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Sober Fun is Possible

My first “girls’ weekend” was just a few months after I quit drinking in 2011: a road trip with three friends to the fabulous Farm Chicks Antique Show in Spokane, Washington. We booked a cool house in Sandpoint, Idaho as our home base and returned to Canada three days later with an SUV so full of treasures that I couldn’t see out the rearview mirror. Only one of the three friends was aware that I’d quit drinking and she sheltered me all weekend, helping me fly below the radar. They enjoyed their wine with dinner and through evening conversations, I sipped my substitute, everything was fine.

It was a fun weekend, but by keeping a secret I was also creating  internal drama and chaos unnecessarily. I just couldn’t imagine a girls’ getaway without alcohol because I still believed that alcohol was essential for every occasion. I assumed my new reality a life of resistance in a drinking world and I hoped it would get easier.

Five-and-a-half years later, a few things are different:

  • I no longer hide the fact that I don’t drink
  • I actually like being alcohol-free
  • I am better at assessing which invitations to accept and which to decline
  • I have friends in recovery to plan events with
  • I have built new ways to connect with my friends who do drink

So what is the social life of a non-drinker? Here is a peek at my calendar:

In October I hosted two girls’ getaways at our mountain cabin- one was my book club (mostly normies and 2 sober chicks) and one was a group of sober friends from afar who plan occasional meetups.

The book club getaway was just one night and included a huge feast of a supper, late night saunas and hot tub time, lots of laughing and story-telling. After dark, I brought out a set of glowing poi balls, which a lit balls on strings for spinning like this:

As you can surely imagine, we took turns attempting to twirl and spin gracefully with hilarious results. If you ever want to see a group of women laugh until they cry, go outside after dark with a set of spin balls. No alcohol necessary!

The next morning was all pjs and coffee and chats, when suddenly someone remembered we’d forgotten to talk about about the book! It was a book club meeting after all so we managed to squeak in a book discussion before packing up and heading home.

The next girls’ weekend at the cabin was for three days and included friends that travelled long distances to be together. What a time we had and not one drop of booze was considered or missed! I love to cook and organized the food, plus we had a massage therapist come out and set up a mini spa one day. We hiked, ate healthy meals and treats, talked late, slept in, and shared our stories.

Tomorrow night I am going to a play with a friend, one of the girls who went to Spokane years ago. Although it took me a while to confess to her that I had quit drinking, when I finally did she was very supportive and insightful. It was she who taught me to bring my own drinks wherever I went, and who stocked her fridge with Perrier just for me. She was the one who sent a box of chocolate-covered strawberries on my first sober-versary with a note saying “Now you get to have fun discovering other ways to indulge!”

On Wednesday nights I curl with my husband in a mixed league at the local rink. There is beer everywhere before and after the game, but the focus is on curling and I find it easy to enjoy myself there. We rotate positions and I often volunteer to play lead or second, which involves the vigours of sweeping rocks for three other players so provides the most exercise. My teammates are happy to oblige. Every week we play a different foursome which means I get to meet new people and I am finding this socializing to be good for my spirits.

We were invited to a Halloween Party this past weekend but instead opted for something even better: having our 2-year-old grandson for a sleepover. Being alcohol-free is most important to me in my family roles, especially as a (young!) grandma. To be 100% present allows me to soak in every moment with this little one instead of waiting for his bedtime so I could drink. It allows me to wake up and arrange his berries and orange slices in a funny face on the plate and the giggle at his response, instead of wincing and reaching for the Tylenol. It allows me take him for a walk in the park, looking for bunnies and fish, without ever swatting away voices whispering I don’t deserve to be so happy.

If you are wondering how you will ever have fun again without alcohol, believe me: it is possible. Start by reframing  existing friendships around something other than drinking together (go for breakfast, meet at Starbucks or for a walk). If that isn’t possible, perhaps that person is not a real friend but merely a drinking buddy. As well, make some new connections to build yourself a sober community.

