Here’s an idea. When you’re a closet alcoholic who’s quit drinking more times than you can count, start a podcast to hold yourself accountable as publicly as possible. Share your struggles, your triumphs, and every lesson you’re learning along the way. While you’re at it, invite others to share their stories of addiction and recovery so that you can learn from them and be reminded: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Getting sober is just the beginning. Staying sober, and then becoming the person I know I’m meant to be is the real adventure. Join me?
RE 315: Change and Compassion
– I can’t even imagine picking up a drink to solve something anymore. It doesn’t even cross my mind.
Kate took her last drink on August 11, 2018. She is 42 and lives in New Jersey. This is her story of living alcohol-free (AF).
Today’s sponsor is Better Help.
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Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message
Odette has been thinking about the process of change. When she is having a down day, she wonders, am I doing recovery right? Am I making progress? Is the work worth it? It’s muddy and contradictory, particularly with our labeling minds.
We think bad days mean we are doing something wrong, and negative emotions are guides in the wrong direction. On hard days, Odette uses more tools, which probably means she is making more progress.
Holly Whittaker posted on her Instagram page a sketch that highlights the Hourglass of Change. It shows there is a range of emotions from start to goal. Odette thinks we need to learn to appreciate the hourglass of change, label-less, and accept more. Negative emotions have a place in our chapter of change. When Odette looks for peace instead of euphoria and moves gently with her feelings, she remembers compassion is critical. We need to have compassion for ourselves and others.
Let us remember that we are all on the same path, wanting to connect with others and feel like we belong. If sobriety is kicking you in the butt right now, don’t be so hard on yourself. Take it as a sign of progress. You are on the right track. You are right where you are supposed to be.
[7:30] Odette introduces Kate
Kate took her last drink on August 11, 2018. She is 42, lives in New Jersey, and works for Recovery Elevator.
Kate said she was born and raised in New Jersey. She, her husband Jay, and their cats keep life interesting. Kate works in the art world. She is crafty and knits, sews, and cross stitches. She loves to exercise and get outside.
[8:54] Give listeners some background on your history with drinking
Kate said she took her first drink at 14. She was severely inebriated and blacked out. The only other time she drank in high school, she blacked out. Kate went to college in Pennsylvania, and drinking was part of the culture. She was in a sorority, and everyone drank on the weekends. Her drinking seemed normal and what everyone was doing.
After college, she started to notice some demons.
Kate recalled in early childhood being asked to sit on the choir director’s lap at church and kiss him. She was taught to respect her elders. Looking back, she realizes her life then took an awkward turn. She developed an eating disorder. When she started drinking, the eating disorder went away. In college, she became the ultimate party girl. She worked in galleries and auction houses, and drinking was encouraged.
She moved to the UK in 2007 and was there for four years. She contrasted the drinking culture in the UK versus New York. Kate knew she had found her people. Her drinking ramped up. After her divorce, she would drink to obliteration with vodka. She learned geographic changes don’t work.
[12:51] Odette asked what was going on in her brain about her drinking.
Kate said she knew from her first drink that she shouldn’t drink. Alcoholism runs in her family. Her father has five years of sobriety. Every day was a struggle to continue keeping up appearances and be a high-functioning professional while drinking copious amounts of alcohol at night.
14:10 Did you talk to anyone about
RE 314: What’s going to happen?
Gregg took his last drink 26 years ago (November 6th, 1994). This is his story of living alcohol free (AF).
Bozeman registration opens March 1st to Café RE members. On March 6th registration opens to all. You can find more details about the event here. Trust us… you don’t want to miss this!
Odette’s weekly installment of: Finding Your Better You
It’s been a little bit of time since the 1st of the year. Those resolutions we all made might now be changing from determination and drive and into a place of the unknown. If you’ve stuck with your resolution, you are far enough in that you can’t see where you started but the end isn’t in focus yet. Not knowing how the outcome will play out can be scary. When we ask “what is going to happen?” it blocks our ability to function today and in the now. Things will work out, if we let them.
[7:52] Odette introduces Gregg.
Gregg lives in Los Angeles. He is married and has two amazing daughters. For a living he is a recovery coach and also owns a few sober living facilities. He is an advisor in many startups as well. For fun he likes to body surf, skateboard and eats ice cream (mint chocolate chip!).
[12:20] Can you give listeners some background on your story?
Gregg’s father was killed in a drunk driving accident when he was 4 years old. From a young age he understood the power of alcohol. Being raised by a single mother he always felt different. He grew up as a bully because he was scared and sensitive. Around 12/13 he discovered pot and alcohol. That “medicine” took away his shame and pain. As an adult he started with a pattern of drinking, leading to cocaine, leading to pot, leading to bad decisions. Between 22 and 25 he was arrested 8 times. He got into the drug trade and while it provided a “nice life” there was overwhelming amounts of shame regarding his life choices, and he was eventually arrested with 50 lbs of pot. The judge gave him another chance, but he was arrested again 18 days later. In the cell the next morning he heard a voice that said, “call your mother”. She told him to go to church and while there he went to confession. Unbeknownst to Gregg, the priest he gave confession to was his step fathers first sponsor in AA. He went to AA that evening.
