The Four Agreements

Over the last few weeks, I have reconnected with a book that I read years ago titled, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I have found that when making a big behavior change or embarking on some kind of wellness journey, these agreements can be practiced and helpful along the way. Below are the agreements, an explanation and my thoughts as to how they fit into our everyday life.

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word-Say what you mean and mean what you day. Speak truth and love and don’t speak negatively against yourself or others. Refrain from miscellaneous chit chat a.k.a. gossip.
  2. Don’t Take Things Personally- What someone else does is not because of you. What other people do and say is on them. Let go of what others think.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions-Seek to understand. Be courageous enough to ask questions, even the tough ones. Learn and practice how to communicate what you really want.
  4. Always Do Your Best-Show up each day and do your best. Today’s best may look different than your best of tomorrow. Let go of judging yourself as well as regrets. If you always do your best, what more can you do?

This is good stuff, isn’t it? I freaking love this book. If you don’t own it, get yourself a copy or write these agreements down and post them on the fridge.

Let’s dig in, shall we ? Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say. I will share that I gave up (working on giving up) alcohol because often, when I drank, I was NOT impeccable with my word. How on earth can we have trusting and meaningful relationships if we aren’t trustworthy or we gossip? I mean, really! Look, I have done my fair share participating in a gossip fest, and I feel sick at my stomach when I walk away. That is not the way I want to live. My core values are respect, honesty and service. If I am drinking, guess the f%$^ what, I am not living my values or being impeccable with my word. When we speak clearly, lovingly and honestly, that is impeccable.

Don’t take things personally. Oh Shit, here we go! I feel like large parts of my life were worried about how the things I did affected people. Did I make someone mad? Did I do something wrong. This person looked at me a certain way. Why haven’t they called? Holy smokes friends….we could drive ourselves to the damn looney bin worrying about what others think about us. One of my new favorite mantras is “Your opinion of me is really none of my business!” For real, if we are living a good and honest life and we are living in accordance to our values, what freaking difference does it make what others think? I know it is easier said than done. Trust me! I get it. But we have to worry less about what others think or we spend life trying to please everyone else. Thanks, but, NO THANKS! I ain’t got time for that nonsense!

Moving on to not making assumptions. I think relationships could be saved if we were all brave enough to just ask the hard ass questions. Why are we so scared? If we don’t know the answer, just ask. Let’s communicate so we understand each other better. Spouses, partners, friends, and all the family members could benefit from just having a heart felt and non-judgmental conversation. Let’s move forward and not be afraid to communicate clearly what we want or ask question with the purpose of seeking to understand the other person. It has been such a gift to work on things in my life and for family and friends to ask questions about my journey. During those conversations, trust can be built. It is incredibly meaningful.

Last, but not least, do your best. Yes, every damn day, just do your best. Today’s best is going to look different than yesterday’s or tomorrow’s. Today, I may be well rest, well fed and hydrated and I can get all kinds of things done. Tomorrow, I may be knocked down with the flu and the best I can do is lay on the couch binging Netflix. Seriously, can we all give ourselves (and others) a break and know that every single day we are all just doing our best with what we all have going on? If we can go to bed each evening knowing we have done our best, than that is all we can ask and we certainly can’t be ourselves up for that one bit.

I am so happy to have been reconnected with this book and these agreements. These little agreements can be grounding for me and help me each day live my most authentic and best life. My hope and wish is for you to enjoy them too. I would love for you to share your thoughts with me either below on instagram @roastosobertown

Sending love to all of you.

The Courage To Be Who We Are…

Last week, I attended a Daring Way workshop. It spoke to all things shame, vulnerability, joy, belonging, and compassion. It was an incredible two days. (If it were socially acceptable, I would so be a walking billboard of Brene Brown quotes.)

During the workshop, I recalled a time during my teenage years where I learned a mentor of mine was happy I wasn’t returning to her class because she thought I was loud, obnoxious and got on her nerves. Needless to say, that was hard to learn and hear. Add to that being labeled labeled as class clown and the fact that many of my peers thought I was really goofy (based on statements from yearbook inscriptions).  For some reason, all of this affected me deeply. (Please know that being labeled class clown and and my high school peers thinking I am goofy or silly is not a bad thing at all. These did become stories in my head for a bit. While it did bother me for some time, as I grew older, I learned my silliness was an asset and not something to be pushed away.)

