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

How I Became a Morning Person

I’ve always liked to sleep in. Let’s face it, I’ve always like to sleep (in general). If you ask me about my hobbies, I will be sure to list “sleeping” among them. I’ve had a lifelong battle with my desire to be a morning person and my desire to sleep in. I have tried to adjust my alarm, and get to sleep earlier, because I’ve noticed how happy I am when I get to watch the sun come up; but no matter what I did, I always slowly found my way back to feeling rushed every morning. I couldn’t seem to make it a habit and there are a few reasons for that, so more on that later. But as a dive instructor, I was required to be to work early, and often was lucky if I woke up 30 minutes before I left the house. Yes, I was a 30 minute morning person! My routine was easy, I needed to throw on a bikini- nothing else required in my line of work. As you can see, this profession allowed me to rush out the door and I’ve been known to use the excuse that I “wake up when I hit the water”. This was normal for me throughout my 20’s but I always wanted to be a bright and shiny morning person.

You’ve all seen the science behind waking up early right? I have obviously seen the studies that show productivity levels in people who tend to be early risers. I’ve also learned that how we spend the first part of our day sets us up for the rest of the day as a whole- it sets the tone, if you will. So, rushing out the door in the morning and not giving yourself any time to breathe could become a bad habit. People that take the time to slow down daily whether it be for meditation or mindfulness in general, make wrong decisions less often. And I’ve learned through Ayurveda that a “morning ritual” gives our body the signal that all is well and not to stress. Cultivating a morning ritual has become a daily practice of mine after years of falling in and out of love with mornings. So, I know what all the science says, and I’ve always innately known that I needed to become a morning person so I wanted to share what I’ve learned and what’s helped me embrace my mornings and set myself up for success throughout the day. I would also like to say that I know people who function much better in the evenings, and if you’re one of those people I don’t encourage you to change. My way isn’t the right way! But if you’re like me, and you’ve been wanting to change your ways for years, then maybe you’d like to keep reading.

Firstly, part of my dislike for mornings stemmed from the 50% chance I had of having a hangover for most of my adult life. It’s hard to love mornings when you wake up feeling like shit, or rushed. Duh. But I really really REALLY thought those extra 15 minutes were doing me good. *sigh* Since I quit drinking, I go to sleep at 11 at the latest, and am up at 8 (at the latest). It turns out, just removing drinking made a much more positive influence on my mornings! Secondly, I used to also think I was a nap person but I’m not. Apparently, getting regular sleep is incredibly good for your mental health and when you’re a non drinker and exercise regularly, you aren’t tired. I’m RARELY tired! Even on days that I do tremendous amounts of physical exercise (not lately) I don’t feel the need for a nap, I usually just need my bed come 9 PM. I still love to sleep though and I can sleep anywhere (it’s a gift). I’m a great sleeper. I’m also a Taurus and if you’re an astrology person you know we love naps!

A few months into sobriety I had a regular sleep pattern down and was already naturally starting to wake up earlier. If I had to leave the house I wanted at least 1.5 hours to myself in the morning. Now that’s AT LEAST 2 hours, if not more, to enjoy my morning ritual, take time to myself, and then start the day. I then started turning my alarm clock back 15 minutes every 2 or 3 days. Although I think it’s admirable to want to dive in all at once, that’s why most of us fail! Set realistic goals. If you try to wake up 2 hours before your normal wake up time, your body won’t adjust, you’ll fall out of the habit fast, blame yourself and then give up. Don’t do that! Start slow, this takes practice. This is really a conversation with yourself about your needs and changing your habits, it will be uncomfortable so be patient with yourself. Beating ourselves up and saying, “I will never become a morning person” ensures that you will never become a morning person.

Another thing that was huge for me was reminding myself every time I didn’t want to wake up, or I was tempted to hit the alarm that I WANTED TO DO THIS- that I had chosen this! Any time we complain to ourselves, we are giving a signal to our bodies that we don’t want to do whatever we’re doing which means, the subconscious is going to try to convince us we can get out of it. Reminding yourself that you’re choosing to wake up early and that you WANT to be a morning person is an incredibly strong shift in your motivations not only in your subconscious but also in your physical body. I encourage you to apply this to all areas of life! I just realized that I should write a blog on this topic alone (to be continued…)! Shift your language and watch your thoughts!

