A Nightmare

He comes into the office and grabs my purse and says, “Lauryn you need to come with me for a second” and he looks serious and I am confused because serious isn’t his norm. I follow him outside and we round the corner and he says, “babe there’s no other way to say this so I’m just gonna say it. Botas is dead”. I say nothing, my breathe chokes into my throat and I say, “where is he”?

Where is he? No. No. No. What a fucking shift.

He takes me into the team room where they placed him. He is wrapped up in a towel and I kneel over to look at him and his sweet face and the feeling of his fur and my body collapses on top of him and I sob.

I had a premonition earlier this week about Botas death and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The emotions felt imminent and I got mad at myself for not being able to shake it. It’s normal to play this stuff out but this time it got dark.

I dont know what to do with myself. I’m lonely. The loneliness strikes me in ways I havent touched before. His absence is massive to me. I pick myself up and tell my lover I need to walk. We walk out to the treeline and as we stop to allow the canopies to land before crossing to the other side, our friend approaches- he is the one that found Botas body. His head is hanging low and as he approaches I give him a half hug and tell him thank you. He says he didn’t do anything and I tell him he did enough. “I just cannot believe it happened” and he looks at us and says, “the crazy thing is it could happen to us at anytime. Life is short ya know?” We part ways and cross towards the trees. “Life is short you know”. Death crawls at my chest in waves and we are silent as we go sit down. He passes us again, this time on his motorcycle as we cross back and gives us a finger wave.

I make it back to the van and sit alone for the first time in this space that feels less like home and more empty than before. I grab my journal and I start writing about Botas. I get a paragraph in and i hear sirens and a helicopter passes over head and I hear them turn into the dropzone. I stick my head out the window and I decide that whatever it is, I’m not strong enough for right now. I write in my journal, “I hope Botas was happy. I hope I gave him a good life” and I’m sobbing and as I write that sentence my alarm starts going off. “WTF? I never set PM alarms and rarely set AM ones”. I pick it up and the screen flashes 5:55 at me. I freeze. If you know, you know. Being supported through grief and feeling held in moments of hardship is a love that’s unexplainable. I felt Botas presence right then and I KNEW that he wanted me to know that he was happy and lived a good life. Now I’m unconsollable.

The phone rings and I find out that our friend, the one who found Botas, is the reason for the ambulances and helicopter. After we passed him he chased the last plane down the runway on takeoff on his motorcycle and lost control of the bike while the full plane of people watched him tomahawk as they took off. He got airlifted. It doesn’t look good. Pauhana.

“Life is short”. No fucking shit. I put down my phone and I stay where I am. I decide it’s the type of day we should all just call it on. I pull out my tarot deck. Botas always messed up the cards until I started letting him in on it. He was great at picking cards and I believe a familiar in communication with spirit too. It was something he did with me, just like yoga. I asked my guides and Botas what he came to teach me and laid down three cards.

Magician reversed.
Death reversed.
The Devil reversed.

Past.
Present.
Future.

My heart leaps out of my chest. Fuuuuucccckkkk me. I smile and then I start sobbing over the cards. “Life is short”.

& then all the loss catches up with me suddenly. Past- Magician… this represents being lost and unsure of your path. When I found Botas I was adrift and struggling to confront so much- he was my guide. He gave me a home. Present- Death. Need I say more? 52 cards in the deck and the present card is Death reversed telling me that pain and transformation and shift are imminent. Breathe. The Devil reversed- Future. Non-attachment. That’s what Botas came to teach me. I was most attached in this world to that animal and now I have to learn and implement a value I incorporate in every other area of my life. *sigh* it doesn’t seem fair. Life isn’t fair.

“Life is short”. & sometimes the death piles up. Like on this day. My friend tells me of a friend who shot himself in the head the night before. Another messages me from the hospital from a skydiving accident- a hard landing and we discuss how quickly life changes and how precious LIVING is. Another friend calls me because his friend passed away jumping in Switzerland yesterday and the deaths just pile up. I cry with them about our shared losses and we acknowledge that sometimes it all just feels too heavy. We remember that we risk death every day to live lives that bring us joy. We recognize that our freedom is finite and we cry together because sometimes we just need others to help us hold the pain. We talk about the freedom of animals and the freedom of humans and we acknowledge the prices it sometimes cost.