The best thing I ever did was to meet other women in recovery, and for me these relationships were initiated at SheRecovers events and then carried on through our own meetups and gatherings. (Come to New York in May ladies, and I’ll help you connect!)

Recovery groups like AA or SmartRecovery are another place to build relationships. Most of us fear we won’t fit in or tell ourselves, “I’m not one of THOSE people” but the big surprise is that those rooms are full of normal, good people like you and me who share the goal of staying alcohol-free.

As the holiday season looms ahead, this is a great time to think about ways to stay social without endangering recovery. Our social lives should support and strengthen our decision to live in freedom and peace. Does yours?



Feedback Friday: What Changed?

I made this inspirational graphic for my UnPickled Facebook page and it clearly hit home for a lot of people. 
“To recover is to create a life in which numbness is no longer necessary for survival.”

For me, this meant stopping my “perfectionist hustle” – the insatiable appetite for approval, the endless busy-ness of trying (dying) to *earn* my place on this earth through achievements and accolades.  It’s meant tinkering under my own hood and challenging some of my long-held beliefs that were not so much truths but misinterpreted lessons from childhood. 

What have you changed about yourself and your life to make numbing unnecessary? 

Please share, and then stop back to see what others have written as well. 

It’s Not Your Fault

I was about to post the following quote on the UnPickled Facebook  page but stopped short for fear of backlash:



I love this saying and I use it all the time when I am talking to people who are struggling, but it can sound like a cop-out to someone who doesn’t understand addiction.

Addiction comes from using, so how can it not be the addict’s fault? If someone chooses to use, shouldn’t they accept the blame for what comes next?

Well that’s the thing, you see, it’s not necessarily a choice to keep using.

Casual drinkers experience alcohol in a way that is social and fun, but they have the ability to stop drinking. They can take it or leave it. It’s a treat, and they know not to over-do on treats. From a casual drinkers perspective it can appear that people who drink too much are choosing the pleasant treat too frequently and need to use more self-control.

If you scroll through the 6000+ comments on the pages of this blog (holy shit!), you will find virtually no one who says, “I should quit drinking but I am just having so much fun.”

Addiction is not fun. Addiction is not a life anyone wants.

Addiction means drinking (or using) to feel normal. Addiction means that without the substance, withdrawals start in the form of  pain, anxiety or obsessive thoughts or more obvious symptoms like shaking or sweating.

The thing to blame for addiction is the fact that alcohol is addictive and yet people are expected to use it without consequence. We know not to start smoking if we don’t want to get addicted. We know that drinking coffee every morning will get us hooked on caffeine. Addiction is the normal course of action for using addictive substances. To drink or use drugs WITHOUT becoming addicted is abnormal.

Why why why why do we expect alcohol to be anything other than it is?

The other tricky thing about addiction is that it creeps in slowly and alters self-perception, so it can take a long time to become aware it has developed. Even then, so much shame and stigma exists around addiction that the first reaction can be denial out of self-preservation.

To be fair, it should also be said that people in the throes of addiction can be mighty assholes who defend indefensible behaviour by blaming others. How painful and frustrating it can be for those living with an addict who appears to be having a great time at their expense while taking zero responsibility. How infuriating it must be to see a quote saying “addiction is not your fault…” when you see the same pattern repeating again and again. Fair enough, that is hard, but please understand: addiction isn’t anyone’s fault. 

Forget fault. Forget blame, shame, and guilt.

Addiction is a reality, and realities must be dealt with. Trade blame for acceptance and responsibility. Yes, this falls squarely on the shoulders of the addict, who can only assume responsibility by accepting the reality of their own addiction.

Blame lives in the past, hope lies in the future, but recovery happens in each present moment where acceptance and responsibility are found.



The Role of Ego in Recovery

When sober people gather, we often start to speak a different language.

