Hola Sober

This month is jam-packed with motivation, inspiration, and joy for your sober journey! Dive in!

| MAY 22, 2022 |











hola sober Susan Christina Susan Christina Gee E. Colette Louise Ann Dowsett Johnston Linda Redmond Alexandra Hartley-Leonard Travis Akers Maria McKenty Sophie Pelham-Burn Fiona Downey Lisa Wilde Beth MT Tammi Scott Lisa Wilde Jordi V. Editor + Publisher Susan Christina Creamer Creative Director Layout + Design + Format Mental Health Columnist Tarot Columnist

Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Columnist Hola Sober Assistant Senior Tea Maker Senior Carrot Cake Providers Hola Sober Office Dog Proof Readers Contributing Writer Contributing Photographer Hola Sober Cheerleders

Max, Noah + Samuel Coco the Westie RIP Susan + Lisa Lisa Wilde

Hola Sober Sisters Globally Deb, Judith + Irish family



| Madrid 28224 | Spain |

There is NO REVENUE generated by advertisers as they support the sober community in a variety of ways. All columnists VOLUNTEER their precious time and talent to ensure your inbox is filled with colour, motivation, inspiration, and education.



Susan ' s Welcome Note


Heard on Zoom


Team Picks


Dear Gee



Tarot with Colette




This month Beth is encouraging us all to step into the photograph as for far too long, we shy away from the spotlight.


Ann Dowsett Johnston



Life is a Miracle with Maria MacKenty

Travis takes us through his love of running and watching Marathons and how one can ' run into trouble ' in sobriety if we do not keep close to our connections.


Is Food Addictive with Sophie Pelham - Burn


A letter to my Mother with Peggi Cooney


Thoughts from Down Under with Lynn


What ' s On TV? with Beth MT



Janet Gourand ' Staying Sober '



RECOVERY OUT LOUD JENNIFER BRIDGMAN - PAGE 33 Jennifer writes of that split second decision she had to make to use her own name + photograph for her first published article.

Building Self Esteem with Harriet Hunter


Hola Sober Kitchen and Ravishing Rhubarb


Harriet teaches us how we can improve our self - esteem in recovery with tools that are realistic and applicable in any woman ' s journey.

Emma ' s Diary in Sobriety



editor's note

Another new month comes around and summer is peeping around the corner with sunshine in the offing and longer evening light. There is something magical about the month of June and doing it hangover-free is a gift that keeps on giving. Sadly, we sustained another big loss this month when Coco our family pet, all-around champion, and Hola Sober office cheerleader left this mortal coil. And, no, she wasn't 'just' a dog, she was an adored member of our family and quite frankly, I was rendered a weeping mess for 24 hours. I think the only person who is remotely relieved is our postman whom she took a death wish out on daily; although I suspect even he, misses her this week. Again this month, our volunteer Columnists and Contributors have been fabulously generous with their words and talent giving this issue a feast of ideas, motivation, and inspiration for all women in recovery. Each and every photograph, article, and insight is shared with love being bravely and courageously as these ladies LIVE in the arena Brené Brown speaks of. From Team Madrid and all at Hola Sober, we would like to wish you a fabulous month ahead with health and joy as we look skyward and say not today lady, not today. And may our lovely Coco, chase tennis balls and postmen for all eternity; ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. Lots of love to you all, onwards + upwards. Susan Christina Creamer

Susan Christina Creamer






Empowerment Program within a closed group with online kick - ass learning . Modules include science , myths , time management , and personal development . This program is designed to create sustained sobriety and a permanent upgrade to your life . It is suitable as a refresher for those in sobriety or a kick-start for those beginning their adventure . Don't bother signing up unless you are going to show up for yourself as we don't hustle at Hola Sober, we share our knowledge and support systems freely and it's up to YOU to commit and do the work. Our program includes a morning video, daily lesson, weekly closed support meeting, chat group, and our new Tribe Online Community Platform.

Our next Pledge 100 Sober Empowerment Program will kick off on September 1st, 2022.


Heard On Zoom

LADIES QUOTING others to support each other used the following :

LADIES QUOTING others to support each other used the following :

No one can negotiate with addiction, there is only EVER one victor and it is not that of the human who is suffering

So we say, “Maybe it’s safer to just stay here. Even if it’s not true enough, maybe it’s good enough.” But good enough is what makes people drink too much and snark too much and become bitter and sick and live in quiet desperation until they lie on their deathbed and wonder: What kind of life/relationship/family/world might I have created if I’d been braver?” - Glennon Doyle “If you keep living with confidence, the rest of your life will unfold exactly as it is meant to. It won’t always be comfortable. Some will recognize your brave; others won’t. Some will understand and like you; others won’t. But the way others respond to your confidence is not your business. Your business is to stay loyal to you. That way, you will always know that those who do like and love you are really your people. You’ll never be forced to hide or act in order to keep people if you don’t hide or act to get them.” To be brave is to forsake all others to be true to yourself. That is the vow of a confident girl.” - Glennon Doyle