As an adult, I did not want to be known as the goofy girl. I wanted to be taken seriously and for people to respect me professionally and outside of the workplace. Alcohol became my outlet for being goofy and silly. It was ok to be “crazy fun” if I was tipsy. I could dance, makes jokes, sing and so on as long as there was tasty adult treats being enjoyed and giving me the courage to show up!

Over the last few months, I have come grips with the fact that I am one goofy mother f&^%er. You can be silly, fun, crazy AND be taken seriously at the same time. It’s also ok to be fun without alcohol. (It’s been awkward, but I am growing more comfortable and confident as time goes on.) This is how I show up. It’s not a bad thing.  It feels good to finally  be ok with who I am, unapologetically.

I do have to share a sweet story to share. In recent weeks, I have asked family and friends to write what it was like to be with me when I drank how they feel about me working on quitting. My children have also been a part of the conversation. I had asked them to write something, but we ended up having a heartfelt conversation. I shared with them what I was working on and my son says “Oh, I did not ever see you drunk or see you drink that much.” I said, “really?” He replied to me saying no that he always thought I behaved fine at parties and around others. I asked him if he felt any different since I was no longer the crazy and loud mom at events given I did not drink anymore and he replied “you are still loud and crazy, but that’s why people love you.”

Thank you, Ian, for pointing out that I can be me, without alcohol being my cushion and reminding me people love me anyway.

#roadtosobertown #soberglow #courage #shame #vulnerability #joy #compassion #goofygirl #funnyandcrazy #classclown #beyou #shinebright #authenticity

Note*This started as an Instagram post that I expanded on. Grammar may not be great but I wanted to write and post before I thought too much more about it and over edited the material. XO Thanks for patience.

Thoughts From A Friend

Having solid people in your life makes the hard things more manageable. It is a gift to have friends who love you, believe in you and support you. My friendships are treasured and in no way taken for granted. I feel incredibly lucky to have some real gems in my life. A few have been asked to share their thoughts on my drinking as a way to hear a different perspective, to grow and understand and to continue on the Road to Sobertown. Here are the thoughts of one special lady. As others come in, I will be sure to share. Thank you, sweet friend, for sharing.

Some things go without saying. Change is hard. Friends make everything more tolerable. And Stephanie Mitchell will forever be someone other people will want to be around. For years I’ve marveled at her willingness to push herself and try new things, even and especially when they’re hard. Unlike me, she leaves little space between the idea of a goal, and the fierce execution of it. I can wait years before beginning to lean into a dream. She takes action, asks questions, seeks support, does the work, meets the goal, and moves on to the next big thing. (Hey Ironwoman, do you remember when you didn’t think you knew how to swim?)

This isn’t news to anyone who knows her, but Steph is the kind of friend who shows up for the wins and the losses. She has been by my side as a faithful friend for so long, I’m hard pressed to remember life before knowing her. I suspect many of us feel this way. When she shared with me her plan to step away from drinking, at least on a trial basis, I felt so proud of her. And worried. I’ve been with her on many nights that began with hearty intentions toward sobriety, or just one drink, but devolved into several. This, followed by a morning of regret. I always felt for her, but said nothing and wanted only to love and support her as is. Partly out of fear that she might feel scrutinized or judged if she knew I felt concerned, I stayed silent. Knowing now that this pattern haunted her for much longer than I realized, I wonder if I failed her.

I’m a therapist. And as a therapist, I feel keenly aware of how off-putting it can be to enter a conversation sounding like one. My family can attest. With Steph, I want always to be a friend first. And frankly, everyone has their demons – some of them look like drinking, most of them are far more elusive and harder to name. Who am I to barge in with potentially clinical-sounding observations in the context of a friendship? This for me remains a very hard line. I’m not objective with my friends and family, nor would I aim to be.

