From Beer Babes to Sobriety Society

I’ve mentioned it before, but I continue to maintain another blog besides this one, although it is a bit more limited. It is a site that is much more open to my circle of friends and family than this space is. I realize it’s a matter of time before someone stumbles across both, and I’m aware that I already have followers from here who also follow me there. My intent is not to confuse anyone, although it’s growing a bit tiring for me to have both spaces. I have some ideas on how to ultimately move forward, but I need some time to work out the details. In the meantime, I will continue with both spaces and occasionally there will be crossover of work. With that being said, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all what I shared with my friends “in real life” over the weekend. Thank you for continuing to follow me on this journey.

The craft beer scene was really starting to take off in our North Carolina city back in 2011, and men held the strongest presence in that environment at the time. Growing a little weary of hanging out with just the boys (no offense), I tried my hand at bringing more women into the fold through social and beer education events by starting a little group called Charlotte Beer Babes. We were a small, but swiftly growing bunch dedicated to supporting the local craft beer industry as well as each other. It wasn’t long before a hectic job and other events in my life meant that it became too much for me to take on. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that my anxiety was the one in control those days and while my intentions were in the right place, I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. When it came time to turn the reigns over, I was grateful for the enthusiasm and energy that a friend of mine brought to the table. With her leadership, that group is nearly 1500 strong today, with events occurring on the regular at more local breweries than I can keep track of in the Charlotte area.

So why is a sober woman still proud of the successes of a group centered around drinking culture? It’s not about the drinking, it’s about the people. These are my friends. Many of the people in these circles own, work in, write about or are involved in some other way in the local craft beer scene and industry. They are like my family and have been a part of my life since coming to Charlotte back in 2007. Of course, things are a bit different now as I’m living a sober life amidst a world of normies (this is the term that we sober people use to refer to others who can take it or leave it when it comes to alcohol), but that doesn’t mean those friendships and support just disappear. In fact, many of these friends have been the ones high-fiving me along my journey. Just last weekend, while attending my first wedding since getting sober, a wedding for a brewer being held in a brewery, mind you, a good friend made a point to tell me how proud she was of me. She added to that how difficult it must be to stop drinking when your entire group of friends has been based around the beer scene. The simple is truth is she is correct, it has certainly has presented a unique set of challenges, but it’s the support just like hers that has also given me strength. It isn’t the alcohol that defines these friendships, it’s the character and compassion for one another that binds us no matter the circumstances.

While I’ll forever stand behind my friends and their livelihood, I’m obviously no longer spending time in their breweries or attending events or festivals. I would be kidding myself if I thought I could go back to doing all the things I used to but just without the drinking. That’s a slippery slope that I don’t want to place myself on. Instead, I’m finding a new path on this sober journey of mine. Much like I wanted to bring women together in that scene seven years ago, I’m now working on bringing women of a different sort together. There is a little group I started up a few weeks ago called the Charlotte Sobriety Society. We are geared towards women in all types of recovery, as well as those who are sober-curious or who just want to enjoy an event without the wine. While we are not intended as a recovery support group, it’s true that many of us might be in recovery from any number of things: alcoholism, drugs, anxiety, eating disorders, workaholism, perfectionism, the list goes on and on. It’s possible that there will be open discussions at some of these events about our experiences, but we also just might enjoy a casual night of yoga together without running for the glass of wine afterwards. My goal is simply to create a safe, no-pressure environment where women can come together and possibly even make meaningful friendships filled with encouragement and support for one another.

I am proud of this tribe that we are building together with the Charlotte Sobriety Society and if you are in the area and even remotely interested in attending an event, I encourage you to give it a try. You can visit our Meetup page for details, which is set up so that the member list cannot be seen unless you actually join. It’s my intent to respect the privacy of our members as much as the site will allow. If you just want more information, or if you are interested in joining our secret Facebook group which has been set up as a way for members to stay connected between events, please feel free to reach out me directly either through my contact page or send me a message through my personal Facebook page. You don’t need to be in recovery to join, the only rules are that you are a woman and that you don’t partake in alcohol at an event or show up intoxicated out of respect for those of our who are in recovery.

