The Power in Remaining Uncomfortable

I took a Graduate level class my Junior year of University titled Queer Theory. There were only 3 of us Undergrads that got invited to the class as a part of the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Bachelor program along with 7 Grad students. This is what my degree is in and before I moved overseas and became a scuba instructor 8 years ago, I was a campus activist and non-profit worker in the University of Minnesota halls. I worked for Planned Parenthood and a non-profit called WATCH where I sat in on rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence court cases to document the court process and record whether or not I felt the victims were revictimized during the trial, whether it be by questions such as, “what were you wearing the night it happened?” Or “How many drinks did you have?” As if those questions have any bearing over the actual rape itself… and in my free time I volunteered for NARAL MN, Democracy Now, the Women’s Student Activist Collective and Women’s Pro Choice Collective… let’s just say I was involved, on fire, and I thought I could change the world.

Now that the scene is set a little and you understand what my life looked like before I started traveling and teaching diving, let me go back to my Queer Theory class. I remember being incredibly excited and honored to be a part of the class and when I showed up the first day and walked in, all 10 desks were sat in a circle. We all took our seats and introduced each other while we waited for our Professor to show up. Her name was Naomi and this class was famous in our department. I will never forget when she came walking through the door holding a stack of syllabi- she had short, funky grey hair and cat eye glasses and wore linen pants with a kimono draped over her shoulders and was about 70 years old. On top of being a stunning woman, she was wearing shoes that more closely resembled boats than shoes. On the bottom they were rounded like rockers and made it incredibly difficult for her to balance and walk normally. No one said anything but we all exchanged looks as she greeted us with an intense gaze, passing out the syllabi in a circle, while trying to balance on these ridiculous shoes. Finally, an Uppergrad said, “Naomi, I have to ask… what’s up with the shoes?” And here begins, one of the most memorable moments of my life…

“The shoes”, she began, “are a reminder that we must never get too comfortable.” She went on to explain that the problem with society is that we’re incredibly comfortable with the way things are, that we don’t often question the status quo or our role in it, and because we rarely question things it has left us in a position of being unable to adapt to change- when change is in fact, the only constant in our lives. This mentality makes us resistant to growth and creates an environment of intolerance. Quite often we can spend our entire life running the same program we have always been fed. She said, “the key to life is to always remain uncomfortable”. And I will never forget watching her teeter in circles as she explained how the uncomfortable is often our biggest teacher, and how the work we will do to dismantle and understand systems of oppression will be incredibly uncomfortable and that’s where we must sit to understand- we must sit in the uncomfortable, we must ask the questions, and we must learn to listen and learn when faced with the ways in which we might accidentally and unintentionally perpetuate these systems of oppression.

“Being uncomfortable” has become a lifelong quest for me because of Naomi. That class changed my life and those words have always stuck with me. What a powerful statement watching a woman that age, walk around on those shoes, and talk to us about the power in remaining always a “little bit uncomfortable” to continue to grow. This sparked my continuous interest about the world and the things that make me uncomfortable, that challenge me, that scare me. I have built my life around doing these things because of this woman and I have found myself in a constant state of re-assessment of myself, my actions, my privilege, and the messages I’ve gotten from society about what “success” and “equality” look like.

When I think about life changing moments, this is one of the most powerful stories that has helped shape me. The memory is still so vivid and I decided to share that story now because I feel as though I have come full circle in the last decade- from the halls of the University of Minnesota, to overseas for 8 years, and back in MN while I watch the world’s biggest civil rights movement unfold, originating in my home state. It has re-sparked the conversations I’ve had and the things I learned from studying systems of oppression, feminism, racism, and sociology. It has got me reading again and listening again and learning again about all of the things that used to light me up- human rights. I remember explaining to my parents once I changed my major from Marine Biology to Women’s Studies that I want to be a dive instructor but not a biologist and Women’s Studies will always be something I’m passionate about. Equal rights will always be something I’m passionate about. That won’t change. Now I’m back and I’m finding myself coming full circle, asking… “Where can I grow? How can I help? Where is my lens limited due to my life experience? How can we do better?” And I realize that we should never stop asking ourselves these questions. We should never stop striving to be uncomfortable and to ask ourselves what makes us so uncomfortable- where does it come from? Racism isn’t comfortable, homophobia isn’t comfortable, sexism isn’t comfortable. If you want to learn about these experiences you have to be willing to get uncomfortable and I don’t see enough people willing to do that.

The Girl I Used to Be

The girl I used to be wasn’t good for me. She wanted to be, she knew change was necessary for growth but for years she didn’t see her own worth. She could see what she was capable of but it always seemed too far out of reach, and every time she failed on the road to perfection she felt tempted to give up. She wanted to treat herself better but she didn’t know where to start.

So instead, she lived in a haze of negative self talk and limiting beliefs. She kept occasionally poor company because she failed to realize that who you surround yourself with is who you become. She did everything to excess but the greatest contradiction of them all is that more than anything, she craved balance- yet the only balance she knew was the constant pull of swinging between highs and lows… and searching for balance in extremes almost drove her to madness.

But balance doesn’t come from the external, it comes from the internal and all that tireless searching for something outside to fill the inside wasn’t ever going to be enough… And as she clawed onto life hoping that the universe would show her the way, she ignored all the signs because they weren’t the answers she was searching for.

She was happy “enough” and life looked “good enough” right? So who was she to struggle with such “weakness”? She thought she was weak because admitting powerlessness was opening up to judgement and she wasn’t ready to step into the work that comes with self awareness.

So she kept her gaze outwards, afraid of what she would find if she went in. She chased degrading sexual experiences not knowing her own power, not realizing that who you merge with sexually affects your mental health and your vibration. She let her demons out and claimed them as her own with pride because she thought that was who she was, and when the shame came she buried them down and judged herself. She didn’t know how to hold herself gently because sex and the body had always been an unhealed part of her, so she disconnected sex and emotion, once again, not wanting to look inwards.