Have I quietly worried about Steph’s drinking over the years? Yes, but with unremitting privacy. Does it sometimes feel alienating to attend social functions as the sober guest? Absolutely. I sometimes miss out on being in that zone, where everything seems funny to everyone but me. But that isn’t Steph’s fault, nor is it anyone’s responsibility to deal with, other than my own. Am I exceptionally proud of her, not just for making another monumental life change, but for sharing this experience in order to support others who might find solace in knowing they’re not alone? Without a doubt. But it isn’t the shifting relationship with alcohol per se that deepens our friendship, though maybe that doesn’t hurt. It is her willingness to look with wide open eyes at very hard things and then share her vulnerability—this is what gives me permission to take a good look at my own hard things, which leaves me feeling all the more grateful to call her my friend.

A Momma’s Perspective

Hello Road to Sobertown family. I am excited to share that I have asked family and friends to share their thoughts and feelings about my past drinking and my choice to work towards not drinking at all. It is important to me to hear from others and I feel this will be a very enlightening time. Enjoy reading my sweet momma’s thoughts.

I am Judi and I am the mother of Stephanie. She asked me to share my feelings on her drinking.

First off, Stephanie comes from a long line of alcoholics.  My mother did not drink. My dad, Johnny, was abusive verbally and physically to my mom all my life.  He was only verbally abusive with me.  Johnny had one brother to die at the age of 33 from cirrhosis of the liver.  His other brother was an alcoholic and got straightened out.  My dad quit drinking when MY kids were in elementary school.  I recently realized that my dad expereicned PTSD because he was an 18 year old country boy sent overseas to be in the Normandy Invasion-D Day.

The reason I share my past is because I did not ever want to be overbearing with my family about drinking. I guess you could say I hated it. Even though I hated drinking, I did drink.  I don’t like beer or wine, I like the hard stuff.  I like how it makes me feel, but down in my gut, I know that I am an alcoholic. Every parent hopes that their children will not drink, but that is a fantasy that your children will not drink if they grew up with parents that did drink.  
Children who have non drinking parents may be very good about not drinking and would not put themselves in that position. Drinking parents need to realize that they are setting an example for their children.

 I was the funny drunk always crude, rude and socially unacceptable. There was never just have one drink, I had to finish the liquor bottle. So you see why I choose not to drink. I would have to make the apology calls the day after.

Stephanie’s dad was a drinker and she grew up with a parent who did not model the best behavior. I felt like I knew Stephanie would drink and it is not that I condoned it, but I felt like it was better to know what was going on.  I realized that some friends drank and peer pressure is hard to over come.  I was not worried about her drinking at that time or if she had an issue with it. In college, I knew she drank but I did not know how much.  I can’t say I did not worry about it, but it was always in the back of my mind.

When the family would get together, Stephanie, her dad and her brother would get together there would be wine and/or beer, but I never noticed her getting all that drunk, just got loose.  

Since Stephanie lives in Virginia and I in North Carolina, I would not experience her drinking that much.  When I was there I would see her drink but did not think she was overboard with it.  I guess it was after she had kids, that I started wondering about it.  Again, because of the history with my dad, I never said anything to her because I felt like I was making too much of it and she would blow me off or get angry with me for saying something. In my defense, we had told my dad for years that he drank too much and he did not see that.  He finally quit drinking when he realized that driving drunk would get him jail time and he did not want to lose his license.  I believe that the person has to want to make that change or that decision not to drink.  

I am very proud of Stephanie for making this decision.  I am always so surprised to find out that she has anxiety around people and that is why she drank.  I am sorry to say I never realized it.  She is such a wonderful, funny and kind person. She is beautiful inside and out.  She should be proud of herself in the fact that she realized that she had a problem with drinking and did not wait until something horrible happened before she quit.  She is very wise.

Honoring Megan-Our Story

This past weekend was the 47th birthday of my late sister in law, who passed away three years ago. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her or wish things could have been different. On any given day, I can remember her, smile and have compassion for her, and other days I can be sad, angry and just downright confused at what happened (and this is almost 4 years later).

Megan was a very bright woman. I always admired her for her strength, intellect and independence. She was one of the few women I knew that had a great job, owned her own house and her own car. I was in awe of what she had achieved, because it was something I honestly thought I could have never done. Conversations with Megan were always interesting as I learned from her every time she spoke. Whether we talked politics, travel, or current events, she was always filled with interesting perspectives and shared a lot of knowledge. I really miss her during our family dinners.