If you had asked me all those years ago if I would have ever seen myself with such a focus on sobriety, the answer would have been a resounding no. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is constantly evolving and you can’t always predict the direction it might take. Change can bring hardships, but it can also bring adventure, and I embrace the evolution and all the opportunities that come with it. I will forever be grateful for my involvement in the local craft beer scene. If you see me sporting a NoDa Brewing Company t-shirt or drinking kombucha from an Olde Mecklenburg Brewery glass, don’t judge, I’m just showing some love. But, maybe one day it will be a Charlotte Sobriety Society t-shirt that I’m wearing, you never know where things might go and I am excited to find out.

trauma abuse

The Trauma of Spousal Abuse

I have my standing therapist’s appointment every Tuesday afternoon, and today I don’t want to go. It’s rare that I don’t enjoy heading to her office, but something inside of me is yearning for a break. I’ve been doing some amazing work, have gained some valuable tools and I’ve grown in ways I never would have expected, but today I quite simply don’t want to be there. I’m not looking for a long-term break, just a day off. However, I’m questioning my motives slightly because she gave me homework last week that I haven’t touched.

We’ve been visiting the traumas experienced with my ex-husband and she gave me a writing exercise, of all things, that I should have spent time on without any trouble. But, I haven’t done it. You see, last week I brought a list into her office of about 15 awful incidents with my ex that I wanted to read out loud. I put the list together almost a year ago during a moment where the thoughts were pouring into me. The first time I brought it to her, she stopped me at the very first one to focus in on that. I was frustrated and wanted to get through the rest, but I didn’t know how to vocalize it back then. The list was put away after that visit and was generally forgotten, until just recently. During last week’s appointment, I was clear to her that I intended to read it in its entirety, that it was important for me to get through it all, so she allowed the space for that. To be able to speak them all out loud together in a room with someone else listening was a relief and even a little empowering. After making it through the page, we talked a bit further about some of the events and about his behavior patterns, in general. She then asked me to pick just one from that list, one that I felt spoke to me more than any of the others. Her intention was for me to perform a writing exercise around my selection. This was not meant to be an exercise where I write about the image of the event, but would instead dig in more on the trauma surrounding it. The work is meant to help release it from my body. But, when I shared with her the first one that came to me, her reaction seemed a bit surprised. She then pressed me, asking if there were any other events that came to mind that I hadn’t written about on that list. In particular, she gently questioned if he had ever forced himself on me, given his rape fantasies that I had previously shared with her. She further confirmed that whichever event from the list was what I had the most feeling about is the one I should go with, but based on her reaction, I was already doubting my choice.

I told her that now I felt awkward about the one I selected, that maybe I should have picked the time he shoved me to the ground or the incident when he lifted up my dress against my will to show my underwear to one of his friends. I explained that while the event that stood out to me most may not seem so terrible when compared with some of those others, as there was no physical involvement, it was without a doubt a memory that has stuck with me so clearly that every time it pops up it’s as though I’m seeing it like a film being replayed. Even though I have no feelings at all for the man I used to be married to, the hurt experienced on that day is like an imprint on my skin that no amount of scrubbing will remove. Before leaving her office, my therapist tried to reassure me again that I should go with whichever one spoke to me the most, but it may have been too late at that point.

The seed of doubt has flourished this past week and I’ve wanted to brush the incident and the entire list aside instead of honing in on it. I even revisited the list to see if there was anything else there that I wanted to use the homework for, but I don’t feel compelled to do the work with any of it. I know that it may be important to embrace this exercise if I want to move forward, but then again, perhaps not. Maybe it was just enough for me to get that entire list out with her. Given the discussions we’ve been having over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that the fear that I’ve been holding onto of the man formerly known as my husband has diminished greatly. But what I wonder is if it will stay that way, or is the cloud lifting only temporary?

