10 Years - and my sincere #gratitude!

Something pretty magnificent took place on July 14, 2017.

Thank you to Ryan Hampton's #VOICESPROJECT for featuring me on my 10 year anniversary.

Thank you to Ryan Hampton's #VOICESPROJECT for featuring me on my 10 year anniversary.

I celebrated 10 years aka ONE DECADE (!) of continuous sobriety/long-term recovery.  

Truly hard to believe. My life has gone in many directions since that fateful New York City hospitalization late the night of July 13, 2007. In some ways, I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone else - because I was in pain and hiding behind shame and not to mention the fact that I was destroying my insides and outsides with binge drinking. Even though it was over the moon fun at times - a wild roller-coaster of parties and life whooshing like a metaphorical convertible with the top down on a wide open highway - it was getting dark and fast. They say it's a progressive disease - alcoholism and all its relatives: at risk drinking, binge drinking, etc. If I hadn't chosen the path of sobriety when I did, who knows how bad it could have gotten.

I, for one, am glad I didn't have to find out. 

Sometimes I wish the whole world had a program of recovery - whatever that program may be - because it gives them a moral code for living and improving their own and others' lives. It allows for service to others; it makes us grow as individuals. Besides the fact that it's HEALTHY to not poison our bodies and minds and souls and spirits with toxins. 

Every year I go to a candlelight 12-step meeting to celebrate my anniversary - the men and women in the room never judge me for only showing up once a year (editor's note: I'm the one who judges myself most harshly. Wait. I don't need an editor's note. I'm the writer *and* the editor. Giggle)  Because remember - the only requirement for membership to Alcoholics Anonymous is a desire to stop drinking. You can be a member of however many or few programs as you want - you are the boss of your own recovery and there's power in owning your own path. Please believe me - and know that it's taken me years (ten, to be exact) to get to where I am today.

^ Here I am with one my closest friends in recovery, Amy. She and I met one year ago at Tom Coderre's [this guy is kind of a big deal in the recovery policy/advocacy world] summer recovery BBQ and she's become my SOUL SISTER since. In May, we traveled to New York together for She Recovers in NYC and met up with two of our other sober sisters, Nona and Robin.  (See below images: left image L to R: Robin, Nona, Amy, me; right image L to R: Amy, me, Robin, Nona).

If not for being in recovery and wanting to give back to others and improve my own journey and connect with other creative spirits - I wouldn't have started The Sobriety Collective in April of 2015. This collective? It's for you. And for me. But it's about YOU, about US. I want your suggestions and feedback -- what would you like to see this coming year? There are plenty of exciting updates coming your way soon but for now, my greatest joy is to share others' journeys with you in the sporadicly updated RePro section. Writers, artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, advocates, filmmakers and photographers - these are the people whose recovery (from addiction and mental illness) I'll be sharing with you. 

Thank you all <3. 

Thank you all <3. 

Lastly, I want to give my thanks to all of you who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign when I was at a recent financial low. Money sobriety is something I'm still struggling with - and I didn't realize the cost of this undertaking until it bit me squarely in the rear. With your help, I was able to sock a bit away and pay for a full year of web-hosting. If you still want to donate, I'm not going to say no. But I just wanted to extend my most sincere gratitude to all of you. 

Thank you so, so much.

Love,
Laura

Guest Blogger: Katie DePaola of Inner Glow Circle & Bo's Effort

Katie is an inner and outer beauty with a spirit that sparkles. 

 
Meet Katie.  Isn't she lovely?

Meet Katie.  Isn't she lovely?

 

She's believes strongly in empowering other women in her work as founder of Inner Glow Circle, a life coaching collective and program -- and is a steadfast advocate for mental health. Working to end the stigma of mental illness is one of her family's goals in their non profit foundation, Bo's Effort, which celebrates the life of Katie's brother, Bo.  According to the family, Bo "was a one-in-a-million" kind of guy and he was living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder most of his life.  Bo died of an accidental overdose at only 20 years old.  As advocates for recovery (from mental illness, addiction, or both for those of us with co-occurring), we know that turning to substances can often come with the territory of having a mental illness.  Self-medication. 

But it doesn't have to.

It's by recovering out loud, being allies and advocates for awareness and change -- these are ways we can have a truly lasting and positive impact on future generations to come.

I've had the pleasure of spending time with Katie on multiple occasions and I think she's just magic.

xoxo,
Laura


WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE DIES...


You're different. For a moment. For a year. For many years.

A loss like that is the most disorienting experience in the world. The world crumbles around you, as you stand frozen asking, "How?" "Why our family?" "Why me?"

And then again, but in a different sense, "Why me?" "Why was I left behind?" This new reality feels like a responsibility you weren't ready to take on.

"You were here, just yesterday." You say to him or her, to the trees, to the sky. "Where did you go?" "Are you coming back?"

You walk into the house. And right before you ask if he or she is out with friends, still at work or school, you swallow your words. And you remember.

"You're not here anymore. Please come back. I miss you."

People say it never goes away. The pain. The grief. The heartache. I say it's ever changing. There is collateral beauty. It can even shape you into a better person, if you let it.