[24:39] How were those 90 meetings in 90 days for you?
Gregg said he was accountable because he had a court card. At first he was just looking to “get the heat off”. Around day 30 the pink cloud appeared, and he felt clear headed and healthy. He found connection with some people in AA. The boxing lessons also helped his life balance. When he got sober in 1994, there were not a lot of people in their 20s doing the same thing. He lost a lot of friendships in the process.
[30:47] What bigger motivations did you have to stay the course?
Gregg said he had a good work ethic overall. So he had the desire to succeed. He chose to put what would be been drinking time into his passion. He would write scripts rather than going out. It was 8 extra hours a week he put towards something he loved, which helped him to change the mindset around his life. He never would have had the career he had if he didn’t put that time towards his passion.
[36:02] How have you transformed and processed the pain you had in your early years?
Gregg said he had done step 4 through 4 times. Someone in a meeting saw that he was blocked and told him to unpack the “backpack of shame”. Through this process he was able to explore other things he had left off his previous step work. Gregg uncovered, discovered and discarded, which allowed him to fully open and find relief.
“Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can change” – Oprah
[41:21] Do you still get any cravings?
Gregg said the obsessions to drink and use has left him, the o
RE Bonus Episode: Odette and Paul Q&A
Bonus Episode – Odette and Paul answer listeners questions
I still find it difficult that my husband drinks every day. I don't know why it makes me feel angry inside, but I do all the time when he drinks. How can I approach this?
Odette said, stay on your lane. The more you focus on him, the less you will focus on your healing and your journey. In learning about yourself and healing yourself, you can start to implement boundaries and assert your needs vs. obsess over how much he is drinking. Therapy helps. Pull your energies back to yourself.
What do you suggest I do when friends and family seem uncomfortable around me when I say I don't drink? Paul said you can get started on 2.0 version of your life. So much more is packed into this than just quitting drinking. You are stepping out of the norm, roles, identities, and labels in your family. Learn to set boundaries, overcome the need to please. Give it time, and they're watching. This doesn't mean they aren't supportive. They are on their own journey as well.
What are the plans for Recovery Elevator (RE)? What is in the works?
The podcast will evolve to include additional voices. Paul will return in some capacity.
Retreats (Rustic Retreats, like Bozeman, Hotel events, retreat centers, and AF travel).
A Retreat Center is contemplated.
A Rat Park experiment, an in-person community, is being considered.
How did you best handle your early days of an alcohol-free life? What practices do you use now daily? Odette has used different tools but consistently exercises, sees a therapist, stays connected via on-line chats and in-person meet-ups that are COVID safe.
Paul said the most challenging and most rewarding experience in his life was quitting drinking. Paul left Bozeman for his first month of sobriety because there were too many triggers. He took long walks for 30 days, particularly to a fantastic waterfall. As his recovery evolved, he is mindful of the interchange. He goes to his internal connection, and the outside triggers stopped affecting him. He found some inner peace.
If you could trade your life now for being able to drink like a normal person magically, would you?
Odette said, no, senor!
In the first few years, Paul said he had thoughts of drinking, and he was in the victim role – longing for the old days when he could drink normally. Now his energy has changed, and his life now has no space for alcohol or drinking.
I hear in AA all of the time that those who don't go to meetings regularly are sure to go back out and drink. Odette said the opposite of addiction is connection. It's a great time to be sober with virtual meetings, sober curious groups, courses, and friends who are always focused on learning and being better.
Paul said there are infinite ways to Ditch the Booze. Paul's buddies have ditched the booze, and AA was not part of their journey. He believes the community is vital to long-term sobriety. It doesn't have to be AA – and humans are social animals.
I'm in my second year of sobriety. The first year was a lot of filling my toolbox and learning how to survive without alcohol. When in your journey did you start to thrive and live your best life. What steps did you take to embrace the new you and live out loud?
Paul said nothing was thriving when he was drinking. Some parts of his life started to thrive nearly immediately when he quit drinking. Within 14 days, he felt better. The spiritual component of his life has become vital to him. He is more tethered and can weather emotional storms. Today chaos, while momentary, ultimately leads to thriving for Paul.
Odette said her definition of thriving has changed. She goes within. Thriving is about peace, knowing herself, and understanding the reality of co-existing with othe
RE 313: An Antidote to Judgement
Carolyn took her last drink on February 22, 2019. This is her story of living alcohol-free (AF).
