Hola Sober OCTOBER

October is upon us and this month's issue is jam-packed with wonderful women and as always, one man!








Table of Contents

Hola Sober Picks 04 Susan ' s Welcome Note 06 11 17 Turning Eight by Ann Dowsett Johnston Heard on Zoom

28 32 40 42

It ' s Not you it ' s me by Beth MT Sober Bliss Journeys Extract from The Other Side of Alcohol Orchids by Michelle Robbings



Discovering Reverence in Sobriety by Travis Akers

Dear Gee

48 52

Reflections on 1000 Days by Maria Sweby


Let it Go by Alexandra Hartley - Leonard

Sober between the Sheets by Rebekah Sunshine


Rhythms, Seasons + Energies by Tammi Scott

56 Chat with Aly F. Canavan



editor's note

October is upon us and wi th i t, a tr ip home to I reland to visi t fami ly and fr iends in a post vaccine wor ld. The joy of seeing the alcohol-free wor ld grow and prosper in my Island nat ion has brought much joy and I have found my AF dr ink choices wi th ease. I had the joy this month of chatt ing wi th some incredible women including Rebekah Sunshine our new Sober Sex Columnist, Aly F. Canavan the wonderful mot ivat ional Speaker and Dream Bui lding Coach who wi l l be a regular columnist going forward and Maree Mackensie of Sober Bl iss Journeys who offers wonderful retreat opportuni t ies in Bal i and across India. Travis Akers has joined us as THE ONLY male columnist, blessed is he amongst women at Hola Sober as I fel t he had a perspect ive worth shar ing and am hugely grateful to his big 'yes' to finding the t ime to wr i te each month on whatever fl ies his ki te that day! As always our resident columnists Ann Dowsett Johnston, Alexandra Hartley-Leonard, Tammi Scott, Gee and Colette have been gracious wi th thei r t ime, energy and words this month shar ing thei r sober journey wisdom wi th our readers. Our contr ibutors are a wonder and never fai l to have us al l in awe of thei r truth tel l ing and wr i t ing. I am hugely grateful to you the reader for joining me and team Hola Sober on this journey and may October smi le as we look skyward and say not today lady, not today.

Susan Christina

Susan Chr ist ina ED I TOR + P U B L I S H E R

the team

Please note this is a FREE magazine designed, created, and produced in Madrid as a passion project funded in full by me + my family. There is NO REVENUE generated by advertisers as all are FREE as they support the SOBER COMMUNITY which I am an advocate for, part of and it is my driving passion. All columnists VOLUNTEER their precious time and talent to ensure your inbox is filled with colour, motivation, inspiration, and education for your sober journey. The team bring their enthusiasm and talent to the project stepping into the arena monthly and I am HUGELY GRATEFUL for such a powerful set of women and one lovely man to have joined me on this journey. Editor + Creative Director + lots of other stuff : Susan Christina (courtesy of carrot cake + tea + a lovely supportive team of boys + one man) Columnists: Gee, Colette, Alexandra Hartley-Leonard, Ann Dowsett Johnston, Lisa Wilde, Travis Akers, Tammi Scott, Maria Sweby, Rebekah Sunshine, Sophie Pelham-Burn, Linda Redmond,

Submissions + Proof Reader: Linda Redmond + Susan

Contributors: Peggi Cooney, Emma's Diary, Beth TH, Hola Sober Sisters Photos celebrating Sober Gold, Michelle Robbings, Linda Redmond, Hola Sober Daily Cheerleaders: My KOBE crew (Gee, MS + Michelle-Google) + Deb + Judith + Irish family

October Pick from Susan

Thi s month I bought a cool water bot t le f rom WATERDROP and some tablets ( Microdr inks to di ssol ve for a 400 - 600 ml ref reshment dr ink ) wi th di f ferent f lavours . Per fect to t ry out , thi s set comes wi th s i x of our tasty f lavours ( GLOW , YOUTH , RELAX , FOCUS , ZEN and DEFENCE ) in packs of three , per fect l y sui ted to test them . Thi s set al so contains one of our wonder ful glass bot t les ( 600ml ) in the colour of your choice . → Natural f rui t and plant ext racts → Valuable v i tamins → No sugar → A wonder ful bot t le made of scratchproof boros i l icate glass ( 600ml ) → Comes wi th a protect i ve and insulat ing neoprene s leeve → Bot t le i s not sui table for the di shwasher a wonder and the dai sy pat tern would make anyone smi le ! ! I f you are going to t reat yoursel f thi s . month to a nice piece , thi s water bot t le has made me smi le dai l y as I ensure I dr ink enough water ( wi th f lavour ings ) dai l y ! L o t s o f l o v e Su s a n

October Pick from Colette

Product of the month hmmmm when you are coming out of the beaut i ful summer temperatures and into a fal l that i s creeping into colder evenings there i s onl y one thing I want in my wardrobe . I t ' s a pret ty predictable shi r t being a Canadian but I have invested in a new one thi s season f rom L . L . Bean . I t i s a Scotch Plaid Flannel Shi r t wi th tunic length in the Rob Roy red / black pat tern to keep mysel f warm , comfy and smar t thi s fal l . You can ’ t get more Canadian than a plaid shi r t al though the brand I have opted for thi s month i s Amer ican - as I love al l things L . L . Bean in the f lannel range and know my Autumnal evenings wi l l be warmer , smar ter and the bet ter for my new purchase . I f you are the kind of gi r l who l ikes smar t - casual and do have a fear of plaid , thi s i s the per fect int ro piece into your wardrobe let t ing you play around wi th the lumber jack look that seems to never come into fashion and never qui te leave the sty le racks each Autumn . Coming in around the $ 85 . 00 the shi r t i s good value and as we are al l l i v ing our best l i ves we deserve to t reat oursel ves and thi s i s my October t reat ! L o t s o f l o v e Co l e t t e

