An Update - What I've been up to!

“There’s so much to write about that I’m having a hard time narrowing it down.”

Those are the words that I typed to a friend this past weekend.

She asked what I was doing, and I replied that I was sitting on the patio, writing. She asked if I was writing a blog post and I said no, I’m writing copy for a new retreat launching soon (more details in the coming weeks).

Her nudge helped me set aside the time to sit down and write to you.

Truth be told, I’ve really enjoyed the break from being online and feeling the need to be connecting online all of the time. 5 years in my business and equally as long on this journey of redefining sobriety for myself, I needed an opportunity just to “BE” with myself and my life and my healing and growth without having to figure out how to process it or share it.

(I was able to release myself from the "shoulds" of how often I should be posting, what I should be writing about, which social media channels I should be posting on... there are so many shoulds that consume us online service providers!)

Through the fall/last quarter of the year, I was also DEEEEEEP healing around sexual trauma that I experienced in my teens and early adult years, while at the same time working to heal my co-dependency and finally learning how to truly be on my own. I was writing a lot about what I was going through, writing almost every day, but it felt (and still does) too personal to share.

That being said, I think about you and my community a lot! While I haven’t been as active online, I’ve had the opportunity to continue working with some incredible people, privately and in groups, so believe it or not, the work continues whether or not I’m sharing about it online ;)

Here’s the brief summary of what I’ve been up to since the new year:

In January, I mostly focused on friends/family and two fundraisers for my daughter’s school, as well as a writing an organizational review for the non-profit I founded 10+ years ago and for whom I still serve on the board of directors (if you’re curious about that work,you can check out Youth RISE here!)

February was the month of LOVE and I organized another fundraiser/Valentine’s day party, practiced a lot of loving myself through the beginning of some health challenges (I’ll share more about this at a future date), and co-hosted the Sensual Alchemy Retreat with Tatiana Dellepiane, which was powerful and transformative beyond words.

In March, I curated and helped host another retreat for my friend Chantelle Adams. It was a super fun, very creative experience, and I was so grateful to have been able to support this group of incredible entrepreneurs to show up and be of service through their business.

My amazing collaborator and co-coach Matthew Hayes and I started our second round of The Discovery Room, an intimate group coaching experience where we support participants to make a BIG shift in their lives, quickly.

Through the first 3 months of the year, I also welcomed 5 new incredibly aligned clients into my private practice and felt deep gratitude that these women found me on the internet and decided to change their lives through diving deep into the work with me.

You might be aware that last year I bought land, 30 minutes southwest of where I live now in Mexico, in a tiny town called Puertecito. The goal is to build a wellness/retreat center, and in the past few months and with the help of my incredible client turned friend turned business partner, we began working on the incorporation and development of our corporation (first step to being able to have land ownership and run a business here) here in a more dedicated and focused way.

All of this was happening and then mid-march, I got sick. Really sick. And have spent the past month slowly recovering. Not being able to get out of bed, having to ask for help with my daughter, re-evaluating my work-load and priorities, have all been humbling experiences. I also plan on sharing more about this soon too :)

So that’s the quick and dirty update. Each one of these topics could have been expanded into its own blog, and maybe they will.

I’ve set another intention for myself to write every day for the next 30 day, and I would love to hear - what would you like to read about? Are there things that you are curious about?

I’ve also started a list of topics that have come up recently in private sessions and group work, and I’m considering writing more about. Here’s what I have so far:

  • The purpose of triggers and how they can help you
  • The fact that you can’t selectively numb (if you numb/push away the pain, you’re also pushing away the love and joy)
  • Noticing the old stories and consciously choosing to write a new one
  • How to stop being so damn hard on yourself
  • Understanding your unconscious motivations (basic fear/avoidance, basic desire) and what they have to do with your choices around alcohol
  • Why changing your relationship to alcohol is just the tip of the iceberg

Which speaks to you? Which topic would be most helpful to you right now?

With love and a ton of gratitude,


Valentine's Day

It's "that" time of year again when a certain Hallmark holiday rolls around. Yes, the one that is potentially really triggering whether or not you are partnered.

I wanted to pop in here real quick to remind you about how loveable you are. How deserving of love you are. How perfect you are. How proud of you I am! (because you're here, you're doing the work, you've shown up - you're reading this email!)

I was interviewed for a podcast a couple of days ago and we spoke a lot about the concept of Radical Self Love. Because really truly loving ourselves for exactly who we are IS radical. It's something not many of us are taught.
It takes practice.
It takes intention.
It takes showing up.

Sometimes, it requires having friends and supporters around us to remind us when we forget or feel like we've somehow F-up again.

Sometimes, Radical Self-Love is about what we do for ourselves (ie Radical Self Care) because connecting with that feeling of self-love can be hard sometimes... so we commit to actions and rituals to SHOW our love for ourselves.

What are some examples?

Well, of course, drinking less or not at all.
Taking good care of your body.
Getting enough sleep.
Moving in ways that feel gooooood for your body and not like punishment.
Giving yourself permission.
Setting clear boundaries.
Communicating honestly.
Alone time.
Morning and/or evening practices.
Connecting with your desires and honouring them by writing them down.

Which of these self-care/self-loving practices do you want to recommit to?

What can you DO for yourself today to SHOW yourself LOVE?

Just over a week ago I was sitting with a friend and we slipped into complaining and feeling ambivalent about Valentine's Day and the options available to us.

