Growth Opportunities

For the past few decades, I have been on an accelerated quest to grow, expand, transform, heal, and learn how to love myself. I am on a mission to learn the practice of letting things go, and the wonderful habit of pausing before speaking. I have a long way to go, but I have come a very long way. As I sit in my beautiful home overlooking the five acres of rolling hills and lemon trees, with freshly washed windows to give me the clearest possible view, I can’t think of anything worth complaining about.

I process my experiences and frustrations through my writing, it helps me release the dissonance from my mind. Sometimes when I go over them later, I cringe just a little as I take in the negativity expressed. I am a very positive person and highly affected by negativity in my world, and I seem to have a need to “get it out” by sharing. I do see all the challenges I am currently focusing on as opportunities to grow. If I can master this period of my life and these people in my life, I will come out stronger. If I can be an Agent of Change wherever I go, I am doing my part, serving my purpose.

Why is it I am feeling a tad guilty for sharing the annoyances and criticism I sometimes feel at how I am treated? I am judging the “other”, sometimes hurt and highly discouraged. I don’t see any of these behaviors as necessary or beneficial – but I have to remember that I have decades more of life under my belt and these younger folks are still on the path to figuring life out, brand spanking new to leadership roles, and perhaps they will never quite arrive at the place I wish they would. I am learning acceptance but it is taking me longer than I want. I am learning patience, but it is definitely not one of my strong suits, or at least not when it comes to my work environment.

There are so many wonderful parts of my work that I truly enjoy, about 90% being my customers. People come to the winery to relax and enjoy themselves, to be pampered, well treated, and served. That is my delight, it makes me soar! I have always loved to go the extra mile for customers, to be an example of exemplary service. It’s fun for me, it’s who I am and what I do, and when it is appreciated, I am pretty much giddy with joy. And that happens all the time for me at work, especially these past couple of months. So you see, I am really not complaining in these posts, or at least not seeing my life as missing anything. I know everyone in our lives is there for a reason. Things are changing for the better at my workplace, and maybe, just maybe, my patience will outlast my impulsiveness, because I still go to that place of wanting to walk away, run away, escape, avoid. Old wounds heal ever so slowly, and surface more during sobriety that at any point in existence. I am not numbing, burying, masking, checking out. I am fully present and having to figure out how to hold in my desired responses. I have always been an “Ask forgiveness, NOT permission” Troublemaker, but it’s time for me to tamper that just the slightest bit. Can you relate?

Learning not to Scream

As I have mentioned previously, I am a highly sensitive person, and someone who holds very high standards for myself and others. When I feel I am treated unfairly, it is incredibly difficult for me to restrain myself. I give all of myself to whatever I do, even if it is emptying disgusting, overflowing trash, scrubbing a filthy floor, cleaning a messy toilet, moving heavy, awkward furniture outside in 100F weather, repeating my ‘tour guide speel’ for the 20th time that day. I am full of passion and I am impulsive. SO impulsive! Apparently we “prone to addiction” types often are quite impulsive, as well as determined, unwavering, creative, passionate, reactive.

I have an exceptional work ethic, which I learned thanks to being first a Corpsmember, then a Crew Leader in the California Conservation Corps whose motto is “Hard Work Low Pay, Miserable Conditions.” Best job ever! That job taught me the value of giving all of myself, all the time, to whatever task was at hand. It was an enormous turning point in my very young life, the first experience of being seen as a Leader at age 22. It started my life long journey into leadership, management, and business.

Now that I am an employee and not in a leadership position, not managing, with no real choice in leading (except when I take new peeps under my wing), I am going through a profound adjustment, to put it mildly. I am trying to control my impulse to scream. When I feel someone is shaming me for being human, for something I did or said that to me is absurdly teeny tiny and not at all important but that they view as enormous, I want to scream “STOP IT!!”. As they blow up the incidence from molehill to mountain in order to wrong me, to belittle and disempower me, I feel every cell in my body revolting. I truly want to strangle them. Shaming is a horrible thing, and something we do often in this world. Women, in particular I believe, experience ineffable shame both given and received. I certainly received my share of shaming from my mother and brothers growing up, and no doubt I have passed it along unknowingly, sadly. I am SO sorry for that; if you were a recipient, please forgive me! I would never intentionally shame anyone now, knowing how rotten it makes the person feel.