Speaking of thoughts, what we allow in our brain right upon waking is incredibly important. If we wake up and our first thoughts are dread, our physical body is going to feel stressed. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t wake up like a ray of sunshine, but become aware of your thoughts and just allow them to go without focusing on them or labeling them as “good” or “bad”. Also try to avoid waking up and immediately thinking of all the things you need to do that day. Before you even get out of bed, spend 5 minutes laying there and connecting to your body. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly and feel any sensations that are coming up for you. Then list 3 things you’re grateful for. They don’t need to be huge things, just simple things. This will become a habit upon waking and instead of seeking out worries, your subconscious will automatically see the blessings. This simple shift attracts more things to be grateful for into our field. Gratitude is incredibly powerful! I knocked it as too “new age-y” for years, but such a simple thing completely changed my perspective.

Once you’ve checked in with your body and listed a few things you’re grateful for, sit up slowly and plant your feet on the ground for a minute before you stand up. Ground into the present moment. Drink a full glass of water to start your metabolism and visualize your day. Once again, focus on you succeeding. What we focus on grows, so focus on the good. Call in the feeling you will feel once you’re completed these things, or had that conversation with your boss, or asserted yourself to someone regarding something that has been on your mind. How does it feel to have these things work out for you in your favor?

Once you’ve finished your water, head to the bathroom then splash some water on your face! Throwing water on our faces is so underrated but doing so actually sends signals to our bodies to wake up! This is why we have been told to throw water on drunk people or to calm our nerves. Once again, there is science behind this! How cool is our body? Then go make your coffee, tea or whatever ritual you enjoy in the morning. This doesn’t need to be a long process, and it is most definitely supposed to be personal. This is the part of the morning for me where I then shift into either journaling, or listening to a podcast, or some movement on my yoga mat, music or taking my coffee outside and walking on the earth barefoot while I take in the sounds of the birds. Life gives us a million pleasures a day that are free, tap into those things that really bring you joy! Include moments of bliss in your practice.

For those of you that insist on sleeping with the black out curtains… try letting some light in? I know, I know, you cannot sleep like that! I’ve heard it all! But for real, being woken up with NATURAL light is so invaluable! They have done studies that show how women who sleep outside and are exposed to more natural cycles of the moon will actually start to sync their own cycles with the moon’s. Women naturally cycle in 28.5 day cycles exactly like the moon anyways. How powerful is that? This means that we are obviously much more affected by nature than we like to acknowledge! I know, I know, crazy!?! Back to the natural light though… if you insist on black out curtains maybe consider the moon lamp because it will slowly get brighter and wake you up naturally which is pretty cool.

For those of you with children that are reading this and saying, “for real Lauryn, you don’t have kids you don’t understand!” You’re right, I don’t. I don’t understand OR have children. But I do have a few close mama friends who make time for themselves in the morning and insist it is VITAL for them to show up for their children the rest of the day. We show up for ourselves so we can show up for others right? You cannot fill anyone if you haven’t filled yourself first. Stop making excuses and make yourself a priority! It is not selfish! If you focus more of your attention outwards than inwards, it’s time to consider a shift in priorities. The journey back to ourselves is our most important one. If it involves waking up 30 minutes before your kids so you can take your coffee in silence in the garden, make that a priority.

I have always known that I needed to work out earlier in the day because the later it got, the less likely I was to work out. Mostly because I would probably have a drink later in the day, and then I was DEFINITELY not going to work out. Back to the alcohol! Anyways… I’ve heard that exercise in the morning is great to start the body and get our organs woken up. When we sleep our bodies accumulate toxins and since our skin is the biggest detoxifier for what our bodies are getting rid of, getting our sweat on in the morning has amazing health benefits to our bodies in more ways than one! This is something I’m still working on though. I have found a comfortable rhythm where I want to work out and will find myself on my mat or moving my body in another way naturally throughout the day, it tends to only happen in the morning a few hours afterI wake up instead of right away. I hope to start including a regular wake up and go straight to the mat. I think it will be a beautiful way to start the day if I can make time for 30 minutes of organic free flow movement every morning. I plan on starting this experiment this week! So there we are! Always a work in a progress!

