mental health

Guest Blogger Amy C. Willis: The Sobriety Smörgåsbord

sobriety smorgasbord

I went to a women’s only Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting this morning with a sober gal pal of mine. It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve been to an AA or Al-Anon meeting and to be honest, I wasn’t necessarily super excited about going. That said, I was open to going because I think there’s value in checking in on things periodically, even if you previously felt it wasn’t for you. As a woman and as a sober woman, I have evolved significantly since I last attended a meeting and I think with evolution comes the opportunity to hear old information with new ears. So I went.

And I’m glad that I did! I love that I got to occupy space with other women in recovery. The women in the room were diverse in age, race, ethnicity, socio-economic location, duration in recovery but what brought us together was our individual and collective commitment to sobriety,  which is incredibly special. What I also found special is that despite our vast differences, we were able to come together and find common ground, which is sacred. I also LOVED that it was a women’s only space. I also can see the value in co-ed spaces but I’m grateful that this one was not and that women’s only spaces within recovery exist because they are necessary. I wholeheartedly believe that women’s experiences with alcohol are fundamentally different than men’s (of course there are similarities but also considerable differences - more on that in another post); as such, creating women’s only spaces in recovery is essential.

After the meeting, my friend and I de-briefed on what we took from it, what we liked and didn’t like and so on. During this debrief, she said something really interesting which was (and I’m paraphrasing) that in trying different approaches to recovery (she is relatively new in her journey), she’s able to stand back, take what she needs from them and also recognize their limitations. I thought this was so poignant and so accurate and I really appreciated hearing her perspective from newer recovery eyes (next month, I celebrate 3 years of consistent sobriety).

I think it’s incredibly powerful to be able to recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Once upon a time (not that long ago!), the only option for folks seeking sobriety was AA. And if AA didn’t work for or jive with you, you either had to suck it up or go it alone. Thankfully, so many different options exist for recovery including AA, SMART Recovery, rehab, online communities, coaching, She Recovers, counseling, blogs, podcasts, books, and so on.

I have always felt that a multi-method approach to recovery made a lot of sense, especially given that each approach does have its inherent limitations. For example, as a Holistic Health Coach, I provide 1-on-1 coaching to women who struggle with their drinking, supporting them to enter and sustain sobriety, while also designing lives they don’t want to escape from. I love this approach and have found great success with my clients. It allows for a high level of support and accountability, an in-depth connection, deep and lasting transformation and the creation of sustainable healthy habits. That said, it’s also a paid service which means it may not be accessible for everyone and because the work is 1-on-1, it does not offer any community elements. Conversely, AA meetings provide tons of community support and are free and frequent, making them much more accessible but don’t necessarily offer the same level of transformation or habit change that’s possible through coaching. Neither AA nor coaching is a better or worse approach to recovery; they are simply different avenues to reach the same destination.

For those considering entering sobriety or recovery, I would strongly encourage you to approach recovery like a buffet. Try different methods out and see what fits. If AA is your jam, incredible! If you find that a combination of online support groups, blogs, meditation, movement and therapy work best for you, amazing! The idea here is there is no “right” way to recover and our approaches to recovery are just as unique as we are. Fortunately, we live in a world where there are more options than ever and we have the luxury of really taking what works for us and ditching the rest. If you haven’t yet found the right combination for you, keep trying! And if you find you keep trying the same thing and it’s not working for you (aka you’re relapsing on the regs), for goodness sake, try something new! The right combination of resources, tools and support is out there for you, it’s just a matter of discovering it.

For all the reasons listed above, I created the Lose the Booze 100 Day Challenge. I wanted to provide another option to support women in their recovery journeys, that landed somewhere between 1-on-1 coaching and online community groups. Yes, there are other 100 day alcohol-free challenges but none like the one I created. Because I know how important accountability is, especially in the early stages of sobriety, I built in daily email check-ins to keep the challenge and not drinking at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I intentionally kept the group small because I believe so strongly in the power of connection and community-building, which is really hard to authentically create when you’re one of thousands in an online group.

 
lose the booze
 

*program starts August 1st! sign up today ^^*


amy c willis

Amy C. Willis is a certified holistic Health Coach, soon to be certified Life Coach and the founder of HOL + WELL, a brand that focuses on all things holistic wellness. Amy is in recovery from alcohol use disorder and has been sober for almost 3 years. Through her own journey in recovery, she's been inspired to support other women in their path to sobriety and does so through her coaching practice. Amy is an avid reader, loves writing, travel, community-building and moving her body. When she's not coaching, hanging out with friends or spending time outside, she's teaching indoor cycling. Amy lives in Toronto and works with clients globally.