Women are threatened by other strong women. It is a sad truth of our society that so many women view one another as competition, something to rally against, something to be “better than”. We compare and despair, judge one another, size the other up deciding whether or not they are worthy. I am so over that, I truly could care less about being the “Number One”, the star player, the standout. I just want to be someone who loves herself, feels totally comfortable in her own skin, is exceedingly happy and passionate about her life, and glows from the inside out. I have accomplished all of that in my sobriety; the inner sunshine has returned in the form of joy and vitality. It is so refreshing! And it is a magnet that attracts others who want to be in the happy bubble with me, it brings others close to me. It is also a magnet that repels anyone who thinks they need to be competing with me, in particular in the work environment. I honestly do not mean to compare myself to anyone. I have all I can handle just being ME, that’s a big enough job! All I can do is continue to make an extreme effort to restrain myself when I want to slap someone, hold in the rude and negative comments that want to come flying out of my mouth in reaction to what has been said to me, and BE an example to others of grace, strength, self confidence, joy, and passion. I am doing the best I can to be impeccable, but no doubt this road is very long, and I have a long way to go to reach nirvana. I’d love to have your companionship on this journey. For me, quitting the Booze Bitch was the biggest first step into living my most authentic life, feeling every single emotion in all parts of myself, not running away. I have wanted to walk out and quit repeatedly, but I am still there, still shining, still learning, still loving many aspects, and still growing. OFF the hamster wheel, ON the scary adventures and roller coaster rides within the Sober Amusement Park. Come along with me, we’ll make it fun together and I promise to be your buddy to support you along the way. We can do this!

Ninety One Days

Today is Day 91 Alcohol Free. Ninety One days of saying NO 100% to The Booze Bitch. All those days ago, I hadn’t any idea what was in store for me, what lay ahead. I had no idea I would feel this overflow of joy, bursting with pride, the complete regaining of trust in myself, massive deepening of self love, and incredible, fabulous vitality. I am experiencing life on such a different level, like I only dreamed of before. The thing is, I have never in my life, from the time I became a “regular” Drinker, had this much time to allow my body to cleanse the toxins from all my cells and take in all the superior food and nutrition that has been my nutrition and lifestyle pretty much forever. In addition, I never imagined the outrageously terrifying roller coaster of emotions that come right along with all that “feeling” stuff. Sadness, grief, repulsion, compassion, inspiration (on steroids!), ideas that never stop flooding my busy brain, ALL OF IT. I am experiencing a whole new ME and wow, I will never trade living like this for my old life. There isn’t a reason on earth for me to return to drinking alcohol. Sober Life is the best life imaginable.

I credit my success to many things. First off, I became entirely fed up with how I was feeling, and who I was BE-ing. I had become a person sitting in a chair, totally isolated for hours upon hours, wasting time so I didn’t have to feel the intense guilt and shame of all my procrastinating, avoiding, boozing to extremes, at least extremes for me. My body and spirit are sensitive, so although I was never a regular bottle-a-day drinker, and certainly never approached the 2+ bottles a day drinking that many of my sober friends maxed out at, I had my own level of “way too much booze”, and it definitely had a profound effect on my health. I was not sleeping well at all, then feeling absolutely lethargic and depressed upon awakening, counting the minutes until I could find temporary relief in bottle form, only to repeat the cycle endlessly. Kept on riding that hamster wheel! Going nowhere good, nowhere I wanted to spend time. It was excruciatingly painful, and I am beyond thankful I finally felt enough courage and self loathing to DO something different. I changed who I had been to experience who I could become.

The sober groups I engage in have been my lifeline. Annie Grace has been my SHE-ro. Her book is filled with inspiration, science, antidotes, compassion, and humor. I highly, highly recommend all of Annie’s work. I joined one of her FaceBook groups and post and read daily. I love supporting others, and being part of the group keeps me super-accountable. In addition to Annie Grace, many “Quit Lit“ (Sober) authors have been hugely inspiring and encouraging to me, and as I listen daily to their stories, I am amazed and further inspired. My world has expanded in the most beautiful ways because I said YES!! to sobriety. Now I have a mission. I feel deeply called to join the sober community, the Sober Sphere, to be part of the world of incredible souls who bear all and share their journeys. I am now writing my own account, somewhat of a memoir I suppose, of my personal journey to Sobersville. I hope you will want to read it!

