A rant on communicating as an adult, social media, and being triggered.

A theme that has been circulating for me recently is how incapable people are of having respectful conversations or dialogue regarding a topic where they disagree with the other person. I feel it too, I feel the need to step in when people are misinterpreting, misunderstanding, or I genuinely or morally disagree with what they’re saying. But I am an adult, and I’ve been practicing deep listening, so I try to show respect even when what is being said seems triggering to me somehow. When I was in my early 20’s I would have a few drinks in me and fight to the death trying to be “heard” by people that didn’t want to communicate about it in the first place. I am wiser now, and I pick my battles, and I realize you cannot argue with stupid (as my father always said).

This is continuous practice! This isn’t easy! And it especially isn’t easy when the other person is triggered or disagrees and leaves respect aside to start insulting you directly because you disagree. I’ve had a few recent experiences with this and I’ve been thinking on the ways I can handle it better next time. When people go on the defensive and start making it personal or attacking your character, it can be hard to stay calm and not stoop to their level, after all, they’re poking the bear… but ask yourself this- who is going to look worse in the end? The person that couldn’t keep their cool or you, for staying silent when respect turned its back on the conversation? Trust me, bite your tongue, it isn’t worth it.

I occasionally post political things on my personal facebook, as it’s my right, but I always try to start dialogue regarding whatever hot button issue it is. I encourage people to act respectfully, but let’s be real, this is the internet, where people can hide behind the screen, be keyboard warriors, and defend their opinions with personal insults and attacks. So even though we see it for what it is online, I also see it being carried out into the real world where we’re incapable of entertaining the idea of listening to something that doesn’t sit right with us. I think this shows a severe lack of compassion and is a huge problem with the division currently escalating in our country. I have deleted people I felt were being disrespectful or unable to engage without retorting to the likes of a 5 year old throwing all their toys out of the cot when they don’t get their way. I received backlash for deleting people because I was told it was blocking free speech. I disagree and here is why: I believe in free speech absolutely as long as it is done with respect and can refrain from swearing, insults, personal attacks, or comments such as, “you must be STUPID”. I also don’t get down with homogenous blanket statements about specific groups of people because I believe it furthers an agenda of division. So YES TO FREE SPEECH but I will not support your negativity or disrespect, it’s called boundaries- have some for yourself.

These should be basic rules of conversation that we have learned since childhood, but somehow it seems that grown adults are starting to forget how to have a respectful conversation about something controversial without getting so caught up in the emotion themselves that they are unable to converse at all anymore without retorting to the above listed. It makes me SO sad to see the value of communication and genuine conversations going downhill so traumatically. I’m sick of dealing with children in my adult relationships because they haven’t done the work themselves and lack the self awareness to realize change. Heal yourself so you can show up to the table and come from a place of love, even when triggered because you’re able to take the emotion out of it or be smart enough to walk away until you can. I will say it again, HEAL.YOURSELF! Stop getting triggered by the president, your mother in law, your partner, or anybody else that you let get to you.

I had another experience recently where I’ve made a good online friend who I’ve connected with and chatted with for months as we have similar interests and are both active in the same groups. We talked frequently about relationships, tarot & astrology. I loved her energy and she published poetry that I adored almost daily, so reading what she wrote became something I looked forward to. But last week she made a post about Jesus where she spoke about how all people who studied witchcraft, the occult, used tarot or crystals, and had sex before marriage were in fact doing the work of the devil. I took the time to read the whole thing in it’s entirety even though I was immediately triggered. I obviously realize she just had a huge shift and stated that she would no longer have sex until married and that she was pulling away from all things “witchy” as she felt called to come back to God.

I respect all of this and as someone who grew up in the Church and chose it for myself, not because my parents wanted me to, I walked away from the Church in my teens because I found that the people preaching nonjudgement were some of the most judgmental people I had ever met. I felt there was hypocrisy weaved within religion and I knew that I didn’t need to be part of a religion to have a personal relationship with God. Over the years, I have found my own way back to God through the practice of witchcraft, ritual and work with my deities. I do not think there is one right way to know God nor do I think you can ostracize all people who don’t rejoice in the same way you do. I wrote out my response to her with respect and said it made me sad that she was taking the road of judgement when in fact our God says that only he can do that. I pointed out the conversations we’d had regarding tarot and the divine and felt incredibly saddened that she was pointing the finger at others instead of focusing on herself and her path. I pointed out that prayers and spells are the same thing- energy sent out into the universe and just because our rituals and altars don’t look the same, doesn’t mean our relationships with creator are less valid.

