10 Name Concepts For Your Own Higher Power

a higher power that isn't god

Now that I’ve been attending AA for about 5 months and I’m working the 12 steps, I’ve had to explore the concept of a higher power. Like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, anything with the word God attached to it used to make me cringe. I would run far far away from whatever it was. Organized religion and the word “God” still don’t sit right with me, but what I love about AA is that it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with spirituality.

All I need to participate in the 12 step program of AA is the desire to stop drinking, an open mind, and willingness that comes from my heart. Check, check, check. Let’s do this! It’s easy to get bogged down with the language in the Big Book or the 12 & 12, because you’ll often see God, but I’ve learned to change that to a word that I think is more appealing for me. The possibilities are endless.

My sponsor says the best part about a Higher Power is, you don’t have to define it, it can just be. It is just a power greater than yourself, no more, no less. How awesome is that? I am also learning how to let go of the old ideas and prejudices I had against the word “God” and I’m realizing that in this program, God is just a concept. It’s not all the big, scary things I’ve associated with it for years. Either way, the fun part about now having a higher power in my life is that I get to think about what it means to me and how I want to refer to her. If you’re thinking about getting a higher power of your own, or you’re confused as to what a higher power actually is, read through this list of 10 name concepts and pick the one you like the best!

1. Goddess

A fellow AA woman mentioned this name to me the other day and I love how elegant and positive it sounds!

2. HP

This is just an acronym for higher power, but I think that it sounds short, sweet, and cool!

3. The Universe

I love this one because it really embodies the interconnectedness of everything. It makes you feel small in a big, big world.

4. Buddha

I’ve been getting down with the Buddhist teachings lately and they really know what they’re talking about. Plus the images and symbols associated with Buddha and Buddhism are so upbeat and pleasing to the eye. Who doesn’t want to rub a sacred fat man’s belly?

5. Nature

I’ve been known to use nature a lot for my own HP. I always feel instantly better when I’m outside breathing the wild air and feeling the breeze on my skin. The ocean is another power of mine. I am a water sign and I’m drawn to oceans and rivers. I believe I was a pro surfer in another life.

6. Your AA group

This is often what AA’s tell newcomers to do if they can’t grasp the concept of a higher power when they first come in. Does the AA group as whole act as a power higher than you? Than it can be your HP. I think of my home group like this a lot because they are all so wise and the energy is electric in those rooms sometimes.

7. Spirit guides

I love this one too. Spirit guides sound fun, friendly, and helpful. They make me feel like they are here to help me on my path in this life.

8. Mother Earth 

It’s comforting to think about our big amazing planet as the Mother ship who gives us life. We live on her terrain, we eat her food, and we gather energy from her being.

9. Energy

Energy is a simple term and something all people emit. Having energy as your HP is really understanding the power and connectedness of all people’s energies; that feeling of oneness that can be established through a powerful force like energy.

10. Supreme being

I don’t know how you guys feel about this one, but it makes me feel like I’m ordering a dollar menu item from McDonald’s. It doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. BUT! It might make you feel comfortable and calm, and this is why I made this long list for you to choose from.

There are no rules on which concept you have to pick or if you have to stick with just one. Typically, I alternate between HP, energy, nature, and universe, and once in awhile I dabble with Mother Earth. They all make me feel hope, love, comfort, peace, and serenity, which I believe everyone is seeking when they take part in a 12 step program. If God isn’t your thing, feel free to use any of these terms as your own. Spirituality is innate and your higher power is all around you, tap into her (or him, or it.) :)

Why is St. Patrick’s Day a Drinking Holiday?

St. Patrick's Day alcoholism

You’re not fooling anyone.

 

If you’re anything like I was when drinking, you celebrate your right to binge drink on every holiday, or you make up your own to get in more drinking. That leads us to today’s wonderful holiday – St. Patrick’s Day. It’s like this holiday was made for drinking. It’s what it’s all about right? Everywhere you look it’s green beer, bar crawls, Irish car bombs, etc. Marketing has gone crazy around this holiday with green clothes, Hallmark cards, and bar promotions. How did this happen? And what’s St. Patrick’s Day REALLY about?

The History of St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and is the patron saint of Ireland. He brought Christianity to Ireland and was believed to die on March 17, 461. After his death, his beliefs and mythology became ingrained in the Irish culture. One of his most well known stories is his explanation of the Holy Trinity. Using the three leaves of an Irish shamrock, he explained the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since approximately the 10th century, Irish people have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day known as St. Patrick’s Day every March 17.

The first parade to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day was actually held in the United States, not Ireland. In New York City, on March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers who fought for the English army marched with their countrymen, along with their music to reconnect them to their Irish roots.

Over the next many years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants skyrocketed and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations became a more common and established way for Irish Americans to connect and celebrate their heritage in the U.S. After the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, the U.S. was flooded with Irish immigrants and many of them faced racial prejudice and stereotypes because of their accents and unusual religious beliefs (similar to Mexicans today!)  After Irish Americans banded together and became a great voting force known as the “Green Machine,” they became more respected by politicians and citizens alike.

Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day

According to DrunkenHistory.com, when staying at an inn, St. Patrick was given a cup of whiskey that was considerably less than full. He used this as an opportunity to teach “generosity.” He told the inn keeper there was a devil, living in his cellar with the whiskey that caused him to become greedy and cheat people of their drink.

The only way the inn keeper could get rid of the devil, and redeem himself, was to fill each cup until it was overflowing. When Saint Patrick returned he had found the inn keeper learned generosity and  filled each cup up full. Patrick declared the devil banished, and it became custom to drink a “full measure” to mark the occasion. This custom became known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick’s Pot.

