How to eliminate the "shoulds" in Redefining Your Relationship to alcohol

Hi!!

How are you?

A couple of weeks ago in the Redefining Sobriety Immersion program we covered the topic of “releasing shoulds.”

This theme is so important that we dedicate an entire week to it!! It provides the basis for what makes Redefining Sobriety so powerful… eliminating the external noise and stories that don’t belong to us, to get clear on and listen to our intuition.

There are a lot of "should" when it comes to redefining our relationship to alcohol:

  • I “should” quit drinking if I have a problem
  • I “should” want to be sober if I’ve struggled with alcohol
  • I “should” be better
  • I “should” be farther along in my healing
  • I “should” do what my family wants
  • I “should” keep drinking because I’m not an alcoholic and my friends/spouse/family doesn’t think it’s a problem...

In Redefining Sobriety, we learn to get quiet and eliminate the “shoulds” that don’t belong to us. 

You can try this too!

Try writing a list of everything you think you “should” be doing.

Once you’ve written a comprehensive list, get quiet with yourself. As you read over the list, you may ask yourself “whose should is this?” Or, “whose story is this?”

Start crossing anything off of the list that doesn’t belong to you.

It’s entirely up to you to decide your story moving forward.

Another reframe is switching to the words “I could” which helps you feel like it’s an option rather than an obligation, or “I can” which becomes a more empowering statement.

During one of our group coaching calls, I shared how “shoulds” have shown up for me in interesting ways since launching my business.

Of course, there’s some of the obvious "shoulds" that come up when we compare ourselves to other entrepreneurs or coaches.

But something interesting started showing up for me recently as I compared myself to the “sober coaches” out there.

There’s a really incredible community of women out there who championing alcohol-free living. They are bloggers and coaches and writers and podcasters and many share super inspiring and powerful content. I’ve interviewed some of them of my summit and have been interviewed on some of their podcasts.

I noticed a question starting to wiggle its way into my consciousness.

Should I be completely alcohol free? 

Many of these women have stories very similar to mine.

They don’t identify as alcoholics.

They don’t necessarily feel at home in programs like AA.

They are finding alternative paths to recovery and that’s part of what inspires me.

Yet, the difference is that they chose to completely abstain from alcohol.

It started feeling to me to that they are part of this cool club that I wasn’t really allowed in because I still drink.

And that was triggering a deeply imbedded high school era desire to be invite to the popular parties and to fit in.

I started to doubt my decision, my path…

Imagine that - my entire coaching practice was built around providing my community and clients with the options to CHOOSE THEIR OWN PATH and empower them redefine their relationship to alcohol ON THEIR OWN TERMS and here I was questioning the very foundation of that for myself.

Talk about existential crisis!!

That’s why “getting quiet and getting clear” becomes so important. 

Because, the truth is... when I get quiet, and can tune into my inner voice, and get clear, I realize that I actually really LOVE having the option to drink when I want.

I LOVE that I’ve learned to moderate when others said I couldn’t or that’s it’s too hard or impossible.

I LOVE that I have an entire toolkit I use so that I don’t turn to alcohol in times of stress, sadness, loneliness or anxiety.

I LOVE that it’s entirely up to me whether I drink or not, and that I can have an experience like the one I had 2 Fridays ago, without guilt or shame.

Last week, I traveled to Miami for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s holistic health coaching conference.

On Friday evening, I had an invitation to join some dear, long-term friends of mine for dinner. They announced in the afternoon that they wanted to treat us to caviar and champagne.

Though I’ve tried caviar before, I’ve never been to a champagne and caviar bar as decadent as this one (ok let’s be real, I don’t actually think I’ve ever been to a "champagne and caviar bar" - ever).

I savoured the entire experience and probably over the course of a couple of hours, drank the equivalent of 2 or maybe 2.5 glasses of delicious high end champagne, while nibbling on toast with chives, crème fraîche and of course, caviar.

It was a luxurious experience and one I was grateful to have.

It was special and I’m so relieved that I don’t have any guilt or shame around my decision to partake.