“He’s one of us” means someone is an alcoholic, whether or not in recovery.  Someone who “went back out” has relapsed. “Normies” are drinkers who are not addicted.

There are dialects to this language, depending on program influences. For example, people in AA often refer to themselves as “friends of Bill W”, and call quitting without a program “white knuckling”. Meanwhile, people in SMART Recovery use a lot of acronyms such as CBA (cost-benefit analysis), DIBs (disruptive irrational beliefs), and REBT (rational emotive behavioural therapy). AA uses acronyms too, but they are more to remember helpful cliches rather than therapy tools (“YET: You’re Eligible Too”, “KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid”, “ODAAT: One Day at a Time”.

Usually these phrases, words, acronyms and cliches are clear and helpful. One word, however, can give us some trouble: EGO.


Most people (normies, that is) equate ego with vanity and narcissism, considering it to be a negative quality. Recovery puts a more complicated twist on those three little letters: e, g, o. Given that the main difference between AA and SMART recovery is powerlessness vs empowerment, respectively, it only makes sense that each would have a different take on the concept of ego.

AA offers another acronym to illustrate its perspective on ego: Edging God Out. Ego is that part of us that is deeply affected by addiction – pushing God away by simultaneous feelings of pride (“I can handle things just fine on my own”) and shame (“I don’t deserve help from God”). The program is based on this chasm between us and God as being the void we try to fill with alcohol – a spiritual sickness that our addiction leverages to sustain itself. The 12 steps work to address the ego, admitting powerlessness and handing things over to a Higher Power – a process that brings healing and insight.

On the other hand, SMART Recovery looks at ego in more psychoanalytical terms. It is our self-awareness and identity, something we can harness and use to drive change. Ego is who we are, not what we do. This program focuses understanding the connection between thoughts and behaviours, working to understand why we have over-invested in maladaptive coping strategies and creating new ways to respond to our environment. Making these changes means using the ego rather than overcoming it, while assessing whether the self is being influenced by irrational beliefs or fears.

My goal here isn’t to show one perspective as being better than the other, but rather that we have to understand the very different premise of both pathways in order to make sense of what sometimes feels like mixed messages. Both programs champion abstinence and connecting with community. They have the same goals but take different routes to arrive. Each has something to offer and some find one fits better than the other for them. Many, like myself, make use of both as resources and have friends in both programs. This is where the language can overlap, where patience and understanding must come into play.

Ego kept me drinking, it’s true. I felt too proud to ask for help, and believed I couldn’t possibly be addicted to alcohol – that was for “other” people. That is the ego that AA speaks of, the prideful mind that causes destruction by attempting to hold power.

Yet it was also ego that got me sober by whispering, “I can change, I can make this happen!” It was self-awareness and self-respect that helped me press on – something SMART Recovery advocates identify as an “internal locus of control”. Ego served me well, in that case.

I admit that sometimes the ego-cliches frustrate me. It can be a “garbage can” phrase that serves as a catch-all for aspects of willfulness, arrogance, pride. But we have to remember that things aren’t always as they seem. If someone is offended by criticism, what appears as injured pride could easily be self-protection from the opening of an old wound – such as a painful childhood memory resurfacing. To brush that off as mere ego would be a missed opportunity to heal and grow.

So do we feed the ego or annihilate it? I think the answer lies in being gentle with ourselves and others. Understanding the many facets of and uses for ego helps us know ourselves better. The question I am learning to ask, regardless of recovery pathway embraced, is “what’s really going on here?” The acronyms, cliches, theories, and memes are simply tools to help us better answer that essential question.

Back up, reassess, move forward differently. That is recovery.

5 Common Questions of the Newly Sober

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to in recovery started out by asking themselves these five questions:

  1. Am I Really an Alcoholic?

We have this idea that there are two kinds of drinkers: the good people who can handle it and the bad people who lose control and become alcoholics. No one wants to cross the line and join the losing team. No one is excited about a new identity that carries enormous social stigma and shame. The notion alone kept me drinking long after I knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to wear that label, and anyway how could I be the “A” word? I was successful and happy, not miserable and screwed up. I just needed to get my nightly wine habit under control (whatever that meant).