As I spent time yesterday with my favorite little man on the planet, my darling 7 year old Grandson Noah, I enjoyed him and our time together perhaps more than ever. Not having to think about when I will be able to start drinking keeps me present to what is, keeps me in the “now” moment. I am so much more present, happier, and full of energy than I ever was in the past. The idea of returning to drinking seems so absurd now. I was addicted for many reasons. I thought I loved the taste, I certainly loved the romance, I loved the history and story behind the culture of winemaking – but I can enjoy all of that without ever having to swallow a sip. I never want to be someone who preaches or makes anyone feel uncomfortable. I know it is possible to have a positive relationship with wine or any kind of booze, and I honor you if you have that. However, I do feel I want to join the crusade against being duped to believe we must drink alcohol in order to fit in, to relax, to de-stress, to laugh, to dance, to feel pretty, or sexy, to enjoy our lives. I want to be a loud voice against the dangers of alcohol intoxication. If you knew how many times I endangered myself and others by driving when I should not have been driving, post consumption of alcohol, you would be disgusted. Somehow my Angels looked over me and I never came close to having anything bad happen – well, except that time after wine tasting in Los Olivos when I actually fell asleep at the wheel for a few seconds and was driving 75MPH on the side of the highway!! What I am saying is that I count my blessings every single day for all the grace I have received, and I really want others to understand how misguided we have been as a society. Drinking to intoxication and driving under the influence is SO wrong, just don’t do it. PLEASE. I will now get off my soap box, and I hope you don’t think me a hypocrite. I was lucky. I AM lucky, one of the luckiest people on the planet. I want you to be lucky too. Quitting booze has been the best gift I have ever given myself, and I want that joy for you, too. IF you want it for yourself. We all deserve to be living our best lives, and for me, my best life means a sober life. Thank you for listening. If I can change just one life for the better, I will feel ultimately rewarded. This Sober Life brings more benefits than I could ever name. I hope to see you on Sober Island. Let’s go surfing!

What we appreciate, appreciates

It has become glaringly evident to me. When I focus on any negativity I see, it is the dominating energy I experience, it is what I always notice first. When I focus on characteristics in others I find unpleasant, unlikable, appalling, disgusting, they show me more of those traits. As I criticize, dislike, judge, avoid, emphasize, or place my attention on things I do not like, those qualities all grow like an imagined monster in the closet, ready to escape from the shadows of their prison to engulf me with their darkness. My life feels less joyful, my mood less bright, my world smaller. It doesn’t feel good.

It is easy to blame all that is the wrong in the world on “others”, to point our finger at unfairness. How quick we are to blame, shame, protest, rally against. And how is that working out for us? Not so effective. As the “war on drugs” took hold, the addiction to drugs grew, the problems intensified. This happens each time we expend energy “against” a thing, as we focus on what is wrong. My all time favorite quote from Mother Teresa is “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Mother Teresa knew the secret of focusing on what we want to bring into the world, as did Maya Angelou who said ““Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” There is great truth in these words. I see it manifest in my world, in our world, all the time. When we push against something, giving it all our attention in an effort to annihilate it, it only grows bigger. If we focus on not having enough money, money eludes us. If we focus on not receiving enough love, we never feel there is an abundance of love. If we concentrate our energies on all that appears out of balance, lacking, hurting, wrong, not the way we want it to be, it grows in magnitude, overwhelming us. I know this from personal experience, but it is a lesson that takes a long time to learn.

Posts shared by members of the sober groups I engage in contain a multitude of experiences lamenting the admissions of failure to stop drinking due to a vast variety of triggers: a difficult circumstance, a loss, a tragedy, an unexpected twist in life, a gathering of friends or colleagues who drink, social functions or engagements that include drinking alcohol, stress that is too much to bear without the familiar crutch of that reliable old sidekick and buddy, booze. I read the words these members are expressing with compassion, sadness, understanding, pain, empathy, and hope. They lament weak moments when they turned back to The Booze Bitch, gave into old familiar drinking habits, were unable to maintain sobriety yet again.

I know how hard it is to get on the sober path and stick with it. I tried to moderate my drinking for decades. It was impossible for me to maintain a low level of drinking for any extended time period. I believe the high rate of falling off the wagon occurs because these delicate humans are focusing on the parts of themselves they feel are not yet strong enough to choose a different, new path. They are not yet able to believe they can do it, they are focusing on the old ways of being that made them who they were, not yet knowing who they will be as sober people. As we repeatedly find ourselves drinking when we promised we would stop, we pave a deeper groove in the broken record of failed attempts, increase our self loathing, depression, and the resulting anxiety that accompanies depression. We intensify mistrust of ourselves, proving we can’t do this, that we failed to make it to the promised land one more time.