Michelle's October Pick

For October I have chosen a product I heard di scussed on BBC Radio and decided i t was wor th a t ry . Paula ' s Choice 1 % Ret inol . Renowned for being 100 % t ransparent and a t rustwor thy leader in the beauty indust ry - PAULA ' S CHOICE cuts through the noi se to del i ver hardworking , science - backed formulas that del i ver resul ts and l i ve up to thei r claims . One of the

brands bestsel lers , thi s CLINICAL 1 % Ret inol Treatment harnesses 1 % ret inol , pept ides and

l iquor ice root ext ract to f i rm skin , fade brown spots and smooth wr inkles for a beaut i ful and rejuvenated resul t . I am real l y pleased wi th i t . Eas i l y absorbed , non greasy , and seems to be working at keeping my skin in good condi t ion can buy i t on Amazon ! I am thr i l led wi th the resul ts thus far and i t has become qui te a cul t product wi th bloggers and onl ine audiences and I understand why ! I t i s ter r i f ic ! L o t s o f l o v e Mi c h e l l e x

October Pick from Gee

I don ' t read books and have had no des i re to read books throughout my sobr iety . Whi le everyone in my group was shar ing book t i t les and podcasts , my headspace was busy and I didn ' t have the interest to read about other women who had shared my journey . Susan talks of Saint Glennon so bloody of ten tel l ing us the book was the most power ful book she had ever read that my interest was tweaked and had to s i t down and read i t mysel f . And here I s i t on the f i rst day of October reading the words of a woman I know l i t t le about but am blown away by how she wr i tes , her thoughts and her perspect i ve on the wor ld . IF you l ike me are NOT the woman on the zoom cal l wi th a l ibrary of books behind you and have never had a des i re to read anything more than a work related book or a magaz ine . UNTAMED i s for you . Her wr i t ing sty le i s easy to read , her ideas are wonder ful l y shaped and thought out and Susan ' s r ight - you cannot read thi s book and emerge unchanged . October in thi s house wi l l be a di f ferent place hav ing read thi s ! ! L o t s o f l o v e Ge e x x

October Pick from Alexandra

Anyone that knows me , knows that I am never - and I repeat - NEVER wi thout a beverage . I am al so qui te pass ionate about beverage temperature . Please do NOT hand me a glass of tepid water . I wi l l apologi ze to you for whatever I did that made you hate me . One of the best gi f ts I ever recei ved was thi s t iny f r idge that I keep in my studio / of f ice to stock wi th a few cans of my favor i te sel tzer to have whenever I ’ m working or in a meet ing . I al so keep a jade rol ler or gua sha stone , which makes us ing them feel even bet ter , and some facial products are actual l y suggested to keep ref r igerated . I am not kidding you when I say that thi s t iny f r idge br ings me an unreasonable amount of joy . I f you relate to any of what I have said here , f i rst - Hel lo , f r iend . I see you . Second - i f I may - YOU DESERVE THIS . So please . spend what you would on a s ingle dinner out and have a pleasure that wi l l last much longer . : ) Lo t s o f l o v e Al e x a n d r a x

October Pick from Linda

Some years ago I reland came al ight wi th the int roduct ion of Zof lora as a cleaning product and every home for mi les around me was cleaner than i t had ever been as we drenched our homes in Zof lora . As we head into colder cl imes and lots of rain ahead I wanted to gi ve the house a big Autumn clean up and so my pick of the month i s the concent rated f ragranced di s infectant . I use i t al l over my home and t rul y i t br ings me such sat i s fact ion and the smel l i s fabulous . Al l you need i s a couple of capful s in a spray bot t le topped wi th water and you can clean your house f rom top to bot tom and the most impor tant thing for me i s that my home does not smel l l ike a hospi tal or a ster i le uni t when f ini shed . My favour i te i s the cinnamon that br ings a warm under tone to cleaning leav ing my home smel l ing f resh and clean and warm and wintery .

Enjoy ladies and remember you are wor th i t .

Lo t s o f l o v e L i n dax


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“I love the playlist has been put together by sober women choosing their favourite tunes. I keep trying to decide who chose

Our sober support meetings are closed keeping the groups small and allow relationships to be fostered in a sacred space of trust. The host picks a song at the end to dance out and the zoom-room becomes a feast of women dancing in joy and freedom feeling empowered and positive going into their day or week. I started it believing ending a meeting on a dance is a fun, liberating thing to do as women together and our SPOTIFY Playlist includes songs we dance to. Some of our songs inspire us, we have songs that motivate and bring joy. The Hola Sober Sisters kindly submitted their favourite songs and we have a wonderfully eclectic mix of tastes and songs for you to enjoy! Please click and enjoy! CLICK https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4jSjY1gUq0T S17yfqzhZ2m

If you like to take a moment and meditate daily to slow down and centre your world Our Hush series voiced by the fabulous Alexandra Hartley-Leonard is a wonder and a charm. Soothing and gentle her voice has the smooth velvety tone that will bring you to a place of zen in a heartbeat. Go to our website and hit on the meditations and pick the one you feel you need in this moment and drift away to that space inside of you that brings peace. We hope this helps to expand your meditation practice.

what!" Ann W.

