Sobriety and Social Justice

I have been thinking a lot about the intersection of sobriety and social justice. Seven and a half years into this journey of recovery, I know I could not do any of this work in the world without my sobriety. It comes first, and I must protect it at all costs.

I feel like so many of my friends and others in the world are waking up right now. To be sober is to be awake. You wake up on that first morning after your last drink or drug, and you look around with bleary eyes. “This can’t be right? Is this what the world really is like?” You are slow and sluggish. You are hungry for knowledge and a way forward, but you tire quickly and need rest. Your energy is frantic and fleeting, but when you’re in the midst of it you barrel through trying to fix everything that is broken. You look back at who you were yesterday and all the days before that and feel such guilt. Such shame. You want to make amends. You want to beg for forgiveness.

That time will come. But I learned very early on in my journey that the best way for me to atone is through living amends. I do this by waking up every day and living my life in a way that allows me to make amends to those I’ve hurt. My service-focused life is an amends to the people I love.

In his book, “How to Be An Anti-Racist,” Ibram X. Kendi talks about how being anti-racist is a lot like recovering from addiction. You have to do it one day at a time. You have to wake up each day and say, “what will I do to stay sober today and what will I do to be anti-racist today.” And you don’t do it once, but every day, sometimes every hour. You won’t be perfect and it will be hard, but you have to keep going.

In recovery rooms we have a saying: Once you’ve become a pickle, you can’t turn back into a cucumber.

In terms of sobriety, this means once you realize you have a substance abuse problem, you can’t go back to being a “normal drinker.” You will always feel that guilt in the pit of your stomach if/when you drink again, even if it’s just a glass of wine with dinner. I’ve been lucky that relapse has not been a part of my story, but I’ve heard from enough friends in recovery to know it’s not pleasant.

When it comes to social justice, the same saying applies. Now that you see the systemic and racist system around you, you cannot unsee it. Life will never “go back to normal.” It shouldn’t. If this is your first step, you may not realize it yet. But you are forever changed. You are newly sober in this world.

Do you sit in the guilt and shame of being a part of this system? Do you keep drinking the poison that won’t only kill your light, but also entire communities? Or do you actively recover? Do you dig deep and find the courage to make change?

The choice is yours. Have courage. Make the right one.

Lucky Number Seven

Today I am seven years sober. Lucky number seven. To have any sort of celebration or anniversary during this weird time in the world feels incredibly odd. But this is a date I refuse to let pass by without acknowledging the journey that has led me here, maybe even especially now, when we are living in a world that is so fragile, so scary, so full of heartbreak and fear. During this pandemic, I have daily thoughts of how much this feels like early sobriety. In such a short period of time, everything had changed. One day, the world as I knew it was over, it was different, and I had to learn how to live in this new place. There would always be a memory of a time before that day, and a time after. Things would never be the same.

I reached out to people I loved and admired who had been on this path before and asked them for advice. How did they do it? Turned out, I needed to completely change my life. What I had used to cope in the past wouldn’t work anymore. How I handled my day-to-day existence in the past wasn’t available to me. There were lots of things I wanted to do in that moment, daily habits and patterns that had been decades in the making. But I needed to find a different way. The world was different now. But I wasn’t going to do it in a day or a week or a month or even a year. I did it every single day, one day at a time.

I have always done a silent happy dance when I see my non-recovery friends quoting sayings that have been on embroidered wall hangings in the rooms of recovery meetings forever. “Do the next right thing.” “Take it one day at a time.” “Keep it simple.” One of these days you non-sober people are going to quote my very favorite, “Don’t drink, even if your ass falls off.” Yes, that is really something we say to each other. And it’s true! Today, as we navigate another new world, I am so grateful to be doing it as a sober person. When I first got quit drinking, I had no idea what was in store. I remember when my dad got sick around two years and I thought to myself “THIS is why I got sober. So I could handle this.” Then the election of 2016 happened, and I thought “Maybe THIS is why I got sober, so I could handle this.” Since that time there have been too many instances to count (going to the refugee camps in Greece, lobbying in Topeka and DC, starting my own business, dealing with marriage and parenting issues, changing careers and giving up my business, being in a horrific car accident, moving, etc.) where I have thought the same thing. THIS is why I got sober.