My heart truly hurts for these folks. They haven’t yet realized they are repeating the hardest part of the sober journey over and over and over again. They are getting through the difficult first few days, breaking through to the very first glimpse of the bright light shining at the end of the dark drinking tunnel, then kaboooom, off they go back into the abyss of addiction, free falling just a little bit farther down. They manage to stop drinking for perhaps the first week or two, then they give up and start wondering if they will ever be able to succeed. This is like training for a triathlon, only to quit the race before making it to the finish line. It’s akin to losing those last eight out of ten pounds, only to binge wildly for days and sabotage every effort, regaining the weight and then some. The focus needs to be on moving forward. We need to embrace a vision of how bright life will become without the crutch of drinking which puts an immensely dark cloud over everything. I want to gently shake each of these sweet souls and say “You CAN do this, you almost DID this, it is so absolutely worth staying strong and getting through the beginning tough period”. Those first weeks are miserable but necessary as the body and brain go through withdrawal and regain health, ultimately landing on the golden platform of sober success. For me, the first forty days were excruciating. My body was constantly aching and I felt incredibly lethargic, heavy, bloated, blah, my energy absolutely depleted, my brain in a deep fog, my spirit depressed. But I was determined to get to the other side, to experience the return of my joy, my vitality, my inspired life. I knew if I drank again to appease my agonizing symptoms of alcohol addiction, I would only be making the next attempt that much more difficult. It’s true. Every single time we go back to drinking when we promise ourselves we are done, those darn grooves in our addicted brains deepen, making it near impossible to get past the prior amount of days alcohol free. For me, Day 4 was the breaking point. It wasn’t hard for me to take a break from alcohol for three days, but Day 4 was when my entire body, brain, heart, and soul screamed for what I had trained it to want, that dependence on booze. Making it to Day 5 without giving in was my proof to myself that I was going to do this thing. I had to white knuckle my way to Day 5, with help from Quit Lit (stories of personal sober journeys complete with all the details of the struggles), the support groups online, and my own dogged determination. Anger propelled me forward. I was disgusted with feeling sick and tired all the time. I detested all the procrastinating I had been practicing, avoiding so many important details that kept trying to get my attention. I was ready to try something new. I was determined. Every day felt overwhelming. We were experiencing a pandemic, there was no certainty about what the future might bring, my anxiety had completely interrupted my peace and my sleep. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills.

What I did know was that what I was feeling, this mediocre existence I was experiencing, was not the one I had dreamed about, not how I knew I wanted to live. Hope had flown the coop, brightness and eagerness, enthusiasm and desire, had all taken a hike. I missed them, and I knew sobriety would return all those precious qualities to my life. I was right. If you find yourself struggling, find a powerful reason, your most potent “WHY”, to reach for a better life. Find within yourself a determination substantial enough to take you on the wild ride to the magic island of sobriety. May your courage navigate you through the rough early waters with a resilience so powerful, a desire so solid, a conviction so unwavering, you take down that dreaded Booze Bitch, make her shake in her boots, send her scampering away at warp speed never to return. Life absent of The Booze Bitch is a life worth living. I look forward to celebrating with you. I am expanding my repertoire of mocktails (alcohol-free artisan cocktails) all the time and I am happy to share. Cheers to YOU.

The Sober Wave

I always wanted to learn how to surf. Since I was extremely young I have been a water baby, enjoying a sacred love affair with lakes, rivers, brooks (next to which my family would camp in my growing up years), water fountains in and outside my home, to the great big, vast ocean. My mother told me I was a total fish in the water as a wee one, taking to it as naturally as a Labrador takes to fetching a ball. Swimming has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and had I grown up next to the ocean (I grew up landlocked), I am sure I would have become a surfer early on.

In my 86 days of sobriety, I am learning to become a skilled surfer of the Sober Wave. Sometimes the waves plummet with incredible force and take me deep under the surface where I can barely breathe. I come up gasping for air, trying to figure out just what happened. How did I end up here? Some of the non-sober surfers in my world seem to be out to knock me off my wave, competing with me on some unknown level for reasons I do not understand. I am not a threat, I am only here to enjoy the sport, to learn the skill, to navigate to the best of my ability. Surfing is a learned skill. Sure, talent for the sport helps, being a natural certainly is an advantage, but for the most part, surfing the sober wave is something anyone can learn to do, and do well.

I read and listen to a lot of “Quit Lit”, books written by courageous and pioneering sober authors sharing incredible sober journeys. In fact, I am writing my own version of my journey in part by writing this blog. The Quit Lit helps by validating the sense of unity, that “we are not alone” feeling of belonging to a tribe. Those of us who become addicted to a substance have a lot of common situations to encounter and conquer throughout our sober quest. The stories of the individual journeys are fascinating and sometimes painful to hear/read as the lives of these brave souls are shared on the pages. They put it all out there, raw and real, baring their hearts for the whole world to witness. The vulnerability and honesty is incredibly refreshing and assuring. So many things they share make them relatable and bring compassion and understanding, empathy and affection to the stories. Sober folks have learned the art of honesty. They have nothing to hide because they have already experienced the hell of addiction. Many have already had the worst happen. Addiction has caused alienation of friends, loss of money, broken families, lost children in custody battles, time in jail or worse, job losses, loss of dignity and self trust, total loss of cherished dreams and relationships. Through their sobriety, these wonderful humans grow up. I think that’s the most fascinating part of sobriety that enamors me – the fact that I am finally, at this advanced stage of my life (I’m not THAT old!), growing into the person I have wanted to be for most of my life. I never knew how disempowering it was to run away from discomfort, to escape my feelings with substances such as booze so I could become numb and not feel the pain that wanted to surface, putting off any healing I might experience, hiding from my real self, avoiding reality and all the responsibilities it requires. Now that I have this amazing boundless energy, it isn’t such a challenge to get things done. I have never been more productive. Without meaning to boast, I must say I am an ideal employee. I work harder than people half my age, I run circles around them. I treat my job with a sense of ownership and pride that is rare anymore. I am exceptionally positive and upbeat even when scrubbing messy toilets and taking out overflowing trash bags. I respect others because I respect myself. Most of all, I respect myself even when others show me they haven’t a clue how to be respectful, kind, encouraging, empowering, supportive, or positive. It has been an amazing experience to be sober these past months and see the world through eyes with a vision clearer than I ever had before – others’ true selves are right there for me to see, no disguising, no fake friendliness. The lack of authenticity is like a bright flashing warning light! I am not fooled by the pretense of artificial maturity, knowledge, wisdom. Those invaluable qualities come from time on the planet, life experiences, growth, a true desire to improve, wanting to be better, and with an intention to be a kind human. Won’t you come surfing with me? It really is a blast, and I am learning how to ride the really big, thrilling waves where the negativity is all washed ashore and transformed into light, love, and joy.