"I am listening to all kinds of music that I would not normally listen to and it brings me joy. One minute I am dancing, the next minute I am reflecting." Lisa B.

SOUNDCLOUD or for download. CLICK https://holasober.com/meditations

Heard on ZOOM

"Sobriety isn't hard, life is hard. That's what we need to truly understand. Not everything that comes in to our lives is difficult because we are sober!" "I spend so much of my life sitting in the stand watching the game and now I want to feel planted. "The word around me seems slower, seems less intense when not drinking. That is what makes me feel grounded in sobriety that I am not chasing wildly at life, for some reason life comes to me . " "It’s hard I know but your sobriety takes the top spot so go to work for a few hours and then treat yourself to a plan of self care for the evening. If you need to talk shout out. Whatever you do WINE IS NEVER going to make anything better but will most definitely make you feel like shit! We are here for you." "As a mum this is all I am looking to do is to give my children the best of me. I was running on the treadmill whilst listening to the meeting and it got me through the run, listening. "

"When I begin to understand how women have been quieted over the past century, it shocks me. In the 60's + 70's we were handed benzos and told this is how we were to cope with life. And now we are being sold to by the drinks industry telling us wine is our answer and yet again we are being quieted. I do not want to be quieted any more. I want to make as much noise as I can and own my sobriety. It's hard but as a woman I will not be told to lush my life away in a corner." "My holy trilogy has saved my ass more than once in sobriety (1) Self- love (2) Self-care (3) Liberation from having the last word. All three combined with something that my Dad used to say 'It must begin with me.' leads me to forgiveness time and time again. If I practise the first tenet of my trilogy I must love myself above all else and that allows me create strong and present boundaries. Air tight boundaries that do not allow toxic bullshit in. Part two as self-care allows me weed out the people and things that bring pain or sorrow and tenet three has been a game-changer. Sober me does not need to have the final word in all things!! Hallelujah. Liberation truly."

"I no longer want to sit in the stands of my life, watching it unfold, yet not truly being present and in the game. 100 days after putting down my glass and having shed more tears that at any other time in my life - I feel as though I am IN MY LIFE for the first time in years. I LOVE this feeling and do not want it to leave and so, I have to say not today lady, not today each morning. - Mary D. "And here I stand sober, healthy and content. That's the word. Content. Proud of myself and grateful for the past year of being me. If I can do this, anyone can."


One of the hottest looks this autumn is sequins on sequins

What do you get when you layer sequins on sequins on sequins ? You find yourself smiling and giving a look of opulence ! It is not for everyone but it is for many !

Another Autumn hot trend is knitted vests - yes ladies there back ! AUTUMN SWEATER VEST

I was shocked to see this type of knit vest all over the fashion pages this month and have fulled embraced it throwing it on in comfort and in style !


LEAF BE ME Sally Hansen

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Remember that!


by Ann Dowsett Johnston TURNING EIGHT



There is a birthday I celebrate every fall: not my belly-button birthday (that’s August); and not my sobriety birthday (that’s November). No, I celebrate the birth of my book baby, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by the Washington Post. This fall, as Drink turns eight, I am struck by how little has changed since I begged this pivotal question: “Has alcohol become the modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting necessary in an endlessly complex world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution still unfolding? How much of this is marketing, how much is the need to numb?” I was the whistle-blower on the pinking of the alcohol market. Holly Whitaker (Quit Like A Woman) has called me the pioneer--a moniker that makes me smile, if not feel a little long in the tooth. Back in 2010, when I began selling the newspaper series that would evolve into Drink, many looked at me in disbelief when I said that professional women would catch up with men in terms of risky drinking.

Now, that reality is true: an equal opportunity disaster. We live in an alcogenic, alcocentric culture. Let’s face it: female drinking is the epidemic in the pandemic. The facts: in recent years, women have increased their rate of heavy drinking—defined as four or more drinks within a couple of hours—by 41 per cent. This past winter, North American doctors began to speak of large spikes in alcoholic liver disease in young women— a condition usually experienced by older men. Between 1999 and 2017, alcohol-related deaths among women in the U.S. rose 85 per cent—a far higher rate than for men. Ultimately, there has been little progress on the empowerment ground. Women fall into the alcohol trap all too easily, anesthetizing themselves with a legal drug--and suffering the consequences of isolation, illness, injury, death. We sit at the tipping point: the Mommy-Juice memes have gone too far. Ellen De Generes tossing back a box of wine; babies wearies onesies, emblazoned with “I am the reason Mommy drinks”; coffee mugs reading, “This might not be coffee.” Women are drowning in this messaging, and alcohol is a key ingredient in modern life—especially motherhood. Too many are numbing to get through the day.