Gratefully, we were able to switch gears and turn our frustration into fuel to create the exact experience that we wanted. So today I'll be celebrating with fresh juices, and mocktails and we've created love-themed cocktails though I've set my intention not to drink at all, and tasty healthy treats, and my favourite local band and dj, and a dance party and pool party with all of my favourite people and raising money for a good cause (the vets who provide free sterilization and education campaigns for street dogs and low-income folks in our community to get their pets fixed or to receive medical attention). Basically, most of the things I love doing all packed into one evening.

Now, I'm not saying that YOU need to go out and become an event planner ;) however, I am sharing this example of how getting clear on your desires and taking action can be a form of loving yourself AND being proactive about getting your needs met.

Also, if you're feeling really down - altruism has been shown to activate the same part of your brain that receives pleasure from social attachment and bonding - so get out there and be of service if you're feeling low about your relationship status this year (again, that goes for whether or not you're in a relationship!)

Something I love about where I live in Mexico is that the 14th is celebrated as "El dia del amor y la amistad" = the day of love AND friendship.

I will definitely be taking time today to let me friends know how much they mean to me because really, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the incredible, strong, intuitive, open-minded and hearted, inspiring humans who have repeatedly shown up for me and loved me even when I was having a hard time loving myself.

On that note, sending YOU lots of love and endless gratitude for being here.


10 Year Challenge

You may have seen, or already participated in, the “10-year challenge” that is circulating on social media (or what may have started as the #HowHardDidAgingHitYou challenge which thankfully was re-dubbed the “#GlowUp” or 10 years later challenge).

I hesitated posting about “10 years ago me” … and NOT because ageing “hit me hard.”

I definitely, proudly and gratefully fall into the “Glow up” camp - ageing has been good to me in so many ways.

And that’s exactly what it was hard to look back.

I have very few public photos of that time of my life. When I scrolled through my Facebook albums last night (many of which I now have set to private so that only I can see them), I noticed two distinctly different sets of photos.

There were the “look at me doing my global consultant thang” photos of me overachieving (and yes, doing important work) around the world as a human rights and public health advocate and policy consultant.

And then there are the photos of my partying around the world.

You can guess which ones are set to private.

What I find interesting is that at the time, I didn’t realize I was living this double life that was so drastically different. I was just me. Just as being plagued by anxiety, and eventually insomnia, dealing with stress-related acne and skin problems, living in chaos and drama, and never feeling like I was doing or being enough (whether that was in a conference room or on the dance floor) was “just me.”

I had also forgotten that I had made those albums private. I guess at one point early in my healing journey I had wanted to distance myself from that version of me.

Now, I’m loving and accepting of that woman I was 10 years ago. I have a lot more compassion and understanding of her, though I’m a lot happier inside the woman I am today.

And for those reasons, I decided to jump into this retrospective. Here's my 2009-2019. The picture on the far left was my profile picture for part of 2009. The picture on the right is one my most recent pictures that I truly feel represents how I feel right now, heading into 2019.

10 years ago I had a tough exterior. This was the protection I had used since I was a teen. Nobody knew how much pain 10 years ago me was living with, much less myself.

10 years ago, I was what you might have described as “overtly sexual.” I used my sexuality as a tool, for approval and validation, for (what I thought was) connection, for escape.

10 years ago, you would have seen me clutching a drink, as I was in one of the pictures from the series of pictures that evening in 2009.

I remember the morning after the night shown here more vividly than I remember the evening (the pictures help me piece it together but I can’t tell you where we were or what music we were dancing to).

I had to catch a flight the morning after this photo was taken (ok realistically, probably a few hours after this photo was taken)

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

Yep, missed the flight. I remember pulling myself out of a murky sleep and through the hangover fog and realizing that the time on the clock was the time I was supposed to be checking into my flight. And I was faaaarrr from the airport.

My life was fairly chaotic and always a whirlwind, this particular morning was no exception.

(I thought of it as a whirlwind; my youngest sister described me as a hurricane.)

10 years ago, I was receiving accolades in my work, was travelling internationally and getting ready to move to Cambodia, where I would spend the next couple of years working throughout South East Asia.

10 years ago, I hadn’t reached my lowest point yet. I had taken a 1.5 years off of alcohol and drugs slightly prior to this photo being taken. But that was it, just a break. Not really doing the inner work necessary to make any kind of sustainable inner shift.

It would be a year or two after this picture was taken that I crashed.

I was drinking myself to sleep every night, and combining alcohol with a dangerous mix of sleeping pills, and blacking out from binge drinking almost every weekend. I was also using sex as an escape, heartbroken after my marriage was dissolving and hellbent on keeping the loneliness and feelings of brokenness and unworthiness far far away from me.

In the past 5 +  years of redefining my relationship to alcohol (and other drugs), I’ve also been redefining my relationship to my body, to my sexuality, to work, to “accomplishing,” to all the things I used to numb and distract myself … from myself.

This past year, I went particularly deep, and actually reached a new low point. Yet this low point was different. This was really going deep, intentionally. Deep into the pain and trauma that I had been hiding from for a lifetime. It was raw, at times anxiety-fuelled, and so real.

This past year has been one of the most empowering and transformative years and I am so grateful.

I know now that I am softer, calmer, much more grounded and self-loving… I feel like I’ve reached the place where I know can say “oohhhh so THIS is what they were talking about.” I get it now… not intellectually so that I can fake being it, but I’m actually embodying it, without having to think about it.

A deep knowing in my soul, comfort with my choices, a less-shakeable belief in my worth (still not completely unshakeable but I don’t know if that’s possible).

One of the things that has caused such tremendous growth and healing possibility has been my work in neuro-transformational coaching. I have been a student and also a participant in several programs, and the results are what I was seeking in years and years of therapy.