Love Letter

Dear Creator,

Thank you. Once I read that if the only prayer we ever practice is “Thank you”, that is enough. I get it. In my world, my thankfulness overflows. I am navigating the amusement park of sobriety with all its variety of entertainment: roller coasters, plunging adventures, dips into mighty scary realms – and I am surviving every challenge. I am thriving.

Thank you for my family. Thank you for the time I get to spend with my precious little seven year old, the little human who delights me with his personality, his joy, his incredible resilience, his energy, his love, his adoration. Thank you for showing me that I must have done a thing or two right in raising his dad as I watch his fathering skills so full of tenderness, patience, and caring. Thank you for the adult relationship we have established with respect and appreciation for one another. Thank you, too, for the first human being to whom I gave birth, for the experience of changing my life when I earned the name Mother. Thank you for bringing son number one back to the United States, it is easier to connect and share our lives. Thank you for allowing me to be such a big part of each of my son’s experience and growth, for giving us open hearts and minds from which we can share all of who we are with each other, including difficult conversations. Thank you for the differences between my boys that bring immense appreciation and delight me in seeing the contrast between them, each dancing to their own music, each hearing the beat of their own drums. Thank you for my birth family, for both my brothers who taught me that I could survive adversity and sibling rivalry even when I believed it would kill me. Thank you for the full-circle of forgiveness and love that happened as my now deceased brother left this life in my arms. Thank you for a childhood rich in travel, pet love, swimming, horses, sports of all kinds, friends of many types, the love of writing, parents who adored me, experiences I never could have written for myself, an abundance of every emotion imaginable.

Thank you for the friendships in my life that remind me of who I am, of how very fortunate I am to live the life I am living. Thank you for the friendships where I can be as big as I truly am without being squashed, shamed, or wronged. Thank you for the friends who are genuinely happy for me, who share my happiness with full authenticity. Thank you for long, cherished old friendships and for blossoming new friendships. Thank you for the almost-lovers, the long-time lovers, the past lovers, for excitement and anticipation for the lovers yet to come. Thank you for memories that make me laugh hysterically, and memories that bring tenderness. Thank you for the growth I am experiencing through my encounters with others who trigger me. Thank you for reminding me that I always have a choice. I have a choice about my words, my actions, my reactions, my sharing of who I am – I am learning to be protective of my energy, discerning of the company I keep. I am growing into the woman I have always wanted to be, and I like her quite a lot.

Thank you for my love of adventure and growth, contribution and curiosity. Thank you for my chutzpah and my courage to speak up, even when it might not be wholly appropriate (see my mention of discernment, which includes discerning what comes out of my mouth, practicing “the pause”). Thank you for the connections with new people, my true and authentic joy in meeting guests, my positivity and my optimism. Being an extroverted optimist has its challenges, but I honestly can’t imagine myself any other way. Thank you for instilling in me the impetus to make things happen, the drive to make a difference. Thank you for granting me the wish-come-true of learning self love on this deeper, most authentic level and showing me it has always been the key to happiness, true “it fills every cell of my body” happiness.

Thank you for the journey. Thank you for the pain that brings compassion to the surface when I experience others suffering as I once did. Thank you for encouraging me not to hide from who I am, to bring all of my light to the darkness others show me. Thank you for reminding me that for now at least, I have only this one great big, beautiful life that deserves to be honored, cherished, appreciated, enjoyed, savored, shared. Thank you for the desire born within me to bring my absolute most impeccable self to this life feast while I continue to climb the stairway to bliss one rung at a time, full of trust and gratitude and joy. Sobriety has brought gifts to my life so unexpected, so rewarding, so indescribably delicious. Here’s to my final act, my last chapters-may I make a difference in the lives of others with tenderness, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and inspiration. I love my life. Thank you for every single minute of it.