Looking back, 2015 was when I began to question whether or not I had an issue with alcohol. I talked about it a lot with my therapist that year. It felt as if I constantly sabotaged my goals because I was not willing (or hell, maybe I couldn’t) give up alcohol. Oddly enough, this same year was when our family started to notice that things weren’t quite right with Megan. Her behavior became more and more odd as the year went on. One could also see that her physical health was declining rapidly. Over the year, we tried to ask her if she was ok and she always answered “everything is good.” We knew things weren’t good, but we had no idea what could be going on and we did not press the issue out of fear of pushing her away.

In August 2015, Matt and I had a scary and frustrating encounter with Megan. This experience forced us to press Megan a little harder and get more family involved in understanding what was going on. Over the next few months there was a lot of stirred up emotions within our family. Rage was my primary emotion. I remember feeling as if I wanted to shake the shit out of her and scream, “What the hell is going on?” During this time, her physical health continued to decline rapidly, and finally, in November, Megan agreed to go to the hospital.

Upon Megan entering the hospital, our family learned she had cirrhosis of the liver. I remember being absolutely stunned. My thoughts were “No way! How can this be?” I honestly felt that she did not drink enough to warrant this type of diagnosis. However, when she was in the hospital, Megan admitted to her doctors that she had been drinking more than she ever led on. In the beginning, there was a drink to unwind at the end of a day. As time went on, drinking became more of a regular habit. Our family soon learned that she had been sad for many years. Learning this fact shook me to the core. I can tell you, I had no idea she was ever sad. This is one of those instances where you just never know what goes on behind closed doors, even with family. Again, she always seemed so confident and independent. She was in total control of her life and she was, as it seemed in my eyes, crushing it!

I have to be honest, there is so much we will never know about Megan’s situation. There are many unanswered questions. Once she got to the hospital, the last thing anyone wanted was to probe about the past. All efforts and focus were on getting her well. Upon learning she had been sad, I just felt heartbroken that I/we did not see past things to know she had been hurting or needed help. She, like many of us, used alcohol as a way to mask pain and sadness. Sadly, after a hard two month fight in a few different hospitals, she passed away on December 31, 2015.

Her sickness, the fact that we had no idea she had a problem and had been sad for so long, truly haunts me to this day. Seeing what she went through has inspired me to want to help people from the inside out. Many of us deal with hard things on a regular basis and we must learn to deal with things in a compassionate and healthy way. I decided if I was planning to help others, I had to start with myself first.

It’s only been this year that I really understood how much I have used alcohol to mask pain, take the edge off, or ease social anxiety. Perhaps it has been on my mind for a while, but this last year, I have really taken some time to dig a little deeper. There has  been therapy, many books, podcasts, classes, and a whole lot of deep conversations with family and close friends about making the change to quit drinking. I never wanted it to be a big deal, but like starting an exercise program or improving one’s nutrition, these things take time to change. I realize everyone’s story and situation is different, but this was how I related this to myself.

The first thing I needed to do was to understand why I felt I needed to drink. Here is the “why” good old Steph-Dawg Mitchell has used alcohol; a) to feel comfortable (read that as “fit in”) in a group, b) to cut loose at a party (dance my face off or sing my favorite tunes at the top of my lungs with not a care in the world), c) to “deal” with the day, d) to make myself feel less anxious, e) to try to not care if something was bothering me, f) to make an uncomfortable situation seem manageable, g) to feel funny, h) to deal with my depression, i) because I loved to party and it’s what I do, j) to connect with my husband after the kids went to bed, k) to do the other “crazy and care free” stuff I loved to do (that I won’t share here in case my kids or their friends read this one day).

Now that I know the “why” (and I am sure many more will be uncovered), I can begin to address these reasons and move forward in a positive fashion. I am not afraid to face some tough things in the future. It is evident that my life will change as a result of my decision. I can say with certainty that it is far more important for me to show up as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, fitness/wellness chic, rather than the party girl of the past.

