Am I Really as Happy as I Look on Social Media?

A couple of days ago I was having a Google hangout with my former coach (and current friend! ;)

(You may have already heard me speak about how important my work with my coach was to my own healing, growth and eventual development both personally, and as coach.)

We were catching up after not speaking for a few months.

She said something that really struck me. She said, “You know Caitlin, from what I see on social media - your life now looks really amazing! Is it really as good as it looks?”

You see, my coach-friend knows the backstory. From the time we first started working together almost two years ago, she helped me through crazy ups and downs--wrenching heart-aches, bouts of crippling self-doubt, supreme challenges to my mental and spiritual wellness, my commitment to redefining my relationship with alcohol (challenged to the enth degree), and also the challenges of having a very high risk pregnancy and being in and out of the hospital … And all of this in the first year and a half of my business!

And she knows from her coaching background, that what we usually see on social media often isn’t the whole picture, hence her question.

I took a moment to before responding ... “I think it’s probably 95% as good as it looks online.”

The other 5% are inevitable challenges of being a new mom, entering a co-parenting relationship and still running an online business (from Southern Mexico!!) ... things I don’t really feel like sharing on social media.

Yet even the challenges aren’t that difficult to deal with because they are all part of the deliberate creation of MY life. I am in control again. And the Universe has my back.

The truth is, I am really really happy. It is a pure, joyful, uncomplicated feeling,and it is so freeing.

As I celebrated my first Mother’s Day this past weekend, I couldn’t help but count my blessings. When Monday morning rolled around, it struck me. I hadn’t even thought about alcohol all weekend.

I have consciously created a life full of joy and wellness. I have so many things to celebrate (without alcohol) that it finally feels effortless.

Treats included: indulging in “dessert for dinner” at my favourite frozen yogurt place, tons of fresh fruit, a house filled with flowers, ice cold coconut water at the beach, a delicious brunch and then my favourite meal for dinner. All infused with love, and a partner who doesn’t need alcohol to celebrate--so it’s completely off the radar.

I spent the entire weekend so exquisitely present and tuned in - and that was the best gift I could have given myself.

I get really emotional when I think of the gift it will be to my daughter. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I’m committed to doing the work to be the best me I can be, for myself first and foremost, and then for my family.

I want this for you too!

I want you to know that it is possible for you. You can start living your best life now.

If you’re still wondering how to get from here to there, you know you can set up a time to chat. >> Book here.

I couldn’t have experienced the weekend I just had without the support I received along the way, and you shouldn’t have to do this alone either.

xoxo,


Alternatives to Coffee and Wine - how to switch it up

Do you ever have the feeling that you can’t get it all done in a day and need that extra boost of energy, but then need some help slowing back down and unwinding at the end of the day?

While the following information can be useful for anyone whose life is just a little too busy; it’s ESPECIALLY important for the new mamas.

Why for moms? Simple. If we’re breastfeeding and providing nourishment to our babies, then we need to take extra care of our bodies. And in those next couple of years of toddlerlandia, we need all the natural energy we can get (and ways to unwind that aren’t alcohol).

“She asked me how I got it all done… coffee and wine sweetheart, coffee and wine.”

I had never really noticed these posts before becoming a mom, and of course now I see them everywhere!

From comments and posts on friends’ Facebook walls, to memes like the one above, it seems like the modern day prescription for mamas is to caffeinate the days and then to use wine to unwind at night.

If that’s your strategy and it’s totally working for you, i.e. you feel great morning, noon and night, and you truly believe you are giving your body the nourishment it needs, then carry on my friend.

But if you wake up sluggish with a dull ache (or pounding) between your temples, feel that “need” for a cup of coffee (or three) to get going, and start wondering if mid-afternoon (or earlier!) is too early to pour a glass of “mommy juice” then this blog might be for you!

Let me first preface by saying - I GET IT!!

I quit coffee during my pregnancy and abstained during my first couple of months after birth. Though I desperately wanted it, my baby was born premature and was so tiny that I was convinced I would get her high with just a few sips.

However, the more she grew and bigger she became, the more time she spent awake and the less time I had for naps, which meant I started craving coffee more and more.

It started with half a cup in the morning, then a whole cup, then an afternoon demitasse before seeing clients… it was a fast and slippery slope back into full caffeination.

And oh, red wine, you temptress you. Oh sweet relief at the end of the day.

As you know, I was sober for quite awhile before even getting pregnant, and other than the occasional craving for champagne during my pregnancy (anyone else experience this?) I didn’t really give alcohol much thought during my pregnancy.

Then came the long days, the even longer feeling nights, the inevitable challenges of going back to work while juggling the responsibilities of running a home, a partnership, a baby, and running my own business.

I know what it’s like to feel so depleted that you want the easiest solution possible.

And I know how easy it is to find that solution in a bottle.

That’s why the following suggestions (except for maybe the first one) are meant to be easy. With a small investment up front, a little bit of practice and preparation, you can begin to replace coffee and wine (or your booze filled bevy of choice) with these options. Your body, and baby (if you have one), will thank you for it!

Get it done (energy boosters and increased focus):

1. Before thinking of herbal stimulants to help you get it all done, here’s a thought for you. Don’t! Just DON’T do it. Give yourself a break. It (whatever it is) doesn’t have to be finished today. And when it does get done (if it does) it doesn’t have to be perfect.