To quit drinking simply makes us “non-drinkers”, not necessarily “alcoholics”. Forget labels, diagnosis, teams, categories, or stereotypes.

The underlying question is really, “Is it really necessary for me to give up alcohol entirely?” Going back to the idea of good drinkers/bad drinkers, most of us connect abstinence with addiction and resist it because it carries an identity of shame.

Some common advice is this: If you’re not sure whether or not you need to quit drinking, try moderating. Put it in writing (“I will only drink on Friday nights, and I will stop after two drinks” or “I will not exceed weekly guidelines for healthy drinking”) and see how that goes. Some people in successful recovery may roll their eyes at this point, some will chuckle knowingly, and some will nod sadly. That’s because almost all of us tried it ourselves – multiple times – and failed repeatedly. That’s why we had to quit, because we couldn’t moderate.

Generally speaking, people who don’t have a problem with drinking alcohol also don’t have a problem with NOT drinking alcohol. So if sticking to a written intention is un-doable, then it is likely that the best outcome will result from abstinence.

  1. Do I Have to Quit Forever?

Many of us have heard that alcohol addiction is for life; it doesn’t go away and can’t be healed, only managed as a chronic condition. The general consensus is that life-long abstinence is best, and that can be an overwhelming prospect at first.

Focus on today, not forever.  I am not always a fan of 12-step slogans, but I can attest to the wisdom of “one day at a time” and “just for today” and “easy does it”.

Anyone who has gotten to the point where alcohol seems to be taking over daily life (my experience) or has become a dangerous unpredictable force (such as occasional but extreme black-out binges) needs peace and freedom from the negative relationship with alcohol. The easiest way to achieve that is to take it day by day, moment by moment, until some new healthier habits start to form. It does get easier.

Another slogan I find helpful when the concept of “forever” seems impossible is “Just do the next right thing.”

If recovery slogans put you off, there are plenty of old corny jokes with the same message:

“How do you eat an elephant?” (One bite at a time!)

  1. How Do I Know When I Have Hit “Rock Bottom”?

Hey guess what? Rock bottom is not a prerequisite for recovery! The only requirement is motivation. If you are inspired to quit drinking before it destroys your life, then you are among the lucky ones. Your challenge will be to stay motivated and maintain the drive.

Unfortunately, “rock bottom” is a stereotype that is perpetuated by virtue of its visibility. When someone in our community or a high-profile newsmaker is out of control, we are all witness to the evidence and curiosity keeps us following their journey through disaster to (we hope) recovery. The media prints graphic photos of the hot-mess-of-the-month, then updates us on subsequent court proceedings, incarceration or rehab, and hints at a triumphant return to great heights. Movies are not made about the soccer mom that quietly switches to tea and blogs anonymously. Where’s the drama? Where’s the hook? Still, it is an equally common reality.

Once addiction takes hold, it rarely seems to self-resolve. The normal pattern for addiction is that it only gets worst until the pattern is stopped. Rock bottom looms as the ultimate destination, but it is possible to get off the ride at any time. For those who are either oblivious their problem’s momentum, or not able to stop for whatever reason (social, physical, economic, and/or  mental circumstances), it may not be possible to muster sufficient motivation to quit drinking until something catastrophic occurs that removes all other options.

  1. Will I Have to Go to Meetings?

There are many different pathways to recovery. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, programs such as SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Life Ring, and Celebrate Recovery offer alternative group methods. I have many friends who attend meetings and absolutely love them.