I enjoyed the taste, the flavours and textures, the effervescence of the bubbly.

I wasn’t chasing a “feeling,” reacting to a trigger, or compromising my alcohol agreement with myself (as you’re probably aware, my personal alcohol agreement includes not drinking when I feel like I “need” a drink, or when I’m feeling triggered aka sad, overwhelmed, lonely, anxious or self-critical, and to stay on the sober side of tipsy and not drink more than 1-2 in a sitting, except for rare and special occasions - this being one of them!)

I still had a great night’s sleep and felt clear and energized for the conference the next day.

The following evening, the conference hosting a “networking “mixer” in a trendy lounge. I navigated an “open bar” with absolute ease, having a glass of water, then one drink and then zero desire to partake any more in the flow of vodka drinks being passed across the bar. I also ordered a martini at the following venue that was so poorly made that I didn’t finish it.

It affirmed for me again that I can choose quality over quantity and prioritize an experience over the effects of alcohol. 

And I did this mostly unconsciously, without fear of sliding back into old ways and overdoing it. Previously, the free flowing booze would have been a trigger, as with the “high performance” expectations of a conference networking event.

What I love about releasing the "shoulds" and stories that don’t belong to us is that we truly each get to decide our own path and are empowered to choose our own experiences. 

Some of my clients and community members choose to live alcohol free because it’s what feels better for them. Others choose moderation, others are very sporadic in their consumption, and others oscillate between the two.

The only “right way” to do this is the way that feels aligned and right for YOU. 

That’s what Redefining Sobriety is all about.

I’d love to hear from you - do you struggle with any “shoulds”? If so, what are they? Are you aware of where the story comes from? I’m happy to help you sift through the shoulds. If you'd like to talk more about how this relates to you, set up your free consultation/call here.

xoxo

ps. As we're winding up this round of the Redefining Sobriety Online Immersion program, I have a few 1-1 spots opening up. If you are feeling ready for in-depth support to discover YOUR unique path - let's chat!! 


7 Strategies For Overcoming Anxiety

Hello!!

This was a really hard blog for me to write. It brings up so many fears - especially around my competence and whether you can trust me as a coach and “leader.” It was so hard to write, in fact, it took me THE WHOLE MONTH OF MAY to get this to you… (May was mental health month and I wanted to send a specific blog on that theme).

However, anxiety can be so insidious and affects too many of us. There is still a lot of shame and stigma around this topic… and it’s one that I didn’t speak about personally for a long time.

Anxiety, simply put, is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety is part of “normal” brain functioning and has a very important role - to keep us safe.

The part of our brain that controls feelings such as anxiety is called the amygdala, and it is the part that gets activated when there is a perceived threat. Imagine you are walking down a street at night and all of a sudden, one of the street lights goes off and everything becomes a bit darker. Almost simultaneously, you hear footsteps rapidly approaching behind you. Your breath quickens and your heart rate speeds up. This is your body preparing you for “fight or flight” - which might save your life. Granted, those footsteps could be an evening jogger, or a friend who saw you from a few blocks away and is sprinting trying to catch up with you. However, there is a moment when your brain doesn’t know the difference between a perceived or real threat - and its job is to do what it thinks is best in order to save your life.

Anxiety can be triggered by a number of factors associated with our modern societies and is so common now that it is an estimated 40 MILLION people in the USA who suffer from an anxiety disorder.

For a long time, I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was anxiety. I don’t remember feeling anxious as a child, or exactly when it started.

However, reflecting back… I see the layers of stress that started to pile high on top of each other.

The enormous pressure I piled on myself to be “okay” - after going from getting very good grades to almost failing grade 10 and 11, having tons of problems at home and eventually leaving for a time before I graduated high school.

The alcohol-induced blackouts that started around age 16, where I would wake up in a panic trying to fill in the blank around what happened to me… and lasted for another decade and a half until I got my alcohol use under control.

The sexual molestations and rape that started around the same age I left home, and the shame surrounding my inability to speak up or even really know what was happening to me, let alone do anything about it.