This brings me back to my decision about today’s visit. I realize that when there is something that I’m fighting against, in many cases it probably means that I should do it. However, I continue to feel strongly that I need a break today, and if my therapist has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my body and put my self-care above all else. I recognize that I have more to get out when it comes to this former phase of my life and it will all come, just not in her office on this particular day.


she recovers la

Why I’m Attending She Recovers – LA

When I first heard of She Recovers, it was after reading Elizabeth Vargas’ book Between Breaths – A Memoir of Panic and Addiction. There was something that I always admired about Elizabeth over the years, I followed her journalism early on when Good Morning America used to accompany my morning routine and then followed her after she moved on to some of the evening news shows.  Last year, when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about women with alcohol problems, while still in denial of my own, I was surprised to see Elizabeth’s face on the cover of a book in that category. With my trusty glass of wine right next to me, I settled in and tore through her book in a few evenings. By this point I had read countless other stories, but something about this one made a connection for me. This was someone I had watched over the years and would have thought had a seemingly idyllic life, who was instead struggling with a tremendous battle with anxiety and alcohol. I suspected that others may have looked at me like one of those women who had it all together, too. Not on an Elizabeth Vargas national news anchor scale, mind you, but in my own, smaller circles. Maybe that is why her book resonated so deeply.

I sent Elizabeth a short note on Twitter after reading the book, letting her know how much I enjoyed it, to which she graciously responded. I then came across a reference on her account to an event where she had been a guest speaker, an event called She Recovers. I dug in a bit more and discovered that the conference took place in NYC in early 2017 and was geared towards women in recovery. Not just alcohol recovery, but recovery from any number of things. The speaker line-up was impressive. Besides Elizabeth Vargas, there was Gabby Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, and Glennon Doyle-Melton, just to name a few. There was yoga, workshops and other events put on over this weekend, and all attended by 500 women in recovery. Even in my state of denial, I was inspired just by knowing that something like this even existed. She Recovers was stuck in my head from that point on.

Fast forward to February of this year, the month when I finally came to terms with my own issues with alcohol and made the decision to enter full-fledged sobriety. Just one week after drawing that hard line, I was staring at the She Recovers website where the 2018 event in LA was announced. One week of being alcohol free and I signed up to attend in September. You might think this is a bit fast for someone so new in the recovery scene, but I had been exploring the world of recovery for well over a year at this point. Let’s also not forget that I was working through anxiety and all the issues stemming from being an adult child of an alcoholic for quite some time, it just so happens that my own alcohol use was the cherry on top of my recovery sundae.

It didn’t matter how new I was to this scene, I had a deep knowing that I needed to attend She Recovers LA. It has been giving me something to work towards and setting that commitment even saved me from drinking a time or two in these early stages of sobriety. When struck with moments of weakness (and there have been many), I remind myself of how it’s going to feel to sit among over 500 women who are either in my shoes or who have worn something similar. Since the day I registered, I’ve known that I had to stay true to the sobriety commitment that I made on February 20th not just out of respect for myself, but with respect for the women that I will meet in September.

As the speaker line up is slowly announced, I’m giddy over knowing that I’ll see one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed, speak, not to mention an appearance by the fabulous and hilarious Amy Dresner. (Check out her book, My Fair Junkie, if you haven’t done so already.)  Of course, it’s scary to head off to a conference like this where I don’t know anyone, but it’s also pretty empowering for this introvert. I’m looking forward to just being in the same space as these lovely women for three days, to hear their stories and to share in their dreams. I can only imagine how divine it will feel to wear my sobriety proudly, to let loose and just be me with other women who get it. It comes down to connection and inspiration, both of which I have no doubt will be available in abundance on this weekend with She Recovers in LA in September.


alcoholism recovery urge

Sunday Blues

Yesterday was an odd Sunday for me. I woke up quite early already carrying the gloom of having to go to work on Monday, which is my least favorite way to start any day out. I haven’t had that feeling in quite some time and have had much success managing the stress at work, but for some reason the weight of it decided to hit hard this weekend. It was a such a beautiful day and the time spent with my husband was very nice, as always, but I could not shake the overwhelming dread of what was to come. Despite all of the tools at my disposal, the heaviness on my chest was determined to stick around. That heaviness turned into a strong, and I mean very strong desire to drink.

I was resting comfortably on the sofa with golf on TV late in the afternoon when my struggle to fight off the worries over work turned into a battle to get thoughts of alcohol out of my head. I fiercely tried to change my thoughts around by reminding myself about how badly I would feel afterward, but I still wanted to have that one glass of chardonnay or shot of whiskey. It didn’t matter what it was, I just needed to feel the warmth of it running down my throat. I reminded myself of all the work that I’ve been doing and how I want to change not only my future but want to help others with theirs, and how could I possibly do that if I had a drink? But that voice inside was persistent that it didn’t give a fuck about any of that. It didn’t care that I would have to take my 75 days of sobriety back down to 0 or about how anyone else might think of me. It didn’t want to consider any of the ramifications, it just wanted to lift a drink to my lips. My feelings were so overwhelming that I was nearly overcome with the desire for the old tool that I used to keep them at bay.