The Key

The decision to become sober is the most life changing decision many of us will ever make. For a lot of drinkers, it takes life getting absolutely unbearable; perhaps a legal issue (DUI) that threatens our livelihood, a serious alcohol-related health issue, or some form of rock bottom before we wake up to our self destruction and decide to make a change. For me, I was experiencing The Devil’s Bookends of anxiety and depression on levels I had not endured previously. For many years I tried to become a moderate drinker, and although I could succeed for a time drinking only on weekends, or only three nights a week, it never, ever lasted. I would slip right back into drinking more often, and inevitably the quantity was increased along with the frequency. My peak of drinking was about 2/3 of a bottle of wine or 3 cocktails most every night. I fell sound asleep in my big leather chair pretty much every night, missing the movie or the YouTube music video or whatever I was engaged in, as I snoozed. I was loving my Happy Hours and looked forward to them regularly, not realizing how much of a dependence I was forming on booze.

At the winery where I work, all the less-than-half-full bottles of wine are either dumped down the sink, or taken home by employees at the very end of the day. This is a quality issue, they want the wine to be as fresh as possible for the wine tasters to enjoy. We have a reputation of excellence that is crucial to uphold, and pouring wine at its best for our guests is a vital part of that. Sometimes there are 3-4 partial bottles of several wines remaining that we can marry together and bring home. There were days when no one else cared to take any wine home at all, so I would happily acquire a large collection, some of which I eagerly shared with friends, some I kept for myself. The wine is world class and excellent. I have my favorite varietals and blends, some quite elegant and expensive. It felt like a festive occasion to drink those highly regarded and expensive wines. Many people celebrate all the money they save when they stop drinking. I wasn’t having to spend a dime on fine wine, and what I was drinking was world class. Wages at wineries in my area tend to be near minimum wage. Employees depend on wine club sign ups and most importantly, tips from our customers, to increase our revenue and pay our bills. That reality means bringing home beautiful wines to drink is a huge perk of working in the industry.

While I was immersed in the wine industry life with access to so much beautiful, amazing wine, it took an act of extreme courage and willingness to quit drinking. To be ultimately successful in sobriety, it takes a “WHY” so great it pulls us toward our new sober life like a magnet, with a vision of a better tomorrow. This is vastly opposed to the act of desperately running away from the devastating effects an alcohol addiction causes in our lives. Running away, trying to escape our self-induced alcohol-dependent miserable life, is never as effective as moving toward what we know we want, what our soul longs to experience. Moving toward a thing is always exponentially more effective than running away from a thing. For me, I desperately wanted to feel energized and full of vitality once again. My beloved business, Active Chick, is all about the active life with an acronym for active that spells out all the values I most uphold. Vitality is the signature. I knew my business didn’t stand a chance of succeeding if I continued to feel lethargic, struggling just to get through each day, experiencing debilitating anxiety and depression.

Many people are sharing that COVID 19 has brought blessings and some enormous changes in their lives. I remember drinking my last cocktails on April 14, 2020, the three margaritas that I barely even tasted and certainly did not enjoy. I felt disgusted with myself. I admitted to myself for years that it was going to take my willingness to change if I was going to live the life I desired deep in my heart, if I was truly going to become my best self. It struck me like lightening that day, on April 14, 2020, it was time to take the leap, that paralyzingly scary leap into the abyss of the unknown, into sobriety. The time had come to give up drinking and allow healing and detoxification to cleanse my body, my mind, my soul. I had to be willing to break up with alcohol, to slay that damn Booze Bitch once and for all. I could march forward to do that, or accept the fact that I was never going to love myself as completely as I knew I should/could/would. I had lost so much trust in myself in my failed attempts to moderate my drinking and the subsequent unfinished projects that resulted due to my dependence on alcohol. I had struggled to get going in the mornings, and procrastinated about most of the necessary steps I needed to complete in my daily rounds. Enough was enough. I was willing to fall into the arms of the sober life and trust that I would be guided and held, free falling into the bliss of sobriety.

The first forty days were mostly hell for me. The exhaustion, lethargy, body aches, extreme brain fog, misery in all my muscles and cells, was excruciating. But even though I mostly felt like crap, I knew without a doubt that returning to booze would only restart the dreaded hamster wheel, and I would basically be handing myself over to mediocrity. I am not one to live a mediocre life, I could not stand myself if I settled for that. I thrive when there is magic, love, happiness, creativity and inspiration in my days. I knew I would eventually heal enough to return to my natural state of joy.

