Happy Brain, Happy You: A Celebration of Recovery

In honor of Suicide Awareness and National Recovery Month, Dr. Julie Lopez will moderate an evening of storytelling about human struggles, resiliency, and survival.

Hear from a panel of leaders and survivors within the mental health and recovery movements, including Laura Silverman of the Sobriety Collective and Christie Dondero-Bettwy of Rock Recovery. Anyone who has experienced addiction, suicidality, eating disorders, and other mental health concerns will be able to hear, share (if desired), and honor their experiences in a safe and empathetic group. Additionally, Dr. Julie will provide insight into how trauma can influence these subjects.

Light food and beverages will be served.

Volunteer positions are currently open for this event! All volunteers will receive free admission to one of our Holistic Professional Group's monthly workshops, where professionals in the wellness sphere are able to network while learning more about diverse approaches to mental health.

Register here.

11 Lessons Learned in 11 Years of Recovery

 Originally published on  Workit Health ; republished with permission on  Shatterproof .

Originally published on Workit Health; republished with permission on Shatterproof.

The year was 2007. Phones were clunky and the opposite of “smart.” iPods were relatively new, MapQuest directions were printed, Amazon.com was a bookseller, Senator Barack Obama prepared to hit the campaign trail, the new ABC show Grey’s Anatomy was taking the country by storm, and Laura Silverman (aka yours truly) checked herself into an intensive outpatient program for alcohol abuse after six years of heavy binge drinking.

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The year is now 2018. Phones are pocket-sized computers. Amazon runs the world (and you can access it from your phone, natch). Former Senator Obama is now former two-term U.S. President (miss you, Barry!). Grey’s Anatomy is still around. And Laura, our protagonist, celebrated 11 years of continuous sobriety on July 14th.

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Switching over to first person now that I’ve set the stage for you. Without further ado, here are some nuggets of wisdom, lessons, and tools I use in over a decade of recovery - in meme and GIF form. It is 2018, after all ;)

1. I’m sober, not boring.

I go to concerts and sing loudly on karaoke nights. I date. I bowl. I play with my nephews. I go out on girls' nights to fancy dinners. I ice skate and rock climb and dance (like Elaine from Seinfeld).

And I wake up the next morning blissfully hangover-free. It feels fan-freakin-tastic.

2. Personal growth is necessary - and (sometimes) painful.

 

One of the things I have to work on daily is my need to people-please. Being bullied for years as a kid tore down any self-confidence I had; all I wanted was to be liked by you. To be your friend. To not be at the bottom of the social barrel.

But now? I still fall prey to wanting to be liked (even at 35 years old! I see it happen the most via social media). And I have to actively take a part in my daily recovery by knowing I’m whole and enough and beautifully radiant, inside and out, just as I am. With or without your approval. That’s personal growth. It sure ain’t easy.

3. Move that body!

Walking in nature, practicing yoga, hiking, weight lifting, busting a sweat. Releasing those endorphinsand feeling accomplished.

Honestly, the best way to get out of my head is to turn on some tunes and go for a walk outside. I always feel on top of the world and more peaceful in and post-workout...

I go to concerts and sing loudly on karaoke nights. I date. I bowl. I play with my nephews. I go out on girls' nights to fancy dinners. I ice skate and rock climb and dance (like Elaine from Seinfeld).

And I wake up the next morning blissfully hangover-free. It feels fan-freakin-tastic.

4. Exercise that brain!

Mental health is just as important as physical health. They are very much intertwined.

Exercise makes me feel more positive and happy and empowered. Feeling those feelings boosts my mental health, and makes me more inclined to want to continue taking care of my physical body.

This is why I love yoga so much. I get to amplify my physical, mental, and spiritual health. #NamasteSober

5. #MocktailLife

Gone are the days of just water or soda. (Those are still viable options.) Just the other night I had a delicious ginger/coconut/passion fruit NoJito . And it was glorious. I like to feel glamorous and holding a drink (especially in early recovery but even well into now) can give me more confidence on a date or at a work event. Booze-free, full of flavor, no consequences.

6. Take things one moment at a time.

To get anywhere with my sobriety, mental health, spiritual health, and just, well, life, I have to take things, as they say, one day at a time. Thinking in terms of “forever” will inevitably stress me out.

That doesn’t mean I can’t have goals or ambitions. But there’s no sense in agonizing over the future or regretting the past. Staying present is what it’s all about.

7. Stay grateful.

A daily gratitude practice—whether it’s just a mental acknowledgment of what I’m thankful for or writing a list—is crucial.