She didn’t know how to say “no” and she didn’t know how to protect herself energetically so she gave everyone access to her and they slowly ripped her apart while she continued to hope that eventually, they would fill her back up. She gave, and gave, and gave… And her intuition had been telling her the whole time, had been trying to show her the path, but she wasn’t in a space of deep listening. She didn’t know how to connect to herself or that the journey to self love started by recognizing the ways in which her current coping mechanisms had failed her.

She was too scared to acknowledge what her intuition had always known- that there was another way. So she chased new experiences looking for validation and distraction still…

Until one day, at the point of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, she broke open and it ALL.CAME.OUT… and she couldn’t minimize it any longer. The only way out was through and she knew with heartbreaking clarity that the journey back to herself was about to be the most important one of her life. She realized that she had to fill herself up, and that whatever she was doing wasn’t working and wasn’t serving her; that she had to allow it all to break open so that what wasn’t meant to stay could fall away.

It was TERRIFYING. But the scariest thing of all was to continue down the path that she was on, expecting a different result without changing the action. She decided that no one else could save her and she refused to believe that she was a victim to her life. She started to put the pieces back together herself by loving the hurt and unhealed parts. She started with the small moments of gratitude. She searched for a community and started asking herself what felt good. She adjusted her self talk and analyzed her self worth and slowly the light started to come.

See, the girl I used to be wasn’t good for me. But I love that girl now and I honor her by sharing this story- because finding my voice started here. As I move into the woman I am now and the one I’m becoming I cannot forget where I came from because I have to acknowledge the road that got me here. Awakening isn’t pretty, it’s messy.

But what about the darkness of “good vibes only”?

You see it everywhere these days… “Good Vibes Only”. It’s plastered on everything from restaurant walls, shirts and purses, but we have even gone so far as to start incorporating it into places of spirituality and worship. You hear people say it in yoga shalas and in various other spiritual practices… “Good Vibes Only”.

And as much as I love the idea behind it, I think it’s cute, I own things that say it… I still see how problematic this dogmatic idea of how we are expected to show up. Within spiritual communities it permeates the idea that everything is “love and light” always. It’s not! Telling people things like, “good vibes only” and “love and light” is perpetuating the idea that we aren’t allowed to experience negative emotions, vibes or energy, and if we are feeling that way we most certainly aren’t welcome in our darkness, only in our light.

I think there is power in thinking positively but sending the message of “good vibes only” isn’t honoring the fact that sometimes things just really suck. AND THAT’S OKAY. When negative emotions come up, quite often we don’t want to deal with them, so we push them down or we tell ourselves our feelings aren’t valid, but this is an incredibly dangerous slope- to truly “do the work” you have to acknowledge your darkness, sit with those feelings, and ask where they’re coming from- otherwise healing doesn’t begin and things don’t get worked through, they only get pushed down.

Life is duality. Light and dark, good and bad, happy and sad, everything is full circle and the beautiful part about humanity is that we’re all in it together- no one escapes. But choosing to shame people who acknowledge the dark parts of themselves and actually delve into their shadow work, is problematic and needs to be on the conscious of all healers and spiritualists. In order to know one, we must truly know the other- because pretending like there is only one side is sending the message that spirituality is only for “happy people”.

If we are to move forward and heal past traumas, doing the shadow work is necessary. We are discussing things like “shadow work” now which involves working with your darkness to understand patterns and traumas and “holding space” for others which means to listen and be present for a person in a nonjudgemental way. These things are starting to become more regular topics! I’m happy to see this momentum but want to shed some light on the ways in which this “love and light” and “good vibes only” can be detrimental to growth and evolution of the spirit. Yes, we are “beings of light” but we are also a beautiful embodiment of the whole which involves the darkness.

All great healers had to first do the work themselves to become what they are. If you are in a place of healing or spirituality that makes you feel bad for expressing negative emotions or thoughts, then you aren’t being led by someone who has done the work, and it would be best to find a space where your spirit feels accepted in all of it’s emotions. I think holding space for people has become a huge theme of the year for me because I was never taught to listen without judging, or creating my own opinion, or trying to solve the other person’s problem. I realized now that despite whether or not I agree with someone, if I love them, it is my duty to hold space when I can. I now expect the same in my relationships. I encourage you to do your own shadow work, so that you too can heal yourself firstly. I also encourage you to seek our spirituality that involves both light and dark, that values talking about negative emotions and is able to hold space for you whether you’re “good vibes only” or “bad vibes only”. Wherever you are, you deserve to be met there.

 

How Alcohol Gave Me Anxiety- From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

I’ve never understood what anxiety was or the ways in which it could cripple your life. I’ve never been an anxious person, nor have I suffered from anxiety in the way some people do. Whenever people spoke to me about their anxiety I couldn’t really connect because I simply couldn’t relate. As a child I was always moving and talking but I don’t remember having social anxiety or feeling like anxiety was affecting my life in any way. After almost 3 months sober I am finally able to see the ways in which my anxiety was a direct cause of my drinking.

Anxiety came rushing into my life about 4 years ago for the first time. Being completely ill-equipped to deal with it, I didn’t even recognize it as anxiety at first! It would come in waves and started gripping me during social situations. Being a traveler you are constantly meeting new people and making first impressions, being asked to sum up your life in 10 seconds and explain who you are and what you represent to people you just met. I’d always identified myself as an extrovert so when I started getting to the point that social conversations with new people because stressful, I started drinking more. Drinking was a HUGELY socially acceptable part of not only every other facet of life but especially the diving community and was the number one way to network with other instructors or people involved in the industry. Booze fueled my travels and social interactions, it helped me make friends and even got me job offers in the middle of the evening, completely sauced. This all gave me the illusion that drinking was helping me make connections and get to where I want.