I re-read what I wrote multiple times before I sent it and when I woke up the next morning I was blocked. I was bummed. I had developed this amazing relationship with this woman and when I tried to point out that we were more similar than different she decided against conversation even when it was done respectfully, and instead chose to block any and everyone that disagrees with her. This is a problem! As I pointed out above we all have the right to free speech and if it’s done with respect we have a great chance to converse, learn from each other, and come to understanding. But if we cannot even engage in respectful dialogues with differing viewpoints, then we REALLY have a problem because we’re clearly so unsure in our own beliefs that anything that contradicts what we think seems like a threat. We cannot live in our own little bubbles and shoo away all humans who see things differently, it is creating a divide in our world and society.

This past week I’ve been reflecting on this theme of not being able to deal with a worldview that differ from ours. Our whole world is full of humans who look, think, act and believe completely differently then you! Grow up. Sit with things that make you uncomfortable for a second and see where the discomfort comes from and if any of it is being carried by you before you project it onto others.

I recently had a couple of openly devout Christians publicly denounce the Church for becoming more accepting and tolerant of GLBT communities. As an openly bisexual Christian women, I felt so upset seeing people tell me that I’m not welcome in their Church. I am sick of people telling me that my relationship with God has to look like theirs, that I can only have one God, and judging me for my path to God. I do not judge yours, and the personal relationship I have with my creator makes me feel safe, warm, accepted and understood. You do not get to tell me otherwise. Any God I work with wouldn’t be a judgmental selfish God, because I think the universe is much more balanced than childish human emotions.

End rant.

Here is what I’ve learned-

  1. I realize ignorance can be frustrating because we expect people to “know” certain things, but try to meet everyone where they’re at, instead of expecting them to be where you are.
  2. Every conversation is a chance to learn something new. To strengthen your argument or show you another way. We still might choose our way but at least we can open our minds to the possibility of other existences.
  3. Most of the things we are triggered by say more about us than the other person. So before you match energy and act out, look inwards. Our unhealed inner child is speaking, shut up. Do the work.
  4. Therapy is good. I hope you’re working some time of self development program because no one is perfect and we are all human. We always need a bit of help to become the best versions of ourselves. Those of us in therapy are in it to deal with those of you that aren’t. I will spend money on all other facets of life regarding my health, why wouldn’t my mental health and self improvement be just as important?
  5. NOT EVERYONE WILL AGREE WITH YOU AND THAT’S OKAY.
  6. Agreeing to disagree is a legit thing. You can listen to someone’s point of view and still not agree. It’s fine, try it out, you won’t die.
  7. It is important to analyze our role in misunderstandings. It takes two to fight and it is never one sided, own up.
  8. Lastly, STAY IN YOUR HEART. If you cannot, then pause the conversation or come back when you’ve returned to the heart. There is no point in continuing a conversation that is pushing you to a place of disrespect. Walk away.
  9. Boundaries are important. Have them for yourself and for others.

 

 

 

Are You Still Sober if You Smoke Weed?

As of writing this I am over 14 months sober, and when I say “sober” I mean alcohol free. I feel as though it’s my right to say that, although some would argue that I should specify. When I got sober for the first time in 2007 I remember not vibing on the whole NA model of “weed is a drug too”. Because to me, weed kept me sober off alcohol. Some would argue I’m substituting one addiction with the other, but I disagree in the umbrella sense. I want to dive into this a little bit and tell you where I stand. Now, I’m not here to justify smoking marijuana or to say that people should- I think weed, like alcohol, like caffeine, affects us all differently. I think the bigger message is that we need to do the work to understand how deep our addictions go, and what things affect us negatively. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to recover, and as long as your individual program keeps you sober and involves self improvement and self awareness, you’re on the right track.

So… Can you identify as sober if you smoke marijuana recreationally?