How: Resist the urge, ask for help, release expectations, let go of the “shoulds.” Ahhhh… doesn’t that feel better already?

2. Take naps. I remember being told “sleep when the baby sleeps.” That’s nice I thought, but what about the cleaning, cooking, organizing, writing, working, etc. Shouldn’t I be doing that while the baby sleeps?

First, see the point above. Second, challenge yourself to lie down, put your feet up on some pillows, and cover your eyes with a cool, lavender scented cloth. There are significant benefits to simply closing your eyes for 5-15 minutes. Set your timer or the alarm on your phone to ease you out with a gentle chime or tone. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better after!

3. The following are my favourite coffee substitutes in that they give me a kick AND taste good.

Matcha: it’s a high grade, finely milled or powdered green tea. High in Vitamin C and antioxidants, matcha also increases energy, boosts focus and memory, AND enhances calm. Pretty sweet combination for the busy mom/woman.

Use: can be blended with favourite milk or nut milk to make a latte, or even whisked with hot water for a tea. I add teaspoons to my green smoothies in the morning, and blend with ice, banana, almond milk and vanilla. It makes a great afternoon pick me up smoothie as well! And can also be added to oatmeal and other foods. For more examples of how I use matcha regularly, follow my Instagram @coachingwithcaitlin

Raw Cacao: In its raw state, chocolate has more than 300 nutritional compounds and is one of the richest sources of antioxidants of any food on the planet! Long considered a 'happy food,’ chocolate is a popular treat when we need 'cheering up.’ Recent research has discovered that cacao contains chemicals (such as Phenylethylamine* and Seratonine) which are scientifically proven to be present in the brains of people when they are happy, more relaxed, playful and creative. To me, this sounds pretty perfect for the stressed out soul. Instead of increasing the jitters with coffee, use cacao to enhance your happiness.

Use: Can also be blended into a hot beverage in the morning, or added to smoothies throughout the day.

Maca: Usually found in powdered form, Maca is actually a root vegetable from Peru. Known as Peruvian Ginseng, Maca has been shown to elevate moods and energy, and is used as a performance enhancer by athletes. Maca has also been found to balance hormones and can be used to alleviate menstrual cramps, anxiety and mood swings. Maca is rich in vitamins B, C, and E. And it provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.

Note* you may read that pregnant or lactating women should avoid taking maca. This is because no testing can be safely done on pregnant or lactating women, though Peruvian women have used maca through pregnancy without any known negative effects.

Use: A little goes a long way. Try a teaspoon (or less) added to smoothies or decaf coffee or your cacao or matcha latte. Again, check out my instagram for more recipe ideas. @coachingwithcaitlin (look for my Unicorn Fuel posts… curious? You should be, check it out!)

Yerba Mate: Yerba mate tea is a South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant. Yerba mate is a central nervous system stimulant containing caffeine, but it also contains a number of other nutrients, including antioxidants, amino acids, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. It also enhances the ability to focus, physical performance, reduces stress, and is rich in antioxidants. Are you seeing a theme here?

Use: Best steeped like tea … can be enjoyed hot or cold. There are now several commercial brands available with different flavour combinations such as mint and cacao.

Other blends: Now that you know what to look for, see what other blends include these ingredients might be available at your local health store or online, or create your own! One of my new(ish) favourite Canadian companies is called Harmonic Arts and is based in Vancouver. They have an online store found here: www.harmonicarts.ca

Special note on cost: Yes, some of these ingredients are expensive. But are they really more expensive than your coffee (and wine) habit?

Reframe and realise that these are an important investment in your long term health and well-being.

I’ve started asking for some of these ideas as gifts. The picture below shows a collection of different items that I’ve received from three different visitors recently.

When people ask what they can bring the baby, I gently redirect the request to what mama needs to care for the baby more healthfully. And seriously, how many more onesies does a baby need?

Wind me down (relaxation and ease):

This one can be a bit tricky, as I haven’t found quite as many substitutes for wine that give me the same, or similar feeling.

I’ve come to learn that setting the space, and creating a multi-sensory sensual experience is vital to creating a relaxing ambiance.

Pro tip - if you find reaching for the bottle has become way too habitualized, you may need to clear your house of temptation for a while.

Replace your cupboards with aromatic teas, hot raw cacao, or a square of fine dark chocolate (see the benefits of raw cacao above).

Lay down on the floor. Have you tried that recently? Feel your shoulder blades draw together as your chest opens. We spend so much time hunched over computers, chores and babies that we forget what it’s like to feel this expansion. Close your eyes. Breathe into your toes and fingertips.

For more relaxation tips, check out my 11 alternatives to wine.

I truly believe that mothers are the real superheros on this earth and in celebration of Mothers Day, I’d love to share these tips far and wide - can you help with this?

If you know a mama who could use this info - please forward this post to her.

If you try any of these alternatives, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

xoxo


Stuck in the Shame Swamp?

Do you ever get stuck in the shame swamp?

Shame is a recurring theme for many of my friends and clients who have struggled with alcohol, and is something I personally have done a lot of healing around.

When I began researching the topic in depth, it was interesting for me to learn that feelings of shame are also highly correlated with addiction.