About a year ago I started feeling hyper sensitive to energy that was surrounding me and became extremely susceptible to picking up and carrying the negative energies of others. I wasn’t healthy spiritually, mentally or physically so I wasn’t able to protect myself from any of this, nor did I have the awareness to identify it was happening. I started having these completely random moments of panic where I felt like something terrible was about to happen, where it consumed me and I found myself in the midst of my first panic attack.

In March of last year I had my first emotional breakdown. You know those “mid life crisis” breakdowns everyone speaks about but mostly in a joking manner? Yea, well… at almost 30 years old I had a alcohol induced emotional breakdown that left me completely scared, lost and alone. This moment became my first tipping point. I recognized this encroaching anxiety as a cry for help from my body. I realized it was time to do something drastic but I wasn’t ready yet to pinpoint exactly what I needed.

I sought out sobriety first to get my life back under control, seeing the ways in which alcohol lowered my self esteem, caused a whirlwind of shame, kept my brain cloudy, and forced me to seek refuge again in the very thing that was causing me to feel this way in the first place. I did great for 6 weeks, really dived into my yoga practice and started actually exploring my own spirituality for the first time. Things started to fall into alignment and once my self esteem went back up and I felt in control, I went back to drinking again.

Guess what happened? Nothing changed! I slipped right back to where I started. I would balance my life for awhile until I would get a bee in my bonnet, go back on a bender, and then start my self depreciation and self loathing cycle all over again. This resulted in huge anxiety that I was unable to control. When I felt all these feelings my first instinct was to have a drink to get my anxiety under control. The thing is, I always knew in the back of my mind that all of this could be controlled and eliminated if I simply quit drinking, but that seemed way too dramatic. I couldn’t and wouldn’t admit that I’d failed! I had failed to control my drinking and substance abuse 10 years before and ended up in rehab, the ultimate mark of an addict! I didn’t want to admit my own failure again. I simply wasn’t ready and I was scared of not being able to do it.

I had to BREAKDOWN to BREAKTHROUGH! This was 2018 folks! Not only for me but the story I’ve heard from so many loved ones! Maybe you had a breakdown, or maybe you had a breakthrough or maybe both! Energetically this was an extremely difficult year. If you are relating to any of this, or if this resonates with you, I hope that you’ll seriously consider making some changes for 2019.

In a few days I will be 3 months sober. My anxiety is completely gone and although I have anxious moments about normal things that happen in life, I no longer suffer from panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. The thing is, introverts or people who suffer from anxiety typically tend to drink more- feeling the need to relax during social interactions they reach for a beer to calm the nerves and believe that this is actually helping them. The reality is that we’re all a little anxious, that sometimes human interaction is difficult and that’s okay. I’ve had to learn to be my bubbly self without alcohol, I’ve had to learn to dance and laugh and be silly without having any “liquid courage” to do it! Although introverts usually seek alcohol out to make them feel more extroverted, my extrovert personality paired perfectly with drinking and partying and in turn give me anxiety. A different route but the same result.

One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was losing my “party girl” persona. I didn’t think I’d be as much fun and I was afraid people wouldn’t view me that way anymore! I know now that I’m just as much fun, that my interactions come from the heart, that when I connect with people it comes from a real place. I don’t fake small chat anymore and I don’t stay in situations or around people that give my intuition red flags- before I could ignore my own signals by consuming more booze, now I listen to what my body tells me and invest in the people and moments that bring me joy.

I still have INCREDIBLY awkward moments sometimes out at bars and in basic interactions. But I’ve learned to laugh it off because I know that I’m being authentic and we all are trying to connect in the same way. I see now that drinking added so much anxiety to my every day life. If I wasn’t anxious while I was drinking, I was anxious afterwards while I suffered from a hangover and a load of shame, when I felt bad for all the things I wasn’t accomplishing and the way in which I was wasting my time and wasting my life. Because of that anxiety I would just reach for the one thing that gave it to me in the first place and tried to fix A MILLION other things about my life first, instead of starting with the most important step.

You don’t need to be an alcoholic to stop drinking! I know, I know, crazy right!?! You don’t need to label yourself in any way! I for one, don’t like the term alcoholic. It makes it seem like I’m doomed to spend my life wanting something I can’t have. That doesn’t sound like freedom, and I no longer want something that caused me so much misery! I think most of us can agree that drinking affects us in negative ways, but we simply can’t imagine a life without it. If this is you, I hope you hear me- it is possible! And WAY easier than you think! I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found purpose and true joy. I’ve learned that I can handle anything life throws at me sober and that I do not NEED to rely on any substance to live happily! I have never felt more free knowing that I no longer want to poison my body with a substance that has literally never given me anything in return, but remorse.

The cycle of alcohol and anxiety is huge! It affects so many people and we have all been fooled into thinking that alcohol gives us more courage, makes us more funny, lessens our anxiety, calms our nerves and does a MILLION other things!

STOP! Quit lying to yourself and quit letting the rest of the world lie to you too! There is no black and white! There are no “good drinkers” and “bad drinkers”! There are soooo many in-betweeners like me! The grey area drinkers that woke up and realized that alcohol was a waste of money, time, and energy. I’m happy to have myself back and I’m blessed to go into 2019 free from something that used to consume me. From breakdowns, to breakthroughs, I’m telling you, I’ve been there. Bring it, 2019!

My Break Up with Alcohol

Great change typically begins with the person in question getting sick of their own bullshit. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. 1 month ago I made a personal video where I sat down and privately broke up with alcohol. In it I talk for 10 minutes about all the reasons that alcohol is no longer serving me, I cry, I list my fears and I remind myself of all the negatives so that any time I feel tempted, I’m able to look back and listen to myself.