I definitely believe that some people shouldn’t smoke weed. I have friends that smoke and instantly do nothing, or get sleepy, or eat the entire refrigerator. Some of our bodies just don’t react well to marijuana, or maybe we’re smoking the wrong kind of weed, but either way, if it’s not for you, then no peer pressure- it’s great that you realize it. If you use weed to numb your feelings and to escape then you’re using it to “cope” and I’ve learned in sobriety that anytime I use something mind altering as a coping mechanism, I need to be aware of that. I’ve learned that building healthy coping mechanisms is at the center of my recovery, because if I can cope in healthy ways, then I don’t need booze anymore. I now also don’t see it as a healthy coping mechanism, but as a cop out. And as for me personally, when I’m high I feel MORE. I laugh more. I don’t get paranoid and I don’t make unhealthy choices. It forces me to read slower, and notice the little things. For me, that’s a win. But I realize that’s not everyone’s experience. Just like drinking turned me into a witty social butterfly in the beginning- in the end it turned me into a bitter, spiteful mess. Obviously that shit had to go.

But if we say this about weed because it’s a mind altering substance, then what about coffee? Do you NEED coffee to start your day? Well, isn’t that a dependance then? Don’t you think you should reanalyze your caffeine use? What about the fact that people at NA meetings consume more coffee and more cigarettes than any other group of people I know (not knocking NA at all, I am a member, but using them as an example because they’re the largest known recovery model) So although we’re working a spiritual program, where is the disconnect between coffee & cigarettes too- knowing that these things also affect us all differently? If the argument is about weed, then you have to bring in all “mind altering substances” which includes (in the umbrella term):  tobacco, caffeine, sugar, most prescription medications… Yes, I understand what cross addiction is so isn’t it very possible we choose a “substitute” for our addiction? Because addiction is sneaky like that? This is why I strongly believe that becoming aware of your addiction patterns, your specific triggers, and where your pain comes from is how we learn to conquer the things that made us drink in the first place. Once I started to do that, my desire to drink slowly depleted because I started to see all the things that weren’t good for me. Alcohol wasn’t good for me, poisoning my body and treating myself and others the way I did was terrible for me. So now my recovery programs looks like analyzing all the other things in my life that aren’t good for me, and so far, weed isn’t one of those things. But that could change, and maybe at one point, it won’t serve me anymore too.

Marijuana is now legal in many places, and therefore there is a better information about the positive effects weed can have in recovery regarding addiction, I’d encourage you to do your own research. CBD is now being sold all over the US. CBD is literally the marijuana plant, grown with little or 0% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in weed that gives us our “high”). And although I’m a supporter of all variations of the plant itself, let’s not forget that at the heart of most medical marijuana studies is THC. As someone that lived in legal state, and saw the way certain strains help friends with anxiety, and certain strains could give anxiety to others, I know the way marijuana or CBD can help some. So don’t knock it. It’s a plant after all, and I believe much more in plants than I do in anything man made, but that’s my opinion. I think nature provided us medicine as well as food, and it’s my belief that we can use nature’s bounty positively,

So can I be sober if I smoke weed? Yes I can because if you want to blame weed then you also need to turn the lense on cigarettes, sugar, and caffeine because all of these things aren’t natural as well. The work I’ve done to stay sober doesn’t get belittled because I enjoy smoking marijuana recreationally. You know what wasn’t recreational? My alcohol use. Working to slowly remove all toxic things from my daily life has become a beautiful journey and how people choose to recover is up to them. I think at the end of the day you’ll know if you’re bullshitting yourself, that’s not up to me to decide.

I don’t think recovery is a one size fits all program. I don’t think what works for some will work for others, and I think it’s your responsibility to start to explore yourself and your addiction in whatever way you feel called. If something doesn’t feel in alignment, trust it, after all you’re learning to truly feel now, so learn to trust your intuition in your recovery- it will guide you. We always know what’s right for us, even when we deny that inner voice. Learn to differentiate between your intuition and your addiction. Learn what your voice of addiction sounds like, so you know it isn’t you when it starts getting louder. Mine is so silent now, that I kinda just laugh at her because she seems so obvious and silly when she starts talking now. It’s too easy to remember how cunning she used to be- “have a drink to relax!” Actually, it did the opposite and got me all amped up, or it just made me put my problems on hold. It was dumb, just like cocaine. Maybe my addiction could show up in something else! I mean, absolutely! Addiction is cunning like that. For this very reason, my program involves looking at other things I may become addicted too- like social media, or things that I suddenly start obsessing over or researching compulsively… some things are healthier than others, so where do we draw the line?