So this is part of our family story and the “whys” behind me making a big change. As time goes on, I will be sure to dig deeper into these reasons, as well as share funny stories from the days of old. If you choose to read this and go through my journey with me, I would love for you to consider the same question I’ve asked myself: “Why do I drink?” Are you, like me, numbing or masking something? Do any of my “whys” resonate with you? While I am not a social worker or counselor, I would want you to know that I am here for you as an ear and will give you a big bear hug or virtual hug if you ever needed to chat. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of our past or what we have done, but learn from it and grow. We can do this together if you want to be a part of the hard conversations. #LFG Sending love and warm wishes always. 

Sober Glow = Energy, Clarity, and Peace.

Months ago, I was about to write a blog called Sober Glow: When the Hell Are You Showing Up? Honestly, when I started on this Road to Sobertown back in May, I thought I would instantly feel amazing, my skin would look radiant overnight and the excess weight would just melt right off this middle aged body.

Well, I am hear to share that my skin still resembles that of a teenager going through puberty (but it is getting better) and the weight that I hoped would fall off, has not, YET!

While I don’t have the glowing complexion or loose fitting clothes, I take comfort in the fact that I feel more energetic, peaceful and clear each day when I wake up. This took several months to experience, but this type of “sober glow” has finally arrived and I am truly grateful.

Energy…Sweet Lord. I am so happy to finally feel like I am not dragging ass each day. For months, I felt as though I could barely make it to lunchtime. Suppertime would come and I would be in my pajamas. It was so hard to get through a day because of just how tired I was and it was incredibly frustrating. I was like “Do I need to drink to feel better?” Perhaps it was withdrawl, or my body getting rid of the crap I had fed it for years. Who really knows? But for now, for the first time in a long time, I want to make dinner, I clean the house on the regular as if I am expecting royalty and I could read until the wee hours of the morning. Three cheers to energy!

Clarity…It’s safe to say that I had been walking around in a fog for quite some time. I can blame pregnancy brain to newborn then toddler fog. Then there was “damn, I drank to much the night before” fog (for longer than it needed to be). When I quit drinking on the regular and in excess back in May, I thought the fog would lift quickly. Frustratingly, like the energy, it did not. The fog lingered all summer long. It has only been in the last week or so that I finally feel a sense of clarity and it is freaking magical. I know what I want AND there is a determination to make it happen (like a fire in the belly kind of determination). There is a path way for me to achieve goals that I haven’t experienced before. I used to feel like sometimes I had silly battles to deal with but I don’t feel that way any longer. I won’t except my dumbass excuses and by no means will I tolerate the bullshit I have put up with in the past. Life is short and meant to be lived to the fullest AND I have shit to accomplish! Let’s hear it for CLARITY!

Peace…The thoughts that have haunted me for as long as I can remember: a) Are people mad/upset with me? b) Do people genuinely like me? c) Have I hurt someone’s feelings and did not know it? d) God, I hope I show up the best way I can be the best kind of friend to all who are in my life.

After a night of drinking in the past, the first thing I used to do post wake up was send an apology text to anyone I was with the previous night. There were apologies for loud and silly behavior. After the apology came the question about whether or not I had done/said anything to make anyone mad. For heavens sake, I had lived in fear for years. There have been countless hours with my head spinning in a dangerous and downward spiral worrying or obsessing about how others felt about me. (I know this sounds narcissistic and I don’t mean for it to. I just never wanted to do anything wrong or piss anyone off.) Well, the beautiful thing that happens as a result of me not drinking is that I am no longer foggy on the details of the previous night and there is nothing to apologize for or worry about. 🙂 Nailed it! I find myself a little more quiet and reserved (I am not sure how I feel about this version of myself yet, but I am still getting to know her.) I have kept socializing to a minimum over the last several months and it has been in small group settings because I feel like I don’t know how to show up in big groups without alcohol. Booze was my crutch. I know I will get there in time, but for now, it feels really good to wake up worry free and at peace with how I behaved the evening before. Heartfelt conversations with friends can never be a bad way to spend a night.