The high-performance coping mechanisms I developed after high school, where I over-achieved like my life depended on it, because it felt like it did.

The accumulation of days and weeks and months and YEARS without enough sleeping, pushing myself hard hard harder… or was it running, fast fast faster to stay as far away from the pain as I could.

(When praised for my accomplishments or asked the question “how have you accomplished so much at such a young age?” I would often answer “I don’t really sleep.”)

The excessive amount of pressure, stress and responsibility I felt at a young age led to some pretty unhealthy coping mechanisms and not surprisingly, panic attacks came with them.

I remember the first one so vividly, I was walking to the Commercial drive community clinic where I had to open up on a holiday Monday and supervise a group support meeting. I had been partying all weekend (my “coping” strategy for a very intense work environment and a ton of responsibility at a young age) and was very short on sleep. I started feeling anxious about the day ahead and realized I wasn’t breathing properly. Before I knew it, I was feeling like I was going to pass out and my hands cramped up so intensely they were paralyzed and I couldn’t even use my phone. I remember shaking uncontrollably and vomiting in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The attending paramedic had to hold the bowl in front of my face while lecturing me about the drugs I had told him I was taking. I was put under observation for a few hours and then sent home with some lorazapam. I had to call sick to work because I couldn’t get out of bed for 2 days… and I was too ashamed to talk about the reason why.

The crazy thing about anxiety is how quickly it tries to convince you that you’re going back to “that place.”

Like recently, while I was sitting on a comfy couch next to someone who cares about me, and I forgot to breathe because we were watching a scary movie, and I stood up to walk outside to get some fresh air and the bright light blinded me and I started to feel dizzy, my body and brain wanted to take me back to “that place” and within seconds I felt completely out of control and terrified.

For me, anxiety can both be a mental trigger or a physical experience that takes my whole body hostage at times.

It’s the shallow breath that seems to get stuck in my throat, no matter how hard I try to breathe deep into my chest.

It’s the dizziness and lightheadedness that follows the shortness of breath.

It’s the nausea that sets in along with the panicked fear that my body is taking me to a point of no return.

It can be triggered by external factors or seemingly “nbd” nuisances like get startled awake by shouting or dogs barking aggressively or any loud noise really… and it’s really hard to explain to anyone else who doesn’t have experience with this exactly how hard it is to climb back out of the spiral.

Or it can be triggered by legit fears or made up ones, and the pressures of being a good mother, coach, business owner, friend, partner, etc..

Sometimes it is literally paralyzing, like the inability to follow through on what should be a simple task or email.

I think I spent so many years running and performing and self-medicating that I am only just coming to terms with my anxiety.

Becoming a mother has brought it even closer to the surface on a daily basis, and becoming a single parent (and single person) brings me face to face with my fears, like, next level.

There are a variety of tools that I’ve been using to help me manage my anxiety. At this point, I’m not trying to be “anxiety-free” as that feels like a lot of pressure, but I am trying to get through the day without a meltdown. Some days that feels more doable than others, and I practice a whole heck of a lot of self-forgiveness on the days that fears and forgetting to breathe spiral into an uncontrollable attack.

REMEMBERING TO BREATHE

This might seem obvi but it’s actually something I have to remember to do. When I realize how shallow I’m breathing and that I haven’t taken a belly breath for a while, I stop what I’m doing (if possible) and place one hard on my heart and one hand on my belly and breath all the way into my lower abdomen. I often to this parked in front of my office, after I’ve dropped my daughter off at school and before I head upstairs to the office, or when I’ve escaped into the bathroom at home trying to get my emotions under control. I find counting my in and out breaths really helps, and gradually increasing the count. For example, if I’m feeling short of breath, I start with one count in and one count out. Then after several breaths, I increase to two, then to three.