In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was seen as a religious occasion. Many Catholics would attend mass. Until the 1970’s pubs were closed on March 17. In 1995, the Irish government used global interest in St. Patrick’s Day to drive tourism and the St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin was born complete with booze, parades, concerts, and fireworks.

The biggest celebrations of this holiday take place in the U.S. and that is where it became a drinking holiday. Nowadays, it is common for everyone to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day whether they’re of Irish decent or not, and surely if you’re an alcoholic. As is the case with many American things, we’ve taken the holiday to the extreme, mainly with the marketing of booze. This isn’t the only holiday that has been turned into a drinking day; there is..Thanksgiving Eve, Cinco de Mayo, and 4th of July among others.

St. Patrick’s Day Sober

This year is my first St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. in 5 years and my 2nd sober. This past weekend I was able to celebrate with my family, talk about our Irish heritage, and enjoy a home cooked corn beef and cabbage meal made by my mom. I really wanted to get to the roots of this holiday that was unfortunately hijacked by bars and businesses here in the U.S. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you don’t have to be on a bar crawl or slamming down Irish car bombs to prove you’re Irish. There’s nothing attractive or intelligent about drinking holidays. The other part of this holiday that I’ve come to understand and love, is that it was one of the first ways immigrants were able to represent their heritage with pride and overcome discrimination. A helpful reminder that we are all connected by this label “Americans” because this country is a nation of immigrants.

So today, don’t get upset you’re not drinking. You’re not missing out, I promise you that. You should be grateful you aren’t out embarrassing yourself, blacking out, and creating a huge hangover like thousands of people will be doing today. Instead celebrate by wearing your green and orange pridefully and saying “Kiss me, I’m Sober!”

Kiss me I'm sober St. Patrick's Day

Serenity Interrupted: When an Addict Comes to a Meeting High

serenity interrupted aa meeting

This post is kind of a bummer. There have been two times in the past few months where drunk men came into our women’s AA meeting that I attend during the week. Each time it was handled with calmness and grace. It was clear that even as a women’s meeting, we would never turn away an alcoholic in need of a meeting. Both times I felt a bit awkward, but not uncomfortable and overall I felt that the men enjoyed the meetings. One of them even wrote us a letter that a member read out loud the following week. He thanked us for our kindness and he said he was getting help. No harm, no foul.

This week was a little different. This week there was a girl at our meeting who I had seen once before. Only this week she acted a lot different. Her behavior was erratic and her eyes were darting all over the place. My first thought was drugs, but trying not to judge, I thought oh, maybe she is just tired. She sat near me in the meeting and she began nodding off. She couldn’t keep her eyes open, she was scratchy, and had slurred speech. This pretty much confirmed to me that she was high on something.

I can’t remember the last time I was in the presence of someone seriously high on drugs. Images and memories came flooding back to my mind when I saw this girl. I started sweating and got really anxious. I had never run into something like this before at a meeting and so close by me. Should I shake her? Wake her? Ask her if she’s ok? Let her know that she is nodding off in the middle of an AA meeting? I didn’t know if it was my responsibility or not. Instead of saying anything I remained silent as other women around the room started to realize there was something wrong with her.

No one did anything. No one seemed to be too bothered by it. But I was. I couldn’t enjoy the meeting. I couldn’t listen to the wisdom the group was giving me. I couldn’t concentrate on my own recovery while someone sitting next to me was clearly having a relapse. Or maybe she never stop using in the first place, I have no idea. It’s none of my business I guess.

As soon as the meeting was over I brought it up to some of the old timers and asked them what they do in this situation? They confirmed my fears, “yes she is definitely high on something.” But they didn’t seem surprised or overly worried. They said they just make sure she isn’t driving under that condition and they make sure she knows where she can get help. She is in the right place because she is at an AA meeting and that is where addicts and alcoholics are supposed to go if they want to stop drinking and using.

After I left and went home I couldn’t stop thinking about this girl. Why was I so apprehensive? Why had I let her state of being affect my serenity? Why did I feel weird and icky? I think there were several things at play. First, this was the first time I was in such a situation apart from the drunk men, who for some reason didn’t bother me. Second, I think it brought back some flashbacks. Hard drugs were not my thing, but losing control, not knowing what I was doing, and being out of my mind, were common during my drinking days. Third, I just felt a responsibility to help her and didn’t know how, or even if I should.

I talked it over with my mom and my sponsor. They assured me it wasn’t weird that I felt emotional and that this girl struck a chord with me. They also said it was not my responsibility to get this girl help and that she had already taken the first step by getting herself to a meeting.

I beat myself up a little for letting this girl’s path affect my serenity in that moment. I know that she has her own struggles and her own life and it should not affect my recovery and my ability to participate in a meeting. I couldn’t help but see a little of my old self in her. I decided I could only wish the best for her and that one day she will find peace.

My sponsor left me with the best advice that I’ll share with you all here:

“I think the biggest help we can ever offer is to be the example..live the highest good you want for others…believe me when I tell you, that is the best you can ever do for anyone.”

I believe her and so I will.