To address “D” from above…that thought will never leave me brain. I always hope to show up the best way I can for everyone in my life. Now that I have more energy, clarity and peace, time spent will be a lot more meaningful and I will be more present when I am with family and friends. That is always a win-win.

It’s a great feeling knowing the long awaited sober glow has finally arrived.

Time to Fly

This morning, I saw a quote by Toni Morrison, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

I loved this so much and this quote just spoke to me. It reminded me of a recent experience I had while away with my family last week.

In the past, my M.O. has been to arrive at the family vacation destination and begin to enjoy beer and wine with family and friends. Needless to say, I always went overboard and had one too many to celebrate. Can you blame me? It was always time to unwind after a long trip and ease into the feeling of bliss knowing I had a few days to play. A week ago, we traveled to Monterrey, CA and while the flight was uneventful (thank goodness), the drive from SFO to Monterey was loooooong. We were tired and cranky upon arrival to the house. It sure would have been lovely to enjoy a wine, but instead, I sipped on water.

That evening we enjoyed catching up with dear family friends and a delicious dinner. Our night ended with the 4 of us piled onto a couch cuddling and laughing at funny events that happened during the night. It was all very sweet and peaceful. Had I consumed copious of alcohol like I had done in the past, I would have missed out on moments like the ones I experienced throughout the night.

Another wonderful realization was that I enjoyed restful sleep that first night on the west coast (which never happens). I don’t know about you, but I covet sleep like nothing else. In the morning, I was up with the sun and able to enjoy a peaceful, long run along the magnificent coastline. The temperature was in the low 60’s and this was a wonderful change from the heat and humidity of northern Virginia this time of year. During my run, I was so grateful for the fact that the evening before I had been sober. If I had done as I had in the past, I would have felt horrible and certainly would have not have been motivated to run. Getting my long run in had been important for me to do as I am training for a fall race. I also just love the time outdoors. It is the best way for me to start the day. What a gift to feel rested and full of joy and NOT hungover, struggling to get by or sluggish. Yes! I did it right!

Having a new normal arrival ritual (for lack of a better term) served me well this past week and for that I am truly grateful.

I was able to fly (sleep well, run, be present) because I let go of the stuff (alcohol) that has weighed me down in the past. #feelingaccomplished #letskeepitgoing #roadtosobertown

Time to “Rise Up” and talk Confession, Guilt and Grief

***This blog comes fresh from my brain as if it were a diary entry. I beg forgiveness that this entry is not edited for grammar and spelling or even laid out in a way that may make sense. Additionally, I have Hamilton on my brain anytime I think of something to write about, a phrase from a song or song title pops into my head and onto the screen. Sorry! Think of this as a stream of consciousness writing piece. 🙂 Oh, and there is language.***

This feels as though this should be three different entries or blog posts. My mind is swirling with information and thoughts. It has been several days that I have been on information and emotion overload. (I feel like the beach ball of death is spinning in my brain because there are so many open tabs). It feels important to me to share recent experiences and talk about guilt that I feel as well as grief.

Confession…Ok, so this is the ROAD to sobertown. I have not arrived there fully, YET! Presently, I am living in the grey space. While I am not drinking anywhere close to what I was doing prior to May, last week, I did have a few drinks. I never in a million years want to be seen as a fake or not good on my word so I have to own my stuff and share with folks.

Last week, I went to NYC with my daughter and we had a magnificent time. We saw some sites and took in a show. Memories were made and new mother/daughter traditions have emerged. However, on my train ride up to NYC, I enjoyed a cold beer. I did. It was delicious. (A piece of me felt a bit guilty, but I owned it, drank it and moved on). I love the train from DC to NYC. The excitement I feel when the train gets past Newark and I know I am going to see the NYC skyline on my right is as exciting as me going to Disney. It’s exhilarating to me. Then, there is magical feeling I have when I get off of that train and step onto 7th Avenue with my rolling bag and just strut around town. Every damn time, I just smile a shit eating grin because I feel like such a big kid.

Before we got on the train to head home, we enjoyed dinner at a Mexican restaurant. While there, I enjoyed two tasty margaritas. Again, they were delicious. I felt a little guilty about this choice which probably meant I should not have had any, but the were tasty. I enjoyed the darn things and moved on. (In the past, there would have been a few more…that’s right. I would enjoyed more knowing I had a long train ride. I was just happy to stop at 2. So, there is my confession. I feel better knowing that I shared, but there is still guilt.