But really, it’s for all those reasons. Every hard or wonderful or crazy thing in my life in the last seven years has been “figureoutable” because I am sober. Despite my fears, I got through that first day, week, month and year. I survived the darkest days of my life. I did it imperfectly and with lots of mistakes, but I did it. And I know as a community we will make it through this challenge too. It won’t be easy. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. You don’t get to skip the hard parts, in fact, those are the parts that make it all worth it in the end. Getting sober was the exact opposite of easy. And yet, it was the best thing I ever did for myself, my loved ones and my community.

I can be a person who contributes to the world in a positive way, because seven years ago I chose a different path, and every day since I’ve woken up and made the same choice. I am so fortunate. I am so grateful. To all of you who led the way for me, thank you for your service. You know who you are. And if you are in a place where you are questioning your drinking, please reach out. There are so many of us out there, and trust me, we are pretty amazing people.

Five Years Sober

Thoughts on Five Years Sober

Five Years Sober

Today I woke up with five years of sobriety. Five years is a long time, and yet, in reality, it’s a blip. All I have to do is look at photos of my kids from five years ago to see how long it has been since I had my last drink of alcohol. Tate was only two-years-old, thumb in his mouth, still putting together sentences and not yet potty trained. Lucy was a first grader with two loose front teeth and she didn’t have her glasses yet. Today they are seven and eleven, and the years have gone by faster than I can imagine.

2013 vs 2018

I woke up today waiting for what to say, what to write, how to express how incredibly significant this milestone is to me. But honestly, the words didn’t really come. I always forget how these anniversaries sneak up on me, the emotional and mental weight baring down until I have a moment of clarity and remember “ah yes, this is how I always feel on my sobriety birthday.” I tend to need solitude, space and rest. Days like today are where my introversion really shines. I crave my bed and the comfort of myself. Sometimes I wonder if this is healthy, this need to be alone, but today I realize it’s what refuels me to go out into the world that isn’t always the easiest for those of us who struggle with living life on life’s terms.

Five years ago I was miserable. I’ve written about that day quite a few times (here and here for example), so I don’t really want to rehash it all again. I think I’ve reached the point in this recovery journey where my focus is more on what is better now, as opposed to what was awful before. I know for a fact that the last few years would have never happened if I hadn’t found recovery. I was so lost, so alone and so utterly self-conscious about the state of my life, there is no way I would have taken the risks that have gotten me to where I am today. I certainly wouldn’t be working in advocacy again. I definitely wouldn’t be able to be there for my kids in the way I’m able now. I surely wouldn’t have a marriage at all.

Five Years Sober

In the last five years my life has exponentially grown to a point where sometimes I look around me and simply cannot believe it’s real. My life used to be very small. Now my life is bursting at the seams. Sometimes I look at my calendar and have a slight panic attack over how full it is. But then I remind myself that my life is full because I choose to fill it with beauty and love and goodness. I choose to work for myself, building a business I love. I choose to be involved in my kids’ school and activities. I choose to work on my marriage and my relationship. I choose to spend time with friends and family. I choose to fight for causes I believe in. I choose to be a human who participates in the world around me. That wasn’t always the case.

I am imperfect, and I still mess up all the time. My life didn’t magically become a fairy tale just because I stopped drinking. But it definitely stopped being a nightmare. I rarely feel regret these days, which is a gift I never knew I needed. Living my life as an honest person is challenging, but it sure beats pretending to be someone I’m not. I don’t have it all figured out. I guess I thought I would by this point, but now I realize no one really knows what they are doing. We are all just apes, flying through space on a tiny planet that feels massive to us. We are all making it up as we go along, and not just those of us who happen to struggle with drinking or shopping or drugs or [insert coping mechanism of choice here].