I'd also love to hear - have you participated in the 10 year challenge? How did it feel for you? If you're comfortable and would like to share, I'd love to see your before and after.


Welcome 2019!

I spent a lot of time offline, and felt the shift in energy BIG time this week, with my daughter back at school yesterday and me with regular office hours again.

One of the tenets of Redefining Sobriety (and redefining your relationship to alcohol, to your body, to yourSELF) is that YOU get to decide your path.

Yes, YOU.

And that’s exactly why setting powerful and personal intentions is so important!!

If you’re feeling “behind” or didn’t have the mental or heart space for setting clear intentions on New Year’s, I feel you! In fact, I started writing mine on the 1st, and then didn’t really feel connected to sitting down with them again until last night!

I went and watched the sunset, then came home, lit a candle and some palo santo, and got to writing.

Apparently, this New Moon and Solar Eclipse were stirring up some stuff. It may just be that some of what you’ve experienced in the past week or so is giving you even more clarity on what you want and need in terms of boundaries, stability and creating the foundation from which you can strongly spring into this next year.

Remember, intentions GROW with the light of the moon. So, this week’s waxing moon (growing towards a full moon) is the perfect time to get clear.

However, as I mentioned in my New Year’s post, it is not enough to only set intentions.

It’s essential that you put energy and action into the intentions.

What is one small shift you can commit to for daily action and to create the discipline to go for your dreams?

A small shift I’m committing to this week is to start getting up an hour earlier and writing.

This was a practice I had committed to a few months ago and I would wake up naturally slightly before sunrise.

Over the holidays and with a change in schedule (and more late nights) I’ve been sleeping in longer and as such, have had less time for writing.

This “small” shift also tied directly to one of my bigger intentions this year, which it to become even more prolific in my writing and to publish my second book.

I’ve also committed to some BIG shifts by way of what I am focusing on work-wise - which also favour some of my bigger overall intentions of more connection and quality time.

For that reason, I am collaborating more and creating more opportunities for in-depth 1-1 AND group work, work as well as in-person events.

I have opened up a few more spots for 1-1 coaching and have a very special offer for you if you sign up this week! Please schedule a call ASAP if you are interested because once these spots are filled, I won’t be offering more 1-1 coaching for awhile.


New Years Intentions 2018

How are you? I'm checking in after an incredible week away with family, where we travelled South to a little town on the coast called Mazunte, then up into the Sierra Madre mountains and then into Oaxaca City. I made a commitment to myself to prioritize CONNECTION with myself and family, and just received my "screen time notification" that I only used my phone for 41 minutes in the past week!

Let me say - I definitely can't remember the last time that happened. (And no, I wasn't on my computer either - I had one client session during the whole week and otherwise, my computer stayed closed).

In addition to quality time with my family, I was able to reflect on my life and business and the transformation that has taken place in the past year and to set my intentions for the coming year.

I wanted to share a bit with you about that process... and how to set powerful intentions for yourself.

Why set an intention over a resolution? 

In The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer defines intention as “a strong purpose or aim, accompanied by a determination to produce a desired result.”

An intention is something you aim to achieve, something that has a purpose, something that you actively work to manifest in your life.

Now, in order to create powerful intentions, it’s super important to get clear on what you are working towards.

What does your vision of yourself look like for 2019 and beyond?

Anyone who has ever set up a free consultation with me knows this is one of the first questions I ask (btw, have we talked yet? If we haven't, let's set up a time to connect!).

So ask yourself, what does your vision for yourself look like?

If you could wave a magic wand and everything were to go RIGHT, and you were able to make all of the positive changes you want to, what would your life look and FEEL like one year from now?

When we make resolutions and focus on the minutia, or create rules for ourselves to abide by, it’s easy to despair and throw in the towel when we’re not achieving what we think we should be.

“I said I wasn’t going to drink more than 2 nights a week and last week I drank more nights than not – so what’s the point anyway? Might as well quit trying.”

“Didn’t make it to the gym 3 times last week so I’ve already broken my resolution and it’s only the second week of January. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to achieve anything I wanted to this year, as I’m still a lazy f**k.”

When we set these kinds of goals for ourselves we sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment. And then when we don’t follow through or “succeed” right away, our inner critic is so quick to use this as confirmation of our worst fears about ourselves: We’re incapable of change, unworthy of making the changes, flawed, damaged goods, doomed to stay stuck and never expect anything better… etc.

Does any of this sound familiar?

How would you like to free yourself from this cycle, NOW?

Take some time today or tomorrow to bless and release 2017, create a powerful vision for yourself for the next year and from there, set your intentions.

Get comfortable, take a few deep breaths. You may want to use a couple of drops of a grounding blend of essential oils to really centre yourself (I love doTerra balance, cedarwood, vetiver, sandalwood or rose). You may want to light some candles or use incense to cleanse the space.

I know that 2018 has felt like a really hard year for so many. What helps “bless and release” a more challenging time is to make a list of your celebrations (no matter how seemingly small) and then say a simple statement or prayer:

“Thank you 2018 for all that you taught me, thank you for ________ that I have to celebrate. I bless you and release you to create space for my vision of 2019.”

Next, allow yourself to entertain the vision of yourself a year from now.

What are you doing?

How do you treat yourself?

How do others treat you?

How do you look?

How do you feel?

What did you create in 2019?

What changes did you make?

How has your life transformed?

Your health, your body, your relationships?

Allow a feeling of gratitude to wash over you. Really sink into the feeling of how it would feel to wake up on December 31, 2019 and reflect back over the past year.