 

 

Living in Paradise: Why Addicts Go to the Caribbean

Bahamas beach sunset

Beautiful Bahamas

This post is different from my normal ones. A few weeks ago I was approached by a fellow sober blogger named Marilyn Spiller who I have chatted with via Twitter and blog comments before. I love reading her blogs and I can relate to almost everything she writes. We share many similarities. We both lived in Caribbean destinations abroad, and we’re both alcoholics who got sober and now share our experiences through writing. We both agreed on the fact that the Caribbean is paradise living and a place that attracts big drinkers and alcoholics. To explore this topic more in depth we did an interview style blog post together. It was fascinating getting to know Marilyn better and interesting how similar and different our experiences were.

Kelly: Marilyn, what made you move to the Bahamas and were you a heavy drinker before you lived there? 

Marilyn: Which came first: the drinking or the divorce? That’s the age old question for me. I had always been a big drinker, in fact it is certainly one of the factors in my divorce, but I really spiraled out of control afterwards.  My husband was watchful, and without him to mitigate my drinking it quickly escalated.  I was well on the way to alcoholism when I arrived on vacation, in Staniel Cay in The Bahamas.

What I found, was a place so beautiful and decadent it was like the Island of the Lotus Eaters or Hotel California: I was stupefied. There were no rules. There were no deadlines. I thought I had found my place in the world. I bought a house on the island and began to spend most of my time there.

Marilyn:  What about you Kelly? Was living in Cancun a trigger? How did you end up living there?

Kelly: Wow yes those islands sound very similar to Cancun. Cancun living was just the next progression in my party lifestyle. After being a heavy drinker in college and continuing that same lifestyle in Ocean City, Maryland for one summer, my next move was to Cancun – a party capital! No family or friends there to watch over me or annoy me about my party habits. It was filled with other people just having fun and not caring about real life.

Kelly: At what point did you realize your drinking habits in paradise were no longer the norm? Did you know you were an alcoholic? 

party Bahamas drinking

Marilyn partying in the Bahamas

Marilyn: When I first moved to Staniel, I did a lot of hiking, island hopping, snorkeling, travel by boat – all the things you think of when you think of  a Caribbean sojourn.  All those activities were coupled with drinking, however.  The culture made it very natural to have a drink in the hand.  It was the norm to see vacationers and locals on the dock with a cocktail, early in the morning – in fact we jokingly called it “Bahamian breakfast”.  I drove a golf cart on the island, and I always had a cooler with wine, beer and plastic wine glasses – and yes, I drank and drove.

There was always a party, or festival or regatta happening and there were always wasted people. I thought of myself as just one of the loveable eccentrics, not as a raging alcoholic.  It wasn’t until long after I left (and through Waking Up the Ghost) that I reconnected with some people on the island who said they had always worried about me. That in fact I was more outrageous than most. They reminded me of all the times my golf cart had to be lifted off the big, decorative rock at the entrance to the Yacht Club.  Apparently everyone thought of me as the crazy, white woman on the hill – it’s very embarrassing to me now… In my defense, the Bahamian men are like machines – they can drink all night and work all day. I just couldn’t keep up…

Marilyn: What is the drinking culture like in Mexico? How did you deal with living in a place where most people were visiting for a week’s vacation? Did you try to temper your drinking? 

Spring break party zone Cancun Mexico

Me drinking on Spring Break in Cancun in 2010

Kelly: Cancun is a spring break and vacation town built for partiers. The nightlife is extreme – most clubs are open all day and all night. You can find a party any day of the week. Locals often work in the “party center” an area of the Hotel Zone made up of all the clubs and bars. Drinking is a huge part of the culture there and even eating dinner or grabbing a taco is accompanied by a beer. I loved living in a place where most people only came for a week. It was thrilling and I felt “special” living the local life and making it work in paradise. I had tried to moderate my drinking and going out for years and I did go through different phases of that in Cancun. It never worked.

Kelly: Did you get sober in the Bahamas? When did you make the decision to stop drinking? Why?

Marilyn: God no. I just kept drinking more and more. I love that you say you felt special living in a vacation spot, staying on after everyone went back to their “boring lives”. I felt exactly the same way – and frankly I haven’t felt that much at home in a place before or since. But my drinking and misfortunes kept getting worse – I crashed my golf cart a few times, knocked out my teeth, twice, had a romance go bad (surprise, surprise with a peach like me, right?)… At some point I realized if I didn’t leave I’d probably die. Like you, I tried a number of times to curtail my boozing, but it never took.  I went back to Florida a bit broken, and a few months later I quit drinking for good.

Marilyn: You actually got sober in Paradise, right? How did that happen? Did you have a rock bottom? I suppose it’s not politically correct to ask, but do you ever miss the scene?

all inclusive drinking Punta Cana Dominican Republic

Embarrassing picture of my last drinking escapade in Punta Cana

Kelly: Yes I got sober in paradise! Crazy to say that. As silly as it sounds, I was just done. I was defeated. My rock bottom was a trip I took to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with a group of my closest high school girl friends in May of 2013. We went for one of their bachelorette parties and stayed at an all inclusive. Of course I took this opportunity to get wasted the entire trip, even after I promised my boyfriend I would moderate and be responsible (yeah right). I blacked out and embarrassed myself (nothing new). I knew my boyfriend was mad and he had told me he was moving out. In the airport on the way home I felt so lost, hungover, and hopeless I said enough it enough. I’m done drinking.

As for missing the scene, well I’m not ashamed to say I do miss socializing and dancing to great music, and the party atmosphere some days. Luckily, I can still enjoy a sober night out here and there. I do not miss being in my active addiction though. I know I made the right choice.

Kelly: Do you believe the Caribbean attracts addicts and lost souls? Why or Why not? 