For me, drawing the line keeps me constantly aware of my obsessive or addictive behaviors. Taking the time to breathe daily, yoga, supportive friendships and relationships have helped me grow more in the past 14 months than anything I’ve ever done before. Sober life has been a gift! If you identify with sober, or alcoholic, or alcohol free, or whatever word makes you feel empowered to be living a life without a substance that used to control you, then USE IT! Claim it! Because the only people looking at your program and judging you, aren’t working theirs, and it shows. Keep your head down and stay in your lane. We are all here to become the best versions of ourselves, and to lift eachother up on this journey, not shame people into silence or away from certain programs because theirs doesn’t look like ours. I repeat, stay in your lane! We are all different people who need different things! Don’t compare your program to others. Any program of self improvement, self awareness, and giving back, that benefits someone is absolutely great!

So yea, you can smoke weed and be sober. You can smoke weed and not be sober. The real question isn’t what you’re doing, but what you’re creating and building- what are you doing to become a better you, to grow as a person, to help others and give back? Everyone should be working a program of self improvement, and for me, analyzing my relationship with alcohol led me to believe that it wasn’t benefiting my self improvement, so I had to quit. The more I love myself, the less I want to do things that cause me or the people I love harm. The more I love myself, the less I want anything to control me or my emotions. If my weed use morphs into something other than it is now, then I will have to reassess again.

I’m not encouraging you to smoke weed, but if you’re on the fence about if being alcohol free is sober- then I’d encourage you to look at the above things I’ve mentioned and see if your life feels better, and if you’re growth game is strong. Because if it is, and you’re rocking sober life- then I encourage you to step out of the grey area and claim your sobriety in whatever way feels safe to you! I disagree that all addicts have to be completely sober. I think addiction is a spectrum and that’s why I cannot reiterate enough, you need to know what type of addict you are! If you’re an all or nothing addict, then maybe weed won’t be for you! The reality is, when we’re sleeping we’re in an altered state of consciousness, when we’re tired we’re in an altered state of consciousness, so altered states of consciousness can be normal- where do we draw the line? When it becomes negative, I truly think you’ll know. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

 

 

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.

How ditching my birth control was a journey to feminine freedom.

From a young age I internalized the language that periods are a terrible time of the month for women. I felt that I should be disgusted by my period and always felt grossed out by the blood between my legs. I was taught that talking about “that time of the month” should be done by making degrading comments about my own body and that “period talk” wasn’t proper conversation in most circles. I was taught that men would find “period sex” disgusting and therefore I could use “that time of the month” as an excuse for not having sex. I believed my doctors and elders when they told me that I should be on birth control to help “regulate my periods” and when that didn’t work to calm my monthly symptoms I was put on birth control to stop my periods completely. And over the years I listened to women tell me how “lucky” I was to not have a period at all and I believed the hype into college that birth control was my ticket to freedom and my way of taking control back over my own body.

But they were wrong.

How many women reading this right now can relate?

I was put on birth control shortly after getting my period at the age of 12 because I had similar symptoms to my mother and my periods were so heavy, so random, and so painful that I would miss school monthly. After they tried almost all forms of birth control from the pill, to the ring, to the shot we finally settled on the Depo Provera shot throughout high school and university. When I moved overseas I got the Nexplanon implant in my arm as it promised 3 years. What my doctors failed to realize is that there was a huge connection between hormonal birth control and migraines. I started getting crippling migraines when I was 12. Coincidence? I think not.

But no one saw these connections, not even my doctors, until I started doing my own research into migraines and birth control. Then I started researching birth control and I started to realize that maybe, I needed to give my body a chance to normalize on its own. At 26 years old I went off birth control but before I did that I researched hormone balance and naturopathy and realized that I needed to heal my body and my hormones from the inside-out. I prepared for the worst- breakouts, mood swings, weight gain/loss and everything else that came along with removing such strong chemical hormones from our bodies. I started taking herbs to regulate my hormones and my cycles. I started monitoring my own cycles using apps and a basal thermometer. I changed my diet and removed all hormones- meat, soy, dairy… These things are all connected you know? Or maybe you don’t, I mean… I didn’t. Basically, I started taking control over my body, my period and my cycles for the first time in my life. The illusion of control that I had been lured into believing I had was fading fast. I knew now that I had been tricked.