Now, from that vision, create your list of gratitudes for these things AS IF THEY’VE ALREADY HAPPENED and from there, we’ll create intentions.

Start each sentence with “I am happy and grateful that…”

Examples:

I am happy and grateful that I have control over alcohol.

I am happy and grateful to feel so healthy, strong and confident in my body.

I am happy and grateful to have consistently prioritized self-care.

I am happy and grateful to have experienced so much abundance and adventure.

I am happy and grateful to feel honoured, respected and supported by my spouse/family.

From this, your intentions become:

To have control over alcohol.

To be healthy, strong and confident.

To prioritize self-care.

To experience abundance and adventure.

To be honoured, respected and supported by your spouse or family.

You will, of course, write down what best suits you and your vision for yourself (these were just suggestions on my part).

As Hafiz wrote “The words you speak become the house you live in.”  I believe this is true for the thoughts we think and the words we write as well.

So choose your words mindfully!!

You see how this is different than resolutions? Even if you feel like you are slipping or have a few weeks that are harder, you can keep your “eye on the prize” so to speak and know what you are working towards.

Alexandra Nicewicz Carroll wrote in her article Drop the Resolution and Live with Intention:

Compared to an intention, a resolution is relatively simple: it either is or is not, it sticks or it doesn’t. Intentions require nurturing and cultivation, tending and care. Intentions require whole-hearted commitment to a purpose or an aim as well as a willingness to surrender ourselves to this all-encompassing force, to trust that, as we contribute each day to nurturing this intention, our vision and purpose will unfold in our lives.

Is every day perfect? Of course not. But the most important part is to stay committed to the vision, believe in the intentions (that’s why we practice feeling them and writing them down as if they’ve already happened), and then taking consistent action towards fulfilling this vision.

Some days this might be going to the gym, whereas on other days a quick 10-minute power walk might be all you can muster and what is actually best for you in that moment.

Some months during the year you might even decide to go alcohol-free while during others you practice moderation – and it’s all part of “redefining your relationship to alcohol.”

See where I’m going with this?

As my friend Maru Iabichela says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start laying those bricks now if you want to see your dreams grow. Ps. ALL steps count. No steps DON’T count” (ie, take action, even small steps make a difference. NO steps means no movement)

I’ve been asked about intentions and how to really make them “work.” As one Redefining Sobriety Online Immersion participant recently wrote: “How do you break the cycle? It seems like sometimes good intentions never quite make the reality.”

I sent this question to another dear friend and author of the Intention Generation, Makenna Johnston, to which she replied: “Intentions are just part of the process.  They aren’t THE process. Setting intentions for the new year matters, don’t get me wrong. But it is the action you take that catalyzes intentions into results. And RESULTS is what you’re after.“

NOW is the time to start.

Get clear on your vision, grab a pen, write it down your vision and gratitude statement, distillyour intentions. Bless and release 2018 and start calling in everything you want for 2019.

Do this NOW.

NOW!!

Then choose something you will do differently, also starting now, start TODAY!

Why wait until tomorrow or January 1st?

That’s the kind of action Makenna and I are talking about.

Want 2019 to end differently than 2018?
Then what are YOU going to do to make that happen?

One of my intentions for 2019 is more CONNECTION - so here is an example of how I'm doing that NOW:
I'll be spending this afternoon re-potting and planting new plants my mom and I bought for my house (nothing like digging in the dirt to ground me), choosing NYE plans that also prioritize connection with a home-cooked meal with family and then going to see a band whose music I love to dance to and avoiding any parties that don't feel good and completely aligned with how I want to feel and who I want to be surrounded by, and planning a New Year's intention setting/vision boarding day with a few close friends on the 1st.

I'm already taking action on the intentions I've set for 2019... which will help me FEEL the results sooner!

If you have any questions about any of this – please do let me know! I’d love to hear your vision for yourself, your intentions and the actions you are going to take to make that vision and those intentions a reality!!


Holiday Hit List 2018

Ok so I know I said I was going to be emailing at the end of the week - but I received an outpouring of comments after sending my email yesterday and re-sharing my recent article with MGB and realized - these resources are needed NOW, not later this week.

I must admit - the holiday season is a little different here in Mexico and doesn’t start quite as early. So while I started feeling the holiday-stress-squeeze this week - I realize that for quite a few in our community, this has been going on for weeks if not all month!

And let’s face it.

This time of year can be hard!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that despite my best intentions, the stresses, anxieties and overwhelm sneak in.

I found myself being on edge this week, on the verge of tears or in tears, feeling waves of seemingly unexplained sadness wash over me.

I’ve also found myself undoing the after-effects of an old and familiar habit that snuck in this past 3-4 months. I said yes to way too much and found myself spread too thin.

Everything was GOOD, and interesting, and stimulating… I was working with amazing clients, putting my neuro-transformational certification skills into practice leading an online group coaching mastermind, joining my mentor’s team to support her in a massive launch, working on a consultancy for the non-profit I founded 11 years ago, hosting a retreat and a workshop, leading the fundraising team for my daughter’s community-run school and participating in the parent committee that governs the school, and on and on…

Then add to the mix PARENTING a very determined and independent 4-year-old. I’ve found this stage of parenting to be one of the most challenging and isolating. It’s when I’ve really missed having a teammate/co-parent and that fact that Luna’s dad has been away a lot for work has led me to feeling even more alone and for long stretches without breaks. I’ve found myself questioning myself a lot. Wondering if I’m doing it “right.” Worried that I’m somehow messing up my child.