Guilt…Yes, I feel it. Guilt, at times, can paralyze me. Right now, I am reading The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol by Annie Grace AND (because I feel the need to read “like I am running out of time”) Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). Reading these books simultaneously has me spinning, in a good way. The Naked Mind is teaching me about the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use while also making me aware of how cultural, social and industry factors have supported alcohol dependence in my life. Brown’s book is helping me work through worrying about what people think of me to realizing I am enough as I am (without booze). This book is helping me to deal with guilt, shame, and judgement that I have placed on myself.

There are many things I feel guilty or shameful about when it comes to drinking. Honestly, that is a whole separate entry. The thing I struggle with the most is the fact that all I want is to be a positive role model for my kids. It is so important for me to teach them to be kind (to themselves and others), practice compassion, be generous and loving with your words, have a good work ethic, lend a hand when you can and so on. I want them to have a positive body image and healthy self image so they don’t obsess about their weight or looks as I have over the years. I have tried to shield my kids from seeing how I have worried about a number on a scale or trying to not look my age (both of these I still struggle with). I want them to know they can do hard things, set goals and work towards them. Anything is possible!

What I did not realize I had been doing for quite some time was showing them my behaviors around drinking. Drinking has been such a part of our family for years…every occasion, anytime we socialize, weeknight dinners, lunches, a way to unwind, name it…alcohol has been there. (Please know I don’t blame anyone for this but myself.) What it feels like to me is I have lead the way or been the example to them that says “hey, you have to drink to have fun” or drink to connect with friends, or your spouse or to unwind. This is the narrative I wish to change. I want them to see that alcohol is not everything to being an adult. I know they will probably have it and do some of the same stupid shit I did, but if they can realize it is not all its cracked up to be, that would be a great gift. Ultimately, by me not drinking, I hope I can be a better role model. This is what motivates me more than anything to not drink.

Grief…Without a doubt, in recent months, I have been grieving the loss of the relationship I once had with alcohol. I told someone over lunch one day that I felt I had lost an old friend. She says “Yes, you lost a toxic friend.” She shared that giving up alcohol is like getting rid of the bad friend who never had your best interest at heart. She was around for a good time, but always led you down a bad path. I agreed. When one looks at stages of grief, I feel like I lived in denial for years that I even had a problem with alcohol. Who wants to own that shit? I thought I had been like everyone else and just drank the way they did. I became pretty angry (stage 2 of grief) once I realized I had some issues and it was time to change and ultimately live a more sober lifestyle. Actually, I was really f%$#ing pissed. I never wanted to get to that point. I had thought I was always in control. Then I realized the alcohol started to control me. I planned things around when I could drink and allowed alcohol to sabotage some goals I have had for myself. Damn it.

At any rate, the third stage of grief is bargaining. That stages seems to be more a part of the past with me and drinking. Like “please Lord, let me not feel horrible in the morning. I promise I will never do this again!” Maybe bargaining will circle back around but I am not seeing that come up for me now.

Then there is good old depression. Well, alcohol doesn’t help depression and honestly I am feeling better about myself now than I have in a long time. I have had to manage some depression off and on for years and for now it seems pretty controlled. That’s not to say I can’t dip back into it at some point, but I sure hope it stays where it is for now.

Acceptance is the last stage of grief. It seems as though I have accepted I have an issue and it is time to change. I am on the right path and it feels good overall. This isn’t to say it won’t be hard. I will likely experience moments that make me sad or angry in the coming weeks, months but accepting the fact there is an issue to me is the hardest part. Here is to continuing on the road to sobertown. Time to “Raise a Glass to Freedom” and by that I mean raise a non-alcoholic drink to freedom from alcohol. Ha Ha!