To help you understand where all this came from we need to back up to high school. I was an overachiever as a kid and teen. I got great grades, was in student council and speech, and had been dancing since I was 3. I wasn’t a young drinker, I didn’t smoke, and I think I tried smoking weed only about 3 times before I graduated. I was an organizer and a planner. My junior and senior year I decided to leave high school and go to the local community college to get a jump start on college credits because high school was boring and I had already taken all the advanced classes. The junior college introduced me to college students and college parties and this is where it all began.

By my senior year I almost lost my dance captainship being accused of drinking at college parties and there begins my first big lie to cover up my drinking. One summer before my senior year I threw a small party at my house when my parents were out of town. I didn’t think I drank that much but at one point I don’t remember anything until I came to with someone on top of me and inside of me. I remember trying to talk and move but I was unable to do anything. It was the worst feeling in the world. Unable to consent I was raped.

Now whether or not I was drugged, or simply inexperienced with alcohol and drank more than I thought, this is where it all began to spiral. After that my senior year was a blur where I was forced to go to counseling but sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk, insisting I was fine. The summer after my senior year I went to visit my best friend in Colorado and came back with a bottle of Adderoll that I couldn’t stop nibbling on. My boyfriend at the time threw it out the window in a fit of rage. By my freshman year of college I discovered more Adderoll, Ritalin and then eventually cocaine to go along with my binge drinking ways. It allowed me to forget everything amongst my almost constant blackouts and made me feel like I could cover the shame I felt by being the party girl. After my freshman year of University I was completely broken down by the time I came home to visit for the 4th of July. That day everything came to a head and in a drunken stupor I managed to horrify my 16 year old brother, scare my parents, and almost lose my boyfriend. I came clean and said I needed help. On 7/7/07 I got sober for the first time and checked into a 28 day program at Hazelden.

Because I was young and hadn’t exactly tried to control my substance abuse, I was told by my counselors that I may not be an addict but that I needed to deal with the things that were making me drink and abuse drugs in the first place. For the first time I started opening up about how I was feeling, and actually allowing myself to go through all the emotions. I got the help I needed, a new support system and for the next 2 years I remained sober and worked on myself. On my 21st birthday I went back to drinking with a new attitude.

In the beginning I was cautious only allowing myself 2 drinks, and creating all these rules around drinking. I found a new group of friends in the festival scene, started traveling around and making music my priority. I kept things pretty well in control the first 2 years but the blackouts never went away and the feeling of shame that came from not remembering the night before made me feel like shit. Since then, the last 10 years have been hit or miss. I’ve watched my family struggle with alcohol and seen the ways in which all of us act out. I’ve spent the last 6 years teaching scuba diving and traveling the world- both of these things regularly include drinking. It’s normal for customers to buy me a beer at the end of the day and for us to get to know each other. I’ve struggled with saying “no” and found myself getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon only to accomplish nothing the rest of the day. I’ve tried to maintain a spiritual practice, yoga practice or other daily rituals only to find it impossible with a hangover and given up.

I do things that I wouldn’t do if I was sober. I say things I don’t mean and have done other incredibly embarrassing things that make me feel lucky to have my partner in my life. I always claimed that I didn’t want a relationship because I enjoyed being single, and although a lot of that was true, the primary reason was that I didn’t want to show anyone my struggles because I didn’t want to be challenged. I didn’t want someone else to judge me and I wasn’t ready to admit that my drinking was affecting me more than I’d like. When Victor came into my life, he tried to be supportive and understanding but I could tell that he was worried. Quite often I’d come home not remembering getting home, not remembering what I said or did to the person I love, and I’d wake up angry with myself, shameful, and full of regret. To top it all off, I’d made my partner angry and scared for me too.

Getting out of Mexico and living on a small island made me focus on the simple things in front of me. It put my drinking problems at the forefront of my mind as I tried to create a healthy relationship with myself so that I could reflect that back to the man I love. I did a 30 day trial of sobriety this year to see if I could do it. I finally found a yoga practice that I fell in love with and started to make spirituality my primary focus. After my 30 days of sobriety it didn’t take but a few weeks until I had a blackout incident or lost a wallet or my dignity in some other form and I was back to where I started. A few months later I did almost 2 months before my 30th birthday and once again felt amazing. But just like before, once I started drinking again things slowly went back down hill.

It became very clear to me that the universe was giving me an opportunity to change my life. At 30 years old I have a lot of goals to open my own business, I now have a daily yoga practice, a partner I feel deserves the best version of me, and I am beyond sick of hangovers, drinking, shame, and subscribing to a lesser version of myself. People kept telling me to control it but that really hasn’t worked for me, and if it has, it was by sheer luck. It wasn’t abnormal for me to say I was going out for “an hour” or that I “wasn’t going to drink that much” only to come stumbling in at whatever hour I pleased. Drunk Lauryn does whatever she wants and that stops being cute or okay when you’re my age. I look at the person I know myself to be and the person I am when I drink and I don’t like myself anymore. My hangovers have become so bad that I cannot even function normally. A few years ago in Mexico I lost 8 phones in a year, 2 wallets and 2 purses with everything included. I’ve taken taxi rides home I don’t remember. I’ve partied with people I shouldn’t have trusted. I haven’t respected my body or my sexuality. I’ve allowed my behaviors to affect my relationships and my job.

