One Year! What’s Next?

mile·stone
/ˈmīlˌstōn/
noun
  1. a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
  2. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.

It’s interesting to me that both definitions of the word “milestone” could pertain to sobriety. Except, I do not acknowledge being sober as finding a particular place, or a destination.  It is a never ending cycle of days to creating your best self.  Finding out your true colors, interests, and becoming a person that you, yourself, actually want to spend time with.

However, there needs to be a little bit of give, right? We deserve to be recognized, and have the autonomy to reap a tactile representation of our efforts.  It isn’t an easy task to go against what our society engrains into us.  We are encouraged to mark these stages in our sobriety – celebrate that we have made it, typically 30 days, 90 days, ONE YEAR…and I think after it goes year to year from then on.  It is up to us, as sober individuals to accept as much or as little attention during each of these momentous occasions. You can acquire chips at an AA meeting, depend on family and/or friends to lift you up in encouragement, or take yourself out for a treat! Set up stones along side a road, for all that matters- as long as:

However you choose to celebrate your milestones on this journey, I hope you are proud of yourself – that is of the utmost importance.  

 

This brings me to my very own one year of sobriety!  It was just over a week ago at this point.  Jen gave me a beautiful pair of earrings from the Park Ave Fest and I received several congrats messages throughout the day.  I decided I’d like a dinner out at one of my favorite restaurants (Cedar – Lebanese), and to completely out myself as a non-drinker on social media!

“Comparison is the thief of joy” is one of my all-time favorite quotes. As I have become increasingly aware of the stories one can tell themselves about another person based on their Facebook or Instagram page – I felt the urge to express my truth and remind others, that we are in fact, very human.  My story, is also someone else’s story and that is why it needs to be told. We are unique as individuals but can fall onto similar paths.  How can I shy away from who I am, to those who “seem” to know so much about me personally?  If someone is going to compare themselves, I would prefer for them to instead be able to relate to me – and I want them relating to the true me.  I received an outpouring of love and support from my family, friends, and also several people who I had never even met yet.  It am so grateful and it truly opened up my eyes to more than I already believed about this decision I made one year ago.  I have been on a rollercoaster that is not over, and I am truly enjoying the ride.

It is overwhelming to realize just how many of us are out here, overshadowed by the way our society views alcohol.  We have created shame, a stigma, and an inability to comfortably voice our troubles with it.  In general, we are made to believe that alcoholics are an obvious bunch – the ones who are stumbling down the street, carrying a flask, and ruining their lives.  Then on the flip side – we are also made to believe that drinking a bottle of wine in one sitting is an accomplishment, mommy wine play dates are an acceptable way to get through your days with children, and don’t get me started on all the marketing schemes. It isn’t fair to me, or the other millennial’s, or the mothers, or the professional people who have been struggling. If we can open up the conversation to:  does alcohol affect your life in a negative way? Have you gotten yourself into several pickles while drinking? Do you wonder if you could become a happier, more confident version of yourself and think alcohol is getting in the way of that?

My goal from here is to be someone’s voice that doesn’t feel quite ready to speak out. I want to stay honest and accountable in my own sobriety. I’ll be an ear for those who need support, and I want to at some point create a group for those locally who may not be into trying AA quite yet, but would like to also join the conversation and fight the stigma.

We will see where we can go – but I have a feeling it can be pretty far!

Much <3,

Carey

 

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One Year!! Having celebratory pink lemonade with my love!

 

Three Part Series: #3 An Italian Honeymoon

As I write this post, I am one day shy of my 365th day without a drink, and we have been home from our honeymoon for well over a month now.  Although the feelings of temptation and insecurity are behind me – I must reminisce for you, in case I ever try to forget why I am here in the first place.

We chose to go to Italy.  Our imaginations ran wild with “Under the Tuscan Sun” type of beauty, rolling hills, old architecture, art and history.  In the back of my mind at times, I wondered “what if” about the alcohol?  I researched blogs and information from people who had gone and successfully didn’t drink. I didn’t come across anything too dramatic; however, part of me worried, and then it was simply wiped away with excitement and the thrill of traveling to Europe for my very first time.  If there was to be a challenge – it was fully accepted.