I had been tricked into believing the shame surrounding my period. I had been put on birth control and disconnected from the very essence of my femininity, my intuition and my power. I had been told that because I had a disease that was similar to my mother’s we should use birth control as a “preventative” instead of trying to get to the root of the condition. And after 14 years on birth control I decided way too late into my adult life to take my health into my own hands and let me tell you, it was terrible! My mood swings came, my skin was worse than when I was a teen, my appetite suffered, and I almost went back on birth control for fear of these symptoms being permanent! So many women try to get off it but cannot deal with the months of side affects and instead choose to go back on. It’s a trap! But I was prepared and I kept going with the help of a clean diet and food journaling I was determined to come out on the other side.

And I did!

About 4 months later the veil lifted, and when I say “the veil lifted”, I mean that I came out of a mental fog I had lived in my entire adult life without even noticing any different because I’d never given myself the chance. I never knew I was supposed to think this clearly or feel this empowered! As my periods regulated and I became hyper aware of all of my cycles I started to use them to my advantage. I started to honor the time of the month my period came as a chance to look inwards knowing that I become highly intuitive during these times. I started protecting my energy while I bled knowing that I am more sensitive. During my ovulation periods I can identify which ovary is now releasing the egg as it changes month to month based off the pain on one side or the other. I experience ovulation cramps and use this time to harness my creative energy as I’ve realized it’s an incredibly powerful time for me. I have learned that I cycle with the moon at exactly 28 days and that when the new moon comes, so does my period, and when the full moon comes, so does my ovulation. As I got more in touch with my own body I started to tap into my own intuition reveling in the fact that for so long I hadn’t even known how to listen to myself.

How had I allowed such a vital part of who I was be taken from me? How had I waited so long to give my body the chance to heal on its own… to reveal parts of myself to me?

I now know that my period is magic and I celebrate the cycles! After 5 years birth control free I have considered going back to it for the “peace of mind” regarding unwanted pregnancy. But I have also decided that “peace of mind” isn’t worth MY peace of mind. I see now the negative ways in which allowing a drug control over the divine feminine is damaging to the psyche- to the power and beauty that women are. I see birth control as a way of controlling the “wild woman” by teaching her to feel shame regarding her cycle. Going off birth control for me was the first step in taking back control over my own body.

When Native American women were on their period they were brought to a women’s-only hut where they meditated and protected their energy, knowing how powerful they were during this time. Throughout history aboriginal tribes have always known the power of menstruation and menstrual blood- using the blood to garden knowing how rich in nutrients it is, and harvesting the placenta to be used in teas. But bringing this up might have you a little grossed out and I don’t care! If this grosses you out then you too have believed the lies about your own body and you have work to do! If your partner won’t have sex with you while you’re on your period, and you allow that, then you both have work to do! I had to heal the shame I felt around sexuality and menstruation and really dig deep to see the societal conditioning I had internalized. The cycles of our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of and should be openly talked about and discussed. If one more person asks me if I’m sensitive because I’m on my period I won’t react because I know that they too have been duped. We like to downplay women’s power during menstruation by making fun of these sensitivities and calling them irrational because if women saw the power in these cycles and weren’t ashamed then god help us all!

I hold space for myself in a strong way during these various cycles. I use chaste root, kava, turmeric capsules and marijuana to ease my cramps. I also indulge in self pleasure because it’s like an internal massage when the cramps are rough and I’ve learned the power in my own touch. I have found that menstrual cups allow me the ability to see how much I bleed and what the consistency is like from day to day. I am no longer grossed out by this process but empowered by it. It wasn’t an easy journey but if you’re feeling like birth control isn’t serving you, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably isn’t. If you think that natural family planning doesn’t work and you’re concerned about getting pregnant then you obviously don’t realize that you have control. Start by educating yourself, then start by listening to your body. You deserve that chance. Trust me, it is the most empowering of journey’s!

I understand that maybe some women “need” to be on birth control. But I was one of those women that was told that I “needed” it too, and when other women spoke out against birth control I fired back because I hadn’t healed my own feminine wounds. I didn’t realize at the time that I had control and when people started telling me I did I was resistant to these “women” because I felt they didn’t “understand”. If I’m triggering something in you and you feel the need to respond or react to what I’m saying, then I encourage you to do some deep listening first. What conditioning have you been taught to believe? And at what point were you told told that you didn’t have control? Oh, that’s right, we’ve been told that our whole lives. Unwanted pregnancy may be scary but if that’s your ONLY block to quitting birth control, then it isn’t a block at all.