“Life is short…”

I am reminded of this these past few days… I am reminded that I don’t want to leave anything left to reconcile. I am reminded of the things I haven’t said and the people that deserve to hear them. I am reminded of death today. And reminded that with life- this beautiful experience we call life, also comes death. It is always there, waiting to call us home, and we cannot control that. So we choose to live. Not safely and not in neat little boxes and definitely not normally. But we choose this life and this freedom and so did Botas. He was all the good stuff. He was a once in a lifetime cat. & this healing, this journey without him, is going to push me into parts of myself I might not be ready for, but I’m strong enough to handle. But I don’t want to be strong god damnit I want to crawl into my grief and let it consume me and split me until the light cracks in again.

But here we are & life is short, ya know? So I will cope in the best ways I know how and give myself grace for the way my system feels like it’s glitching sometimes and my hands stop working because I know… I FUCKING KNOW that life is short.

Validation is a Bitch

I spent years seeking validation from others. Almost all my life if I’m honest. I’m a human, how could I not crave the validation of others? But I have learned not to care about the validation of humans I don’t value, or whose opinions I wouldn’t care to hear. I no longer listen to the people I wouldn’t run to for advice. If those people know nothing of my life, why would I take their opinion into consideration? That seems silly to me now but it’s a trap we have all been stuck in, and some probably still are.

The truth is, we aren’t going to be for everyone and thank goodness we aren’t! Why would we even want to be? Honoring that and understanding that we will always be the villian in someone’s story because no matter what we choose, we will inevitably cause someone else pain… is an important part of the journey (at least for me). There is no way around these things so acceptance has moved me through them. But choosing the things that we must, the lifestyle we must, the partner(s) we must because we cannot imagine living our lives another way, because it is in alignment with our highest truth, is therefore worth any pain we may cause to others because we do not have to carry the hurt we have caused if we live in our truth. We can choose not to carry it then because it is the inevitable collateral of living your truth. We must accept that living in our truth will cause pain in some way, to people that aren’t meant to hold it for us or with us, and that is okay… let it/them go.

I reflect back on 14 years of adulthood and love, learning, relationships… and I see how much time I wasted waiting to be validated by the world, waiting to be loved by others.

I wasted more time justifying my lifestyle than living it.

I waited for the world to love me instead of loving myself first.

I sought validation for my career choice in scuba when I was told to, “get a real job”. Something I still receive from some after almost a decade in the industry.

I struggled to convince people that network marketing was a legit business style instead of living in my truth and recognizing that the people that were ready would show up, & it wasn’t my job to convince anyone.

I have struggled to express my bisexuality when dating men and felt like I was constantly convincing men or women that my sexuality was legitimate.

I have spent 12 years practicing non-monogamy, and spent just as long trying to convince the world that my relationship style is a valid and legit desire that needs to be recognized for me to feel whole.

I have spent too much time defending my lifestyle and my relationships and trying to convince other’s that my existence didn’t boil down to a fear of commitment or an inability to choose. I have spent so much time speaking AT people that were never interested in learning about me anyways. But over the last few years I have fallen, unapologetically into being myself and I’ve slowly started to unpack why I sought all that validation in the first place. What was I lacking in myself that I felt like I needed other’s validation in? The answer was CONFIDENCE. I still needed validation to exist. I still needed permission to take up space in this world in the way that I desired. I still felt like only other’s could give me this confidence and that I was ONLY allowed to have it if other’s validated me. But really, I had it inside all along… I just didn’t recognize that I could give it to myself at any time.

Speaking up for the non-negotiables in my life and relationships has changed everything. I have spent a decade learning to navigate the margins of society and have tried to structure my lifestyle and relationships by DESIGN not DEFAULT. In doing so I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve learned what feels good and what doesn’t, and I’ve learned how to communicate with my partner(s) surrounding what I desire and what their needs are. I have learned that when I try to fit myself into boxes that aren’t for me, I feel stuck and unfulfilled and I resent other’s for my inability to hold myself. I guess I am learning who I AM and consciously working to change the patterns I don’t like about myself, always seeking the lessons & the message of my life experiences.