Five Years Sober

So, what do I have to say about five years? It’s wonderful. If you are new to the journey, I’m sure five years feels like a lifetime. And it is…but it’s also just a few revolutions around the sun. A glorious blip. And when I think of the last five years, I don’t think of “not drinking.” I think of all the things I got to do. I remember all the moments I didn’t miss. I see my daughter’s first ice skating recital and my son’s first school play. I think of the time I picked up the keys to my very first studio or the art show that was packed with a line out the door. I remember marching in Washington D.C., lobbying on Capitol Hill and testifying at the Kansas statehouse. I see several trips away with my husband, and hours in counseling, re-learning how to be a partner. I remember sharing my story with teenagers in a drug treatment center and getting emails from friends and strangers saying “me too” or “I need help.”

I get all of those memories because five years ago today I woke up sober and every day since I’ve done the same. What a gift.

Five Years Sober

All of the images in this post except for the one of the kids were taken by Kymberly Janelle. Thank you, my friend, for capturing me at this stage of my recovery. It’s so appreciated and I’m forever grateful.

If you want to learn more about my story of recovery, I suggest listening to a few interviews I’ve done on the subject here and here and here. And if you are worried about your own drinking or someone you know needs help, please reach out. You can email me at No judgment. Just love.

Travel Diary : Canyon Ranch

A few weeks ago, as we were laying in bed at night, Trent said to me, “What are your plans Thursday through Sunday? I want to take you somewhere for a few days…” To say I was surprised would be a fairly large understatement. As a couple, we had been doing the thing that all middle-aged couples with busy lives/families/jobs do…we’d been taking each other for granted. The situation had left us both feeling emotionally bruised and battered, and honestly, really lonely.

So Trent decided to take action, and he booked us a three night stay at Canyon Ranch in Tuscon, Arizona. Canyon Ranch is basically a wellness camp for adults, and it was EXACTLY what we needed. The best part was that Trent planned the whole thing himself, and wouldn’t give me a hint to where we were going. Eventually, I figured out we were headed to Tuscon (hard to keep a secret when you’re holding a boarding pass!), but even after our flight landed, I still wasn’t sure where in the city we were headed. It wasn’t until our car reached the front gates that I saw where we were.

I actually hadn’t heard of Canyon Ranch before this trip, but it’s pretty popular among wellness and health conscious people as a prime destination. It’s an all-inclusive resort that boasts amazing whole foods, a plethora of exercise and workout opportunities, medical care, spiritual guidance and even metaphysical services. Our activities were all across the spectrum, from yoga to mountain biking through the desert to tarot readings and massages. I meditated in a pool of warm water, received my first craniosacral treatment and hiked a mountain. Trent even got his very first pedicure! We swam and ate delicious food, and in those three days, we worked on rediscovering who we are as a couple. It was wonderful.

I highly recommend Canyon Ranch to anyone looking to get away in an environment where health and wellness are the number one priority. The resort had no alcohol or soda, which was a huge bonus for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a vacation where alcohol wasn’t available and it was really lovely to not have it in front of me all the time. I’m so grateful to Trent for making this trip happen and for finding such an amazing place for us to spend time together!





unruffled podcast

Creativity + Recovery on the Unruffled Podcast

I was so excited to be asked to be a guest on the Unruffled Podcast a few weeks ago! Tammi and Sondra are both artists who have found their creativity and joy expand significantly in sobriety. I loved getting to chat with them about recovery, creativity, being a small business owner, how to keep creating when you’re being paid for your art, and how to stay serene and sober when you have alcohol in your home/personal space. It was an awesome conversation and I’m so grateful Tammi and Sondra asked me to be a part of it! You can listen via this link or search for the Unruffled Podcast (Episode 26) on iTunes!

unruffled podcast

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