed me to truly be present for all my moods, the roller coaster of emotions that reach the highest highs and the lowest lows. Hang on tightly friends, life IS a wild ride, and we are all in it together. I wish you all the very best life has to offer. You deserve it!

A Dementor from Harry Potter “The Prisoner of Azkaban”

Rising

Day 320 of Sobriety.

Take one extremely extroverted single woman who thrives on connection and engaging with others, stun her with the shock of not one but two times removing her source of income, security, happiness, and purpose (i.e. work), isolate her by mandating an order to maintain distance from others – no physical contact with other humans, no touching, no hugging, no (physical) affection allowed, and see what happens. And do this for not just a day or a week, but for months at a time.

How did she fair? Not well. I know I am not alone. We have all been through some form of hell these past eleven months. My hell has been very personal. I acknowledge I had some extremely high and happy times during my initial sobriety (Day 1 was April 15, 2020), in particular months two through five, that wonderful period of “The Pink Cloud” when the vitality returns and everything is bright and shiny. Then…events out of my control caused a shattering of my world and my mental state plunged lower than I imagined I could endure. The ultimate synopsis I can conclude is thankfulness for all the Grace I experienced, that I was able to withdraw from the world for many months with a very beautiful roof over my head, nature all around me, loving canine companions, plenty of food to eat, authentic and loving friends who were only a phone call away, and the Internet (especially YouTube) to entertain me. As one of my favorite people in the world shared with me about her experience with a life threatening illness over several years, sometimes we must die a death to who we were in order to become who we are meant to be- I believe they call that growth.

Part of what took place for me was a rebalancing of my brain chemistry. The neurotransmitters that regulate mood and energy levels had been hijacked by alcohol’s effects for so many years, my brain has had to relearn how to properly function. Those neurotransmitters, the little chemical messengers in our brains (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins) are what made me feel happy, upbeat, positive, inspired, motivated, eager to engage. My brain was seriously depleted of those little wonder-drugs, and it took me a long time to recover. It makes sense to call the time of adjusting to life after giving up an addiction “Recovery”. There is so much that needs to slowly return to health; our bodies, and minds, and psyche, our entire way of going through life all have to recover from any form of addiction, whether that be codependent relationships, eating disorders, obsession with food, drugs (including the #1 drug, alcohol), smoking, gambling, workaholism, sex, Internet (social media!) and many others we use to distract ourselves from our reality. Decades of regularly imbibing alcohol and numbing/avoiding/distracting from feelings and emotions took its toll on my psyche and my physicality. I thought I would drop weight because I wasn’t putting all those empty calories in my body, but the opposite happened, food was my comfort. I tried many different “diets” including keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, totally sugar-free, to shed the weight, but alas it stuck to me like glue, adding to my distress. I am an extremely active person normally, but during these months of struggle, my energy was close to rock bottom. A hike made me feel good for its duration, but ultimately would render me exhausted and unable to be productive for the remainder of the day, leading to feeling even lower with a sinking sense of self worth. Day after day after day. What a vicious cycle! I would look around at all the things I “should” do with no motivation to do any of it, watching things pile up, feeling overwhelmed.

I read a lot of research on what happens during sobriety. Everyone is different, of course. Some people feel incredible after the physical withdrawal subsides. They lose weight, look great, work out, find a new life, and live happily ever after. The facts are, many of us go through a long rough patch, called by several different names, such as PAWS-post alcohol withdrawal symptom, anhedonia (total lack of feeling pleasure), and more. I was heartened to read about all the important supplements that I could take to assist the return of my brain chemistry to its optimum function. I spent ridiculous amounts of money trying yet another remedy, amino acid combination, or the latest brain-building, mood-enhancing nutritional supplement, and although I probably tried a dozen expensive options, not one helped even a little bit. It wasn’t until pandemic-related restrictions lifted and I was able (and ready) to return to work that my world became brighter.

I decided to go for the gold, and not settle for working in an atmosphere that would be unsatisfying. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to return to the wine industry (or hospitality in general) as a non drinker, but it is where my experience and talent (and joy!) lies. I thought long and hard and did not rush into the decision. I knew if I was going to be back in the industry, I would want to be part of a close knit team, to feel safe, honored, respected, and appreciated. I am a hospitality guru, and I wanted to be able to share my enthusiasm and talent in that sphere. I looked at employment opportunities for awhile before I responded to any. I didn’t want a corporate setting, I wanted small, boutique, and family-like. I wanted a winery that also had a restaurant to share my service and food expertise. I checked out openings in many wine tasting rooms, but nothing felt quite right until one day, one ad. A small and long established winery owned by women, with women employees, with a most enchanting perk of having an equestrian-related history that delights this horse lover, featuring a top notch bistro with a phenomenal Chef. Additional benefits are that is located across from my old stomping grounds (very familiar territory), and best of all, led by heart-centered ownership and management. Eureka! My interview was easy and flowing, and I started working there earlier this month. Things are still moving slowly as we get back to business as we knew it, but I am beyond thankful to have found my perfect fit. I know this may be my honeymoon period, but life is looking good. Along with this big change, I have also adapted a Whole Foods plant based diet (WFPB lifestyle plan), eating more veggies than ever in my life, and I am feeling energized. It feels SO good to feel good!