When I got sober at 19 I got a tattoo on my wrist that said, “amen. peace. love.” When I was in treatment we used to recite, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen, peace, love.” The tattoo was supposed to be a reminder of the power I held by getting sober and a reminder that if I ever felt that I’d lost control, I could always get it back. As I sit here 11 years later and rub my fingers against my wrist, over the words, it brings tears to my eyes. After 2 attempts at temporary sobriety this year, I realized that the only way I could move forward with my life was to remove drinking from the table completely. Sick of trying to control it, figuring out when to drink, when to not, thinking about my next drink, giving myself pep talks that I’ll keep it under control, blah blah blah… all of this was only forcing me to spend more energy and time on drinking. If I removed it from the equation, it no longer took any of my energy.

I read a book when I came back to the States called The Naked Mind: An Easy Way to Control Drinking, and it completely changed my viewpoint on alcohol. My previous experience with getting sober through the 12 Step Program was something I didn’t really relate to. Now, more than before, I have many people in my life that have opted for “spontaneous sobriety” where they’ve suddenly realized that alcohol wasn’t serving them and gotten sober without anyone’s help. According to the 12 step program I need to admit I have a problem with alcohol, am powerless, and cannot control it on my own. From my own research on the study of habits willpower only lasts so long, which is why we seek out support systems. But if you really want to change a habit you also have to change the subconscious mind otherwise you’re only changing the conscious habit. My conscious mind no longer wants to drink, that is a choice I’ve made, but my subconscious mind still desires a drink and this is where most of us fail. I am working on changing my subconscious so that I can be free of the desire.

So, am I an alcoholic? Sure, maybe, I don’t like that word. I’m just someone that got sick of my own bullshit. Someone that realized that my life would be better without alcohol and vowed to do 1 year sober to see how and if my life changed. To most of my friends I wouldn’t be viewed as a problem drinker, but from my experience more people then we realize have their own struggles. I call these people “grey area drinkers”. If you’re someone that regularly feels shame or guilt around their drinking then maybe you fall into this category too. I’m not encouraging you to get sober, because what works for me may not be what works for you. But I encourage you to do a 30 day challenge and see how you feel. I encourage you to reach out to me or talk to someone else you love and trust. I think you’ll find that more people share the feelings you do.

I looked at the person I want to be, the relationship I want to have, the people that love me, the way I was living my life, my spirituality and my values and just decided that enough was enough. For the first time I feel in control of my future. I don’t have to worry about being able to keep it all together anymore and I feel a huge weight has lifted. This has not been an easy article to write, or to share. I hope in doing so we can create more conversations around a socially accepted illness. I will continue to share my story, struggles, and moments of hope as I continue down this journey. I decided the best way to start was by calling friends and family to tell them about my decision. I’ve decided to share it with you now that I’m 30 days in as a way to hold myself accountable and hopefully help anyone else that’s struggling.

Life is beautiful and I have been so blessed to travel and experience the things I have. I am ready to change my life and that begins by getting out of my own way. Drinking was the root of so many problems. I kept looking for other things that I thought would fix it but ignoring the fact that this ONE thing was clearly the culprit. In the last month I’ve been reunited with friends that I haven’t seen in years, attended parties, gone bar hopping, seen 2 nights of my favorite band, and traveled across the country, all while sober. I haven’t said no to doing anything I would’ve done before and I haven’t hidden away from drinking or being around alcohol. I’ve just decided that alcohol isn’t the central theme anymore. It hasn’t been hard and I haven’t been tempted. I don’t want a drink anymore because I am reminded of where that goes. I no longer buy into the false beliefs I used to have around alcohol and I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t envy people that can control their alcohol and I don’t judge those that can’t. I don’t compare myself to other drinkers or do google searches online to figure out whether or not I have a problem. The problem I view is enough for me, has created enough problems for me, and that’s enough, that’s it, it’s a personal choice.

Thank you for taking the time to read, for helping me stay accountable and for supporting me. If this resonates with you and you’d like to speak to me please reach out, it’s healing for me and you!

I love you and I’m here for you,

Lauryn

#metoo is the catalyst

The hashtag #metoo has gone viral this week, with women posting their experiences with unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault publicly on Facebook in hopes that men will begin to see the magnitude of the problem. We’ve been told our whole lives that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted or raped, which is too high of a number regardless, but doesn’t even begin to explain the myriad of things that we experience as women on a day to day basis.

In light of this I feel inspired to tell a story that changed my life. That changed absolutely everything I believed about myself, my autonomy and my body. A story that has been told many times, that resonated with every woman I know and one that ended and started my life again.

I was drugged and raped at my own house when I was 17. My parents were out of town and I had friends over which led to other people being invited that I didn’t know very well. Same old story. I remember having 2 drinks and then completely blacking out. I remember him on top of me and being completely aware of it all and not being able to move. I remember wanting to fight with everything in me but being absolutely helpless. The next day I cried to my friends and they told me I was raped. I was too scared to call a spade a spade. A girlfriend of mine brought me into Planned Parenthood for a rape kit and called my parents because I was too ashamed to do it on my own. I called a guy I was dating at the time and he immediately told me it was my fault because I was drinking. I felt all of the shame immediately and tried to hide the evidence and clean myself up for fear of being judged or labeled.

Although 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime only 1 in 10 actually report it. I reported it. It went no where. Another “victim” lost in the system. My word against his, no evidence because I showered, did the dishes, and deleted his text messages that said, “you’re not going to tell people I like, raped you, are you?” In full on survival mode, I did what I needed to do to try to feel normal again. I remember walking into school on the first day of senior year and his locker was next to mine. I requested a change. Entering the cafeteria one day he held the door open for me from across the parking lot, staring me down, making my skin crawl and bringing back all of the same feelings and emotions. I went to counseling because my parents thought I needed it and sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk about it, insisting I was fine for 6 months.