Our first stop was Venice for two nights.  During the day we walked miles upon miles in a zombie-like fashion due to jet lag, but I was gratefully distracted with honeymoon bliss and adventure. I kindly said “No, Grazie” to lemoncello at the end of our first dinner.  An amazing restaurant called “Benti Godi”, where I complimented the chef as best as I could – and then he poured us the shot.  Their response?? “It’s just lemoncello!!”.  This was the most common phrase I heard when someone understood that I was denying even the “mildest” form of alcoholic beverage.  Smiling, knodding, and increasing my intake of acqua gassata (sparkling water) did the trick…most of the time.

During the course of the rest of our first week (Bologna, Florence, Tuscany), an overwhelming sadness and insecurity brewed inside me.  I knew exactly what it was – FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out.  It seemed as if everyone here was a model for a wine commercial. Slow sips looking out over the grape vineyards, swirling their glasses in their hands – and I caught myself craving. Part of me felt guilty.  I didn’t want to ruin the point of the trip! It was our honeymoon for goodness sake.  All I wanted was to be with my wife while enjoying the views, food and experiences all around.  We had gelato every single day (except one) to replace the calories spent while walking everywhere.

Then, during one meal, Jen and I discussed the pros and cons to me indulging in a glass of wine.

It got to that point. 

I cried while walking through an alley, holding her hand.  The whole time I knew that I didn’t actually want to drink, I just wanted to feel like I was doing things like normal people did.  I was catching myself becoming resentful during our times of Apertivo (Italian happy hour with snacks, basically).  I felt as if all of these people around explore, work hard, and then get what they deserve – delicious glasses of wine when they finally sit down to relax.  It didn’t seem fair to me that I was an outcast, or so I told myself I might be.  Our ultimate decision was going to be for me to hang on tight and enjoy this ride,  the wine was not for me at this time in my life. I knew then, and I still know now that I am not the type to just indulge in one. The point to my drinking was never to just “taste” it, or get to know the process behind its creation. It would have turned into more.  This was like a pop quiz I wasn’t quite prepared for, however – leading up to the trip, I knew it was a possibilty of coming my way.

I passed the test.

Things we enjoyed: Hiking the Cinque Terre. Eating. Doing the floss everywhere.  Taking pictures. Watching fireworks over the bridges in Florence. Staying on an Organic Farm in Umbria (I milked a sheep!). Artists/performers all around. Talking with people who spoke English! Exploring a hot springs. Sleeping in a castle. The David. Amazing hilltop towns.  Medieval time reenactments. Walking over 101 miles (that’s just what my phone documented)! Taking a bike tour through Lucca….and so many more things.

My brain will not long forget the beauty, as it truly looks just like, if not better than it does in the photos.  I will also not forget the turmoil inside during some of the days when “Carol” stepped in, thinking she could slip back from retirement for a while.

No, thank you, Carol.

One of the most absolute truths today for me is, YOU do NOT need alcohol to enjoy your life.  No matter where you are, what everyone else “appears” to be doing, or what you tell yourself otherwise.  It actually will not in any aspect benefit or inspire me. Yes, social drinkers are able and kudos to them for doing what feels right. But I know for me this is the path I am gladly still on.  I thank my wife for holding my hand during the recurrence of sorrow for the breakup between me and alcohol, for not taking offence or thinking I was not enjoying our trip, and for drinking the wine “for me” when I wanted to make sure I wasn’t holding her back (mind you, she isn’t much of a drinker anyway, and definitely not really into wine).

I find myself growing and learning about myself every day. I’ll continue on, stepping outside the comfort of that glass of red. 

 

So much love

Carey

Three Part Series: #2 Your Own Wedding

I’ve heard countless accounts of someone winding up blackout drunk at their own wedding. As our big day approached, I kept these anecdotes in mind – steering clear of feeling like I’d be missing out on the celebration if I didn’t have alcohol in my system.  There was nothing more motivating than realizing I could have complete control of my actions and ability to remember the day from beginning to end.  I envisioned having all the “feels” while getting ready, walking down the aisle, and celebrating our love with almost 200 of our family and friends.

I had a few people question whether it was going to be a dry wedding.  Definitely not!  I was not in the business of controling anyone elses’ actions, except my own. However,  I had become increasingly aware of just how prevelent and necessary it feels for alcohol to be involved in celebrations of any kind.  Societal norms, I suppose.  Actually, after a long, hard week at work I will still catch myself finding it hard not to romanticize about “winding down” with wine, or a cocktail.  I know over time that feeling and desire will be replaced with better plans – such as being active, visiting with family or friends, and just enjoying my time being present and fully aware.