Ann Dowsett Johnston is the bestselling author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. Now a psychotherapist, she also teaches her online memoir-writing course. https://www.instagram.com/anndowsettjohnston/ https://twitter.com/anndowsettj?lang=en https://www.facebook.com/ann.dowsettjohnston

So, where is the good news? With the pandemic has come a revolution in modern recovery. Women—and men--are recovering out loud, beyond church basements, eschewing anonymity. For me, as I am about to turn 13 in sobriety terms, the sisterhood is strong—witness Hola Sober. I will close with a story. A few years ago, in the autumn, I was in Thailand for an alcohol policy conference, staying at a ritzy hotel. To be specific, The Four Seasons—thanks to a dear friend. The attentive hotel manager knew I was celebrating a birthday that was important to me. She checked my passport, and realized it wasn’t my belly-button birthday. She had her staff google me. They came up with the cover of Drink. That night, post dinner, they presented me with the elegant cake pictured above: possibly the best birthday cake ever. So, this is my birthday wish, as I blow the candles: let the adult conversation begin about women’s drinking. Let’s name it for what it is: a tragic epidemic in a pandemic, a marketing manoeuvre gone terribly wrong. Let’s not go quietly into that good night, numbing ourselves at kitchen tables, isolated and alone. Let’s link arms. Let’s call out the pinking of Big Alcohol. Let’s recover loudly, rescuing our sisters from dying quietly. Happy birthday, Drink. And in the words of the immortal Maurice Sendak: “Let the wild rumpus start!”




Addiction recovery for many is spiritual, but not every recovering alcoholic identifies with a spiritual approach to sobriety. Still though, every person in recovery can discover and honour moments of reverence on their journey. Reverence is a term often associated in a religious context – reverence for God, reverence for religious scriptures, reverence for a holy place – but the inclusive and universally accepted application of reverence exists in a moment of deep respect, or a sense of awe in the presence of greatness . As a person in recovery, these moments occur and it is important that we acknowledge and document them in ways that we are able to identify milestones to celebrate and to return to for moments we must draw from for strength. I recently awoke one morning, well-rested, refreshed, energized, and more thankful for life that day than I had in days previous. It was an overwhelming and unexpected sense of euphoria that I did not understand in the moment. I only knew that it was a feeling I wanted to experience every morning I awoke. Then it dawned on me. It was my second anniversary of sobriety. An accomplishment I never imagined possible when I first began an alcohol-free lifestyle. Hangover-free, guilt-free, embarrassment- free, free. I was free, and had been for 730 days in a row. This was a reverent moment. This was a moment in which I was in the presence of greatness. The greatness of having defeated a devilish poison for yet another day, another week, another month, and another year. This was a moment of the deepest respect. Not for just myself, but for what I had accomplished during that time personally and professionally, the relationships that had been restored, the faith that had grown, and the life I had created through being sober. This was a time of reverence. As we journey through life in sobriety, these moments will happen, even when least expected. It is important that we acknowledge them for what they are. I personally approach these times as if they are holy, and I am standing on holy ground.

In the Old Testament book of Genesis, an account is told of a man named Jacob, who in a dream saw a ladder extend to Heaven (Jacob’s ladder). Angels were ascending and descending on the ladder. During the vision, Jacob also saw and heard the voice of God. After waking from his dream, according to the Biblical author, Jacob said “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. How full of awe is this place!” Using the rock on which he had rested his head, Jacob poured oil on it and named the place “Beth-el,” which means House of God. Jacob recognized the moment of reverence and erected a monument for it to be remembered and honored. You do not have to be a spiritual, religious, or faithful person to construct your own tributes to reverent times. A diary or journal has just as much significance and impact as a stone altar anointed in oil. Document the times when you recognize the reverent periods of your sobriety – a milestone, an anniversary, an accomplishment – any moment in which you can attribute to living your life out of the grasps of alcohol, a moment you could not have stepped into had you remained in the clutches of a wine bottle or cocktail. The morning I woke on my second anniversary of sobriety, was my Jacob’s ladder moment. I wrote down my feelings and captured the emotions in ink, so that I could reflect on my accomplishment and refer back to that reverent snap shot in time if I need a reminder of my strength. This is discovering reverence in your sobriety – these are the moments of deep respect and awe in the presence of greatness. Recognize the times that deserve reverence and build a monument in your own way to honor them.




There is an app on my phone called “TimeHop'' and while it is filled with flashbacks and treasures from times gone by, it is also a bittersweet gut punch from hell. To be honest with you, I don’t even know why I keep it on my phone. More often than not, I am bracing myself as I scroll through 3 years ago, 5 years ago, 7, 8, 9…..seeing my sons as babies and toddlers. I can still hear that little voice in my mind. I can practically smell his little head, now 10 years old and sweaty from playing backyard baseball and fighting with his brother. Of course it makes me ache for my kids to be little again, if only for an hour. I’d love to be able to go back and hold them again at that age. I’d love to tell that mom (me) that it was going to be ok, and that she deserved a nap and honestly so much of what she was feeling was normal and unavoidable. It’s a special kind of ache for me because I want to be able to go back to those babies as the me of today; as sober me. As the person who has learned to appreciate the little things in my life that make it so unique and special. I want to go back without that cloudiness I can see in my eyes on the rare occasion I allowed a photo. I have to fight the shame that wells up. Was I drunk all the time when I was taking care of my little kids? No - not by a long shot. I genuinely believe I was a great mom, and I know I’ve always done my best, but the truth is I feel sad that with less booze (and let's face it- more sleep) perhaps I would have been able to access the joy of that time of life more. It almost feels like I missed the opportunity to imprint it deeper into my life experience. My husband and close friends who I have expressed these feelings to, always come back with a lot of reassurance and point out that early motherhood is a blur for EVERY woman, no matter what. They say that I am beating myself up unnecessarily. And….maybe I am, but the thing is I know now. I know how different I feel. And I want THIS version of me to get to go back and enjoy those babies for a second. When I was first getting sober, this was all I ever thought about. The early day demons were real and very loud. When I laid in bed at night with my (then) 5 year old, I heard a distinct voice- distinct because it was some kind of cruel version of my own saying things like “You’ve missed it. You'll never get the time back. You threw away their childhood. You are a terrible mother. You might as well drink because that time is never coming back.” Luckily with time, those voices dissipated. Eventually when I found like minded people, I would learn how very common those regretful feelings are.