And yet, there's a part of you that wishes you could die of a broken heart, just so you could be together again. But you stay. And you make promises to your loved one, to the trees, to the sky.

"Next time...when we get to do this thing over again, I promise I'll be better. I'll hold you more. I'll never call you names. I'll kiss you every night. I'll be better. We'll be better. And then maybe you'll stay a little longer. Next time..."

May 23 marks the two year anniversary of my brother's passing. He was 20 years, 2 months and 1 day. Thanks to our amazing friends, family and community, we're hosting our 2nd golf tournament and dinner (May 22) to celebrate his life and raise money for mental health. Bo died of an accidental overdose, peacefully at home. He simply went to sleep and never woke up.

Said golf tournament - I wish I could go but someone has to work...

Said golf tournament - I wish I could go but someone has to work...

I spent a lot of time with his girlfriend after he passed. It was my way of keeping him alive a bit longer. I asked to know everything. What was their love like? Why did she fall for him? Was he a good kisser?

She said the night before he died, he was so happy. He took her all over the backyard to look at the stars from different views. He was a child of the universe, and when I heard that story, I thought, "Wow, he must have known he was going home." I felt an unexpected sense of peace. It's a peace I believe we can all receive if we allow ourselves to be okay with what is.

Bo and his family.

Bo and his family.

Bo continues to do work here every day through his foundation, Bo's Effort. Last year alone, we raised nearly $100K to help provide better programs for kids and adults like Bo who struggle with mental health and often, substance as a result. Bo was an amazing kid, a bright spirit who made people laugh every day. Perhaps he knew his time would be shorter than most, so he chose a family who would tell his story and carry on his message to help others. We consistently get messages from people who say Bo helped them, their sister, their child. Connect with the right doctor. Find the right help. Get on the right medications. Stay clean. Get their life back.

My brother is a miracle worker, and that part is not sad to me. That is an honor. If you feel moved to donate, Bo's foundation gives to NAMI and AAMC every year. AAMC has begun planning for a phenomenal mental health facility and needs our support now more than ever.

I will continue to give, support and show up, because it eases the pain of missing him. Somehow it makes the pain worth something.

Don't sit back. From the depths of my heart, I urge you to do what you can to turn your pain into purpose. Of course, it's not everything, but it's something.

#SheRecoversNYC: The Speakers


We made history. 

Last weekend (May 5-7), over 500 women in recovery from all over the world joined together to celebrate our individual and collective recovery journeys. Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong, mother and daughter brains behind She Recovers and their gorgeous powerhouse of a team (Annie McCollough, Dara Meyer, Payton Kennedy) planned and executed a truly phenomenal event. I'm still processing so there's really no way I can condense EVERYTHING into one post. Which is why I'm starting with my favorite nuggets from each of the keynotes (aka The Speakers). Stay tuned for the rest of the series: The Experience; The Connections; The Takeaways; What's Next?).

xo,
Laura


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Glennon Doyle Melton

Sobriety is my faith.

On doing the next right thing: It's like a frickin' yellow brick road lighting up all the way home.

Sobriety is sanity. Sanity is stillness.

Within the pain, the riches lie.

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Gabby Bernstein

Do whatever it takes to get closer to consciousness.

Accept the invitation to be a light worker.

We can let God in in many unique ways.

I am magnificent, I am brave, I am a light worker.

You don't have to run by serving.

God works through the Internet!

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Elizabeth Vargas

It's tremendously empowering to share our deepest, darkest secrets.

If you're beating yourself up every day, you're never going to build yourself up.

I drank to feel how other people looked.

Self care! Doesn't mean you're eating bon bons and getting manicures all day long but self care isn't indulgent - it's necessary.

Ego isn't necessarily our amigo.

Tell the whole story.

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Marianne Williamson

The body has an immune system and so does the psyche.

Get back down in order to get back up.

What do we learn from our recovery to help the world recover?

If enough of us learn from our own Armageddons to get to the wisdom on the other side, we won't need a collective Armageddon.

If it's a public issue, it *will* get to your private door.

Once you know, you can't unknow.

#SheRecoversNYC!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that this weekend is She Recovers in NYC!

Something that I've been talking about for, you know, only like a year.

Mother and daughter She Recovers co-founding team Dawn Nickel and Taryn Strong are bringing recovery luminaries Glennon Doyle Melton, Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, yogis Elena Brower and She Recovers' own Taryn--as well as 500 other women in recovery from ANYTHING together this weekend, Friday May 5 - Sunday May 7 for the first event of its kind. Think program agnostic and more spiritual enlightenment/wellness/personal development. 

The Illustrious Keynotes

The illustrious keynotes.

Sober Yogis Taryn Strong and Elena Brower

 
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Having spent six years growing our online space for women in recovery and witnessing the incredible evolution of the cyber-sober movement, there are two things we know will always be true: We recover in different ways, and we are stronger together. We are proof that women can live a life of hope, health, and happiness in recovery.
— Dawn Nickel, Co-Founder of She Recovers

My fellow cyber-sober blogger, Laura Ward of Quit Wining and her own PR firm, WardComm exquisitely lays out the event in her press release and press kit.  Take a peek: She Recovers Brings Cyber-Sober Movement to Real Life in Manhattan.