Another option is to self-manage your own recovery, drawing from a combination of materials and philosophies of different pathways. The drawback to this method is that it is easy to remain isolated, and I’ve learned that there is true  JOY in spending time with other people who understand what it’s like to go through these changes. I strongly suggest that anyone who tries getting sober on their own reach out and look for ways to create a support network.  Being connected to other people also helps to keep you accountable, gives an outlet to celebrate small victories, or a safe place to seek advice. Check out Mrs. D’s new Living Sober community, join the Booze Free Brigade online support group (not just for parents, as the intro page suggests), or check out Belle’s 100 Day Challenge.

To quit drinking without attending a program or meetings  – sometimes referred to as “white knuckling it” –  is often dismissed critically, usually those who see it as a rejection of a program they love dearly. Many suggest it is a sure recipe for failure. I can tell you that I have 3 years and 8 months of solid sobriety without ever joining a program. The difference between a “white knuckle” approach and good recovery, in my humble opinion, is the willingness to go beyond abstinence and dig into exploring the dark recesses of the mind and heart that felt the urgent need to numb and escape. That is where true recovery originates, and it is not an easy process. Unearthing old wounds, changing self-awareness and understanding, developing new ways to address and express pain, identifying resentments and healing them, creating better ways of thinking and interacting with ourselves and others – these are goals of recovery that steps, therapy, and behaviour modification programs are all working towards. THAT is the work of recovery, and THAT is where things really get better after the alcohol is out of the picture. How you attain them – through a program or on your own – is your choice.

PS – The only people who “have to” go to meetings are those who are court-ordered.

  1. Should I Go Away to Rehab?

There is no easy answer to this. I have heard from some people who voluntarily went to rehab and loved the experience. I expect that they were already highly motivated to make a change, and might have succeeded with or without treatment. Some others I know went to rehab as a result of a low bottom experience or intervention and had no other options (perhaps because the court, an employer, or family members demanded they attend). Again, motivation and willingness can determine whether or not treatment will be effective, and if rehab is a positive experience.

Even if rehab isn’t absolutely “necessary” – I considered it but got sober without treatment – it is a possibility worth exploring.

Medical detox should also be looked into, because alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous for some. Most of us remember movies like Trainspotting and think that withdrawal from hard drugs must be life-threatening because it is so horrific. In fact, the only two withdrawals that can cause death are (surprisingly!) alcohol and benzodiazepines. I am not an expert so I won’t dispense advice except to suggest researching Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and decide what is best for you. Most of us are scared to tell our doctors about our alcohol struggles, but that is truly a great starting point. It is time to get honest.

To hear some first-hand accounts of rehab and PAWS, check out these episodes of the Bubble Hour:

I Don’t Even Like Myself

In the old days, recovery was simple. Not easy, but simple: hit rock bottom and join a twelve-step group.

In the 1980s, private residential treatment facilities exploded onto the scene and with them came options: in-patient treatment, outpatient programs and prescription-assisted detox. Hit rock bottom, go to rehab, stabilize, join a twelve-step group as after-care.

Since the 1990s the internet has added a new level of private empowerment, whereby one could seek out information and support without having to muster the courage to face another human being. This gave many individuals, including me, the ability to identify and confront alcohol addiction long before the disease spiraled down to a disastrous “rock bottom” scenario.

The old days of the “world wide web” have evolved into an interconnectedness that is ever present – in our pockets and our purses, on our counters and desktops.  As social media replaced old-school chat rooms, our identities have become enmeshed with our online activities and it has become harder to be private about anything, anywhere.

What a challenge this presents for a person in recovery who wishes for balance between anonymity and support! What a conundrum for a recovery advocate like myself, whose efforts are focused on a global reach through blogging, podcasting, and social media while remaining utterly silent in my own community about my identity as “UnPickled”.

I don’t even like myself.

That’s not a statement of low self-esteem, it’s literally a fact: I have not “liked” my UnPickled FaceBook Page from my personal profile. Or The Bubble Hour’s page either, even though I am a co-host of the show!  I don’t retweet between my separate Twitter accounts, or share the rather fabulous (I must say) graphic quotes I create.