It carried into University where I went from straight A’s and dance captain, studious, barely drinking- to partying to forget, denying myself the right to feel any emotions, blaming myself for what happened because maybe I shouldn’t have had that party, had that drink, trusted those people. I was a bad kid, that’s what I thought. It ruined my relationships because I didn’t enjoy sex and felt shame during sexual intimacy. My high school boyfriend held me down the first time while I cried and refused to stop. He kept covering my mouth and telling me to “relax”. These stories are normal! My experience isn’t unique! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to women I know and love share their experiences and heard everyone in the room say, “me too”. Me too. You too. Her too.

By 19 I was struggling with a drug addiction and a partying lifestyle. I was completely out of control. Because in the back of my head, not dealing with the root of the problem became the way I was dealing. I refused to talk about it or even admit the experience to anyone except the police, who were no help. I began to hate myself. I felt disgust with my body. I hated and didn’t trust men. I spiraled and forgetting became my solution. I found myself in rehab after my freshman year of college. It was the first time that I saw the strength, beauty and healing power of talking about things. I got to share my story and listen to others and it changed me. I was told that I needed to try to control my drinking, because it was obvious to my counselors that I didn’t try to control it because I wanted to be out of control. They told me to spend 6 months in counseling afterwards, sober. I thought at the time that after 6 months I’d be excited to get back to partying, but surprisingly 6 months came, then 9, then 1 year and finally after 2 years on my 21st birthday I had my first drink again.

Being sober changed my life and saved me. I changed my major to Women’s Studies because I remember the women that held my hand while I had the rape kit done. They told me that they could stand outside or stand next to me but either way they weren’t leaving. I yelled at one of them and said, “you don’t understand” and I remember the way that she looked at me and said that she did. After that I realized I now had a power to share my story and be there for someone else that experienced what I did, knowing that I understood. I worked for a sexual assault clinic, I volunteered on campus for a non profit called WATCH. We took notes during sexual assault and domestic violence cases, at the court house, documenting and making public whether or not the victim was re-victimized during the trial. Did they ask her what she was wearing, how much she had to drink, how many previous sexual partners she’d had- like any of those things matter in that moment.

Finding my voice allowed me to help others. Sharing my story and allowing myself to talk openly about it became the catalyst for the rest of my life. It changed my lifestyle, my mentality and my college major. It made me strong. But first, it made me hard. I tried to fight it, I tried to blame myself, I tried to be quiet. But in the end, all of those things only hurt me. #metoo is the catalyst for awareness surrounding sexual assault. I hope that it softens men when they understand that it’s their mothers, daughters, sisters. I’m not saying this is isolated only to women because I’ve seen many posts from men in my life that have been assaulted by women. This is the catalyst, this is the conversation we need to start having so that we can start raising men right and stop saying things like, “boys will be boys”. Your gender is no longer an excuse for your behavior.

The world needs more men with gentleness on their lips, flowers in their hair. Not balled up fists and denial of their emotions. I don’t blame the men that have hurt me because I know this is a bigger conversation about the way that society teaches men to be men. Although they’re taught to protect us, they aren’t taught softness. Although I’m incredibly happy to hear women so openly sharing their stories I want to know what’s next? The dialogue is our catalyst but what now? How do we make the world a safer place for women AND men? How do we learn to balance our masculine and feminine within ourselves and the wider world?

I want to see solutions and action. Raise your boys to play with dolls and teach your daughter’s to stand up for themselves. If you son is bossy you say he’ll be a leader, if your daughter is bossy you tell her to be quiet. Women are sick of being catcalled EVERY DAY. We’re sick of our bodies being policed without our input, your laws all over our bodies, men determining the future of birth control and abortion without the opinions of women. Where does this end? When can we start telling these stories and be taken seriously by our bosses, our partners, and especially other women?

It’s 2017 and it’s time to wake up! So ladies, keep sharing these stories! And men, start listening to your women with more softness, more love. Maybe you don’t understand, you probably don’t, but all we need is to be listened to, believed. It starts here.

#metoo

To my mother-

My mom taught me what

patience looks like.

That fight or flight isn’t

always an option and

that standing your ground

even quietly

is still honoring yourself.

She always made sure I

valued everything I had

and appreciated still moments

and the company of myself.

She showed me that being

pretty and privileged

deserved my own sense of

modesty but with an assertiveness

and presence that demanded I

knew how to flatter and withdraw

from compliments and advances

simultaneously.

She taught me to be direct

and clear about what I want

otherwise people would only

choose for me.

“Don’t put your elbows on the table”

“Chin up”

“A daisy and I thought of you…”

“The world doesn’t owe you anything.”

When I went through my first

serious “life changing moment”

at 17,

she taught me

not to be a victim.

She showed me vulnerability

wasn’t weakness but in fact,

quite the opposite.

When I would call in tears

asking how to move forward

she’d say, “just do it baby!”

As an adult, I think the

most important lessons

she’s taught me

are about love.

My parents love has never

has never been perfect,

as none is, with a series

of almost crumbling moments.

But she showed me that love

is meant to be fought for,

that falling in love

is the easy part

and that sometimes “fighting”

means giving up,

so that you can take care

of yourself first.

I know how lonely we

all feel sometimes, but I learned

that when lonely,

I was only searching for myself.

I learned that home wasn’t always

a house with 4 walls,

but sometimes,

it’s a person.

My mom has always

been “home”

to my father,

my brother,

and I.

She has kept the balance

in the family

when there was chaos.

She has chose positivity

instead of negativity

while the rest of us

wavered.

And she has snapped

with kindness

and a fire in her eyes

like that of an alpha female

when her pack and cubs

were negligent

with their emotions

love

time

or peace.

I only know the strength and

ferocity and love of a mother

by watching my own.

And although I do not have

the motherly instinct

or desire for motherhood

I am a better damn woman

by learning how to harness

all that is feminine about me

with class but

also with a rage that says,

“don’t fuck with me because

I come from a long line of

women that didn’t shut up

or stand down

or be quiet.”