If that magic wasn't enough, there are workshops galore led by powerful women addressing everything from money sobriety and sober sex to sugar addiction and recovery coaching.  And more.

Workshop Leaders

Let's not forget the cyber-sober blogger team that yours truly is proud to be a member of -- and part of what makes She Recovers so special, because this event is really an outpouring of a vibrant digital community. 

Official Sober Blogger Team

What I'm most excited about is being reunited with the many women I've had the distinct honor to meet and cultivate friendships with -- and then the many more I've formed a digital sisterhood with.  I can't even name names because there are JUST. SO. MANY of them/you.  

I love you all.


PS!

There's still an opportunity to join the excitement. With exclusive content for our livestream participants, the fun/love/light will continue over the Internet airwaves.

Guest Blogger: DeAnna Jordan of New Method Wellness

It's been FOREVER since I wrote something for the blog, and today's post is certainly no exception.  Please welcome DeAnna Jordan, clinical director of New Method Wellness and person in long-term recovery.  I should note that this isn't a sponsored post by a rehab or treatment center, even though its author works at one.  I'm just happy to share a well-written, bite-sized piece in the hope that if you or someone you love is struggling with drinking, that you find help.  There's a fantastic list of resources right here.

-Laura


Are You Drinking Too Much?

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"It's happy hour--I'm only going to have a couple beers."
"I'm not an alcoholic--I only drink wine with dinner."

These are some of the most common phrases that stem from drinking. Typically, people who binge drink, don’t even realize they are binge drinking.  According to the CDC, more than 38 million adults binge drink an average of four times a month. So, how do you know if you are an alcoholic?

Coming to the conclusion about one’s alcohol abuse can often be a messy and confusing path. The most important question I ask my clients struggling with accepting their alcoholism is, “How often are you thinking about drinking?” We then can delve deeper into a series of questions that aim to create a conscious awakening:

  • Do you frequently feel compelled to drink?
  • Does alcohol, the thought of alcohol or the planning of your next drink occupy most of your energy and focus?
  • Have you wanted to stop drinking, but find yourself with a drink in hand just a short time later?
  • Have you sacrificed other activities that you enjoy because you plan to drink or were drinking?
  • Do you find that you need to consume more alcohol to get the same effect you once had?

While the questions above only spark the conversation on alcoholism, these questions can help identify the most common behaviors in a person’s alcohol dependency. These questions are not medically-approved, nor are they an official test for determining alcoholism, but they will guide you as you observe your drinking habits.

The only person who can determine whether you are an alcoholic, an alcohol abuser or a social drinker is yourself; no one can answer these questions for you. If you take an honest survey of yourself and your drinking habits, you can determine whether you have reached the point of alcoholism and only then can you receive the help you need. Doing so will teach you how to move through life without the aid of alcohol, allowing you to reconnect with your loved ones and to rekindle your desire to live another day.


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DeAnna Jordan serves as the clinical director at New Method Wellness where she supervises a team of caring, well-trained clinicians who provide continued support throughout a client’s stay at New Method Wellness. Jordan has over 20 years of experience working with clients in recovery and is a marriage and family therapist (MFT), specializing in the maintenance of healthy relationships. As a result of her expertise, Jordan has been featured on “Dr. Phil,” “Jane Valdez-Mitchell,” National Geographic’s “Taboo,” and has been published in Elle Magazine as well as The Huffington Post.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from University of California in Irvine, Jordan did post-graduate work at Centaur University where she graduated in the top of her class with a CAADAC certification in Centaur’s chemical dependency program. Following her time at Centaur, Jordan received her masters in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is a current PhD candidate, studying depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

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As a recovering addict, Jordan brings a breadth of personal recovery experience to her clinical leadership and believes a comfortable, structured and supportive environment is an essential part of maintaining long term sobriety. In addition to her passion for recovery, Jordan is extremely involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). As a current Woman of the Year candidate, Jordan is campaigning to raise funds for LLS blood cancer research in honor of local children who are blood cancer survivors. 

#SoberHolidays Twitter Chat!

Don't miss the one, the only #SoberHolidays Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 14th at 2pm EST.  

Co-hosted by...

LIFE OF PURPOSE TREATMENT
@lifeofpurposeFL

ASSOCIATION OF RECOVERY IN HIGHER EDUCATION
@ARHE_tweets

SOBER NATION
@sober_nation

TRANSFORMING YOUTH RECOVERY
@TYR_YouthRecvry

&

THE SOBRIETY COLLECTIVE 
@wearesober

You Want to Help Others? Let TSC Help You.

The Link Love campaign was such a fabulous hit!  Thanks to all who participated and shared their websites, blogs, podcasts, and more! 
 

But here at The Sobriety Collective, we find it's even more paramount for people struggling with substance use disorder, mental illness--or both--and those who may be questioning their behaviors--that they find resources and tools that work for them.  