Connect with Amy:
website: www.holandwell.com
instagram: @msamycwillis

Guest Blogger Beverly Sartain: Are You Doing a Purpose Bypass?

Editor’s note: Beverly is a dear friend of mine. She nudges me when I need nudging and my life honestly would not be as full without her in it. Thank you, love <3.

Editor’s note: Beverly is a dear friend of mine. She nudges me when I need nudging and my life honestly would not be as full without her in it. Thank you, love <3.


I help people use their recovery process for greater purpose and good.

But did you know that most people can't even get to living their purpose in recovery because their soul work is priority.

Truth...

You may (or may not) have heard of a spiritual bypass.

Same is true for a purpose bypass.

You can't jump into purpose work without doing your own inner work.

Well, you can...but it won't be pretty.

Been there, done that.

Part of my story is that I was always a giver. I gave in order to receive love.

As a child, I was HUGE into volunteering. It made me feel good to do good for others. I led organizations, won awards and got a lot of value from giving.


In college, I studied Psychology. Really I studied psychology so that I could better understand myself. I volunteered at a Crisis Center for several years where I would talk to people who were struggling and suicidal.

And after college, I quickly looked for next steps where I could be giving again and feeling useful and valuable.

At 24, I found myself working at a domestic violence shelter. I started off as a Residential Tech and worked my way up to Program Manager.

I was hard-working, over-responsible and over-giving.

These qualities can be good but they are a double edge sword.

As I lost myself more and more into my work, the negative aspects of the qualities came out.

I was helping women and children form healthier and happier lives outside of abuse while I was going home after work and abusing myself with destructive behaviors.

I did that on a daily basis. And the shame was overwhelming.

I was living completely out of integrity and alignment.

I was doing for others what I wasn't willing to do for myself.

And it was literally killing me inside out.


Your system will eventually provide you enough feedback where you either wake up and do it differently or you fade out and simply exist.

Clearly because of the work I do, I talk to many people who also fall into this same trap.

The trap of giving at the expense of Self. The trap of actually telling yourself that's a good thing. And the trap of feeling guilty for taking good care of yourself.

I see this same dynamic with other helping professionals: nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists, case workers, counselors, caretakers...you get the point.

Being a helping professional means you are helping yourself FIRST.

Does that resonate? Is that true for you? Honestly...

It's super easy for people who are helpers to put themselves on the back-burner and put others first.

And I lovingly challenge you to actually look at if that perspective is what's healthiest for you and those you love.

It's our duty to ourselves to make sure we are helping from the healthiest version of ourselves, from the healthiest place within us.

That means:

💌Healthy boundaries

💌Healthy self-talk

💌Healthy daily practice

I'm living proof that you can catch your codependency and unhealthy giving and turn it around.

But I'm not going to lie...

It takes a lot of work to put yourself first, stay consistent with your commitment to Self and be an example.


System is important…

  • You need to know what to look for

  • You need to know how to get through it

  • You need to have accountability to actually commit to it

I'm super lucky that Spiritual Psychology fell into my lap while I was ready to receive a new way of being.

I'm sure it didn't really just fall into my lap but was really something I intended and manifested in my life because I was ready.

Beverly showering me with love and support in one of those UNIVERSE moments at She Recovers LA.

Beverly showering me with love and support in one of those UNIVERSE moments at She Recovers LA.

Ready for something new and ready for a new way of relating to myself.

When you are ready for something more, more is provided to you.

Take a look around and look for the evidence that you are being supported.

Are you making the best use of the support?

This year is all about shedding the old while healing what’s unresolved. I'm really resonating with Healer Heal Thyself. My people are those who love to help and give to others and I'm here to help you make sure that's happening from a healthy place.

Therefore, you need to be living a healthy life and being a healthy example.

You don't have to be perfect but you need to feel really good about your life if you are going to be coaching, counseling or any other kind of helping professional to other people.

I've done this work myself and you can too.


What is it you need to clean up (both figuratively or literally) in order to be the best helper that you can be?!

What do you need to do right now to help yourself?

So if you're feeling like you need to improve some areas of your life so that you can step into your purpose work + you’d like a cool visual to help you along the way, I’m happy to send you my Helper’s Healing Roadmap.