Shame is a deep feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, or self-loathing. It can make you want to hide or disappear. It can also cause a deep, desperate feeling of separation from those around you. No matter how much love you are surrounded by, you might feel completely alone.

Shame can stem from early childhood experiences, starting as early as infancy. Experiences of shame often lead us to self-beliefs such as:

  • I’m unworthy (of love)

  • I’m no good

  • I’m a failure

  • I’m unlovable

  • I don’t deserve happiness

  • I’m defective (i.e. there’s something inherently wrong with me)

  • I’m a phony (i.e. I’m just really good at pretending to be likeable/successful… somehow I’ve managed to fool everyone around me!)

It’s no surprise then that people who experience deep shame may turn to alcohol, drugs or other substances to “fill the whole” and also for connection - an attempt to fix the isolation these shameful feelings can cause.

The problem with this is that when under the influence, we might do or say things that then trigger MORE feelings of shame, which layers shame upon more shame, and leads to what I call the SHAME SPIRAL.

I’ll give you an example from one of my clients.

Dina (name changed) had deep, shameful feelings of being unwanted, and insecurities about her body. When she drank, all of this changed for her, of course. She became confident, in control, flirtatious and felt sexy. She used alcohol in all of her sexual adventures with men.

Unfortunately, on more than one occasion Dina blacked out. She wasn’t able to remember details of what happened the night before. She also suffered some traumatic events (that she remembers parts of) while drunk.

Even though she has since done a lot of work around her alcohol use, and usually practices intentional moderation, and is in a loving, long-term relationship - on the rare occasion that she drinks too much and wakes up feeling as though she may have blacked out, Dina’s deep feelings of shame are triggered. This adds another layer to the shame spiral.

So now, instead of thinking to herself “Whoops, I might have drank a glass too much last night,” her self-talk is along the lines of “I’m a disgusting mess, how does my partner even love me, I’m such a gross f**k up, I’m fundamentally flawed.”

Another client, let’s call her Carol, is currently working through a shame spiral as well. She currently holds a fairly important position in a large corporation and has been receiving acclaim for her work. The more she becomes known for her work, the more anxious she feels that her past will come back to haunt her.

You see, 12 years ago Carol was charged with Public Drunkenness, which has since ended up on her record. She has become terrified and overcome by anxiety that she will be found out, and fired from her job.

If it were merely guilt that Carol was struggling with, her self-talk might be a little more forgiving. “I was young, I made a mistake, I didn’t know how to cope with the trauma I was dealing with at the time, so I drank too much. But really, I was doing the best I could at the time.”

Instead, the shame around the issue cuts to her deepest darkest fears about herself.

“I’m a fraud and a fake, I’m defective, I’ll never be successful because there is something really wrong with me, I’m a failure, I’m no good.”

Yikes. These are really heavy thoughts that Dina and Carol have swirling around. It’s no wonder that they’d prefer to suppress these feelings in an attempt to make them go away.

Thing is, silence and secrecy just adds to the shame spiral.

If any of this has resonated with you, you might be wondering - how do I break free?

Brene Brown does a great job of laying out two simple steps in this video. If you have a couple of extra minutes, I highly recommend watching.

I’ll paraphrase.

Talk to yourself lovingly.

As hard as it might be at first, treat yourself with love, tenderness and compassion. Imagine what you might say to your most treasured friend, your little sister or niece, or your child.

“So you made a mistake. I still love you. In fact, I love you more because I know you are trying to learn from this.”

Share the story.

As hard and painful as it might be, sharing the story can take the power out of it. If it is only living inside of you, it’s like a runaway train of shame spiral. Sharing the story with a safe person will help break the spiral, and diffuse the power. The irrational fear, when spoken out loud, loses some of its charge.

Create a mantra (this is my own suggestion and one that I wrote more about here).

If you can identify and locate the worst fears, figure out that the opposite of that fear is, and focus on that.

Based on Dina’s worst fears, her mantra would be something like this: I am beautiful, I am complete, I am lovable, I am whole, I am perfect just as I am.

This, repeated over and over until she starts to believe.

For Carol: I am smart and capable, I am more than enough just has I am, my worth is not dependent on others perception of me, I am inherently valuable, I was born and still am a divine creation, I am worthy.

This, repeated over and over until she starts to believe.

With so many of us living with secret shame, it’s really important that we start sharing our stories and breaking out of the shame spiral.

If you recognize the symptoms of shame showing up in someone you know, here’s how you can be an ally:

  • Listen to their story, with an open heart

  • Be Empathetic, if you haven’t directly experienced what they are expressing, try to put yourself in their shoes

  • Never minimize their feelings or experience

  • Help them separate the behaviour(s) from the core of who they are

  • Tell them they are loved. Help create a mantry by using the affirmations above

  • Share this blog with them

As always, I invite you to reach out and share with me. If you are experiencing shame and would like to break free of the spiral, send me an email or click here to set up a time to talk.

xoxo


Everyone IS a snowflake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What made you want to change your relationship to alcohol?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any final words of wisdom?

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

Why?

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

What would you recommend for someone wanting to try moderation?

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

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

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

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

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

Have a fabulous weekend, snowflake!!

Bio:

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


The Power of Friends

One of my very best friends flew in to visit me last week. She’s made the trip from Canada to visit me in Mexico more times than anyone outside of my family.

I started counting down the days to her arrival weeks in advance!