The fact that women cycle with the moon, and will start cycling with eachother if in close proximity is absolutely amazing! Do you see how powerful this is? I cannot tell you what’s best for your body, only you can do that, but I hope maybe you can at least start honoring those parts of the month and stop talking negatively about your period or your body during this time. You are amazing! See that! I encourage you to start to track your cycles and at least become aware of how you feel during the whole process. Women’s intuition is strong and heightened during this time- use your power, don’t be ashamed by it. End rant.

 

 

 

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.

 

She was the bottom.

She was the bottom. The one that finally held up a mirror and I remember sitting on the cement floor, in the garage and staring into the bottom of the glass, knowing I was done.

I would never tell her this… because she would think it was her fault and I would never want her to carry the burden. If anything, I am thankful. She was only the reflection- the final broken piece of the mirror, and I know now that rock bottom isn’t really a bottom–

it’s a mirror.

It’s the moment where you truly see who you have become and where you’re going so clearly. I was looking into her face and hearing her words– so angry and judgmental and hurtful and I recognized parts of myself in her. It was an incredibly sad moment of reckoning–

A reckoning on a cold cement floor, 3 bottles of wine deep, watching your soul leave your body temporarily, allowing the demons in… the black and white checkered floor became a reflection of my own struggles and when I sat, looking through the smoke filled haze that resembled oil meeting water in my mind…

THERE’S THE LINE. I can see it so clearly now…

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

 

maybe the answers never come?

Every time the cosmos shift, I start seeking the answers to us.

I plant my feet in the sand and as I look up,

I close my eyes for a second,

I like the moonlight on my face.

 

I see our futures so clearly intertwined,

I love you so fearlessly and unconditionally yet,

I wonder how I can feel so full of fire for you,

yet, unattached.

 

Have I grown independent from this time apart

or has my heart expanded enough to allow love,

in all its various forms,

to come in?

I think of you now and I feel a warmth,

A security that I’d been craving…

wanting for us.

 

I have sought out the crash of the waves and

the energy of the moon

for as long as I can remember,

Even though I know it doesn’t have the answers,

only lessons.

 

And aren’t we just here to make mistakes and learn lessons?

And maybe if we illuminate our hearts enough,

we can start building the next evolution of “us”-

one where multiple realities don’t play out in my head

and it’s you and me,

around the fire,

recommitting to us–

burning old bridges,

so together,

we can rise.

Trigger Warning: Plastic

As a scuba diver, I’ve gotten to see the devastating effects of plastic first hand. On a dive in Mexico I passed a hawksbill turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around it’s mouth. I tried to get close but the turtles in that area don’t usually approach divers and although it wasn’t too comfortable with me, it seemed to slow down as I neared. When I attempted to put my hand out to free the plastic the turtle panicked and swam away. I was crushed. Unable to breathe at the surface due to the bag, I wasn’t sure how long he’d make it. Turtles can only hold their breath a few hours depending on the level of activity but he had a mission in front of him and a limited amount of time to remove the bag.

This isn’t my only story about plastic in our oceans.

I’ve been unable to surface in normally clear water certain days because as I approach the surface after a dive you can see that it’s lined with floating debris, plastic and other rubbish. It looks like a gruesome film layering the surface of the water. You can see the gasoline sparkling rainbows as you look up and watch your bubbles break apart when they hit the surface.

I cut a fishing net in Indonesia and almost got hit in the head by a weight belt as the the boat captain realized and tried to stop me. My student looked on in horror. I realized in hindsight I shouldn’t meddle in certain things, I know it’s their way of life, but I have a hard time with the way we treat our oceans. How ignorant we become. How things like dynamite fishing are even a thing.

In 2012 I joined hundreds of divers as we set the Guinness Book of World Records for pulling out the most debris from our oceans in one day. It was the biggest organized event they’ve ever had. In Phuket specifically 650 divers, including myself, pulled out 15 tons of rubbish. We were proud of ourselves- we did something great! But I was so sad that something like that was necessary. If we took out 15 tons in one day, imagine how much there is! And setting a world record for the most rubbish collected at a time seemed like something I didn’t want to be competing for.