I finally had other people who had been “ as bad ” as I was ( or better or worse or just the same - it didn ’ t matter - they understood ) tell me that I really WAS being too hard on myself , and more importantly that it was pointless to do what I was doing because I was robbing myself of the time I was in *now*. What is the point of fixating on the time I was still drinking ? I was sober now . I was appreciating it now . Aha …... ENJOY IT - YOU HAVE EARNED IT . Got it . And this is true . I start with this story because I want you to know I see you . I have been there .. No matter what it is , big or small , I totally get why you are having a hard time letting go of it . It is both like a security blanket , this story you have , and like a giant ball of PROOF as to why you are struggling now . To pretend it isn ’ t there doesn ’ t even seem like a possible exercise , but all I can say to that is - please try . If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result , then letting go of the “ Same thing ” you keep focusing on that is preventing your freedom or happiness , should be at the top of your list . I recently went looking for an action plan on “ letting go of the past ” for an Hola Sober meeting that I hosted because I know that people love actionable steps as much as I do , and I really think that sometimes a “ to - do ” list can be a comforting thing to have in our pocket . There are many wonderful articles , blogs , and lists out there , but I really liked what I found on Tony Robbins website . Love him or not - Tony Robbins has talked to an insane amount of people who have had a hard time letting go of the past , so I would say if nothing else - he ’ s got the numbers to make an observation on what works .


Here were “Team Tony’s- “9 Tips on Moving On From the Past- For Good”, and my quick TLDR of each step:

1.Turn letting go of the past into a “MUST”- In short- this needs to go at the top of your to-do list. Do not arbitrarily talk about how you “need to let go”. Figure out how to do this work immediately. Make it a priority.

2.Identify Your Emotional Habits- Here’s the deal- you don’t realize how negative you are. Partially because you probably feel “right”. How’s that working for you? The thing is that the more you tell this difficult story to yourself again and again, the more it continues to live and thrive in your life. Pay attention to how much thought and conversation you give to this old story. 3.Condition Your Mind- basically, stop letting life happen TO you. You are in control. In fact you are the ONLY person you can control. So figure out what kind of practice helps you take that control back and start exercising your brain like the muscle that it is. Change your thoughts, change your life. 4.Create Empowering Rituals- Ok- hear me out- this part can be FUN, or if not fun- very soothing, relaxing, helpful, powerful. You hate meditating? Don’t! You don’t like Yoga? Come sit by me. Me neither. We are weird. It’s ok. Maybe your ritual is a morning walk with a podcast and a cup of coffee. Maybe your ritual is 10 breaths of fresh air out the window first thing followed by writing down your goal for the day. Maybe you have a video you want to watch each morning of baby chickens hopping around to Beyonce. I don’t care what it is- find a ritual, and stick to it for at least 30 days and watch the weird magic it starts creating in your subconscious background operating system.

5.Shift Your Focus- Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. You Are What You Eat. What You Give Attention to Grows. And on and on. Start creating the life you want and stop dwelling on the one in the past. It is over. You cannot change it.

6.Teach Yourself to Be Present- the only thing that matters is what is happening *right now*. This is especially true for those in early sobriety, because drinking over the past or drinking over fear of the future are common triggers. Also (she says and she winces out of self knowing)......put your phone down. 7.Work On Personal Growth- Get honest with yourself- what do you want? Whatever just came to your mind- you deserve that. And I bet you can have it. So - start moving toward it. Figure out how you need to get started or who you need to get to help you and start moving forward. As I talked about last month- it’s the resistance to starting that is the hardest part. Once you get going- it feels SO much better. 8.Surround Yourself With Positive People- you know what the greatest gift of the pandemic was for me? Realizing all the people I did not miss. All the people who just want to gossip. People who have little to say when they aren’t talking about the mundane BS of their daily complaints or what they don’t like about their neighbor, or mother in law, or kid’s teacher. Your people are out there. Recovery/Discovery/Sobriety Rooms are an *amazing* place to find them. 9.Give Back- One of the things in my life that I am now finding the most meaning in is how I can contribute to these spaces. The pain I describe at the start of this article is still visceral to me. And while TimeHop or Facebook Memories might not affect you in the same way they have me, I am guessing that there is something else that you are struggling with on this path away from numbing your life with booze. As soon, as you figure out how to get past that pain, I hope you will share your experience with the rest of us. I can’t tell you how much you will help yourself along with the others that would love to know. Try some or all of these things this month if you can. You deserve to have a beautiful life *right now*, and you deserve to look forward to the beautiful life you are creating moving forward. The past is the past. You might not be able to snap your fingers and let go of whatever it is that is still plaguing you about it, but please- at least stop fanning the flames that are keeping it alive. It’s not worth it. You deserve more than that. I believe that if you want to, you can at least let it live where it belongs- in the past.

Keep moving forward, & you'll never have a reason to look back.


"Now I get to honour what the rhythm of nature and my body is asking of me. For what is the turning of leaves and their shedding but letting go of what we no longer need?"