{{Click the button above to send an email to Beverly. She’ll send you a personalized message along with the Helper’s Healing Roadmap.}}

Let me shower you with love and support for your healing journey by sending you a framework you can follow for your own healing plus those you serve.

Support is available to you now.

Your purpose-driven work is going to be much improved because of your own inner healing.

No more spiritual or purpose bypassing, my dear. It’s time to do your inner work so that you can get rid of that nasty imposter syndrome and live your potential with courage and confidence!


beverly

Beverly Sartain is a Transformational Coach for those who are ready to use their recovery to be of service to the world and live their full potential. She is the founder of Recovery Life Management and The Recovery Ripple Project.

6 Myths About Getting Sober You Might Actually Still Believe

6 myths about getting sober.png

by Erin Gilday

Whether you are newly sober or just sober-curious, you’re inevitably going to have ideas about what you think sobriety looks like.

These ideas about sobriety and what sobriety looks like will come at you from all angles, whether you want them to or not.

Some of these ideas will come from friends, family, acquaintances, TV shows, addiction literature, self-help groups, or the dank basement that is your subconscious. Some are even going to reach you via the wisdom of crappy internet memes or late-night Facebook posts.

Not all of these ideas are helpful. Many of them aren’t even true.

You already know that your mindset is one of your biggest assets in getting sober. And if you’re mindset is being influenced by, well...bullshit...then it’s going to be tough to stay clean.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the most unhelpful and untrue myths out there about getting sober.

Sobriety Myth #1 - You Won’t Have Any Friends

This is a biggie.

By the time your life is semi- (or fully) consumed by addiction, pretty much every aspect of your life is tied up in thinking about, acquiring, and/or using your substance of choice. This very often includes what’s left of your social life.

It’s easy to let the friendship question make you second guess your decision to get sober.

The questions start: Who will you hang out with when you get sober? What will you even do together? How do you make friends sober?

Here’s the truth: you will probably have to get new friends when you get sober but they’re going to be better friends.

The friends you used to drink or use with are probably not going to know how to support your new lifestyle. Most of them aren’t going to get it. They’re going to feel attacked and threatened by your sobriety. They’re not going to want to suddenly quit using and join you in sober friendship mode. And being around people who are still using is probably not going to work for you - especially at first.

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news: You will make new friends when you’re sober, and they’re going to actually be better friends because of it.

These friends aren’t keeping one eye on the bartender or one eye on their cell phone, waiting for that text. These friends aren’t going to disappoint you when they lie to you or steal from you or use you. These friends are going to want to hang out with you first and foremost, and not just as an afterthought.

You’re going to make new friends because now that you’re sober, you’re going to have a ton of free time to do other things: join an exercise group, take a meditation class, attend meetings (of whatever kind), volunteer, go back to school, pick up ecstatic dance or learn taekwondo.

You’re going to meet people at these things and the vast majority of them aren’t going to be addicts. A couple of them might even be your friend.    

Sobriety Myth #2 - You’ll Never Have Real Fun Again

You’re right.

You’re never going to have “fun” blacking out and waking up in your own body fluids ever again.

Addiction might not look like “fun,” especially as it progresses, but for a lot of addicts, the intention to have some “fun” (and enjoy the stress relief that goes along with it) plays a large part in using.

That intention just doesn’t usually work out for addicts.

Unfortunately, many “normal” people who use drugs and alcohol casually are able to have fun using, so it makes sense that our ideas about fun are tied up in drugs and alcohol. The mainstream version of “fun” - going out, taking a vacation, going to a party, watching the game, getting together with the girls - almost always involves substances of abuse.


You go out, you drink. It’s expected.

Here’s the truth: you will have to re-learn how to have fun without your substance of choice. Mainstream society isn’t going to really support you on this.  

It will take a little while to remember how to have fun sober. If anyone is telling you otherwise, they’re not being totally honest. It’ll take a minute, but you will remember how.

Whether it’s painting or singing or playing with legos, we’ve all had fun in our lives without substances, even if it was a long, long time ago.

You’ll get that back. The fun you have will be reliable, safe, within your control, and pure. And you’ll remember it in the morning.  


Sobriety Myth #3 - Sobriety Will Destroy Your Love Life

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(A note for couples: If your significant other is active in their addiction and they’re not willing to get sober with you, see Sobriety Myth #1. Just like the platonic friends who you use with, you’re probably going to have to get rid of addicted significant others, and that is going to put a wrecking ball through your love life for a bit. I’m sorry. It’s worth it.)