A Blessing - I wish you Enough

“The people who get upset at your setting boundaries are the people who benefitted from you having no boundaries.” "I wrote before that reading a good book is like hanging out with a great person. Another way of looking at that is that the people around you are like a library of wisdom and resources. But not all books are good and not all people are wise. Either way, what you read and who you’re with are going to influence you, at least to some degree; it’s like that old saying, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. The point is, it’s your life, and you get to choose what direction you take it. Part of how you do that is by thinking carefully about which people—and which authors—you want in your life." - Brady Murray Today is about being brave enough to believe we are enough. Imagine a day when you can silence that inner critic and raise that voice of yours in sober power - Host Comment

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting. I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye. I follow my morning rituals without fail each morning, it's me setting my intention for the day and it sets me up to head in to my day in complete freedom yet acknowledging that I once was addicted to an addictive substance.

Heard at Pledge 100

I absolutely agree with the power of pausing. I need to make it a more conscientious and regular practice instead of waiting to use it when chaos breaks out. I'm going to try preemptive pauses. I also have to be careful not to confuse pausing with introspection. I'm finding emotional sobriety to be my daily challenge. -D.F.- Today’s lesson made me realize that if I can practice the pause in times of relative peace and quiet, it may be more accessible to me in times of stress. There are many moments throughout the day I can and sometimes already do pause - waiting for coffee, before driving, in between patients at work, 4pm no matter where I am. Stopping to take and notice a few breaths throughout the day is something I can and want to continue to practice mindfully. -H.M.- When I’m out for my walks sometimes, just listening to the birds and the wind rustling. I will put a few drops of lavender oil in the palms of my hands and inhale deeply, sit my bottom on the floor sitting cross legged, and use the 5 min timer to pause/mediate - Shana E.-

What would I miss out on if I gave up on my sobriety?

In the first weeks and months, FOMO was a huge part of the albatross I was dragging around. Now I am seeing the facts, the reality, and the after-effects more clearly. I am hyper-aware of all the negatives that I think of those first. I do not want the hangover, the lost memories, the regrets, and feeling shite. Instead, I’m feeling a bit sorry for what the others will be dealing with in the wake of their drinking. K.H. I have found that I have been finding it difficult to think through all of the “noise” around me lately and have been pausing to try to hear my inner guidance. I am learning that very few things have to be done right this minute and there is no reason to rush any decision. Pause and trust in an outcome that cannot yet be envisioned. Pause and trust. - Regina - Without pausing we can’t reflect. Life can go from calm to chaos in the blink of an eye. Practicing pause is essential for me. I have to be mindful and make it a priority. Purposeful breathing helps me to grab a moment of pause in my day. Pause plus reflection can lead to renewal. - K.H.


This crazy, exhausting, challenging, beautiful thing is called life. And everything that comes with it. The overwhelming emotions that I can now feel deeply. Love, joy, compassion, empathy. Along with sadness, pain, and loss. I won’t give any of them up because they are LIFE. The awareness of the physical changes occurring in my body, growing healthfulness, and the natural processes of aging. I want them all because they are LIFE. Empowerment, strength, peace, and acceptance. I am who I am. I am here at this moment. I have value in this world. I am living my LIFE. - Regina - I am definitely using the pause to good effect in sobriety. I've mentioned before I think that I am able to pause and not blurt out my first thought and upset all around me. That tiny pause gives me the chance to digest what is said or done around me and prevent the shit show that the impulsive reaction would have resulted in, in the past. Pause, breath, pause, think, pause, speak (or not speak! - A.G.-


SUSAN'S PICK Carbon Theory Exfoliating Cleansing Bar

Carbon Theory's latest soap bar is an exfoliating wonder which includes a generous dose of exfoliating salicylic acid to decongest and gently resurface the skin, balanced with shea butter to offset any dryness. I love a decent bar of soap and this one, some warm water to foam it up, use in circular motion on the skin and leave for about 30 seconds, wash off and it's that easy!



String Twinkling Outdoor Lights

As the weather has begun to improve in the North of England, I have found myself spending more time in my conservatory and in the garden. I have invested in some fabulous string lights which have brought immediate joy and light in the twilight hours. it's fun and brings a smile and I may just go buy another dozen or so to string around our patio and bring a twinkly sparkly look and feel to our outdoor summer and barbecues.



Hunger for Hope is a program of Winnipeg Harvest dedicated to ending hunger for infants and small children in Manitoba. Proceeds from the sale of each necklace supports the Hunger for Hope program purchase nutritious infant formula to feed over 1600 babies each month. It is a Sterling silver pendant on an 18" chain and I think it is sweet and beautiful. A simple piece but it has real style!



Originally for men-only these traditional, Moroccan babouche, Big size slippers, Handmade shoes, Organic Leather, Mules, and Hand-dyed, are incredibly comfortable around the house or garden. They are made from beautiful soft leather and are different and a wonderful addition to your spring- summer home lounge attire!