Anyway.  Back to wedding day! We started the morning with an amazing workout in the yard of the house we stayed at.  Our trainer/friend from our gym came and taught us some cardio and then yoga. After that, it was time to say “bye” to Jen; then with the company of my mom and bridesmaids, we had breakfast, rotated through showers, and had our hair/makeup done.  I felt so incredibly at ease.  Although I was prepared with “Fre” brand fake champagne, and some NA beers – I truly was not focused on a drink, and was soaking in each and every moment.  I felt grateful for my strength, and for my people near and dear to me that were respectful of my decision to be alcohol-free.

My heart grew in infinate sizes from each event to the next, and by the end of the afternoon – we were married!! It was pretty incredible that with all the excitement, I actually have moments where I feel as if I were blacked out – but perhaps it was just because of all the excitement, and me being up on a pink cloud 9!!  There was a packed dance floor late into the night (my dream), singing (Jen’s dream), smiling, and over-all incredible feelings.  It could not have gone any better.  We ended the evening with jumping into the pool in our outfits, and it was probably the third best decision decision of my life.

 Best decisions of my life:

  1. Marrying Jen Born
  2. Quitting drinking
  3. Jumping in a pool in my wedding dress

OK – so maybe number three will be interchangable when things happen throughout my life – but I am sure number  one and two will remain consistent!

So much love

Carey

 

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Three Part Series: #1 Summer Arose

Three things that could potentially sabotage sobriety, no matter who you are….

1.) Summer Weather. 2.) Your Own Wedding. 3.) An Italian Honeymoon.

Knowing this may take up some space, I decided to split it into a [3] separate blog series.

1.) Summer Weather – First experience sans alcohol.

This is first on the list because it was the first thing this year that really threw my confidence in sobriety for a loop.  I’d been doing just fine.  Interacting via my online community (barely), flexing my sober muscles, and really not giving much thought about not drinking. After 9 months without, I felt as if I was getting a grip on my day to day intention – and succeeding. Then, the way it always is here in Rochester, spring came, and then rapidly turned into summer….

So, I wanted some god damned white wine with fruit in it. 

         Because that is just the way it is when the weather turns nice. Your romantic brain swoons over porches, hammocks, and an ice cold beverage in hand to create a giddy kick into the “summertime and the livin’s easy” mentality.  I survived these urges – explored more mocktails, drank an ice cold NA beer, and leaned on my love to remind me why I am where I am.  It had not occurred to me until Jen called it out – but I stopped drinking in August last year.  That meant, the beginning of summer had already come and gone while I was still drinking.  I’d had my last hurrah of welcoming it with wine (or whatever I wanted), and I didn’t even know it at the time.  Ah-ha! That was an absolute revelation.  The impact weather can have on our emotions, traditions, and our future – is forever out of our control at times.  I was grateful for the learning experience, and the fact that I didn’t throw it all out the window. It goes to show, that the truth still is, there is something positive to anticipate when you lean into discomfort.

I do wonder – will every birth of summer feel this way? I’ll keep you posted 😉

 

 

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Surviving with Seltzer

 

The Months Fly

Tomorrow marks 7 months of no alcohol for me.  This is unreal, I relive moments of my past in drinking as if they were yesterday.  Waking up feeling depressed, worried, anxious, and confused were a slew of emotions I had far too often when I drank.  Not to mention while drinking, my brain had the tendency to focus solely on that; when I finished my drink, would I get another? Am I buzzed yet…? And then totally missing that cue and subsequently drinking til black out by accident.

I do not miss those feelings.  I catch myself sometimes still romanticizing the drink – feeling like if I did it, I would fit in more in certain social situations, or that people may like me more if I drank with them.  I would think of the times that were not that bad, when I was able to handle myself, and actually had fun when having drinks. However, my reality kicks in.  I was never good at drinking.  It drove the people I cared about to most away, and challenged the relationships I tried to maintain.  When I was able to control myself, it was just false hope, or spontaneity keeping me from my truth.  I do not miss it.

I am on the second half of my first year.  I am so proud of myself.