The dark days of postpartum…

It’s fall 2008 and I am out to dinner with some girlfriends sipping on wine and eating as much cheese fondue and bread as the elastic waistband would permit. During our evening together I am sharing with them how I am angry all the time for no good reason. As I woke up each morning, I was irritated and wanted nothing to do with my 6 month old daughter and 2 year old son. The kids would wake me up with sweet smiles and all I felt was rage. Everyone pissed me off and I was on edge from sun up till sun down (unless I was chugging my ol’ friend Corona Light).

A friend said to me that night at dinner that I should see someone because it sounded like I had postpartum depression and I thought she was nuts. I figured I was just tired or “lost” as I had been a working mom for bit and now I was trying to find my way as a stay at home mom. How could I have postpartum after my second child when I experienced nothing but bliss after the birth of my first child? None of it made any sense to me.

Needless to say, my girlfriend was right. I was experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety. Let me tell you, it was crippling. I did not realize how bad it was until I got help.

Once the postpartum fog began to lift, I was able to look back over the last several months and examine (with the help of a therapist) how I had lived my life. Summer of 2008 had been filled with new mom friends and we played hard. We would enjoy drinks during the day, which turned into happy hour then we would just keep going into the night. This happened often, but I honestly just treated as “summer break”. Little did I know I was dulling/masking pain, sadness, anger and all that comes with the postpartum.

The drinking had to slow down a great deal because of the medication I was on. That was a blessing in disguise, a message from the heavens as they say. It took me a lot longer before I decided to actually make a change but the universe surely started sending message a long time ago to me.

I stayed on the medicine for about 2 years and weaned off. Depression and anxiety has come back twice now. Its never been as bad as the first time, but I can tell when it is presenting itself. I got back on medicine fall 2018. Since that time, I had kept my drinking to a minimum for the most part, but did allow for it on occasion. All the while, contemplating whether or not I quite all together. I sure love how themes just keep smacking one in the face until we get the message! Little did I know, that I was slowly beginning the road to sober town.

A Whole New World…My first dry family vacation.

Well, Aladdin is starting at the Kennedy Center soon and I have that soundtrack on repeat. I freaking love the music from Aladdin. It only seemed fitting that “A Whole New World” is what comes to mind when I think about this past family vacation. I did not drink AT ALL for the first time on vacation since we have had children.

In years past, Matt and I always enjoyed our fair share of cold ones on the beach during the day. That was what we did! ALL DAMN DAY LONG! Evenings were made for sipping wine while sitting on the porch in the rocking chairs. It was the best! However, this year was a wee bit different and I would be a big ass liar if I said it didn’t bother me. I was angry and there were tears. Honestly. I was on the hot mess express because I chose to have an alcohol free trip. (Cue the scene with Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers stomping her feet with her hands covering her ears. That was how I felt!)

Once I got over missing the good ol’ days of throwing back a 6 pack of Corona Light, I decided to enjoy the gifts life had given me. Before my eyes stood my handsome and hysterical 13 year old son and my precious 11 year old daughter. We played for hours on end with our kids in the ocean like we never had before. There was boogie boarding, body surfing, floating and paddle boarding. Time was spent laughing, splashing around, and having the kind of conversations that may not always come easy while sitting at the dining room table. In addition to the water time, we enjoyed games on the beach or just quiet time together under the umbrella. The evenings were spent trying new restaurants, playing spoons, mini golfing, go karting, hitting the local ice cream shop and watching episode after episode of The Office, which is now my son’s new favorite past time. It was truly a wonderful to be present and engaged with my family versus foggy, buzzed and even irritated because the hangover would set in before dinner would even be served. Sigh.

One other eye opening thing happened during the vacation. I slept the best I have ever slept at the beach. Every night, I would hit the sack early, read for a bit and then fall soundly asleep to the sound of the waves crashing. Each morning I was up with the sun and would have completed my workout before anyone in the house stirred. I would often be sipping my second cup of coffee on the porch before anyone else joined me. Now, that is a little slice of heaven. Not having alcohol allowed me to sleep well, rise early and feel good to start the day. It was a win-win for sure.

As silly or as cliche as it may sound, our family vacation was “A Whole New World” this year since I did not consume alcohol. It was a gift to be fully present and I have to say, I would choose it over and over again.

A whole new world (A whole new world)
That’s where we’ll be (That’s where we’ll be)
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me