Shop here on Etsy


Beloved Pineapple and Papaya Bath Salts - 15oz

VEGAN BATH SALTS blend provides you with a fragrant and indulgent soak, leaving your senses pampered and your skin feeling soft and smooth! This vegan bath salt is infused with COCONUT 97 percent NATURALLY DERIVED bath salt blend, infused with ESSENTIAL OIL, Indulge in the tropical and vibrant scent of PINEAPPLE and sweet PAPAYA bath salt, bringing you a taste of summer.



I have very sensitive skin and rosacea. I am very self- conscious of this and would wear a thick foundation all of the time, even just around the house. I have tried rosacea cover-up creams before which were great at covering the redness but left me rather orange and still self-conscious. I found the erborian CC Dull correct cream by accident when I was given it as a sample. It's quite frankly been a game- changer for me. It gives light natural coverage and evens out my skin tone. It does give me a bit of a tan, but it looks very natural. It's great for when I don't want to load my face up with products, but do want some coverage. It has an SPF of 25.


These reusable, compact shopping bags are a fantastic small shift to ensure I am not putting endless plastic into the universe. I have found these fabulous colourful reusable shopping bags to be useful and pretty, what's not to like?! They come in a wide variety of colours and prints for you to choose from.



ANN'S PICK For me, there is nothing so romantic as a typewriter—a love affair that began in childhood. I grew up with the clackety-clack of my mother’s old machine: the lullaby I fell asleep to every night as she wrote letters home. And my career in journalism began in the era of the typewriter too, when editors still pounded the keys. As a collector of typewriters, I was smitten with the documentary California Typewriter (2016). And you can imagine my delight when I discovered Joy Sparks: an American woman who creates jewelry out of old typewriter keys. As the host of Writing Your Recovery, a memoir-writing course for women, I intend to give each woman who publishes a bracelet with her book title. Write on!


Sculpted by Aimee Connolly are an Irish-based make-up and Beaty range. Beauty Base Rose Golden is a beautiful all-in-one moisturising primer that gives a gorgeous golden glow to the skin with the all- important SPF30 included. It can be used alone or you can mix it in with your foundation to give a hydrated dewy look to your skin that lasts all day. I received this as part of a Christmas gift and it has become a real favorite to brighten my skin having the SPF30 makes it a summer must have.





Take the No7 Challenge

Improves 7 key signs of aging around the eyes Deep wrinkles appear reduced Minimizes the look of dark circles & puffiness Dermatologically tested Fragrance-Free Developed with pure retinol and to minimize irritation, this dermatologically tested eye cream targets the appearance of 7 key signs of aging around the eyes to firm, lift, hydrate and brighten skin. Fine lines, wrinkles, crow's feet, dark circles & puffiness appear reduced, while skin tone looks more even. Wrinkles appear smoother in 2 weeks. (Available in Walgreens USA)



The Fearless Artist Series is part of the brand’s commitment to elevating the stories of women of color in art and science while also increasing the representation of products designed for women of color. It is formulated with its vitamin B3 complex and is available in three body washes. SHOP HERE ➤


Hydro Ungrip Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm The formula combines blue agave extract, the ingredient from the brand’s TikTok- viral Hydro Grip Primer, with sunflower and soybean oils to make a no-residue and mostly natural makeup remover, melting away any stubborn makeup.


CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN BEAUTY LIPS FLUID LIP COLOR IN ET VOICI ET VOILA Red lipstick from the red-soled shoe company! An exquisite creamy lip stain that delivers full metallic colour and intense matte finish in one stroke. Dress your lips with liquid metal with the new METAL MATTE FLUID LIP COLOUR by CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN. Designed to deliver full colour in one stroke, its creamy yet lightweight texture glides seamlessly to sublime the lips with a sophisticated metal matte finish. Precious like an elixir, METAL MATTE FLUID LIP COLOUR is encapsulated in the iconic CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN amphora-shaped pack. Available in 5 red shades. Bold and sensual. Soft and smooth, its sponge applicator is specifically designed to deliver the creamy texture seamlessly for immediate full coverage with an intense matte finish.



Lip Power Long-Lasting Satin Lipstick! A long- wearing satin lipstick that delivers ultra-vivid color in one swipe, all-day wear and comfort, and precision application with an innovative, drop-shaped bullet.


Pencil That.......

Curated by trusted beauty blogger Allana Davison, Nudestix's. is perfect for creating a fresh, natural, ‘no make-up' makeup look, these soft balms can be scribbled all over the face to grant effortless radiance on cheeks, eyes, and lips. Conveniently dual-ended – with the colour stick at one end and a blending brush at the other – these buildable multi-taskers are your one-stop shop for fresh-faced beauty.

Huda Beauty's Bomb Brows Microshade Pencil, a 2-in-1 spoolie and ultra-fine 0.9mm tip, retractable brow pencil which precisely defines, shapes and fills brows for a microblade effect you'll adore. Perfect for creating the brows of your dreams, this Bomb Brows Microshade Pencil from Huda Beauty unites a spoolie brush and an ultra-fine 0.9mm tip, retractable brow pencil.