And I am not here to be ignored,

I am here to be understood.

I thank my mother for that.

What I wish I could’ve told my 15 year old self.

Approaching 30 brings with it a different set of challenges than my early 20’s and has me reflecting on the things that I’ve learned throughout the course of my short life. I find it extremely important to check in with myself and make sure that my values and plans are lining up with my goals and dreams for the future. This is a habit I’ve developed as I’ve gotten older and one that has become even more important and real in the last year. In an attempt to live an authentic life, I’ve now approached the age that I can look back on patterns and behaviors in my past and start to see how they’ve shaped who I am today.

Being a teenager is a very awkward time of identity crisis, where we get to make mistakes and establish our own sense of self. I remember the naive way I looked at the world and how I thought I already had it all figured out. So naturally, it seems like a good idea to start at the age of 15. Looking back, I wish there were a few things I could tell 15 year old Lauryn, or any 15 year old now.

Change is good. It’s really the only constant in life. You’re going to have to get used to it and learn to see it as an opportunity. I remember tying my identity up with my friends in high school, or my friends in college, or the people I associated with, and when those people disappeared from my life, I felt like I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Your sense of self does not crumble when people choose to walk out of your life. Not everyone is meant to stay forever, and it can be hard to learn to say goodbye with grace. The quicker you learn, the stronger you’ll be.

Learn to stand up for yourself. This takes awhile to do because in order to stand up for ourselves we need to have a moderately secure sense of self to begin with. People are constantly going to try to take advantage of you. I know being naive is easy (trust me) but you need to realize that the world is big and there are lots of different kind of people in it. Unfortunately for you, not all of these people will have your best interests at heart. Learn the power of no and use it whenever you want. You do not owe anyone anything, don’t belittle yourself and allow people to take advantage of you. Learn to confront situations and people with honesty and to do that, you must first learn to be honest with yourself.

Your parents will eventually become your friends. At least I hope this will be true. I know it doesn’t seem like it now but they truly do have your best interests at heart, and they will shape your future. Respect them, learn from them, ask questions, and don’t hesitate. If you want your parents to respect you, you must first respect them.

Who you fall in love with for the first time will determine how you view love and relationships in the future. It can be a blessing or a curse depending on who you allow into your heart. Your body and heart do not deserve to be toyed with. When you first start dating, you will be dating a boy or girl who is more than likely unaware of his/her self and may not treat you the way you should be treated. Do not ever allow yourself to stay in a relationship that makes you feel unsafe, threatened, or that you owe them in any way. There is about a 95% chance this person will not make it into your future. Who you choose to fall in love with will determine your boundaries and how you feel about love and intimacy. Choose wisely.

Do things that you’re passionate about. Don’t worry about what other’s think about you or the hobby of your choice, do it anyways. Life is short and if you don’t explore life when you’re younger and learn to truly value what you do and how you spend your time, you’ll spend your whole life doing what other people think is best for you. Explore all possibilities unapologetically and don’t take yourself to seriously. You will fail, you will make mistakes, that’s not the important part… the important part is how you recover when you make a mistake. Let life and experience be your greatest teacher. And jump over and over again because trust me, some of the greatest lessons are learned when we fall.

Don’t plan your life too much! Half the fun is the journey, not the destination. If you plan everything meticulously you’ll only disappoint yourself when these things don’t happen. Take everything as an opportunity for growth and know that if something doesn’t work out, there’s another option that may be better suited to you. Stay open to all possibilities and listen with your heart. I always joke about being on a “no plan plan”. Don’t get me wrong, I have long and short term goals that I’m constantly working towards, but that doesn’t mean that if something doesn’t work out, I need to blame myself. Just enjoy the ride.

Trust your intuition. It’s been there since you were born and is the very reason you have a soul. It’s hard in today’s world to be in touch with our own needs and wants when the rest of the world is trying so hard to keep us distracted. Take time to slow down and build a practice of meditation. But truly, whatever you do, learn to listen to your own inner voice. If you stop listening to it, it’ll get quieter and quieter. Although it is always there to be tapped into, you just need to start doing the work. Intuition will be your greatest guide in life and will teach you that not all obstacles can be solved with the mind, some are simply not a good fit because we just know they aren’t. Trust yourself and trust that voice.

Understanding

Last night we fought

again.

How can we not fight?

When there’s so much love there

that it yanks me out of my comfort zone,

when every inch of my being couldn’t

love you any more

than I already do.

When we fight and I scream

because I’m overwhelmed

because sometimes

we don’t understand eachother.

We are so stubborn

the two of us,

that it could shake worlds apart

like I’m being torn from my own body.

Loving you is

all of the emotions I’ve ever had

coming to me all at once.

And when I collapse

on the sidewalk

in your arms,

it’s not because I’m angry.

It’s because

i’m not used to

not being in control

of my emotions.

You leave me speechless.

When we misunderstand eachother

whether culturally,

emotionally,

spiritually,

my soul breaks with

the misunderstanding.

Because it is so important to me,

to us,

to be understood.

That when we’re not,

it tears us apart

like the universe

is eating us whole.

Understanding will take us time.

But I can promise you

that I’ll fight alongside you.

Because we’re warriors baby,

and nothing is more tragic

than regret.

 

 

On Love Abroad

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t had a long term relationship in over 5 years. Of course I’ve dated and had a few flings that lasted more than a month, but I’ve spent the last 4.5 years traveling the world solo. I’ve always been against long distance relationships because I had a strong belief that it probably wouldn’t work out, would end in heartbreak, and wasn’t worth my time. It definitely takes a special kind of person to travel the world with and I would guess that most couples wouldn’t come home together if asked to embark on a round-the-world trip. I read an article once that said, if you were engaged to some one, instead of spending the money on the ceremony and a blowout wedding, use it towards a trip around the world together, and if you arrive home, months later, together, at the same airport, then you know you’ll be able to get through anything together. I’m all in favor of that idea.