I wanted to share this tribute to her because Chanel de Silva is more than a friend.

She is my closest confidant, co-conspirator and co-creator.

Our 13+ year friendship has probably been one of the single biggest building blocks in the foundation of my business and brand.

The other night, we were reflecting on our individual and shared journeys.

We were remembering a shared Google doc we had started to write to each other while I was still living in Cambodia. I decided to look it up and re-read it.

You are amazing Caitlin, and I am so grateful today that you and I are doing this.  I can honestly say, although I have all these amazing people in my life, you are the ONLY one I can share some of my darkest experiences with, and who I can talk about my drinking with, no veil, no judgement - just honesty and love.  Thank-you. Oct 7th, 2010

Wow!! These words were written 4.5 years ago and we still share those exact sentiments.

What’s incredible to me is that we are still there for each other. Through our ups and downs.

What’s validating is that I now know that I offer that same unconditional love and support, without judgment, to my clients.

EVERYONE needs and deserves a champion.

Whether your goal is to:

  • eliminate alcohol completely

  • be able to handle your alcohol so that you don’t black out,

  • take a break or learn moderation,

  • never be drunk again

  • OR to drink one less drink a night

WHATEVER your personal goal is and as many times as it changes, you need that person (or people) who love, support and “get you” without judgement!

Chanel de Silva is that person for me. She’s seen me through some of my craziest phases, through periods of abstinence, through learning moderation, more sobriety, and back again.

Before arriving to visit in Mexico, she sent me a message to check in about my intentions around alcohol. She wanted to make sure that she wasn’t going to trigger me in any way, especially since we spent many, or most even, of our trips together drinking lots of champagne!

I remember 5 years ago when I was going to take a 30 day break from alcohol. I shared this with my sister, and she said, “Why only 30 days? What, can’t you go longer?”

While I know she had my best interest at heart, I immediately felt judged and defensive.

This is in contrast to sharing this intention with Chanel, who immediately said, “That’s GREAT! In fact, let’s do it together and help keep each other accountable.”

It was then that we started a shared Google doc to write our reflections to each other. This continued during our 30 days and beyond, as we set new intentions for moderation.

Part of the success of any ‘program,’ whether recovery, abstinence or 12-step groups lies in the strong community and the role of sponsors to help provide accountability and support.

I have been VERY fortunateto to have some incredible support along my journey. Next week I’ll introduce you to one of my favourite sober sistas to share some of her philosophy.

I asked Chanel what she would want to share with my community… and if I could feature her as part of the inaugural “Unfiltered Five” - a new series of questions I’ll be asking to peers of our community, thought leaders and experts.

1) What made you want to change your relationship to alcohol?

There were a few things actually…

There was a definite shift that happened in my mid thirties. Instead of waking up and calling my girlfriends and laughing about our gaps in memory and meeting up for brunch to try to connect the dots and laugh about it, I started waking up feeling anxious, ashamed and wanting to isolate. It wasn’t as fun anymore.

My drinking was definitely having negative effects on my relationship. My partner, who never really drank much to begin with, didn’t really like when I drank or partied too much, and the longer we were together, the more of a problem it became.

Finally, I have really big goals for myself over the next 20 years and know that I can’t achieve them if I don’t have a healthy relationship to alcohol, and all the other things that make me healthy: food, working out, sleep, and spiritual well-being.

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

My anxiety levels. I now very rarely feel anxious and I’m aware that it’s both because I live my life in a way that I don’t have regrets, and also because I know that alcohol can actually be anxiety-inducing. So now I don’t put myself through that.

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

Realizing that it’s not something that’s going to go away completely. I can have 8 months or a year, and then it only takes one night of partying and not setting my intentions or being conscious, to kind of put me back into that unhealthy relationship.

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

I’d say my best tip is don’t pre-drink before going out. It never ends well!

I also like the idea of when you first arrive somewhere, ordering something non-alcoholic first. Allow yourself time to assess the situation and see how you feel.

5) Any final words of wisdom?

You don’t have to go at this alone. Make sure that through your process you have that one person you can trust and who can support you.

Do you have anyone who truly “gets you”?

I encourage you to reach out, or try the journal idea.

If you feel isolated or alone, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember, NO ONE SHOULD GO THROUGH THIS ALONE.

I’m here for you. We’re here for you. Just click here to set up a time to chat.


Getting clear on intentions... when is it okay to drink?

How do you get clear and follow through on your intentions?

This topic has come up a lot recently during the Discovery sessions with new clients.

I really do believe we have the power to create intentions for ourselves and stick to them...

More power than we sometimes give ourselves credit for! 

I’ll give you a couple of examples:

My intention is to be able to enjoy a glass of wine as an accompaniment to a meal - as an extension of a sensory experience.

To stay fully present, never “checking out” and to find other ways to relieve stress and worry.

To consistently seek healthier alternatives for my body.

To nourish my body, treat it as a temple, and never abuse it.

Therefore, to justify my intentions into my own personal drinking agreement, I must avoid the following:

  • Feeling tipsy or get drunk (which means for me, never drinking more than about 7 oz over the course of an evening... more on this in my next post)

  • Using alcohol as stress relief

  • Using alcohol as a way to “get out of my head”

  • Drinking hard alcohol

This is how it showed up in my life very recently:

A few days ago I’d had a really looooooong day, after a relatively sleepless night. Arriving home after dark, after an impromptu emergency coaching session which had required all of my last reserves... All I wanted was to unwind. I was also incredibly hungry.