For timeless eye enhancement look no further than Charlotte Tilbury's The 'little (brown or black) dresses' of your make up wardrobe, each pigment-rich formula is infused with opaque (long-wear) powders and a blend of nourishing oils for a flawless, transfer-resistant finish, every time...

For those ladies who wish to have a long-stay lipstick that has the luxury feel, this crayon is a wonderful addition to your tote bag for Spring-Summer. Dubbed Best Lip Crayon of 2020 in the Allure Best of Beauty Awards. Super Stay® Ink Crayon is a long-lasting lip crayon available in a range of 23 vibrant matte shades that last up to 8 hours.



The ultimate summer handbag that can be teamed with a summer dress by nightlight or with shorts and a t-shirt by day. One of the hot trends of 2022 is textured handbags and we love this one retailing at $150.00 plus shipping.



Soko is a women-led, people-first ethical jewelry brand and tech- powered manufacturing platform built to connect artisans in Kenya with the global market. I love their look, feel, and ethos. This 'Pieces' necklace is from the Zodiac Collection which is fun and fab for summer.


In a fun rose pink these Veja shoes are a great addition to any summer wardrobe. Comfortable for walking in the city or beach-side and that colour will make you smile!


If you want to embrace your inner boho, and wear denim dungarees this summer from a fabulous sustainable brand, these are on sale this month! Lucy and Yak have a marketplace where customers can resell their old “yaks” to help reduce waste! In addition, Lucy and Yak have great commitments to furthering the oppression of racism.



Innovation Cherish Waste Story (at H+M) Bubblegum-pink evening dress in sturdy taffeta made from recycled polyester. Corset bodice with a silicone trim at the top and support panels all round to keep it in place. Internal grosgrain band at the waist with hook-and-eye fasteners, and a concealed zip at the back with a hook-and-eye fastening at the top. Voluminous, heart-shaped skirt with decorative gathers at the sides, both front and back, to accentuate the hips. The skirt has a wrapover front and narrows to the calves. Short underdress in soft mesh. SHOP NOW ➤

This may be a new name for many of you but it is gaining many fans - Omnes who say on their website : "A desire to look good is nothing to be ashamed of, but the damage that some fashion is doing to our environment is. We all need to do things differently and OMNES exists to create clothing that is cool and considered, so that you can have great style, without damaging the planet or your wallet." We love this navy ruched top with a matching co- ord pencil skirt if you want to enjoy the complete ensemble!


TURNING HEADS with Fiona Downey

We all know we need to slather our body in suncream for skin protection, but what about our hair? How many of you think about protecting your hair in the high heat while on vacation? It's coming into that time of year for many to pack their summer flip flops and gypsy dresses and head to the coast - which is fabulous - but we need to also think of our hair ladies and here are a few tips on how to protect your luscious locks in the afternoon high heat. Have a great month, love Fiona x #1 Cut Back on Shampoo The oil your hair naturally produces protects it from the sun, so you don’t want to over-wash during the warmer months. You can rise your hair in the shower daily but shy away from shampooing daily (twice a week in summer heat). If you feel your hair needs a clean while beach-side, use a dry shampoo to cleanse the hair. #2 Wear a Hat A wide brimmed hat that will act as a protector for your hair, head and face are a wonderful accessory to any summer wardrobe. It makes sense to wear a hat to offer protection to your hair as those with coloured hair (highlights + lowlights + full colour) will notice your colour fading in the sunlight! #3 Loose Braids A messy braid is ideal for keeping your hair under control and minimizing exposure to the sun. Tight hairstyles can be damaging because they tend to pull and tear hair, especially if your hair is dry Try to blow-dry your hair as little as possible. It is already exposed to a significant amount of heat on a daily basis in the summer, and it will probably air-dry quickly anyways, so give the blow dryer a break and go au naturel if you can. Avoid flat-irons, too, as they will do further damage to already-dry hair. Plus, a sleek hairstyle only makes that frizz stand out more. #5 Hot Oil Rinse Coconut, olive, and avocado oils are good at penetrating the hair shaft. Shampoo hair as usual, then work in oil from ends to roots. Rinse, then condition as usual. Your hair should feel moisturized afterward, but not greasy. from the summer heat. #4 No-or-low blow-dry





Pour sugar into a bowl. Squeeze lemon juice and add to sugar. Mix in coconut oil (add more if you like a wet consistency). Zest lemon and add to mixture (reserve a little to garnish the top of scrub in a jar). Add your sugars to the jar. Add a printable label to the front and maybe a ribbon to the gift. This is an adorable gift for yourself or a friend and in a world that is fast and furious, a homemade gift trumps every single time! And can I just say that this scrub tastes delicious?


1/2 cup Sugar 1/4 cup Coconut Oil 1 Lemon Optional: A few drops of Lemon Essential Oil


In a bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of yogurt, 1 teaspoon of honey, crushed mint leaves, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Combine the ingredients together and apply evenly on your face & neck. Wash off after 10 minutes. Yogurt is an ideal natural cleanser that contains lactic acid & protein, which help soften and rejuvenate the skin. The regular application of lactic acid removes dead skin cells and protein hydrates, reduces the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles, and tightens the skin pores. Honey is a wonderful natural moisturizer, and lemon is an effective natural cleanser & bleaching agent. When used regularly, these ingredients work wonders together to cleanse, hydrate, moisturize, and nourish your skin.