Leave a comment with the name of your organization (or an organization you'd like to nominate be listed), social media info (Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc.), and URL-- and you could be added to The Sobriety Collective's
Get Help.* 

There's a section to "Get/Stay Sober," a section for "Mental Health" resources, and a list of books/authors that have helped me and so many others. 

What's the value of being listed?

The Sobriety Collective has been featured on After Party Magazine's 20 Best Recovery Blogs of 2015 andAddiction Unscripted's Top 25 Recovery Bloggers of 2016.   Our founder, Laura Silverman (by the way, she's writing this right now because she's the one woman shop behind your favorite collective), was recently invited to be on a panel of sober bloggers at She Recovers in NYC in May 2017register today!  Some of the event's keynote speakers--Glennon Doyle Melton,Gabby BernsteinMarianne Williamson--just received a top honor of inclusion in Oprah's inaugural Super Soul 100.  

Love, 
Laura

 

*This is not a free-for-all for rehabs to get their sites listed.  Treatment is extremely important (trust me, I believe this wholeheartedly), but this page isn't going to turn into an A-Z rehab directory.  There are already a few websites I've listed that have those very things, for those who are interested.  /end PSA*

Do You Have a #RECOVERY Blog/Website/Podcast?

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Leave a comment with your name, social media info (Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc.), and URL-- and you could be added to The Sobriety Collective's Link Love, a fantastic, comprehensive list of recovery resources (from both substance use disorder and mental illness) that people refer to again and again.

What's the value of being listed?

The Sobriety Collective has been featured on After Party Magazine's 20 Best Recovery Blogs of 2015 and Addiction Unscripted's Top 25 Recovery Bloggers of 2016.  
 

Our founder, Laura Silverman (by the way, she's writing this right now because she's the one woman shop behind your favorite collective), was recently invited to be on a panel of sober bloggers at She Recovers in NYC in May 2017register today!  Some of the event's keynote speakers--Glennon Doyle Melton, Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson--just received a top honor of inclusion in Oprah's inaugural Super Soul 100.  

To pay it forward, please visit one site of your choosing on Link Love, and either follow them on social media or comment on one of their blog posts.  Tell them The Sobriety Collective sent you on a mission to expand your heart, mind, and soul.  
 

No one is paying me to do this.  

I just think it's time we all connect.

 

Love, 
Laura

 

 
 

Guest Blogger: Jen Yockey of SOULFUeL

Ladies and gents, I think I've found my Sober Sister Soul Mate.  Seriously, reading Jen's piece was like standing in front of a mirror, a gentle and kind and beautiful mirror.  She has such a beautiful outlook on life and I got so much from her story.  Watch out for this one!  She's going places--who are we kidding?  She's already THERE.  If you can't get enough of her, don't you worry--she'll be featured as a RePro in the near future.

xoxo,
Laura


The Audacity of Recovery

au·dac·i·ty
ôˈdasədē/
noun
1.  the willingness to take bold risks.

Addiction. Recovery. Sobriety. Drugs. Alcohol. Shopping. Sex. Technology. Gambling.  A lot of buzz words these days and like some of our favorite quotes and sayings, I think they have been used so much that we have become de-sensitized to them.  We have stopped listening, hearing and feeling what these words truly mean.

Getting sober doesn’t mean quitting things.  It doesn’t mean the fun in your life ends and that you need to move to a monastery in Israel in order to find peace and enlightenment and recovery.  It also doesn’t mean that you *wanting* to get sober means that you are currently sleeping under a bridge, haven’t had a shower in weeks and everything you own resides in a shopping cart. 

Life is not black and white.  There is a lot of grey.  Labeling people and afflictions is our need to make things black and white.  Labeling people and afflictions can make it really difficult for people to truly recover or to get help in the first place.  Who wants to be labeled an alcoholic?  An addict? A gambler? A cheater?  Not me.  We are not a behavior, *I* am not a behavior.

What would it look like if recovering from an overuse of a substance was like recovering from strep throat?  You go to the doctor, you let them know your symptoms, they prescribe a treatment and you are on the mend.  No one says that you can *only* have medicine for 7 days or 28 days.  No one says you have to label yourself as a “strepthroater”.  No one says that you have to hide out at home and not tell anyone about your strep throat. No one says that you will never recover and that you should be afraid.  People aren’t ashamed to walk in to the doctor with strep throat.  *I* am not strep throat, I *have* strep throat.  I can recover from strep throat.  This is how sobriety and recovery is for me.  It is my story.  I abused a substance.  I don’t do that anymore.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  I have found the root cause of my wanting to do that.  I have recovered.  I have and continue to heal.

I have nothing against 12 step programs.   In fact, I credit those programs for my recovery foundation and I participated in these programs for the first 5 years of my sobriety. I got to a point, however, that I was able to start thinking for myself again.  I was able to trust my decisions.  I listened to that little voice inside of me instead of drowning it out with booze, drugs, men, over training, shopping, etcetera.  Little by little, I stopped being afraid; afraid that my “disease” was doing pushups in the backyard *waiting* for me, afraid of my past, afraid of relapse. 