Once, I watched a seahorse swaying along the bottom with tinfoil sachets that had been thrown into the ocean- bobbing back and forth with the waves and seahorse in unison. It was like looking at one of the cutest, most beautiful tiny things in the world, next to something that was slowly integrating in where it didn’t belong, where it never belonged. The plastic can’t go anywhere except back into the environment as a microplastic, this is now our cycle… That’s when I realized where we were going if we didn’t stop, what our world would look like… and it scared the shit out of me!

I jumped first during season opener with my group of divers on a liveaboard in the Similan Islands in Thailand one year. We had arrived at Richeleu Rock, the most famous dive site in Thailand, to find that it had been covered with a fishing net. The whole thing! We spent 2 dives cutting away the invisible fishing line with plastic bottles attached as surface markers and fishing hooks scattered throughout the lines underwater. This area was a “protected marine park” but it closes 7 months a year and when it’s closed the fisherman know there is no one out there patrolling, and they don’t care.

I broke apart a fish cage with my hands and dive knife on a familiar dive site in Thailand once to free the 8-10 fish that were trapped inside. I know it was small and they probably just wanted to feed their family but something happens to me and I become protective of the water I spend so much time in. I feel the need to speak for it. But first I have to educate myself about the seafood industry, fishing practices, local customs and ways of life, the environmental effects and other aspects of what I’m doing. Sometimes our actions come from a good place but we might have misguided intentions.

I’ve used a shovel to pick up and throw away huge blankets of oil that had covered the beach in the morning, melting in the hot sun and getting harder to move by the minute. I’ve joined environmental groups while I traveled, organized beach clean ups through my dive shop, and been a part of more Debris related activities than I’d like because unfortunately as a diver we get to see it daily. It makes us sad to watch dive sites disappear and change so greatly within a few years. Before it used to take a lifetime to notice these differences, now they’re happening in a matter of years.

Regardless, I’m not on a pedestal but something I will get hot and bothered about is plastic! I’ve walked down beaches in some of the most beautiful places in the world (YES EVEN IN THE US)  and seen them littered with plastic lighters, chip bags, plastic straws, sachets, styrofoam and so many other pieces of microplastics you wouldn’t believe your eyes! I don’t even know if you believe me, you probably think I’ve seen this once or twice, here and there; I’m here to tell you I have seen this everywhere, in all different parts of the world! Although it’s more certainly on display in third world countries, it still exists in the United States, we’ve just gotten better at “recycling” it and stashing it out of the way. We don’t have to look at it and be reminded of the pounds of plastic we throw out in the trash every day, it isn’t our problem. Out of sight out of mind!

Although somehow, if someone dumped that rubbish right out in our yards every day, we might start realizing how much unnecessary plastic and packaging we consume. I’m not saying you need to go out and be a damn warrior but start somewhere! At least become AWARE of the amount of plastic you use and if there’s a better way. Bring a reusable bag, avoid products with palm oil, tell the waiter you don’t need a straw, ANYTHING will help!

Oh, and please don’t get me started on single use plastic because I don’t know how we can even justify using a piece of plastic once and throwing it away! Look, no one is perfect. But if we all just did a little bit better, it would make such a huge difference! I worry constantly about the future of our oceans, about how to teach the next generation to be better than we are, to create products with less environmental impact, I worry about how to reduce my carbon footprint. But I also have certain habits that contribute to the consumption of plastic and I recognize that none of us are perfect! I think it’s necessary to look at our lives and see the ways we could improve. Not only how we can improve by purchasing less and being aware of different kinds of plastic, but on how we educate our children and the ways in which we normalize plastic’s use.

I’d like to be able to continue sharing my passion for diving for years to come. If our ocean’s continue at this rate I might not have fish or coral left to show people. Our favorite sites that used to be considered the most beautiful dives in the world will be covered in plastic fishing nets and rubbish littering the surface and the bottom! Divers are natural ambassadors for the underwater environment because they get to see the effects first hand and share what they see with others. You get to see all my beautiful dive photos and travel photos, I don’t show you the way that I’ve adjusted the camera frame to exclude a bit of rubbish or the way the surface of the water shines as the trash dances up and down in the sun. I don’t share the ways in which we’ve had to educate our boat crew to not flick their cigarettes in the water or throw their rubbish overboard.

I’ve realized that I wanted to share all of this because I’m in a position to do it. This isn’t your usual inspiring post because sometimes it’s important to talk about the hard stuff. It’s important we stop pretending like these things aren’t problems because they don’t affect us “enough”. I think it’s time we stop making up excuses.

 

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!