Yogurt (2 Teaspoons) Honey (1 Teaspoon) Lemon Juice (Squeeze) Mint leaves







Every season has its soundtrack. The first summer I tried to get sober—2007-- it was the defiant Amy Winehouse dominating the airwaves: “They tried to make me go to rehab. I said: No, no, no!” An earworm of a song if ever there was one. All summer long, I’d find myself humming along: “No, no, no.” For me, it was more than an earworm. It was a manifesto: no, no, no—I wasn’t going to rehab. No, no, no. (Privately, as it turned out, my loved ones were humming: yes, yes, yes.) Six months later, after several particularly frank talks with my son, my sweetheart, and my best friend, I sat in the back of a cab, headed to a tony treatment facility outside of Boston. Destined for a 30-day stint, I arrived 30 days sober. I had my own private room and a CD player with Bach on replay: Sleeper’s Awake. (It seemed appropriate.) Add another month of listening to this and I was certain to be cured, right? And that was just the beginning. It was sometime before the soundtrack in my head caught up with my sober behaviour. At first, I was convinced I was being deprived; that my life was the place where fun had gone to die: one long, sad song. I remember my first New Year’s Eve, all dressed up with my handsome boyfriend on my arm. When the champagne corks began to fly, I didn’t know where to look. I fumbled with my evening purse, reached for my Pellegrino, and mustered a smile. I remember this as one of the most awkward evenings of my life: bed has never looked so good. What took time to realize was there was a soundtrack in my head, one installed by an alcogenic culture. Alcohol was the key to fun, it said. Alcohol was the key to glamor, alcohol was the gateway to romance. Period.

Alcohol was how I had been acculturated to relax, celebrate or reward myself for a triple-shift day, for the complex job of adulting. Without alcohol, I felt quite lost. I could see the beckoning finger of a glass of white wine, promising to unhook my shoulders from my earlobes. I was sober, and bereft, kicked out of the dance party of life. Or so I felt. Less than a year into my sobriety, I knew I was going to have to learn to hum my own tune, and write my own recovery script. I immersed myself in whatever quit lit I could find. I read the wonderful Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly. The activist in me was born. I knew that if I, raised smack-dab in the middle of the baby boom, had trouble with alcohol, so too did legions of other women. Since I was a journalist, I began with a yellow plastic box, and filled it with every news article and alcohol ad that pertained to female drinking. By the end of three months, the box was full. I pitched Canada’s largest newspaper on a 14-part series on Women and Alcohol, focusing on the closing gender gap on risky drinking– and they awarded me $100,000 to travel the globe and report on the story. It seemed that the alcohol industry had taken aim at women, with products like Mummyjuice and berry-flavored vodka. This series formed the backbone of my book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. I went on to own this story in the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, The Guardian, and more. The year was 2013. That was the public reality. The private story? I learned that my personal soundtrack, the one playing between my ears, had been updated in the process of writing.

And that playlist included the words of Gabor Maté: “Addictions are not mysterious ailments, not willfully self-inflicted maladies, not ‘primary brain disorders,’ not diseases: they are coping mechanisms.” I knew my drinking was a coping mechanism. First, I had to unpack this truth— my truth. Next, I had to reshape a life from which I needed no escape. Writing my own recovery script has meant going back to school at 65 to become a psychotherapist. It has meant launching my own memoir- writing classes, called Writing Your Recovery, helping other women find their voices. And it has meant meeting Susan Christina Creamer and a new tribe of sober sisters. It has meant hosting on a regular basis, using my voice to shape a new narrative. It has meant wrapping both my hands around the things I love, and making them a priority. It has meant ditching a script I had memorized, and coming up with a new one. Last summer, that meant wrapping my arms around a woman for the first time. That season had its own soundtrack too: a private playlist she made for me, with Adele’s Make You Feel My Love, a good dose of Stevie Wonder and three different versions of Dancing in the Moonlight. And yes, we were dancing in the moonlight. It was love at first sight. All things are possible when we give up alcohol. And yes, the universe has a wilder imagination than I do. As Mary Oliver once wrote, “the world had forgotten its brokenness.” Every season has its soundtrack. It’s almost the summer of 2022. Choose your playlist wisely. And remember: the one voice you’ll listen to most in life is your own between your ears. Pay attention. Take a moment to ask yourself: what thoughts am I humming in my head? Ask, as a wise friend counsels: Do they serve me? Only you can curate your own mind. Only you have your hand on the volume control. May your world—and mine--forget its brokenness. And this summer, may we all take a little time to go dancing in the moonlight. Or at the very least, hum along.