I started loving my life.  I started investigating my core values.  I investigated my opinions on things; opinions and thoughts and “truths” that I had held on to for years that were no longer serving me.  I investigated words like co-dependency, boundaries and trauma.  I found ways to connect to myself rather than finding ways to distract myself.  I investigated and found peace with emotions and feelings.  I investigated Anger, Joy, Happiness, Sadness, Grief, Guilt, Shame, Apathy, Boredom, Confusion, Panic, Terror.  I investigated my past.  I investigated my “triggers”.  I investigated people.  I found some that I really connected with and I found some that I really needed to stay away from.

I found my inner athlete, again.  I found peace in yoga, meditation, and running.  I found that paying attention to my breath brought calm and less stress.  I found music and laughter and food and philosophy and hope.  I found others that were doing similar investigations; finding their way and sharing their knowledge.

There is hope and inspiration.  There is recovering and recovered.  There is sobriety born out of a love for life rather than a fear of what was.  There is an acceptance and a love and a knowledge of who each of us are.  There is self-awareness rather than denial.  There is a realization of truth rather than fantasy.  There is ownership of mis-steps and honoring *that* truth.  There are emotions.  There is joy.  There is sadness and grief.  There are tears. There is laughter.  There is the ability and willingness to be teachable and live with our eyes and hearts wide open.

I write all of this knowing that it may not be popular.  It may not “fit” with your recovery or sobriety narrative. However, it is my story.  My truth.  And when I first got sober, I needed to hear a lot of stories and truths.  Stories of experience, strength and hope. I needed to hear it from CEO’s and actors, teachers and lawyers, and construction workers.  I needed to hear it from those who lived high on the hill and at the homeless shelter.  One of the many nuggets that I took away from my 12 step meetings was to “take what I needed and leave the rest”.  My wish is that one person is able to see that there are many paths to recovery, that you can recover on your own terms.  This, however, does not mean that you do it by yourself. I know, for sure, that is not possible.   You will need help.  You will need guidance.  You will need people and connection in order to get your feet underneath you.  But you will learn to walk again.  You will learn to run again.  You will be able to trust yourself and others again.  You are not broken.  You have been on a path that may not be serving you anymore.  There are other paths.  Look around.  You have a choice to change the path you are on.  There are others waiting there for you.

The Audacity of Recovery.  The moxie to even *think* that you can recover.  The boldness for you to be you and find your own path & for me to be me and find mine; for all of us to find peace and hope and joy and to bear witness.  I can’t wait to hear *your* story of boldness and audaciousness and moxie.  Tell it, write it, speak it.  We all need to hear it.

 
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JEN YOCKEY is the founder of SOULFUeL Sundays and a graduate of Meadow DeVor’s Yoga Church Teacher Training.  In her words:  today, I am a Mom, a Wife, a Dog Mom, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a confidante.  I am a Yoga Teacher, a Master Life Coach, a Woman that is on a mission to be the best version of herself AND to help others do the same.  I KNOW that this is possible regardless of your past, regardless of what is happening at this moment.  You have more SUPER POWERS than you know.

12 on 12 - Musicians/Bands/Songs for Our Sobriety & Recovery

Music makes the people come together
Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel.

-Madonna

 

I'm turning 9 on Thursday.  That's 9 in sober years, thankyouverymuch ;)  So my #12on12 squad graciously let me host this month's piece on The Sobriety Collective in honor of my sober birthday!  Of course, the hostess gets to choose the topic, and what better topic than MUSIC!   There are countless organizations focusing on music in recovery/mental health (You Rock Foundation, Recovery Unplugged), listicles galore (10 Greatest Songs About Recovery, per The Fix; 10 (more) of the Greatest Songs About Recovery, also per The Fix), and bands/musicians who are either in recovery or have dealt with addiction.  

With that, I bring you July's 12 on 12.


Authenticity.

When you lose everything to addiction and have lived a life of lies for over a decade, authenticity is the one thing I craved in sobriety.

Especially authenticity about life, love, loss and drugs.

1) Ryan Bingham: "Southside of Heaven" from the "Mescalito" album.

And that’s exactly what I found in Ryan Bingham.  A New Mexico/Texas singer songwriter that spent time growing up on the streets and whose gravelly voice screams overcoming hard times.  Ryan's mother drank herself to death and his father committed suicide. A novel that I have started (since abandoned due to time constraints) main character is based loosely on him.

I found this song shortly after detox and like most all of his music it spoke directly to me.

Excerpt of some lyrics-

"But on the south side of heaven
Won't You take me home
'Cause I've been broke down for so long
And Lord, it's getting cold"

"Can't you see that breeze
Nothing but a change in pace
Money can't buy my soul
'Cause it comes from a hard earned place"

2) Lucinda Williams: "Blessed" (The Kitchen Tapes) from the "Blessed" album.

There’s not much I can add or say about this song that the song itself doesn’t cover. The first time I heard it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. "The Kitchen Tape" version of this song is just Lucinda and her guitar and her strong yet fragile voice. Beautiful and powerful. And immensely authentic.

This song is incredibly poignant not just for those of us in recovery but for every U.S. citizen that is living through these dark trying days.

Listen.

Learn.

Love.