Bahamas caribbean living

Marilyn lounging in the gorgeous water

Marilyn: What a great question. The Exumas attract all manner of people: celebrities and the uber rich, vacationers and eco-tourists, those looking to escape, the oddballs and the misfits. We are all seeking the extraordinary beauty of the landscape and the relief of living on “island time”. I think it is less about the Caribbean being an effect and more about it being a cause of problem drinking.In other words, I don’t think most people are attracted to the island culture, because it allows them to drop out or space out. But the temptations are always there, and if one has a penchant for addiction the Caribbean climate (in all its facets and glory) is ripe . I have seen many, responsible folks fall prey to addiction in the happy-chappy, oh-just-have-another, environment of the islands…

Marilyn: When I think of The Bahamas, I think of sitting on the deck of a boat or a deserted beach, with a gorgeous sunset and A DRINK. What about weather, and the slower lifestyle in the Caribbean? Is the encouragement to drink dangerous for everybody?

Kelly: I couldn’t agree more! Wonderfully said. The beach/vacation lifestyle are often portrayed as being accompanied by an alcoholic beverage. I definitely think the beautiful weather and slower lifestyle encourages having a cold beverage that includes alcohol with a paper umbrella in hand. I also think the Caribbean is a place where you throw caution to the wind. What happens in Cancun stays in Cancun. Bad decisions and carelessness are encouraged. I think this type of party atmosphere encourages everyone to drink, but it is especially detrimental to alcoholics and addicts. It is the perfect place to “get away” and find like-minded people who are there for the same reasons: looking to forget real life and live to party.

Kelly: Do you feel like Staniel Cay played a big part in your alcoholism? Are you angry at the island?

alcoholism in the Bahamas

Marilyn sober in the Bahamas

Marilyn: I can honestly say my biggest regret is having to leave Staniel Cay behind. I did some crazy things while I was drinking, and made some terrible decisions, but Staniel was my place in a misplaced world – I tear up as I write this… and I still miss it almost every day. I do not think the Caribbean is to blame for my alcoholism, and I am not furious at the whole damn island, but I am proud I was smart enough to know I could never quit drinking while I was there. I’ve been invited to visit by a darling woman (and recovering alcoholic) who lives on Staniel (we’ve become friends through the blog) but I am afraid to go back. I’m afraid it will be too painful and that all my work putting bygones behind me will fall into the Exuma Sound… I hope that doesn’t sound fatalistic. It is what it is…

Marilyn: I’m actually afraid to go back to Staniel Cay. I’ve been elsewhere in The Bahamas without the yearn to drink, but I’m not sure how I’d fare in Staniel – all my memories are linked to drinking. Have you been back to Cancun? Were you tempted while you were there to slip back into old patterns? 

Cancun beaches

My beautiful Cancun

Kelly: That’s a shame, I’m sorry to hear that. Even though I do have a lot of drinking memories that involve Cancun and I harbored some resentment toward the city for some time, I will never be afraid to go back there. Our stories differ, in that I got sober in Cancun and lived there for another year sober before moving back to the U.S. It was hard at first, but I was able to develop a life that didn’t involve alcohol and I stuck to my decision not to give in to the desire to drink. I have never been tempted to go back to my old partying ways because my life has gotten SO much better since I got sober. I never want to return to the hangovers, the stress, the anxiety, the constant worry about what I said or did during a black out. The feeling of peace and self confidence I have now being able to walk around in Cancun without shame or embarrassment is priceless. I’m glad I am no longer angry at Cancun because it is a beautiful place that has taught me so much. It’s also where my boyfriend is from and his family lives there so I must return and visit on a regular basis.

Kelly: Why did you start Waking Up the Ghost? How has it helped you in your recovery?

Marilyn: I started the blog selfishly as a journal – a means of keeping myself honest and sober. I write almost every day and every day I would write down a reason I didn’t drink and a short vignette about how I was feeling. When my private posts started getting shared with others on social media, I began to get messages from strangers telling me I’d helped them and that one post or another had rung true and eased their suffering. I was amazed and honored. Now, my readers help me as much as I help them – they are my friends, muses and fellow travelers on this sober road.  I don’t wow everybody, every day, but every once in while someone will write to me and say they feel exactly the way I do and that I am not alone. That makes it all worthwhile.

Marilyn: Why did you start The Sober Señorita? You’ve been at this longer than me – how has writing your blog impacted your recovery?

Kelly: I love that! I’ve had a similar experience. I originally started the Sober Señorita because I was really getting into blogging at work and I was good at it, and a lot of girls I was friends with in Cancun had blogs about being expats living in Mexico. So, already sober at the time, I wanted to link the two. I have to say my sister is the one who came up with the name Sober Señorita and it fit perfectly, a sober Mexican-living girl on this adventure called life. My posts started out mostly about my life in Cancun and here and there I would mention I was sober, but I never really got into why that was. It wasn’t until my One Year Without Alcohol post that I revealed my struggles with alcohol and why I decided to quit drinking. Obviously you know that I got a huge, overwhelming response from that post. I, like you, started my blog for selfish reasons. But now I feel a great responsibility in sharing my story with the world and letting people know they are not alone in their struggles. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that sharing my experiences, I can inspire others.

Thank you Marilyn for this awesome joint post idea and taking the time to talk to me about your experience with alcoholism and sobriety in the Caribbean! If one thing is for sure, Cancun and the Bahamas will be imprinted on our hearts forever!

Read Marilyn’s blog posts here: Waking Up the Ghost

Follow her on Twitter.

Like her Facebook page.