It was pretty much on the dawn of Day 41 that I started feeling like a million bucks. I felt the light start shining from way inside my spirit, the way the sun shines blindingly bright and fresh after an intense storm. I had been through my storm and reached the other side. Now I could shine, baby, shine. It has been that way ever since. I certainly have lots of struggles, but I have boundless energy and vitality. I cannot believe the amount of energy I have every single day, even though I am only getting about 5-6 hours of sleep. I am bursting with inspiration and creativity. Joy oozes out of every cell of my body and it shows. I know I am a magnet of feel-good vibes, I see it on the faces of those I encounter. As I have expressed, the other extreme is emanating from me too, when negativity assaults me unexpectedly. I am in my happy place, how dare you try to destroy my joy?! I am learning to temper my emotions as my awareness increases. I am making an effort to ground myself and shield myself energetically. I know I will never drink again. I have slayed the Booze Bitch and buried her in a very deep grave. I had to be willing to change. Willingness is the key, the key to a new life filled with unlimited opportunities. I invite you to come when you are ready. You will know.

Drunk on Emotions

I am an exploding volcano. Yesterday I felt like a million bucks in the morning and first part of the work day, despite the intense heat. By late morning, I thought seriously about walking off my job. I am triggered intensely by the managers, especially by the way one of them talks to me in a scolding tone, waving her finger. I receive no apology when she discovers she is wrong. I have this thing about righteousness. I have this thing about feeling valued and appreciated. I have a higher standard than most business people and managers for showing and telling employees they matter. I believe it is vital to let employees know they are important and appreciated. I am full of stories I tell myself about the management there. All that does is take negative encounters to extremes. It wasn’t until I was reading a post last night in the main sober FB group I engage with, as I read all the comments that followed the post, comments about sobriety making us feel every single emotion at new levels of intensity, that it ALL made sense. The post was from a woman lamenting that as she becomes sober, her husband’s behavior is appalling to her, abusive. One of the replies stated the importance of not making ANY major decisions in the first six months (at least) of sobriety because emotions are overflowing. OH. That’s what’s happening! OMG.

I am feeling everything I never allowed myself to feel before. The truth is, I absolutely love my job. It is supporting me, I have great self appreciation and respect for how hard I work, I have an amazing time with my customers (we love each other most of the time), I adore the owners and a few of the staff, I enjoy myself and use my talents and skills, and I have fun. I am proud to represent the brand. I feel great about how much I contribute, what a team player I am, the influence my positivity has on everyone. All the positives are big, and amplified. Consequently, everything I judge unjust, poorly managed, wrong in some way, is creating frustration, irritation, anger, even rage, and that, too, is exploding from me. I am seriously concerned. The heat has been an enormous factor, as it has reached 100F the past couple of days and I work outside. I am a person who becomes excruciatingly uncomfortable when the thermometer rises above 80F, unless I am in the water (!). Temperatures that hover around 100F make the air so hot, the perspiration trickles down my temples, my torso, my back. The mask I have to wear adds a whole new level of hot to my face. I am still straining to breathe comfortably while wearing a mandatory (now 24/7) mask. As I speak to guests, I expend massive energy to give all the details of my speel to new customers, and the shortness of breath with a mask on my face is awful. On top of that, I regularly see hypocrisy all over the place. Manager mentions, as part of our Saturday morning meeting, that we are NOT to hover around the concierge station, we are not to stand in groups or close to one another. Then, every time I pass by the front, there is a group of staff including the managers, hanging out and chatting. Customer designated drivers are given chilled pelligrino waters, there are no chilled beverages available for employees working in 100F heat. I love pelligrino, and was jonesing to drink one as dehydration from all the talking and the heat parched my throat.

I come back to the Serenity Prayer. Here goes, piece by piece: May I have the serenity to change the things I can, and accept the things I cannot change. I am not a manager there, nor would I want to be a manager there, that’s one thing I cannot (will not) change. Therefore, I need to accept the way the managers function and interact with me, to an extent. What can I change? My tendency toward overreacting (wanting to scream bloody murder back at them) to the tone and content of words spoken to me. I can work harder at not taking everything so personally and going into an infinite series of stories about all the reasons they act like they don’t like me, or feel threatened by me, or (most of all!) how they are trying to make me small, that my energy is way, way too big for them. I do have a choice. Rather than feeling I am being wrongly attacked, dismissed, unfairly punished with passive aggressive behavior- like not being seated for two hours yesterday after I pointed out that I was right – I can choose to have both compassion for wherever the manager might be coming from, as well as compassion for myself, and calm. I am a newborn (sober) baby, and I am delicate. I do not want to be handled like a fragile piece of art, but perhaps that is exactly what I am. I was thinking a lot about my predicament this morning, with my full sanity returned from sleeping well and recovering from heat stroke (exaggeration). I was thinking that I will request a conversation with the person most triggering me, actually with all three of the managers. I want to feel accountable for my extremely sensitive emotions, to share with the three managers that I am in a highly emotional state these days. I want to ask that they treat me with TLC (not “special” treatment, but awareness) as I navigate through these wild roller coasters of emotions. I want them to know that I am newly aware that I am overreacting and sometimes extremely reactive and impulsive. I wish for compassion. I hope they understand. I want to be happy there and in harmony. I want to be a beneficial presence, to make a difference, without flying off the handle. I have three days away starting today, and some exciting irons in the fire to boot. I will process all that is happening, and I know everything is going to work out. Wish me luck!