  • I am proud that I can order a mean mocktail when out with friends and not blink an eye. Most people are actually curious of how it tastes, and lift me up with affirmations like “you’re lucky you wont have a hang over!”  In my mind, I think, “hell yeah! Gonna wake up and have another day ahead of me to tackle”.
  • I am proud that I realize now that it is okay that life has not gotten miraculously easier in some ways, it is part of the process.  If you are reading this and are early in sobriety, or have not stopped drinking – just know, when you stop – you brain is going to give you a run for your money.  You may feel [and act] crazy some days.  That is O-K. We can work out, and reverse the damage that has been created by alcohol. We can and will unbury the insecurities and negativity within us – embrace it – care for it – and then let it go eventually.  I know this takes time, because it is still in the palm of my hand.  My process of digging in and discovery seems to have just begun.  Some days I feel good, and others – I can only give myself the compassion to not know any of the answers.
  • I am proud that I have gained tools to ensure this process is a practiced one.  There is proof that if you “white-knuckle” your way through sobriety, it is almost a guarantee it wont last.  I love keeping up with the Cafe RE group on Facebook.  There is something very special and important about having a community of people who are sharing the same journey.  They tend to understand the feelings and emotions that come with knowing you need to stop drinking, and the process of doing so.

I could go on and on about the last 7 months to be honest with you, but this post is already longer than I anticipated.  My last blog was in December, and since then, a few blog drafts I wrote were never published because I didn’t finish – and then the idea or inspiration behind it was long gone! Wedding planning is in full force (!!!), my time with friends and family, and work has all kept me very busy.  I continue to realize that self care is very important to my mental health and well-being.

Life has a very beautiful and interesting way of showing you the ropes sometimes; stay positive and focused

 

Carey

The Holiday Feels

‘Tis the season to be jolly….and anxious.

This is the perfect time of year for catastrophe.  The holidays prove to be a magical, beautiful, but sometimes futile experience.  How can we tip toe through the egg shells of family drama, cravings for alcohol when everyone around you seems to be drinking the spiked nog, and the endless struggle to maintain self care – while caring for all those around you?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am enjoying myself fully this year so far.  I have been amazingly blessed with weekends with my love, my family, and staying sober. It has been incredible.  However, it is the little stuff that adds up throughout that can cause explosions. I am not anticipating any personally this year, as I feel I have been very cautious and being dedicated to the work I need to do for myself. AA meetings, every other week counseling sessions – really, whatever I have had to do to build my muscles in order to be stronger during the hard times.

This post is for the ones out there who are in the earlier stages of sobriety, and whose strength is there – but is still buried underneath insecurity and bigger demons.  I believe in you all.  My advice to you is to stay surrounded with those you trust.  This does not always mean family.  Call on a friend, your doctor, counselor – or walk right into an AA meeting and I can guarantee that you are not alone.  If you cannot stand to be in your own skin, get out of it by being of service to someone else around you who may need something.  The feeling of helping another during this time could lift you up.

There are moments where the trip through is long, dark, and lonely. Being uncomfortable with thoughts, feelings, and emotions is extremely difficult at times – we naturally want to run from it and pretend everything is a-ok…but that will not get us anywhere, I can tell you from experience.  At this point – try to embrace being different, try to see the light that you are shining into the world by being here and not succumbing to what life throws at you. 

If there is anything I can do for you out there reading, reach out… I would be happy to help.

So much love

Carey

 

 

 

Fleeting or Forever – Vulnerability

I hugged a stranger today.

It was at a community yoga class.  It was incredibly full in the room – mats kissing, awkward glances around to prevent the possible tap of my neighbor while coming into mountain pose.  The instructor had an intense way of drawing out my emotions. Whether it was a hearty laugh, gratitude, or being very near to tears.  As a group, we were encouraged to envision our best selves, and to focus on others – their strengths and even weaknesses that we could help build.  If we smile at strangers, assist someone in need, become more selfless – the world would most definitely become a better place.  She said the word “vulnerability” in different contexts several times through class and this isn’t a new term to me, but it gave me a certain feeling inside every single time she mentioned it. 