My favorite of all four seasons is Autumn, hands down! Full disclosure, I’ve been a California resident for 38 years, 34 of them in SoCal. But before then I grew up in Pennsylvania, back when the traditional September through June school year was the norm. So Autumn marked the end of summer and signaled the start of school, cooler weather, football season, and the turning of leaves for me. I associate shorter days, crisp air, and fresh beginnings with this time of year. I love wearing scarves, hats, Ugg boots, hoodies, and jeans or leggings. Which is why I live in a part of SoCal that is inland and closer to the mountains. A region atypical to SoCal’s year-round warm weather. One that gives me cooler temperatures in Autumn where the leaves do turn and freezing weather in Winter where I get to dress in the aforementioned scarves, hoodies, boots and jeans. I get so caught up in the joy and excitement of the weather that I forget about what else this time means for me. It means a shift in my energy and focus. As in, my energy level slows from the Summer exciting buzz of go go go, to feeling like no no no- I don’t want to do that thing I committed to earlier this year! I suddenly realize I am working my full-time insurance job, showing up for my part-time sober community host job, being in a committed book club that involves blogging our thoughts on a weekly basis, participating in an advanced 300 hour yoga teacher training, writing for an online sober magazine every other month, and expecting to fly across the country to go visit family in Pennsylvania. Plus somewhere in there I need to cook, clean, take care of myself and my sobriety! I become tired, overwhelmed, and unable to focus on things that really deserve it because I committed to them. Did I forget to mention I have a chronic autoimmune condition that can flare up with too much stress? I honestly don’t know why this catches me off guard every year, but it does. In addition to feeling tired, overwhelmed, and unfocused, I envelop myself in shame and self-blame because I can’t do it all. I don’t sleep or eat well and in an effort to avoid dealing with things I start to withdraw and isolate. I started rewatching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (always my go-to comfort watch!), re-reading favorite romance books, and generally feeling like a slug. This goes on for weeks.

I hold it all inside like a crapstorm of inadequacy and self- recrimination until eventually I confess my angst and avoidance to my inner circle. I usually tell my sponsor and a couple of close friends first. Almost as if I have to sound it out to others before taking it to my kickass therapist who I meet with every other week. By the time I bring it to her, I am feeling like the worst, incapable human on the planet and she helps me pull the whole thing apart so we can look at it with clarity and compassion. We take each of the commitments I struggle to show up for and discuss the reasons for it. What were my expectations when I committed to this and what’s changed? Was it something I could have foreseen? Is it realistic to expect more from myself than I have to give? Where can I honestly find ways to remove the commitment or postpone it? Most important of all is remembering it is okay to take stock, reassess, and rethink something that isn’t working. So what have I done? I’ve postponed the yoga teacher training until next year when I will be better prepared and have more time to devote to it. I backed out of the trip back East to see family because that is a long way to go for what amounts to a long weekend. Not to mention the rise in Covid-19 variants and numbers of breakthrough cases given my chronic autoimmune disease. I got clarification about the writing commitment with the book club and I am still in it because I am loving the material and interaction. Of course, I kept my commitment to write here every other month because it’s important service work to my sobriety. Now I get to honor what the rhythm of nature and my body is asking of me. For what is the turning of leaves and their shedding but letting go of what we no longer need? It doesn’t mean I am inadequate nor is there shame in being human. This time of year is about slowing down and gathering myself for the coming season of shorter, darker days- to conserve energy and develop better focus. It’s crucial that we are aware of our own personal energetic rhythms and to honor them as best we can. As you can see I’m still a work in progress but I haven’t given up hope!

It's not you, it's me. by Beth MT

by Beth MT

We’ve been friends since I was 15 years old, which is really quite strange because when I was younger, I detested you, even the smell of you made me feel sick. I had to work really hard to fall in love with you, but who doesn’t love a challenge, so fall in love with you I did. We were together for years, weren’t we? In many and various guises. Remember when you took the form of Brown Ale because I was one of the indie crowd and I wanted to look cool? I am not going to lie, I really wasn’t that keen on you then and in fact you made me sick a lot, but you got me drunk fast and my parents were suitably horrified. Even then you weren’t a nice friend, were you? You pretended to be around to help when my Mum died. I was only 17 then, but in fact you were just numbing me weren’t you? Making people talk about how strong I was, but I wasn’t was I? You were teaching me a trick I would carry for years, you taught me how to numb emotions, you made me forget, you taught me how to hide.

You stepped it up a notch when I went off to university. You changed your guise to Lager, and why wouldn’t you? It was the nineties, we were all ‘ladettes’ and we could and would drink like men, so pints it was! I started seeing you every day, and we had never had that intense relationship before had we? But we were a new team. You got me the nickname ‘party-girl’ in freshers week with all of the other students, after my ‘funny and crazy’ escapades. Oh what a team we were when we were together, we were hilarious, everyone said so! We fell out a bit though, didn’t we, at university? We were starting to make silly decisions when we were together. You kept reminding me I had no Mum, you made me cry and made me sad on ‘fun’ nights out. by Beth MT You were also becoming very manipulative, making me do things I would never do when you weren’t around. You convinced me that cheating on my lovely boyfriend was a good idea. I ended that relationship rather than deal with what we had done, and I was devastated for years about it. Oh, and shall we talk about the graduation ball, the ball that I spent months planning for, the beautiful dress, the nails, the hair. Seeing all of my lovely friends again, the excitement!! What did we do that night, friend? Well, we have no idea now, do we? Because we spent so much time together before we even got there that I can’t remember anything other than drinking vodka out of a bottle under the table at the very start and then waking up the next morning at a friend’s house having no idea where I was. I met a friend years later at a reunion and she described me as ‘just gone’ at that point.