To learn more about Writing Workshops with Ann Dowsett Johnston please click on her workshop information HERE


I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed celebrating all things to do with new beginnings and springtime in the way that best suits you. I don’t know whether it’s a usual theme or whether I just particularly noticed it this year, but it did seem as though, with all the Easter chocolate around, I kept hearing people say how they’re addicted to chocolate or sugar. One person even mentioned that infamous mouse study, where the researchers gave the mice the option to choose sugar or cocaine and the mice chose the sugar, leading the journalists who reported on the study to conclude that sugar is even more addictive than class A drugs!! (Just to reassure you, that was not a very well conducted study, and the mice had been starved for 5 days before they were offered the choice between the sugar or cocaine. They were just being sensible mice going for the energy first. Nothing to do with addiction.) But it did get me thinking. As a nutritionist who graduated in the UK, we were always taught that food can’t be addictive any more than air or water can be. After all, you can’t really use the word addictive when it’s something you need for survival. Is that the whole story though? Whilst of course we do need food for survival we don’t need sugar, or any of the hyper-palatable, highly processed foods such as crisps, doughnuts, or basically anything that contains high fructose corn syrup. Could some foods be addictive, but not others? Functional MRI scans measure brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow to different areas of the brain, and what’s really fun about them is that you can have a group of people doing different tasks while being scanned and see how their brains respond, and which areas light up.

A group of researchers thought it would be a good idea to put some people into one of these scanners and give them different foods. What they found was that when they gave people chocolate cake the pleasure centres of the brain lit up like fireworks at a 4th July party. The participants gained a lot of pleasure from eating that cake!! However, when they repeated the experiment a few times, the pleasure diminished slightly each time. To get the same response as the first time, they had to keep increasing the portion size. As humans, we’re almost hard-wired to repeat behaviours that activate the pleasure centres of the brain. So the results of the chocolate cake study would suggest that maybe there is potential for some kind of behavioural addiction to some foods. Some further studies that have come out of America have also noticed a hormonal response to certain sugary foods too. Specifically, the neurotransmitter dopamine. Often referred to as a pleasure hormone, dopamine is more complex than that. It would be more accurate to describe it as the motivational aspect of reward-motivated behaviours. Anticipating any kind of reward increases dopamine levels in the brain, which is what then gives the feel-good factor. Even in the absence of a definite feel-good moment as a result of a particular behaviour, we still chase that dopamine hit though, so it’s no surprise that its levels in the brain are linked to most drugs and yes, alcohol. Even when we lack the feel-good factor and we know something is bad for us we still chase that reward. When we think of sugary or hyper palatable foods as being capable of moderating which areas of the brain light up in an fMRI scanner, or altering levels of dopamine in the brain, it certainly makes sense that some people feel as though they are addicted to them in both a


behavioural and chemical way. It also, at least partially, explains the ongoing obesity epidemic in the Western world despite unprecedented access to information about what a healthy diet looks like; if lack of education isn’t the issue, maybe addiction pathways are partly to blame? (And poverty, lack of access to good food etc. of course). Simply saying ‘stop eating sugar’ is like saying ‘just stop drinking’ or ‘stop smoking, it’s bad for you’. Easy in theory, but bloody hard in practice! Although if you’re reading this magazine, you already know that. And speaking (or writing) as an ex-smoker, I know how it feels to break an addictive habit. It’s uncomfortable inner itchiness you can’t quite manage to scratch, and the one thing you know will do the job isn’t an option. So what do we do? We find another way to get dopamine. For a lot of women who’ve put down the wine glass, that means finding it through food, specifically sugary foods or refined carbohydrates. Other behaviours can do it too, such as scrolling through social media (Instagram and TikTok are specifically designed to activate your dopamine pathways and therefore keep you scrolling). Having said all that though, a lot of people are totally exempt from any kind of behavioural or chemical addiction when it comes to food, even chocolate and doughnuts. They can enjoy them, but it never becomes a ‘need’ and there are countless scientific papers and research articles which prove the point. So where do I stand on the question as an evidence-based nutritionist? Frankly, in this (very rare) instance, I don’t give a shit what the science has to say. I’m only interested in how you feel about it, and how you feel around certain foods.

Do you often feel out of control? Do you feel as though you could be addicted? If the answer to either of those is yes, that’s good enough for me. So what to do about it? Well, the first thing I would say if you’re newly sober is to give yourself a break. There are worse things to be addicted to. Then when you’re a bit further along in your sober journey it might be something to address. When you do feel ready it can help to prepare in advance. Cutting out sugar or ultra-processed and hyper-palatable foods overnight will mean you have a sudden drop in dopamine levels which will inevitably give us the uncomfortable inner itch again, and drive us towards whatever will give us the quickest dopamine rise. Often that means bingeing on the very foods we just tried to cut out. Instead, before you cut out the foods you feel out of control around, try listing a few alternative behaviours that also release dopamine or have a pleasure effect. Exercise of any kind, meditation, yoga, or pilates has all been demonstrated to raise dopamine levels. Playing with pets also releases both dopamine and the love hormone oxytocin! Then when you start restricting your intake of those trigger foods and your willpower starts to fade, go for a little walk, do 5-minute mindfulness meditation, or play with the dog. Any of your pre-prepared activities will help replace that dopamine and make it all the easier for your willpower to prevail. Over time a diet rich in whole grains, avocado, nuts and seeds, salmon, and other regular protein sources including eggs and dairy will all help your body produce and regulate dopamine. But while you’re waiting for those longer-term effects to kick in, it’s good to have some healthy alternatives.