I have learned to ask myself in every moment, “does this align with the life I’m trying to create” and “does this align with my values?” And if the answer is NO, I no longer feel obligated to others in this way, if it is out of alignment with myself. A woman I follow, Jennifer Joseph wrote something the other day that said, “rejection is just a message that alignment doesn’t live here” and I found that to be such a beautiful way of putting it. The universe often saves us from things that aren’t for us. I had a partner recently call me up and say he is interested in trying monogamy with another and we had a loving conversation about needs and desires and although I felt sad to lose that partnership, it opened up space for me to allow something new in and allowed him to live in his truth as well. Instead of feeling rejected, I practice compersion (the opposite of jealousy) and I felt excited for him and the new relationship he is about to embark on, and I felt a gentle understanding from the universe that, clearly he wasn’t in alignment with me (nonmonogamy is a non-negotiable for me). When I am not chosen I don’t retort to a place of lack and think, “poor me”, instead I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the moments we share and I can let go with the same unattachment and feel gratitude that the person is living THEIR truth so I can go live mine. I don’t compare myself to others or ask what I’m “lacking” because I know that I’m not for everyone and I don’t want to be anymore. I was reminded that alignment didn’t live in that relationship, so now I have more space for something new or existing (and that is a blessing too).

I have experienced the powerful affects of living my truth this year. I have lost family and friends and lovers that couldn’t respect or understand my boundaries, that couldn’t meet me halfway, that refused to have conversations without blame or insults, that constantly put me in a position of confusion about where I stand in their lives. I no longer have space for people who are committed to misunderstanding me. A man I love very much hurt me terribly with his words and instead of making amends when confronted he said, “I can say whatever I want” and I realized in that moment that our values were out of alignment. This powerful white male has never had to answer for anything, has never had to apologize or make amends, and his privilege has allowed him to get away with that his entire life without being held accountable. How do we reconcile with these people? How do we find common ground while also refusing to be a doormat for someone’s unchecked anger and aggression? And when we set a boundary it often gets misinterpreted as a “lack of forgiveness” instead of an attempt to mend the relationship that feels safe for both parties. I was also told that if we were able to move forward that I wouldn’t be spoken to often because they wouldn’t want to “offend me” which felt like another way of putting the responsibility to process the pain alone, and further belittling the damage done by the words that were said. These same people have repeatedly told me I should “forgive” without assuring me that they understand what happened so I don’t have to repeat this pain again in the future. I believe in amends, apology languages, and ownership and I have yet to see that. The lesson I have learned in the last 10 months is that those things may never happen, and I’ve had to come to terms with losing these important relationships at the sake of saving my self respect and self love. A boundary is simply the line at which I can love both another and myself, simultaneously. Stepping across that line will only be a betrayal of myself… and I’ve spent enough of my life doing that- no more.

Of course I wanted validation from these people I love and value so much. But once I realized that their love was only conditional on me continuing to play a specific role in their life, and that living my truth was causing turmoil, I had to choose myself. I am committed to choosing myself. This might sound selfish but it is the only reason I am alive, still sober, and able to create what I’m creating right now. This life wasn’t available to the un-healed version of me. My healing has taken a lot of work, protection and pain, and I fully plan on protecting myself so that I can continue to be of service in the world. I have big dreams to impact and help many women and I can only manifest my dreams with the support and love of solid, empathetic, humans with a high emotional IQ. I have learned that toxic is toxic. It doesn’t matter if it’s family, your partner, or your best friend- cut it out if it compromises your peace. Life is too short to continuously people please and seek validation from others. Get right with yourself, your goals, your visions, and your truth becomes unshakeable- because it is YOURS. So yes, I’m incredibly selfish about certain things because I cannot show up in the world any other way. If that’s selfish- then so be it. That’s MY truth.

This year has been heavy on the lessons… for all of us. But my biggest reflection has been on fully unpacking the layers of validation I sought from others, and the wasted times I spent defending things to people who never would’ve shared my lens to begin with. Validation from partners, lovers, family, friends… and the way I wasn’t living in my truth ONLY BECAUSE I cared about other’s opinions regarding my life. I had a hard time making a decision without consulting multiple people (indecisive Taurus energy) but this year I started making big decisions about my life and consulting NO ONE and I feel more aligned with me than I ever have. I’ve realized other people’s opinions can make our path seem cloudy and our intuition weak. I had to really think about my values this year… and I have realized that shared values are important within our close knit relationships. This year we found out whose values weren’t in common with ours. This was the year we stripped the veil off and we started to heal! This was the year I stopped carrying shame about my body, that I dealt with my money blockages, that I went back to therapy, that I launched my sobriety group, that I left a relationship that didn’t serve me, that I doubled my online business, & started forming a long term vision for what I want to birth as a creator and human on this planet. I started asking, “how can I help?” And “what is the most loving thing I can do here?” This was the year I started asking for help while simultaneously landing on my own two feet. This was the year I learned that other people’s opinions aren’t gonna pay my bills. Now I save my money and my breath and both have brought me peace.