My husband could tell something was not right and asked if I was doing okay. I tried, but I couldn’t quite put what I was feeling into words, but I did end up confessing that I really wanted a drink in that moment. After a bit of talking through it, but still feeling the temptation, I decided to take myself out to the back yard to water my flowers and plant my bare feet in our cool grass. It was only for a few minutes, but that sensation has always been one of my favorites. Standing there in the grass, in the beauty of our yard at the home that I love made me feel grounded again. My anxiety didn’t totally disappear, but it relented enough that I was able to carry on with the rest of the evening without feeling like I was going to make a mad dash for a bottle.

I’m not new to this, I’ve talked about random urges to drink here before, but that doesn’t mean that these events don’t still surprise me, especially when the desire is so insatiable. I’m pretty self-aware these days and already have my suspicions about where all of this came from. It may have been part anxiety, part hormones, and part what I like to call the Sunday blues. No matter what the reasons, I am most importantly reminded of how precious my sobriety really is to me.  Even when things seem like they have been flowing much steadier and I can loosen my grip, I can still come up against a vicious tide that tries to sweep my feet out from under me. I do know that it won’t always be that way, but for now I will fight to keep myself grounded because it is so much better here in the calm.

76 days and counting…

sobriety alcohol question

I Couldn’t Possibly Have a Drinking Problem

This past Saturday was filled with activities with our usual group of friends. We had brunch and a movie planned with one couple, followed by dinner with six friends at one of their homes. We’ve had a handful of events with these friends since I quit drinking, but I’ve kept it limited while I was finding my way through early sobriety. Being just 10 weeks in, I’m still awfully new at this, but I looked at my husband on the way to the theater Saturday morning and told him it was the first time I didn’t feel a stitch of anxiety over the day ahead. I wasn’t concerned that I might want to order a mimosa at brunch or have a beer at the movie because I truly didn’t want either of those things. It also dawned on me that I had no reservations about feeling awkward around everyone and I was actually looking forward to getting out. This was a very nice change of pace.

I won’t bore you with every detail, but this feeling stuck with me all day. Even when cocktails were passed around and wine was poured, at no moment did I feel like I was missing anything or have any cravings. I had my trusty club soda and felt just fine. My biggest challenge that night was trying to follow interesting conversations around as the attention span of some started to drop off the more the evening went on. Drinking will tend to do that. There was something different that happened on this particular night, questions came my way about sobriety. This was the first time with these friends since I came out in my 30-day post to everyone about why I chose sobriety and we were also joined by a friend who I haven’t seen at all during this phase. She is probably the most blunt and direct person I know, and I totally appreciated that on Saturday. Finally, someone wasn’t afraid to talk about it and because I was instantly receptive, I think others realized it was okay for them to join the discussion. I even made a point to tell them that it was much easier on me to have the conversations than to have everyone tip-toe around me. If someone wanted to know something, I welcomed the questions.

A question or maybe more of a statement that I continue to hear from people is that they never viewed me as someone with a drinking problem. I keep coming up against that and I always confirm that everyone is different and they couldn’t see my patterns the way that I did. On this particular night, that issue kept coming up. Two of the women pressed me about how I never drank as much as they did and questioned how I could think I have a problem. I did not take offense at all, I can understand why this might bother someone and so I opened up about some of the details that I hadn’t shared in the post that they all read. They are well aware that I’ve been in therapy and I tried to touch on the fact that I finally figured out that I was using alcohol to numb, but that didn’t seem to quite reach them. I then told them about my failed attempts at moderation and that I was developing a pattern of sneaking alcohol in my own home when my husband wasn’t looking. But, it was when I shared that I had put rum in my tea on my way to work a handful of mornings that they seemed to get it. That particular detail had them both staring at me with open mouths and saying “Oh! I would never do that.” I had to brush off the guilt that tried to find its way in after that reaction and instead recognized their responses were perhaps a sense of relief of their own drinking habits.