5 Lessons I Learned From One Year Of Blogging

start a blog

A few weeks back I celebrated my bloggerversary. It’s been one year since I started the sober señorita, I still can’t believe it. Obviously I’ve grown immensely as a person since I started my blog and my writing has changed as well. I started out writing about living as an expat abroad in Mexico and slowly transformed into being open about my sobriety and struggles with addiction. Throughout this time period I learned a lot about myself and about blogging. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

1. Don’t be afraid to blog about what you really want to blog about

I knew I wanted to write about my sobriety, but I didn’t really know how at first or in what capacity I would dive into it. I made sobriety a part of my blog name because it was a part of me and I didn’t want to be ashamed of it. The sober señorita would become my new identity. Even after making the name and putting together the blog, I hesitated to write about sobriety. Throughout my first posts I hinted at the fact that I didn’t drink, but I never really explained why until my One Year Without Alcohol post. The reactions from that post gave me the courage to get honest with myself and start writing more about what I really wanted to write about.

2. One article can go viral for no particular reason at all

Well as most of you know this happened with my One Year Without Alcohol article, which was then labeled 7 Things I Learned From a Year Without Alcohol by the Huffington Post. I still don’t really understand why this particular article went viral. I just know that I was silently counting the days and months of my sobriety and I needed to share about what I had learned. I wanted people to understand why I stopped drinking and how it had been such a great decision for my life. I still remember the email I received from the Huffington Post asking me if they could republish it and then the views, emails, comments, and reposts came pouring in. I’ve never experienced something so overwhelming and rewarding. Still today, almost 2 years sober, my article is STILL being circulated and talked about. I was hoping some people would be able to relate to my story when I wrote it, but I never dreamed that so many people actually would. I guess being honest and straightforward about your struggles goes a long way.

3. Sharing your story can change the world

I’ve said this before, but starting my blog was for me, and now writing is for all of you. I still get something out of it, but instead of trying to make myself feel better and speaking my mind, I now hope that I can reach out and help somebody with each post I write. I understand that sharing my experiences is for a greater good. I know that I am making a difference because of all of you who have taken the time to send me a message, an email, a comment, or a tweet telling me how my writing has affected your life or the lives of people you love. One of the best feelings in life is knowing you are not in this thing alone and I want every person who has ever struggled with alcohol to know they are not the only one. Sharing your story could help spark that change in someone else, and I’m so humbled to know I’m making this type of impact.

4. Forming a bond with your readers is awesome

I know one of my main objectives has been to let readers and people out there know that they aren’t alone, but it’s great knowing that I am not alone either. Over this past year of blogging it’s been a real learning experience through writing and sobriety. I’ve also had the pleasure of connecting with several of my readers. My friend Beth from Minnesota who also published an article on the Huffington Post about sobriety around the same time as I did, shares my sobriety date. We have kept in contact and talk daily, even though we haven’t met in person yet! But we hope to do that this year. She is one person that can understand several things about me: being young and sober, being a writer, and working a program. I am very grateful for her friendship and I find it amazing we found each other over the internet. I also met my friend Shannon after she sent me an email telling me she read my blog and lived in the same town as me. This is how I ended up going to AA for the first time and now because of that I have an even larger group of wonderful women in my life! The connections I’ve made through my blog are awesome and I love where it has taken me and I can’t wait to see where it will bring me in the future.

5. Blogging keeps your memories safe and close

Most of all, blogging has allowed me to reflect on my journey over the last year. I love being able to look back at my posts and say Wow that was a great time, or, that was a really tough situation I went through. That’s the beauty of documenting your life through blogging. You keep the memories safe and close by your side. It’s also a reminder of how I’ve grown and how my writing style has changed. Going back and reading about Mexico makes me happy that I lived there, and now reading and writing about life in the USA and our new adventures keeps me in the present moment.

I couldn’t be happier that I decided to start my blog just over one year ago. I didn’t know it would develop into what it is today, but I’m so glad that it has. Blogging has helped me grow as a person and a writer and I’m lucky to be able to share my personal experiences with the world. Thank you all for reading!

 

Acceptance Is The Answer…For Dealing With 6 Knee Surgeries

I’ve had a million ideas for blog posts and website redesigns for my site lately and I’ve been feeling guilty for not putting the time and attention I want into it. I blame it mostly on more self-care and homework I’m doing for my AA step study group. Excuses aside, I pushed my topic ideas to the back to write about something more pressing that’s on my mind.

Next Thursday, a week from today I’ll be having my sixth knee surgery. Yes, you read that correctly, 6 knee surgeries. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, my favorite sport in the world is soccer, and although I almost love it more than life itself, it has provided me with quite a few injuries along the way. I have what’s known as the curse of the ACL injury and I’m sure if you’ve played soccer sometime in your life, you know about this injury. It has haunted me since the age of 16. My most recent injury isn’t an ACL tear, so I feel like I should be thankful. This time around, I tore my medial meniscus in my left knee. Also in there is a cyst and a random piece hanging off of my patellar tendon. So next week I’ll go under the knife for the 6th time and undergo an arthroscopy to fix these 3 small issues. Obviously, I won’t be able to play soccer or do much of anything for a while following the surgery. Approximately 6-12 weeks without soccer, but who’s counting?