Starting the year solo & vanlife over the holidays!

I could have stayed in Tennessee for the holidays or I could’ve enjoyed it with my best friend out in Oregon. It isn’t that I didn’t have options, it just felt like the only way to end the year was alone. It felt right. I have done so much alone this year and when I really needed the support and the love of certain people, I didn’t get any at all, instead I got the opposite- cruelty. When you go through hard things alone, I realize now, you don’t really need anyone anymore. In 2020 I left a relationship with a man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with because sobriety and self development showed me that we weren’t as compatible as I thought. Then, suddenly leaving became the only, but the hardest choice. Then I left the country I had called home for years and came back to one I hadn’t called home in almost a decade. My heart broke so many times this year… for my love, for my country, for the tattered relationships I had wanted more than anything to keep whole. Like all of us, I learned what isolation and loneliness were… except I loved it. I learned to fall in love with my own space (the home I lived in) and with my own body again. I learned to set incredibly strong boundaries, how to heal, how to re-parent myself, how to self soothe… and have been rambling the US in Mosey the van now since June.

So doing the holidays alone felt right. Especially when my memories flooded back to the last Xmas I spent with my own family and then my ex’s family in Mexico— before the world fell apart and before we truly allowed our relationship to as well. Thinking back to the way I hesitated when he invited me until the very last minute when he got red in the face at my lack of a decision. I see my hesitation now as an inner knowing, another example of the way I refused to listen to my own body, of how I constantly shut my intuition down for the sake of other’s comfort. No more. Despite everything, we had a great trip & connected with each other so when we did finally say “goodbye” we did it with so much love. I’m thankful for the kindness we showed each other in the end because I see our growth in that goodbye. All of these emotions kept me from wanting to participate in the Holidays in the traditional sense this year, so after months in Tennessee I wanted my van, my freedom, and my solitude… so I packed up, said my “see ya later’s” and headed south for the winter.

As SOON as I hit the road again solo I always get this indescribable feeling of JOY that overcomes me and it hits me often while I ramble around. There is something about the van and the road, that have always done this to me. I carried on with my no plan “plan” with only the intention of spending a few days around Christmas in some national forest with zero cell reception. I spent a day by a gorgeous river spot while cruising through South Carolina and got to enjoy some awesome hikes. I stopped at a few beaches between Charleston, Edisto & Hilton Head and was brave enough to put my wetsuit on and laughed out loud while I floated in the freezing cold surf, finally reconnected with mama ocean again. I ate dripping mangos out the van door with my feet planted in the sand screaming City Girls lyrics and swooning over how sweet life can be when I allow myself to be guided, to feel empowered, to ask for what I want. I stopped and put my ear buds in and grabbed my hula hoop, or my long board, or my running shoes and seized the moment to skate that park, walk that bridge, or smoke that joint while I watched the sun go down. Mosey drove great and I found myself spending 2 nights in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Savannah where my new friend GI Joe, a retired Air Force Staff Sargent and his cat quickly became Botas and my new friends. We shared a love for unicorns and he complimented my style saying I, “had it going on”.

I walked Savannah’s historic district on Christmas Eve and was stunned at the beauty of Forsyth park and the way the invasive but beautiful Spanish Moss hangs off the Cypress trees. I sat under some of those trees and did an hour of work in the park before I found myself standing in front of the fountain offering to take photos for family’s who were enjoying their holiday together and instead of feeling sad for me, I felt happy for them AND happy for me. I watched a few drifters go by and found them later making and selling bamboo flowers and crickets, the same as I used to watch them do for tourists in Asia. I told them I had no cash but they made them for me anyways as the old man told me about his life in Savannah and the young girl shook over her cheap whiskey bottle. I told them I was sober and traveling, and they told me how the city had changed since Covid. We discussed the beauty of the park and the old Black man told me how the confederate statues made him feel. I marveled at the history the East Coast has. The cemeteries are what always reminds me… I find myself in East Coast cemeteries almost daily now and silently scold myself for not spending more time out this way before. Our country is so young and so bloody, and the only time you can really feel our history is on the East Coast. The west reminds you of progress and the southeast reminds you where progress lacks. It feels exciting, to be here now, and be seeing it through a different lens. I moved on after about 45 minutes and gave myself a self guided tour of the historic district, stopping in front of buildings and looking up the history on my phone.