This why I’m giving myself permission to embrace “Say yes to LESS” as a mantra for the end of this year and heading into 2019.

What this means is practicing mindfulness, taking my time with decisions, and being really intentional about how I want to be feeling on a daily basis.

It’s about honouring myself by prioritizing self-care and releasing any shame around needing to take care of my mental health.

It’s about choosing nourishment over numbing, as overwork and perfectionism are also some of my numbing behaviours. (If you missed my recent article on this, here it is).

It’s about trying to release and ease up on the enormous amount of pressure I put on myself (I’m a work-in-progress on this one, so if you have any tips I’d love to hear them).

And now, fully embracing my “say yes to less” mantra - I’m not going to write a NEW holiday blog post. I’ve written some great ones in the past, and even if you’ve read them before, they are worth revisiting! I’ve been rereading them and getting a lot out of the tips and reminders.

So here they are - my holiday hit list!!

7 tips for handling holiday stress (without turning to alcohol)

How to thrive through any holiday

Releasing the ghosts of Christmas past (this is really important if you feel plagued by regrets, sadness or shame regarding the past

How to avoid a two-week hangover this holiday season

How to deal with a family member's unhealthy drinking

As you read through these, you might notice some repetition... and that's a good thing!! Not of these are 'magic wand' solutions - they take practice, ESPECIALLY during a time of year when we might be feeling extra triggered.

I look forward to hearing from you about which one of these holiday tips were most helpful for you.

I'll be back next week to talk about how to set powerful New Year's intentions, and I'll be revealing my focus for 2019 (which became crystal clear to me as I was standing at the sink washing dishes this morning).

Until then, sending you massive love and respect for SHOWING UP.

It's not easy, but you are here, doing the best you can do and I'm proud of you!


Nourish vs Numbing

It felts like forever since I've written, and it kinda has been. The past few weeks/months have been a full and mostly amazing whirlwind of family visits, receiving clients to Mexico in-person retreats and workshops, our beta online neuro-transformational mastermind redefining sobriety immersion and my private clients, and then an incredible invite-only biz mastermind in Tulum ... with lots of school events and meetings thrown into the mix! I'm sure there are things that I'm forgetting but as I said, whirlwind.

So much so that my mantra heading into the new year is "say less to less." Later this week I will be sharing more on that, and also more on how to set powerful intentions for the new year, but I really wanted to pop into your inbox and share this article that came out on mindbodygreen a couple of weeks ago.

It's all about the fine line between what nourishes us and numbs us, and how to practice mindfulness to stay on the nourishing side of things. I can say that with way too much on my plate these past few months (even if it was all mostly good stuff), I've been noticing to urge to numb come on a little stronger, and have been applying the tips I outline in the article. 

I've received some great feedback on social media and would love you hear your thoughts too! I believe this is perfect timing as we head into the holidays and this time of year which can add extra stress.

Of course, if you know someone who would benefit from this perspective, please share the article with them!

As I mentioned earlier, stay tuned for more holiday-related content coming to you later this week as well as some exciting opportunities for the new year!!


5 Year Anniversary Questions Answered

You asked, and I answered!

It was almost exactly 5 years ago last week that I woke up one morning and declared that I was never getting drunk again (more on this below). I’ve learned A LOT over the past 5 years. I asked the folks in the September Reset Group and also my followers on Instagram what they would want to know about my journey.

Here are some of the answers to some of your questions!

How you achieve moderation...your personal intentions, etc. to keep yourself away from the line of too much, etc?

My intentions: never drink when I feel like I “need” one ie, sad, lonely, angry, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. If I'm any one of those things, I try to get to the source of what's going on and take care of the root, and find alternatives to alcohol that are more nurturing than the bandaid "solution."

My drink limit: I never go over tipsy. I know it’s a fine line. The feeling I used to chase, that feeling of slipping over into oblivion… I now stay firmly on this side of consciousness. I know for me, that’s usually the total amount of 2 drinks, sipped slowly. Sometimes, I start to feel the effects of alcohol much more quickly. Sometimes, I can drink 3 drinks over the course of an evening (with food and plenty of non-alcoholic drinks in-between).

What exactly does that look like?

Here in Mexico, it may mean one or maybe two weekend nights a week where I have between 1-2.5 drinks (max 3 and never 3 drinks two nights in a row), and no drinking in between. Something I go for weeks or longer without drinking, and occasionally have a week where I drink more than once or twice, but not often.

While I was in Canada during the summer, I drank with a bit more frequently, but much less quantity. So, I might have .5 glass of wine or half a cider that I shared with my mom, both mixed with sparkling water, several times a week, but only twice in a month did I drink two full servings of wine.

I’ll be clear - it’s taken me a number of years to get here. In the beginning stages of moderation, I drank much, much less. I would take a few sip wine, or have half a glass max. Now that I am confident in my ability to moderate, I don’t have to think about it as much and I also know that I can have two drinks and stop there. I have absolutely no fear of “going back” or losing control again. Everything I have gained is just too damn precious and I value my consciousness too much to give it away.

What part of calling "no mas" was related to the relationship you were in at the time (if you were in one)? What about your daughter?

My decision to finally change my relationship to alcohol came pre-motherhood. I was actually on a break from the relationship with my daughter’s father and was feeling really sad. I was partying hard again and often drinking to excess and to the point of blacking out. I felt lost and lonely, though I probably wouldn’t have used those words to describe the feeling at the time. I was more actively trying to avoid feeling anything ;)

While my ex had never specifically asked me to dial back on my drinking, I knew it was an issue for him. Part of the trigger which dug into a deep feeling of unworthiness was that on our break, he started dating someone new that, in his words, was a really “good” woman (I took that to mean in contrast to me). She had struggled in the past when she was younger but that was behind her. I remember these conversations leaving me feeling exposed, raw and shameful about my continued choices. This probably all contributed to finally making a change.