This situation has had me a little bit depressed. I am 100% self-pitying and asking: Why? Why? Why? Why me? Why again? Why now? It’s just not fair. Poor me. Now that I am more enlightened and have been learning so much about myself through a 12-step program, I recognize these feelings, and I know I won’t feel like this forever. I am also completely aware that I’m fighting tooth and nail against my reality. My sponsor told me that I have to accept that maybe my body is trying to tell me something. Maybe I am supposed to be done playing soccer; that I am going against the will of the universe. But how can this be true If I have been undergoing knee surgeries since the age of 16? I refuse to believe I wasn’t meant to play soccer. I’ve been playing since the age of 5. I’ve had a great career. I played NCAA Division II soccer for 4 seasons. I played in Mexico. I’m completely in love and dependent on this sport.

I can wish all I want. I can ask why a thousand times, but it won’t change my situation. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been dealt quite a hand in this life. In fact, I had to listen to my orthopedic doctor give me a speech about how I need to remove the word “normal” from my vocabulary when it comes to my knees. He went on to tell me they will never be normal, I’ll never have a quick fix, and it’s something I have to deal with because I’ve had so many surgeries beginning at such a young age. I felt like I skyrocketed back to when I stopped drinking. Only that time, I was crying to my mom about how I couldn’t keep living my life the way I was and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t feel normal. That’s when my mom told me, “You’re not a bad person Kel, you’re an alcoholic.” I know I’m not normal. I never was and I never will be. But that didn’t make it any easier to hear it again in the doctor’s office two weeks ago.

Although I don’t agree with every single thing I hear in AA, today this part from the Big Book makes me feel better: “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. “

So I’ll have surgery again. I’ll sit out from soccer AGAIN. I’m not saying I am ready to retire. But for today I am accepting that this is my fate. I am a fighter. I know I’ll recover, just like I am from alcoholism. I just need to feed my self confidence and self worth instead of self pity and self doubt.

ACL knee surgery soccer girls

My knees

 

High Bottom Drunks vs. Low Bottom Drunks: Who’s Worse?

high bottom drunks low bottom drunks

Maybe some of you haven’t heard of these terms yet, while others may already be very familiar with them. They are new to me. I have heard these two terms thrown around, but I didn’t fully understand what they meant until recently.

Let me explain.

A high bottom drunk aka a high-functioning alcoholic is defined as a person who manages to escape their alcohol addiction before it causes too much damage in their life. They may not have lost much during their addiction. They are the people that many refer to as “functioning alcoholics,” although there aren’t any true functioning alcoholics. However, it’s quite typical for high bottom drunks to be in a deeper state of denial, to normalize their excessive drinking habits, and to have a stable job, home life, and relationships. Many of them will never get help because they don’t identify with the stereotypical drunk who is portrayed as an old man living homeless in the park drinking liquor out of a paper bag. They easily convince themselves that their drinking is not worrisome and that programs like AA are not for them. If they read my blog, or open up the Big Book, they would stunningly see that they are just like any other alcoholic, and that they too can recover.

A low bottom drunk is defined as an alcoholic who loses a lot in their life before deciding to get help. These are the types of people who may have done jail time, lost jobs, houses, cars, driver’s licenses, or committed unspeakable crimes. A low bottom drunk has most definitely hit a typical rock bottom and has reached utter and complete hopelessness in their life. Choosing sobriety is their only option. Their tragic bottom becomes the foundation on which they rebuild their life.

Most high bottom drunks believe getting sober and programs like AA aren’t for them because they picture a room full of criminal addicts who are old, scary, and dangerous. I know this to be true because it was a silly prejudice I held about the rooms. It’s funny what your brain will tell you. Mine told me, “But, I’m not like them. I’m not that bad. I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t get a DUI. I still graduated college and got a good job.” By achieving goals, acting like you’re keeping it together, and hiding your fears about whether or not your drinking is out of control, it’s easy to convince yourself life is normal and drinking wine 4 times a week is only a stress-reliever. Their alcohol abuse may continue until some sort of alcohol-related crisis occurs.

It’s also hard for high bottom drunks to come to grips with the reality of their addiction because they don’t fit the scientific definition of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Many times they are not physically addicted to alcohol. That doesn’t mean that they don’t experience inner turmoil, engage in dangerous behaviors, and consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

So what’s worse?  The immediate answer might seem like the life of a low bottom drunk. No one wants to lose everything they’ve worked for, go to jail, suffer irreversible physical damage, or lose their own children. But, sometimes I feel like they are the lucky ones. In a way they are forced to see the light. They hit a noticeable rock bottom and must face their addiction or die. High bottom drunks on the other hand, might spend the rest of their lives slowly drowning in their own misery. There is only so long they can flounder before the urge to give up the fight and slip away into the dark water wins out. The justification of their actions will keep them in a vicious cycle for a long time, if not forever. They might not ever understand how their behavior is toxic and unhealthy, but most of all, unnecessary. It pains me to know there are so many people out there who will never know the beauty of a sober life.

I guess I am one of the lucky high bottom drunks. Sure, I dabbled in some trouble, I did a little damage, but I had countless people tell me, “but, you’re not an alcoholic! You’re fine! You’ll learn to handle it.” Oh, but I am. And I’m so glad I came to this realization when I did, because today my life is so much more full and rewarding.

I’m An Alcoholic And You Might Be Too

go through life sober as an alcoholic

Dun dun dun!!! I know, I wrote a blog just a few months back questioning whether or not I was an alcoholic and I told you all that labels don’t really matter. Although I still don’t believe the label is required, I do think I wasn’t being 100% honest with myself. So I’m here to say that …My name is Kelly and I’m an ALCOHOLIC!!