Excerpt of some lyrics-

"We were blessed by the homeless man
Who showed us the way home
We were blessed by the hungry man
Who filled us with love
By the little innocent baby
Who taught us the truth
We were blessed by the forlorn
Forsaken and abused"

"We were blessed by the blind man
Who could see for miles and miles
We were blessed by the fighter
Who didn't fight for the prize"


3) Rascal Flatts: “I’m Movin On” 

“I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret
I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I'm at peace with myself
I've been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I'm movin' on..”

So, I’m a country girl at heart. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at me. I’m kind of a bohemian hippie wild child type. And I lived in Santa Monica for the majority of my twenties so that city speaks to me. But, you know what speaks to me more? Memories. Family. My Father. Road trips. Both my mother and father were born in Texas. My Dad is from Waco, and my Mom is from Beaumont. I grew up listening to country music and I’ve always, always returned to the 90’s and early 2000’s country music genre. It’s where my heart lives.

So, I was sitting in my car, listening to old mixed tapes (or CD’s, but tapes sounds cooler), at about four months sober, discovering God, discovering myself, and learning to live again and “I’m Movin on” by Rascal Flatts started playing. And what did I do? I started balling. Not the self-pity type of balling that existed in most of my addiction. But, the balling that comes from your soul, from your heart, from a quiet place that doesn’t use words, from a place that only listens. It’s the moment when music makes goosebumps radiate across your body, and you are connected to something much bigger than could ever be described. And the words, those words, they moved me that day.

“And I know there's no guarantees’, but I'm not alone
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone..

I've loved like I should, but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I’m movin on”

Listen here and try not to be moved. I dare ya. 

So, there’s a toss-up between two songs. “I’m Movin On” is an anthem song. You can listen to it over and over and it can provide meaning in a variety of different contexts. I’m one of those girls who always googles the meaning behind the songs and the lyrics. Because, I like to know what the writer was thinking. How were these words born? How did they build such a beautiful story into one song?  What is the meaning behind it?

4) The Format: "On Your Porch"

Ok. So another emotional attachment bomb. Nate Ruess. The lead singer behind Fun. Originally, he started a band in Arizona, called The Format. I was obsessed. I can’t even count the number of times I saw The Format play, because it was too many. I grew up in Arizona and I went to college in Tempe and they sing about this city, in the best way anyone ever could and ever has.

“And as I start to leave
He grabs me by the shoulder and he tells me,
"What's left to lose? You've done enough.
And if you fail, well, then you fail, but not to us.
'Cause these last three years—I know they've been hard.
But now it's time to get out of the desert and into the sun;
Even if it's alone."

Originally, this song spoke to me because I moved from Arizona to California in 2005. Nate sings “And now it’s time to get out of the desert and into the sun.” And I attributed the word desert to Arizona, and the word sun to California. It was a difficult decision for me to move away from home. I lived in Arizona for twenty-one years and as I grew and started discovering my passions, I knew I had to go to L.A if I ever wanted to truly make it in the entertainment business. And so I did, I left everything I knew, and I moved there to start school.

But, as my addiction took over, and my love for Nate Ruess only grew, the song started to take on an entirely different meaning. For context, the song is centered around Nate’s father and the advice he gives to his son. And I’ve always idolized my father. He is my hero. He is the kindest, most loving man you’ll ever know. In 2009, my father had to have quadruple bypass surgery. I didn’t go to the surgery. I was working and although, this is likely the type of situation in which you can leave work, I didn’t even ask. I was terrified of losing my father. I couldn’t see him hurt. Nate had a similar situation and sings about it in this song and many others. 

“Well, my dad was sick,
And my mom—she cared for him.
Her love—it nursed him back to life.
And me—I ran. I couldn't even look at him
For fear I'd have to say goodbye.”

Like I said, the song took on a whole new meaning during my addiction. It spoke to me as a way to leave my addiction, the dry desert that offers nothing but devastation, and move into the sun, into the light, a place that provides warmth and comfort. It talks about how the last three years have been hard, and my addiction was rather short lived, it took me four years to move out of the desert and into the sun. But, getting sober wasn’t easy for me. I was a difficult case. It took me four treatment centers, several detoxes, and countless stays in sober livings and psych wards to finally maintain sobriety.

So I would ask myself, “what’s left to lose? I’ve done enough. And if I fail, well, then I fail but I gave it a shot...”

Even in writing those lyrics, tears gather in my eyes. Because, this song was everything, and is everything to me. Without my mother and father, I never would have gotten sober. They saved me from permanent insanity. And their unconditional love and support allowed me to actually feel love and know hope, during one of the darkest, scariest times in my life.

“'Cause what's left to lose?
I've done enough.
And if I fail, well, then I fail but I gave it a shot.
And these last three years—I know they've been hard.
But now it's time to get out of the desert and into the sun;
Even if it's alone.”

Listen here y’all.


Wow, I have found this a tough one. I met this month’s collaboration feeling a little stumped: I didn’t know where to start and, honestly, I hadn’t really thought of music as being a foundational pillar of my recovery… But this was, as with the rest of the posts in this series, a really valuable exercise to crystallise just what is important in my recovery.