The final straw came after an “innocent” night out with friends. We went to a vegan raw restaurant and sipped on artisanal cocktails. Then we went to a bar where a friend was bartending, and things get fuzzy from there. I DO remember telling the friend I was sitting next to that I was going to launch a health coaching business to support women who struggled with alcohol. The irony is not lost on me that I was saying this while sipping on an 18 dollar cocktail and doing fancy shots and teetering on the brink of consciousness. The rest of the evening is choppy. There was definitely cocaine involved. I made out with a woman 12 years my junior at the club we went to after. I woke up at a friend’s house, on a blow-up mattress, feeling horrible. Not so much because of the physical symptoms, but because I was so clearly living two lives… and the one that I really wanted remained slightly out of grasp.

I announced to my friends that I was “never getting drunk again.” They laughed. They’d heard it before. I decided then and there to prove myself right.

All of this happened about 6 months before my daughter was conceived. I spent the first few months mostly abstaining, a couple of months practicing moderation, and then I was actually abstaining again when I got pregnant. During those times, I was already practicing the guidelines that I mentioned above.

Do you enjoy simple things more now that you aren't drinking? I read somewhere that addictive substances stimulate the pleasure center of your brain most directly. And that simple pleasures don't satisfy us as much when we have conditioned ourselves to be artificially stimulated by alcohol. That's where I am stuck right now. I can go without the wine (for like 10 days; see my reply to you above) but I don't like it. I'm not enjoying the self-care enough to replace the pleasure I get out of not having to tell myself "NO" to the wine. Now that you moderate, how often do you drink and how does it affect your enjoyment of simple pleasures?

My first reaction to this is that if you aren’t enjoying self-care, it’s time to find better “replacement activities.” Followed quickly by - nothing is ever going to be wine, so it’s time to get over that fact now. Rather than viewing this as deprivation from something you love, it’s super important to shift the internal conversation into “wow, look what I get to do and who I get to be now that I’m not so focused on wine or drinking wine instead of taking care of myself differently.”

My life is a lot of FUN. That helps. I have a really supportive community. That helps. I spend a lot of time in nature. That helps. I have delicious alternatives. That helps. I have creative outlets that I WANT to be on point for, that helps.

It’s also really important that the alternatives you see are in line with what you are seeking from the experience of drinking. What do I mean by that? Well, we drink for different reasons. If your biggie is to relax and turn off your brain, then it’s going to be really important for you to find alternatives that support this aim. If you drink for connection and intimacy, it’s going to be really important to explore how to have those needs met without alcohol involved. If you drink to absolve yourself of responsibility, how can you start giving yourself permission on your own terms? See what I’m getting at here? It is so important to get INSIDE your relationship alcohol.

Now, in terms of your actual brain chemistry. It is true that alcohol help release dopamine, which creates a slight “pleasure boost” in the brain. However, this effect is rather short-lived. It is more of a habit, or conditioned response, that you can come to rely on alcohol to give you that pleasure hit. It certainly isn’t permanent. Your thoughts are much more powerful in creating the reality you experience around cutting back on alcohol (of course, this is another story if you have a physical dependency on alcohol). If you keep repeating to yourself that you are being deprived and nothing will ever bring you as much pleasure as alcohol, you can pretty much bet that’s what you’re going keep believing.

Another helpful reframe could be, with every time you are saying NO to the wine, what are you saying YES to? We humans hate change and suffering, so what are the benefits? Focus on that.

Finally, I’ve sent this question to a colleague who is a Board certified addictions physician to get her take on the brain science behind your question. I haven’t heard back yet but will certainly send an updated answer then I hear back!

I am interested in your opinion of what works best to get to moderation? Is there a period of time you recommend not drinking? IF so, how long? OR just begin moderating from the beginning? What works for your clients?

My answer - it varies from person to person!!

That’s why Redefining Sobriety is so amazing. There is no one size fits all approach.

Some try abstinence first than ease into moderation, some come to me because they don't want to be told what to do (ie have to quit drinking) and then they realize that living alcohol free actually IS what they want, some rebel against feeling restricted or are healing from being too restrictive, so moderation and the "Middle way" is more therapeutic for them...it really depends.

That being said, I usually recommend a period of abstinence first. Why? Because it’s really important that you give yourself the opportunity to learn other tools and to rewire your brain. So often, we go back onto auto-pilot, especially if we’re feeling triggered.

This is why the deeper dives into this are so powerful because it is 100% client-focused and completely individualized... and that takes time. I recommend either the immersion program or some 1-1 support to really set you up for success around this!

Did you go through any struggle/regressions with alcohol in these past 5 years? Can you share?

There have been a few times where I have noticed myself wanting to drink more than usual, or that I’ve started drinking with a bit more frequency. I still haven’t been drunk, though there was one night not too long after I separated from my daughter’s father that I did drink more than I had in years and have since. Actually, let me correct that. I drank about the same amount (probably about 5 drinks over the course of the evening) at my birthday almost 2 years ago, but it was different. The birthday evening was intentional and celebratory. I was with my best friend and felt completely supported. She even asked me what my intentions were for the evening. To the contrary, the night out after my separation was not intentional. I was definitely not adhering to my guidelines. I was in pain and wanted to escape. I did so by drinking enough that my inhibitions took a back seat and then having sex with one of my friends. Up until now, I have only shared this with a few clients and close friends. I’m choosing to share this now because I also did a lot of work to not let the shame spiral continue or to “wrong myself” for doing this. It happened. I understand why. I choose not to consider is a regression or “relapse” because it didn’t continue and I’m very aware of the reasons why it did. I also don’t believe in relapses as a thing because I believe that is a really disempowering way to look at life and discounts all of the learning along the way.