For you single people out there, I know what you’re thinking.

How will I ever date sober?

Here’s the truth: There’s a lot of catches out there who prefer sober dates.

Congratulations! You have just dramatically improved your dating pool by weeding out people who don’t value sobriety.

Yes, dating can be awkward and doing it sober makes it slightly more awkward. But you’re able to get a much better read on people when you’re sober and you’re able to spot the red flags you would have missed while using coming a mile away.

The intimacy you built with your date over dinner? You’ll know it’s real because you’re building it sober.

The decision to go home with your date? You’ll know it was a clear-headed, consensual one because you made it sober.

The adult fun you have at their house? You’ll know you were at peak performance because, yep, you did it sober.

Sobriety Myth #4 - You Won’t be Able to Handle the Stress of Life Sober

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Drugs of abuse trick us into making us think that they are helping with stress. They’re not. They’re actually altering our brain chemistry to produce more stress in the long-term.

In reality, addiction is making our stress worse and leaving us less equipped to deal with life as it comes without turning to drugs and alcohol.

Here’s the truth: Consistently dealing with stress in only one way - by using - robs us of the opportunity to learn how to deal with it in new ways.

Whether it’s mindfulness, exercise, counseling, artistic expression, music, conversations with a friend, going for a walk, doing breathing exercises, working on a fun project, or watching ASMR videos on Youtube, there are literally hundreds of ways to deal with stress that you probably haven’t tried.

Learning a new skill is tough but you can do it. You’re stronger than you think.

Sobriety Myth #5 - You’ll Have to Become a Completely Different Person

A lot of people have an idea of a “sober” person in their mind.

For some, it’s that preachy aunt who has been rabid about NA since the early 80’s. For others, it’s that dry drunk coworker who is sober now but is still a pain in the ass at staff meetings. Some people think of that “perfect angel” they know who does hours of selfless volunteering at the church thrift shop now that they are born again and sober.  

It’s no wonder some people can’t see themselves getting sober. With role models like these, who can blame them?

Here’s the truth: You can get sober and still be yourself. 100%. You’ll actually become MORE like yourself as you get sober.

There is no one way to get sober. Forget the ideas you have about what a sober person looks like. You don’t need to become someone else to get sober. Yes, you’ll learn some new tricks, but you’ll actually expand into who you really are once you let drugs and alcohol stop calling all the shots.

You’ll find that some people in early sobriety do try to “be someone else” as they try to adjust to their new identity and reality. From the outside, this can look and feel forced and it can turn sober-curious people off.

Others will be a bit too overzealous in their total adoption of group think. Whether they’re part of a religious institution or some self-help organization, these people will appear to lose of bit of their old selves in the process of getting sober. This is usually temporary and by no means universal. For some people, it works best this way. If that doesn’t work for you - skip it.

In sobriety, YOU DO YOU.

Sobriety Myth #6 - You Don’t Deserve Sobriety

You don’t hear a lot of people say this one out loud, but, boy, is this a doozy.

Being caught in the spiral of addiction sucks. You disappoint other people - but especially yourself - a lot. You have a massive amount of negative self-talk brewing on the daily. You’re sure to criticize yourself before someone else beats you to the punch.

If you’re dealing with other mental health issues - and most of us are - you might be getting an extra helping of self-loathing.

It’s easy to start feeling like you, not the drugs, are the problem.

You’re not.

Here’s the truth: We all deserve a life free of addiction. We all are capable not only of learning how to function but actually THRIVE without drugs and alcohol.

You’ve made some mistakes, sure, but don’t believe the hype. You’re a human and you’re no better or worse than the rest of us.

There’s nothing written in the stars that says your life has to be this way. You won’t always feel this way. It’s temporary. Millions of people just like you have come back from this - and worse.

Bust Your Own Myths

This list is a start, but it’s not exhaustive. There are so many other sobriety myths out there that stop people from pursuing sobriety.

If you’ve got any other myths holding you back, write them down. Sometimes just looking at them on paper is enough to realize they’re ridiculous. If that doesn’t work, share them with a friend or counselor and see if they can help bust them for you. Sometimes an outside perspective is all you need.

As you continue on your journey, I hope you keep finding more myths to bust - and surprising yourself about how awesome sobriety can be!


erin gilday

Erin Gilday is a copywriter and content marketer specializing in addiction treatment. She is a former substance abuse counselor and social worker. She loves her cat, The X-Files, classic movies and organizing for social justice. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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.

****

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.

****

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!