The evening would continue with multiple drunken interruptions claiming again that I couldn’t possibly have a drinking problem. This was always followed with their recall of the ‘tea thing’ and then the cycle would start all over. It really didn’t bother me so much and while they may not retain full memory of what I had to say, at least the conversations happened. Eventually, however, the repetition grew exhausting and I was ready to leave. When you are the one sober person in the room watching others lose their faculties, at some point the fun wears off and you hit a wall. Even when I wasn’t sober, I usually found that wall before anyone else.

What would be really nice is to have these conversations with my friends when they are not under the influence of alcohol. But I’m not so sure that is going to happen because alcohol is the one constant in this group – at least until now with my sobriety.


child gun alcohol

Shiny Silver Boxes

I recall a day, back when I was ten years old, that my father came home holding a beautiful silver box in his hands. He sprung through the front door with a big smile on his face and told me to get my mother because he had something to show us. I thought for sure that this pretty box must be filled with something special, so I wasted no time running to call for mom in the backyard. When she came inside, dad positioned us both strategically in front of him in the kitchen while he held out the box and built the excitement up. “Are you ready to see what I have?” he said. My tiny voice let loose and proclaimed “yes!”, but my mother seemed skeptical. I was disappointed in her melancholy, for once dad was doing something nice for us. He moved his hand over the lid, slowly raising it to give us just a peek. I only saw a bit of blue velvet inside before he slammed the box shut and laughed. Mom was growing more irritated and I was growing more fascinated. If there was velvet then it must be something really good. Finally, he wrapped his fingers around the lid and pulled it all the way open. My excitement melted into a pile on the floor. There, nestled in the center of a blue velvet cushion sat something that I had never seen up close. This was the stuff of movies or TV, only bad guys and police were supposed to have this. Why on earth would dad think I would be happy to see a gun?

Mom started to cry and I stood stunned. He pulled it out of the box, waving it around to show it off, telling us about the great deal he just got. I somehow doubt he actually bought the thing, it was more likely part of a weird drug deal, but he couldn’t stop talking about it. My mother was upset and repeatedly asked him why he needed a gun in the house, which turned into a yelling match between the two. Needless to say, she didn’t win that argument. The gun stayed and that silver box went somewhere in dad’s den. Den is just a fancy term for the spare bedroom in the house that was off limits to anyone but him. It was his domain where he played music, did drugs, looked at pornographic magazines and did god knows what else. Now he had a gun to play with, too.

Even at age ten, I knew this was a terrible idea. When he wasn’t at work, dad was drunk and usually volatile, and these were the days when it was growing evident that he was doing something else, too. I remember a few times that he was obviously hallucinating. One night, he called me into the living room where I found him sitting up on the couch with his feet off the floor and in a panic. He was trying to fight off the giant rodents he saw crawling across the floor. He kept pointing and shouting “Did you see that? Oh my god! Did you see that?” When I kept denying it, he grew angry and wouldn’t let me leave the room until I “stopped lying” to him. I was frightened and thoroughly confused, but I finally gave in and admitted to seeing something. I even made a little game out of it by jumping around like I was running from the massive rodents that were in his head. So yeah, this man being in possession of a gun didn’t seem like such a brilliant idea. (For the record, every time I see The Princess Bride, I think of this moment. Good ol’ rodents of unusual size.)

One evening after the gun came into the home, dad thought he heard the doorbell being rang repeatedly and he was sure it was a neighborhood kid playing a prank. There was no doorbell, there was no sound at all, but he ran to the door over and over and grew more agitated each time. I remember my mom trying to calm him down and assure him that he must be hearing something else, but he wasn’t having it. A few minutes later he came barreling out of his den with that gun in his hands, running to the door screaming about that “goddamn kid” and “I’ll show him” while my mother chased behind him. He ran out the front door and stood shouting and waving it around in our driveway at no one, then mom locked him out. When he heard the door shut, he ran right back to it beating on it and yelling for her to let him back in. She called through the door that she was going to phone the police and with that, his tune changed completely. He quieted down and started apologizing and pleading with her to let him back in, which she didn’t waste much time doing. I don’t think either of them wanted the embarrassment of the police showing up.