Once quarantine kicked in I really lost my morning routine. I started jumping on my phone in the morning (don’t do this) or grabbing the iPad to look at the news (also not recommended)! Going back to what we put in our brain the first 30 minutes of the day being incredibly important- I’d avoid news sources or phones if you can. Even better, if you can plug your phone in outside your bedroom in the evening. If you have to set a morning alarm I’d encourage a moon lamp or an alarm with a natural sound to wake you up so that you can leave your phone. Haven’t heard of a moon lamp? Check it out! They’re so cool! It wakes you up with natural light instead of sound. If you have to use your phone keep it on silent at night or airplane mode and refuse to look at it once you’ve turned the alarm off. If it is in the room, face it down. Even then, they have shown that our eyes and brains respond to the blue light just from looking at our phones and it takes us away from a place of relaxation which is another reason I’d encourage finding an alternative alarm other than your phone. I used to use my dive computer alarm since it was on my wrist anyways, but now I wake up naturally, right before the sun comes up, and then I decide if I want to sleep in a little more or not.

And voila! You’re a morning person! Just kidding! But for real, I hope some of this helps or may work for you! Not all of us are morning people and that’s okay, so if you aren’t don’t beat yourself up! It’s important to know when and how we function best. For me personally, that involves getting up and starting my day early! I love daybreak, the silence, the sound of the birds, and the stillness that comes before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Now I feel guilty when I don’t take part in the “dance of the sun” as I love to call it! I used to smoke cigarettes late into the night while I wrote poetry a few beers deep. But now waking with the sun feels good, not to mention I feel a lot more bright and shiny than I used to! I enjoy my time in different ways now, and I think we will always shift and move with what feels good to us in these moments, we should. So before you decide who you WANT to be, ask yourself if you’re doing it for you or because you feel like you should.

My Take on Network Marketing

When it came to network marketing, I was like you too. I had been approached by the network marketing girl from high school that I hadn’t spoken to in over 10 years and asked to buy her product. She didn’t even ask how I was or use my name, and it looked like a copy and paste message that had been sent to everyone in her inbox. One of the women on my team got approached by someone she hadn’t spoken to in years who told her that she had a “crazy idea” and that she had a dream that the two of them should start a network marketing jewelry business together. I know… I know… can you imagine what both of our responses were? We didn’t respond. I get it, I get it, I get it!! We’ve all had bad experiences with network marketing and even if we don’t actually know anything about the business models or structures, we’ve definitely heard the term “pyramid scheme” being thrown around a lot, and from what we know, those are bad so anything that resembles a pyramid scheme automatically goes into the “nope” category for many of us. We don’t want to be “those people” that annoy their entire friends list and isolate their friends and families.

I never researched network marketing until I was contemplating joining a company that used nutritional support products from a network marketing company. Since our partner products were distributed using this model, I went to work to understand how it worked, and why people hated on these companies so much. What I learned shocked me. Not to mention, I also learned that not all network marketing is the same, not all models are the same, and that a lot of the myths I believed about them weren’t true.

Over the years I’d heard of network marketing companies getting sued due to claims being made by their distributors that were untrue. I’d seen the incessant posts on people’s walls where all they did was talk about and promote the products, and I’d been annoyed when I felt like someone wasn’t being authentic. See, we can pick up on that energy! Have you ever sent a text message, in a bad mood, and even though nothing you said was negative, the other person responded to that energy and inquired if everything was okay? I have, guilty! This is also why I was against network marketing- because I wasn’t a salesman, and I definitely wouldn’t try to “sell” anything I didn’t believe in. I used to think, honestly… no one LOVES a product THAT MUCH! I thought it was all a bit ridiculous.

Now that you know how I used to feel, let me talk about why all of this changed. When I got introduced to my team and program I was at a point in my life where I was feeling lost. For those of you that don’t know my story, let me give you a quick recap. I was 30 years old and had been living overseas and working as a scuba instructor for 7 years. I was in Indonesia at the time and since my job revolves around tourism, natural disasters had a tendency to affect that industry pretty directly. We moved from Mexico to Indonesia just in time for Bali’s Mount Agung volcano to reactivate and cause an evacuation which meant that finding a job as an instructor on the island of Bali, as planned, would be a bit difficult. So we moved to the Gili Islands and struggled through low season only to have a magnitude 7.4 earthquake level the island and leave us in a rough place financially. On top of all of that, I was struggling with my drinking after years in the dive industry and my mental health. I was craving something different and when my world got shaken up I decided to go back to the USA for marijuana harvest season- at least I knew there was money to be made there, and I had a van I could live in and friends that worked in the industry. This opportunity fell into my lap shortly afterwards and I didn’t even realize that I was craving all of the things this opportunity offered me- more financial and time freedom and the ability to work from anywhere while I heal myself.

