I am feeling incredibly fortunate these days. I have amazing friendships, peers and co-conspirators in my life.

Last week I introduced you to one of my longest friends and the OG Sip Sister. Here’s the link in case you missed that blog.

This week, I have had the absolute pleasure to interview another bestie, who shares her time between Puerto Escondido Mexico (where I live) and the Bay Area in California.

Puerto Escondido is a world famous surf destination, and can also be quite a party town.

I met Aleka in my first year here, and she fast became one of my favourite friends to party with. Why? Not only is she smokin’ hot, really outgoing and an incredible dancer, she’s also a long time sober sister!!

As my studies and career evolved into Holistic Health Coaching, our professional connection also grew, because, drum roll please… this fire cracker is also a board certified family PHYSICIAN!! (If you’re interested in learning more, her full bio is at the end of this blog)

I am incredibly grateful that Aleka was willing to be so candid with me (and you!) in this interview about her own struggles with alcohol, and why according to her, every person is a snowflake.

What made you want to change your relationship to alcohol?

I come from a background that has what I guess you could call strong alcohol genes, and broken family dynamics, and strange relationships that I think were greatly affected by alcohol’s role in the family, even by people who weren’t drinking themselves.

So when I started my relationship with alcohol at the age of 8, I initially really liked the feeling, the release, getting out of myself. That was always the basis of my relationship with alcohol. It was something that made me more relaxed, more comfortable, and helped me to escape.

The reason I wanted to change eventually – I am someone that I consider a “low bottom alcoholic” a label I’ve given myself, which means when I drink, I ended up drinking more than I intend, for longer, to a point that ended in really negative consequences. To the extreme of not being able to manage my life, dropping out of school in 8th grade, not being employable, having legal problems, and putting my health at serious risk many many times, if not every day.

The decision to change my relationship to alcohol really became a life or death decision.

What is the best thing about changing your relationship to alcohol?

When I first decided that I needed to stop drinking, I thought that it was going to be about not drinking so that I wouldn’t have the problems that drinking had given me.

The best outcome from completely stopping drinking was that my entire life changed and it opened up a lot of opportunities as well as a spiritual path, which has changed how I view my time on this earth.

How old were you when you decided to make these changes?

I started the journey to get sober about 13 years ago!

What has been the most challenging aspect of changing your relationship to alcohol?

Learning that I have twisted thinking at times, and especially in relation to alcohol. With the wealth of information and different options that are out there, it was hard for me to really settle into myself, who I am, accept my experiences, and come to terms with what was going to be the best option for me, rather than think about what someone else is doing or what might be easier or what might look better.

My father’s European and would make comments about people who don’t drink as being boring. When I stopped drinking it brought up the fear in me that I wouldn’t be a fun person any more or have enjoyment. I had to let go of these “false truths” and redefine for myself what kind of life I wanted to live and not have it be based on other people’s opinions.

What is your most useful tip for someone wanting to change their relationship to alcohol?

The most important piece of starting any new journey is keeping an open mind. Give yourself the chance to try something new, it’s only by trying multiple things and having the experience to see whether or not they work for us, that we find the path that really feels right for us.

We were chatting a while ago and you mentioned the idea of each person as a snowflake can you elaborate a little more on that concept?

I have a couple of different influences – from a personal standpoint from my own experience, I really needed and found relief from an abstinence approach and mutual support. However, after years of both working with people on a personal level as well as a professional level as a physician, I’ve come to realize how important it is to honour each person’s individual journey.

One of my mentors in medicine used to always say that each person is a snowflake, I think that that applies to all aspects of healing, including from addictive behaviours and emotional healing.

The way that I look at alcohol use is somewhat of a continuum (which is still limited because it’s linear) from a physician’s standpoint thinking of problematic drinking or someone with dependance (based on DSM 4).These are helpful tools for clinicians, especially if they don’t have a lot of personal experience with addiction, and I do utilize them as well in some of my clinical practice.

On one end there’s someone who drinks alcohol and they have never really had to think about their relationship, they don’t need to because it has never presented a problem. But on the other end there are people who can not stop drinking until it destroys them by gruesome death. From a medical standpoint that’s called very severe alcohol dependence. There are some people in that group who can chose to adopt the label of alcoholic, but alcoholism is a self determined label, it’s not medical diagnosis.

Then we’re left with everyone that falls somewhere in between this spectrum, which is who your clients and readers are.

There are many reasons why people might want to change their relationship to alcohol, it could be spiritual, a yoga practice, a need to cut down on their intake but they find out it’s harder than they thought it would be, if they become pregnant, or if they discover that they stop feeling good about the effects it’s having in their life. For people that fall into those categories, it’s important that we have a variety of resources.

For instance, if someone decides that they consider themselves an alcoholic, whose life is in jeopardy, from a personal and professional standpoint, I would recommend abstinence (liver damage, it’s clear, they cannot continue drinking or they will have cirrhosis).

For all my other patients, I think it’s really important that we have everything from harm reduction (which is the approach of “meeting people where they are at” with no judgement), to different forms of behavioural modification therapy, to positive peer support, to attempts at moderation, basically all ways and means that someone can explore their own relationship to their addictive behaviours. That’s what I love about your offerings, because your program combines all of these elements.

As with anything, it’s important to pay attention to how we use things outside of ourselves to feel better.

Any final words of wisdom?

I guess just the reiteration that each person is a snowflake and has their own personal journey in life. For me, I tried moderation and it didn’t work, but if it would have, I would have chosen that path.


Extremes are hard, and for me to come to the point to make the decision to give up alcohol for the rest of my life, meant that I had to go through a ton of pain and suffering to make that decision. Though I am very happy now in my sobriety, if I had been able to be successful in moderation, I would have been able to stop there.

What would you recommend for someone wanting to try moderation?

If I had a patient who was a good candidate for moderation, I would suggest that they find other people, include other activities in their life that don’t involve alcohol, like new forms of exercise, hobbies, dance, that allow you to have fun, relax, reduce your cortisol production without using alcohol.

And the other thing is to make sure that they have somebody that they are keeping in close touch with and that they are 100% honest with so that they aren’t able to lie to themselves about what dynamics are really playing out, a sounding board to help them see and hold them accountable.

Don’t forget, taking the first step towards honesty and accountability doesn’t have to be scary and isolating. Click here to set up a time to chat, absolutely no strings attached.

Also – I’ve had a few people ask me recently if it’s okay to share this info with a friend. YES PLEASE, OF COURSE!!!

If you know of anyone who might benefit from this info, or need a safe, objective ear to listen, please do not hesitate to forward this to them!!

Have a fabulous weekend, snowflake!!


Aleka Delafield Heinrici is a board certified Family Physician who received her medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University and completed a residency at University of California San Francisco in Family and Community Medicine. She couples her excellent training in primary care medicine with emphasis on the social, cultural, spiritual and political context within which her patients are living. Everything she does in medicine and life is infused with a passion for treating the whole person with multiple modalities, conventional and complementary, to achieve profound, total life transformation and healing. Areas of expertise include Primary and Preventative Care, Urgent Care Medicine, Women’s Health and Options Counseling.  Additionally, she has years of personal and professional experience in the field of Detox and Addiction and more importantly, what she calls Recovery Medicine.  Currently she holds a part-time faculty position at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, works as a locums physician in both the San Francisco Bay Area and in coastal Oaxaxa, Mexico and sees patients through her private practice, Merkaba Medicine.