They say the sign of true gratitude is not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have.

8. Smile.

I love smiling. Have you seen my smile? It’s radiant if I do say so myself.

That doesn’t mean I’m always happy. If you’re always happy, how can you be grateful for true happiness? (see #7.) But I find that even a fake smile can turn into a real one; and a real smile is infectious.

If you can use your smile and aim it at a stranger, and they do that to another, and another, and another... imagine the impact a small, simple act of kindness can have on the world.

9. Surround yourself with love and support.

 

No matter if you choose a program (12 step, SMART, Refuge, LifeRing) or trail blaze your own path, find a support system of friends, loved ones, and professionals that works for you.

If you want or need it, don't be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness.

10. Be proud of how far you’ve come, no matter where you are in the process of recovery.

In the wake of Demi Lovato’s relapse, I thought it was only right to pay homage to someone who fights on the front lines of mental health and addiction recovery daily. We have lessons to learn from her - and that’s that this is a process and we must always support each other.

Maybe you’ve slipped, maybe you’ve stayed sober or drug-free without one lapse; maybe you keep trying. This is a process and you should be proud of where you are, forging your own path.

11. My sobriety goes to 11 (years).

*Raises mocktail* Cheers!

 

From Blackout to Brilliance - Dispatch 11 Years Later

Scroll down to see photos and a writeup from my SOBER experience at Saturday's Dispatch concert at Merriweather Post Pavillion. As the title of this post says - I've come full circle. From blackout to brilliance. This might just be my future memoir title. <3

I have all the feels. @dispatch at @merriweatherpp was rainy, cold, and unforgettably AWEsome in the truest meaning of the word. 💫 💫 💫 💫 I was the band's lead volunteer via @propeller.la. Dispatch is a very socially conscious band and they support many nonprofits doing wonderful work. We learned how to be active bystanders and safely intervene in situations of sexual harassment or abuse concerts for @callingallcrows. We sold gorgeous @nalgene water bottles benefitting @reverb_org - in an effort to reduce sing le use plastics at music venues. We educated our fellow concert goers on @nativegiving. 💫 💫 💫 💫 And as you can see, we met @bradcorrigan and @chadwickstokes!!! If all that wasn't enough, I had to take the opportunity to tell Brad my 30 second story. Of how 11 years ago on July 13th, 2007 their @thegarden show was the last night I ever drank - and how I just celebrated 11 years on July 14th. Brad hugged me, gave me a high five - and a natural high because I was freaking out (on the inside). 💫 💫 💫 💫 My crew was truly phenomenal. We powered through monsoon level rains and wind and did our work happily and proudly. We got to experience @rayezaragoza and @nahko_and_mftp. Omg their violinist 🎻 is out of this world. And his hair! But I digress. 💫 💫 💫 💫 Dispatch's set was unreal - and to top it off, I won top volunteer status and the chance to see the encore from the photo pit (hey @michaelraymondsmith!). My face hurt from perpetual smiling. 💫 💫 💫 💫 So did my Dispatch experience come full circle? 💫 💫 💫 💫 Fuck yeah, it did. / 🎤 #dispatch #dispatchband #merriweatherpostpavilion #mindfulness #selflove #boozefree #selfcare #meditation #buddhism #sobriety #mentalhealth #witchy #sherecovers #theuniverse #theyogalife #thesoberlife #gratitude #recoveryrocks #recovery #soberAF #recoveroutloud #thesobrietycollective #soberissexy #alcoholfree #holistichealth #sobertribe #sober #Tt

Dispatch - not just a band, but a symbol of my recovery.

Dispatch - recovery

If you know my story, you'll know Dispatch plays a big part. [If you don't know, read more here.]

Suffice it to say, the last night I ever drank (and of course, I drank to the point of blacking out) was in New York City at Madison Square Garden, the night of July 13, 2007. Dispatch hit the stage and the crowd went wild. At least, I think they did. I know I did.

**Hours of crying, screaming, drunk babbling, running and wandering aimlessly about the lobby of Madison Square Garden, breaking down, being scooped up by paramedics who whisked away to a hospital**

Seven hours later I came to in a hospital bed wearing hospital socks and feeling what I can only describe as a witch's brew of fear, terror, shame, guilt, bewilderment, and shock. This was the last time, I promised myself, and somehow I meant it.

**Fast forward 10 years, 11 months, and 13 days**

I never thought I'd have the opportunity to see Dispatch live again, mostly because I heard rumors they split up, did their own thing. That was that. Or so I thought.