We moved miles away from home mostly for work but also to start again. We could start anew, and no-one would know what we had got up to together. We could build a healthier relationship, I mean obviously we would stay together, you were still my best friend. It was lonely at first, but you convinced me that you and I could have lots of time alone in my room, quality time where no-one would see us. It was more comfortable that way. I didn’t see you during the day or on weeknights often. But on weekends, how we kept each other company on those lonely nights. We did start socialising again and eventually I met a man who I married. And then when I became pregnant, we weren’t friends anymore. There was no risk of me being with you when I had a life I cared about inside of me. I lost weight and after the initial months I was so happy. I used to have the odd dream that you were back in my life and would wake up so relieved that it was just a dream. But you came back with a vengeance once the baby was here and I was no longer breast-feeding. I was lonely and shy, I didn’t see anyone, I had no support. My husband was out or away a lot and you were there for me again. You would help me through the lonely nights and give me something to look forward to. Sometimes we were funny, remember me calling the radio chat show in the North-east to talk about ghosts, and then worrying that my Nana had heard as she listened to the show? But mostly you were there to relieve the boredom and loneliness. I believed that you were helping me, but you really weren’t. I piled weight on, I was sad, I was feeling more and more alone but you wouldn’t help me, and you wouldn’t leave me alone.

Contd . by Beth MT

Baby number two came along, and I was relieved. I hoped our break would last forever, but alas it wasn’t to be. I began to need you more than ever. Pregnancy had left me disabled, in a wheelchair, and in constant pain. My marriage was awful, and I was depressed, massively depressed. You were there for every bump, every happy event, everything. Remember the fall and the black eye at the christening? Oh, how everyone laughed, but inside I died, I still cry about that. You were with me for years, during my horrific divorce when my ex used you to torment me, sending me emails about what I had done when you and I were together but exaggerating how bad it was as he knew I hated it, he didn’t really care but you gave him that power to do that to me, you gave him that power! I was so ashamed that I accepted it and let those emails beat me. In the years that followed, the birth of my third child and the isolation, outside pressure, ongoing divorce proceedings you were my solace, my secret, my friend. Until you weren’t anymore. I started to hate you, really hate you but I couldn’t stop seeing you. I would try and it would last for months, then off I would go again, and we would be back to square one. I actually managed to stop seeing you for around sixty days a couple of years ago, I was doing wel l. Then a boy who we had been close to since he was a baby took his own life. We were all devastated, I should have been helping my children, but I decided that it was a good idea to meet with you again. But you were angry that we had been apart, and you punished me that night. After we had left the pub, I collapsed. I ended up in hospital having a brain scan. I had made a complete mess of myself. I spent days concussed and praised the lord that I was alive. I spent weeks paranoid about what I had done or said that night and what could have been the outcome. It was then decided that I would never see you again and I didn’t for ten months. I was free and I was happy at last. My life was good, my (new) husband and family were amazing, I was working somewhere that assumed I had never drunk, and you were gone forever.

IThen I went and invited you back. It was my birthday. I was happy, so I invited you back just for old times sake. But you stayed, you stayed for two years. Oh I managed to escape you for a few months here and there, but you were back, and you were back with a vengeance. Lockdown pleased you, we could be together, and we could be together so much more than ever before. The kids started noticing you around and started hating you too. You were ruining things again and we needed you to leave. So, I decided that this time we would be over forever. I will never forget you, because I mustn’t. If I had written down every bad thing that happened in my life because of you this article would be bigger than the bible. I am happier now than I have been in years. I am doing all the things you had stopped me from doing. I am singing again, I am exercising, I am writing. I am kinder and I am tougher. I no longer fear people because I am scared that they saw me with you. I am proud of myself and my family is proud of me. My work is better, my Husband and I are happier than we have been for ages. My children see the real me, the me who can give them attention because I want to. I enjoy being with them more, because I am not waiting to be with you. I hate you; I detest you; I know some people say that they wouldn’t change the past because it moulded them into being who they are. Well, I would change the past. I wish I had never met you and I wish that I had not given you such importance in my life. I can’t change that, but I can change now, and you will NEVER be welcome in my life again, because I know without a doubt that I will have no life and this evil merry-go- round will start all over again.


“I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”

- Elizabeth Gilbert -

Not today lady, not today.



I was del i ghted to have the chance to spend t ime wi th the lovely Maree thi s month as she told me about her l i fe in India and the fabulous ret reats she fac i l i tates in Bal i and in India . Hav ing spent years l i v ing in Ba l i she i s an exper t in a l l that the i s l and has to of fer and fac i l i tates groups f rom around the wor ld to host the i r bespoke ret reat on the i s l and be loved by so many women af ter El i zabeth Gi lber t ' s book , Eat , Love , Pray . Ba l i i s a very spec i a l pl ace ful l of cul ture and unexpl a inabl e energy . And Maree ' s deep knowl edge i s endl ess te l l ing me "The Anc i ent Ba l inese Water Hea l ing Ceremony . Guests are taken to a sacred water templ e sur rounded by shr ines and crysta l c l ear water fed by natura l spr ings . Here you wi l l be c l eansed and bl essed in natura l hol y water . The Ba l inese be l i eve that bathing in these waters i s a very hea l ing and spi r i tua l exper i ence . " There i s nothing qui te l i ke hav ing an exper t on the ground organi s ing and adv i s ing what works on an i s l and and in Sober Bl i ss Journeys ,

all things Bali become easy and accessible. from the Ulun Danu Temple at the edge of Baratan Lake in Bedugul, the pretty building dedicated to the goddess of the lake and is one of the quietest and most serene places on the island to a local cooking class, to Balinese dancers on arrival, to yoga, meditation with the full breathe of local traditions being incorporated into your group's agenda is possible. The Sober Bliss Journeys website has a comprehensive listing of what is available over the coming year on this magnificent Island Maree is all about facilitating soulful retreats focused around growth, healing and transformation." If you are sitting in your kitchen planning to bring a group on a retreat in 2022, Maree is truly the lady to enshrine what you have in your head as a possible idea into a living reality with a touch down in 2022. Her expertise in Bali knows no end and is proving to be a vital management component for groups from around the world seeking the peace and tranquility of the island.