Wow that really wasn’t so bad. I am not a stranger to saying that phrase these days since I am attending AA meetings 2 to 3 times a week. With the work I’ve been putting into my 12 step program, and the reading and meetings I’ve been doing lately, I’ve learned a lot. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there is absolutely no question in my mind anymore about whether or not I’m an alcoholic. I am an alcoholic and that’s ok. Part of the program is being brutally honest with yourself and that’s what I’m doing. Reading stories in the big book and hearing more about what alcoholics think, do, and say has cemented the fact that I am one.

I think back in September when I wrote the “Am I An Alcoholic?” blog I was looking for any excuse not to be one – the same thing I had been doing throughout my years of drinking. This partly has to do with the stigma that the word carries. After I started going to AA, I realized being an alcoholic is NOT the worst thing in the world and admitting this to myself and others was actually the jumping off point for me becoming more of who I am. I didn’t feel as if my sobriety was endangered because I didn’t admit I was an alcoholic, but I know that one day it could be.

I believe I was emotionally addicted to alcohol. I believe the addictive behaviors and decisions I was making because of this, were signs of a bigger issue. I can now look back on my drinking history and even at my ways of thinking today, and know that I have an alcoholic brain. Normal people don’t think “I need to finish every drop of liquid in this cup,” when it’s water. Normal people don’t coax their boyfriend into buying a beer when they go out to dinner because they can’t have one (yeah that’s me). Normal people don’t need to try to control their drinking. They don’t need to set limits for themselves, one drink – just beer – just wine – only on Saturdays.

So to you I say: I’m an alcoholic and you might be too …and guess what? That’s totally ok. In fact, I find a sense of relief in it. I’m finally figuring out the things I’ve been thinking and feeling aren’t weird, but they’re a symptom of this disease I have. It feels amazing to be able to go to a place where every person in the room feels the same way I do and they love me and accept me for me. They know exactly what it feels like to question whether or not you’re an alcoholic, and then how to accept it, and embrace it.

Admitting that I am an alcoholic has been therapeutic for me. At first it was scary, but I realized there is nothing to be afraid of. This is who I am, this is my story. I read this quote that really resonated with me from The Little Red Book that says, “The alcoholic lives in compulsive slavery.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement and now I am finally free. The weight of trying to figure it out or not, and being terrified if I was an alcoholic, has finally melted away. This is just one of the many beautiful things that has happened for me since getting sober. Putting the drink down is just the very first step.

 

7 Pieces Of Advice For Your First Weeks of Sobriety

sober advice

When my readers message me or leave me comments, the most frequent question I am asked is: I am starting my sobriety journey, do you have any advice for me? Or, I’m thinking of going sober, what advice do you have for me?

It’s hard for me to answer this because it’s SUCH a loaded question and I feel like I could go on for hours about it. It makes it difficult to write back to you guys that ask me this because the space allowed in a Facebook message or tweet is minimal and it would take me hours to write it all down. In an effort to answer this question and not write a book, I’ve outlined what I consider to be the most useful pieces of advice you need to know when starting your sobriety journey.

1. You’ve made the right decision.

Stop asking yourself if you’ve done the right thing or not. I know agonizing about whether or not to go sober is a tough one. Some of us go back and forth for years before taking the plunge. It might be a difficult decision to make, but let me tell you this: I’ve never heard of any person saying they REGRET getting sober. In fact, 99% of people I know, including myself, say it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. There aren’t many negative consequences to getting sober. Therefore, you can take comfort in the fact that you’ve made the right decision.

2. Don’t concentrate on forever

I know part of what kept me drinking for so long was the fact that I could not picture living the rest of my life without alcohol. That was terrifying for me. GASP! a life without alcohol oh my god, it can’t be done. Picturing yourself not taking a drink for the rest of your life sets you up for disaster. It will make you feel overwhelmed and hopeless. There is a reason Alcoholics Anonymous’ most famous saying is: one day at a time. And no matter how annoying you think it is, it’s true. Break it down – one day, one hour, one minute at a time. When I first got sober I didn’t know how long it would be, I just kept going one day at a time and here I am 20 months later – still sober.

3. Get ready to feel feelings

Oh man, are you going to have some FEELS. I’ve written about this subject pretty extensively in the past and what I wasn’t prepared to deal with when getting sober was my emotions. After years of numbing yourself with drugs and alcohol, your true emotions come through and they will hit you like a ton of bricks. I am 20 months sober and I STILL find myself crying for no reason or getting my feelings hurt over the silliest things. During the first months of my sobriety I was extremely self conscious. I was afraid everyone was pointing at me and talking about me in private, judging me for being sober, when in reality no one gave a shit that I was sober. I mean of course my friends and family were proud of me and supported my decision, but no one was pointing at me and saying, “HA HA LOOK AT THE SOBER GIRL! WHAT A LOSER.” By the way, only alcoholics think things like that! haha.

4. You are not alone

Oh how I cannot stress this one enough. In the first weeks and months of sobriety I felt completely lonely. I had/have an amazing support system, but it was hard to find people who related to me 100%. This could also be due to the fact that I didn’t start going to meetings until about 4 months ago. Part of my goal in writing this blog is to let all of you out there know that you are not alone. You are not a bad person and what you are feeling is not weird.

5. Getting sober isn’t the end

One of my biggest realizations was that getting sober isn’t a quick fix. Don’t get me wrong – it’s important and it’s the first huge step of many. However, if you think you can just stop drinking and doing drugs and your life will be officially normal again, you’re wrong. You’ll have to relearn how to be a normal person. You’ll have figure out how to deal with emotions, situations, and your own personal history. You will need to dig deep and figure out why you were using substances so heavily in the first place and evaluate your life. It takes time. You will be a work in progress, but it will be worth it.