My partner and I were doing the switcheroo/quick hand off - he had been home with the baby and 10 minutes after I arrived home, had to leave for a few hours of work in the evening.

During those 10 minutes, we had a silly fight about some of the groceries that had run out without me knowing - and there was hardly any food in the house (according to me, because we were out of everything I wanted in that moment).

After he left, I sat staring at the opened bottle of red wine sitting on the counter. It was already open! It would have been so easy to pour a glass. All I wanted in that moment was to feel better. I was also craving cheese. Bread, cheese and wine. All at my fingertips.

Instead, I took a few deep breaths, and reminded myself of my intentions. I also took a moment to remind myself that a large part of how “spun out” I was feeling was probably due to lack of sleep and the fact I hadn’t eaten properly since the morning.

I started to make myself a smoothie bowl instead. Mango, strawberries, a bit of pineapple, spinach, coconut water, chia, and some hemp protein. I poured it into a bowl and topped it with homemade granola. It wasn’t as pretty as the smoothie bowls on instagram but it did the trick.

I was eating spoonfuls of delicious nutritious goodness in the same amount of time  it would have taken me to cut the bread and cheese and pour the wine. 

The homemade granola was made by my guy and as I savoured the taste, I was reminded of how many great things he does to contribute to our household (even though sometimes he finishes things and forgets to put them on the grocery list ;)

That feeling of gratitude helped remind me that at times like this, it’s extra important to practice gratitudes. So I sat slurping my smoothie bowl, filling my body with plant power and wholesome goodness, and feeling super grateful instead of stressed.

I was also incredibly proud of myself for actively creating a new way of being for myself. A new response to stress.

Yes, it still sometimes takes this level of conscious practice to stick to your intentions! 

Here’s an example from one of my recent conversations.

Mattie (name changed) was having a really tough time at home. She had been feeling very isolated and unfulfilled in her life, and had begun day-drinking in secret to get through the days.

She decided that she was going to take a 60 day break from alcohol to reset her habits. We discussed her intentions for when she would begin drinking again.

  • She would drink socially and with supportive friends who were clear on her new limits

  • She would only drink wine or beer

  • She would only drink when she was in a “good place”

These intentions were to offset her triggers of feeling sad, lonely, isolated and wanting to escape.

We also made a list of all of her “superpowers” - innate qualities she has within herself, and easily accessible, as well as alternate activities that will help her get through the challenging times when she’s feeling triggered and all she wants is a drink.

A couple of days after our session, Mattie emailed me with an interesting question. She wanted to know what I thought about her setting new intentions for her vacation, which landed during her 60 days sober.

She felt that her holiday would remove her from her usually triggers, and therefore wanted to create a new set of “rules” for herself.

I was supportive of her decision for the following reasons:

  • She was putting a lot of forethought into the decision

  • She was committed to creating clear guidelines for herself for her vacations, and communicating those to her partner

  • She had found an accountability buddy to share her intentions with, and she was sharing them with me as well

  • She was committed to still doing the 60 days sober when she returned home, which is where her real “work” was located.

This is why I love this holistic approach to alcohol moderation. There is no “one size fits all” model.

For some, long periods of abstinence is what’s desired. For others, it’s periods of abstinence combined with clear guidelines around moderation.

Either way, clear intentions help remove some of the “noise” of internal debate and the guess-work out of how to respond to triggers. 

The keys are always:

  • Clarity of intentions

  • Understanding your triggers

  • Finding alternatives

  • Reaching for support

How do you create and stick to your intentions? What are your intentions around alcohol? I´d love to hear in the comments!


Bragging Rights... You've got them!

I don’t about you but sometimes, even now, I still struggle around the concept of bragging.

As women, we are raised to believe that we shouldn’t brag about our accomplishments.

Think about it!

How many times have you heard your mother, aunt, or grandmother say:

Yes, that pie I made is delicious! I’m so happy I finally mastered the crust. 

or

I’m so proud of myself for juggling kids and a career for so many years.

or

I brag that I ignored the cleaning to treat myself to some self care last night! 

Hmmmm, probably not that often, or maybe ever. It’s likely that you heard the opposite. All the could have would have, should haves or toning down of accomplishments... Like, “Oh, it was nothing...” or “It could have been better...”

We were raised to devalue what was considered “women's” work and anything that had to do with taking care of our own needs.

This theme has come up a lot recently with my clients. And even though I’ve spent a lot of years reconditioning myself, I notice that sometimes I still second guess myself around my own right to brag.

Around 5 years ago, when I was really beginning to commit to this path of transformation and personal growth, I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to guest teach Nia dance at a retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. It was at this retreat that I was introduced to the teachings of Mama Gena’s School of the Womanly Arts.

Mama Gena seeks to liberate women from 5000+ years of patriarchal oppression through pleasure, fun and flirtation. A bold mission sure, but if anyone’s up for the task, she is.

In fact, she has an entire chapter in her book devoted to the topic of bragging, and how we much reclaim our right to brag as part of our evolution and empowerment.

So ask yourself the following:

  • Do you stay up at night with worry or anxiety about the future?