Maree Mackensie

Have you found meditation, podcasts, or books helpful in recovery? Meditation is a must in my opinion, in recovery and in life, even 10 minutes away from the monkey mind, to remind yourself that in that quiet space, all is well, that space is what and where we are truly from. Finding presence, stillness. Learning to be here now. What was the last sober book you read? lol only the big book of alcoholics anonymous. Do you have any sober heroes/heroines? I am my own heroine, for taking the courageous plunge getting and staying sober through all my ups and downs. If there is someone reading this out there what would be your top sober tip for them? Be kind to yourself, you're doing the best that you can right now and that is good enough. Just remember whatever you are going through, that this too shall pass. Rediscover who you are in recovery and do the things that bring you joy, life is short, make it count, laugh, love, smile and be happy. We are all powerful creators and what you think, feel becomes your reality, so choose well. Whatever you do, do it with Grace. You were a chef and changed direction, tell me how that happened? Actually it was a simple question from a friend one day in my kitchen in Bali, she asked me if I liked cooking, I took a second and said, no I don’t, in that moment I realized I had been doing something I hated for 15 years, I never wanted to cook the food, I wanted to eat it lol I have ever cooked professionally since, that was in 2018. Then when I was thinking about what I loved, it was clear to me that travel and recovery were two of my biggest passions, so I came up with the idea for sober retreats, and that is what I do to this day. Bringing people together in the name of recovery and travel. India is such a wonderful exotic location, where do you live in India? Yes India is a magical, spiritual, soulful place. I am currently living in Dharamsala the home of the Dalai Lama, and I have also stayed in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. Tell me about some of the retreats you have planned for 2022? Currently we a beautiful sober retreat in a small island in the Caribbean called Corn Island in January 2022, this is at a fully Alcohol Free property on the beachfront, this trip is mainly for our USA sisters. It is a wellness retreat, with breathwork, yoga, cacao ceremonies and lots of island goodness and tasty food and massages. The we will be having 2-3 amazing spiritual retreats in India, the first one we have in March 2022 is including the amazing “Holi Festival of Colors” which is one of the biggest festivals in India, we will be visiting stunning forts and temples and partaking in rituals and ceremonies in some of the best places in India. My partner is Indian and a super guide and my right hand man with my India retreats. We also have more retreats in Bali in late 2022. What do you hope we as sober women get from one of your retreats? Our retreats are all about connection, connection with your fellows, but also to yourself, your soul. Adventure and fun, laughter and joy. Support is another big one, the support to travel in a safe space with likeminded people, so you can relax and enjoy the journey knowing you are held and looked after.

In a Q + A Maree and I covered alot of group about her journey and her business that proved to be a wonderful coffee conversation leaving me in no doubt that if I was going to Bali or India on retreat I would want Maree at the helm. What is your SOBER DATE? 13/06/2014 When did your drinking career start? My drinking started at 15, I was a crazy drinker from the beginning really, blacking out right from an early age and never able to just have a few, very addictive, need more behavior from the start. Got sober at 38 How long do you think you had a problem with alcohol before you took the decision to make the changes and do the work? I knew at around 24 that I had a problem, I was very reckless and was putting myself in very dangerous situations. But as it was a very normal thing to do I kept going for many years. I always had people saying I should stop and I swore of drinking more times then I can remember.Unfortunately it took 23 years to finally stop the insanity. What program did you use to reach freedom from alcohol? Twelve Step or Modern Recovery? I used AA and continued to do a bit of AA for the first 5 years, but now I have a very simple spiritual path of recovery to stay sober and faith in the universe. Meditation, gratitude and prayer. AA is an amazing path to discover the true essence of recovery which I believe is a spiritual experience, I believe we are blessed as we get to wake up to truth through our addictions. Without my addictions I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today. Professionally has your decision to be public in sobriety had any consequences? Professionally being out and porous as a sober women, has helped as being out and proud and supporting sober women is my profession so I am blessed. I have a passion to be of service, so being public was always going to be the way for me as if I can help one person then I have done my job. Have you seen great changes within your relationships in sobriety? My relationships have got deeper and more authentic, you lose some, but you gain even better friendships and relationships. I had many acquaintances but not real relationships, so it is much better now. What other significant changes have you seen in your life without alcohol? Everything about sober life works for me, no more worrying about what I did, forgetting things, I have more clarity, direction and focus. I worry less about myself and more about what I can do to help others. This was not the old Maree. People look up to me now and I am an inspiration to people which is something I never thought would happen. I have a very proud mother now instead of an ashamed one, that is truly a blessing. This is why I love what I do, as I get to connect people and support them to still do what they love and bring joy to their soul through travel. What are your sober rituals daily? Pledge? Prayer? I am currently reading “A Course in Miracles” . It is a daily reading for 365 days, this is my connection to the divine which I practice. I also love meditation and breath work.

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