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.

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.

 

 

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!