  • Do you second guess your actions and replaying scenarios in your mind thinking about what you could have done differently?

  • Do you experience regret, shame or guilt over your behaviours or actions of the past?

  • Do you have thoughts that you are a bad person?

  • Do you sometimes (or always) feel like you are not good enough or not accomplishing enough?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, then it’s time add some mantras and bragging rights to your toolkit.

Tool #1: Daily (wo)mantra

This is the mantra I began saying to myself, over and over again, 5 year ago.

“I am Caitlin. I am whole and I am enough, exactly as I am.”

Say it out loud.
How does it feel?
Insert your name and try it out.

“I am <INSERT YOUR NAME HERE>. I am whole and I am enough, exactly as I am.”

Is there hesitation in your voice? Uncertainty? Do you believe the words as you say them? You might want to come up with your own - find the words that resonate and challenge you to overcome your deepest insecurities or fears about yourself and your place in the world.

When I have clients do this for the first time, they almost never say it with conviction.

It takes practice and repetition and daily action to begin accepting ourselves, as we are right now in this moment, imperfectly perfect. 

To know that you are a divine creation, and happiness and love is your birthright. You don’t have to earn it, chase it, pine for it... it’s yours because you are you.

If this still isn’t quite believable yet - then it’s time for you to start bragging!!

Tool #2: Daily Brags

Grab your journal, and in addition to your daily gratitudes, write down 3-5 brags.

I’ll go first ;)

  • I brag that I convinced my dance teacher to start incorporating Kizomba into our classes, driven by my desire to learn it  AND I brag that I’m prioritize 2-3 dance classes a week, even when I start to feel “selfish” for taking that time away from home, baby and/or work.

  • I brag that I’ve started drinking more matcha to help resist the temptation of caffeine

  • I brag that I’m always striving for better communication with my partner, even when it’s really really hard and I'm really tired

  • I brag that I have beautiful thick hair and I’m enjoying discovering the “real” colour

When I first started doing this, sometimes it was hard to come up with 3-5 brags EVERY SINGLE DAY.

However, as I stuck to it, it gradually because easier and easier. A note on this: Some days you will feel extra crappy, and it seems farfetched to come up with even one brag. These are the days where it’s even MORE important to find something to brag about...ie, stop beating yourself up, and flip the script.

Some friends of mine even started a “brag” email group so that we could brag to each other, and up-level each others brags by celebrating with each others successes.

And here’s your bonus task ... Next time you receive a compliment, smile, take a deep breath and really receive the words into your heart, and reply with: Thank you, it’s true.

For example:

OMG, this dinner you cooked was amazing!

 Your response: Thank you, it’s true!!

You look fabulous in that dress!

Your response: Thank you! It’s true.

You’re making some really great changes in your life, and it shows!

Your response: Thank you... it’s true!

It’s time to let our let shine. Get rid of the dimmer switch my friend.

No matter how many times I read the following Marianne Williamson quote, I still need a moment to breathe it in and believe it in my bones.

I remember the first time I read it I was in high school and I started to cry. I wanted so desperately to feel safe and free to shine, and I was terrified to do so. During subsequent years, this quote gave me strength as I shed toxic relationships, broke out of the mould that my small-town upbringing tried to impose on me, and ultimately, I remind myself of it each and every time I start feeling like I need to make myself smaller.

Here’s one final bonus task... forward this email to a friend or family member. Some who’s light could shine a little brighter and who feels like a safe person for you to practice your brags with. Set a phone, Skype or Google Hangout date each week to brag together, uplevel each other’s brags, and practice receiving with “thank you, it’s true!”

Let me know how it goes for you! I'd love to hear! Better yet, post your brags in the comments below, so that I can celebrate and uplevel YOU!!

xoxo

ps. The March Motivation calls have been so transformative. If you are feeling the pull - sign up for one now by clicking here. There’s only 1.5 weeks left to take part.

pps. I only have one spot left for my 6-month coaching program!! I’m so thrilled to be working with exactly the number of clients I wanted (minus one, which could be you!). I will not be taking any new clients for at least a couple of months. If you’ve been thinking about calling me, setting up a discovery session, etc and have hesitated, please don’t wait any longer to invest in yourself. Remember, by signing up for the March Motivation call, you’ll receive a free month of coaching in my 6-month program.


Spring cleaning...you've got to create space for something new

How much clutter do you have in your life?

What does clutter have to do with mindfulness, and ultimately wellness?

Disorganized people with cluttered lives often feel frustrated, anxious or out of control. Surrounded by mess and chaos, it can be hard to truly unwind and relax.

Surrounded by “stuff” and holding on to items from the past keeps us stuck back there, instead of allowing for growth and change.

You’ve got to create space for something new to emerge.

 Minimizing and organizing also provide the foundation (ie zen space) for real change to happen.

Letting go of items tied to the “you of the past”, creates the lightness for the new you to soar.

Being mindful of your possessions and where you put them, creates a ripple effect of mindful intentionality in your life.

As decluttering expert Peter Walsh puts it: "Things that are left undone can be your own undoing. They just add stress and waste precious time. Organising is the act of giving yourself more time and peace of mind."

Just as I used to be a really sick person (you can read more about that here), I also used to be a really chaotic, messy and disorganized person.