Here’s the thing: it’s complicated.  It is a matter of privacy, not shame.  It is a matter of protecting others around me in recovery, those who might be less inclined to meet me for a much-needed Starbuck’s tete-a-tete if I am as visible and vocal about my alcoholism in my (small, Bible-belt) hometown as I am online. And partly a matter of ensuring I fully understand the purpose (and wisdom) of the tradition of anonymity before I blow it off. It’s hard to put that toothpaste back into the tube.

While it is true that someone who really wanted to suss out my identity could do so rather easily, I am not at all concerned if readers of UnPickled know who I really am. I just haven’t figured out the other side of the coin: telling my community that I have a secret life as a recovery advocate – a pretty well-established one at that.

Social media is framed around “likes” and “shares” but my pages are regularly viewed and revisited by many individuals who are quietly seeking. They need to be able to tiptoe through undetected, and I welcome and respect that. I don’t care about hits or likes or stats. (Okay that’s bullshit – I’m hooked on validation but it’s a flaw I am working on.)

My one fear is to miss the chance to connect with others around me. It feels strange to openly help the world but to walk past someone on my own street that might be in need. Would knowing my secret give them courage and hope?

I am uneasy with feeling inauthentic or duplicitous. As was pointed out in the documentary The Anonymous People, we get mixed messages in recovery. We are told “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and in the next breath encouraged to remain anonymous. There are good reasons for both – please resist the urge to blast me with comments defending your program – but this “catch 22” does present a challenge. A challenge that, for now, I will continue to ponder.

I don’t “like” myself, and I understand if you don’t “like” me either.

Just keep coming back.

Ten Ways I Bettered the World This Week

Ask a person in recovery – a happy one, that is – the secret for long term success and the answer will likely include the word “service”. What that involves may be much different than you’d expect.

I was shocked and pleased by the outpouring of support I received from others when I began blogging on “Day One” without alcohol. There were so many kind, encouraging comments from complete strangers who simply understood the struggle. What a wonderful surprise! As it turns out, the twelfth step of AA is to help others selflessly because giving sends strength in both directions.

I am not in a twelve step program or any program, but I respectfully draw from the wisdom they provide.  I reviewed AA’s 12 Steps and SMART Recovery’s 4 Principles to ask why each one is helpful, how I could make use of it or adapt it for my own self-managed pathway.

At first I assumed the concept of “service” simply referred to being a sponsor of someone else in a program. Then I realized that all the comments and support I was receiving on my blog were acts of service, and that I was benefitting greatly from them. I began to follow suit and encourage new readers in the same way – a wonderful shared experience. Eventually I saw many opportunities to be of service in everyday life, as well.

I’ve always been a people pleaser, but that is not the same as service. People-pleasing is doing things to make others like us. At its core, it is manipulative and self-centered. Service is about helping others without any expectations. Big difference. BIG difference. Check your motivation: are you doing things for others as an act of pure kindness or because you want them to like you, feel beholden to you, or to prove that you are a martyr?

I have had to work hard on this shift, I confess. I see the results in lowered resentments, higher self-esteem, and a true feeling of joy.

Here are ten simple ways that I gave service this week:

  • Answering UnPickled blog comments and emails. It takes courage for a reader to make a comment on a recovery blog, whether it is to ask for help or to say “me too”, so I always do my best to respond. In fact, any time we take a moment to respond to any blog post or comment – regardless of the subject matter – we are acknowledging another person’s efforts and showing gratitude.
  • Sending surprise gifts. I was shopping and stumbled across a clearance rack of cute socks. Impulsively I scooped up ten pairs for friends, and realized I would then need envelopes to send them by mail. I hunted those down next and brought home my little bundle. I went through my address books and randomly chose names, reminding myself that the purpose was kindness and not to be a people pleaser. I tucked a short note into each parcel, which only took a moment but is itself a rare gift these days. This was a great exercise and I am so excited to drop them into the mail today.
  • Shoveled beyond my own sidewalk. Yesterday was out first big snowfall of the year here in southern Alberta and it was a doozy. Instead of hopping on the treadclimber for exercise, I headed out to shovel our driveway and noticed that our neighbours on both sides were not yet cleared. One neighbour has two small children and often works late shifts, the other has a son in hockey and is out the door before sunrise on Saturdays to head for the rink. I knew both would appreciate having their sidewalks cleared, but I stopped myself. Maybe they won’t appreciate the gesture. Maybe they won’t even notice. Maybe they will never reciprocate. Pause, focus Jean. Kindness, right? Is this a kind thing to do? Yes. Will it help them regardless? Yes. Okay then, let’s proceed.
  • Next I was headed to the grocery store. I took a moment to call my elderly parents and ask if they needed anything. Again, had to remind myself that this was not a “good girl” move but an act of kindness to save them from having to go out on a snowy day. They needed nothing, and I was interrupting Murdoch Mysteries.
  • I saw that an obituary in the paper for old acquaintance of my father and offered to take my dad to the funeral. This was not someone either of us knew particularly well, but I had a feeling that he might want to attend if given the opportunity. My dad is no longer able to drive and hates to ask for rides unless absolutely necessary. I am so glad we went, as it was a chance for my dad to offer a gesture of kindness to the grieving family. His days of shoveling snow for the neighbours are over, and he needs opportunities for service just as much as anyone else.
  • I take my neighbours garbage can to the curb if it isn’t already out when I am moving my own. Missing garbage pickup sucks, and as I said they re a busy family with little kids so I presume that their garbage can is full of diapers that really need to be emptied!
  • I tweet kudos whenever I receive good customer service, taking care to tag the business. Another option is to simply thank someone who treats you well and say, “I appreciate the way you do your job.” This goes a long way, I promise. One of my sons works in the food industry and he often shares how meaningful and encouraging he finds customer compliments. They not only make his day, but perpetuate his resolve to continue to work hard.
  • I let the neighbours know that I enjoy their children. Our kids are grown and our household is pretty quiet, and often our neighbours will apologize for their kids’ noise. I could easily say, “no problem” and stop at that, but I make the extra effort to say, “You have great kids and we love hearing them play. It is a happy sound.” Again, the point is not to be sugary sweet so they will like me better, but to ease any worries they may have – don’t young parents have enough to worry about already?
  • Recovery has made me a nicer driver! I let people merge. I wave if they let me in. I assume the slow driver ahead of me is learning, elderly, or lost – not an “asshole” or an “idiot”. In my drinking days I was careful not to drive drunk, but I surely was dysfunctional behind the wheel. All my resentments, anxieties, and insecurities were aimed at everyone else. I can literally feel the difference in my heart now when I am in traffic.
  • I rarely walk past littler without picking it up and tossing it in the nearest garbage can. Nothing gross, of course, but if someone has randomly tossed a cup or wrapper I think nothing of whisking it up on my way by. This is a habit I formed long ago, hoping others would notice and (a) think highly of me and (b) follow suit. (Or at least stop effing littering. Jeez!) My new perspective shift has me checking myself to do it simply as an act of service – see or unseen – because it is right.

Now it is your turn to reflect. What can you do for someone else today? What kindness did you perform yesterday? What do you do every day to be of service, and do you have the right mindset? Please share your thoughts and ideas below – an act of service in itself to inspire us all!

Secrets: Superfood for Your Addiction

Secrets: The Superfood of Addiction

How many green smoothies are clogging your news feed on Facebook and Pinterest these days? Every day it’s another picture posted by another person gushing about the merits of their baby-poop-coloured concoction.

Now I like smoothies on occasion and yes I, too, have been delighted to find that adding a bag of spinach to raspberries and yogurt in a blender tastes surprisingly good. I swear, though, that half of these folks really just want you to know that they gagged it down and are digesting 5 cups of spinach RIGHT NOW. (Note: give it a couple of hours and then update us on the outcome…or…don’t.)