Sometime after this event, it was a Saturday night and the madness escalated. The weekends were always the worst. Dad would come home from work on a Friday already half loaded from the beer he picked up on the drive home and would carry on until late Sunday night. Saturdays were when he hit his peak, as he definitely did on this night. He was in his den when something fired him up. I could hear him yelling and throwing things around in that tiny room, followed by a loud and unfamiliar clicking sound happening over and over again. Mom and I stood in the kitchen and through her frightened eyes she told me that the sound was him cocking the gun. I didn’t really know what that meant, but it terrified me. It was relentless, the sound seemed never ending until I heard the door to his room open. I looked to mom to do something, but she was frozen as he turned the corner with the gun in his hands and a wild look on his red and sweaty face. I don’t even recall what it was about, or if it made any sense at all, but he started yelling at mom and I was so afraid that he was going to shoot her. While he screamed and she cried, I felt responsibility to handle the situation and had to find a way to make it stop. In my ten-year old brain, I guess I thought I needed a weapon to do so and I grabbed the first thing I saw on the counter next to me. It was a large, metal garlic press. That’s right folks, I was going to stop the big man with a gun with a garlic press. I jumped in front of mom wielding my new weapon and screamed as loudly as I could for him to stop and to leave her alone. Things grew silent for a moment while dad looked confused, I thought he might even start laughing at this ridiculous scene in front of him, but no such luck. Instead he proceed to yell at both of us. Mom tried to silence me but I kept shouting right back at him, raising that garlic press high in my hand because I was ready to fight, if necessary. Then he lifted the gun and pointed it right at my head. I can still clearly see the weapon staring me in the face, I can hear my mothers screams, I can feel my heart race and then everything goes blank. I can’t remember a single thing after that.

I have no idea what the outcome of this was and like many other events, I’ve never talked about it with my mom. I’m quite certain it was never brought up by anyone after that night. But I do know this, that gun never made another appearance that I’m aware of. My assumption, or what I like to believe, is that dad was so frightened by his drug induced behavior and that he could have killed his wife and child that he got rid of his prized toy kept in the shiny silver box.


The Depth of Us

I am pleased to say that my apprehension with the work trip last week turned out to be somewhat unnecessary for a number of reasons. First, my husband ended up home for the week and opted to make the trip down to Charleston with me. While he couldn’t accompany me to my work events, it made it nice knowing that he was there waiting for me afterwards. His presence significantly altered the dynamic of some of the more stressful situations. I also need to thank a certain blogger who texted me to check in on Wednesday night – you know who you are!

The first night’s dinner was in an intimate courtyard at Leon’s Oyster Shop, complete with brick pavers and string lights. There was gorgeous whole fish being prepared on the wood fired grill in one corner and a massive open bar in the other. The one other sober person amid over 55 people there that night joined me at the bar for a club soda, and with that drink in my hand it wasn’t long before I realized that in this environment no one even noticed. I knew in relatively quick fashion that this evening would be a breeze. A few minutes later, our friendly but socially awkward I.T. manager sidled up next to me to mention that he had read my blog post about choosing sobriety. Now, as stalker-ish as this might initially seem, he called me nearly a year ago after I wrote a series of Linked-In articles where I referenced my other (more public) blog to tell me that he was following along. I am fully aware that there are one or two coworkers that read that blog, but I had forgotten that he was one of them. He nervously explained to me that he thought I was brave to put so much of myself out there for anyone to see and that he was prepared to go without a drink at these events if it would be of any help. Without making eye contact, he next quietly told me that he was also sorry about what I had to endure growing up. It feels a little odd to have someone tell me they are sorry, but I thanked him and promptly reassured him that I am in the best place I’ve ever been in my life. Now, I.T. guy is sadly someone that most people in our company avoid, and I’m sure that I’ve been one of those people at times, but the way he reached out to me that night made me see something else in him. I had the distinct sense that there is much more going on with I.T. guy and somehow the telling of my story was a way of connecting with him. It reminded me that we never really know what people are going through and we only ever see what’s on the surface with most of our interactions. It is easy to overlook that there is a depth and a life full of experiences, both good and bad, in every one of us. This would not be the only time this reminder would strike me on this short trip.