GETTING UP EARLY + MORNING RITUAL

My mornings used to be super rushed and chaotic (before having a kid). As I started to redefine my relationship to alcohol, I realized how important it was to start the day calmly and in a way that nurtures my mind, body and spirit. Then I had a kid, and my morning routine went to shit for awhile. I’m now committed to waking up early, doing deep breathing while still in bed and listening to the birds and centering on a feeling of gratitude, drinking my water and lemon and taking my supplements, doing my Thrive Threesome journaling practice and prepping a smoothie because I wake my daughter up. This takes between 30-45 mins. I notice a huge difference on the days I have time to do this versus the days I wake up at the same time as she does or when she wakes up early and I’m immediately in “reactivity.”

RESTING

If I’ve been in a high state of anxiety or have experienced an “attack” - I often need to rest a lot afterwards. “Pushing through” is sometimes necessary (I do have responsibilities outside of myself) however I try to allow myself time to rest as soon as I can… sometimes that’s laying down on the sofa in my office or on the floor for 10 minutes (at this point I don’t really care what anyone else in my office thinks though I realize this might not be possible for everyone) and I plug in soothing, chakra balancing music. Or I simply try to get to bed earlier, especially as I’m prone to waking up a lot. Michelle Cady, a former client and author of the recently released “Self-Care in the City” talks about the importance of rest in our interview about alcohol and adrenal fatigue. Here’s her interview from the Redefining Sobriety summit. 

USING ESSENTIAL OILS and AROMATHERAPY

While I’ve used essential oils off and on for years, I really began to understand their power while I was hospitalized during my high-risk pregnancy, with haemorrhaging and the threat of a mid-term miscarriage. I used “tranquillity” and “serenity” blends pretty much non-stop… trying to calm my fears and adrenals so as to not put more stress on the little one who was fighting for her life inside. The oils used in the picture here are the ones I used most frequently now. I put cedarwood and vetiver on the soles of my feet and use a mantra that “I am grounded/rooted, I am centred, I am safe.” When I feel myself “spiralling” into what feels like an anxiety attack, I used Purify to bring me back to myself. Balance transports me into a feeling of being protected and in the forest, from which I draw strength.

TAPPING AND AFFIRMATIONS

Using “tapping” or emotional freedom technique (EFT) has done wonderings. There is something very powerful about acknowledging what I’m feeling and loving myself through it. Affirmations such as “Even though I’m feeling really anxious and fearful right now, I totally love and accept myself just the way I am” combined with tapping on the meridians that have been shown to help calm the amygdala and reduce cortisol has been super powerful. I’m also grateful to Jackie MacDonald for teaching me about “finger tapping” which you can do anywhere. Here is her interview from the Redefining Sobriety Summit where she shares several really practice tools and takes me through a tapping exercise to deal with overwhelm (aka anxiety trigger).

CHANGING HOW I TALK ABOUT MYSELF, TO MYSELF

I learned this technique from Tree Franklyn. Instead of saying, “I’m anxious” or “I’m stressed,” I try to shift the language to “I’m feeling anxious right now” which shifts the internal conversation from labelling myself to making a statement about how I’m feeling right now, which both separates my identity from the experience and helps remind me that it is not permanent. Another affirmation I use often is “I love you” on the inhale and “I am safe” on the exhale.
I've also included Tree's interview from the Redefining Sobriety Summit.

SEEKING SUPPORT

I see a therapist twice a month who supports me with healing trauma (and who also works with tapping and other emotional freedom techniques and herbal/flower remedies), I have coaches who support me through the fears and pressures of being a healer and a coach, and running a business, and a small group of friends I can call on for support and who help remind me to breathe. I have colleagues who are also people who experience anxiety and can relate without minimizing or dismissing what I’m recalling or experiencing. I’m particularly grateful to Dr Perpetua Neo’s work and our many collaborations on this topic. Here’s an article she wrote that talks about the connection between alcohol and anxiety.  Dr Neo also has a lot of other great articles on anxiety so make sure to check out her profile on Mind Body Green.

I hope the videos and links I’ve included in this blog are helpful. If you’ve experienced anything like what I’ve described here, please know that you can reach out and that there are tools that can help. I’m happy to talk about this anytime. Here’s a link to my calendar to set up a time to chat.