I have great intentions on being or becoming vulnerable – but dammit, it scares me. The feeling inside me when she said the word each time stems from my fear. I hide.  I have been hiding. I know I am working on becoming my best self by quitting drinking, seeking counseling and digging in deep to my roots and sifting the dirt to find my gems.  I know I have more in me.  I have a desire to say things, do things, and enjoy my own life without worry.  It drives me to deep emotional feelings when I think of being vulnerable….I veer from the discomfort of being rejected, judged and disliked.  I am understanding better, though, that many choices I make can be encouraging to another person.  When I dive into a sometimes uncomfortable realm – whether it be immersing myself into a craved activity, practicing and becoming better at the crafts I love, or simply conversing with my friends and family, I can and will grow.

My goal is to become softer with my flaws, embracing them,  all while being a good person.  Kind, lighthearted, and easy going.  I have become so critical, and mostly of myself – which in turn has unfolded into more aspects of my life.  I feel myself criticizing little things, and I think it has become a subconscious defense mechanism.  There is no need to force regret or anger for this. I am acknowledging that it is within me to be less afraid and to welcome vulnerable moments.

If everyone likes you, you’re not doing it right. – Bette Davis

I can’t say that I have ever been pushed to the edge of comfort during yoga.  It was a first today, and I am so happy I was a part of it.  We were instructed to place our arms around our neighbors and come into tree pose, which evolved into a standing split – all while embracing the shoulders of those by our sides.  We held each other up and let our hearts shine in unison.  Once the pose ended – we were then instructed to hug our neighbor.  I looked left, and it was a stranger – someone who looked shy, but I didn’t know for certain, and it didn’t matter after all – we were just humans, in one room, sharing this experience.  We hugged – it was momentarily strange, yet strangely pleasant.

I hope to gain more of these moments.  Vulnerable, sweet, and life evolving moments.  Shall they be fleeting like a hug, or lasting like a conversation. My heart is open, my mind is open.

 

As I feel is completely necessary – Namaste ❤

 

 

Staying True

Today marks 100 days without one sip of alcohol!  How can this be true?? I remember so vividly waking up that first day, knowing I needed to stop – but overwhelmed with the idea of it being a forever thing.  So daunting to consider a lifetime without something you thought you loved, and more so – needed.  I definitely know at this point that I do not need a drink.  I’m grateful for all the love and support I have received so far, and know that it is still just the beginning of this journey.

What I am acknowledging here and now, is that I have been doing it wrong the last month, or possibly longer.

I think the proper recovery term is “white knuckling”.  I have barely written, attended a meeting, spent time with the online community I joined; or made an effort to reach out to the local fitness recovery group I really want to be part of.  I have been just getting by.  It honestly hasn’t been difficult. I have not really felt like drinking, as in my head – that just isn’t what I do anymore.

However, I have felt pretty left out at times. I have felt like people around me have been inconsiderate. I have felt alone.

I know I am not though.  Me not drinking really doesn’t need to be on the forefront of everyone else’s brain (I almost would prefer it not to be).  Being part of the sober community accentuates this truth though, and I have been leaving my own self out. I have created an imbalance of the priorities within my life and feel an imbalance in my brain because of it. If I immerse myself with like minded people with similar stories, and encouraging words of long term, healthy living and sobriety, I am definitely apt to be more successful.

Let me move on.  This blog has been created for my accountability and to share my story. Possibly to attract others who are in the same boat as me. I promise to myself and to those who are curious and supportive of my journey, that I will write more.  Whether it is a post on my sobriety, mental health, or anything else pertinent to my life – I will include you. Making time for myself is an important, yet sometimes difficult task (and I don’t even have kids yet! ha.)

So that is all I truly feel is relevant to my sober life right now.  I look forward to diving back in, in order to fulfil my soul, myself, and others with positive encouragement.

 

 

Try Not to Doubt Yourself

Doubting yourself is a clear act of human nature.  There are times that the feelings of being inadequate, or failing miserably are like reels of film playing over in your brain. It just wont stop – you beat yourself up.  The instances of this happening to me happen often, but are now subsiding quicker than they once did.  I am now able to use mechanisms I learned and am still practicing to see my self-worth and to take things lighter – without taking everything personally.