My bedroom routinely looked the aftermath of ground zero for a tornado touchdown.

My sister called me a hurricane.

Even though I had convinced myself that I “knew where everything was,” I didn’t really. I was forever digging through piles to find what I needed.

I also held on to clutter for way too long. In the name of “memories” and sentimentality, I had boxes of stuff in storage at my mom’s AND my dad’s (yep, spanning two countries).

It’s no surprise that when I started to clean up my act, literally, other aspects of my life began to flow more effortlessly.

"Decluttering is the number one step in the feng shui process because, if energy can't flow freely, nothing else can begin to improve," says personal organiser Kerri Rodley, who is also secretary of the Association of Feng Shui Consultants. She says the bedroom is the best place to start, since this is the most important room for healing and rejuvenation.

I had conveniently forgotten about the “messy me” until one of my best friends, and former roommates (who I lived with during some of my worst “natural disaster phases”) recently said to me: “How does Luis feel about your messiness?”

At first I was taken aback, like excuuuuuuse me?? Moi, messy!?! But then I had to laugh and remember the old me that she knew, and that the organized, minimalist, tidy me is relatively new.

Spring is the perfect time to clear out the clutter and create space for more awesomeness, abundance and change. 

Think about the many aspects of your life that could do with a cleansing.

  • Your closet: do you still have party dresses, high heels and/or accessories that are so “old you” that you will probably never wear them (but maybe are holding on for nostalgia’s sake?) - Put them in a bag, and donate them!!

  • Your bathroom: Do you have unused hair products? Glitter? Make up and accessories that are either expired or outdated? Clear it out!! See if there’s a “Ladies night” at a local women’s shelter, they sometimes accept donations of used makeup and beauty products.

  • Your cupboards: do you have a shot glass collection? Customized pint glasses? Other drinking paraphernalia? It’s time to get rid of it!! Or, transform it. Can you turn martini glasses into money catchers (for loose change) or other glasses into vases? If you can’t transform it into something that beauties your space, pack it up and donate it!

  • Your purse/wallet: You may wonder that this has to do with your health and wellbeing... but think about it. How much unnecessary stress comes from financial challenges? As Kate Northrup, author of “Money: A Love Story” says: Your purse and wallet are your daily money receptacles. To attract more abundance you’ve got to create a soothing, decluttered container for it. That means streamlining your purse and wallet.

Here are a few more tips from Body + Soul website on how to declutter:

  • Start small, even if it's only with a single drawer or cupboard

  • Make decluttering a quick 15-minute weekly routineGet in the habit of putting things away, than "doing it later"Store away seldom used items, and dispose or donate unused onesUse plenty of containers when storing items

  • Have friends help, they aren't as attached to your things as you are

  • Teach your kids to be responsible for their mess

  • Address the emotional reasons why you collect clutter

In the spirit of making bold declarations and holding myself accountable, I have created the following event.

It’s planned for 2 weeks from today, and I’ll have to follow through!! I’m going to get the remaining boxes of stuff I have in storage and comb through my closest, and give it away. This includes mini-skirts I will never wear again, crop tops, high heeled boots, office wear from 5 years ago when I went through a “Scarlett Johanson is my style icon” phase (nice dresses, but I have no use for them now!), scarves, accessories and more.

What action can you take today to begin to declutter your life, and your mind? How will you create more spaciousness, and invite more abundance into your life?


The power of community

This weekend I was invited to celebrate a close family member’s 30 years of sobriety. This person is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the group was celebrating four “birthdays” that evening.

Each of the celebrants had a significant number of years of sobriety under their belt: the range was from 27-31 years.

As I listened to the speeches they gave after receiving their chips, I heard a very common theme throughout.

More than the 12 steps themselves, the celebrants cited the supportive community and friendships they had made through the program as being the biggest reason they kept coming back to meetings, day after day, year after year. 

These folks also have a lot more in common with each other than simply their commitment to sobriety. They are all retirees, all love Mexico and spent at least a good portion of the winter here in Puerto Escondido (and some live here full time). Their politics can all be described as left of center. They have crazy stories and experiences they shared from “back in the day” yet in the now, they are all seeking a fairly similar quality of life.

I was moved to tears hearing the gratitude and love they felt towards their peers that had supported them in their commitment to their sobriety, and living well.

One person mentioned that he had often heard that “sick people attract sickness” and what he felt being a part of the group here was the opposite... that well people attract wellness.

This resonated with me so strongly. I believe that I have made an unconscious shift towards living that adage... the healthier I become, the more I attract health into my life... by the activities I chose, the people I surround myself with, the partner I attracted, the values I wish to share with my child... It is the positive ripple effect of choosing a life of wellness.

It can be hard when making a transition to know who “your people” are. It may require a shift in friendships and in how you chose to spend your time.

You may find yourself letting go of certain relationships or pass times. Sometimes this happens naturally and sometimes it requires a painful decision (on your part) when you realize that certain people in your life aren’t able to support your wellness goals, or you realize you just don’t have as much to relate to now that you aren’t sharing the same alcohol-fuelled activities.

It can also happen that certain friends or acquaintances start letting go of you. This too can be painful. It’s happened to me... invites to certain kinds of events (read parties) come fewer and far between.

All of this to say, finding supportive people that are aligned with your wellness goals is absolutely critical to achieving what you desire.