If you want to hear from the other summit experts (several of whom talk about trauma and anxiety in different ways and share a variety of tools), you can purchase the entire summit for $47 and there’s a ton of value. Let me know if this interests you and we’ll send it your way!

xoxo


Peach Bellini Mocktail

Brunch is a weekend staple, and if you're anything like me, it's something you look forward to every week. If you're looking to make your next brunch date with the girls a little less boozy, don't be afraid to try alcohol alternatives like this Peach Bellini Mocktail! Whether you're going alcohol-free, or you're looking for something to sip between cocktails, this mock Bellini is a definite crowd pleaser. 🍹

Ingredients

1/4 cup apple juice

1/4 cup peach juice

1 wedge lemon juice

Agave nectar, honey or simple syrup (to taste)

Sparkling water

Apple or peach slice for garnish (optional)

Directions

Add apple, peach and lemon juices to a champagne flute. Heat agave syrup (or simple syrup/honey) and stir in. Top off your amazing mocktail with sparkling water. To finish, wedge the apple slice on the rim.


Strawberry Basil Spritzer

As far back as Roman times, strawberries have been used to alleviate inflammation, reduce fever, cure gout, improve bad breath, and more! When combined with basil (which has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties) and lime, this tasty treat becomes a powerhouse of health benefits.

Ingredients

2 cups strawberries (hulled and quartered, plus a couple of sliced strawberries for garnish)

¼ cup basil leaves + several sprigs for garnish (can substitute mint)

½ cup cane sugar

2 limes, juiced + I lime in thinly sliced rounds

Club soda/seltzer water

Ice

Directions

Place the strawberries and basil in a glass serving bowl or pitcher. Sprinkle sugar over it and lightly smash the ingredients together, softening the strawberries and slightly crushing the basil leaves. Lightly is the operative word here—you don’t want to turn this into a pulp!

Pour lime juice, gently stir, and allow to sit for a least a few minutes. If serving in individual glasses, place a few ice cubes in each glass and spoon the mixture over the ice with bubbly water. Garnish with sliced strawberries, lime round, and a sprig of basil. If serving in a pitcher or bowl, gently combine the strawberry mixture with ice and desired amount of bubbly water, and float the garnish on top.


Grapefruit & Rosemary Mimosa

As you've probably noticed, I've become a big fan of infused simple syrups! They're a great way to add depth to an otherwise simple drink. This Mimosa inspired mocktail uses rosemary syrup (one of my favourite herbs, rosmary is great for stimulating focus and memory), but the possibilities for other combinations are endless!

Ingredients

Mocktail

2 tablespoons Rosemary Simple Syrup

1/2 cup of grapefruit juice

Club soda/seltzer water

Grapefruit and rosemary to garnish

Simple Syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions

Simple Syrup

Bring sugar and water to a boil (this happens quickly!) with rosemary stirred into it. Stirring often, boil for 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, place into fridge and let sit for 30 minutes. If possible, run the liquid through a sieve or cheesecloth. Chill before use.

You can also make simple syrup in the microwave by placing the mixture in a glass tupperware container and heating it at 30 second intervals until sugar is fully dissolved.

Mocktail (per 1 serving)

Put about 2 tablespoons Rosemary Simple syrup (recipe above) into a champagne glass. Fill the glass about 1/2 full with chilled grapefruit juice. Top with chilled club soda/seltzer. Garnish with rosemary and fresh grapefruit.


Cucumber Lime Agua Fresca

This drink happens to be one of my favourite (and so simple!) recipes drawn from my adopted country of Mexico. The humble cucumber, which is the featured ingredient in this drink, is high in vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese. Cucumber has been said to relieve stress, improve skin, have anti-inflammatory properties, and contains the antioxidant flavonoid quercetin, which is believed to prevent histamine release—perfect for allergy season! Combined with lime, another antioxidant powerhouse that can aid digestion, this drink is a wonderful antidote to any overindulgence.

Ingredients

4 cups chopped peeled cucumber

2 cups water

2 to 4 limes, juiced (depending on preferred tartness)

2 to 4 tablespoons agave (depending on preferred sweetness)

Directions

Blend all of the ingredients, strain, and serve over ice. You can float thinly sliced cucumber with the peel still on and lime rounds, as an elegant and easy garnish.