I’m 8 months sober, what was your process to introduce it back into your life?

I realized that in order to moderate successfully, I had to be as stringent about the guidelines as I was when I was abstaining completely. In the beginning, moderation often requires even more planning and thinking than total abstinence does. This changes over time, however, for some of my clients, this is what leads them to decide to be completely alcohol-free.

If your vision for your ideal relationship to alcohol includes being able to drink in moderation than it’s very important to get INSIDE that vision. What does it look and feel like to be that version of you? Someone who can enjoy a drink or two in moderation? In what circumstances will you drink? In which will you choose to abstain? What is your “best yes” when it comes to alcohol? Know your alternatives and what will really work for you. You MUST do this work. You must also be very clear with yourself as to what your boundaries are.

Was one of those layers certain people? (In reference to a comment about shedding many layers in the past 5 years).

Yes, for sure. Once alcohol stopped being the focus, I didn’t have as much in common with certain people. I’ve also really found myself prioritizing different kinds of friendships in the past year.

Did you avoid going out for a while?

Yes and no. I became more intentional about where I chose to go out. Evenings that only revolved around drinking weren’t as exciting to me. However, I love dancing so I still did go out dancing often. I usually set very clear guidelines for myself and often just wouldn’t drink anything in the beginning when I went out.

 

How do you overcome roadblocks?

I didn’t go at this alone!! I have an amazing team! I’ve always worked with holistic coaches, I have an incredible therapist whom I see every 2 weeks, I have supportive friends that I can message (like I did last night) saying I was having a hard night and requesting virtual hugs. I’ve done a ton of self-development work over the past 5 years. I’ve committed to consistently showing up for myself while also being of service to others.

I had a good friend ask me a while ago, what kept me going through hard times. I thought about it for a long time. I realized that I have always been committed to a mission bigger than myself. That helps me keep going. There have been plenty of studies that show that altruism or service is healing. This is why it’s also a foundation for mutual support groups. I see it in my group programs as well.

Phew - that was fun! I loved this questions as an opportunity for me to reflect on my journey and where I'm at now.

As a gift to YOU for sticking it out till the end of this email, I’m including the week one worksheet from the Redefining Sobriety program. These tools are many of the tools I used for myself and also that I use with my private clients when I first start working with them.

I would also love to extend the invitation to you to join our next round of the Redefining Sobriety Online Immersion program. We start next week! It’s an incredible deep dive into all of the tools, strategies and thought-shifting that goes into changing your relationship to alcohol once and for all! The program runs 9 weeks and you WILL have a different outlook by the end of the year.

The incredibly valued investment is only $397 if you pay in full or we can split into 2 payments of $222. I’ve searched other online group “sobriety” programs and I know that the cheapest I’ve found is still twice as much as our program. Accessibility is really, really important to me and if you know you want to be involved and cost is a barrier, let me know.  Message me asap if you have any questions or check the page here.

Finally, I also have a limited number of spots available for private clients and would love to work with you if you know you are ready for a big change ASAP.

I don’t know of anyone else out there (trust me, I’ve searched) who approached changing our relationship to alcohol like I do. I’m incredibly proud of my journey and everything I’ve poured into Redefining Sobriety.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Also - I loved answering these questions. If other questions came up as you read, please feel free to send them to me and I’ll get them answered in another round of Q&A.

With love,


JLo Method, Media, Mastermind

I'm feeling pretty fabulous since finding out that a post I wrote a few weeks ago got picked up and share by over 600 media outlets!!

Let me back up little and explain.

The week before leaving Mexico to travel to Canada and then to California was JLo's birthday (July 24th to be exact). She turned 49. There was some press about how fabulous she looks at her age and some references to the fact that she chooses not to drink as part of her health and lifestyle focus.

The "JLo Method" is something that I share with my clients who are able to moderate and have moderate alcohol use as one of their goals. I also happened to receive a testimonial from a client the day after JLo's birthday, and I decided to write about it. It got turned into an article, a press release, and circulated super widely. (if you'd like to see the original article let me know :)

As you might remember from last week's email, I was in a social media/email blackout after my dad's accident and then the training I was participating in, and so I returned back to Canada to a flooded inbox and didn't realize at first the coverage this had received! (A friend of mine actually sent me this screenshot)

Now that I've seen the incredible response, I decided to record a video about the JLo Method to share with you. You can watch it here.

I also wanted to let you know that I've started a YouTube "classroom" and this is actually the second video I've released recently (the first is the basics of Redefining Sobriety, who it is for, why this method, etc).

Make sure to subscribe to the channel if you want to receive the videos as they are released (my goal is approximately once a week). I'm also planning a series called "Redefining Everything," where I will invite guests to talk about everything from intimacy, masculinity, relationships, health, etc. I'm so excited to share this content with you!

I've opened up some more times in my calendar for connection calls - please reach out if you haven't already! I have a couple of spots available for private coaching, an incredible small group/mastermind experience and more to share!


3 things you can do when you're feeling sad

Hello,

I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, “For the same reason I laugh so often, because I’m paying attention.” - Glennon Doyle

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll know that this past week I was feeling really sad. The news of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committing suicide and leaving behind young daughters - hit me hard.