I made it into Jacksonville that same night on Xmas Eve and was hoping to be able to drive into the national forest, but realized an hour down the road I had forgotten my debit card at the previous gas station- lucky for me a customer had brought it in so I turned around and went to pick it up. “A Christmas miracle!” I said! I don’t lose things in sobriety so I was upset with myself for getting distracted and forgetting to collect my receipt because I made a sandwich and cleaned my windows instead. Either way, I was just happy it was still there! But by the time I had collected it and turned around, I heard a storm was coming and I didn’t want to pull into national forest at night AND in the rain with Mosey. But as I approached Jacksonville, I started to question the lack of rain and noticed in the field to my right above the Tractor Supply store that it REALLY looked like a WALL of sideways rain through the flood lights and I thought, “what a funny illusion because it OBVIOUSLY isn’t raining here” and as soon as I had this thought, we were struck by that wall of rain at 65 MPH I found out from the news later. I am honestly surprised I didn’t flip and that there wasn’t a serious accident because for 10 solid seconds you could see NOTHING and the impact of the rain and wind hitting the road and my windshield’s perpendicular actually stripped the threads on the windshield arms and bent them to the left. The driver’s side wiper was hitting the side of my driver’s door, it wasn’t even on the windshield anymore and I knew instantly that my journey had stopped here for the moment. I limped her off the road and pulled into a Day’s Inn and learned that the best option would involve two 7 mm washers, which I wouldn’t be able to find on Xmas, so I made friend’s with the receptionist and she told me I could park there for the night and use the bathroom.

I got organized and made myself some Mac & cheese while it rained and got a phone call from my sweetheart that he would put me up in a room for the night. So, he had spoken with the same woman I had and I found myself with a king size bed on Christmas Eve in Jacksonville, Florida while the temps dropped to the mid 20’s and I was snuggled up watching the news and the impact the storm had on the surrounding area considering myself lucky that we were safe. What a sweet treat! The next morning I packed up and went straight into Osceola National Forest. The last 45 minutes into the forest the service had already dropped and my speakers had stopped working and I still hadn’t fixed my windshield so I listened to Christmas Hits on my tiny speaker with the windows open as I drove. I pulled in to a discover these tall BEAUTIFUL PINES with the sun peeking through and my heart went “YES” as I sang Mariah Carey’s, “all I want for Xmas is YOUUUU” to the trees. I drove past a few campers and did the loop, managing to avoid all the newly formed puddles since yesterday’s storm. I re-circled back to a nice pull in spot with the minor inconvenience of one HUGE tire shaped hole and considered that if I avoided it, it would be perfect. So I pulled in and hugged the left side of the site and avoided the hole. I got out to admire my spot and it dawned on me that I didn’t want to have to reverse over the hole later, so I thought it would be wise to turn myself around now, so that I could drive straight out in a few days time when I’m ready to go. I’m sure you can guess what happens next- I backed straight into the hole! Oops.

I recruited some fellow campers and we tried everything from wood, to rocking it, to digging it out with a shovel and all we did was sink it further in until the muffler was buried under the mud and I decided it was a lost cause. We couldn’t even jack up the rear. I had planned on staying a few days anyways so voila! We get what we ask for! I had to hitch a ride into town to get enough service to call AAA but since it was Xmas they were having a hard time finding a driver and I kept telling them that it didn’t matter if it was today or tomorrow, as long as I knew someone was coming so I could leave at some point. She insisted it would be easier if they had someone to call and since I would be unavailable I nominated my sweetheart to check in with them. His story was even funnier a few days later when I got out of the forest and we reconnected. It seems the AAA lady was wasted that evening and when he kept calling to check on the update she finally told him, “What EXACTLY do you want me to do, sir” while slurring her words and he responded, “your job”. He proceeded to call multiple other drivers who insisted I was camped in an unsafe, hillbilly, meth area and that didn’t make him feel any better since they all couldn’t help until the next day. One driver told him $500 and then called him back at 2 AM crying and confessing that he had “done a bad thing” to only spent 5 minutes speaking on his failed marriage and life. Yikes. Despite all of this a driver did actually show up the next morning and he pulled me out like it was nothing while he told me of all the situations he had found people in out in this area. I made a friend who I built fires with for a few days who filled me in that the night before I arrived a man had chased his wife through the campground with an ax, apparently he had a drinking problem. So I guess they were right, the area CAN be a bit rough, but I made friends out there and met some locals who assured me that they would follow my blog and bring me good wood when I came back. I slept in 20 degree weather so cozy inside Mosey but when I emerged in the morning the water bowls were frozen and I had to put the jug in the sunlight until it melted enough that I could get it out to make coffee. Once my coffee was made I spent every morning with my gloves on chasing the sunlight beams as they started to light up the forest floor and I would sip my coffee and welcome in Christmas.