The Lake

I am floating on my back, looking up at the clouds, relaxing my tired body after swimming nearly a mile across the lake. The shore is in sight, but still a distance away. I am far ahead of the group of youthful swimmers I have been leading. I have a few moments to relax and be fully present to the wonder of the water. All is right in my world. Swimming is my blissful escape from my little world within, it is my haven. My body is strong, my mind is clear, the fatigue I feel is comforting. I am safe, surrounded by fresh, clear, beautiful wetness. I am happy. I am 19 years old and the Waterfront Director at a Girl Scout summer camp in Massachusetts, coming out of a few of the hardest years of my life. My world these past years has gone topsy turvy. I had so many dreams and hopes for what could be, but reality held nothing close to what I imagined. I underwent extreme stress and loss in my life during those years, including a move across country just before my senior year of high school, leaving all my familiar friends (and my dear boyfriend) just when we were supposed to be enjoying the best year of our lives together, graduating high school.

The details of these hardest years include not just the move across the country and away from the familiar and all the struggles that came with that experience, but the loss of my beloved father as he became very sick. I thought my college experience would be the best time of my life, but it ultimately was a source of deep disappointment. My summer at this girl scout camp gave me the opportunity to be someone else, not the daughter with the ill father, not the girl commuting by day to the ostentatious all girl’s boarding school where I learned first hand the meaning of the term “rich bitches”, not the faculty daughter living in the town of historic Deerfield (the home of Deerfield Academy) where the boys attending that prestigious boarding prep school placed themselves far above me in status and privilege. My time at this summer camp and my return to the water, teaching swimming, counseling and leading water activities, was a return to my core. Every week I would lead the mile swim across the lake, my favorite part of the session, the girls a mix of terrified and eager. I probably swam more that summer than ever in my life, swimming away grief, swimming away pain, swimming away my feeling of being lost in a frightening world.

I’m not sure why I woke up this morning with this memory so urgently at the forefront of my mind, but it was as clear as if all this took place last month. I think there’s something about sobriety that clears our minds so thoroughly, our memories start jumping out to catch our attention. That mile swim across the lake is one of the best memories of my younger years. I remember when the summer ended, I wished I could return to that lake, that healing water, wished I could submerge myself in the baptism of that delicious experience.

Yesterday was the 4th of July, a day hotter than my comfort level can tolerate at 100F as I worked outside all day. It was challenging to keep up with the busy pace of the scorching afternoon, challenging to breathe enough air through the required mask I had to wear all day as I repeatedly performed my role as tour guide and story teller with each of our guests. For the most part, people are delightful, and I thrive when engaging with them. I am absolutely a social animal, a former party girl, a “make-things-happen” person. I felt emotionally punished, locked in a way-too-small cage of isolation during the quarantine. I tried my best to go within and make the most of my forced period of solitary confinement, but the truth is, I love to work and I feel immensely better when I am in connection with other humans.

I awakened this morning feeling filled up with a joy deep in my bones. Sometimes when I vent about the things in my life that are not to my liking, when I lament about my work situation or any other part of my life, I feel a tinge of guilt for the negativity of it all. Writing is my way of processing the difficulties in my life, these pages are therapy for my mind and heart. I always return to my center eventually, and that’s where I am floating this morning. I am floating in the lake, held by the mystery, safe and comfortable in my amazingly healthy body, my mind clear, my mental health solid and strong, my heart oozing with gratitude. I feel enormous appreciation for my existence today, despite the obnoxiousness of the loud and inappropriate fireworks that continued into the wee hours and kept sleep at bay. I am ecstatically happy with the distress of yesterday’s work day now behind me, despite the heat I endured that made me feel so depleted. Today is the last day of my work week, my Friday. I have so many plans for my time off, lots of exciting possibilities await.

When the sun rises, it is a new day. I am in a state of bliss. I choose to appreciate all the very best of each circumstance in my life, of which there is an abundance. Counting my blessings has always come easily for me, I have always believed myself extraordinarily blessed. Today is going to be one of those red letter days, I feel it. Today I am going to be a beneficial presence on the planet. Today I will spread joy to all those I encounter, even the ones who trigger me. My sober life is taking me to all new heights, raising the ceiling of my joy. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and it’s a very, very good life.