Flash forward to present day and I am 6 months in to the happiest relationship of my life. I have finally found someone I can travel with, that values and respects my independence, constantly encouraging me to do whatever I want and follow through on my pre-him travel plans. But as luck would have it, I met him towards the end of my 7 months in Mexico. When I went to work in the Caribbean for 2 months, we stayed in constant contact and I returned to Mexico for 3 weeks to visit him afterwards. I then surprised him another 2 months later for 5 days in Playa del Carmen and will return to Mexico to work another season in mid November. This time we have decided to live together and are trying to save money to head to Indonesia or Australia this spring. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this amazing human by my side in the future, and I can’t tell you it’s been easy because it hasn’t. We had to learn to deal with the distance and build our relationship despite it. Neither of us compromises well normally, but as our love grew so did a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s necessary freedom. So, I may not know a lot and I’m definitely still learning. But when it comes to long distance relationships, this is what I can tell you.

You will fight, but don’t hang up the phone angry. We both voiced early in the relationship how hard it was to be upset with each other when our only means of communication is a telephone. It’s bound to happen that things will get heated, but make a pact to refuse to hang up the phone angry, even if that means saying, “I’m a little upset right now and don’t think it’s a good time to talk about this, can we please discuss it later?” If you are on the receiving end of this, even if you are a lets-fix-this-in-the-moment person like me, you’ll have to learn to respect your partner’s need for thought and take a step back. We have hung up angry before but one of us has always called back within 5 minutes, in a much calmer tone.

Text every day. You might not be able to realistically pick up the phone every day and have a conversation, but make the small things count. Make a point to message a good morning and good night text, it’ll go a long way. My partner and I don’t talk but twice a week probably, sometimes less, but we aren’t the type of people that need constant contact. But with me traveling around, I sometimes wouldn’t call when I said I would and would go over a week without picking up the phone which made tensions run high and ensured that our first conversation in an extended period of time was a fight. Things happen, we are all human, but showing your partner you care throughout the day, and messaging if you can’t follow through on that call isn’t too hard. After all, we know how frustrating it is when we can’t get ahold of friends for days, imagine your significant other across the world. This also goes along with snapchats, inside jokes, or whatever makes the two of you, “you”.

Include your partner in your decisions. This may be harder for some than others. For example, I’ve gotten so used to being alone and making decisions without taking another into consideration that I still do this sometimes. Even though they may seem small and insignificant to your “separate” lives while you’re away, those little or big decisions still affect your future. I know things can get busy, but take the time to update and check in with your partner. After all, they do know you better than anyone, so make a priority for them to be at your side emotionally even if they aren’t physically.

Respect each other’s freedom. Freedom is the very reason we are most often single. And freedom from the mundane is why most of us travel. So finding a relationship with a freedom lover can be a bit tricky. I can tell you from experience that if I’ve felt smothered in the past, I would just end it because I wasn’t willing to compromise. One of the first things Victor told me is that you should love someone so that the person you love feels free. It was then that I knew I could build a future with this person. He encouraged me to fulfill my travel plans that I had before I met him, but made me promise that the next plan I made would include the two of us. Because he respected my freedom, I felt free in our relationship. I’m also notoriously bad at staying in touch, being a kinda “out of sight, out of mind” type of person. Although it took a few months and we’re both still learning, we don’t need to talk constantly or tell each other ever detail of our daily lives, but we do need to respect that we’re both still individuals living separate lives for the time being. The most beautiful relationships I’ve seen are people who push their partner’s to be the best version of themselves. Because we both want each other to succeed, we push one another to work towards our goals instead of smothering them.

Don’t play the insecurity card. We all get a little insecure sometimes, we’re human. And being in a long distance relationship usually plays towards those insecurities because we aren’t around to constantly reassure our partner, which can make us start questioning the other person’s integrity. Let me stop you there, don’t. Just don’t. Jealousy is a weak emotion. If you are feeling jealous that your partner isn’t able to talk to you as much as possible, or unsure about his new friend who happens to be a girl, then these things are on you. If you chose to be in a long distance relationship with someone, then you must trust this person. If you don’t, then that is something you have to deal with. You are not your partner’s life coach, nor should you waste your time constantly reassuring someone that you love that they are important to you and have a place in your life. I will do this from time to time because it happens, but I definitely wouldn’t deal with it regularly and you shouldn’t either. Don’t be one of those people.

Respect each other’s cultures. More than likely, if you met abroad, your partner is from another country and probably speaks another language as a first language, which means dating looks a lot different in other countries then it does in America. When you get in your first fight it’ll probably be due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. Trust me, I know. And it can be really frustrating trying to understand someone else’s upbringing, culture and language. But talk calmly to each other and don’t take things too personally. We tend to think of these fights as an attack on our country or language when really it’s just due to ignorance that the other doesn’t understand. Be patient with each other when these things happen and take your time explaining instead of getting frustrated. You may quickly realize that the two of you just think completely different on something, that’s okay, respect the other’s opinion and move on. This won’t be the last time that happens when you love someone from another country, so learn to move past it.

I know there’s a lot of skepticism about long term relationships and I can’t guarantee you they will work out. My partner and I just dealt with his visa getting denied to visit me in the US, so I am now making my way back to Mexico. We are trying to head towards Australia next year where Americans can get working holiday visas and Mexican nationals cannot, another hurdle we’ll have to overcome together. But the world is a big place and there are lots of places we can fit in it, together. I can’t tell you if your relationship is right or wrong, or if mine will work out either. But if you feel strongly enough about another person, with the right amount of luck and a lot of respect it could go farther than you think. Good luck!