Botas had a blast exploring the forest and would only come screaming back in to the van when the big hunting trucks rolled past with dogs barking. Otherwise we found a routine where he would follow me the whole loop as long as nothing scared him back to the van and I finished a few books and journaled a lot and meditated to the sounds of the forest. It felt so good to be disconnected from my phone and from social media. I thought about how much it has become a part of our lives and how thankful I am for it but also how reliant I have become on it and how unhealthy my relationship with my phone has become- another addiction I must get under control. I have been working a social media job for the last 2 years online and I love it because it gives me this type of freedom, and gave me the tools I needed to later create an online sobriety community which has been another amazing connection and tool for me in recovery. But all of these things have made me dependent on social media in various ways and it dawned on me that I wanted to continue to use social media but less in some ways, and more in others. Hence why I am writing this to you on the blog, because I haven’t really been on social media this past week, and I wanted to go back to writing… back to my roots… and back to the people who listen. So if you are here, and reading this, thank you! I think after so many years I need a facebook purge so I can start building a more intentional community again, which has always been my goal. I’d like to use IG less, I am not supportive of it’s new censorship TOS but still plan on using it for work and minor updates but ultimately I’d like to write more here and less there, share more here and less there. You all know how much I love stories and that they’re probably the way I engage the most, I used to use it to update constantly but am feeling more of a pull towards my privacy right now and will be using that less too. I want to be present in my moments and in my life and to the people that are in front of me.

I want to continue 2021 alone, and I want to focus on what I am building and who I am becoming. The theme of this year has really been finding out who I am and who I want to be outside of the influence of other’s. It has been a reclaiming of my time and energy and I couldn’t imagine ending it any other way then reconnecting with myself and the forest and my intention for the New Year. Despite it all, we learned a lot this year whether or not we wanted to. There were blessings in the madness and lessons in the form of isolation, mental health, relationships and finances. I feel gratitude as my primary emotion. Gratitude for a deep knowing of myself and what I want out of this life and gratitude for no longer feeling shame around using the word “no” or asking for what I want. I feel proud of myself for continuously honoring where I am and what I want and not being ashamed to go get it. Stepping into 33 feels humbling and I know things are only going to keep getting better. If you read this far, thank you. I hope your reflection on 2020 has been positive despite all the negative. We are all in this together, although I count myself significantly lucky to still be able to move about the world in the way that I desire when so many people are struggling. Stay safe, stay sane. Muah

Choose yourself, baby.

I wasn’t raised by men that know the power of ‘I’m sorry’. I was raised to accept that people sometimes hurt us and that amends shouldn’t be expected. Instead I heard, “that’s just how they are”, so I didn’t know that people could change, and I worried about the quality of my character if I was unable to grow into the person I desired. The only apologies I saw others give was for the obvious, but I couldn’t understand how an apology (or lack of) was supposed to serve us without changed behavior. “I’m sorry” when it didn’t matter and silence when it did.

I wasn’t raised to understand ‘apology languages’ so I overused ‘I’m sorry’ my entire life. I OVER-apologized. I made these words my favorite words when they were all I wanted to hear. I grew up quicker and I started putting words onto paper… that turned into paragraphs… and all of these words still couldn’t create a bridge between me and the people I loved most.

Later, I went to therapy and I tried pouring my words out verbally, and I tried to make sense of why I wasn’t worth any of the words I wanted so desperately. So I developed better communication skills and I dove into therapy and I took the apology into my own hands and told myself the words I needed to hear.

I traced the curves of my body and placed my hand on my heart. I stepped into the bath and hugged my knees to my chest and I said the words ‘I’m sorry’ to every inch of me. I reminded myself that even when my heart breaks and I lose the living because I chose myself, that I still deserve all the love I so freely give to others. “Choose yourself, baby” I whispered. “Choose yourself”.

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