I acknowledge what I have been through with deep appreciation. Every single minute of every single hour, of every day, has been of value. Every painful emotion has been a teacher. Every time I am vulnerable and truly authentic, as I have been here on Fiercely Sober since Day 1, I am more true to myself. I am proud to have survived this struggle without swallowing a drop of booze. I have made it out of the muck, but if I find myself back in it, I know what to do. To BE means to survive, and each difficult event I have endured has made me stronger, more trusting, more closely connected to my soul, more sure of myself. Go ahead Universe, bring it on, you will NOT defeat me, and besides, I know you are on my side. Together we rise. I am so ineffably grateful.

Sobriety Stew

Eight and a half months into my Sober Journey, I could never have imagined it would be like this. I had not envisioned that I could manage a birthday sober, a Thanksgiving sober, a Christmas and New Year sober, all during a frickin’ pandemic. I have experienced isolation, quarantine, employment endings with layoffs due to COVID not once but twice, financial insecurity and loads of uncertainty. In my case, emotions are accentuated by the fact that I am single and sometimes feel very alone while simultaneously keeping to myself and not reaching out to my community – a bit of a Catch 22.

I am simmering in sobriety stew. The roller coaster of emotions hasn’t been as extreme with ups and downs, but I feel flat. I am a boat in a storm, a tiny boat holding on for dear life while the waves crash and plummet, threatening my sense of safety. I am searching for a renewed sense of peace in my mind and spirit, and it comes to me in fleeting stages, but disappears too soon. I miss feeling eager and inspired. I miss the energy I grew so accustomed to enjoying, the energy that made me burst out of bed early in the mornings, energy that got me out on the water on my stand up paddle board. I long for the return of the energy that inspired me to write encouraging words on my blog in a voracious manner. I miss the inner drive that gave me courage to write and share my life from my most vulnerable, authentic place. I truly believed I was going to feel full of vitality and inspiration forevermore once I made it through the first 40 days of misery during early withdrawal.

The Sober community is a sanctuary for those of us experiencing all the myriad of emotions that come with quitting an addiction. I have learned from wonderful souls who paved the path in front of me, who have been where I am now and made it through. I have learned about Anhedonia, defined as the complete lack of pleasure in things that used to bring us joy. Anhedonia can occur when the brain is depleted of its natural chemical balance due to years of addiction to a toxic substance. The brain is genius in its ability to come back into equilibrium when we load it with venom in the form of alcohol or other drugs. Once we stop ingesting alcohol, the brain has to find a new normal. The return to health takes time, sometimes years. Our brains slowly adjust to not having to compensate for the ingestion of a poison it must eliminate. When the brain works overtime to eliminate toxins for extended periods, we become deficient in important nutrients, and our bodies work hard to try to come back into balance. Without the nutrition, supplements, and mind-body healing necessary to rebuild the hormones and neurotransmitters that have been seriously depleted, we can feel pretty miserable.

I learned about Post Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, PAWS, around five or six months sober. This is the experience of withdrawal after early sobriety that can bring back feelings of discomfort, cravings for alcohol, boredom, a sense of loss, sadness, lack of pleasure in activities that used to bring joy (related to anhedonia and depression), mood swings, low energy, insomnia, chronic pain, irritability, and a myriad of other symptoms. PAWS can last for months or even years, depending on how long and how much was involved throughout the addiction. Many experts point to PAWS as the leading cause of relapse in sobriety. It is essential to understand that PAWS happens because we are in need of further emotional, mental, and physiological healing, and need to find the proper resources in the form of supplements, nutritional therapy and support to help return our whole being back to a place of ultimate health. We must replenish what we depleted over years of addiction. This is where I am currently. I am determined to stay the course, knowing the only way to the other side, back to my happy place (or more likely, to a new and even more wonderful happy place!), is to manage to navigate as best I can through this stormy sea in my little boat. I am doing the best I am able to exercise every day, spend time in nature, keep my nutrition optimal, drink loads of lemon water, read and absorb all the excellent information written by experts in the addiction communities, connect with others who have been here, and trust that I will eventually land exactly where I imagine in my mind. I envision feeling empowered, strong, compassionate, healthy, healed, emotionally stable, physically powerful, a rejuvenated, blissful sober person. The journey is not an easy one, but the alternative is a living hell. Life is so full of wonder and beauty, and I want to experience all of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter what, I am very aware of how blessed I am to be here during this amazing time in history, with all the privileges with which I have been endowed, row, row rowing my boat through the storm. I look forward to sharing how wonderful it feels to get to the other side! Happy New Year to everyone, may all your hopes and aspirations come to fruition in this new 2021. Thank you for being in my life.