On Three Years Alcohol-Free

On November 22, 2013, I woke up to my last hangover. It had been about a month since I left my job in the beer industry, and I had spent the previous evening drinking too much wine and celebrating my partner's birthday. 

I remember staring at the ceiling of our untidy bedroom that morning, desperately trying to collect my memories of the evening before and scanning each one for careless words or poor decisions that would later require an apology. I had a routine back then (drink-sleep-shame-work-repeat), forged from years of quiet desperation, undertreated mental illness, and deep, unrelenting shame.  

I would like to say that in that moment I saw all of the possibilities that my life held and was emboldened to take action. In truth, I just felt lost and terrified. At 26 years old I was deeply in debt, overweight, sitting on a pile of education with nothing to show for it, and losing the struggle with depression and alcohol abuse. Quite frankly, I was out of options. 

Describing what it is to give up an addiction is tough because it is just so. many. things. It's a loss of self, in a way. It's tearing down your own life - everything that makes you feel safe and soothes your pain, however briefly - and accepting that it may take years to build a new one. 

It's learning to navigate failure without turning back to the one thing that, up until now, has been a constant source of temporary comfort.

It's feeling all of the emotions that you have spent years trying to numb and willing yourself to sit with them, no matter how difficult. 

It's being brave enough to let yourself fuck up without being able to blame your failures on being drunk/high/whatever.

It's not feeling brave at all and going to bed at 6 p.m. because you're afraid of what might happen if you don't.

It's waking up one day and realising that what constitutes "normal" in your life has changed and that you're ready to tackle goals you once thought were impossible.

It's looking back after another year passes and having a little cry, because you survived it all and for a while there you just weren't quite sure that you would. And it was all worth it.

Here's to another year. xx

On Showing Up (and Knowing When to Quit)

I’ve been thinking a lot about showing up lately; about being present in my life, living according to my values, and playing to my own strengths. In particular, I’ve been examining the ins and outs of my day-to-day, thinking carefully about what is working about my routine and what isn’t. What feels right and what feels wrong. 

Until about a month and a half ago I was enrolled in the CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) PREP program (or “preparatory courses” as they are now called). My plan was to squeeze these super-condensed courses in one at a time around the edges of my full-time work schedule, eventually leading me to prestige as a CPA some five or six years down the road.

Except I wasn’t in it to be an accountant. I thought the program would be a great way to gain knowledge and skills to apply to my work in the world of nonprofit community organizations. And, to be honest, I think part of me just wanted to show off those three little letters behind my name. What I didn’t realize was just how intense the program would be and how negatively it would impact my ability to perform in those aspects of my life that I hold dear (volunteer work) or that are necessary to keep me level-headed and effectively manage the depression and anxiety that I’ve lived with since I was a kid (self care). 

After struggling to fit in approximately 20-25 hours of study each week on top of 40 hours at work, I began to question my motivations and ability to live this way for the next five years. I sat down and had a conversation with myself, asking a few difficult questions. Was this path in line with my values? Was the damage to my mental and physical health worth the outcome? Was this really all that important to me? Could I still have an impact and a meaningful career without this education?

What I decided, eventually, was that becoming a CPA just wasn’t important enough to me to continue, but that trading that time for something else - investing myself more deeply in volunteer and community work, doubling down on self care, and really sinking into my life - is what feels right and in line with my values right now. In the short time since deciding to drop the program I have stepped into a more executive role on WFC's board of directors; started reading and learning more about poverty in Winnipeg's inner city; spent real, quality time with friends and family; and, this past weekend, made the journey out to Steinbach, MB to take part in the first Steinbach Pride March. 

Ready to march in Steinbach.

Ready to march in Steinbach.

The change in my mood now from a short time ago is something else. I’m sleeping better, eating more healthfully, getting more exercise, and spending more time connecting with the people and the world around me. I’m working on not being afraid that “just” having a bachelor’s degree and boat loads of relevant skills and experience won’t be enough to keep me employed in my field of choice. And while I’m not done with professional development just yet, I’m now looking forward to attending seminars, reading books, and learning more about things that truly interest me.

Have you ever quit something that just wasn't working for you? What happened?

...and a Happy New Year

and a happy new year

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a safe and wonderful NYE. I had planned to spend mine with J and friends, but ended up cancelling at the last minute (I’m a super jerk, I know) and ringing in the new year by taking some quiet time for myself at home. It was the best call I could have made, and for the first time in months I was able to set aside my worries, have a good think, and reflect on what is going on in my life right now. 

Focusing on Self-Care

I mentioned in my last post that the end of the year saw me a little worse for wear. Over the past few days I’ve been focusing very intently on self-care, and have identified some habits I can build and steps I can take over the coming months that I think will leave me feeling much better, both now and long term. I haven’t paid this much attention to my well-being in a long time, and it feels fantastic to be doing so now.

2016 Goals: More roasted vegetables, less stress and anxiety

2016 Goals: More roasted vegetables, less stress and anxiety

Saying Goodbye to Facebook

After a great deal of thought, I decided over the weekend to deactivate my Facebook account for a while. Mostly I’m just curious to see what “life after Facebook” is like, but to be honest I just haven’t been feeling great about it lately. I might return sometime in the future (I really do like using it to plan and stay on top of events), or I might not. For now, I’m just happy to redistribute my Facebook time to other activities. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually spend time with people in real life! Or I’ll become particularly obsessed with LinkedIn and Instagram, the only two remaining social networks that I visit with any kind of frequency. I guess time will tell.

So that’s where things are at. Despite still being a little under the weather, as I write this I’m really looking forward to heading back to work tomorrow with a clearer head and better developed sense of direction. It’s going to be a great year.

How much do you focus on self-care, and what does that mean for you?