After dinner, I decided to stick to my original plan and call it an early night while others coordinated to hit the bar scene. As I prepared to head back to the hotel, I was surprised by the 10 or so people who immediately followed my lead. The bulk of the partying was expected to take place the following final night, usually with me included. As I got ready for dinner that next Thursday evening, I found my trepidation had mellowed. I knew wholeheartedly that I wouldn’t drink and given how the prior night went, I didn’t think the social aspect would be so bad, either. Instead, I found myself looking forward to dinner, but with the thought that I would still have to find a way to exit in advance of the big bar hopping. It seemed that fate had plans for an even earlier exit for me, however, when I stepped into a small pothole about a block from the restaurant. My fall was not a graceful one and judging by the reaction of the four people with me, I knew it was bad. I tried to brush it off and ignore the pain, proclaiming that I could just clean up a bit when we reached the restaurant and I would be fine. One of my coworkers even told me I’d feel better after getting a drink in me, to which I had to laugh. Then we all saw the goose egg on my knee and the blood pouring down my leg. After obtaining a pile of napkins and an Uber, I would spend the rest of that evening with my husband, a first aid kit and room service. I hear there are better ways to avoid drinking, though.

Earlier that day, we had several hours of free time to spend how we chose. Some folks played golf and drank, others went deep sea fishing and drank, and many spent the afternoon bouncing between bars and shopping, which is what I would have done in the past. Instead, I couldn’t wait to walk through the historic neighborhoods of the city and the best part was being able to take my husband along. It was during this beautiful walk on the perfectly sunny afternoon where we would receive word that a friend of ours had passed away. As my husband read the message to me on the sidewalk, I felt breathless. While the friend was not a regular part of our immediate circle of friends, he was someone we had known for close to 10 years and he was very much a part of the broader circle. It was just a few weeks ago that we spent time with him and now he was gone. You could say that we were both stunned by the news and while we had no idea what happened, I couldn’t keep from saying that this felt too close to home. We continued our walk, discussing how little we really know about some people and what may be going on in their lives or even with their health, both physical and mental. Something about the whole situation seemed off, not that it could ever feel right when something like this happens, but neither of us could shake the bad feeling.

It would be early Saturday morning when we would learn that our friend committed suicide. He was just 48 years old and had a wife and 7-year old son. There was obviously something so painful within him, something going on that no one knew about that made him feel that this was his only choice. We may not have been incredibly close with him, but his loss and the tragedy of it is painful. I feel heartbreak for his family and I feel heartbreak that many of us never really saw his struggles.

I have no perfect words for this loss, as I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I lost my father to a situation that speaks to taking his own life, and my step brother committed suicide after multiple tours in Afghanistan followed by a battle with heroin addiction. During my exposure to the recovery community, I continue to hear stories from others that have contemplated taking their lives at some point or still struggle with this even today. While I don’t know personally what it feels like to be faced with that affliction, I do believe that no matter what our story is, if we are comfortable sharing it then it should be told. Our stories connect us, and that connection can be incredibly powerful, maybe even life altering. If we aren’t sharing our stories with one another, then at the very least we should always remember that the stories are there within each of us. We are so much more than what we appear on the surface.

I celebrated two months of sobriety on Friday, 2/20, but it was Saturday that I felt some of the strongest cravings I’ve had in weeks. I struggled, I was irritable and I had an incredible urge to isolate and drink all day long, but I didn’t. It’s the feelings that are still difficult to face without alcohol and this will be my work for the foreseeable future, but it will also be the work that I continue to talk about because I know that I’m not alone in this.


Preparing for Another Sober First

Tomorrow is a day that I’m both dreading and looking forward to. In the morning, I will head to Charleston, SC. A beautiful city that I love, and I will get to see people that I typically only have the pleasure of being around once a year. This is the time of year when my annual company meeting rolls around and it’s always been couple of fun days. The problem is that the fun over the past seven years has been laced with alcohol. Two days of meetings intertwined with social activities, nice dinners, and free flowing booze. I mentioned last week that my company thrives on the drinking culture, it’s the environment we’ve fostered, like many others. We have high stress positions with long hours and relentless deadlines, so how do we let loose? We drink. We party. We stay up late and bar hop until we can’t remember what time we got back or how we got to the hotel. I am no longer a part of that “we”.