So.  I was an interviewee on a podcast.  I actually heard about Recovery Elevator from someone’s blog that I follow.  I started listening to it the day I became sober, and have not stopped.  The host interviews people of all walks of sober life.  Whether you are a long timer, or have a mere 11 hours without a drink.  He just wants to know more about the people’s stories behind their drinking, how they are quitting and what is going to help them stay sober.  It is a pretty great podcast!  I emailed him when I wanted to be part of the facebook group – Café RE.  I asked him if he has any episodes to recommend where someone talks about themselves having an “alter ego” or becoming mean when they are drinking. He said nothing came to mind, and that he would like to hear my story.

Whhhhhhat?!

At first in my head I was like – YEAH!!  But that was only my second week into this, and I could tell my emotions were on a ride, and unsure of the next corner we were turning at any given moment. So I held off.  Not until my 30 days did I feel like I was under better emotional control and actually understood a lot of my own story and was then, comfortable sharing it.

Back to the doubting yourself part.  After my interview – I internally freaked out.  I wanted to call him back and say “pleaseee do not edit or put that out in public”, or “can we do that over!?”  I thought I blew it. I was convinced that I had.  I was going over it like a script in my head that I completely lost my lines and anything pertinent I wanted to share.  Jen was cool as a cucumber and said, “so what if you did mess up or say something dumb?  You have NEVER talked publicly about this, or have EVER been interviewed on the phone before”.

Be easy with yourself.  The hardest part was done – and I ultimately was proud that I reached outside my comfort zone in hopes to be there for others.  The podcast was released this past Monday.  Guess what??  It was NOT as bad as I thought.  Jen and I listened to it while on our road trip – somewhere in Tennessee or West Virginia I think. I shared it with close family and friends who also were proud.

I want to share it with all you out there. It is with intention that I have not spoken of certain topics here on my blog that I do bring up on the podcast.  However, at this point in my life and in my sobriety I am becoming aware that my past is my past.  I have learned from it all and am now on the path to a better future. I cannot and do not want to leave things out of my story that could perhaps resonate with another person needing help creating their best selves.

Recovery Elevator – Episode 138: The Science of Addiction

Paul begins the episode chatting about an article he finds in National Geographic.  My interview follows afterward. Thank you in advance for those of you who take the time to listen.  Community is key when it comes to succeeding in sobriety, that is one thing I will never doubt.  Myself on the other hand….well, I’m a work in progress ❤

 

 

Happy Friday!  Here are some pictures from our road trip below:

 

On the Road

Journal entry from yesterday, October 9th, 2017. Right now we are back in NY, a few hours left until we reach our home ❤️


I’m still here! 66 days into this journey. Life has been so busy, but so good.  Jen and I have been on the road since the end of September (29th-ish). Vermont, Syracuse, Maryland, Richmond, Virginia, Asheville, NC, and lastly Pennsylvania. Staying in a town called Ohiopyle – I think it’s funny. The town itself has a population of 59! Interesting.

We have been grateful for nice traveling weather. Just yesterday it began to rain and is consistently doing so this morning. I’m sitting on a little porch in Babcock State Park – drinking coffee, listening to the music of the raindrops on the leaves. This place is so full of beauty, and the sound is like a symphony because we are so deep into the woods.  The trees are all amazing with their bursts of yellow, red and green. 

I feel so lucky. Not some superficial, glad to still be on vacation, luck. But true, deep into my soul ache of gratitude for being able to see a small chunk of the world that I had not seen before. That I’ve been able to see familiar faces of friends and family members along the way. Lastly, I’m lucky I’ve found peace and strength with each day of sobriety. 

I clearly have learned on this trip that at times, I still struggle.  How could I not, when it seems that a new microbrewery or winery has been built on every corner we turned, in any county we entered?!  How romanticized drinking really is. How interesting that now, for me – it is the least sexy thing I could do for myself.  The emotions I have felt while running into my “ex”, alcohol, have been like the beads of rain drops on all the leaves around me. Some just roll off, never to be seen – or felt again. But sometimes it lingers and lays on the leaf, or in me – and we just have to hang for a while.

I run through emotional checklists like:

  • I’m okay – yes.
  • Do I want to drink? No!
  • It makes me mad to see it everywhere – usually.
  • I’ll get through all these feelings – yes.
  • Will I regret staying sober another day? Hell no!

I make it through – another time, minute or day. So grateful. 

The world is an amazing place – go see it.

Life is an amazing thing – and we must feel that.