I never saw myself as an inspiration, but I was determined to get sober and healthier in my 30’s then I’d ever been. After 2 weeks on the products the migraines I’d suffered since I was 12, that debilitated me while scuba diving and my team would have to take over, disappeared. I was blown away! My belief in the product was secure because I had felt the changes myself! Since I knew I’d be on the products for life, I decided to start selling them in hopes of paying for my own product. Not only did the products work for me, but so did the program and all I had to do was share my experiences regarding a product that had already changed my life dramatically. Now I was sober and migraine free and realized it was time to start diving into the programs and working on myself. As I worked on myself and shared my story, my business began to grow organically and I pretty quickly realized that I was falling more in love with myself and more in love with this industry! Every month a few hundred extra dollars was showing up into my account, I was getting healthier, and without even realizing it, I was taking on the business part time. I’d like to state here that not all network marketing companies are the same, so I can only speak for the company I work for.

So why do I love The Soul Project and the network marketing model?

THE PRODUCTS

You have to love something if you’re going to sell it. At least, I did. I’m not a good saleswoman so selling things I don’t believe in is a dead give away. If your belief in the products isn’t high, then you won’t succeed. We have a unique company within network marketing because we’re a legacy company. The Soul Project utilizes the the Juice Plus+ nutritional support products because they have been around for 50 years, making these products for 30 years, and NEVER had a recall, have made it through multiple recessions, are talked about and used by many athletes, and are literally the simplest of whole food nutrition. They are the ONLY nutritional product in the world with a FOOD label because they are just that, food. After I researched the products, read the reviews, read the clinical studies on the website, and listened to people’s stories at being transformed by fruits and veggies- I was hooked! It worked for me! And it made sense to me- our bodies need more fruits and vegetables, and we’re not getting enough and people will always need more fruits and veggies, no matter how good of an eater they are! Over the years I’ve seen my own customers results, heard their stories, and seen other amazing stories of healing and it reconfirmed my belief in the simplicity and strength of something like this. Our studies regarding our products and the immune system are incredible and I have multiple women on my team who suffer autoimmune disorders and have seen incredible improvements. Listening to their stories lights me up. How can you argue with wholefood, vegan, GMO free, NSF certified organic (better than USDA), fair trade, vine ripened fruits and veggies in a vegan capsule? You can’t. There is literally no other product on the market like it, nor with the studies to back it.

THE PROGRAM

We believe in healing from the inside out which is why we chose Juice Plus+ as our nutritional support products. Did you know 90% of our diseases today are linked in some way back to the gut and health of our microbiome? 90%! This includes mental health diseases such as depression and anxiety. What is happening outside of us is a direct reflection of what’s happening inside. Starting with a solid wholefood base of nutrition allows our customers the catalyst to heal the rest: not just the body but also the mind and the soul. Our program focuses on healing of all 3 and they are programs created by us, for you. We run 10 day detoxes every month starting on the 15th and each month focuses on a different party of our health- mind, body or soul. We also have meditation guides, recipes, meal planning, self care, weight loss, self love & SO much more customized for your goals. Because we believe that healing needs to start with families, kids eat free! We have our own customer hub where myself and my team are adding value daily. I have found my voice within helping those that struggle with alcohol as well as giving monthly full moon & new moon circles because these are things that are close to my heart and areas of my life I have experience healing and working with.

THE COMMUNITY

This shocked me! I didn’t realize the massive self development that would take place just from joining this supportive community. The Soul Project spans Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Canada and more and we ship to 28 countries worldwide! Our leaders all have different gifts to share and contribute their content and modalities in such inspiring ways. I’ve had access to trainings by Tony Robbins and Eric Worre, who are known worldwide for their masterclasses but are also HUGE advocates of the network marketing industry. I’ve inspired other leaders to quit alcohol and share their experiences with their community, I’ve made great friends that have inspired me and taught me invaluable skills moving forward. We are an eclectic group of men and women who are uplifting, supportive of each other’s wins, and come from all different backgrounds- stay at home moms, corporate professionals, healthcare providers, travelers, wellness instructors, life coaches, skydivers and so many more! Because of them I have found my own voice and started creating my own content. Everyone needs supportive people behind them!