Serves 4 (this recipe can be easily doubled or tripled!)


Lavender Lemonade Mocktail

This bright and refreshing mocktail is made with tons of great ingredients with great health benefits. Lavender can help fight stress, reduce headaches, improve sleep, and so much more, while lemons contain more potassium than apples or grapes, and blueberries are full of antioxidants!

Ingredients

1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice

1 1/2 tbsp Lavender Simple Syrup (Recipe below)

1/4 tsp Grenadine

3 dashes Bitters

Blueberries

Club soda or tonic water

Directions

Lavender Simple Syrup

Combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp dried lavender to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat. Let mixture cool in the pan and then strain out the lavender. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to ten days

Mocktail (per 1 serving)

Combine the ingredients above in shaker with ice and shake until cold. Strain into glass and top off with club soda. Garnish with fresh lavender, blueberries, and lemon slices. (Try muddling the blueberries in your glass to enhance the beautiful colour of this mocktail!)


Watermelon "Mockarita"

I'm lucky enough live somewhere where we always have amazingly warm weather--and I'm SO grateful. If you're missing those summertime ☀️ sunshine ☀️ vibes, this margarita inspired mocktail might just uplift your mood.

Ingredients

1 medium seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 tsp agave
1/3 cup sparking water

Lime slices or mint leaves to garish

Directions

In a blender, puree enough watermelon chunks so that you have 4 cups of watermelon puree. Add lime juice and agave and mix again. Pour into 4 cups. Top each with sparkling water. Garnish each glass with a lime slice or mint leaf.


Spicy Bloody Mary

For those craving a more savory option, or who may have over-indulged the night before, this healthy Bloody Mary is sure to satisfy. If your "hair of the dog" Sunday brunch go-to is the Bloody Mary, why don't you try the alcohol-free (and waaay healthier) version?

Ingredients

4 ounces fresh tomato juice (if buying from the store, try for low sugar and sodium, or make your own)

2 ounces fresh carrot juice (you can also try celery juice)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ tablespoon cracked black pepper

1 to 2 teaspoons turmeric, to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped basil, parsley, or cilantro (optional)

½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon Horseradish (or more if you like more heat, also optional)

3 to 4 drops olive oil

Lime or lemon wedge, sea salt (or celery salt), and black pepper for rimming the glass

Garnish of choice

This is your chance to get creative and go beyond the requisite celery and lemon wedge! Pickled anything is amazing—try green beans, asparagus, carrots, okra, and baby onions. You can also add protein—turkey bacon or shrimp are interesting options.

Directions

Run the lime or lemon wedge around the rim of the class, and then turn upside down into a small plate with the salt and pepper. Carefully combine the remaining ingredients in the glass, add a couple of ice cubes, a sprinkle of pepper, and your garnish!


Sparkling Grapefruit Rosemary Mocktail

Rosemary is such a beautiful aromatic, I just can't get enough! (I also use it in floral bouquets around the house!) What is your favourite herb?

Ingredients

Rosemary Simple Syrup: 

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

3 sprigs of rosemary

Mocktail (per 4 servings):

2 cups pink or ruby red grapefruit juice

1/4 cup of the rosemary simple syrup

4 cups sparkling water

Directions

To make the rosemary syrup:

In a small sauce pan on the stove, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of granulated sugar over medium heat. Dissolve the sugar (this should take about 5 minutes). Do not let the mixture boil or crystals will form. Once the sugar has dissolved, pour the simple syrup into a heat safe container. Add 3 sprigs of rosemary and let steep for at least one hour. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for ten days.

Mocktail (per 1 serving):

Fill glass halfway with ice. Add 1/2 cup grapefruit juice into your glass. Add 1 Tablespoon (1/2 oz) of your homemade rosemary simple syrup. Stir. Fill the remainder of the glass with sparkling water (about 1 cup). Garnish with rosemary sprig and sliced grapfruit.