Seeing countless follow up posts about friends and acquaintances who were also struggling with mental health, or who had lost someone, really brought home how much we are struggling collectively - in a culture that is making us sick and isolated… and is literally killing some of us. There are some weeks, like last week, where we come face to face with that reality, and I don’t know about you caitlin, I’m left reeling and wondering “Am I doing enough? How can we change this?”

***

A week ago today, on Friday afternoon, in a freak accident, a young construction worker was electrocuted and died on the roof directly in front of my house here in Mexico.

In an instant, so many lives were changed forever.

My friend who heard the cries and saw it go down from her balcony, and called for help.

My other two friends who rushed down from their third-floor apartment ran across the street and up three floors where one performed CPR and the other held the young man's head and prayed and talked to him as his spirit left his body.

The young man's older brother, who was the head of the construction crew and watched his younger brother die.

The neighbour's/owners of the construction site, one of whom was also electrocuted and rushed to the hospital where he remains under observation.

The staff of our hotel, who have been friends with the family for years, one of whom was hanging out on the rooftop during a break, just minutes before the accident.

And of course, the rest young man's family... including wife and 9-month-old baby, and his parents who had to say goodbye to their child.

The grief and shock around were palpable over the weekend. The building site directly across from my patio remains eerily silent and it is impossible not to think about what happened every time I look out my window, as I did numerous times a day.

***

And then on Saturday, I had a consultation call with a guy I had known from elementary and middle school. My initial consultations are usually 45 mins to an hour, and we talked for twice as long.

While a lot of our conversation centred around his experiences, we also talked about mine.

We talked about how we had learned to survive trauma and the culture of extreme and violent toxic masculinity that we grew up with... He became a hockey player, used alcohol to numb and aggression as an outlet for his pain. Though he was a few years younger than the perpetrators of the abuse I experienced, he literally became "that guy" I had to protect myself from.

I held space for him to cry and I could feel him sobbing from across an entire continent.

The conversation brought up a lot for me, it literally so close to home.

I felt deeply sad after. I sat in my office and cried.

I cried tears for the children in both of us, longing to be held and comforted and loved unconditionally.

I wept for the teenagers in both of us, who grasped at all we knew to survive and both resorted to defiantly fighting/fucking our way out... and the resulting, protective shell so thick it is taking years to chip away.

For us as adults and parents, trying so hard to heal and learn to love ourselves so that we can show our kids how to be whole.

***

The layers of sadness felt like a cloud around and inside of me... clouding my ability to think clearly (I kept forgetting things) or move quickly.

I went to see Ocean's 8 on Saturday and was entertained for a couple of hours and yet as soon as I got home, the cloud returned.

I went out dancing for a couple of hours that night and had my moments of joy, but then the sadness would well up in my eyes and my friend/dance partner kept saying "animoCata" ... I felt the old familiar urge to numb/escape creep back. I took myself home and cried instead.

***

I'm paying attention.

I'm refusing to turn away.

I'm also releasing the sense that there is something "wrong" with me when I can't "get over it" or when I feel so deeply

I've felt distracted and can't really concentrate

And I know that this is okay

It's okay for me to be with sadness

It's okay if it takes time

I'd rather be "too sensitive" than tuned out

Learning to show up as I am and truly BE has been one of the hardest and also most beautiful gifts of my life.

***

What can you do if you’re feeling sad?

Be honest:

One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to be honest about what’s going on. I used to put on a smiley face to try to convince everyone including myself that “EVERYTHING IS FINE” - when of course, it wasn’t.

It still feels unfamiliar to me to answer the question “how are you?” honestly.

Here’s an example of a conversation with a friend on Monday (over text message):

Friend: “How are you?”

Me: “I’m actually really sad right now.”

Friend: 'How come?”

Me: “I’m not sure. Everything. It feels like a lot right now.”

Friend: “What can I do to help?”

Me: “I don’t know… I think I just need to be sad. Keep checking in… give me a hug later?”

Then I posted on Facebook about feeling sad. It was really hard for me to do this, as is sharing this blog. After putting on a mask for so many years, it’s still hard to take it off sometimes, even with practice.

Give yourself time:

I’ve come to realize more and more that the only way out is through. As you saw from my attempts to distract myself from my sadness on Saturday, it didn’t really work. Going to the movie and then out dancing was a temporary escape, however, what I really needed was to give myself the time to experience the range of emotions … and to have a fully embodied experience of my grief and sadness. This took a few days, days where I tried to slow right down and take the non-essentials off of my “to-do” list. If this isn’t possible, for example, you are a caretaker and have to go to your 9-5 job and just aren’t able to turn inward, it’s okay… Be patient and gentle with yourself and know that it might take a little bit more time to work through you.

Support:

It can be really hard to reach out for support when you are feeling sad, and even more so when you are depressed. That’s why I advocate setting up a support system when things “aren’t so bad.”

I have a world-class team of support: an incredibly skilled holistic therapist whom I see every two weeks (currently repeating in my calendar “forever” lol), two coaches, my mastermind sisters, several colleagues who truly understand the unique challenges of being an entrepreneur, friends with whom I can be raw and real, family...

If you've been feeling sad, lonely, isolated, overwhelmed, paralyzed, wanting to tune out or numb... Let's talk. I know it can be hard to reach out but I promise you will feel better when you do. Together, we are stronger. Sometimes, speaking with someone can help you see options that aren't obvious when you're "deep in it." I would love to connect. Click here to set up a time. 

Hugs,

xoxo