Frankly, I don’t always listen to music, because I crave silence; in a bone-aching sense of the word. Silence feeds my soul. And I’d go as far as to say it represents just as much space and significance, if not more, in my life than music. Because, I am such a sensitive person and I feel like I often have sensory overload; too much noise can make me have a melt down!

When I do listen to music, which is a few hours a week, I listen to such a broad and varied range, and I do so in a really sporadic way. I find something I like and I listen to it to death - it is not uncommon for me to be listening to an album on Spotify for a month non-stop. Then I reach a point of having to turn it off. And so it goes…In terms of meaning, music, represents memories of certain times in my life. So when I listen to a song, it more often than not evokes some kind of emotion in me; from sadness, to elation, to fond memories that omit a feeling of warmth and fuzziness - those are my favourite.

And as far as my tastes go - this entirely depends of my mood and activity. So, cycling, for example, requires something upbeat and fast paced - particularly in the morning, to get me motivated to work. Running, requires really fast paced Swedish/European house music.  In my quiet time, I love listening to Bon Iver, ALT-J (Hunger of the Pine is EPIC), 5AM. If I have to chose two, they would be:

5) Andrea Boccelli - "Time to Say Goodbye"
 

This man’s voice has such beauty and passion, I often cry. I listened to him live a couple of years ago and he has the effect of singing directly to my heart. I’d marry this guy if I could. And have his babies. Both would be preferable.

6) Florence + The Machine - Dog Days Are Over


I listened to Flo A LOT in my early days of recovery. I lived in the city centre of Manchester and that meant a lot of walking; this was my processing time. I needed to process that the dog days truly were over and her music has the ability to channel my energy, especially all of that repressed emotion, frustration, rage, anger, sadness and passion.


7) P!nk: "Fuckin' Perfect"

I’m a P!nk fan-girl through and through. Her songs bring out so much emotion in me which allows me to release tears, just as if I’ve been heard and understood. I actually had to run off stage one night while doing karaoke of one of her songs because I choked up and tears just took over.

:::mic drop:::

When I was asked to write about two songs that have aided in my recovery, this was the song that came right into my mind. A phrase I use constantly in my recovery is “perfectly imperfect.” So needless to say, this song fits quite nicely, in a sassy way of course. You see, when I speak of being in recovery, it’s not just from alcohol… it’s also from depression. Negative self-talk has been a terrible obstacle I’ve been trying to overcome.

“You're so mean when you talk about yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head make them like you instead.”

I am reminded that it’s a choice I have in front of me. I have control over those thoughts in my head. I can choose to turn the negative thoughts into positive ones. The negative images I have of myself is really not a true picture of who I truly am. I have always known that somewhere inside of me was an amazing light that wanted to shine. I dimmed my own light with alcohol which only further spiraled my depression.

“Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than fucking perfect.”

There’s just something about having someone tell you it’s going to be all right, and that you are ok just as you are. When I hear similar sentiments from my fellows in recovery, it’s a feeling like no other. We remind each other all the time that we are complete, that we are fucking warriors, and that we are perfectly imperfect just as we are.

8) Plumb: "Lord I'm Ready Now" 

Lord, is this title and song so appropriate for what I’m about to tell you.

I, Cristina Ferri, am a Christian music listener.

:::gasp:::

This statement has literally been haunting me for years. I’ve hidden it from everyone in my life minus my church peeps. I know the feeling of rejection and what it’s like when people look at you like the crazy God person. You want to know why? Because I’ve been on both sides of it, I’ve been the giver and the recipient of the looks. But let me tell you a brief history of how I came to here. When I was in school, I remember I was listening to my Walkman with a cassette single of Michael W. Smith’s Place in this World, and a teacher asked me if I was a Christian. I looked at him strange and asked why would he ask that, and he explained that the music I was listening to was a Christian song. I instantly felt guilty and ashamed. Being raised a Jehovah’s Witness, I wasn’t supposed to be listening to this stuff. But I just liked the way the song made me feel. Fast forward to about 6 or 7 years ago, I was listening to Pandora at work and a band called FireFlight came into my life. I liked every song I heard, so I decided to see if they were playing in my area anytime soon. Turns out they were coming… to a church. What? Oh man. They were a Christian band. I do believe my exact words were: “Oh shit, she’s talking about God.” Despite the fact that I really, really felt uncomfortable about stepping into a church I did it anyway. I was happy to get out of my comfort zone, but I definitely was an outsider at this time. So, it was right around this time that I said fuck it, and continued to listen to Christian music without telling anyone. I found Plumb along the way, and her music quickly became my go to when I needed uplifting.

 

“I was so caught up In who I'm not
Can you please forgive me?

I ran away from you
And did what I wanted to
But I don't want to let you down
Oh Lord I'm ready now.”

This song is very near and dear to me because I feel it describes my falling away from and coming back into a relationship with God perfectly. Well, now that that’s off my chest, I feel like there’s one less part of me I’m hiding from the world, and I feel that much more free.