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Dehumanizing Others. After listening to Brene Brown, Odette loved Brene’s challenge of not engaging in dehumanizing others. We can’t change the world if we continue dehumanizing others. Odette was also reading Pema Chodron’s new book and concluded that polarization is most problematic when we dehumanize people. Habitually dehumanizing others about politics or behavior or clothing isn’t good. Minor differences in habits and preferences keep us fundamentally separate from others.
The division exists everywhere, even in recovery. Odette has observed others judging other’s approaches to recovery. We judge people for NA beer or not drinking NA beer, AA or no AA. We continue to create division instead of closing the gaps. Pema Chodron has a practice called “just like me.” Just like me, this person doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. Just like me, this person loses it sometimes. Just like me, this person wants friends and intimacy.
Focus on the similarities, not the differences. You can have boundaries without dehumanizing others.
[7:35] Odette introduces Carolyn
Carolyn took her last drink on February 22, 2019. She lives in Wisconsin and is 34 years old.
She lives in Wisconsin, is single, no kids, and has fun with her German shepherd pup. Carolyn loves drawing, painting, murals, golf, snowboarding, camping, hiking, etc. She works as a graphic artist. Living in the polar vortex of Wisconsin can be challenging, but it makes her appreciate the seasons more.
[11:01] Tell me about your history with drinking
Carolyn started drinking when she was 14 years old (2000). She would drink on the weekends and look forward to drinking. It was a big part of her identity and made her feel cool and accepted.
Carolyn’s drinking ramped up when she went to college. She worked in a restaurant and played rugby and had lots of opportunities to drink. Drinking continued to be a significant part of her identity.
She met her significant other in 2008, and they were drinking buddies, a party couple. She knew something was off but wasn’t sure what it was.
[13:30] Did you start questioning if alcohol was a problem at that time?
Carolyn didn’t see alcohol as a problem initially, but she was aware that several areas of her life were not jiving. Looking back, she can see many events and relationships influenced by alcohol, but she didn’t see it at the moment.
[14:49] Were you rationalizing your drinking as something sophisticated?
At her college graduation, she was surrounded by friends and family. She was drunk, and her boyfriend proposed. She said yes, even though she knew something was off. She has a lot of internal conflicts. She leveraged alcohol to help her numb her feelings. The marriage ended because she couldn’t move the relationship forward.
After her divorce, she was drinking after work every night. She found it wasn’t fun anymore. She started to develop anxiety at 22. Her drinking was no longer fun, party drinking – it was maintenance drinking. Had she not had the lull in 2014, she would not have had the tipping point
[18:32] Did you talk to a friend or a therapist about your struggles?
Carolyn knew her drinking wasn’t healthy, but she was still in denial. She brainwashed herself into believing she was a fun party-girl. She didn’t see herself as an alcoholic. She began to realize she had a problem after her divorce.
[20:21] Walk me through what happened from 2014 to February 2019.
Carolyn said her drinking progressed. Her anxiety was crippling, and she would dri
RE 312: Alcohol Abuse & Eating Disorders
Holly took her last drink on January 4, 2007. This is her story of living alcohol-free (AF).
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Odette and Holly met in treatment. In 2013, they went to Montecatini together to work on their eating disorders. Odette believed that if she could stop her obsession with food and reach a healthy weight, she would be normal. However, she didn’t address the emotional reasons behind her eating disorder. A few years later, she found herself using alcohol as her new coping mechanism. The behaviors that led to her unhealthy relationship with food mirrored the behaviors of her relationship with alcohol.
Up to 35% of people who abused alcohol also have an eating disorder. This rate is 11 times greater than the general population.
For more information on these statistics, see: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
The stigma for eating disorders is greater than the stigma for alcohol use disorder, so many people struggle in silence.
Odette believes the only way out is through.
Get to the root cause of your addiction. Be aware of co-occurring addictions. Don’t run away from your feelings or numb them with a substance. Find a community. Get professional help. When seeking help, be specific. Find a therapist specializing in addiction, whether it is alcohol, food, drugs, or whatever else. Get specific.
Don’t feel perpetually stuck in addiction whack-a-mole. We can do hard things.
[9:14] Odette introduces Holly
Holly took her last drink on January 4, 2007. Holly is from Montana. She moved to Southern California over 15 years ago for graduate school. She currently works for Mental Health Systems as an employment specialist, helping those with behavioral health issues get employment. On the weekends, she works for a rehab in San Diego as a rehab specialist. Holly has fun playing games. Codeword is her latest favorite. She also enjoys listening to books, music and hanging out with her dog Hannay.
[11:56] Tell me about your history with drinking
Holly started experimenting with alcohol in college. She grew up in a conservative home. She was allowed to drink with adults present, but her family was traditional with alcohol use. Holly didn’t drink in high school. She was a rule follower.