I heard somewhere that you are a reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Think about that. Are you surrounding yourself with the people that will most help optimize your health and wellbeing? If not, why?

When I was first starting to want to make changes to my drinking, I found it hard to know who to talk to. I didn’t really want to share my process with everyone as I was grappling to understand what it all meant. I also didn’t want to alienate my friends at the time.

One of the first steps I took was to open up to one of my best friends, who was also going through something similar. Even though we lived in different cities, we started a shared google document where we would write to each other as if it were a journal entry, as we worked through our issues with alcohol and set new intentions for ourself.

If you are not sure where or how to find supportive people in your immediate surroundings, try reaching out online. There are communities of incredibly supportive women online, including Sip Sisters. I’m also a member of a few others, so let me know if you are interested.

The most important thing for you to know is that you do not have to do this alone. 

In fact, it will be much harder if you do.

If you are not ready to talk to your close friends and family about the changes you are going through, that’s totally fine. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be doing this in isolation.

The speeches I heard the other night reflected that the members of that group had found solace and comfort in an anonymous group, but that the members of that group quickly became their closest friends... and they came to share so much more than sobriety.

Whether it be a workout partner, an accountability buddy or a sip sister, go forth and find your peeps!


Letting go...

I don’t know about you, but I find this time of year starts to weigh heavily on me. The New Year starts with energy and intention, but over the course of a sometimes very dark and cold February, “reality” sinks in a little more and resolutions start to slide a little.

It's also possible that setting new intentions and having a sober January dredged up some bad feelings about previous behaviours and actions. I’ve noticed that recently a few people, including my clients, are feeling shame, regret and grief over past actions. Now that a month or so off of drinking has created space for introspection, self-deprecation can come down hard on you.

Now that “dryuary” is over and you’ve had a possibly wet February, how can you positively AND effectively redefine your relationship to alcohol through the rest of the year?

We all know that to create a significant, and sustainable, change in our drinking behaviours, it requires a lot more than simply “not drinking.”

Short term goals, like 31 day dry months or sober challenges are a great way to take breaks.

But what if you want to seriously redefine your relationship to alcohol over the long term?

I look at it like breaking up with a co-dependent long-term lover or partner who has brought me so many moments of joy and fun, but also a lot of unnecessary pain, confusion, fighting and feeling downright crappy.

It might sound strange at first, but when you shift from thinking of alcohol as a thing, to something that also embodies a set of qualities (many of which we desire) and effects (some we desire, some we come to despise), you might realize that your approach to alcohol might need to be more nuanced than the one-dimension “elimination” approach.

Think about it. How long have you been drinking for? How long has alcohol been in your life? How many times have you thought “I wish things could be different” but the cycles stay the same?

For me, alcohol is one of the longest relationships of my life. We got acquainted 17 years ago, and were going strong for the first12 years before I started to try to make some changes, and another 15 before I was able to take what felt like a real stand in making some lasting changes.

Here are some steps I’ve found really help with breaking up with alcohol, or at the ver least, starting to redefine your relationship.

Write a Love Letter: It might go a little something like this “Dear alcohol, wow... what a ride we’ve been on together. Thank you for the good times, and the bad. I learned so much during our time together. I experienced things I may not have when I was sober, took risks, met some crazy and interesting people, started learning a new language, danced a lot, and first started feeling comfortable tapping into my creativity and sensuality with you by my side...”

Yeah, it might feel strange at first. But recognizing the “good,” honouring the relationship  instead of shaming yourself by only focusing on the negative, with ultimately help you let go (more on this below). This is far more empowering than beating yourself up for “stupid” choices.

You did what you did at the time because that’s what you felt like you needed to do. Done. Now recognize it for what it was, and more on.

Setting clear boundaries/intentions: Similarly to negotiating the new terms of an evolving relationship with an ex, setting clear boundaries and intentions is super important.

Write it down as you were writing to alcohol.

“Dear alcohol, I think we still need to be on a total break. I’m not ready to invite you back into my life yet... I have more self-reflection I need to do and I need to feel stronger...” 

OR

“Dear alcohol, Yes, I’d like to hang out every once and I while. I know that things are still sensitive for me right now, so it’s really important that I’m in a good mood and not upset about anything. I’ve realized that I can only be close to you in very limited amounts, so I am limiting our time together to one glass of wine at dinner with friends, once a week, and we’ll see how that goes for awhile." 

Affirmations: Love yourself up during this process!! It can be hard work sometimes, so go easy on yourself.

Have you ever had a friend who is heartbroken? She’s been dumped and is feeling so down on herself and doubtful that she’ll ever recuperate?

What do you say as a good friend?

You say, “You are beautiful and kind and so much fun. OF COURSE you will be okay, you’re better off without that person in your life, it’s just going to take a little time.”

So yeah, be that loving to yourself!! Give yourself the pep talk, and write it down!

Letting go/release: The next step is letting go. Allowing yourself to feel, grieve, honour and release what no longer serves you. If you’d like to read more about how to do this, click here. 

One final thought... know this is temporary! The days are already getting lighter and longer! Now is the perfect time to dig deep, clear out the clutter, cobwebs and dust in our sacred corners, and use the changing of seasons that will be upon us soon to re-invigorate new growth.

In order to create real change we need to create the space for it. So get on it ;)

You got this!!