CONCLUSIONS

Look, I love scuba diving and will always teach diving, but I needed a second set of income I could build on the side to start planning for the future. I had a dream to own a dive shop one day but now I’d love to own a holistic health business! But no matter what, I will stay within this industry because it has given me so much! I honestly, truly, want to change people’s views about network marketing. But one thing I need to make clear is that this isn’t an overnight success. This is something you start and build over time which is why we call it the 4 year career. It’s something you get in line for. But it’s also something that will give you and your team the skills and the flexibility to really decide what way you want to show up and be of service in the world.

While working for this company and creating a vision for my own future, I realized that I wanted enough money to not only be comfortable but to actually make an impact in the world and donate to causes I believe in. I wanted the time freedom to work on projects that I feel make the world a better place. Is it easy to make money in this industry? Heck no! Which is why so many sign up, do nothing with it, get discouraged, and quit, only going on to have a bad experience with this industry and tell everyone they know. This is a job, just like any other, and how much you make is a direct reflection of the time you put in. It also requires you to be self motivated and consistent. It is a SOCIAL media job which is why it’s called NETWORK marketing. You have to network! But one of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe they’ll isolate their friends and family. Um… hello, social media! Look, I grow my network by connecting with other like-minded people daily. I find other travelers, yogis, skydivers, sober, cat lovers (to give you an idea of the types of people I meet and interact with) and I do all of this through the power of social media! The only time I’ve ever suggested these products OR this business is if I feel it could help people. I don’t isolate anyone, I expand my tribe, have met amazing people online, and it has led to amazing collaborations. All because I chose to not listen to Nancy down the street and took a chance to build something different!

In our lives right now, we are seeing a MASSIVE influx of fear for the future, fear of uncertainty, FEAR FEAR FEAR and it’s ruling our lives. But it always has. Fear controls almost every aspect of our lives at all times. Fear has also become my favorite emotion to work with because I’ve learned that it is also our best teacher. Some of my favorite things in life started out as fears- scuba diving, skydiving, traveling, network marketing. If I had lived in fear, or listened to what others said, I wouldn’t have had the ability or the balls to create the life I want. I don’t feel bad about that and I won’t apologize for it, it’s one of my favorite qualities about myself. If it’s something that you feel like you’re lacking then I’d encourage you to reach out, because helping others work with their fears is also a superpower of mine since I’ve gone through it. In conclusion, I’m thankful for this industry and all that it’s taught me.

If you’re considering branching into network marketing or looking for something you can do along side your career then I have just this advice: research the company & model, find a product you LOVE and will use for life, look for a “legacy” company not a “startup” and research its history. I am 2 promotions away from healthcare for life! I already make residual income which is literally money while I sleep, and now, more than ever, people need to start taking their health and their family’s health seriously- and I think people get that. So if you’re scared of anything right now, I’d encourage you to start dancing with that comfort zone because if I’ve learned anything it’s that all my best moments have been birthed from fear. Don’t let fear keep you stuck.

Oh and I’m not saying everyone should join a network marketing company! It definitely isn’t for everyone and I think that’s why so many fail. I’m only 1.5 years in and I still have another year or so until I could be full time from this but I’m putting in work every day because I have seen what this opportunity has done for others that I know, and I want to be the one that succeeds too and I see no reason why this business couldn’t give me that when it’s given me so much already. So, maybe next time you decide to buy makeup you could reach out to a Mary Kay distributor, or for hair- Monat, for essential oils- DoTerra, for supplements ME or for household supplies Airbonne. You’d be supporting a single mother or a traveler instead of big corporations like Target or Walmart. Understand that these people probably love these products and love this industry just like I do. We are constantly sharing the recipes, foods, retailers and products we love, so why wouldn’t we get paid for it? Maybe you won’t turn your nose down at network marketing and maybe you’ll take the time to understand that there will obviously be unethical practices in all business, and I cannot control how other’s run their business but I can ensure that I run mine ethically, authentically and honestly. I hope this has answered some questions if you’ve been thinking I’m a crazy person, or that I’m just trying to sell you something, because yes I am crazy, and NO I’m not just trying to sell you something. I think you’re a smart enough consumer to decide for yourself, that’s what I did. But quit hating on this industry cuz at least here, I can be my own CEO and run my own business, and I’m fucking thankful for that.

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.

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.

 

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