Her drinking took off when she was 21, when it was legal and escalated after her engagement. She attended Fuller Theological Seminary, intending to become a Presbyterian minister. She drank heavily every day and hid her drinking.
[13:39] Did you start questioning your drinking habits at that time?
When Holly lived in Montana, she drank like everyone else. When she moved to California, she would order two drinks at a time and was starting to understand that wasn’t normal. She needed a drink before she went out and then went home afterward to drink alone. She isolated and that isolation led to depression. Alcohol exacerbated the depression. Toward the end of her drinking, she was put on several psychiatric holds (5150).
[15:17] Were you rationalizing your drinking as something sophisticated?
On paper, Holly was very functional. She was a straight-A student, on the Dean’s list, she held to part-time jobs. She aced Hebrew.
[16:40] Did you have a therapist? Was your therapist able to discern the alcohol issues from the depression issues?
Holly had a therapist and kept drinking. She hid her drinking from her therapist. She was annoyed that her therapist occasionally suggested her attending a meeting.
[17:33] Walk me through the progression of your drinking.
Holly noted that two years after moving to California, she couldn’t stop drinking. She would wake up in the morning and drink to recover from the ni
RE 311: S is for Self Sabotage
Emmy took her last drink on December 8, 2019. This is her story of living alcohol free (AF).
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Odette spoke about a personal and very sensitive issue: she is an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. She took charge of her recovery but recently identified some behaviors and coping mechanisms she was hoping to skip over that are rooted in her early years growing up in an alcoholic home. Odette realized she had been stuck in a pattern of self-sabotage for years in many aspects of her life, some more dangerous than others. Self-sabotage showed up in her relationships with friends, at school, and with her husband. While Odette doesn’t like the label of being an adult child of an alcoholic, she has come to realize she can’t wish the consequences away. Pain in our families makes our emotional state a bit disheveled. We live waiting for the other shoe to drop. We were guarded and untrusting. This state became our normal: the feeling that something is wrong all of the time.
Odette is focused on understanding the impact self-sabotage has on her behavior. She is practicing new behaviors. She is working on making small shifts – to see things differently.
No matter how destructive our behavior has been in the past, we can experience new ways of being.
[9:38] Odette introduces Emmy
Emmy took her last drink on December 8, 2019. She is from Fort Worth, Texas, and she is 30 years old.
Emmy is a recreational therapist who works with children and adults with various disabilities. She is single, no kids, and lives with her five-year-old dog Petey. She has fun participating in her recovery, getting to know who she is, and learning to become her own friend.
[13:06] Can you give listeners some background on your history with drinking?
Emmy said she started drinking around 16 or 17. She was at a friend’s house where somebody had brought over a bottle of alcohol mixed with Propel and thought it was cool. She remembers the first sip giving her this sort of warm feeling inside and thinking, ‘nothing bad can ever happen with this.’ She kept that routine going every weekend as a teenager. When she went to college, she found an excuse to drink every night, whether trivia night or intramural sports. She also worked in a restaurant and could drink behind the bar. Everybody was doing it, so it didn’t seem like a problem at the time.
She graduated college and worked in a nursing home by day and a restaurant by night. She was working 50-60 hours a week, which gave her another excuse to drink because she worked so hard.
[14:45] At this point, were you starting to question your relationship with alcohol, or were you thinking this is just what people do?
Emmy said she knew as a teenager; it may become a problem in the future. She saw so many people doing the same thing and thought she would have to look at it later down the road.
[15:28] Walk me through what happened afterward, how did that progress?
Emmy went to grad school, which started drinking Round 2. She thought, I’m still in school, I can still live the same lifestyle. She graduated, got a Director job in a nursing home, with more responsibility. She was not surrounded by as many people who drank as she did.
She began putting feelers out to different people, asking if she had a drinking problem. She was asking the wrong people, the people who drank as she did. She took that as validation she didn’t have a problem.
She drank regularly for a few more years. She thought it was fun. There were many examples of alcoholism in her family. Problem drinkers have a problem every time. She believed she could maintain control and continue drinking.
[17:35] Were you creating any rules for
Customer ReviewsSee All
I stumbled across this podcast along my journey to become AF. I listened to just a few and felt inspired and connected to the host and all the guest. They have a private Facebook group CafeRE and I signed up right away to be apart of this awesome community! Give it a listen there are so many awesome, interesting and inspiring stories!
Odette is an amazing host - my favorite part is her introduction. She’s vulnerable, honest, and real. She’s a great interviewer and it’s clear that she puts her heart and so much work into this podcast.
Great Recovery Podcast
I really enjoy Odette and she does a great job of bringing interesting topics related to alcoholism and recovery. Just great practical advice and stories of other alcoholics that I can cry much relate to.