6. You will do great things

The best part about getting sober is that you are clearing the path for a life that will be better than you ever imagined. Yes – you will have to deal with your pain, yes – you’ll have to learn how to live again, and yes – it will be hard. But in the end, you will come out on top and you will do great things. If you told me 2 years ago that I would be sitting here, writing this blog right now about advice on being SOBER, I would not have believed you! Here I am though, living my truth, sharing my story, and finding healing through writing about it.

7. You will prefer sobriety

Many people ask me: how will I still be able to have fun? What about birthdays, holidays, weddings, or a champagne toast on New Year’s Eve? Guess what.. you will get through all of these occasions without drinking and they will still be glorious. You’ll still have fun, a different kind of fun – a fun without regret, hangovers, or shame. A quote I hear a lot in recovery is “Your worst day sober is better than your best day drunk.” And it’s so true. Eventually you will prefer this way of life, you just need to stick with it.

I hope these pieces of advice will help you along the way as you navigate your sobriety journey. Whether you just started, are a few months in, or have several years – I hope these are good reminders. Remember, it’s not about strength or your worthiness as a person – you just have to want a change and stay dedicated to that yearning for a better life.

If you haven’t already, please read my latest Huffington Post piece: 5 Feelings You Should Leave Behind In The New Year

10 Tips To Get You Through the Holidays Sober

Woohoo, it’s Christmas Eve Eve and the holiday season is in full swing. For those of you who are newly sober, already have some sober years under your belt, or are still on the fence about trying sobriety, this list is for you. The holidays should be a wonderful and joyous time for serenity, gratefulness, and being with your family and friends. This means you can still have a great time without getting wasted and here’s how:

1. Be prepared

We all know the holidays are filled with parties and places where alcohol and drugs are present. The holidays can get you feeling all sentimental and nostalgic. It’s important that you don’t start yearning for those drunk days or slip back into an unhealthy routine just because you’re home for Christmas and old friends are around. Be prepared to deal with cravings. Be prepared to deal with feelings of discomfort and questioning. Family and friends may ask why you’re doing this sober thing and your answer can be simple: my life works better this way.

2. Have an escape plan

After you emotionally prepare yourself for anything, you should physically prepare yourself with an escape plan. If you ever feel uncomfortable, or are in a place where drugs and alcohol having you feeling awkward, get out of there, STAT! It’s not worth it! There is no shame in backing out or “ghosting” out of a party or get-together because you feel like you might do something you may regret later. Don’t worry about what others will say, just get out of there!

3. Have someone to call

Whoever your support system may be – sponsors, meeting list numbers, AA hotlines, friends, family – make sure you have their phone numbers at the ready. You should always have someone you can talk it out with. It always makes me feel better to acknowledge my feelings when they arise and after talking with someone, I know everything is going to be ok.

4. Indulge in some mocktails

There is nothing better than a big tall glass of sparkling water in a fancy glass with a lemon wedge! When you’re getting ready for your holiday parties make sure you bring something special just for you. A delicious mocktail or non-alcoholic beer perhaps? You deserve it!

5. Always have a good book

This might sound weird, but whenever I am bored, uncomfortable, lonely – I can always find solace in a good book. Maybe that book for you is the big book, or maybe it’s a novel, or a drinking memoir. You never know when you’ll need just a momentary escape from your life. A book can give you that.  I always have one or two in my purse, tucked away for whenever I may need it.

6. Learn to say “No”

I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s hard when you’re a people pleaser and even more so when you can’t hide behind the shield of alcohol. There is nothing wrong with putting your recovery first. You can turn down a party, a holiday shindig, or even a certain dinner if you feel like it will negatively impact your mood or sobriety. Ask yourself, is this worth it?

7. Don’t forget to exercise

The holidays are filled with delicious meals, baked goods, candy, and other Christmas goodies. If you’re like me and you feel like you deserve chocolate because you don’t drink booze, you will want to remember to exercise. Aside from being good for your figure, exercise does wonders for your mental health. A clear head and a clear heart will keep you on your sober “A game” this year.

8. Write out a gratitude list

Write down every single thing you’re grateful for. Keep track of everything amazing sobriety has given you, or if you’re just getting sober – write down the changes you’ve noticed thus far and the goals you plan to achieve. It’s good to see all the great things that come along with sobriety written down on paper. It will remind you of what you have and what you don’t want to lose.

9. Plan your holidays

Sometimes they say don’t let yourself get “hungry, sleepy, or bored,” and by they I mean people at meetings. They say this because these types of uncomfortable feelings can lead to thoughts about drinking and desire to fill the void. To make sure you don’t get into this type of situation, you should try to plan out your holidays as much as you can. Make plans to see your friends and family, set out time for shopping, meetings, and hobbies. Keeping busy  = staying happy and sober!

10. Go easy on yourself

Last, but not least… go easy on yourself! Don’t get down on yourself if you have to leave a party or avoid certain friends or family for your own piece of mind. You have to be honest with yourself about your own recovery and where you are. Being comfortable in certain settings or environments will come with time. Like anything in life, don’t set goals you can’t achieve. Take it one day at a time and do the best you can for you.

Take this list with you over the next few weeks – if you’re beginning your sobriety journey or if you just want reinforcement during the difficult holiday season. Always remember you are never alone in your sobriety! There are thousands of people out there just like you and me staying sober and working through their own addictive behaviors. I hope these tips will help you stay sober during the holidays and all year long! Happy Holidays my friends!

sober Christmas