Join Sophie Pelham-Burn

The online community conversations about nutrition and body size are becoming increasingly tribal , and it ’ s often the science of nutrition that is being sidelined in the process . With that in mind , I ’ ve set up a private online community as a space where you can ask questions , and we can all discuss nutrition topics in an open , positive , and totally non - judgemental way . I hope that as more people join we can use this as an opportunity to inspire and empower each other to make the best possible choices for our own health , within the context of our individual lifestyles . Access to the group is through the link , or by invitation , once you ’ re a member , so feel free to forward the link or invite anyone whom you feel would be a good addition to our Nutri - curious gang . I look forward to seeing you there !


my life is a miracle Miracle,



Then I would wake up the next morning and do it all again. Ground Hog Day. When I compare that life to the life I have today, I laugh at the thought of ever going back. Never again! But I cannot take this for granted. I have to enter each day with the crystal clear awareness that if not for sobriety, I would not have this life. I hold my sober rituals close, I reach out to other sober women to give and receive support, I express my gratitude to my God for this insanely amazing opportunity to live fully, no matter the circumstance. Without the incredible gift that sobriety is, I wouldn’t notice the seasons changing. The flowers breaking through warmed soil, the buds on trees opening into blossoms, the fragrant smells that fill the air. Spring turning to summer. I would be filled with anxiety and consumed by the relentless pull of the bottle. So everyday I start with gratitude that I get to be sober, that I have a life filled with love and support and that I have the strong and powerful universe to guide and sustain me. My life is a miracle.

I went through the motions of living, without feeling alive. I was lost, alone and afraid. I drank to quiet those feelings, only to wake the next day and feel them more acutely. I wanted out of that cycle. But that was my secret. I never told anyone that I was in trouble. Few people in my life had any suspicion. I surrounded myself with friends and family that drank like I did and would never question my drinking patterns. But I knew. And I wanted out, I just didn’t know how to stop. My path to sober spaces feels like a story of divine intervention. I was looking, but I was also led. There was no Google, so no Google search. Just a sincere desire to not have to drink everyday. I wound up in the company of a sober woman who recognized me without my having to say much and gave me her hand. It was not a planned intervention or me looking for and alcohol treatment center, it was a happenstance meeting. Yet it did not feel like a coincidence, it felt like it was meant to be. When her hand reached out, I took it and I haven’t had to drink since. The life I’ve built in sobriety is a beauty. It’s real and messy and full of love and support. I have NO doubt that if I were to make the stupidest decision of my life and pick up a drink again, ALL of what I have would disappear. Because I would disappear. I would be consumed by the daily cycle of regret, determination not to drink, doubt, angst, negotiation, inevitable succumbing, relief (lasting 30 minutes, tops!), compulsion and finally stupor.

I drank for 17 of my 66 years. Only 17. We can all do the math and deduce that for the vast majority of my life I have been alcohol free. How then could I make such a bold statement as, without sobriety there is nothing? How could I know, down to my toes and deep within, that if I were to drink, I would loose everything in my life that I hold dear? Well, because that is addiction. The only thing alcohol ever did for me was quiet my anxiety; my inner disturbance that began early in my life and that I was not able to resolve. When I was young, there was no support for children and families in crisis. No Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, no child psychologists, no school counselors, no peer support groups. There was no help for children who were struggling. Perhaps in a family of better means, rather than one with single mother of eight children, I would have been seen and recognized, but that was not my experience So when I found alcohol, the relief was immense!! All I wanted was as much as I could get, whenever I could get it. I was 13 years old. My experience was not one of a social drinker, with fancy glasses in elegant environments. There was nothing romantic about my drinking. In hindsight, I think this is a blessing. I don’t own a pair of rose colored glasses. My life was on and extended pause during those years that I drank. I did not mature, I did not develop healthy skills for living, I did not create the relationships that I longed for.

I can recall the exact moment the message appeared in my inbox.

She was a fierce supporter of all women trying to overcome alcohol addiction, and her words empowered me to stand taller in my sobriety. Susan was elated to inform me that an essay I’d written and submitted to her some weeks back would be published in the next issue of Hola Sober magazine But there was more—the issue was coming out within the next twenty-four hours, and she needed to know right away if I wanted to run my photo and full name in the byline. Such simple questions. And yet nothing about this felt simple—my wildly beating heart suddenly a full-blown buffalo stampede inside my chest.