Cristina Ferri

info@soberunicorn.com

www.soberunicorn.com

www.facebook.com/therealsoberunicorn

www.instagram.com/sober_unicorn

www.twitter.com/soberunicorns


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9)  Bob Dylan: “One More Cup of Coffee Before I Go”

Bob Dylan’s music bridged the mania of my addiction with the inspiration of early recovery. I think it’s rare to find music that can do that; music that can at once drive you insane, and then pick you up, dust you off, and tell you there is more to life than that. Dylan’s work is encrypted enough that the listener can impose whatever meaning he wants.

 

I was heavy into Dylan in my psychotic downward spiral. I stayed with a friend in Mexico during my bottom. I listened to this song on my first day sober as I literally descended to the valley of that Mexican town. I never imagined coming out of there alive. But, here I am! Grace (in the form of my friend) delivered me to San Diego and I’ve been clean and sober ever since.

I get chills listening to this song. And when I am facing a challenge, I still tell myself that it’s just “one more cup of coffee before I go to the valley below.”

10) Mason Jennings: “Never Knew Your Name”

If you deem your life spiritual in even the vaguest of definitions, please listen to this song. It describes in better words I could ever muster how desperation lead me to God, or if you like, a higher power.

The gist is, I found a power greater than me to handle the problems in my life I couldn’t. It was a power I carried with me my whole life but never used. It’s like walking around handcuffed your whole life when the key to unlock the cuffs is in your pocket. In that way, I understood and could say to my creator: “I’ve been loving you forever, but I never knew your name.”


I never, ever, EVER thought I would get tattooed.  And then I got sober.  Somehow all my priorities shifted and I wanted to celebrate life in big, bold, beautiful ways.  Loud and proud and permanent: ink.  So what was my first tattoo?  A small black treble clef on the inside of my right ankle.  What better tribute to newfound sobriety than an homage to my #1 passion, MUSIC.

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 Let’s rewind a year, before this love for tattoo culture even began.  It was July, 2007.  I had just turned 24 not even three months before and I was already facing a terrifying crossroads: get help for my dangerous drinking behaviors (what’s now known as substance use disorder) or continue down the rabbit hole of despair, lack of self-respect, and an inability to stop once I started drinking.  As many of you know, and possibly just as many don’t (if you’re just discovering me/us now): I had a short, packed-to-the-gills drinking “career”: six years of fun, fun with problems, and then just problems.  July of 2007 was the culmination of years of shitty consequences and bad decisions.  Somehow, after getting hospitalized for the second time in two years,  both instances direct results of alcohol poisoning, I found myself bathing in every disgusting, terrifying, gut-wrenching emotion possible.  I needed to change.  So I checked myself into an intensive outpatient rehab.

The CD in my car at the time was...

11) Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope.

 This album, symbolic in title, wasn’t meant to hold so much weight and emotion.  But the universe loves to wink at us.  Maybe I needed an album title that invited me to hope when all seemed bleak.  Begin to Hope was, for me, *the* soundtrack to get sober by.  Spektor is a beautiful songwriter and her music is light and heavy at the same time; she has an angelic voice and can tickle the ivories like nobody’s business.  She’s also very irreverent in her lyrics and delivery.  But none of that really crossed my mind at the time.  Instead, I’d listen on my way to rehab and on my way home, on repeat.  Three days a week for five weeks.  The album became a security blanket to me when I needed a constant.  I knew I had graduated from the fear and uncertainty when I was able to change out the CD for something new.

Every time I hear a song from that album now, I’m immediately transported back to those early days of sobriety, when I wasn’t sure if the actions I was taking to get help were meant for something permanent.  I could hardly think in terms of “forever” but that album taught me that if I just began to hope, I could live a life beyond anything I dared dream (editor’s note: holy cliché alert but seriously, even with all the shit that accompanies a beautiful life, I’d pick said beautiful, sober life any day over what I had before!).

Listen to the full album here:

My top picks: ♫ On the Radio, Fidelity, Better. ♫

12) Laura's Recovery Mixtape

These songs aren’t necessarily about recovery, but since music is SO intertwined with my life and my life is all about recovery (or, rather, my life wouldn’t be what it is today if I wasn’t *in recovery*), here are a few of my favorite…songs.  Youtube them, iTunes them, buy them on vinyl, do whatever it is you want, but step inside my head and enjoy.

1.       Oh! Darling, The Beatles

2.       Linger, The Cranberries

3.       mmmBop, Hanson

4.       Cupid, Sam Cooke

5.       Don’t Worry Baby, The Beach Boys

6.       I Found You, Alabama Shakes

7.       One Find, Jason Mraz

8.       I Never, Rilo Kiley

9.       Stir it Up, Bob Marley

10.   Creep, Radiohead

11.   My Sweet Lord, George Harrison

12.   Thank You, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats

13.   Winter Blind, Radiation City

14.   Sober, Kelly Clarkson

15.   Bonus Track: On the Radio, Regina Spektor (see above homage to Regina)


BONUS!!!! 

My first year resident advisor in college coined me “Karaoke Queen.”  That eponym stuck—I love singing and will belt out, unabashedly, in the shower, car, or more aptly, on karaoke night.   Enjoy my silky voice in Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me.”  You heard it here first ;)

Here are some more audio goodies for you, from me. <3 ♫ \m/