This year not only have they reunited, but they've partnered with Propeller LA to have fans volunteer at shows across the country. Through a volunteer application, I shared my story of why it was so important for my experience to come full circle. To go from seeing them last in a drunken stupor to this year's show date 11 years later really does feel like a crazy miracle. I'll get to show up and help the community, in cause and action.

And I'll get to experience a band I love so much completely sober, paying homage to who I once was and I've since become.

The Quest: How to find the right therapist for you

quest to find right therapist

The Quest: How to Find the Right Therapist For You

The quest to find the right therapist is a lot like dating. You have every right to weed out who’s not right for you so that you can be open to the possibility of finding the right person for the job. And just like dating, it can be equally as exhausting. I mean, there are apps for both – designed to make the process for each easier. But like anything worth doing, it takes time.

As I sit down to write this, I know fully well that not only do I want to find someone new to work with, but I need to:  1) if at the very least (one end of the therapeutic spectrum), to have an unbiased party to listen without judgment and 2) at the most (the other end of the spectrum), to grow and let go of traumas and issues holding me back from complete personal expression.

I wouldn’t be an active and engaged participant in my mental health and wellbeing had I not gotten sober on July 14, 2007. Not knowing it at the time, that day I entered the world of recovery and personal growth. Over a decade later I’m still actively invested in my mental wellness. As you probably know, recovery is anything but linear; like life, there are peaks (celebrations, love, friendships, etc.) and valleys (deaths, debt, depression).  Close to a year ago, I experienced a gut-wrenching trauma that I’ve been working through with the support of close friends, family, and my online community – but I’m still on the quest to find the right holistic mental health professional with whom I can unpack it all. So please believe me when I tell you that therapy can always help, no matter where you are in life.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

To demonstrate what I’ve learned, here's a quick Q&A between me on day 1 (Q) and me today (A).

Q: I’m scared. I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I don’t plan on getting sober forever. I just need to get my sh*t together and figure out why I have so many panic attacks.

A: I hear you. Just be gentle with yourself. This won’t get “fixed” overnight. It’s going to be a process. If you have health insurance, start there – see what’s covered within network. You can find a therapist, a licensed counselor, or a psychologist – those can be the folks you’d talk to about what’s going on with you. I’d look into finding a psychiatrist too, in case you need medication (although try not to be so dependent on the meds that you can’t consider living your life without them). Not sure where to start? Mental Health America’s screening tools can point you in the right direction.

Q: But I have panic attacks all the time. If I’m given something to help with my underlying anxiety, shouldn’t I take that?

A: Definitely consider it, and also consider holistic methods like amino acid therapy (www.vryeveryday.com is a great start) to help change your brain chemistry. Neutraceutical companies (e.g. Amare Global) have tapped into the power of the gut-brain-axis. Taking prebiotics, probiotics, and overhauling your nutrition are holistic ways to target mental health concerns. If you need a medication, then take that medication. Remember, your brain is just as much a part of you as your liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, etc. Just think creatively about your treatment.

Q: What about all my internal scars from years of bullying? That’s why I started drinking, so I could feel cool, less anxious, and forget about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). God, I feel like such a cliché.

A: Stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I promise you that the right therapist will show you different ways to recover through that pain – he or she may use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Exposure Response Therapy (ERT). And I highly suggest starting yoga, getting outside, meeting other like-minded folks, and writing.

Q: But what if I’d rather use an app or website first before going to sit in someone’s office? Is that OK?

A: Yep, as long as you still consider meeting one on one with someone at some point. Start with Talkspace, Workit Health, Good Therapy, Psychology Today, Better Help, etc. If you want to try meditating, try Insight Timer and Headspace apps. Do you laugh at the thought of a guided meditation? Then laugh along with H*nest Meditation. There are loads of blogs and podcasts out there too. Just take it one day at a time.

Q: Will I ever not have anxiety?

A: I can’t answer that definitively. I can tell you, though, that you WILL absolutely know how to manage and deal with life. Always reconnect with yourself, your breath, and your community.

Q: Will awful things happen in recovery?

A: Yes. And you will get through them. I promise you. You’ll have your family, your friends, your online recovery tribe (in about 8 years, you’ll be the founder of The Sobriety Collective). You’ll get your heart broken, experience a heavy trauma, be in a crazy amount of debt. You’ll also mend your heart through time, personal work, therapy, and loving again. You’ll rise above the trauma and write about it one day. You’ll work on a debt management/settlement plan and prove to yourself that you can live debt-free. You will do all these things because you’ve made a commitment to yourself and your recovery.

Q: Will I be able to help someone some day?

A: Oh honey, you already have.