Learning to Recover Out Loud & Proud

It was an early Sunday morning in December—too early for my husband or the kids to be awake yet. I was settled at my desk, savoring the quiet house and still- dark skies outside my window, hoping to manage some writing before the house erupted in its usual weekend trifecta of noise, energy and demands for pancakes. I felt the uptick in my pulse even before I opened the email—it was from Susan Christina, a woman I felt strongly connected to despite the many miles and time zones between us. Since the first time I’d heard Susan share in an online recovery meeting months earlier, I’d been drawn to her powerful energy and message.

By Jennifer Bridgman Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Bridgman

Sobriety had saved and shifted my entire life, there was no question about that. Everything that mattered most to me in this world—my health, marriage, children, and closest relationships—would be in ruins had I still been trapped in active addiction. But at 15 months sober, was I ready and willing to fully own my story—my light, my dark and my many shades of humanity between? It was one thing to sit before a computer screen and bare my soul, one keyboard click at a time. But this was different. Did I have the guts to attach my face and identity to a published article that could potentially float around the infinite world wide web for all of eternity? It took me less than five minutes to decide. The “Yes” that my inner voice whispered felt big and risky, unnerving even. But it did not stutter. It came with a capital “Y,” and I nodded back to it. I thought of the many women before me whom I’d come to admire most in this world, the ones who had stepped into the spotlight in a similar manner. They did not do this for personal recognition or gain, but rather to be aligned with a purpose greater than themselves. I thought about the articles I had submitted to Susan, all centered around the gifts of sobriety that are possible once we step out of the shame shadows and seek help and community. What kind of unintentional secondary message would I be sending out if I couldn’t attach my own name to my story? I took a capacious, stabilizing breath—the kind that fills my soul and lungs when I find myself stepping into my power and purpose.

And then I did my next right thing—I called home. At 44 years old, I’ve figured out the difference between asking someone for permission versus informing them of a decision. Yet, I wanted to give a courtesy heads-up to my parents, deeply private people who have loved me unwaveringly through all the muck. And yes, part of me hoped for their approval and support as I stepped into the great big unknown. My parents, now both in their 70s and early risers like me, answered before the second ring. “Hey, Mom,” I whispered, “I’m so glad you are up. Something wild just happened, and I’ve got to tell you about it…” As usual, my safe haven of a mother listened without interruption for a few minutes while I rambled and paced around my small kitchen. For as long as I can remember, my mother has been my greatest teacher—a woman who listens far more than she speaks and does not offer advice unless it is solicited. People tune in when she talks not because of her volume but her wisdom. But morning discussion was still relatively new territory for us. I come from a family of very light drinkers—the dumbfounding this early “take-it-or-leave-it” type. For years, they’d be perusing the dessert menu at a restaurant, an unfinished drink beside them, while I’d be flagging the waiter down for a third round. During the worst years of my drinking, I’d undoubtedly have had a few glasses before we left and a small bottle of something stashed in my purse as well.

Alcohol had forever been the one topic that I refused to talk about with anyone— particularly my family. I couldn’t imagine a life without booze, so I became increasingly secretive around anyone who stood in my way from drinking the way I wanted. Yet here I was on a random December morning, calling my parents to discuss a soon-to-be published article I’d written about my own personal experience with alcohol addiction and recovery. When my mother finally spoke, her words were soft and carefully chosen; I could tell she was smiling.

“I think you will help many people, JJ. What a gift.”

Her words brought my pacing to a halt and tears to my eyes, for it wasn’t too long ago that my mother received a grim, hard-to-swallow diagnosis: a progressive form of dementia that was robbing her of language, cognitive abilities and function before our eyes. What we have is time, but how much, we are unsure. It is the quality of time that matters most now. Her words were very clear on this morning, and I held them close. It is not lost on me that as I have begun to find my freedom, my mother is losing her independence. It is not lost on me that as I have begun to use my voice, my mother is losing her words. What consoles my soul and galvanizes my spirit is recognizing the choices and power that are within my control. I make a choice each day to honor my sobriety, to honor myself, and to honor my family. The best way I can thank those who continued to

believe in me during times I no longer believed myself by stepping out of the shadows of addiction and into the light of my recovery. Although my alcohol addiction was a private war waged on myself, my loved ones were quite often unwitting soldiers on the front lines beside me. Now that I have raised my white flag, they can put down their weapons, rest easily beside me, and turn their attention to areas it belongs to these days. I cannot go back and change the past, nor would I want to. I cherish my life—the light, the dark, and all the shades between. But my story doesn’t end with my putting down the wine bottle; that was just the beginning. My story continues by picking up the pen and signing my name with it. In doing this, I now own my story, my story no longer owns me. The following December morning, I again woke early and discovered my first published article was indeed out there on the web for all the world to see—my photo and full name right along with it. I took another one of those big, expansive breaths, and let a few tears fall as the enormity of the moment sunk in. My dad was the first to email—a man of great emotion but few words. “You make me feel proud to be your father.” And not long after, my phone rang. It was my mother, who again I could tell was smiling. This time it was her with the question: “Can I share it with my friends?” For so long I worried about people knowing just how addicted to alcohol I had been. With each passing month, I worry about that less. Instead, I’m choosing to spend my energy letting them know just how well I am recovering.

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