The locations are always carefully selected, we’ve done NYC, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, and the most recent event was in Nashville. I spent the first couple of years calling most evenings early, not hanging out with the crowd getting wasted because I still felt too new to fully partake. Then NYC hit and I was out with a group exploring the city bars and the whiskey scene well into the early hours of the morning. I wasn’t inappropriate at all, but I had a massive hangover through 8 hours of meetings the next day, which was utterly miserable. Then came Miami. Just after landing at the airport, I met up with a coworker for an afternoon drink on the beach where we polished off two bottles of wine and headed to dinner with the entire group. That night would be filled with pre-dinner cocktails, wine with dinner, post-dinner cocktails, champagne by the pool and then a couple of hours at a South Beach nightclub with table service and an entire bottle of scotch split between three people. I am fortunate to have been with people I trusted because I have vague memories of getting into a cab to head back to the hotel in the pre-dawn hours, but nothing after that. Somehow during my blackout I apparently had enough sense to set my 6:30 a.m. alarm in order to make it to the early morning meetings. I remember wobbling into the shower and still feeling so drunk that I could barely distinguish the shampoo from the conditioner, and the tiles on the wall looked like they might be moving. I next leaned over the well-stocked mini-bar in my room seriously contemplating cracking open one of the little bottles to take the edge off and get me through. I opted against it because I didn’t want anyone to smell it on me, but the amount of alcohol that had to already be oozing out of my pores would have remedied that.

I could barely see straight as I walked into the meeting room when my boss came up beside me and whispered that he was still drunk. I remember feeling relief that I wasn’t the only one. I spent the next several hours chugging Sprite and water and picking away at crackers, trying my best to keep from vomiting. It was complete misery. I remember repeatedly saying “I’m too old for this” as my hangover continued through the airport that evening. The moment I boarded the plane for home, I powered through two glasses of red wine. It was the only thing that was going to help, because there isn’t much that’s more miserable than being on a plane in that condition.

Everyone still makes jokes about that night and how awful we felt but how much fun we had. That won’t be the kind of fun I’m partaking in this time. While there were some good times, much of it is so fuzzy that it almost doesn’t seem like a real experience. It’s as though I have someone else’s memories. There is also no amount of fun that is worth that kind of hangover. It took me the better part of two days to recover, talk about lost time.

I look forward to staying sober on this trip, but I am walking into this with some trepidation. I am not ultimately worried about taking a drink, while I expect a craving to hit from time to time, I am too committed to staying sober at this point. What concerns me is the feeling that I went through at the small work dinner last week, only this time there is a much larger scale to deal with. That night made me realize that there are still unknowns that lie ahead of me and those can be scary. All I can do is be as prepared as possible. With that, I’ll share some of the tools and thoughts I plan to focus on to help get me through:

  1. Leave both dinners early, no matter what. The one sober person I planned to stick to will be headed out on Thursday and that will be the biggest boozing night of all. I may be compelled to stick it out, but I know that the longer I stay the more opportunity arises for struggles, so this time I’ll keep it short.
  2. I plan to take early morning walks around the city, starting the day with a little exercise and meditation to keep my thoughts on track.
  3. My phone is loaded up and ready with sobriety-based podcasts for those walks and the times spent getting ready in my hotel.
  4. Books and writing. When I come back early from those dinners, I’m well prepared for writing or reading something inspirational.
  5. I picked up a little pocket amethyst stone while in Arizona. Yes, I know it’s a little woo-woo and not something I would typically buy into, but amethyst supposedly has qualities to help people in recovery. If anything, when I hold the stone in my hands it reminds me of why I’ve chosen sobriety and sometimes that is all it takes.
  6. The Universe Has Your Back cards, from Gabrielle Bernstein. Sure, maybe another woo-woo item, but this fun little deck is a great tool for instant inspiration each day. It’s something new in my little bag of tricks and I spend time each morning reflecting on an affirmation for the day ahead followed by selecting a card that I’ll carry with me that day. For instance, today’s random card says “Surrender to a power greater than you.” That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
  7. Just breathe. When things start to feel tough, I’ll take deep breaths and with every one I’ll consider how great it feels to have a clear head and no hangover. I’ll remember how proud I am of the hard work I’ve accomplished and of how so much greatness still lies ahead of me. I’ll think of everyone who has supported me and know that I won’t let myself or any of them down.

I already ordered a celebratory coffee mug as a reward for making it through this trip. With any luck, it will be here waiting for me when I return. Not to mention, Friday will be my two months of sobriety. When I get through the next couple of days I have something pretty big to look forward to, and that makes me smile.