Between the weird smoothie craze and all the noise about gojii berries, acacia juice, and coconut oil, we are constantly bombarded with the notion of “superfoods”.

When I hear that someone is on a whole food, super food, raw food diet I think, “Wow, how do you even manage that?” There was a time, two and a half years ago, when I wondered the exact same thing about people who don’t drink, or even those who drink normally.

“How do you manage an evening without drinking?” I’d wonder. “Do people just, like, have water? Or tea? And then read or go to bed? And feel happy about that?” I’d spent so many years unwinding with wine in the evening, (or eventually at the end of the day because evening didn’t come fast enough), that I could no longer even imagine life without it.

­­Since I pledged recovery (a new phrase I’m liking better than “got sober” or “quit drinking” – let me know your thoughts, please) – since I pledged recovery I have not looked back. It was hard at first but it got easier and easier with time to form new patterns and habits. And yes, a cup of tea and a good book really does make for a fine evening.

Perhaps most surprising to me is that the changes continue, the recovery continues; even after all this time. My peace has grown exponentially in recent months as a result of examining the secrets I’ve kept hidden inside.

Have you ever run into the store to pick up one or two items and instead ended up filling your arms and tottering to the cashier? And when a helpful clerk says, “Here, hon, let me help you”, it’s almost a bother because you can’t seem give over one thing without toppling the whole load? You finally start setting it all down and it’s kind of a shock to realize you had a six pack of Gatorade hanging off your right pinky and a tube of toothpaste tucked under your chin and a can of tomatoes centered perfectly in your palm with a watermelon nestled in the crook of each arm. “Whoa, why the hell didn’t I use a cart?” you marvel and feel slightly impressed with your juggling abilities.

That was exactly my experience when I started to realize the shitload of secrets I was protecting. Yes, yes I am familiar with the good old AA mantra, “you’re only as sick as your secrets”. But I hate clichés and especially those with alliteration.

And besides, I thought the secrets that particular expression refers to are only DRINKING secrets. I didn’t have any left really – well except that I had drank in secret. And recovered in secret. And blog secretly.

But lets talk about other secrets. The “peed my pants in sixth grade” variety. Or maybe those private things we call “indiscretions”. Secret things I dislike about myself. Dumb stuff I’m embarrassed I ever took part in. Weaknesses and failures. None of these things have ANYTHING to do with my addiction, though. Right?

My vision is of a garbage can that I have to drag around with me and sit on top of at all times to make sure that nothing gets out and no one peeks in. Of course, I have painted that garbage can and bedazzled it so it looks good on the outside. I can tap dance on top of it and pretend it is a stage. Or a soap box for mighty narrations. But inside, inside are all those secrets piled together. I don’t know what all is even in there after all these years but I know it will stink if I lift the lid and I’m sure as hell not going to let YOU catch a whiff.

Dragging this can around is exhausting. The job of sitting on the lid limits my activities and freedom to choose. I’m tired of waving my arms and telling knock-knock jokes to try and distract from its presence.

Fuck it. Let’s tip this sucker over.

Whoa – metaphor overload! Green smoothies and shopping carts and garbage cans. Are you still with me? Let’s bring it on home.

Addiction feeds on secrets – especially those sneaky ones you don’t even realize are tucked under your chin or dangling off your pinkie. The things we think are true about ourselves that must be hidden from others are especially destructive. That’s the spinach in addiction’s smoothie. The stuff you know you hide, the stuff in your own garbage can, that’s just old junk holding you back.

Dump it out. Set it down. Have a look – it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as you think. Face it, think about it. Look in the mirror and say, “Yep, that really happened.” You’d be amazed how quickly the power dissolves when you share it with another person, if you dare.

It feels great to be more than just sober.

It is great to truly be recovering.

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